Low Class


 

Last week, my husband came home from work and told me, with a wry grin, “I regret to inform you, my dear, that we are decidedly lower class.”

 

“What do you mean?” I scoffed, laughingly, “I’m totally classy!”

 

He laughed, too, and then continued, “No, I was reading an article in the newspaper today and it talked about how much a family in our area needs to make to be ‘middle class.’ For {our nearest biggish city}, they said it takes 80K a year. For our town, 105K.”

 

The giggles really erupted then. “Oh, my! And how, pray-tell, did they define middle class, I wonder?”

 

“Well,” he went on, “those figures were for a family with a house, a car, two kids, and one vacation a year. At least, that’s what it said.”

 

I just shook my head.

 

You’ve probably already gathered from this exchange that our household income does not approach that figure. Or, really, the “big” town’s figure. But, there it is, in black and white– if you don’t make at least this much money, it’s not possible to live a solid, middle-class life.

 

It got me thinking. A lot.

 

(did not get the memo that we’re low class)

 

Yes, I realize that we take lots of steps to try to save money and make frugal choices. I cook almost all our meals. I menu plan. I shop the sales. We keep our house temp pretty cool in the winter. Lots and lots of little things that, I’m sure, do add up.

 

It’s true that we really don’t do a “major” vacation every year but, to be fair, we also have two cars and an extra kid. So I have to think that’s kind of a wash.

 

I guess what I really want to say is…

 

We have everything we need.

 

Really, we also have a lot of what we want. Our kids are able to do some activities. We buy gifts for birthdays and Christmas. We go out to eat now and then.

 

Do we have everything we want?

 

No. But I don’t see what that has to do with being middle-class. I also struggle with the idea that having to be slightly careful with your cash means you’re not “making it.” Who decided that?

 

It is absolutely true that it costs more to live here than many other parts of the country. And, despite what people seem to think, our salaries are not explosively huge compared to other regions. Yes, they tend to be a bit higher. But, for example, when we moved from Indiana to Connecticut? My husband’s salary (for the same job) barely budged. Our home, however, cost 250% of what our (larger) home in the midwest had. Yeah.

 

STILL.

 

One hundred and five thousand dollars? Just to squeak by as middle class?

 

The thought boggles my mind. 105K won’t define you as “rich” around here; that’s just the way it goes. But is that really the threshold for just breaking out of the lower class? According to these experts? Yes.

 

I’m not expert on the class system, I guess. I don’t claim to be an expert on much. But what I do know is this:

 

It is okay to have to work.

It is okay to have to plan.

It is okay to have to be careful.

And (are you ready?)…

it is okay to have to sacrifice.

 

The idea that one must be able to afford everything without concern to price in order to just fall in the middle is absurd to me. Where did we get this idea? Who’s buying into the theory that, if you have to think about finances, your finances aren’t good enough?

 

It is an age of entitlement.

 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a home, a car, children. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to go on a vacation every now and then. Heck, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a pretty new vase to go up on your mantle.

 

But there’s also nothing wrong with having to work for it. To plan for it. And, sometimes, to wait for it.

 

Even if that does make you low class, just like your old pal JessieLeigh.

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8 comments to Low Class

  • mlearley

    I think this feeling of entitlement is what got our country in the debt that it’s in. For example, the housing market crashed b/c people couldn’t afford to pay their mortgages. Why couldn’t they pay them…because they bought houses with stainless steel appliances, grantite counter tops, walk-in closets, master bathrooms with whirlpool tubs (the list could go on).
    Both of us work and are in the middle class range for the nearest big city to us but we have chosen to buy used cars and a modest house. Sure we could afford “better” but better in whose minds. We would like a house in the future with 2 full bathroom due to having two teenage girls but it’s not a must. Honestly, if the house we have now is the only house we live in I’ll be happy. The thing that is important to us is being able to still pay our bills if one of us lost a job and unfortunately a ton of people don’t have that mindset. They think they deserve to live luxurious lives. Not sure where this stemed from?

    • Oh, but that was the fault of all the evil banks. You can’t blame PEOPLE for buying things they couldn’t afford! (<– said with a huge load of sarcasm, by a girl whose home lost a TON of value in that market, but who gets that I can’t blame the bank.)

      I don’t know what happened, Michelle. I feel like the “American Dream” has become almost comical. Too often, we don’t seek the opportunity to work to achieve a goal; we want what we “deserve.” And that’s absurd to me. I do think some of it comes from media and marketing. I think some comes from people constantly wanting “more for the next generation.” But, really, we need to get it together and knock it off. (In my far-from-expert opinion.)

  • Heather

    So I think having everything I want without regard to price would mean we’d need to be in that 1% I hear so much about. We live in high cost of living (compared to the frugal bloggers) area. We bought our home at the height of the market. So our basic housing bills take up a bigger chunk than I’d like. I WANT a lot more, but we have what we need and way more really. I think 105k would be pretty awesome and I think I’d feel better than middle class.

  • Sean

    Just remember, there is a difference between being in a lower economic class and being “low class”. I’ve known people who live at the poverty level, but who have CLASS. And I’ve known upper-class individuals who really are low class.

    That’s why poverty is more a state of mind than an economic condition.

  • Chellie

    I guess if your family is “low class,” my family must be existing in the drainage pipes. But you know what, we like it and wouldn’t have it any other way :). Your post brought to mind my husband’s favorite bible passage: “Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep Falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:7-9 NIV

  • Everything is relative, isn’t it? Now that we are past the days of paying a mortgage and a rent, paying off our second mortgage after foreclosing on the first (WHY YES WE ARE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. But we all know that’s a whole other ballgame …), even though I am sure we make much less than a lot of people who consider themselves middle class I feel like we have TONS of money! Ha! It’s nice not to think about it quite as much as we used to. Still, I try not to hold tightly to it and see having more expendable income as a change to help as many as I can.

    Sorry, this is totally rambling. If you read my 5 minute Friday post today you’ll see how I feel about ‘deserving’ something. We definitely have issues in our society with people thinking they deserve NOW what their parents have worked 30 years to build up to. State of mind …

  • Also – and I hope my mom doesn’t read this – one of the reasons I only have one sibling is that my parents were totally of the mindset of wanting to be able to give us more, pay for college, etc, etc, etc. IMHO we were way too spoiled and I don’t think it hurts to teach children everything is not at their fingertips without hard work. I would really like to have more siblings!

  • Laraba

    I have thought about these issues a lot too. We live in the Midwest in a fairly low rent town and we DO make a lot…gross of over $110K. Thankfully we have 8 children and we felt led to homeschool, or we’d seriously have too much money. And I mean that! We have a pretty big house on 5 acres with an inground pool and if it was just 2 kids we’d probably struggle not to spoil them. AS it is, they wear hand me down clothes and we drive used cars and I cook almost everything from scratch and we very rarely go out to eat. Vacations are to my parents home. I do remind the kids fairly often that our house is big and when they grow up and move out, they’ll have much smaller quarters. As it is, they share rooms.
    I have read that access to commercials is part of the problem and I talk a lot to the kids about messages in advertising. We are extremely restrictive about TV viewing (we watch no regular programming) but I have been known to DVR a commercial and have the kids watch it so we can discuss the themes. The older ones are getting pretty good at picking out what emotion you are supposed to be feeling during a commercial!

    I know this is a book…just wanted to say I totally agree. I don’t want our kids to have everything. I want them to learn to live without, to delay gratification, to realize they can live just fine without cable television or a fancy Ipad or a cellular phone that lets them surf the internet whenever they please. To be clear, none of those things is necessarily BAD, but equally we don’t need any of those things to have a fine life :-).

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