The big news in my neighborhood this year is that someone has planted a vegetable garden in their front yard. Gasp! More than a few of the neighbors are bent out of shape about it, saying that gardens belong only in the backyard. However, the neighbor in question has a problem with that. The way her house is situated, her backyard gets very little sun while the front gets the perfect amount of light for a garden. Since she wants fresh vegetables, she did the thing that makes the most sense and planted the garden in the front. Now people are bent out of shape and telling her she must remove it.
There are two problems with this, though. First, it looks really nice. She did a wonderful job of landscaping the garden and working it in amongst shrubs and flowers so that it is very attractive. It’s not just plants and stakes in a patch of dirt. Second, and more important, there’s nothing anyone else can do about it. We don’t have a homeowner’s association here and there are no rules about landscaping. She’s free to put whatever she wants in the front yard. Since it’s well done, I don’t see the problem and even if it was ugly, it’s her yard and there’s nothing that anyone can say to make her change it. Legally.
That’s not stopping some people from piling on the peer pressure, though. Quite a few of the neighbors are leaving her nasty messages and a few of them have threatened legal action, or to call the city. To what purpose, I don’t know, since there’s nothing to be gained from either approach. Some have even started a movement to start an HOA so that, “Things like this don’t happen again.” I’m amazed that so many people think this is their business and are willing to pursue such measures against an attractive, legal, garden. (I’m also amazed that these people have this much free time.)
Over the years, though, when it comes to frugality, I’ve learned that a lot of people get very interested in other peoples’ business. A clothesline can trigger a war amongst neighbors. Working on a car in the yard for a few days can make people gnash their teeth. Heaven forbid you should do anything really strange like a keep a chicken or two, or install a solar panel on your roof. And if a neighbor sees you using coupons in the grocery store or shopping in the thrift store, you might have to deal with a nosy conversation that begins, “Are you guys okay? I saw you scrimping in the store and just wondered if your husband has lost his job or something.”
What you do to be frugal is no one else’s business. (Similarly, if you want to blow a wad on designer clothes, that’s no one’s business, either.) As long as you are operating within the rules of your community, you’re free to do what you want. If the rules don’t prohibit gardens in the front yard or clotheslines, you can do what you want. If you want to shop in thrift stores so you can travel six weeks per year, that’s your business. (Your neighbors are probably secretly jealous.)
It always frustrates me that being frugal seems to require you to stand up to others and to put up with all sorts of pressure. People don’t like those who do things differently. It threatens them and makes them uncomfortable. If you’re doing things that go against the norm, people are going to try to make you conform. (You thought you got past this when you left high school, didn’t you?) They’re going to get in your business and try to find the root of your abnormal behavior. Job loss? Is your marriage dissolving? Did you blow your savings on the lottery or something? When they can’t find a cause, they’re going to try to lead you back to the land of the normal, spendy people. When you won’t go, they’re going to get nasty.
What you do to better your financial bottom line is your business. It’s sad that you’re going to have to put up with the intrusions of others in order to do what you need and want to do. However, as long as you’re within the rules, you can tell them that you won’t be changing and they might as well get used to it. You can be the one laughing last when you’re debt free, retired early, and doing the things you want to do, and they’re still shackled to their day job by money concerns and their only idea of fun is tormenting the neighbors.
(Photo courtesy of ilovememphis)