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To wonder how so many people seem to have so many nice things?

(134 Posts)
QwangleWangle Wed 08-May-13 11:55:09

I'm sure I'll get told it's none of my business but here goes...

So many people that I know seem to have so many nice things, and so much money, and to be honest it confuses the heck out of me as to how they afford it. We have 3 children, we both work and our income is fairly high but we can't afford the things that some people seem to afford easily.

To give a couple of examples:

A friend of mine works part time as a teacher, so obviously doesn't earn a fortune. Her husband has started a business, about 2 years ago, and my friend says it's not making any money yet. They live in a massive house, worth over 350k, all beautifully furnished. Cath Kidston this. Laura Ashley that. Loads of Next furniture. That kind of thing. I saw her yesterday and she had her 2 DCs with her on their bikes and I said I liked their bike helmets and she told me that each helmet was a whopping £50!! She has also said before their weekly food shop is over £200. I just don't know how they afford it. They don't exactly skimp on things for themselves either and have plenty of clothes and holidays.

Another friend, who is a stay at home mum, and whose DP works in a factory, posted this morning on her Facebook that she was "road testing the new Cath Kidston bedding". Which isn't cheap. She has one baby girl and seems to have so many nice things for her baby; a brand new bugaboo, expensive nursery furniture, designer clothes for the baby. And then lots of nice stuff for herself too. She's always spending money in Topshop, River Island, Monsoon, and those kinds of shops. Never Primark or New Look or anywhere budget.

I'm just fascinated really and am wondering if we're missing a trick to afford all these nice things. As I said, we earn well but our bedding was £12 in Asda, the kids wear Primark and George clothes, and I can't afford to spend anywhere near £200 on a weekly supermarket shop!!

FoundAChopinLizt Wed 08-May-13 14:08:57


Isn't the power of advertising amazing? If you came from a non consumer obsessed culture and looked at your home and your friends' homes it would all look pretty much the same to you. It is only brainwashing that makes you think that one brand is 'better' than the next.

Would it cheer you up to ponder that most of their naice things (and yours) for that matter, will most likely be in the tip or elsewhere in a decade or so? Remember less stuff=more space, money and time to do something fun.

It's not what you have that matters, it's what you do with your time.

OscarIsABookworm Wed 08-May-13 14:13:52

Debt probably. SIL & BIL run 2 cars and have a big house, TV, shop at expensive places etc. They are both good earners. They expect family to also pay for v.expensive things they do, like IVF at a top clinic and a new car for them even though they could probably quite easily afford it on their salaries if they saved themselves. Some family put their foot down a while back and said no more, I think they had just had enough and tbh I don't blame them. MIL let slip a year ago they are hugely in debt because they live way beyond their means. So on the outside it might all look rosy but the reality may be different.

lljkk Wed 08-May-13 14:16:39

yanbu to wonder, I get it, OP is just trying to figure out how it works. OP has even said she's just trying to figure out what frugal tips they know that she doesn't.

I think you have to ask them, OP. We'd just be wildly speculating. I'll go for inherited wealth.

valiumredhead Wed 08-May-13 14:30:43

Some people's mortgages are tiny so there is spare cash around.



DeWe Wed 08-May-13 14:31:21

But people prioritise different things.
I was surprised a few weeks ago when a friend asked if I had something to borrow (tailor's dummy) when I said I did, and they could borrow it, they said "that's good, I thought you would because you always have stuff".

Now I don't think we have a lot of stuff really. Our house is furnished with second hand stuff-two beds and a piano is the sum total of our bought new furniture.
We don't have a TV, X-box... lots of other things people round here count as essentials.

But when I thought about it, if we have an interest, we often will get equipment connected with it (be it the cheap end of the market usually). So, the friend knowing that I sew a lot, guessing I had a tailor's dummy wasn't as much of a long shot as I'd initially thought.

In priorities, for example, we only have one car (fairly unusual round here in a 2 parent family), and that was second hand-and we only got it 6 years ago, having relied on buses for 7 years before that. We don't go abroad for holidays, taking a cheap self catered cottage usually. And there's things we would like to do to the house that we are waiting until we have the money rather than going for credit.

