Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Survival Guilt in the Financial Crisies*

Recently my friend Tracey bought a herself a new (to her) used car. It was a very smart decision. Her old car wasn't dead or anything, but it it had slipped over the tall peak of "running great" and was starting to edge down that slippery slope of "little things starting to go wrong" that we all know can nickle and dime us to death. Tracey did everything right - she knew exactly what kind of car she wanted, knew she could afford it, did research for over a year before buying, and then took advantage of the financial crises to get herself a great deal.

Buying your first car all on your own, without assistance from a parent or a spouse, is a big deal - it is huge! I really think it is one of those life milestones. So it was natural that she wanted to share the good news with her best gal friends, but when she went to do it, she hesitated. Why? Because she knew that some of us aren't doing well financially and didn't want to brag. Now if this had been the only instance of what my other friend Catie calls "Survivor Guilt" I probably wouldn't be writing about it but Catie admitted she was feeling the same thing. She's getting new windows in her house (and is another one who will do research and make good decisions - undoubtedly taking advantage of some recession bargains) but feels bad talking about it when there are a lot of people out there that can't afford their homes. Nor is this feeling limited to my neck of the woods, M is for Money had a post the exact same day about how she was uncomfortable admitting that she just got a raise.

It's funny, in some ways this reminds me of how uncomfortable I felt when I first started talking to my friends about my financial status. It took me awhile before I was able to confess that I was flat broke. Interestingly, the more I talked about needing to budget, saving money and looking for extra work, the more my friends and family admitted they were doing the exact same thing. Then at some point things changed. The recession really kicked in and now it is somehow hip to be broke. You can't walk by a magazine rack without seeing frugal tips, DIY websites are getting tons of traffic and every news show has information about people dealing with their tightening budget.

In some ways, I appreciate this. I think if people are budgeting and saving money and working on their finances, that is all to the better. However, this flip side of making people feel uncomfortable about their own good fortune really bothers me...

Maybe I am seeing this a little differently because I don't really feel like my problems came from the recession (mine came from my divorce), but if there were any way I could be taking advantage of this temporary drop in prices, you bet your shiny boots that I would be! Now is the perfect time to be picking up fantastic bargains on areas hit by the crises - cars, construction, stocks!

When I hear about the success of others I don't feel bad at all, in fact, I am really happy for them. Tracey has been increasing her income regularly, Catie's been saving for those dang windows forever, and M is for Money has written before how hard she works at her job. Even if a coworker just won the lotto (I had one tell me he was playing last night) I wouldn't begrudge them their millions. I don't believe that there is a finite amount of good fortune in the world. Because Bona Fortuna smiles on some, that doesn't mean she frowns on others. People who are doing well aren't in any way taking away from those of us who aren't.

I think it is a bit sad that society is putting this pressure on people. I don't want anyone to feel like they can't celebrate their good luck. Instead, I want to raise a glass with them! (Though I might let them buy! heh.) When I think about this in my own life, I can see a point in the not too distant future when I will have the $900 I need each month. I want to be able to share that.

I don't think you have to be broke to be financially savvy. Sure, being frugal is great for helping to get through hard times, but the whole point of it is so that you can have plenty of money for the things you really want. To anyone out there who is considering large purchases or making extra money - I applaud you! Besides, we need you guys... someone has to help jump start this economy!

* Tracey and Catie - you KNEW I was going to write about this, right?

Photo by: THEfunkyman


Frugal Dreamer said...

Good for your friend!!!!

And I couldn't agree with you more. I get excited when my friends/family are able to succeed!!

getting stuff done said...

I have stopped watching / listening to / reading the news as it is just so so negative and depressing. Sure the economy has gone pear shaped and there is a recession. There was one before right, and people had jobs and went out, bought stuff etc then too didn't they? Me and my hub have resolved to keep positive instead. Keep sharing the good news. It may not sell newspapers, but I want to hear it!

Dawn said...

Frugal Dreamer - exactly! I know they are excited for me when good things happen too.

Getting stuff done - Keeping positive is a fabulous plan! I think that is the best way to get through this and eventually, turn things around!

Kristy @ Master Your Card said...

I feel like this all the time with my friend. She and her fiance are constantly trying to save money - most of which is their own doing since they had to buy the house and two new cars at the same time - but I still feel bad. I'm not hurting at the moment. I could be working on tightening the belt, certainly. But, in the grand scheme of things, I have been fortunate. And I certainly agree that it's a sad state of affairs when we make those who are doing well for themselves feel bad. Personally, I think it should be motivational. Maybe they're doing something a little different from you, what can you learn from it? Can you emulate it? That sort of thing. But overall, I just think you should be supportive of friends and family, no matter where they are financially.

Dawn said...

Kristy, you know, in many ways I feel fortunate. I still have my job and I have many friends who don't. I have a fabulous support system, and even though I am keeping the belt fairly tight, I am still having all sorts of fun and doing lots of things I enjoy. There are many folks much worse off than me, so it all comes around, you know?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I knew you may find fodder for your blog with our conversation; I am so glad you did. The way you are able to articulate it clears away the clutter and helps me to see things more clearly. That happens pretty regularly with your blog, and those you recommend.
I have found myself making excuses when someone compliments or even just comments on my new car purchase, and I spiral down this road of justifications... such a good deal, researched for over a year, other car 9 years old, etc... I should just say thank you, and smile to myself for doing it all right. Why can't it be that easy?
Thanks, Dawn (and others), for making it easier.

Dawn said...

Tracey - You are welcome, and thank you for the insightful comment! Also a huge Thank You for letting me write about you. :) Speaking of which - I can't wait to see the new wheels!