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The frugal life vs expectations of friends & family  RSS feed

 
Nina Jay
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I'm curious about how you all deal with the expectations of your friends and family members who are still living the rat race? We keep bumping into this rather often. It's funny because when we started our permie-homesteading-frugal journey we worried about things like how we are going to make it, are we going to have enough food and money etc. But now after a few years of us both living and working on our homestead we find WE can manage very well - it is our extended family that is having a hard time understanding/ accepting our way of life.

I'd never have thought that trivial little things like birthday parties and Christmas presents could become such an issue. Our relatives simply won't understand if we are unable to afford a trip to visit them every time they invite us. It seems silly to even say it out loud that we can't afford to come. Many of our friends and relatives earn about ten times as much as we so the gap is huge. At first we were honest and told the real reason we couldn't come every time  but quickly found out that it just isn't acceptable/ we were hurting their feelings. I hate dishonesty but really can't see any other option but to choose which parties/ social occasions we are going to attend and the rest of them we'll just have to pass because we are "sick". Unless we can come up with a better solution!

Homemade presents are not so popular with our friends and relatives so our christmas present budget is pretty out of proportion compared with how little money we spend on living otherwise. Is this the way it is with all of you? Has anyone come up with solutions on how to keep friends & family happy (or at least: not hurt them too much) and still live a frugal, ethical life? It is about making compromises but how big a compromise is okay in your opinion?  Like my husband said so well: "Should I keep working in a job I don't like just to be able to buy nice Christmas presents for my relatives?" It sounds crazy but really that would be about the only reason for us because everything else we need we can either produce ourselves or afford to buy.
 
K Putnam
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This issue affects people from all financial sets.  Go read a few old Dear Abby columns on gifts, holidays, weddings, etc. I'm not joking about that.  The unequivocal answer is that expecting gifts and expecting visits is rude.  The issue you are dealing with is not one of frugality, it is one of rudeness.

It may be important for you to establish a yearly travel budget that you have available for visits of your choosing, but that amount is determined by you, not your extended family.  Same with gifts.  If tasteful homemade gifts are unacceptable, it's not about the gifts; it's about a lack of manners.

So, why are they being rude? That's the core question.

 
John Polk
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Please don't feel alone.
Many who have chosen alternative lifestyles from the 'normal', encounter the same.

You have chosen a lifestyle that makes you feel happy.
They have chosen a lifestyle that makes them feel happy.

They would feel uncomfortable trying to switch to your lifestyle.
And you would feel uncomfortable trying to switch back to theirs.

Since they probably already call you Samis (behind your backs), perhaps you can use that as an excuse for not joining their festivities, as in "The weather has been brutal.  We need to herd the reindeer to a lower pasture."

 
Zach Muller
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My wife an I have tried various things ranging from making donations as gifts, home made gifts, telling our families we can't afford gifts so we don't expect any from them, etc.
I enjoy the emotions caused by gift giving and receiving, and sometimes giving a disappointing gift is just an all around bummer. The reality of it, is my family doesn't care all that much, so if they are disappointed by a gift or lack of gift, it's fleeting and soon forgotten. My friends and family have always known I am frugal aka cheap skate. If they didn't accept it, then we probably wouldn't be close anymore. 
 
Judith Browning
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now after a few years of us both living and working on our homestead we find WE can manage very well - it is our extended family that is having a hard time understanding/ accepting our way of life.


Our families have always been very supportive with whatever we could manage in the way of visits and gift giving.  They thought we were eventually going to 'grow out' of our lifestyle and join their idea of the mainstream (now, after forty years, those still living, are used to us being different). 

When the kids were growing up and family was several hundred miles away we only saw them two or three times a year...and that I've come to regret as I live in the same town as several of our grandkids and see what a wonderful thing it is to enjoy them more often. 

Our gift giving was mostly our own handmade things or other crafts that we had traded for....and canned and dried fruits.  I think my mom and mother in law were eventually probably tired of some sort of woven thing for christmas but they always sounded happy to receive   I know they loved the gifts that the grandsons made them though.

Our families came to visit us once or twice a year...camped out usually or stayed in a motel in the nearest town and told all of their friends about this great adventure they had back in the woods, even though they were still pretty freaked about the life we had chosen...

Stay proud of your lifestyle, sounds like it's working for you and that's what's important. 
 
Nina Jay
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Thank you all for your posts! Everything you all said is so true!

