What I Don’t Have

Don`t have a house like this! (Photo: edgonline.photoshelter.com)

Don`t have a house like this! (Photo: edgonline.photoshelter.com)

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.

This is what my generation looks like - a photo of a 1982 class reunion - not my school (Photo: sesmschool.com)

This is what my generation looks like – a photo of a 1982 class reunion – not my school (Photo: sesmschool.com)

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.

Nobody wants their kid to be the goalie: too expensive! (Photo exploratorium.edu)

Nobody wants their kid to be the goalie: too expensive! (Photo exploratorium.edu)

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.

Where I live, lots of people buy ATVs for their kids. My brother and cousin have both had traumatic injuries on them as adults. (Photo: producer.com)

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.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (Photo: oliverspetcare.com)

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (Photo: oliverspetcare.com)

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?

Check MarkHomeowner

Check MarkMarried

Check MarkDivorced (previously)

Check MarkChildren

X MarkDogs – have 2 cheap cats instead!

Check MarkHome renovations – replaced flooring

X MarkYard, garden and landscaping upgrades – no, just keep existing plants alive

X MarkFurniture and home decor – only necessary items like mattresses and book shelves (!)

Check MarkBig flat screen TV

X MarkWaterfront property

X MarkRecreational vehicles

X MarkSun travel

Check MarkCulture travel

Our new bookcases, stuffed, and this is only half of our books

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!

28 comments

  1. Dar, I stopped to take a good look at your first picture and before reading the caption thought ‘this just isn’t Dar’. You seem too down to earth to have crystal chandeliers on your wish list.

    you could have been writing about my peers as well in this. Growing up along Lake Erie and still living in a lake community recreation vehicles are big with my peers. The one trend I notice in my community and in the peers from school is that as they find themselves with the empty nest they are choosing the bigger house, the one they couldn’t afford when raising children. As a generalization my peers are either staying put, building/buying a larger home, or adding additions on to make their current home bigger. I seem to be the only one who has downsized, which was what led me to blogging, a search for like-minded individuals.

    • I can relate to that, Lois. I am surprised by how many people are staying in their big houses or even upsizing. Recently I heard an older woman I know give advice to a new home buyer, saying, “Don’t go too small; you’ll regret it!” Maybe there is a feeling that they’ve worked hard and deserve the finer things in life. And I don’t think that status-seeking has gone away.

  2. Fiona

    My peers are early 40s so our kids are all in the “tween” bracket but so many of those patterns are identical. Many of our friends have just got into the home renovation phase; spending on sport is significant and Facebook is full of overseas trips!

    Is private schooling a big factor in Canada, Dar? This is probably the biggest spending divergence among my peer group. Some have kids in schools that cost $15,000 per annum, per child (funded variously by grandparents, dual incomes or even reverse mortgages.) It’s a very aspirational thing here. Schooling choice is a massive, endless discussion point in my peer group!

    • Good question; I only have 2 friends with kids in private school. One pays $5500/yr and the other $15,000 each for 2 kids. Both families have 2 parents in professional jobs. It is definitely not the norm. Most families don’t even consider it. University tuition (excluding living expenses) costs $5000-6500 a year except for medical, dental and law schools.

      • Fiona

        Thanks, Dar. That’s so good to hear. Makes me feel better to know the obsession with private schooling around here is probably very parochial and OTT!

      • I think there is also an anti-elitist sentiment here, as in “We should support our public schools.”

  3. At my last class reunion there were I think a grand total of 4 of us who didn’t have kids – me and three of my best high school buddies. Hmmm… I wonder what that says about my social circle!

    • I find that is a great conversation stopper at any kind of social event – everyone asks everyone else if they are married and if they have kids, and if either answer is no, there is an awkward silence in which the person feels obliged to explain themselves. It must be doubly hard for LGBTQ folks who don’t want to explain their situations. I empathize!

      • Lisa

        My husband and I also never had any kids, and yes, I find it a conservation stopper unless by rare chance that person didn’t have any either. Having just moved to a new town, on a leave of absence from work AND with no kids, it has been interesting to find ways to connect with my peers and make friends. It seems a difficult age to do so.

