When you’re embarassed to be poor

by Erika Torres

when youre embarrassed to be poorI’m going to say it—I’m embarrassed of where we live.

We live in a guesthouse…a loft…a shack  in someone’s backyard. And it would be one thing if the owners kept the main house (main house? What are we, slaves?) neat and tidy and decent, but they don’t.

It’s practically decrepit. And there’s like 10 of them living in the house. Ok, not 10…like 5 adults, two kids, two rotating cousins and an annoying barking chihuahua…it’s weird, I know.

In the past year, I have moved three times on the same street.  I went from a Newport Beach townhome, with my own room with high ceilings and a wall-to-wall closet, to a one-bedroom Newport Beach apartment that looked like a resort, to a loft in Costa Messy, I mean, Costa Mesa.

When we moved into our first apartment together, I hosted a housewarming within weeks. Weeks! Come see our new home! Look at how domestic we are!

I didn’t even have a housewarming with this place. I cringed when it was my turn to host friends. I tried to make light of the situation …okay, but we live in a backyard, haha…ha…. What would they think? How could we live like this?

I want more than anything to have our own home. I want nice furniture and a real entertainment stand, not a black dresser we got for free from our apartment dumpster. I want new pots and pans and a kitchen that looks like the Martha Stewart catalog.   You know…stuff like this:

Somewhere in the last two months, my embarrassment has started to fade away. It mostly came from realizing how much money we’re able to save because of all the money we’re saving on rent. Seeing our savings account grow SO much in less than 2 months…it does wonders for me. Seriously. WONDERS. Saving money for me is like porn to a teenage boy. It’s the holy grail–what I strive for.

This would not have been possible if we still lived in our old place.

And truthfully? My friends don’t really give a crap as to where I live.

SO I’m just going to be thankful that we were able to secure such a fabulous find, stay within our beloved neighborhood, and save a lot of money so that Eric can go to the fire academy and we can eventually own our very own home sweet home.

And if you ever do come over, please don’t mind the chipped paint, k?

Is there anything you’re embarrassed about when it comes to reaching your financial goals?


catzlover September 2, 2011 - 1:30 am

A great quotes:
Try measuring your wealth by what you are than by what you have. Anonymous

Do not care overly much for wealth or power or fame, or one day you will meet someone who cares for none of these things, and you will realize how poor you have become. Rudyard Kipling

People love others not for who they are but for how they make them feel.
Irwin Federman

Catzlover September 2, 2011 - 1:26 am

My hubby cannot secure a permanent job in his field and he tends to do contract work. I don’t believe we will ever own a home and our decor is bits and bobs and used furniture. We tend to live for the day and we don’t plan for a future because we don’t know where we will be in a year from now. I sometimes wish we were like ‘normal’ people and dream to live in one location, have a place to call home and finally live somewhere long enough to make friends.

It is easy to get caught up with things you don’t have and things you would like to have and forget what is important. Spending time with my family having fun is a reminder of what is really important in life. Our only priority is keeping our family intact which has always been a worry for us due to Immigration issues. Maybe the ony gift my husband and I will be able to give our child will be the love of mummy and daddy and keeping our family intact in one country. I hope it is a gift she will appreciate!!

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Kim March 5, 2011 - 4:55 pm

Oh yeah, whenever I get down about better living (or being “poor,” quotes intended), my husband reminds me that our “peers” with the all-clad pots don’t actually own them. Nor the house, cars, or vacations. So while our bedding or neighborhood will “do” but isn’t perfect, at least stuff is paid for. We’ll laugh in retirement while they’ll live with their kids (shudder). And it takes the not-so-great stuff to appreciate the great stuff.

And when I get *beyond* tired of my stuff, like your dresser entertainment system, I read Apartment Therapy’s Before & After column for ideas about refinishing furniture in cool ways. Like here – http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/dc/before-after/before-after-painted-storage-tower-138473

Tabitha February 24, 2011 - 10:19 am

We live in a pretty small place, but what I’m more embarrassed about is how it LOOKS on the inside. I’m just not a very interior-design-savvy person (or, more accurately, I haven’t given it much thought or effort), so I kinda feel like we live in a bachelor pad whenever people come over — especially if I’ve seen THEIR houses, because they’re always so classy looking! Gah.

IntrigueMe February 16, 2011 - 5:55 pm

I hate that I can’t go on vacations like my friends can. They’re always going on tropical vacations and I’m always going on close-to-home ones. But I suppose when I think about it, they’re probably credit carding it or Daddy’s paying for it… so I really shouldn’t be embarrassed that I’m not going into debt so I can go on vacation.