K Putnam wrote: The unequivocal answer is that expecting gifts and expecting visits is rude.  The issue you are dealing with is not one of frugality, it is one of rudeness.

It may be important for you to establish a yearly travel budget that you have available for visits of your choosing, but that amount is determined by you, not your extended family.  Same with gifts.  If tasteful homemade gifts are unacceptable, it's not about the gifts; it's about a lack of manners.



I never thought of it that way but there was always "something" bothering me about the way many of our relatives react. Of course they don't actually say that they don't like our gifts or that they are disappointed in us  but they just hint it in a very subtle polite way. Like not commenting on our gifts at all (but commenting on other gifts) or saying "I'd really like it if you could come" after we've said we can't  or suggested a compromise like "could we come once this fall and bring gifts to both of your kids then?" (instead of driving the 200 km round trip twice in 6 months).

There are of course exceptions: some seem genuinely delighted with a gift like honey & eggs & herbs or a hand made knife. Some are relatively understanding about us not coming to every social occasion. But strangely there seems to be no one who is okay with both. Those happiest about home made gifts are the ones most hurt if we don't come every time they invite us and vice versa.

The idea of the yearly travel budget is excellent. We were considering doing it already. We could  eg. visit every family once a year. But the problem still remains: what do we say when that one trip a year per family has been done and there is still the other kid's birthday or somebody turning 50 in the family and...?  I really do feel quite silly complaining about this because I think I should be happy and grateful for having so many relatives who so much want us visiting them! I think of all the lonely people in the world and I feel so horrible... And it's not that I don't want to see my relatives or that I think their celebrations are not important and I don't want them to feel like I do.


John Polk wrote:Since they probably already call you Samis (behind your backs), perhaps you can use that as an excuse for not joining their festivities, as in "The weather has been brutal.  We need to herd the reindeer to a lower pasture."


    I just love this!  This is what I'm going to say to my brother  (he understands this kind of humour!)

Judith Browning wrote:
Our families have always been very supportive with whatever we could manage in the way of visits and gift giving.  They thought we were eventually going to 'grow out' of our lifestyle and join their idea of the mainstream (now, after forty years, those still living, are used to us being different)


It's great to hear that it can be that way too and that your families were very supportive! And comforting to know that people do eventually get used to different ways of living.

Zach Muller wrote: My wife an I have tried various things ranging from making donations as gifts, home made gifts, telling our families we can't afford gifts so we don't expect any from them, etc.
I enjoy the emotions caused by gift giving and receiving, and sometimes giving a disappointing gift is just an all around bummer. 

I so know the feeling!! We've tried all of those things too. We've even made agreements like "let's give gifts only to the children this year" but then the other family invariably "forgets" this agreement and buys presents for me and my husband too...
 
Tyler Ludens
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Nina Jay wrote:We've even made agreements like "let's give gifts only to the children this year" but then the other family invariably "forgets" this agreement and buys presents for me and my husband too...


If family member want to buy gifts, I think that's great, but it doesn't obligate you to also want to buy gifts.  It seems to have become ok in my family for those who want to give gifts to do so, but there doesn't seem to be an expectation of return.  We're all older, so it's kind of silly to think we can't buy ourselves what we want or need.  We seem to have gotten to the point of mostly just wanting to share some time together and make a meal together.  Serious ill health in the family makes it a big deal just to be able to get together every now and then.
 
Judith Browning
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Has anyone come up with solutions on how to keep friends & family happy (or at least: not hurt them too much) and still live a frugal, ethical life?


Maybe try looking at this a little differently.....I don't think it's your responsibility to 'keep friends and family happy'  

I think it sounds like you are feeling guilty that you can't do those things that they expect.  Just try to be honest with them and maybe those you are closest to will 'get it' and help the others understand, and if they don't even then, it's still not your responsibility

 
r ranson
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This is a tough situation. 

Are the city folk not able to come and visit you?  Having land means having a lot more responsibility than owning a house or having a job.  It's not easy to take time away from the land. 

Could you turn the tables on them?  Say, oh sorry, I can't come for the birthday party but I'll be there next month for the big family gathering to celebrate uncle so and so's 50th Birthday, we'll see each other then.  In the meantime, when are you going to come and visit the farm?  Bring a tent, make a holiday of it.  Bring some work gloves too and you can help me do this big task that we just haven't had a chance to do on our own, it would mean the world to us, bring the kids, they can help with the harvest.  Oh, you have special dietary needs?  That's great.  You can help with the cooking so that nothing you can't eat gets in the food.  Your help will be so appreciated, and I really miss you guys and depend on you to come to the country as it's so much easier to take time off work than to take time off land.

