Kitty PoP Speaks On Wealth And Consumption

Kitty PoP went on a diet recently.  He was recently starting to look a little chunky around the midsection, and when I set him on the scale he was about 1lb more than the vet likes to see.  Holidays be damned, Kitty PoP needed to count some calories.

The thing is, counting calories (or kibbles) isn’t Kitty PoP’s idea of a good time.  So the first couple of days of his diet, he tends to be more vocal than usual, meowing at us while his routine gets adjusted to eating a little less kibble at breakfast and dinner.   This is how I imagine the translation of those “meows”.

“What? You don’t want it?”

Hey!  Hey!  HEY!  Ohthankgoodness, I have your attention.

Where did all the kibble go?  We used to have so much more!

Ohmygod-Ivegotit!  We are poor.  Crap.  *Sigh*  

Well, I was born in a drainage ditch and my mom and whole family abandoned me, so I know what it’s like to be poor.  We can get through this. In fact, here’s a contribution from my recent hunting expedition out by the pool.

Try not to let this one get away like the others, okay?


Okay, so that little diversion was somewhat of an excuse to share how ridiculous Kitty PoP looks when he comes to the door carrying one of his little lizard friends in his mouth.  But it also brings up an interesting discussion that we tap dance around here on the blog, but rarely address directly.  Consumption and Wealth.  

Consuming Less Causes Kitty PoP Stress

In Kitty PoP’s little walnut-sized brain, consuming less feels like having less and it stresses him out.  It’s why he gets so talkative in the first couple of days when his diet is getting adjusted.  He can’t process the medium term and longer term implications of not gorging himself on kibble, namely being more physically fit to live a longer and more active life filled with chasing after lizards.  But within a few days, his little kitty body adjusts to consuming a little less kibble, and his stress disappears.

As humans though, our brains are considerably bigger than walnuts – so in short, we’ve got a heck of a lot more processing power than Kitty PoP.  So why do so many fall prey to the same stress that Kitty PoP goes through when he’s forced to consume less?

Why is it that consuming less “looks” stressful to us as a society and consumption is so often looked to as a measure of wealth?  We’ve got so much more processing power than Kitty PoP that we should be able to get past that, right?

Well, in our own small way, the PoPs are trying to fight back against the automatic association between wealth and consumption.


Consumption ≠ Wealth

It’s not all that complicated a concept, and yet, it seems to be one that many people struggle with.  The common response when you see a guy driving a Bentley and wearing a nice suit might be to assume, “He must be worth a bundle.”  Mentally we might even compare him to the guy driving a 10-year-old Honda and wearing shirts from JCPenney and think that the Bentley guy has his act together by comparison.

We’ve been very lucky to get to know some pretty amazing people living in an area that’s got a huge retired population.  We are constant beneficiaries of their years of life experience.  Sometimes it’s in very direct ways, like when our friends K&D inspired our DIY kitchen update.  But one of the biggest lessons that we’ve learned living down here is just how bad consumption is as a predictor of wealth.

Some of the wealthiest people we know (and some are millionaires many times over) regularly wear clothes that they’ve owned longer than Mr. PoP and I have been alive.  While they often own multiple homes as investments, they’ve lived in the same relatively modest home for decades.  Their cars are older and well maintained.  When they want to shop for the sake of shopping, they go to the thrift stores or the flea markets.

Mr. PoP and I both read The Millionaire Next Door in college, thanks to friendly nudging from Mr. PoP’s mom who gave us the book.  And when I read it at 22 years old, I was inspired by the statistics the authors had compiled, and mentally filed the lessons it held away for future reference.  But I don’t think I ever really expected to be sitting on my couch 8 years later counting among our closest friends true examples of that lifestyle.

We’re not perfect examples of austerity by any means.  Heck, Mr. PoP does still want a $2K tube amplifier some day, even though has has more recently been sated by a vintage tube amplifier stereo that one of these friends gave to Mr. PoP instead of goodwill.  But having friends like this is a powerful reminder that having a lot of stuff is just going to get in the way of our goals of financial freedom.


Have you ever read The Millionaire Next Door?  What did you think of it?  What are some of the ways that you’re trying to internalize (or have succeeded in internalizing!) the notion that we’re not what we consume, and the less you consume, the more you actually have?

46 comments to Kitty PoP Speaks On Wealth And Consumption

  • Yes, yes, and yes. Consumption does not equal wealth. It can be a guise to make somebody look wealthy. However, we would rather actually be wealthy than look wealthy.
    Greg@ClubThrifty recently posted..6 Tips for Making Home Ownership AttainableMy Profile

  • I’ve got a few coworkers that in the same “place in life” as me, but they always find a way to consume sooo much more fine food, expensive clothes, and fancy cars. I would love to see what their finances look like!