Viviennemary Wed 08-May-13 14:35:17

My feeling is a lot of these people get substantial amounts of money from parents. Or are in lots of debt. Or maybe they are just good with money. But my bet is on the first two.

GrendelsMum Wed 08-May-13 14:36:54

The people I know who have lifestyles disproportionate to their obvious incomes all have inheritances. Though I have to say that in my friends' cases, they are all artist / hippy types whose obvious income is precisely £0, and their lifestyle consists of living very cheaply except for spending on arts.

impty Wed 08-May-13 14:45:30

It's probably not 'so many people' its 2 families you know, maybe a couple more. It's hardly everyone!

In my experience a little extra can go a long way. A small pay rise can improve your disposal income quite a bit, when it comes to stuff you can buy.

Mortgage might be very low depending on when they took it out, ours is more or less paid off after 12 years because of the ultra low rates for the last few years.

Standautocorrected Wed 08-May-13 20:12:19

Generally speaking in my circle of friends, I think that couples who got together younger and had children later are the ones that have more money & therefore things, as they have been able to pool incomes from a younger age and take advantage of the house prices.

MrsMelons Wed 08-May-13 21:07:00

Some people have commented on stuff we have been able to buy or do but it really isn't down to debt or anything like that. We both earn good wages but not really high salaries, we both do additional work in the evenings/weekends for private clients which gives us a bit extra each year for holidays etc.

We both bought properties in our early twenties, we got together and sold one property and paid off part of the mortgage. That is fortunate yes but also whilst my friends were still living at home and spending their money on alcohol and partying I was saving for a deposit then paying a mortgage.

DH's mum passed away and that gave us enough to pay the rest of the mortgage off and a bit towards the DCs schooling. She was quite young so not a nice situation TBH.

I find these sorts of threads a bit odd, I don't think it is hard to figure out why some people have more spare cash than others but its really no ones business either. I feel quite offended when someone comments to me about it as it is no ones business what we spend our money on and we are not 'lucky'. Someone said I was materialistic once as we went on nice holidays and I love buying shoes - I did lose my temper a bit as he actually suggested it was wrong as we had spare money and he didn't?!!!

HoneyStepMummy Wed 08-May-13 21:07:22

I don't think there's anything wrong or unreasonable wondering how others afford all the stuff they have! I do think though that a lot of people who don't buy tons of stuff are saving money in the bank and retirement accounts. I'm also always baffled how some people seem to spend so freely but don't make a lot. It just doesn't add up!
I just saw on FB that a girl I know was going on about wanting a Chanel handbag and planning a really expensive trip. The next post she wrote was asking for hand-me-downs for her 8 year old. She wanted hoodies, trainers, and wellies hmm.
My husband makes a pretty decent salary (medical sales). I don't (marketing & events). Most of my salary goes towards retirement and savings. I am so used to seeing very little left from my paycheck that I handle my money very well.
We have three cars, but one was purchased for me by my now ex husband, and one is a company car. My husband's ipad and iphone are provided and paid for by his company, and my ipad, iphone, and DsD's iphone are all hand-me-down old phones that used to be his work phones. So they were free.I also sell the old phones on Ebay when possible. His company also pays for petrol and maintenance on the car, and they pay for our home phone and internet. I love his employer!!!
I own a small flat from my single days, but it's rented out and that covers the mortgage on it. The mortgage on our home is reasonable, we also just refinanced to lower it. I'm a very savvy shopper and am always on the lookout for coupons and deals. We shop at Aldi twice a month and have cut our food bill in half. We both have worked hard towards having good credit and get a lot of 0% financing deals that we have used for things like new carpets and a new vacuum cleaner.
We don't travel that often, but when we have a trip planned I usually work a couple of promo modeling jobs on the side to cover a chunk of the cost.
My husband cuts his and his 7 year old son's hair. I give my husband 'manly' manicures and pedicures and recently gave him a sugar body scrub- lol! I colour my DsD's and my hair. I also do my own manicures, pedicures, eyebrows and waxing. I use Groupon deals to treat myself to massages (not that often) and the odd spray tan. I also get a lot of free skincare and make-up from modeling and promo work (much appreciated).
We have no-frills gym membership, but my medical insurance company reimburses us for it. My employer covers the whole family's private medical insurance.
I shop at pound/dollar stores all the time, I get all our cleaning supplies from there. We shop around for the best deals on utilities and insurance. We also just redecorated but did all the painting ourselves and restored some cabinets. We were quoted about $18000 total for all the work!!!! so huge savings there. We don't have a cleaner since I would rather put that money towards family activities or the kid's savings accounts. We all clean together as a family.
We both get to go to really fancy restaurants- but it's always through work and not something we would pay for ourselves.
However we do both work hard, don't have childcare costs, buy supermarket clothes for the kids (and me!) and don't waste money on expensive coffees or smoke.

