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Are You Feeling Rich or Feeling Poor?

Are you feeling rich today – or feeling poor?   That was the question my husband asked my mother as she tried to decide whether or not to replace her huge monster of a TV with a slim LCD one that can hang out of the way on the wall.  Her studio apartment at the retirement home is only so big, and her current 10-year-old television set looms out into the room like a big black eyesore.  She hates it and keeps contemplating getting one of these newfangled ones, but of course there is that one little thing holding her back:  the price tag. 

Ah yes, the price tag.  That tiny rectangle with SKU lines all over it that keeps us from snatching up all that we desire.  There is in all of us that invisible number, set at our comfort level, that tells us whether or not the item we want is coming home with us; deal or no deal – is the price right?

In her case, the TV set we think she should get is around $700.  That number is above her invisible comfort number, and so we wait.  Wait until she REALLY REALLY wants it, and not just kinda wants it or thinks it would be nice.  Wait until she feels she can afford it.  Just like my husband said:  are you feeling rich or feeling poor? 

The truth of the matter is that she CAN afford it.  She could go out and get it today, and be done with it (and then we would be done hearing about it, which has its pluses too).  But perhaps the reason she can afford it is that she isn’t like that.  She doesn’t just go out and get things like the rest of us.  She is part of the Greatest Generation:  the ones that lived through the Great Depression, the ones that learned the value of a dollar and how to get by on less – not more. 

She doesn’t feel ENTITLED to the new TV like the generations of today, the “I have worked hard for my money and I’m gonna spend it however I want to” frame of mind, even if that means putting it on VISA and making just over the minimum payment for the next few years.  Of course she wouldn’t be making payments; she would write a check for the whole purchase and that would be that.  Her quality of life would become better.  She’d probably turn the darn thing on again and watch those PBS shows she used to enjoy so much.  At the very least she wouldn’t have the ugly eyesore over-sized box lunging out at her every day as she adjusts to living in her smaller space.   

Isn’t it all such a state of mind?  I have felt rich on occasion, as though I could freely be generous in my gift giving to friends, family, kids’ teachers, etc. or buy that thing at the mall that would be so nice to have but certainly not a NEEDED item.  Conversely, I have felt poor, having to analyze every purchase and each request for money (chip in for this class gift, contribute to that much-needed school program the state no longer provides, get birthday presents for kids we barely know, etc).  I HATE that feeling of questioning everything and usually end up feeling worse.  Let’s face it, it’s so roses and cherry blossoms to give.  The hard part is when you can’t.  Or feel like you can’t. 

But this Zen Mama Wannabe wonders if the actual money in our bank account has changed that much, or if it is more about that feeling my husband was alluding to.  Perhaps it isn’t the money so much but how we FEEL about it. 

Can’t people feel rich with hardly anything – or poor when they arguably have so much??

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(Reminds me of a great song by India.Arie – here’s a few lines of it – if it’s not on your iPod, it should be!)

"…He had no windows and no doors
He lived a simple life and was extremely poor
On top of all of that he had no eye sight,
but that didn’t keep him from seein’ the light
He said, what’s it like in the USA,
and all I did was complain
He said living here is Paradise
He taught me paradise in in your mind
You know that

There’s Hope
It doesn’t cost a thing to smile
You don’t have to pay to laugh
You better thank God for that…"

– Lyrics from "There’s Hope" by India.Arie

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3 Responses to “Are You Feeling Rich or Feeling Poor?”

  1. callieandbatido Says:
    August 21st, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    I think your husband may be on to something Zenmamma. Are we feeling rich or poor today?

  2. LarkLady Says:
    August 21st, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Let it be, ZenMama! When she’s ready, she’ll get a hig-def flat-screen TV… and then wonder why she waited! But in this as in so many things in life, timing is everything. If you push her to get something before she’s ready to make the plunge, I suspect she’ll get something less expensive — and probably not really what she wants.

    The more you push, the more her response will be that she’s feeling poor. Let go and let her come around to it… and she’ll be more likely to be feeling rich.

    I see the same thing in myself at times. If it’s MY idea to buy something for the kids, I feel rich… and am more likely to spend more to get better quality of whatever it is that I’m buying. But if they’re whining that they need this and they need that, it’s a sure bet that I’m going to be feeling poor! I may still pull out the credit card and buy it… but it’s a whole different feeling, for both me and the kids.

    In some ways I like the Depression mentality of saving up for something — planning the purchase and looking forward to what will be done with it — and then buying it in cash. No credit card bill to come later and haunt you: it’s been paid for!

    And speaking of feeling rich or poor and buying things we want (as opposed to really need), what did you decide about the Wii?????

  3. Zen Mama Wannabe Says:
    August 21st, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Proud of myself thus far, I must say. Even in those “rich” moments, which are far too few these days, this Zen Mama Wannabe is still holding my ground for NO Wii. In that case, it’s easy when I’m feeling “poor” to think absolutely not; it’s when I feel “rich” that I occasionally doubt myself.

    I too like the Depression era way of holding off on buying something until you actually have the cold, hard cash for it. Well, I like it in theory anyway. In practice, I think it would be almost impossible for us to do – boy that says something, doesn’t it??

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