My mom flung open the door of my room, obviously upset. It was dark, and I was already in bed, but I could see her silhouette standing in my doorway. Even in my teens, I was very perceptive, and I could hear that the panic in her voice was directed at me, as if I had done something terribly wrong. Her voice trembled, and she choked back tears as she told me, “The washing machine is broken.”
Earlier in the day, I had run a load of clothes through the washing machine, and the lint separator at the end of the hose got sucked into the motor, which caused it to overheat. It was my fault. The total damage: $50.
I don’t think it was the amount that made my mom tremble and quiver – in fact, I remember being very surprised at how upset she was about the amount. Even my minimum wage job at Dunkin Donuts could cover the expense of the washing machine repair.
No, I think it was the frustration of having yet another unexpected bill that put my family over budget for the month. We lived meagerly: we hardly ever went out to dinner, I wore cheap and out of style clothing, and we were on the “reduced lunch” program at my public high school (that’s a subsidized school lunch program for poor kids).
Things weren’t always so bad until my parents divorced – somehow the separation left both of my parents almost penniless, and each blamed the other for ruining their financial situation, while in the process attempting to win me over to their respective “cause.” From then on, it was slim pickens in my family.
Even with our frugal lifestyle, there was hardly ever anything left over at the end of the month. My mom scrimped and saved and worked hard to be a good, single Mom. But when a $50 washing machine repair was needed, it was like my mom was being kicked while she was down.
I grew up in Cleveland, where wealth is rarely seen, and any improvement upon the norm was a huge step forward. Even today, at age 22, I am a big fish in a little pond when back home in Ohio. And those surroundings, coupled with my penniless parents, trained me to appreciate what I have, to save instead of spend, and to never, NEVER go into debt to support your lifestyle.
Last week, YouTube user LuvURMom1 made a sarcastic commented on my latest video, alluding that my lifestyle clearly does not match up other internet marketing gurus. He was trying to insult me, “out” me, or prove that I was a phony because of my meager lifestyle, and I take it as a compliment. Thank you, LuvURMom1, for recognizing that I don’t gloat about the money I make or lavish myself in luxury items.
Truth is, I don’t know how to gloat about the “stuff” I could buy, because I didn’t grow up with any of it. To me, “stuff” is slavery, and that’s not what I’m about. My family grew up with little, and we were fine. Even in college, I remember looking around my tiny dorm room and thinking that I had everything that I needed.
Having “things” was never my goal. Fast cars, big mansions, beautiful women, two-plied toilet paper (ten points to anyone who knows that reference)… In fact, having “things” is a distraction from the ultimate goal of having freedom.
The money that I’ve earned is mine. It does not belong to BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or to Rolex. I would rather secure another year of freedom than to pay cash for a fancy car, because I remember my parents, and I remember my upbringing.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with driving a nice car, living in a nice house, or dressing the part. However, every time the opportunity comes up to purchase something expensive – something that would “establish” me within the internet marketing community as somebody who makes money – I think of my mom starting hopelessly at the $50 washing machine bill.
People ask me why I drive a rebuilt, 2006 Chevy Cobalt with manual windows and locks, or why I chose to live in a $500 per month apartment (all utilities included) for a year simply because my best friends lived next door, or why I live with a roommate, or why even now I choose to live on about $20,000 per year and save the rest of my income, or why I keep ten years’ expenses in the bank, or why I don’t drive a Lexus, or why I don’t pay cash for a house…
After all, that’s what “everybody else” does. So LuvURMom1 has a point. It’s not his fault that he’s been trained to believe that anyone with money has to flash it. That’s the media that has been sold to our community.
And you know, I could probably make more sales and attract more conventional JV partners if I lived a more flashy lifestyle. I’ve even considered changing my lifestyle to be flashier, but then I remember my roots. And because of how I live, I’ll never have to worry about a $50 washing machine bill… and neither will my mom.
There may come a time in my life that it makes sense to buy a nicer car (in fact, I’m car shopping right now, but again for slightly used, middle of the road vehicles) or live in a nicer place (although my lakefront condo still takes my breath away). Until then, “things” are slavery, and every dollar saved goes towards someday buying the Cleveland Indians.
And that, YouTube user LuvURMom1, is why I am not flashy.