expatinscotland Wed 08-May-13 21:10:29

I guess I just assume they have family help and/or buy stuff secondhand.

I just bought a bracelet on Ebay second hand for DD1's birthday and got a real deal on it.

GeorginaWorsley Wed 08-May-13 21:30:03

In our circle of 'high earning' friends,I would say
Interest only mortgage
No pension provision
No savings
PCP car loans

EachAndEveryHighway Wed 08-May-13 22:15:51

If your friend's a teacher she might do exam marking at certain times of the year to boost her income .... I've found that really handy as it can be done after the kids have gone to bed or before they've got up, and you don't incur fuel or childcare costs, as it's all home-based.

Giggle78 Wed 08-May-13 23:28:04


I have nice things!! We don't have debt apart from a mortgage. Here is how we do it. We always look for high end stuff but get it from second hand places/car boot sales/ebay/charity shops. Everything in our house has to meet the practical and beautiful standard! It is very rare for us to buy something without getting a deal on it - but it does require a certain level of patience.

Examples include a Boori cot/bed (usually £500) - £120 from outlet. It had been on display at a trade fair.

French connection coat £6.00 (looks brand new from second hand shop).

Real leather satchel (£10.00 - looks new from second hand shop).

Mini Cooper - highest spec but older model. (okay does not meet the practical standard!!)

We probably look from the outside like we spend loads of money. We don't we just do lots of research and wait for stuff. The key is go for high end stuff.

BennettsBiscuit Thu 09-May-13 02:18:59

I don't think it's awful to wonder. Most of the houses on our estate seem to have Audis or BMWs on the drive, you can see in the front windows that they have flat screen TVs and 'feature wallpaper' so recently decorated and we are the only house on our road without Sky dish. Sometimes I wonder why - I don't want those particular things but it would be nice to be able to afford them! Between us our household income is not too shabby, about 44k? Mind you we don't get any tax credits any more, pay childcare for two under threes and the house was bought in 2007 - next door's repayment mortgage is less than our interest only, that I do envy!

Cookethenook Thu 09-May-13 05:25:44

We don't have a high income at all (dp works in insurance on a graduate training scheme and I'm a childminder) and the only debt we have is dp's student loan. Ds1 is 7 and ds2 should be arriving in the next few weeks.

We rent a lovely 3 bedroom house and I think we have nice things.

We prioritise and make savings wherever we can.

We own 1 car, so DS and I walk everywhere during the week. Dp car pools which saves us a fortune. I go for quality clothing, shoes, homeware etc brands. We tried buying everything in primark etc and found we were spending much more on having to replace bad quality items than if we'd just forked out for something better in the first place. Our furniture comes from antique shops, car boot sales a d ikea, but we get SO many compliments on how nice our home is. We don't really eat out- massive fans if the 'car picnic'! We don't often go on holidays abroad. We got ourselves a tent and go off in that whenever we can. For birthdays, we ask for practical products, for example, last year pil got me a ton of seeds, compost and chitted potatoes. My parents buy us nt membership every year for my birthday and so we use that most weekends. We go walking, wild swimming, cycling etc. which are all totally free.

Cookethenook Thu 09-May-13 05:27:56

Oh yes, and we always shop around on the net before we make a large (anything over about £40) purchase.

