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December 09, 2009

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It is interesting how easily one can get caught up in the shopping frenzy while in the company of those who spend freely. It can be difficult to embrace frugality when companions see thrift as boring or unnecessary. Just like the story of the grasshopper and the ant, the friends who've been mindlessly spending will be knocking on your door when times get tough. You may need to pretend you're not home!

Did the writing seem a little choppy to anybody else?

That said, I do completely agree that a group changes its behavior towards the average. When my friends and I go out, I always end up spending a little more than I normally would and they end up spending a little less.

My closest friend always comments that we should do all our shopping together after one of our outings. I always reply with a grin that I couldn't afford it...it gets a laugh every time. :-)

As a side note, my husband and I are in a couple of board gaming groups that get together monthly at each other's homes for a themed potluck and board gaming nights. They really are an inexpensive way to have a bunch of fun. The homeowner provides the main course and everybody else brings the sides. It usually runs $20-$30 for the host and $5-$10 for everybody else and we switch out every month. I think it's more than worth it for a complete evening of fun (6pm-2am) and TONS of different food...sometimes we all bring tupperware to split up the leftovers.

One advantage of a recession... its a lot easier to cut back without feeling any social pressure. "Its a recession," makes for a great excuse!

America is very big on Groups.
I know people that are in so many that they rarely spend an evening at home. This is not the way it was at all when I was growing up and from what I gather it hasn't changed very much back home. The group activity starts early in U.S. schools and involves the parents a great deal. At my all boy's grammar school in England there was ZERO parent participation, all sports activities were also intramural, i.e. we never competed against other schools in any form of athletics. That's a huge cultural difference between two English speaking countries that are similar in many other ways. One outgrowth of this is that in England there is a broad acceptance of individuality - it isn't a problem if you are eccentric and want to be different. However I noticed very quickly when my children started in the U.S. educational system that it was very important for them to be one of the group and to be accepted and that it wasn't cool to be an individual and be different.

The effect of group pressure on one's behavior is definitely quite significant - most people want to be well accepted members of the group and not to feel like a loner or an outsider. Although the two group activities that I am involved with don't involve money, i.e. my hiking group and a U.S. history class that we take, I can see that if spending money were part of the group activity that the "group psychology" effect would kick in and there would be an insidious pressure for a frugal person to follow the group and spend more than usual.

I think one thing that has helped my wife and I a lot financially is that we are both on the same page and we don't give a hoot what others may think about our spending habits. We like our individuality and being different and we both decided decades ago that neither of us would join anything that took us out of the home in the evening on a regular basis. It was always very important for the family to have its evening meal together. We have carefully thought through many issues and arrived at our own conclusions about what we believe in rather than following the herd the way many people do, and if others choose to disagree - so what!

Old Limey,

Good observation. In my experience many US churches are like this- from the aspect that your donation is semi-public and social pressure can push people to donate. And for many the church plays a very important social role.

Is the UK like this in the church aspect?

-Mike

Mike: I went to church because my parents decided that it was good for me. England has a state religion and the Queen is the head of the church. My grammar school had a mandatory class in comparitive religions that was most interesting. I actually taught Sunday school and Bible school for a while but the big attraction for me was that it was a good place to meet girls, though I met my wife at a dance hall. My wife and I were both baptized and were married in the Church of England in a little, many centuries old, stone church. When we first arrived here we looked into the Episcopal church and the pastor visited us. The turnoff was that the first topic of conversation was "Money" and then "How Much money", that's when we lost interest. Since then we have thought about religion many times and learned a lot about other religions from our travels, but with age came the realization that it didn't make any sense so we are now both atheists but believe in the Golden Rule, of course. To answer your question, in the UK, 50+ years ago they would pass around the collection plate and people put in coins and notes, not little envelopes, so your donation was quite public in those days.

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