Guest post Rachael of Mumbling Mommy
Our living room couch is sprinkled with Popsicle drips and old spit-up stains. It’s so lumpy that when I lean back, the cushions push back like they have minds of their own. The seams are strained and the color is slightly faded.
I’ve never been fond of our couch, but it was purchased 16 years ago during my husband’s bachelor days — long before I met him. After we married, I convinced my husband the couch needed to go at some point. We keep a list of things we were saving up for on our fridge and this list included a new couch!
But we’ll celebrate our tenth anniversary this summer, and we continue to live with the old couch.
It’s not that we can’t afford a new couch. If the legs fell off our couch today, we could buy a new one and our family wouldn’t have to survive on Ramen Noodles. Our attitude at this point is something like, “We’ve survived this long with the old couch. Why change now? ”
While most people might feel the pressure to keep up with the legendary Joneses, the bar among our close friends and neighbors in this category is not very high. Most of our friends with kids – people who are in the same life stage as us – have old couches, too. Some of theirs look worse than ours!
Our couch isn’t the only old thing we choose to live with to save money. My husband drives a Toyota that is the same age as our couch. Again, there is no peer pressure to buy something new and shiny because our next-door neighbor in our middle-class neighborhood drives a Toyota that’s about 20 years old.
I appreciate the fact that most of my friends, family, and neighbors are not concerned about having the newest, nicest stuff. We do our best to take care of what we own, making sure everything is clean and repaired, but we shop thrift stores and garage sales together.
We let each other know about upcoming kids’ consignment sales or the new Goodwill outlet store. Our modest-sized homes are filled with secondhand furniture, and our kitchens are stocked with groceries purchased with coupons or at Aldi.
It helps that we, like most of our friends, live in solidly middle class neighborhoods, where the expectations are not so lofty. One of my good, thrifty friends lives in a modest home that borders the wealthy part of town where the pressure to keep up appearances is real. When she runs into locals she knows at Aldi, some people make excuses for buying groceries at a discount store. “Oh, you shop here, too?” they say with raised eyebrows, then add in a hushed voice, “I can’t resist the prices.” It’s considered more socially acceptable to run into people up the road at Aldi’s upscale cousin, Trader Joe’s.
We’ve learned that our friends can easily make or break our efforts to live frugally. My friends and I make no excuses for our shopping habits, or our old couches, cars, and gently used clothes. Life without the pressure to have new stuff leaves us with money for savings and emergency expenses, and for family camping trips or tickets to reasonably priced live theatre productions, which my kids and I love. Those experiences are things my children will remember more than a new couch.
So when I visit a friend’s home and she apologizes for her saggy couch that sports a few juice stains, I am eager to reassure her. “Oh, you are in good company. Your couch looks like ours,” I say, “And that’s completely all right!”
Rachael is the managing editor for Mumbling Mommy, a blog featuring true stories from the front lines of parenting. She lives with her family in the St. Louis area and enjoys gardening, camping, reading Charlotte Bronte novels, and helping to edit her husband’s science fiction books.