    • Ahh, I try not to wonder too much about colleagues’ personal finances. That seems like a pretty dangerous rabbit hole to go down while I’d still like to remain employed in my office for a few more years =)

  • Completely agree with you. I always make sure to remind ourselves to keep life simple. It’s definitely hard because you see other people driving their BMWs and ultimately showing off their wealth.
    It’s now what we want. We want to live life off our own accord, which ultimately means not having to work for the paycheck.
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted..Fitness Recap Week 1My Profile

  • Iforonwy

    I agree entirely. We also live in an area with lots of wealthy retirees and by most folks assumption we would slot into that category. But because over the years, about 40+ years, we had very modest salaries but we saved and did not buy unless we really needed an item. So as a result one of our neighbours asked just this morning:- “When you go on your cruise holidays do you buy new evening clothes each time?” Us -“Why” Neighbour “Because if you were to meet some of the same folk again they would see you in your seen before evening clothes” Us – “Well we only buy new if the old ones are too big (I have lost weight)and then I sell the large ones on e-bay or via a consigment shop”. DH makes snazzy waistcoats and cummerbunds to jazz up his outfits and I generally shop charity shops” Neighbour “Oh I just thought…..”

    This reminded me of a conversation on one of our cruise holidays. Fellow diner “I notice you don’t have a designer watch”. Me “No this one cost £5 at the local market, it tells the time, what else is it supposed to do?” Fellow diner – Not a word but her DH had to leave the table because he was laughing so much at my put down of his wife.

    We worked hard to be FI and continue to do so in order to enjoy life.

    • This was fantastic to read! The audacity of someone to even comment on a watch is rather ridiculous.
      Also, to your neighbour’s comment, the probability of running into the same people on a cruise and them remembering or caring that they happened to see you in the same formal wear again is so slim. In addition, who cares?! Ahhh, perspective is a doozy.
      Anne @ Unique Gifter recently posted..Honeymoon Gift Basket IdeasMy Profile

    • Congrats on the weight loss – but wow. New evening clothes because you might happen upon someone who had seen them before? I can’t even imagine that ever crossing my mind. People see me in repeated outfits all the time. Even formalwear. Mr. PoP’s work folks have seen me repeat dresses, and I don’t care – as long as I keep getting compliments on them, I guess they look okay!

      • Iforonwy

        Yes I have never been one for fashion. My mantra being, does it fit, is it appropriate for the occasion, is it comfy? I am wearing items now that I did not ditch when they were a little too tight. The questions I get now are – Wow is that vintage? Funny how youngsters think 1970s = Vintage!

        • I’m waiting for my clothes and shoes from the late 1990’s to become vintage! When do I get to start calling them that and be “hip”?

  • What a wonderful book you have and fantastic cat as an example. Both are shining examples of how the best of us live their lives….well, maybe one of them.
    AverageJoe recently posted..How Successful People Accomplish More – Two Guys and Your Money 025My Profile

    • Yes, Kitty PoP is not ALWAYS a good guide to follow, but to be honest, I wouldn’t mind trading lives with him some days. He lays about, spending most of his time napping, but when he is awake, what he pursues he usually does with such passion! It’s admirable in a way. Well, except for the biting.

  • I didn’t mind the Millionaire Next Door, however now that I have read several books in that vein, I find them rather repetitive.
    I thoroughly enjoy the perspective of Kitty PoP, it makes for a good analogy.
    Anne @ Unique Gifter recently posted..Honeymoon Gift Basket IdeasMy Profile

    • Glad you liked Kitty PoP – I haven’t read too many others like Millionaire Next Door, but even within the one book, they did beat the same points home multiple ways. And yet, many people still don’t get the message?

  • I read that book a while ago, and I agree that some of them are the same information repurposed.

    I’m also dying over the watch comment above–what nerve!!!
    The Happy Homeowner recently posted..Kick Your Debt to the Curb in Four Easy StepsMy Profile

    • The watch comment definitely makes you wonder – how many pre-dinner drinks had the person had to make them think that was an appropriate question?

  • Cats + personal finance = you win all the things.
    eemusings recently posted..Sometimes we push people away when we need them the mostMy Profile

  • Completely agree. I have plenty of friends who drive nicer cars and wear nicer clothes…some even make a lot more money than I do. But they spend every penny they get & actually have nothing of substance to their names. Not to say I don’t want or wouldn’t buy those things, but building some form of real wealth first is more important to me.

    I second the recommendation on ‘The Millionaire Next Door’ too..great book!
    The First Million is the Hardest recently posted..Do You Really Need A Financial Advisor?My Profile

    • Or worse – they might be leveraged to the hilt! I still want to see the Queen of Versailles movie, which is supposed to be a very extreme example of spending more than you earn…

  • I am amazed at how many people think that a measure of wealth is your level of consumption. However, I’m in the camp that when a person pulls up in a Jag I wonder how much in debt they’re really in. A lot of people would think the Jag guy has his act together, but I’m not always sure.
    I think The Millionaire Nextdoor is a great book and it really opened my eyes. In fact, I’m in the process of re-reading it and still love it.
    Justin@TheFrugalPath recently posted..Improve Your Financial Situation One Step at a TimeMy Profile

    • Yeah, I’m not always sure anymore either. There are a lot of people down here that can afford Jags and more, but then there are many who can’t and are poseurs of sorts.