        I do have the dog, as well as 2 cats – all expensive (I am still envious of your $24/month pet expense. Our elder cat just went back for more dental surgery after the first failed to heal properly [sigh]). However, I do not think of these pets as my replacement children!

        But what I don’t have that many of my peers do is debt (consumer or mortgage). I choose to spend my money on my pets and travel, but I do not go into debt for either.

        PS. Eco Cat Lady – why can I not comment on your blog?

      • Bravo on your debt-free status! I am happy that my cats are young and healthy right now. I had to put them in a kennel for a week last month which also meant getting them flea meds in advance, so that was big bucks!

        On Eco Cat Lady’s blog, you can always comment by selecting Comment As: Anonymous and then just sign your name to the comment.

      • Lisa

        No, I can’t even get it to work using Anonymous! Weird. I think it is something to do with Blogger.

  4. Interesting photos! I realise I ‘sun’ travel (even though Australian winter is like some countries summer!) too. That being said, I last went away in Oct 2012 and don’t have another holiday planned – which I now realise is ‘weird’ for me, and my peers (and parents). Everyone’s jetsetting this year!

    Fiona – even my bf and I talk now (not even married or pregnant) about the future cost of our kids education, that’s how much we know it’ll cost and how much we’ll need to plan for it!!

    • Yeah, why no vacation plans 🙂

      It sounds like private school and “competitive schooling” is big in Australia like it is in the UK.

      • This election (less than 100 days away) is all about education and trying to improve public schools.

        No vacation plans because I would rather go with the BF and he’s not as big a ‘holidayer’ as I am. So I keep broaching it, hoping he’ll get excited about something/somewhere. San fran looked appealing the movie last night, one place in the US he’d be willing to visit (this would be my US/Canada year if I do go away)

      • If you ever decide on east coast Canada, let me know, or I could meet you in Toronto or Montreal! Not so exciting as San Francisco, though!

      • Dar, I most definitely will, I might even come all the way to you, because you’ve sold your area so well! But I love NYC, and Montreal is not that far at all (plus I know people in Montreal…) It’ll be sooner than you think!

  5. Your bookcase is almost as big as our entire village library which shrank with the credit crunch as the local councils here struggle to maintain them!
    The peers I am still in touch with have varied lifestyles and each of us have some similarities but many opposites so it is hard to compare but I am happy enough with my life and the things I have chosen although I dare say I would perhaps change one or two decisions had I to live it over again – I would certainly take more risks with my money and have more confidence in my abilities. Some of my peers have had to start over due to divorce and so have been forced into downsizing – others have been made redundant and so any plans for moving onwards and upwards are now on hold. As long as I have my garden nothing else matters to me on a material level – I would gladly live in a caravan.

  6. I would choose the 1800 books and 400 DVDs over sun travel anytime. 🙂 There was a period here in Melbourne, in fact in the very recent past, when empty nesters were flocking to units and flats, downsizing from their sprawling suburban homes. This triggered furious apartment developments everywhere even in suburbs where land is relatively more affordable. I read now, though, that that trend has somewhat stopped with empty nesters preferring instead to stay put in their existing family-sized homes. Upsizing, however, is rarer. I think. Also, the imminent glut in flats and apartments is not going to be good for the economy. Enjoyed the post.

    • Thanks! There are high-end apartments and condos here that only seniors can afford when they’ve sold a previous home. It’s a good point to think about what will happen to them in the next generation – maybe demand will drop and prices will fall.

  7. Interesting post. I dont have many of the things on your list. I may have to do a post like this over at my blog (normal things that everyone has but I dont!).

  8. Pingback: Friday Faves, Freshly Pressed? | Living Simply Free

  9. I’m in my late 20s and still at the stage where lots of the things I own, I don’t actually like. This is due to a combination of lack of funds (and so numerous trips to Ikea over the years), buying items to fit various rental properties and a boyfriend with very different taste to my own. I moved a few months ago and really trying to buy things I actually like!

    • Yep, that was me in my 20s too! I did think there would be a day when I had a house that would be fully decked out and decorated, but now I see it more as a work in constant progress – gradually the things I like won over!

  10. Pingback: Annual Cost of Living Report 2013 | An Exacting Life

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