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Welcome to Zunicorn Ranch

I love when people say “Bigger is better.” I mean, we all know the popular Texan slogan “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” We are told we need to make a BIG income, so we can buy a HUGE house, with a LONG driveway, to park our EXPENSIVE cars in. Unfortunately, success is often measured by appearance and not by personal accomplishments. Today, I make my case for a few areas where bigger is not my priority.

Income. Like every other college graduate, I was determined to enter the workforce and bring home a big salary. The grim reality… that didn’t happen. I started my job at a solid $38K/yr (quite a bit less than the $80K/yr I felt like I was worth). But now, after a few years in the work force, and a couple promotions later, I’ve learned BIG income can mean BIG problems. After a few more years, I could begin to explore the option of pursuing supervisory type positions. They make more than I can in my current field, but their increased salary just isn’t worth it. Sure they make $15k/year more than I will, but they don’t get to work from home, they don’t get a work vehicle, and they are responsible for a whole crap-ton of issues I would never want to deal with. Yes, they make more than me, but in my eyes, the “bigger” income is not worth the increased responsibility.

Home size. Who doesn’t drive by a ridiculously beautiful white mansion with big columns and think “Ah, that must be the good life”? I know I am guilty of “mansion envy” every now and again. But when it comes down to it, I don’t ever plan on living in a house with twice as many bedrooms as people living in it. A larger home means larger everything (property tax, maintenance costs, utility bills, furniture). Girl Ninja and I had a hard enough time keeping our 610 square foot, 1 bedroom condo clean. How the heck would we manage a McMansion?

Student Loans. I don’t know what clever marketing scheme the college recruiters conjured up, but they are geniuses. People are graduating from college with six figure student loans for an undergraduate degree in art therapy. WTF do you do with a degree in art therapy?! I went to a ridiculously overpriced private college, and learned my lesson the hard way. Although the school might be cool, it’s not really worth taking on MASSIVE student loans. Instead of getting $5,500/yr tuition at the University of Washington (a rather reputable school), I went to a private college that no one has ever heard of with tuition upwards of $25,000/yr. With the help of scholarships, and the parents, I managed to “only” rack up $28,000 in student loans, compared to the $120,000 loans many of my fellow classmates had. HERE ME NOW ALL PROSPECTIVE COLLEGE STUDENTS: Harvard is nice, but so is your local state school. Bigger student loans don’t guarantee a bigger income…sorry.

I could keep on going, but I think I’ve proved my point. In a culture where size matters, I say “Screw you culture. We don’t want your shenanigans.”  I’ll take my modest home, slightly used car, middle class job, and enjoy life just fine.

Why do so many try to keep up with the Joneses? Who are these mythical Joneses anyways?! What are some additional areas you can think of where bigger is definitely NOT better?

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  1. In Las Vegas there is so much bling it is impossible not to be envious. Well for me at least.

    I always have to remind myself that there are so many less fortunate than us and to be appreciative for what we have.

  2. It becomes a matter of being content. There is usually a certain amount of money and things that can make someone’s life easier but beyond a certain point, there is no sense in it. People think that money will buy happiness, but it simply can’t. You have to learn to be happy and content in your own circumstances.

  3. I think you’re absolutely right that bigger is not always the right choice. SUVs would be another example: bigger car, bigger price tag, bigger gas bill, harder to park.

    Your point about bigger student loans not guaranteeing a bigger income really hits home for me and is something I’ve written about in my own blog.

  4. Other things that are not better if bigger:

    1) waist line
    2) over all debt
    3) piles of toys – there are ones that are always played with, and ones that get played with for 2 days and never touch again (happy meal toys), also ppl need to appreciate with what they have instead of wanting more and more
    4) stashes of books – I am all for more reading, but unless they are reference books that get reference often, they collect dust
    5) things around the house that are rarely used

    On the other hand, I would like a bigger income. I don’t think that bigger income necessarily mean bigger problems. It really depends on what you can deal with for the bigger income. Per your example, some people think that management is what they like to do or do best, so they have no problem dealing with those duties and would dislike day-to-day “production”. Also, you have to taking to account that the company car is an add value to you salary. So while you may be making $15k less on paper, you are getting $8+k of benefit with the car(insurance, maintenance, payments, etc).

  5. If we were to bigger = newer, then we could count the rush of people to have the best of electronics, be on the bleeding edge of technology. That means more expenses (a new model comes out every 6 months or so), more worry (Android or iPhone or Blackberry? wait, what did my “friends” get? how about my coworkers? shoot, I have an iPhone and everyone I know has an Android system!), more time lost (running around stores and surfing the net to be the FIRST to have that new model). Same deal with computers: there is always something newer and fancier and faster… And cars… And apartments/houses…

    I guess it’s all about being “better” than someone else (if I go to Harvard, I’m better than all the other kids who don’t; if I have the MacBook Air, I’m really, really cool; and look at my fancy new ride!) and spending money and time and energy on an endeavor that is never ending. This is the perfect consumer.