Meghan February 14, 2011 - 11:12 am

I know what you mean- my fiance and I live in a teeny 1 bedroom apartment. But, we love the location and have made it our own! I am sure you have done the exact same thing and made your place a home. I love knowing that we are saving for bigger things (my school, wedding, a house) and not spending all our money on rent!

gem February 13, 2011 - 3:43 pm

So many ashamed to be poor moments in my life. Mostly in social situations, like being unexpectedly at cash only places when I’m like “…I can’t just go to the ATM and let them charge a fee, I need to go find my bank because I literally cannot afford the fee.” (I’d say my ghetto apartment in my ghetto neighborhood, but I’m secretly proud of sticking it out here.)

Serendipity February 13, 2011 - 12:35 pm

First of all, I wanted to say your house is so cute! Its cozy and decorated very creatively.
I understand about not being sure about hosting or having friends come over. My apt which I share with bf is 720 square feet. Its small and usually feels even smaller because we’re both pack rats, although we’re working on that. I never really have people come over because it feels cramped with more than two people and it sometimes makes me sad because I had all of these dreams of being a hostess. I also had dreams of having an immacualte apartment decorated all nicely and now, I can’t bear to spend money on anything for my apartment! Do I want throw pillows? Yes! But I can’t bring myself to spend 20 bucks on one, no matter how cute it is. The old me would have completely, the new me cringes.


Sarahnsh February 13, 2011 - 9:14 am

I always seem to beat myself up when it comes to personal fiances and what I spend. Me and the fiancee will be moving in within a few months so I’m trying for us not to go ‘over budget’ but also have something nice in the same sense. I say it doesn’t matter where you are, at least you are saving money and doing what you need to do!

Daisy February 13, 2011 - 8:53 am

Ohhh I’ve been there. In fact, I live in a 500 sq ft box with my boyfriend and dog right now. We had a king sized bed which we couldn’t afford to downsize, and it literally takes up the whole bedroom. When we walk into the bedroom, we have to climb on the bed to get to the closet.
But it’s not forever. You’ll be able to get your own place one day, as will we.
Plus, I’m always embarrased for people who are living beyond thier means. I’m never embarrased for people who are saving up their money 🙂

Cari February 12, 2011 - 5:51 am

I can relate. Our situation is a bit different though. We married later in life, I am 34, he’s 44. We just moved to a beautiful apartment which is cheaper than our last place which I was a bit ashamed of. My issue comes from not yet owning our own home but we’re both paying off debt, saving and pinching pennies so that when we do buy, our mortgage will not be so high.

So, while I love our current place, I still feel “left behind” of our peers and that can be hard to swallow.

P.S. I think you place looks cute and the most important thing is that you’re kicking butt with your financial goals!

Jennifer February 10, 2011 - 12:25 pm

Not so much embarrassed as teased about. I am vegan, and so one of the things I do is make my own milk. I can make a 1/2 gallon of rice milk for $0.21, and a carton purchased at the store is $2.99.

Here are the other things we are teased about…
1. No cable – this means we watch hulu or no t.v.
2. We do not go out to eat unless we have a giftcard that will pay for our entire meal. This means my family has started giving us gift cards as holiday and birthday gifts.
3. I only shampoo my hair twice a week (saves on shampoo, plus my hair is really dry), and I only blow dry and flat iron my hair once a week (the rest of the time it is au-natural). It saves on hair products, electricity, and trips to the salon because my hair isn’t very damaged.
4. Because I am vegan, I make EVERYTHING from scratch. Certain veganized foods are expensive. So , we with scratch or not at all.

Now, I truly don’t mind being teased about all of this, because on the flip side we are able to afford our costly infertility treatments without having to finance a single thing. So, I will continue to shrug and laugh right along when someone starts eyeing my homemade tapioca pudding, because financially, we are in good shape.

maggie February 9, 2011 - 8:09 pm

Honestly it could be worse…you could be living with your in-laws….like me. i know not the best situation in the world. We got married in september moved into a small 1 bedroom apartment for 1300 a month. crazy right! thats what you get for living right outside of dc. we couldnt take not saving money so we moved in with my in-laws and pay only 600 in rent. we were doing ok at the old place but not saving money like we wanted to. it sucks but i dont really care what people say because i know i am doing whats best for my family :0)

Ali February 9, 2011 - 3:01 pm

I think your house is cute and cozy from what I have seen. And just think of all the time you save on having to clean. Trust me, that is worth a lot too! 😉

We don’t have cable, just an antenna for our tv. It is a pretty old, ghetto antenna that has to sit a certain way on our mantle to get all the stations. I am not really embarrassed (because we save a lot of $$$) but I think people are embarassed for me when they see it. 🙂

the MRS. February 9, 2011 - 10:40 am

I love this! We are in a basement right now and we LOVE it. However during my birthday celebration a freidn suggested we have it at her house since our living space is a bit small. We declined, I LOVE that we live in a little space and its our home. We have really made it that way. All our utilities are included, cable/internet too. So I am ok not having TIVO for the time being.

