A friend of mine writes a blog called, Frugalista about extreme coupon clipping and other great money saving ideas.
Last week she ran a contest and you could get extra entries by blogging about the money-saving activity she proposed. I never got around to entering, but I have been spending a lot of time thinking about her blog. I ask her questions about it and coupons all the time. She has systems worked out where she both gets products for free and combines sales and deals to actually make money buying products. I ask her questions, and then I reject her advice with a list of reasons of why those ideas won’t work for me.
Any good therapist will tell you (as many of them have told me over the years) that this is my parents’ fault! Like a lot of families, mine has a complicated history and emotional connection to money. It comes from a lot of things including coming from immigrant families, parents raised during the Great Depression, businesses started and lost, mismatched wealth of couples, odd cycles of wealth and poverty, and late 1960s’/early 1970s’ anti-materialism.
Like most parents, my mother tried to provide me with things she hadn’t had as a child, whether I wanted them or not (hello nine years of violin lessons). On the other hand, simple purchases were often debated ad nauseam, usually resulting in a “no.” Add that to my parents’ somewhat generally withdrawn emotional style and voila, feelings of rejection and deprivation connected to purchases and “things.” (Deprivation, not depravation by the way, that’s a separate issue, probably also connected to my mother). Layered over all of that is the stereotype (very much in play during my childhood) of Jews being cheap.
The result is that I hate things that make me feel deprived or cheap (although, I like things that make me feel depraved, go figure). I LOVE a good sale. Finding a fabulous pair of red heels on a clearance rack for $20 as I did this weekend feels luxurious. But, shopping for a pair of red heels is likely to leave me feeling depressed because I inevitably feel like I can’t afford the full-price shoes, then feel deprived, then feel cheap that I didn’t buy something I needed. Sometimes I also feel sorry for myself because I live in a fairly well-heeled (ha!) suburb where everyone else CAN afford the full-price shoes.
Believe it or not, these feelings follow me into the grocery store. I like clipping coupons on a Sunday morning because it’s yet another chance to be organized (my daughter also loves this ritual, which means her own therapist will be having a field day 20 years from now). But the idea of NOT buying a box of cereal my kids want because I don’t have a coupon? That would leave me feeling deprived. The idea of saving up coupons and scouring websites and sale flyers for where I can get that box of cereal for the least amount of money or even free, that would make me feel cheap.
So, what does all of this have to do with advice? Well, naturally I think it’s a fascinating insight into my psyche, but I also think it’s an insight into one of the biggest complaints people have about those who ask for their advice. People frequently write into advice columns asking about friends who ask for advice and then ignore the advice.
I get the frustration, but I think you have to remember that we’re all fascinatingly complex people with complex histories. Your advice seems simple and straightforward to you, but it may touch on hundreds of bizarre and unconnected issues inside your friend’s head.
By the way, if you are not burdened with my bizarre Judeo-psycho-budgetary issues you should check out the Frugalista blog, it’s really useful.
Have you ever rejected good advice?