As for gifts, I never really know what to give my city friends, so I've settled on food from the farm.  A 500g jar of farm fresh, unpasteurized honey can be up to $40 in the shops in town.  Jams, chutneys, dry fruit, &c a tiny jar goes for $12.   If they don't want them, then they can re-gift them.  If my friends don't appreciate these, then I don't feel obligated to give again.  A gift is just that, a gift I choose to give because it's something I value and I feel my friend would enjoy it.  When it's meet with expectation, then it's not a gift anymore.  It becomes something else.


Anyway, I'm grumpy at your city people because they reminded me of many of my city friends.  My city friends look at me like I'm rolling in money and they are the ones who live a frugal lifestyle because they have debt and car payments, and taxes, and school fees, and bla bla bla.  The lowest income city friend who works almost minimum wage job makes about 20 times what I do, and most make over 50 to 100 times the income I do, but they are struggling with money and debt.  Maybe that's the problem.  Your frugal life means that you are cautious.  But from the outside, you appear richer than how the city people feel. 
 
Abbey Battle
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This is a really interesting subject and so many takes on it.

Guess as I've got older I've wanted for less. The issue with Christmas pressies, I've always liked to choose carefully but these days prefer the non selfish gift aid. I don't want meaningless gifts any more and nor do my family members. Home made is great, it took a long time to bring my eldest sister round to this idea but she's a great cook and now knows that her home made treats are valued gifts.
Gifts are only exchanged between close family. Giving gifts to people you hardly know isn't sensible. There are plenty of family members I haven't met or haven't seen in over 30 years.

Christmas aside, I enjoy my life, my family, none, are wealthy. Money isn't an issue. My father is more annoyed by the fact that I only have a one bedroom home so he can't visit, (~I don't have a one bed home so he can't visit, I have a one bed home because it's all I need).

I think you need to stop worrying about trying to make other people happy. Just be happy yourselves and hoe they come around.
I feel myself drifting further and further away from the mainstream. I'm happy with that.
 
Dan Boone
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R Ranson wrote:As for gifts, I never really know what to give my city friends, so I've settled on food from the farm.  A 500g jar of farm fresh, unpasteurized honey can be up to $40 in the shops in town.  Jams, chutneys, dry fruit, &c a tiny jar goes for $12.   If they don't want them, then they can re-gift them.


This was exactly my thinking.  Anybody with a successful garden (and moreso if you have farm, orchards, bees, wildcrafting resources, et cetera) can create food gifts that are "fancy" and "premium" by any reasonable definition -- stuff that would be very costly on the market if you could purchase it at all.  If gifts like that aren't appreciated, why are you giving gifts to ungrateful wretches? 
 
Nina Jay
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Judith Browning wrote:

I think it sounds like you are feeling guilty that you can't do those things that they expect.  Just try to be honest with them and maybe those you are closest to will 'get it' and help the others understand, and if they don't even then, it's still not your responsibility



Yes, you are right there  I do feel guilty. We chose this lifestyle, we actually chose poverty and now cannot fulfil our social responsibilities because of this choice - that's one thought that keeps running through my head.

However, I'm beginning to wonder if there is more to it than that. Volumes have been written about gifts and theirs significance (anthropology). I haven't actually read most of those volumes  but reciprocity in giving and receiving gifts is very important in many cultures?. So maybe something even deeper than my neurosis is also at play here? Some universal law that states that one should try to give as much as one receives?

But in practice it can be almost impossible in our case. Eg. my sister-in-law's family. There's two boys aged 11 and 13. The parents are very wealthy, I don't know exactly how much they make but I'm guessing about 1 million euros per year. at least. The boys have all the latest toys and gadgets so it's hard to buy them anything which is why they usually get given money or gift cards for presents. We could afford to give those boys max 20 euros each and to those kids that's nothing, or candy money. It would have to be 100 euros for them to register it as a gift.  But 100 euros is our monthly budget for all the things we can't or don't want to produce ourselves but need for our daily living. Giving the boys honey or eggs is out of question - they are allergic to everything/  won't eat anything for some other reason. Last time we gave the older boy a home made knife but now we've run out of ideas. ( I don't think that boy will ever use the knife  )

R Ranson wrote: Could you turn the tables on them?  Say, oh sorry, I can't come for the birthday party but I'll be there next month for the big family gathering to celebrate uncle so and so's 50th Birthday, we'll see each other then.  In the meantime, when are you going to come and visit the farm?