  • I have been experimenting with my pet turkey as well! He was eating everything, leaving the hens without food, and we had to ration his food. Lesson 1: Animals adapt to change very quickly. Lesson 2: If whatever we give is not enough, he will do anything in his power to find more. Lesson 3: he doesn’t complain when there is less.
    Pauline recently posted..What You Need to Know When Buying a CarMy Profile

    • Haha, Kitty PoP must have had the same lesson book as your turkey, but without Lesson 3. When there is less, he knows it (at least for the first couple of days) and he’ll meow or do whatever it takes to get our attention.

  • I’ve had the same experience as you. The richest people I know don’t show it. Not only that…they’re very humble about it. But they are prepared to spend on the things that are worth it to them like their childrens’ education or the occasional anniversary trip to Europe. Or visits to their grandkids all across the country. It’s all about where you want to put your money: on appearances or into the things that will truly make you happy in the long run.

    • Completely agree… one of our friends spends a lot of their accumulated wealth and time on her favorite charities, and is really involved with seeing that the money is spent well.

  • I’ve met some very wealthy people in our area that you’d never guess had money based on how they dress and what they wear. In Kentucky where I grew up, it was much more about looking the part. My husband is amazed at how many Mercedes, BMW’s etc are driving about in our small town. Then there is a really, really poor element. I often wonder if people growing up poor don’t want to show off more because they never had anything? Regardless, I’d rather see my net worth go up than have any sort of new, fancy thing. Kitty Pop is such a warrior, going after those lizards like that!
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..How to Retire in Ten Years, Regardless of Your AgeMy Profile

  • Awww, isn’t he cute with a lizard hanging out of his mouth! :) Living on less is the best way to be! You are setting yourself up for a better future, using less of the world’s resources and reducing your dependency on your income (or your stuff!).
    Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate recently posted..Apology!My Profile

    • Kitty PoP is ridiculously cute. He knows he’s not supposed to bring the lizards into the house, so he stopped in the doorway when he saw me. =)

  • LOVE that book! It inspires me daily. I worked in the mortgage and banking industry for 15 years too, which only reiterated what was said in “The Millionaire Next Door”. Those who have lots often only have lots of debt to show for it. We are now on our own journey of being the millionaire who doesn’t look like it, and teaching our kids to do the same. Wonderful post, Mrs. PoP. Thank you!
    Laurie recently posted..Motivation: Learning From OthersMy Profile

    • Are you still in the mortgage and banking industry? I would love to hear about how that has changed in recent years from someone on the front lines…

      Good luck on your own “millionaire next door” journey!

      • No, I was laid off with countless others when the bubble burst. I know from friends still in the biz though that although lending rules have changed dramatically, people’s financial situations are still as dire as ever. :-(.
        Laurie recently posted..Motivation: Learning From OthersMy Profile

        • NYT had an article recently on people who were foreclosed on in 2008-2009 getting back into the market and getting approved for FHA loans with 3% down payments. I was just like… “WHAT?!?”

  • Oh my gosh, I LOVE the Millionaire Next Door. It’s such a great book, and one that I enjoy reading time and time again. Unfortunately, while many people can read this book and understand why these people are millionaires, it still doesn’t fix the problem you’re addressing. Most people are still too wrapped up in what people think of their clothes and their possessions. They want people to think they are rich and successful. The first step to applying the lessons of that book are to throw out those misconceptions, but as you said, it’s challenging to do. P.S. Tell Kitty PoP props on the hunting skills!

    • It’s challenging, but I wonder if they met some of these millionaires that we know if they would change their tunes.

      PS – Kitty PoP says “thanks!”

  • Love The Millionaire Next Door. I’m hoping to review it on my site soon. I’m teaching a ‘personal finance’ course to university students this semester and just yesterday during the lecture mentioned his great concept from the opening chapter of the book: “Big Hat, No Cattle.” It’s a great thing to always keep in mind. Consumption is what the popular culture wants us to think is wealthy, but in many ways it’s the exact opposite of wealthy.
    Anonymous Banker recently posted..I Miss The Great Recession AlreadyMy Profile

  • Your kitty is so wise. I want to be wealthy one day, and I want to look and act exactly as I do right now.
    Kathleen, Frugal Portland recently posted..What’s the best way to make money on the internet?My Profile

    • Kitty PoP is pretty friggin’ fabulous. I’m also all for looking and acting just as I do… though maybe I want to look 25 instead of 30 =)

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  • The town my bf and I moved to is considered to be a “wealthier” town than others because there are a lot of golf courses and supposedly a lot of CEOs, exec types live in our town. My bf and I often joke about having to consume more and upgrade everything now that we live here, especially our house because it is in a nice neighbourhood. However, we know better and will continue to live and look like we can’t afford our house. Ha ha.
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