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Keeping up appearances


Spring has sprung here in Portland, and that means lawn work. I will spend a lot of March finishing my project to Audible and The Great Courses — so things around here might be slow for a few weeks — but once I’m done hacking in the term mines every day, there is loads of mowing and pruning and digging and weeding and planting to do in your home.

“I’ll be happy when everything appears pretty back here,” Kim stated last Saturday. We lounged at the bottom of the lawn, soaking up sunshine and sipping on beer. We had spent the day moving lawn debris and trimming blackberry vines. Now, a dog and our three cats were enjoying Family Time.

“Me also,” I stated. “This rear yard is a jungle. It was a mess once we moved , and it’s just gotten worse in the past few years. My target for 2020 is to wash this up entirely, to create a space where it’s interesting to hang out with our buddies. ”

One small corner of our yard

Kim nodded. “I’ve been nearly embarrassed to have folks over since the lawn is this a wreck,” she explained. “I had been thrilled to have folks over to the condo. It was beautiful. It was a place where I wanted to host parties. Here? I really don’t know. I love this house, and you are aware of it, but I’m not proud of this. In reality, sometimes I’m embarrassed of this together with every one of the mice and bugs and weeds. ”

It is true. Our area is infested with rodents. It is not only our house; it’s every house on the form. (It’s more obvious at our house because our cats frequently bring us presents.) And we do have large populations of box-elder bugs and fleas. Our house is clean but it’s surrounded by chaos.

In addition, the condo had 1547 square feet of distance, about half of which was dedicated to amusement areas. It turned out to be a fourth-floor corner suite with beautiful views of the Willamette River and downtown Portland. The place was lavish. It was light and airy. We felt wealthy living there.

Our country cottage has 1235 square feet of distance, none of which is laid out economically. The house isn’t designed for entertaining. It is created for living. The area is cramped and dark, almost like a hobbit hole. It feels like home — although lavish is not felt by anything about it.

“Do you wish to proceed? ” I asked.

“No,” Kim said. “Not whatsoever. I wish we had a house I had been pleased to show to folks. ”

Keeping Up Appearances

I have been contemplating this conversation for a week.

A key portion of the FI/RE movement — that the financial freedom and premature retirement movement — is closely considering societal values, then (maybe ) opting to do things differently if this will result in better results. (By “better outcomes ”, I mean an elevated saving speed or quicker retirement date)

FI folks think outside the box. They make. We are more concerned with results than with appearances.

We drive old vehicles for instance, for a time period. We commute by bike or public transportation. We don’t see cars as status symbols.
We choose places. We recognize that home is the single biggest investment for most families, therefore we choose less-expensive houses and homes are preferred by us.
We save 30% or less 50% or 70 percent of our earnings instead of the 8 percent. Comfort that is present is sacrificed by us for future security.
We devote to support our personal goals. We don’t spend to keep up with the Joneses. We are not curious about what other people buy and do.

And yet…

We are human beings. We are social animals. We live in a society. Conformity is hard-wired into our brains. It’s biological. We wish to fit in with our neighbors, therefore it can be profoundly uncomfortable when it’s clear that we don’t fit in. We want to appear “ ” that is ordinary so that we will be accepted by others.

This need to “keep up appearances” could be nearly pathological in some individuals. I have friends (and I’m certain that you do also ) for whom appearance is much more important than reality. They’ve a need for other people to see them and their families happy and effective. A feeling of orderliness projects, although Matters might be chaotic from the scenes. Things look is more significant than what items are for all these people.

Thus, at one extreme you’ve got that the Hyacinth Buckets of this world.

However, is it possible to swing too far in the other direction? Is it possible not to care ? Can there be a certain degree of gloss that one should maintain as part of society?

What Do You Care What Other People Think?

Two weeks ago, I paid $1900 to purchase a 1993 Toyota pickup. I really like the truck — and it runs great! — but I’ll admit it appears like a bit of crap. The paint is peeling. There growing out of the grilles. The upholstery is worn and stained. The seatbelts are frayed. The dashboard is gouged. (It’s been patched with duct tape in one spot!)

My 1993 Toyota Pickup

Many others are embarrassed for me, although I’m not embarrassed by this truck.

Kim doesn’t enjoy having it in the driveway. My cousin Duane thinks I’m mad for not cleaning the moss up and washing the toilet. My brother thinks I want to eliminate the canopy. (“That’s an old-man canopy,” he explained ) As I drive around the city, I’m acutely conscious that my pickup looks out of place near this Tesla Model 3s and Porsche Cayennes popular in our area. (I wouldn’t be surprised to find our town was that the Porsche Cayenne capital of the planet!)

Mostly, I don’t care what other people think. My life works for me. My decisions have been aligned with my values, and they’ve helped me (and continue to assist me) achieve financial independence. If I had to get a 69,000 SUV instead of a 1900 pickup, I might look wealthier from the outside, but I would not be wealthier. I’d be poorer.

Therefore, mostly I don’t care what other people think. However, part of me does. I can’t allow it. Just like I saythis substance is burnt onto our brains. We want to match in.

And, like Kim, I have not felt comfortable having folks over for the past few years. I’m happy of our house. It is not a place I want to flaunt. Rather than inviting friends over to sit in the spa, Kim and I regularly suggest we meet elsewhere. As far as I wish to believe appearances don’t matter to me, they do. Yes things are things , but apparently things look remains something I think about.

Final Thoughts

Build Your Own MiniAfter years of talking about it, Kim finally bought a new car last month. Her 1997 Honda Accord is now gone, replaced by a 2016 Toyota RAV4. The Honda, like a bit of crap, seemed for example my truck. The paint was peeling and things fell in the cottage. Kim’s RAV4, on the flip side, is a item of beauty.

“Driving the RAV4 makes me feel unique,” Kim advised me on Monday night. “It’s overly fancy. It is so far before my Honda, it’s ridiculous. It is like the long term. It makes me feel rich! ” As you can imagine, this made me more eager to obtain a new car of my own! I I want to feel unique. I would like to feel wealthy.

It will not help that the car-buying problem of Consumer Reports came on Tuesday. I have spent far too much time in the past week constructing my own vehicle on various maker websites. Would not I feel better driving a car with brand new features? (Answer: Probably not, but a bit of me believes .)

Luckily, it’s not often I have wrapped up in appearances. While I find myself worried what other people believe, I:

Remind myself of my private mission statement. Is a brand new car aligned with my values? Is a property? Is a picture? Are there any other items which are more significant?
Connect with like-minded folks. While I don’t spend enough time together with my FIRE buddies, I begin to feel pressure to conform to societal standards. But when I’m in a position to attend events like the Financial Freedom Summit or even that the chautauqua in Ecuador, I understand I may be a weirdo, but I’m not the only weirdo.
Give myself permission to buy what I want. If my spending decisions are deliberate, good. It is not wrong to get a new car — and I guess I’ll do. That might be five months from today, or it might be five years. While I do make the purchase, I will not feel guilty. I can afford it. However, I really don’t wish to this new-car itch only for the sake of appearances.

Some folks today seem rich but don’t have anything. Some of us are wealthy but seem to have nothing. Many people fall somewhere in the middle. Do appearances matter? I really don’t know. My inclination would be to say“Nonot at all. ” But I feel like the real response is,” “Yes, appearances matter — but only a little. ”

What do you believe? How significant are appearances? How do you balance how things seem and how things are? Would you look at all the men and women perceive you and your loved ones? Can you drive 27-year-old pickup? Can give a condo for a country cottage up? Where do you discover the courage as you pursue your objectives?

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