Well I have to say most of them do come to the farm for our kids birthday parties. We invite everybody but don't demand that they come or even ask for reply. We just make lots of food and wait and see who comes.

Asking them to help us in our big tasks - they won't have the time, they are all extremely busy people and their calendars are always full. Jobs, kids hobbies, vacation trips, you know. They can only see us  on those certain special occasions. We could see them any time if they came to the farm but they don't have time to do that. Once somebody offered to pay for our trip... that was when it hit us that we cannot be honest about our situation!  We just couldn't figure out what to say. We couldn't take the money of course. I'm still not sure what to make of that incidence. Don't ever want to be in that situation again though. I guess it felt too humiliating, like we were children and they were our parents or something.

Perhaps in some ways we actually are being treated like children. Our family does not respect our choices (or us), we are a joke to them and they are  waiting for us to "grow up"? That would answer K Putnam's question "Why are they being rude?" 


Abbey Battle wrote:I think you need to stop worrying about trying to make other people happy. Just be happy yourselves and hoe they come around.

Yes, well said. Must try and remember that.
 
Judith Browning
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We chose this lifestyle, we actually chose poverty and now cannot fulfil our social responsibilities because of this choice


We did also, early on.  That, I think, was the hardest part for our immediate family to accept.  Poverty only as far as money goes though....I felt like so many things we were doing were luxurious and felt like 'wealth' to me.  It's just in how we look at it.  and there were times over those years I did feel 'poor' but for the most part living a life that I felt was relevant and not part of the problem was very satisfying...and our children thrived. 

Our income improved gradually so we could afford more travel...usually we had a car or truck that we didn't want to take more than fifty miles from home, so travel was by bus or train or many times hitchhiking and sometimes car pooling with friends who had family in the same area.  Even now I don't think our car would be happy on a long trip so we are planning by train.


 
John Weiland
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@Nina J: "Asking them to help us in our big tasks - they won't have the time, they are all extremely busy people and their calendars are always full. Jobs, kids hobbies, vacation trips, you know. They can only see us  on those certain special occasions. We could see them any time if they came to the farm but they don't have time to do that."

My wife's mother and stepfather had no obligations in their lives and all the money in the world to visit, yet they kept imploring us to make the trip several thousands of miles away.  We were in the middle of careers as well as putting down permie roots at the time looking toward a future of early retirement.  Wife also made a commitment to a lot of rescued animals.  In the end it was a stalemate and wife never again saw her mother or stepdad during the last 20 years of their life.  I think for each, it is important to define "social responsibility".  My wife did not regret her choices.
 
Tracy Wandling
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I probably shouldn't post a reply on this thread, as I am menopausal, AND I'm quitting smoking, AND I just spent 3 days with family. But I'll try to be nice

I don't believe that we can MAKE anybody happy - that's their own choice, and their own responsibility. And there are many people who just won't be happy, no matter what you do. You make YOU happy first, and share your excitement about your life with those who understand and can get excited with you.

What really bothers me is the 'Guilt' thing. Whether we put it on ourselves, or we let others put it on us, it's such a horrible waste of time, energy, and happiness. It NEVER helps, and it most often just gets in the way. The way I see it, instead of putting time and energy into feeling guilty, you have a choice - either do something about it, so you don't feel guilty, or stop feeling guilty and live your life the way you please. Personally, I suggest the latter. 

If you were a friend of mine, and were asking my personal opinion on what you should say to family and friends when they ask why you can't visit, I would say: tell them the truth, but don't say it like it's a big burden on you. Don't say, "I'm so sorry, we just can't afford it! I feel terrible!" in a sad voice, or in a 'pleading for forgiveness' kind of way. That makes it sound like you're somehow suffering through your life, instead of living a bountiful life that you love. Instead, I'd say, "We have a budget, and we have to stick to it, so let us know which visit is most important to YOU, and we'll put it into the budget." And say it happily, with a smile on your face, and excitement about the life you're living in your voice. The people in your life who 'get it' will understand. The people in your life who don't 'get it', well, they probably never will. But you can love them anyway.

