Why is Cheapness Seen As A Mommy Virtue?


We love to criticize other moms’ spending habits. And, for some reason, the cheapskates always lunge for the moral high ground. How…wrong.Did you notice how cheap people frequently try to make their penny-pinching seem like they’re taking the moral high ground? In my experience, if you take two SIMILARLY middle-class people, one a “spender,” one a “saver,” the “saver” is more likely to regard the “spender” with suspicion and judgment. The middle-class “saver” feels she’s performing a public service by informing the middle-class “spender” of her shallowness and bad financial decisions, while the “spender” usually doesn’t want to offend the “saver,” so just listens indulgently. It’s considered bad form to criticize someone for being cheap, but not for criticizing someone whose idea of value is “fair cost for superior items.” Or who chooses to buy less, but spend a lot more.

In my experience, moms tend to bear – and dish out – the majority of this criticism.

If you come back to work with a bag from Holt Renfrew, you usually get some passive-aggressive fellow mom saying something like “Oh, what did you buy? That’s so nice you like to treat yourself, but I’d rather put money into my child’s RESP.”

Or, if you buy organic, you hear “Organics are so overrated. You can wash the chemicals off most conventional produce, and Canadian dairy farmer’s can’t use bovine growth hormone anyway.”

For some reason, penny-pinchers regard those who do regard brand names with respect as shallow. But I know my Chloé bag was made in France by craftsmen, not a 14-year-old in China. Can you say that about your WalMart purse? I also love my bag because I worked like a dog to earn its cost, and carry it almost every day, and will keep it for many, many years. Again: is that the case with a Walmart accessory?

And sure, a wash and a soak can get rid of many chemical pesticides. Your kid can eat them safely. Not so much the case for the children of the farm workers who grew the produce and were surrounded by clouds of carcinogens. Sure, our milk supply is growth-hormone free, but many, many farm animals from chickens on up to cows, live lives of misery crowded into factory farming scenarios. They are also loaded with antibiotics in order to keep them alive under these stressful conditions (crowding, debeaking, tail docking). If you are middle class and can afford to buy organic free-range farm products (and support smaller scale Canadian farmers while you’re at it), why wouldn’t you?

Why is saving a couple bucks at the expense of underpaid workers or animal welfare considered a more moral choice than going (how shallow!) to Whole Foods or your local organic boutique or farmer’s market, to buy more expensive food?

Why is Fair Trade organic coffee seen by many as bourgeois self-indulgence, yet habitat-depleting coffee plantations that clear-cut other crop trees in order to raise coffee in the sun rather than slower-growing but more eco-friendly shade conditions, seen as smart saving? Isn’t paying farmers a fair price for coffee grown under habitat- and fruit-providing shade trees a better “value” for the planet and society?

I think a lot of middle class people confuse cheapness with thrift. Thrift is finding smart ways to save money. Darning socks, buying a whole (free range, organic) roasting chicken and cutting it up yourself instead of paying a premium per pound for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Saving on gas with a hybrid car. Thrift is not buying the same quantity of stuff, but buying it at WalMart or Zellers for the sake of pinching pennies you can spare, and then acting like you’re better because you spent less. (The epitome of this mentality is BoGo at Payless Shoes: here’s a tip, why not buy one pair of good shoes, instead of two pairs that look cheap and will fall apart in two months?! )

Thrift is also buying less. Cutting back to what is essential and appreciated. I admit, this is something I am working on. But it’s something many of us will have to work on (especially when that recession hits), including those who love to buy, buy, buy, on the cheap, cheap, cheap. Unfortunately, those people seem the least likely to even be aware of this.

Author by Yuki Hayashi

A Quick Review Here:

It is a good article, however, the fact remains that in life, we can never be sure of where our purchases come from. How sure are we that expensive signatured products are really made by craftmen. After all, business is business .. all about profits. Being expensive doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s guilt-free buying for the consumers.
In my opinion, consumerism is sharing “wealth”. The “14-year old girl” producing bags in China is seen in our Western world as child-labor. Personally, I see it as being a productive working citizen (rather than being “something else”). The “craftsmen” scenario can be indeed true, but as we all know, practice makes perfect. It takes years of dedication & exposure to your craft before one becomes a craftman or craftwoman.

I like the part about the “confusion” drawn between the “thrift” & the “cheap” thinking. Likewise, I would like to draw the line between being conscientious & naivete.

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