As I continue with my very lengthy home inventory project, I am recording the things I own, and giving some thought to things I don’t own. I started wondering – what is in a typical household, and how is mine different?
I thought I would compare myself to my “peer group,” being former school mates and co-workers who live in my area. I didn’t quiz them, but just drew some quick conclusions based on what they talk about and what they share on Facebook. Keep in mind that I am almost 50 and my “peer group” has had time to amass a lot of stuff, which might not be your situation! I went to school in a rural area but I lived on the edge closest to the city and gravitated toward it, while many of my classmates didn’t.
I know one single person who lives in an apartment and one who lives in a cabin in the woods, but everyone else owns a house. Quite a few people I went to school with have chosen to live in the communities where they grew up, where land and home building are affordable, rather than living in the city. A number of them have found (or created) work in the outlying communities and have built their lives at a local level, which I find admirable.
Most people I know have kids between 15 and 30 years old and are at the tail-end of their child rearing years. A few are grandparents! Lately I see lots of updates about graduations and weddings. No one I know has downsized or bought a condo yet.
I attended a high school reunion and several dinners with my graduating class in the past 5 years. Some typical scenarios were:
- Their children were heavily involved in sports, so they spent a lot of money on sports fees, equipment, and travel to tournaments. Hockey is a very expensive sport, but some were in soccer, competitive canoeing or swimming.
- They had owned their homes for many years and were now doing renovations, taking pride in kitchen and bathroom renos, or having to do boring upgrades like roofs and furnaces! There was a lot of enjoyment found in choosing and installing nice lighting fixtures, faucets, counter tops, Jacuzzi tubs, and flooring.
- Yards and gardens were well-established, but there were lots of deck and patio upgrades, sometimes adding a hot tub.
- Significantly, my classmates had made do with mismatched, used or low quality furniture over the years, and as they accumulated some wealth, they selected and ordered the furniture they always wanted – when they were in their 40s!
- Of course, a big flat screen TV was de rigueur!
We all have parents who are seniors now. A few classmates had helped their parents downsize and move, mostly willingly – our parents’ age and health are generally not at the stage where out-of-home options are required.
Of course, one big difference among classmates was between those who had been married for many years and those who had re-built their lives after a divorce. Another was classmates who had experienced cancer or another health scare, which led to radical differences in what they valued in life. Gay and lesbian friends had experienced more turmoil in their earlier lives, had more issues going on to higher education, and took longer to achieve a comfortable lifestyle. There are still people of my generation who choose not to be Out and who find it works better for them to use a personal “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Besides kids in sports, there are two areas where spending diverges a lot:
- People who own a waterfront property. These are readily available in Nova Scotia, of course! Waterfront homes were a big investment, and others chose to have cabins or cottages at a lake. This usually led to a complete lifestyle change geared toward recreation – the purchase of canoes, kayaks, speed boats, water skis and wake boards, and all the accoutrements of outdoor living.
- Travel lovers! About half the people I know take an annual winter “sun” vacation, usually to a resort in Mexico, Cuba or the Dominican Republic. My work friends are more likely to save for a one-time vacation to some place like Thailand, or to visit European cities.
Oh wait, there is a third one: dogs! Everyone loves their thoroughbred dogs and often spend big bucks on obedience training, grooming and doggie daycare.
I definitely find that the rural dwellers are more oriented to family, church and community; while city folks like their arts and entertainment – surely one of the things that brought them to the city in the first place.
So how do I fit into this equation?
Where I do spend my money, as you know, is arts and entertainment, electronics, media, and books. I am sure that the cost of the 1800 books and 400 DVDs in our house would have funded annual sun vacations for our whole lives! But that was our choice. I have nothing against travel whatsoever, in fact, I generally think that choosing experiences over stuff is a better way to go.
There were times in my life when I cared about how others were doing materially versus me, but those days are long past! The recession has been a great equalizer, for better or worse, and I live in a part of the world where most people are frugal anyway. I also think that upcoming generations won’t be the acquisitive creatures that we are – they will never have experienced the means, and they are more aware of the environment. Here’s to the future!