Lately, for the people who insist on not understanding the way I choose to live, or try to lay a guilt trip on me, my first thought . . . starts with an 'F' and ends with a 'em.    I don't say it out loud - 'cause that would be rude - but it does help to alleviate the instant irritation, sort of like putting calamine lotion on a mosquito bite. 

Take care!
Tracy
 
K Putnam
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Perhaps in some ways we actually are being treated like children. Our family does not respect our choices (or us), we are a joke to them and they are  waiting for us to "grow up"? That would answer K Putnam's question "Why are they being rude?" 


And that is the much bigger issue.  The thing is, it's not going to change. At least not right now. Probably.

And while there is a country-folk / city-folk line being drawn here, I can guarantee you that this is a meta-family issue more than a lifestyle issue.  My best friend has this same issue with her in-laws and she's about as far from frugal homesteading as you can get.   The in-laws make Christmas lists full of $200 items, throw epic tantrums if she and her husband want to rotate holidays through family members etc. 

I don't have much in the way of good suggestions of how to solve meta-family issues.  I use alcohol and avoidance.   Kidding.  Mostly.

More seriously, it is painful when our family does not see our authentic selves.  My only constructive suggestion is to be present in the moment when you do share time with each other in the hopes that they will get to know you a bit better.  It doesn't matter that they've known you all your life; they don't know the you that you've been working to become.  And if that fails, martinis.  (hiccup)
 
Nina Jay
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John Weiland wrote:

My wife's mother and stepfather had no obligations in their lives and all the money in the world to visit, yet they kept imploring us to make the trip several thousands of miles away.  We were in the middle of careers as well as putting down permie roots at the time looking toward a future of early retirement.  Wife also made a commitment to a lot of rescued animals.  In the end it was a stalemate and wife never again saw her mother or stepdad during the last 20 years of their life.  I think for each, it is important to define "social responsibility".  My wife did not regret her choices.


I think in your case that your wife made the right choice!

Tracy Wandling wrote: I would say: tell them the truth, but don't say it like it's a big burden on you. Don't say, "I'm so sorry, we just can't afford it! I feel terrible!" in a sad voice, or in a 'pleading for forgiveness' kind of way. That makes it sound like you're somehow suffering through your life, instead of living a bountiful life that you love. Instead, I'd say, "We have a budget, and we have to stick to it, so let us know which visit is most important to YOU, and we'll put it into the budget." And say it happily, with a smile on your face, and excitement about the life you're living in your voice.

I'm so thankful that you posted your reply (despite being menopausal and quitting smoking     -Try to hang in there!) because this is a brilliant point that I never would have thought of if you hadn't said it! I have made exactly that mistake of saying it in a sad voice and pleading for forgiveness. But from now on I will try your approach!

K Putnam wrote:More seriously, it is painful when our family does not see our authentic selves.  My only constructive suggestion is to be present in the moment when you do share time with each other in the hopes that they will get to know you a bit better.  It doesn't matter that they've known you all your life; they don't know the you that you've been working to become.


It is painful and but it really helps when someone else sees that it is painful and says so! So thank you! And thank you everyone who posted because we've been very alone with this problem and that was part of why it was so painful. And I really hope that this thread is of help to others trying to live their permie-homesteading-frugal life!

As I've thought about this situation a lot recently I've also tried to look objectively at my own attitude towards my relatives: maybe they are responding to the way I treat them or don't treat them more likely? Maybe I haven't given them enough attention being so busy with homesteading. So, for the past half a year or so, I've tried to put more effort into these relationships: called people more often and sent more messages asking how they're doing, and trying to give them my full attention whenever I do see them. That might help in the long run.

K Putnam wrote:And if that fails, martinis.  (hiccup) 

Not a bad idea
 
Judith Browning
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I've tried to put more effort into these relationships: called people more often and sent more messages asking how they're doing, and trying to give them my full attention whenever I do see them. That might help in the long run.


I think that's a great compromise...for many years we didn't have a phone and of course no internet, no communication with far off family but letter writing.  I wrote and received many letters, mostly to my parents and to my husband's.  My mother kept them all so I have kind of a 'mother version' of our life back then, including all of the news about the kids as they grew up.  It's really wonderful. 
And now email is  so easy for keeping in touch with friends and family, it seems like the perfect way to stay in touch and to help them understand your day to day life and appreciate what you are trying to do.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Nina: I stopped giving presents a long time ago. It's fine. Most of the family doesn't hate me, and those that do are seriously messed up in other ways, so not the type of people that I would choose to hang out with.