I feel embarrassed when I cant do lunch. I take lunch to work or go home most days. I decline a lot of lunch invites from the office which gets old, and it gets hard to hide you are budgeting pretty tightly.

We budget enough in entertainment so we can do things we care about- dinner out one a week and occasional movies. Which w stretch by redbox or the old dollar theater. & we sneak in our own drinks/treats… We are those people!

It will be worth it some day right???

– Celina

Meagan February 9, 2011 - 9:29 am

Hey there! I know you have no idea who I am, but I’ve been following your blog for a while now and love your posts. So honest and down to earth.

Anyway, because I enjoy your blog so much I’ve tagged you in my Seven Things post on my own blog. Feel free to check it out and participate if you’d like. Hope you’re having a great day!

Teacher Girl February 8, 2011 - 8:42 pm

From what you have shown here on the blog, I think your house is adorable, and if living there now means you’ll have a better future, then you are doing the right thing. I know it can be frustrating (you are preachin’ to the choir on that one) but hang in there. Your future looks bright!!

Randa February 8, 2011 - 7:12 pm

Mine is not being able to do many of the things that my friends do. Growing up, I always worked hard at my part-time jobs so that I could go on vacation with my much more affluent friends – most of them have yet to work a day in their life because their parents can help them, which is awesome but not the situation I’m in. Now that I’m paying all my bills [plus paying for my wedding, plus potentially not having employment in the fall], I have no extra budget to go out to eat or go see a movie or any of that. I always feel embarrassed when I have to tell my friends that I can’t do something, especially since we both know it’s because I don’t have the funds.

I know my friends don’t mind and it’s more in my head then anything else but I always feel so . . . wretched and antisocial because I can’t go. But it’s totally worth this year of isolation for when my credit cards are paid off and I’m living debt free!

BTW – love your apartment. Love it. It’s so cute and charming!

Akirah February 8, 2011 - 6:40 pm

I live in a box. It’s very small. BUT! It’s mine. And I remind myself that there are many people in this world who would LOVE to live where I live. I’m thankful and blessed.

verybadcat February 8, 2011 - 6:31 pm


Seriously. I don’t mind cheaping out on dinner dates with friends, or just staying in and having a sandwich. I’m not much of a clotheshorse, so that doesn’t hurt… I cook well, so I can save a lot by staying away from prepackaged food…

But there is no way to disguise a nonexistent budget for birthday gifts. If I have enough notice and time, I can knit something or find something really thoughtful at a reasonable price. I hate for people to think that my love for them is attached in anyway to what I can afford on my unemployment/entrepreneurial budget. I know they love me, I know it’s the thought that counts, but that was one of my total weaknesses on the corporate cow- dropping a mint on a nice gift for someone I love….

I don’t think there is any shame in humble and affordable housing. So many people lost their homes that I don’t think any bats an eyelash anymore. I’m still paying my mortgage, thank goodness, but I gotta admit…

I’m jealous that your rent cost is probably way lower than my mortgage, no matter how many people live on the property you’re on. 😉

cheap is the new black, darlin’.

hope you’re well!

eemusings February 8, 2011 - 5:48 pm

I understand how you feel. We live in a one bedroom with no lounge below our LL’s house.

But it ticks almost all our boxes. Cheap, great location, fairly modern. I wouldn’t swap it for the huge house where a group of our friends live for instance – they may have a pool, sure, but also a grotty old bathroom and they live way out west handy to nowhere. I don’t actually want or need a lot of space. It means we can’t really entertain properly, but my current schedule doesn’t really allow for that anyway.

Am I embarrassed? Sometimes, yes, but only by other people’s standards. Keep your business to yourself I say!

Jessica February 8, 2011 - 5:32 pm

oh yeah, we’re poor and it shows sometimes! Half, and I’m not exaggerating… half of my wardrobe is hand-me-downs from friends. So most of my clothes are slightly out of style, simply because we don’t have the budget to shop. Maybe a discount clothes store, every once and awhile, but I feel horrible spending even $20 on a cute top. So I get embarrassed by that a lot. Hang in there, I wish we were saving as much as you!

Jolene February 8, 2011 - 5:28 pm

OMG, I LOVE your place. Seriously, it is SO cute. I wouldn’t be embarrassed to live there at all. Honestly and totally truthfully. But I know what you mean because it was a big shift for me to move from owning a home to renting. There are pluses and minuses to both, but for me, ALSO saving money on rent (more than 1K a month…not even exaggerating, over my old mortgage), it is worth it. I can’t wait to visit next week BTW 😉

Jennifer February 8, 2011 - 5:19 pm

I know what you mean. My husband and I used to live with his dad in a trailer right next to the railroad tracks. Like you, we were doing it to save money. But, that didn’t change the fact that it was embarassing to have friends come hang out in the cramped quarters.

Look on the bright side…it’s only temporary! : )


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