Budget is the New Black

For decades, I tried to be cool. Despite numerous desperate attempts to wear fashionable clothes, listen to hip music, take up trendy hobbies and become more aloof, I just couldn’t change who I was. Finally, in my 40s, I decided to accept my unfashionable lot in life and give in to my nerdiness.

No sooner did I embrace my lack of swag, when suddenly, without trying, I became the epitome of chic.

No, I’m not whitening my teeth. I don’t play acoustic guitar on my front porch swing. I’ve never run a marathon, snow boarded, or surfed. I only wear a waterproof sports watch so I don’t have to take it off when I wash dishes.

I’ve never eaten Kobe beef and I’m not well versed on Beaujolais wines. I look ridiculous in a maxi dress, and avoid chunky jewelry because it catches on stuff. Although we have a big dog – which is kinda cool – he’s sloppy and won’t go in the water above his elbows.

The last big concert I went to was Jimmy Buffet in 2000, but I was 8 months pregnant and worried about second hand smoke. I have no tattoos or trendy body piercings, unless you count that second hole in my left ear that my roommate from college made for me with a potato and a sewing needle in our dorm room in 1985.

Frankly, I’m just a middle-aged stay-at-home mom, but here’s the thing: I’m cool now because I drive a minivan.

Not just any minivan, mind you – an old minivan that we bought used. A minivan that started out white and shiny, but after 100,000 miles and three military moves, now has the dull hue of stale bread, pitted with chips and tiny bubbles of rust. The once glimmering alloy wheels are beginning to corrode and peel. The formerly black bumper and trim is a hazy shade of grey.

Despite regular Shop-Vac-ing and spritzing with Armor All, the interior has also seen better days. There’s a hole in the carpet, where my left foot rests during endless daily car pools to school, sports and music lessons. The wire to the power sliding door snapped a couple years ago. Two air fresheners can’t hide the lingering odor from years of post-practice sweaty teens, countless spilled drinks, and chicken nuggets lost between seats.

Why, you might be asking yourself, would driving a used minivan with perpetually sticky cup holders and fruit snacks stuck in the carpet make me cool? I know, it’s hard to believe, considering that minivans have never been particularly cool.

Quite the contrary, in fact. Until recently, a hip-happening trendy mom wouldn’t be caught dead in a minivan. Stylish moms overwhelmingly prefer SUVs, which project an image of sporty spontaneity and an adventuresome spirit.

While a minivan says, “I’m frugal, eat meatloaf, wear comfortable cotton underwear, and drink home brewed coffee with powdered creamer every morning while taking the kids to school,” an SUV screams, “Despite the fact that I only drive on suburban paved roads between The Gap, pee wee soccer practice and the Starbucks drive-thru, I am the type that might drop everything, throw on a bikini and some Ray Bans, and go kite surfing for the day.”

However, recently, our struggling economy has forced moms everywhere to change their habits and their images. Families are tightening budgets, clipping coupons, and paying cash. The mom who used to look so stylish with her 11 mpg Range Rover, overpriced coffee, and designer handbag, is SO last season in today’s unfortunate economic climate.

Nowadays, frugality is the latest fad. Today’s trendsetters shop at discount stores, know which groceries will double coupons, and drive cars with good gas mileage. The hottest style is savvy spending, and family budgets are all the rage.

As for me, I bought my purse at TJ Maxx. We make our own pizza at home on Friday nights. We haven’t used our credit card in eight months. And I drive a minivan.

Try not to hate me for being so cool.

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Comments: 12

  1. energywriter September 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm Reply

    Hooray for you! Life is much more than things. But, now I’m no longer cool. I traded my old Corolla for a new Focus – but it’s a hatchback with a child safety seat. Does that qualifiy me to still be cool?

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 23, 2012 at 6:49 pm Reply

      It’s not the things that make us cool, but our attitude. In buying a Focus with child safety seats, your attitude seems quite sensible, which is totally cool in my book!

  2. Susan September 23, 2012 at 3:47 pm Reply

    I love it. You are cool and always have been!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 23, 2012 at 6:48 pm Reply

      The Indiana High School class of 1984 may beg to differ, but thanks!

  3. Sample Saturday | Homekeeping Adventures September 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm Reply

    [...] Budget is The New Black - This post from The Meat and Potatoes of Life talks about style, minivans, budgeting, and SUVs with a great sense of humor and honesty. [...]

  4. Amanda September 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm Reply

    Great post! I guess I’m stylish too, driving the kids around in our old burgundy minivan. :) It is nice that budgeting and frugality is “hip” right now, because it’s becoming easier to find good bargains.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 23, 2012 at 3:45 pm Reply

      True, but it’s kinda sad that it took economic collapse to make me cool!

  5. Grace Cosgriff September 23, 2012 at 1:39 pm Reply

    I guess I am one of those uncool mom’s in the SUV. But…it is over 10 years old with over 125,000 miles…. does that put me back in the almost cool?

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm Reply

      Heck yea! The key to cool is saving money, so you’re TOTALLY cool!

  6. Mike Farley September 23, 2012 at 10:29 am Reply

    And I thought I was an amalgam of Flo Rida, Pit Bull and Ne-Yo holding on to a 97 Corolla that rides so low to the ground that it doesn’t meet the height requirement for the tea cup ride. Thanks for keeping me grounded, Lisa.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 23, 2012 at 3:43 pm Reply

      Sweet! Now all you need is your rapper name. Mickey F? Funk Master M??

  7. Anonymous September 23, 2012 at 10:16 am Reply

    You are my HERO!!!!! Okay I drive an SUV, but it is 10 years old with over 125,000 miles..

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