"'We were living beyond our means,' he says, 'and it’s all crashing down.'"

A little over a week ago I blogged about the most recent Toronto Life cover story:

“I’m angry at myself for throwing out my paper copy since TL won’t post most of their magazine content online (Dear editors: the 21st century. Please hear of it.) and I can’t remember the very best quotes, but suffice it to say I was barking with laughter after the Rosedale matron whined about the hardship of having to hide her full Holt Renfrew shopping bags for fear of showing up her friends and neighbours. Not to mention the lady who fretted about irritating her personal shopper when she asked for a discount on a dress that cost thousands of dollars.”

Fortunately Toronto Life has now opened up the article online so you can read the ridiculousness for yourself. To wit:

“It’s kind of becoming cool to be thrifty. It’s almost a point of pride,” said a woman who routinely makes Toronto’s best-dressed lists. She recently found herself haggling for the first time for a 10 per cent discount on a $3,000 designer dress at Holts. (Her personal shopper was not impressed.)

Also:

One young family decided to rein in their March break plans. Instead of going to the Four Seasons Mexico after skiing in Vail, they just skied Vail.

Heavens…how do these people survive?

More than one wealthy woman told me she’s economizing by getting her hair blown out twice instead of three times a week. For some, the biggest sacrifice is switching from a $400 to a $250 facial or letting go of the gardener who cost them more per month than their property taxes.

WOE BETIDE US!!!!

Some appreciated the gestures. “I walked through Yorkville the other day with my arms full of designer bags, and I got dirty looks, which really stung,” said one woman who recently moved to Rosedale.

Stop. Please stop. I can’t take it any more. I’m having sympathy pains.  I can actually feel the pain that woman must have felt at being ostracized for being so wealthy.

OK, so I’m being cheeky. But this one might just take the cake (emphasis mine):

The day [a former Bay Street worker] was laid off, he and his wife hunkered down at their kitchen table to calculate how they could scale back. Pulling their kids out of private school would save more than $50,000 a year. Trading in their luxury cars could lower their $40,000 annual lease payments. Cancelling their planned March break holiday to the Caribbean was an easy way to save 10 grand. But could they afford to keep their cottage? Should they fire the nanny? Obviously they wouldn’t be giving to charity this year.

Well, obviously! I mean, if you’re at the point where you’re actually considering taking the kids out of the private schools or trading in the luxury cars or canceling the trip to the Caribbean or selling the cottage, then you’ve reached desperate times. Food banks and homeless shelters and hospitals may be desperate for money, but goddammit, the leather seats in those cars feel like motherfucking butter. Ahem…but there I go being sarcastic again.

Look, I don’t begrudge anyone making money. Of course I don’t. But I don’t understand someone whose first thought, when trying to tighten the purse strings, is to make charity the first casualty when you have such egregious luxuries as an upcoming $10,000 vacation and cars that cost $40,000 in lease payments every year. It doesn’t occur to you that someone might need a bit of help more than you need to keep the best Maserati instead of the second-best Maserati.

I remember hearing years ago that low-income families tend to give more of their paycheque to charity. The results from the 2007 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (warning: PDF) back that up: while 90% of families earning >$100,000 donated to charity vs. 71% of families making <$20,000, families making <20k donated $210 on average while families making at least five times more donated only three times as much. In fact, if you look at the table on page 19 you’ll see the average donation as a percentage of salary range midpoint moves down pretty steadily.

This suggests to me that the wealthier you are, the less of your disposable income goes to charity. I assume this is because those closer to the bottom can relate, and know that “There but for the grace of interest rates or labour woes go I.” Clearly the people cited in this TL article have no way to relate to actual financial hardship, and that disconnectedness from reality would back up my assumption.

Anyway, the article has a lovely little close: the afore-mentioned former Bay Streeter (who, by the way, had his entire savings in the stock market, which makes me question his credentials for working on Bay in the first place) says that “until the economy turns around…his wife may go back to work to tide them over, or they may hit up their parents for a loan.” I wish this gentleman a speedy economic recovery, as well as the best of luck in locating his balls.

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