Feeling Poor, Feeling Rich

This is a guest post from Sheryl in Ontario, who is 40 years old with a grown daughter, and is trying to rebuild her retirement dream just 20 years too late for early retirement.

A little while ago, as I was getting dressed, I pulled on one of the belt loops on my jeans to pull them the rest of the way up and heard that awful sound of fabric coming apart.  Upon examining the damage, I found the denim was tearing along where the pocket was sewn, just under where the belt loop is.  This was also my only pair of casual pants/jeans (Clothes shopping has never been a love of mine.  I am 5’10” and finding pants long enough has always been a problem).

Okay, I figured, it’s just a small tear, most of my shirts are long, I can get away with still wearing these jeans.  I will usually repair my clothes, but this was in a spot that I would have had to pulled too much fabric to the area, which would have not have worked.  I wore those jeans for a few weeks like that, with a long shirt, no problem.  Then the other side tore in the same spot.  Still I wore them, but was a little more conscious of making sure my shirt covered the holes.

I didn’t want to spend money on clothes.  I want to concentrate on reducing my debt.  As the holes got bigger, I liked wearing my jeans less and less. Making sure my shirt was covering the holes distracted me to the point of almost being an obsession. I was more tempted to make impulse purchases to make myself feel better while wearing these jeans.  I was allowing my dis-comfort to affect how I felt about life in general.  My optimism was becoming pessimistic.   I started to feel poor wearing these jeans. Fortunately, I realized what was happening and why.

During this realization, I started thinking about what makes me feel poor, and what makes me feel rich.

These are the things that make me feel poor:  Wearing ripped, stained or worn out clothes (unless I’m doing dirty work or staying in the house), eating poor quality food, going to an event party (birthday, anniversary) with no gift to give, not going to an event because I didn’t have a gift to give, trying to make do with something that has broken, being around people that have all the material things I want, not doing anything during time off work because I couldn’t afford it, having my body ache every morning because my mattress is old

Conversely, these are the things that make me feel rich don’t really cost very much at all.  Most things I either already have had for a long time (and were careful purchases at the time) or are more intangible.  Most are a state of mind.  The richness in my life would include quality home cooked food, knowing my bills are paid, having money left over after the bills are paid, seeing how happy the people and animals in my life are when I see them, using a good toilet paper and not running out of it, having a good health plan at work that covers massages,  feeling warm and secure in my home, and being able to afford new jeans when I find them on sale at 2 for $20.

There seems to be a vitality in me when I’m not feeling poor.  I’m more efficient, more energy, better decision making as well as a general happiness.  I’ve learned from this awareness how easy it is to stop being grateful for the rich things in my life, just by concentrating on one negative one.   I’ve also learned how easy it is to become cheap as opposed to frugal.  What makes you feel poor or rich?  How do you balance it?

10 thoughts on “Feeling Poor, Feeling Rich”

  1. The richest feeling in the world to me is when I am not doing what everyone else is doing. I get empowered when I think of all those people who don’t understand taking control of their own life, frugality, fiscal responsibility, and freedom from societies prison.

    I feel poor when I give in to those same pressures.

  2. Lots of good thoughts here which helps me make my list:
    1. Not having a lot of material goods just good quality, long lasting ones.
    2. Taking care of my health and feeling fit and happy.
    3. No debt.
    4. No guilt about conspicuous consumption – have just enough to meet my needs.

  3. Sheryl, thanks for sharing these thoughts. I’ve never considered very hard what makes me feel rich or poor. But I know it’s a see-saw that is constantly going up and down.

  4. One more spontaneous thought: My mom who grew up during the depression and was frugal to the max always had clean sheets on the beds because it made her feel pampered. Even the poor could have the luxury of fresh sheets (often just off the clothesline fresh). I still follow her example and have fresh sheets and towels every use.

  5. Well, that’s a good question. Spoiling my kids by buying them things or experiences I never had growing up used to make me feel (temporarily) rich I think. I still feel rich when I can spoil someone else. Donating works too.
    Turning on the heated seat switch for the first (and second and third) time in the SUV this winter made me feel rich. 🙂 The thrill didn’t wear off all winter last year so I suspect I’m rather immune to hedonic adaptation.
    The act of saving definitely makes me feel rich. Maybe that’s why it gets kind of addictive for some. Being able to say to yourself “I have more than enough and do not need this money” feels very good.
    Receiving dividends gives a little thrill that doesn’t seem to wear off. I suspect it represents safety and security rather than feeling rich. That I could not be working tomorrow and X company would still be sending me enough to cover the utilities or groceries etc. every month for (potentially) the rest of my life gives me the warm and fuzzies.
    However, I did feel poor last year when I was drawing down my savings when not working. Even though the investments were still slowly growing, I was determined not to touch them and it bugged me big time – to the point of a bit of anxiety. I’m hoping the dividends covering the outflows will make that anxiety go away the next time. Peace of mind and knowing I don’t have to worry ever again about how the bills are going to get paid – no matter what happens – is the biggie I guess.

  6. Ok, so try not to laugh when you read this. I feel rich when eating off good plates (like bone china) or drinking wine out of a crystal glass. Easy eh?

    Or the other one is taking my time to enjoy a cup of coffee and read a book when I know I could be doing something else. Being idle because I can feels great.

    As to feeling poor…to be honest I haven’t felt that way since being a broke university student. Perhaps because I look at nice cars, houses and think: they made their choice and I made mine. Yes I could owe those things, but I don’t want to.


  7. I love reading these comments because it helps me realize the little things that make me feel rich. I too am loving spoiling the kids and grandkids, don’t think about the dividends because in our case my husband still has a good income and therefore they all are being reinvested so I never see them. I totally agree that saving can become addicting and I think that is a good addiction (like exercise every day) but it can seem extreme as in my mother’s case where she always stayed at Motel 6 when traveling and had a poor mentality while having more than enough money invested and I think missed out on things that would have given her joy. I take comfort in knowing that for her saving make her happy.

    Tim, I agree about houses and cars and things people take on debt for. They aren’t important to me. I am content with what I have and don’t need a luxury vehicle or a McMansion. On the other hand I travel many weeks during the winter and that is my extravagance – it makes me feel rich.

  8. “having my body ache every morning because my mattress is old” — I’ve found having the mattress directly on the floor makes it firm, nonwobbly and makes my back feel much better, and the mattress lasts m u c h longer. The floor itself is the best support — any cushioning is just for comfort.

  9. @dlm – My mattress is a cast off from my niece, so was in rough shape when I got it (marriage had just broken up and I was trying to set my life up again). I don’t have a bed frame, so right now it is the box spring and mattress sitting on the floor, maybe I’ll try taking the box spring off. Thanks for the tip.

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