Do You Ever Feel Embarrassed By Your Frugality?

October 19, 2008 at 1:20 AM 21 comments

For the first time, in a very long time, I felt embarrassed last night as my husband and I entertained a few friends in our home. Our living room consists of a hodge-podge of mismatched furniture. Our TV stand, one of those old heavy wooden ones, was a hand-me-down from my in-laws. Our large and lumpy plaid sofa was purchased eight years ago for my husband’s first apartment. The green, red, and yellow stripes clash with the soft blue paint on our walls. The sides of the couch have been shredded by the claws of our two cats and we keep sticky tape on the edges to prevent further tears. The coffee table in front of the couch was a hand-me-down from my husband’s cousin and the top of the table is full of large marks and scratches. The chairs in our living room are a mismatch of IKEA furniture and almost every piece of upholstered material is covered in cat hair despite the fact that I am constantly vacuuming.

Lots of people have visited our house in the last seven years and strangely enough this is the first time I’ve been embarrassed by the disarray of furniture in our living room. Up until now most of our friends have been in similar housing situations. Less than ten years out of college they too have a hodge-podge of hand-me-downs scattered across their bare apartments. But last night as our friends entered the living room I felt a small surge of embarrassment swelling inside of me. Compared to the immaculate homes of our friends, our house suddenly felt like a run down shack.

I was a bit surprised by this feeling, but oddly enough, I was even more surprised that this initial sense of embarrassment quickly converted into a strange sense of pride. For the most part, I like to think that my husband and I spend our money exactly the way we want to. We carefully consider and discuss the major purchases in our lives and more often than not we decide to hold off spending on things that just aren’t urgent. There is no need to rush to buy new furniture when the IKEA furniture works perfectly well for our two spoiled cats. There is no need to buy a new television, when in reality we hardly ever watch TV.

Before heading to bed I thought long and hard about the disarray of our living room in the context of the larger vision of our lives. Lately, my husband has been trying his hand as a semi-professional photographer and we’ve spent a large sum of money on new cameras and photo equipment. I’d much rather invest the money in his dreams then in furniture that fills our living room. In all due honesty, there are a million ways I’d rather invest the money. I want to retire early, pay off our homes by age 40, pursue my passions and enjoy every day with my husband.

In that moment, just before falling sleep, I found myself smiling at all that I have in my life. In all the joys in my life. The state of my living room furniture, is in fact, one of the last thoughts on my mind.

Entry filed under: happiness. Tags: .

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21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet  |  October 19, 2008 at 3:44 AM

    You go girl! Don’t be embarrassed. What do your friends think of your house? Just curious.

    Reply
  • 2. Anonymous  |  October 19, 2008 at 4:20 PM

    We have a $20 couch from a thrift store — it's actually the most comfortable couch I've ever sat on. What we did, though, to improve upon its country blue & mauve colors is to buy a nice couch cover for it. For about $120 you can get a suede-like stretch cover w/ the separate section for the pillows at BB&B. The bonus is that it's totally machine-washable (we have dogs) and the cat doesn't like to scratch the soft when the cover is on it.

    Reply
  • 3. a brown-eyed grrl  |  October 22, 2008 at 2:25 PM

    Sometimes I do. We live in a double-wide right now, though we could qualify for over $200,000 of house if we wanted one. But we’ve bought four acres on which we plan to build the perfect home, and not many people get to do that in their 20s. We want more than 20 percent paid down on the construction loan, too, so that hopefully when we have kids, I will have the option to work part-time or maybe from home.

    Sometimes it can be embarassing, even though we’ve made our home very nice with new floors and such. But when I start feeling that way, I open up our “idea book” for our home, or I do some research on the next trip to Europe we’re planning. None of our friends are doing those sorts of things right now, so I just have to remember what WE value.

    Reply
  • 4. Moving on up!  |  October 22, 2008 at 2:26 PM

    I feel embarrassed about being frugal sometimes too. I used to have Pottery barn furniture, games, and other more expensive items. I like have money in my retirement and savings account better now. Good for you.

    Reply
  • 5. Cory  |  October 22, 2008 at 2:43 PM

    The things that embarrass me are what I can’t afford due to NOT being frugal before recently. (Some home repair I can’t do or a sorely needed paint job.) Had I been frugal from 18-38 I could take care of those things without a 2nd thought now at 39.

    Reply
  • 6. Kristen@TheFrugalGirl  |  October 22, 2008 at 8:16 PM

    Very occasionally I do feel embarrassed…but mostly, I don’t. I have more of the weird sense of pride.

    And fortunately, with some creativity and some careful shopping, a lot of times I don’t live with less stuff/poorer quality stuff than spendthrift people do.

    Reply
  • 7. Anny  |  October 22, 2008 at 8:49 PM

    I’m glad you remembered what your true values are. If you (and the cats) are comfortable that’s all that matters.

    If the end tables and chairs begin bothering you a very inexpensive solution is sand paper and paint (checks the oopsies at hardware stores) or fabric and glue (or sturdy stapler). Fabric is such a cheap solution – garage sales, flea markets, craigslist, surplus stores – even poor quality but attractive sheets work!

    Reply
  • 8. Anonymous  |  October 22, 2008 at 9:03 PM

    Sometimes it’s hard not to feel defensive. When I feel weird about the fact that I live in a mobile home, I just think about how even in these hard times we are pulling ourselves out of debt, while our friends who looked down on our choice to live more modestly are working 16 hour days to pay for their giant house they bought with no down paymentright before the market crashed.

    They never see their children and only have time for sleep in their new house full of new electronics and furniture they bought on credit. Who should really feel embarrassed??

