Sunday, November 7, 2010

Money in the Country

One thing that I love about living in a rural area like this is the decreased importance of money. I don't mean that people don't need it. I mean that showing it off isn't a big priority.

I would actually say that people here stress about money more than in larger areas where opportunities are more plentiful. Here a full-time job is often considered three part-time jobs cobbled together in hopes of making a decent salary. Those jobs don't offer benefits, sometimes are only temporary, and most often pay little. Housing is still expensive, and you have to drive everywhere to get supplies, making off time that much more important, which can be hard to get when you work so much. You can get supplies in the valley, but it's going to cost you dearly, so over the hill we all go every week.

One thing that I noticed growing up here is that the people with money don't particularly drive nice cars. An old, diesel Mercedes, Subaru hatchback or pickup truck is considered just fine, thanks. They live on 3-million-dollar properties, but the worth is in land -- in fact, they live in a small, one-bedroom former barn. Clothing is vastly functional and not necessarily attractive. I haven't seen a pair of designer jeans in years.

I've found that, moving here, my need to buy things has decreased as well. I wasn't a huge spender before, nor did I have a label fetish, but I did burn through a decent stack of cash each month, purchasing things and eating out. A lot of it was for work, but here it's different. Not only do jobs where heels or suits are required, well, not exist, but people just don't care as much about your new stuff. Also, if you buy new stuff that's too delicate or nice, it's likely to just be ruined within the month.

I've got a stack of high heels in my closet that I never wear. Why? For one, I'll break my ankle tromping around gravel and the vineyard in them. For another, I'll just ruin them. This same principle applies to cars (mine has tan leather - if I had known I'd move back so soon, I would have gone with another choice) and a myriad of other things.

I'm sure that part of this is a different mentality about money that comes from either years of living places where you simply don't see or have no use for nice things, and an attitude about materials goods stemming from the 70's back-to-the-landers. A big dose of it's practicality, but it still is an interesting study in human behavior and thought patterns.

As for me, I chose jeans and boots today. Between the gravel, putting out and taking in signs, and the wet, muddy Labrador that's my coworker, it just seemed easiest. When these boots become so dirty and scuffed that they no longer serve their purpose, I'll start thinking about buying new ones.

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