MidniteScribbler Thu 09-May-13 06:29:24

What one person sees as a priority, another sees differently. I prioritise going to the theatre and on holidays which another friend of mine always has a go at me about being "rich" because I go to these things. She spends a couple of hundred on friday nights down the pub and goes to the movies every week. I have been to one movie in the last twelve months, and prefer a quiet glass of wine at home than the pub. We all have different priorities and what we see as "luxury" vs "need". I make the choice over seeing a few stage shows or concerts each year as opposed to going to the pub. My friend makes different choices. Neither of them are wrong, they're just different.

maddening Thu 09-May-13 07:53:03

They may wear monsoon but it may be 2nd hand off ebay?

Sokmonsta Thu 09-May-13 08:12:20

Your friend with the business may be deliberately keeping the income from that low/at a loss for as long as they can. Anything they can they will put through the business which frees up money elsewhere - car insurance/tax/maintenance/fuel for at least one vehicle if they can justify it. If they work out of the home and proportion of household utilities can be put through the business. They possibly have a very savvy accountant. Once all the outgoings are deducted, whatever loss the business is running at will be deducted from the household income for the purposes of tax credits.

If they are running the business as a sole trader they may well put all their utilities through it and use business money as justification for other things. If they are sole traders they are risking their home though. I have friends who ran their business as a sole trader. they had everything they wanted. Holidays abroad, regular expensive shopping trips for a new wardrobe for them each season, designer everything. they ended up losing their home and wrecking their marriage when all of a sudden they realised they were haemorrhaging money and less was coming in. It was too much for them to suddenly stop doing all the things they wanted to.

Sparklymommy Thu 09-May-13 08:58:50

I don't think you are being unreasonable to wonder. I have four dc's, we live with my mother and her husband and all the money goes in the pot. I am a SAHM, but my mum, her husband and my husband all work full time. That said we do struggle at times. At the end of the day, after the bills are paid, the children are the next priority. All my DC dance, and I work in the office to offset the class fees. But on top of the class fees are private lessons at £14 for half an hour (I pay for a minimum of three a week) exams, festival groups, workshops, festival entries, festival costumes, uniform costs, the list is endless. A couple of weeks ago I paid nearly £300 out just on the EXTRAS! Then Dd1 has a tutor one hour a week for 11+ tuition at £25 a go, a singing lesson at £12 a week school dinners at nearly £50 a week... In 8 years we have had two holidays... One to Disney when we only had two children in Paris and one last year to a caravan in Cornwall. We do have the odd hotel stay for competitions and things but always stay at premier inn or travelodge. The children do have relatively large wardrobes but a lot is second hand or bought in the sales. Occasionally we splurge on something extra special for Christmas or something. We recently purchased a new trampoline. 10 foot with enclosure. We paid £150. Split between the four children that works at something like £37 per child. And already (after a week!) i feel it's paid for itself as the children are out bouncing and having fun rather than slouched in front of the telly. I also scour eBay and amazon for deals and as a result have got some real bargains. Dd2 had a proper old fashioned coach built, vintage silver cross dolls pram for Xmas, when we looked at the new ones they were in the range of £400 (way over our budget!), we got it on eBay, £70. It's immaculate and Dd2 was thrilled. Nanna made bedding for it and it will last.

I feel like the Op sometimes. Especially when I see people who are on benefits swanning off to Tunisia and Spain for two week holidays. But my mum always says that by the time my children have all left school we will have no mortgage and own the house. It's hard at the moment but its worth it in the long run!

Dawndonna Thu 09-May-13 09:04:15

As others have said, good quality second hand where you can. My oak dresser and dining table were my Grandmothers. We've bought other oak pieces at antique places, book cases etc. I buy clothes in the sales or online (ebay). Tend to go for Seasalt, Fat Face, just my taste/comfort zone. I do spend money on shoes, but have had a number of operations on my feet.

shewhowines Thu 09-May-13 09:40:44

Both me and Dh bought our houses when they were cheap but interest rates high. We both struggled at the time. I had a lodger and I had second hand furniture. When we got together we had both benefitted from property rises so now have a very low mortgage for a relatively nice house in a nice area. So our sacrifice then means that we are reaping the benefit then.

We have a lot of holidays, but they cost in total what some would spend on one holiday. I shop carefully, always looking for bargains, and we don't waste money on coffees/lunches etc. We don't eat out a lot.

To others we probably look as if we have more money than we do.

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