  6. Speaking as someone who used to work in commissioned sales (we’re talking sporting goods here, not cars), I totally agree about the income thing. Why people take certain jobs that they hate for marginally more money than what they could make doing something awesome is totally beyond me. Before I moved to a non-commissioned retail job, I genuinely thought that part of retail involved being screamed at on a daily basis by your manager for having the nerve to clean the store, help a cashier or chat with a customer instead of *making a sale*. Ugh!

    I’m also kind of suspicious of people who //really// want to be managers at retail stores and chain restaurants. Now, if your goal is to move up the ladder within the company, and management is a stepping stone, or if it’s a fancy, upscale restaurant or a large store, then that’s one thing. But like, I used to work at a clothing store, and the manager made exactly $1.50 more per hour than I did, and she had to put up with so much crap from the higher-ups, from customers, from her teenaged workers, and because she was on salary, if she had to come in an extra shift because someone didn’t show up, she didn’t get compensated for it. I also used to waitress, and the managers, though they had a guaranteed income and benefits and stuff, actually made LESS money overall than I did, because they couldn’t make any tips. SO NOT WORTH IT!

    I wonder a lot if people become managers of stores and restaurants like this just so they can have a bit of power to lord over people, because the extra $1.50 to me totally would not have been worth the added aggravation and responsibility.

  7. Bigger is definitely not always better. People who find their identity by comparing themselves to another person are in for a rude awakening!

  8. I disagree with the student loans in certain circumstances. The best way to get a good job out of college is to go to a school that has a lot of good companies at their career fairs. To get this, you need to go to a big state school or a well renown private school.

    I’m from Missouri, so I’m saying the University of Missouri is a good option in comparison to Harvard because you can get a good job graduating from either, but Southeast Missouri State is a terrible option compared to Harvard because it will be a lot harder to get a good job out of Southeast Missouri State.

  9. I am at a time in my life where simplicity or downsizing is more relevant. Our children are no longer at home, we do not need a house. We are getting close to retirement (6 years), I want things simple and easy to to keep up.

  10. I’m definitely blessed not to have much Jones-Envy. Love @LLF additional list!

  11. I believe that most of this article (other than the student loans part) is quite subjective. I would want to know if the writer personally knows anyone who makes milliones of dollars a year and further, if they have a mentor who makes lots of money. I believe a better maxim would be “bigger and smaller are only perceptions of thought”. But that slogan would be too easy, wouldn’t it? But isn’t there a difference between making lots of money and WASTING lots of money?

    Being rich is a way of living and nothing more. Mansions and fancy cars are only representations of a lifestyle that somone worked vey hard to obtain. (When money is passed down, it means that a great grandfather had worked hard for the money – and these are the people I’m refering to. I’m talking about the ones who were innovative and worked hard to actually CREATE the wealth). Lifestyles are social. Social tendencies are somewhat genetic, but they are mostly taught. Rich families raise their kids to be aware of finances early on. The conversations at their dinner table are often about saving money, investing, and entreprenurial philosophy. The kids grow up having a higher level of consciousness about money. This higher level of consciousness is needed because if the kids waste money, their ratio of waste is much higher than any of ours would be.

    They are not taught to be fearful of college loans mostly because, yes – their parents could pay for it – but also because the TENANTS that they have learned has given them a sense of confidence in ‘finding answers to problems and managing them’. Thus, these kids grow up wanting to research heavily what type of college would give the best cost ratio. They have meetings with other members of their socio-economic culture and obtain their advice. ( Many people who are rich are still frugal and retain the origional tenants and philosophies that got them there). Hence, no child who comes from a rich family would have been without opportunity to have considered all of the possible scenarios that could have occurred in the future of having to pay college loans that were invaluable. ( They would have seen this coming. They would have done previous research. Thus, a few chess moves ahead).

    The more you meet with people who are successful or “rich” the more you see that they are not so different from those who make “less”. ( These are subjective terms so I put them in quotes). Their lifestyle correlates to this higher level of thinking, but they also have the motivation and discipline to take it there.

    All of us here know what it’s like to not be motivated. You know what I mean. It’s the feeling you get when you don’t want to exercise, don’t want to read the chapter in a book that you commited to, don’t want to study for your test, don’t want to make that extra phone call. Many of us who consider a job more “difficult” could be labeled “lazy”. But that wouldn’t be fair; Instead, it must be first understood that our perception of what is “DIFFICULT” has been shaped largely by how we’ve been raised.
    (If I am pointing to the hypothetical lifestyle of the writer, then it is up to them to defend such a position). However, this is my hypothesis.

    The people I know of who make lots of money mostly own their own company. That being said, they have a different perception of what most of “us” (those of us in a socioeconomic status of under $200k a year) would consider ‘challenges’. The people I know who are rich, don’t consider management a hardship. It is the same with people who run marathons. Why run a marathon when running 5 miles is good enough and gives us a feeling of accomplishment? But then, is accomplishment relative?

    It’s about innitiative and motivation. It’s also about focus. There ARE those of us who consider it valuable to have less work-time. But what do you consider “work-time”? People who work hard cannot all be crazy. They just may have a different perception of what “hard work” and “more money” is.

    And one last thing; I agree totally that mansions are superfluous.

    But I also think that ULTRA-marathons are superflous representations of physical athleticism.

  12. […] isn’t always better – Ninja lists a few instances when the opposite is […]

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