I hate to admit it, but I can be a real judgmental prick sometimes.
Since starting this blog eons ago, my general personal finance philosophy has been this:
If you can really afford it, spend it.
But there are those moments where I’ll just cringe and think to myself: “God, what an ass.”
My first encounter with status symbol was many years ago, back in elementary school. For a period of time, my sister and I had reduced price on lunch due to family income eligibility. (Thinking about it now, it might have been free lunch for a month or so, then it changed to reduced price and eventually the benefit went away as our family household income increased). I remember standing in line, giving the coupon/vouchers to the lunch lady, and I was none-the-wiser that my family was any different than my classmates.
Ah, to be a naive kid again.
I eventually got around to asking my mom about why we were getting free/reduced price lunch and found out that while my family was not exactly dirt poor, we were certainly not rolling in money either.
What really opened my eyes though was what happened a few days later. While after school, I noticed a fellow classmate that’s also using the reduced lunch voucher getting picked up by his parent — in their brand new Mercedes. Needless to say, I was really confused.
Soon, I learned that the family in question was not necessarily cheating the welfare system, but was using what little money they had just to buy/lease (or however they got) the Mercedes.
Growing up in Southern California, this type of status symbol display quickly became the norm in life. You’ll quickly hear how so and so just bought a brand new car. Or a luxury watch. Or a luxury bag. Or high-end kicks. All this before I even graduated from high school (and I graduated from a lower-middle class high school).
So although there was a time when I was really car crazy (SoCal culture after all) — these days I really despise the car as a status symbol. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying a nice car. Who wouldn’t want a sweet bimmer that can do 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds? But when you can’t afford it and you straddle yourself with a tens of thousands of dollars in debt just to look good in other people’s eyes… you’re kind of a tool in my book.
Till this day, I still get the occasionally online inquiry from a random high school classmate: “Hey man, are you still driving that Honda Civic?”
What an ass.
What type of status symbols annoys you the most? Feel free to share in the comments below. And yes, I still drive my “old” 2001 Honda Civic :)