This is the time of year that makes die-hard frugal people squirm. All that food for one day — one meal! The decorations, the energy inefficient lights. For those who get scammed into a fresh-cut Christmas tree, well. Money … down the drain! Of course there area all the presents, the calendars, the end-of-the-year school fundraisers. This! That! The other thing.
Once Halloween is over, you might as well write your PIN on the debit card and leave it out on the porch. I mean, for frugal people, that’s what the holidays can feel like.
Writer and contributor to the Atlantic Monthly Sandra Tsing Loh knows all to well the nauseous feeling cheapskates get when they spend money and the obsession with, for example, having to spend hundreds of dollars on necessary car repairs for a very used, very inexpensive family car.
It’s Spending Anxiety Disorder. There’s a diagnosis. And she writes all around it on her round-up of frugality and financial planning lit this month.
Loh’s not looking at the holidays, per se. That was my special way of getting you to shudder and take stock before holiday spending goes into full swing. But her piece does come at a more generally important time for a lot of Americans, especially parents, who may have been hit suddenly with the fact that they really can’t afford their kids. The house they bought in the good district is underwater, the mortgage payment recently ballooned, etc., etc.
Some of the books offer finger wagging, others impossible to abide tips (packing a Crock-Pot in your vacation bags with which to eat Spaghetti-Os after a long day of sight-seeing, comes to mind). But where the essay really packs a punch for parents of young ones is with regard to college. Not whether you should do a 529 or a simple savings account. Rather, what we can do now about future college choices.
Loh’s 9-year-old loves to draw and hopes to attend an artsy magnet middle school. After already hitting us with the facts that doctors may earn well but their wealth is rarely sustained in future generations, she gives us this gentle reminder regarding kids and expensive schools for fulfilling but low-earning degrees:
Worse is the delusion of my whole generation: we want our kids to go to fancy colleges in order to absolutely ensure, for their whole lives, that they will be poor.
Hey, she’s not saying to dump all the art supplies, but she and the financial guru who led her down this path have a point. What do you think? Trade in the sketch pad for graphing calculator and some savings bonds? How else are the frugal parents in a holiday/recession panic supposed to relax and feel good this holiday season?
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