I read an article** today about what the average, middle-class family looks like today. The median income is $81,000, the low end is $51,000. The average family takes one vacation a year, usually totaling $3100 and lasting one week, typically to a beach or somewhere coastal. They have 2 medium size sedans, their home is typically worth approximately $231,000, and spend roughly $1200 a month on living expenses (clothing, food, utilities, entertainment, etc.).
I started thinking about how our family stacks up to these odds and have to admit that we fall short. I have never really considered our financial position in terms of middle-class versus working/lower class. I always felt that we had more than enough and didn't lack for anything we needed, and not usually anything we wanted. Other people, I know, see it differently. Even our family members seem to think we are not well off because we choose a different lifestyle than most. And I hate to say that I feel a lot of that is our fault. It is so much easier to tell someone we do something because it costs less or because we don't have the money to do it than to really explain our point or reasoning for why we choose the things we do.
For example, save 2 months when we first moved to Tulsa, we have never had cable (we only had it then because it was accidentally installed with our internet and we thought we'd give it a shot). We quickly realized what a time waster cable was for us. We could sit in the apartment all night, get nothing done, go to bed late, and have nothing to show for it except that we could tell you exactly what happened all night on TBS. It was just sad. So we got rid of it and have never considered going back. This means we pay less for tv than most people (nothing) and have more time for other things. By not having cable, we aren't as likely to waste our evening sitting on the couch--though we still find plenty of time for that with basic/local channels.
This seems like a luxury that most people don't realize is just that...at luxury. It isn't neccessary to have cable or to even have a tv, but some people think we are poor because we don't pay for cable. Fine with me.
My husband and I have also chosen to give up taking out loans on new cars. Our one, and only, "new" car purchase was a Saturn that we bought used from a dealership for much more than we should have paid. We gave up the car and loan about a year and a half ago and I don't miss writing that check every month. We currently have one car that is used and paid off. Sure it needs work every now and then, but by not making a monthly car payment the occasional mechanic fees don't seem that bad. The fact that we can opt for minimum insurance coverage is also a bonus. But having one car for a family of 3 seems to be impossible in the view of our society.
We do other things that most people consider odd. We cloth diaper our son, don't look down on any free clothes, I breastfed as I could, we check out movies and books from the library, we have one cell phone and a prepaid for emergencies, use cloth instead of paper products whenever necessary, and we don't have a credit card. You would think people had never done any of these things for the responses that we get some times.
I will admit that there are times when I feel it would be nice to have more money, like when I'm cooking dinner and really feel like just going out. But the payoff is so much better than what we would get from having those things that society tells us we absolutely need.
We are doing what we feel God has lead us to do giving me the opportunity to stay home with my son all day every day. That is something that is worth more than what I could monetarily bring in with a 9-5 job. We eat fairly well and we're doing better all the time since we are actually learning how to cook and cook well. We also know a lot more about Bonobo Monkeys and Cuttlefish than the average person (who doesn't watch tons of PBS) and our favorite shows are things like Big Bang Theory, America's Test Kitchen, and The Red Green Show. Many of these are things we would never experience if we had cable. I know how to cook a variety of foods, my favorite thing to do is replicate restaurant dishes at home and they always taste better.
All in all I am happy with where we are and that is enough for me. I am going to try to stick up for our choices more instead of using the easy way out. God definitely didn't call us in this direction because it was easy and it is of no benefit to anyone for me to act that way. I am proud of the decisions we have made because they are right for our family, maybe not for everyone, but for us it's perfect!
**If you want to read the full article, here's the link: http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgetingk/article/109155/how-to-gauge-your-middle-class-status?mod=bb-budgeting.