    We’ve still got a million choices in front of us, they have spent their way out of choices.

    Reply
  • 9. VR  |  October 22, 2008 at 9:17 PM

    You know what, I used to have a complete mismatch of styles and furniture and be a bit embarassed when one of my friends came over and mentioned my home looked like her grandparents lived place. Yeah, Owch.

    I started a housing dream book, where I’d cut pictures of out of magazines that spoke to me and put it in a binder. I was able to figure out what my house style was, and through the magic of thrift stores and craigslist, I have a home filled with pieces I love and the joy that comes from knowing I purchased my glorious china hutch for $40 and my beautiful mahogany baby grand piano for $450 plus $100 for the movers. Best of searching.

    Reply
  • 10. Dianne  |  October 22, 2008 at 9:33 PM

    I’m very frugal and take pride in the fact that I can decorate most any home or dress most any person by shopping at thrift stores and garage sales. It just takes persistence and a good eye. Bargains galore can be had on Craigslist. Freecycle is worth checking out as well. A word of caution – just because something is cheap or free doesn’t mean you need it.

    Reply
  • 11. saverchic  |  October 22, 2008 at 10:06 PM

    Sometimes I do! We live in an affluent community, but my husband and I are both pretty frugal. Our neighborhood is filled with BMWs and Audis. I think we’re the only ones that have a Hyundai and a 10-year-old Buick. Even though we look different than everyone else, I’d rather be a little embarrassed than feel scared about losing our house.

    Reply
  • 12. BonzoGal  |  October 22, 2008 at 11:33 PM

    I do sometimes, then I remind myself that two of my closest friends live in what could be kindly referred to as a “dump.” (Their word, not mine!) They have stacks of books all over the floors and chairs. Old, cat-hair-covered furniture. Their place is in a constant state of disrepair- yet it’s the most comfortable, fun place to hang out! They always have lots of people over and it’s very warm and friendly. So I tell myself that people still love us, even if our place looks a little “dumpy”, as long as we make it a fun/warm place to hang out.

    Reply
  • 13. Steven  |  October 23, 2008 at 2:20 AM

    If your “friends” have to checkout your home and possessions, they’re not your friends. I’m always surprised when I visit someone’s home and they have to give me a “tour”. Why? I’m there to visit with them. If I wanted to visit a furniture store, I’d find one.

    Reply
  • 14. Milk Donor Mama  |  October 23, 2008 at 1:09 PM

    My home is a mix of furniture we bought new and unfinished and finished (stained and polyurethaned) ourselves, along with furniture that I recovered from curb piles, furniture we got used, and a sectional we got new. It works for us and our toddler and our two cats (though, the used couch isn’t very comfortable and I’d like to replace it because I currently refuse to sit on it, as it hurts my behind!).

    Like the previous poster said, if your friends rate you on the “quality” of your possessions, you might want to rethink the value of those “friendships”.

    Reply
  • 15. Chelle  |  October 24, 2008 at 1:59 PM

    Not really. If I am embarrassed by anything it’s because of things like not having dishes done for like a week or having stuff laying around all the time. How much I do, or don’t, pay for things never really bothers me. Hand-me-downs and gifts are never anything to scoff at. Some of my hand-me-downs have lasted longer than some new stuff that we’ve bought. As long as you are happy, what does it matter what others think? Sure, new stuff is nice, but hand-me-downs and thrift shop finds have character and can often be just as comfortable or nice as new items.

    Reply
  • 16. Jennifer  |  October 24, 2008 at 11:18 PM

    It is all about choices. You have made the choice to spend the money the way you have spent it – of course you shouldn’t be embarrassed by it, it was your choice.

    Reply
  • 17. Anonymous  |  October 25, 2008 at 9:18 PM

    interesting that it is just this set of friends comming that made you feel uncomfortable about your home. I think that is more of the question. Why them?
    Pat in Kitchener

    Reply
  • 18. Shelly  |  October 25, 2008 at 11:44 PM

    This is the first time I’ve read your blog. I will be reading it more often. I like your attitude, and I share it. Your way of thinking about things is great. Keep it up, and I’ll be reading it.

    Reply
  • 19. Amanda  |  October 26, 2008 at 12:16 AM

    You can get fairly cheap sheets at discount stores. Throw matching sheets over the furniture and it instantly matches. Plus, you can take it off and throw it in the washer to get rid of pet hair.

    Anyhow, we don’t even have furniture, realyy. We had a hand-me-down futon frame with a secondhand (but totally clean!) futon on it in the living room, set up in a lounging bed style because when it was set up as a couch, it was way too low to the ground.

    We don’t have a TV or anything else of that nature. We have exactly four chairs in the house. Two at our tiny dining room table, two in the office.

    When we have friends over, we sit on the floor to eat. But…I lived in Korea for two years and my boyfriend is Korean, so we can get away with claiming Korean culture status (which it is). Ha!

    Reply
  • 20. Elizabeth  |  October 30, 2008 at 4:44 AM

    As long as you are happy with your choices, that is all that matters. If they’re your friends, I doubt they even notice/d any of it. :)

    Reply
  • 21. Larry  |  November 26, 2010 at 6:42 AM

    After all these years, I never felt embarrassed that I am living a frugal life, since my frugality has its limits and there are times that I buy something very important even though it is over my price range. For example, me and my friends went to Niagara Falls for sightseeing, and we went to a short term furnished rentals (NYC) for us to sleep in. Though it was nearly out of my budget, the happiness it brings to us is pretty much worth it.

    Come on, who can't resist resting in a stylish short term apartment rental (New York City located apartment) with all your tight friends?

    Reply

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