When I visit friends and family, I take a gift with me. A jar of honey, a bouquet of flowers,  a bag of tomatoes. Or I give a massage before I leave, or weed a flower bed. Or whatever. I never ever give a gift to celebrate one of The Corporation's holidays. And if asked why, I reply that "I don't give gifts for commercialized holidays."

I don't attend parties that are planned far from home, because biking more than about 10 miles isn't worth the effort.

When I visit family that eats only processed food, and they offer me a meal, I say "No thanks", even if I am starving. One family member prepares meals full of wheat when I'm coming, and then tries to peer-pressure or guilt me into eating them, even though she knows that wheat gives me symptoms of MS and arthritis, and makes me bloat up with water. She'll say things like, "It's all in your imagination". Or "Just try one bite.", or "Don't be a pansy". Last time I saw her, I finally got rude, and said, "I'm an adult now, I get to choose what I eat!"

My family keeps trying to give me a car... Whatever. I don't have the $1000 a year that it costs to have a car sitting in the driveway, even if it's never driven. I don't have the money to put gasoline in it, even at the currently low prices. The driving culture seems like a dead end to me, so I choose a different lifestyle that I believe is more likely to survive the monetary/political crisis that I'm expecting any hour/year now. 

I really like saying,  "I like being fit and trim."! When I go to the grocery store, I'm usually the skinniest man my age in the store, and the strongest. It's due to biking, gardening, and to living a simple life. Sure, I feel the peer-pressure to conform all the time. But I sure love being fit and trim. I love never going to the doctor. I love being content with what I have right now today.

In my life, there is the family that I was born into, and the family that I have chosen. I didn't have any choice about my birth family, so they have to take me exactly how I am today. If they get hurt feelings about something, then that seems like a defect in their personalities, and they really aught to work on it, because it is their problem not mine. If I feel guilty about interacting with them, then that is my problem, and I really aught to work on it, because that is my problem, and not theirs. If they can't be gracious to me, then I really don't have any space in my life for them. My chosen family would never ever criticize me regarding gift giving, or the lack thereof. My chosen family applauds my lifestyle, my vow of poverty, and my choice to grow my own food rather than to buy it from The Corporation.



 
elle sagenev
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I'd say you aren't creative enough with your Christmas presents. We have an exceedingly large family and our Christmas budget was quite insane. So now we pay a photographer to take photos of everyone and provide prints of the main groupings as our gift. It's split our costs in half. We spend $10 per child, which is still quite a bit as we have 13 nieces and nephews so far.

As far as the rest, I look down on them, not us. They are so busy shopping and working that they hardly pay attention to anything else, kids included. I spent an hour on the porch finding ripe peas for the kids to shell and eat raw. It was a blissful time that is all the better for the cheapness of it.

Anyway, I think you must not be very comfortable with your situation if other peoples opinions affect you so much. If we can't do something we say it's not in the budget. That's that. No guilt and if they feel hurt that we don't have money that's their problem.
 
Tyler Ludens
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elle sagenev wrote: it's not in the budget.


Excellent response.

 
John Weiland
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
elle sagenev wrote: it's not in the budget.


Excellent response.



Just to add perhaps the obvious that "budget" can be defined many ways....and may have to be defended even at the risk of hurt feelings.  As many have already expressed, sometimes you just have to make decisions based on your own value set.  There are times when a friend or relative will say...."Just stop now, I'm sending you the plane tickets and you will not have a pay a dime for this visit."  So then it's no longer part of one's financial budget, but it may become an issue of one's 'moral' or 'values' budget to say no to the offer.
 
Dan Boone
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
My family keeps trying to give me a car... Whatever. I don't have the $1000 a year that it costs to have a car sitting in the driveway, even if it's never driven. I don't have the money to put gasoline in it, even at the currently low prices. The driving culture seems like a dead end to me, so I choose a different lifestyle that I believe is more likely to survive the monetary/political crisis that I'm expecting any hour/year now. 

I really like saying,  "I like being fit and trim."! When I go to the grocery store, I'm usually the skinniest man my age in the store, and the strongest. It's due to biking, gardening, and to living a simple life.


That's pretty hard core -- says me, the fat man.  But I recognize I could very easily have "hard core" thrust upon me; I've currently got 225,000 miles on the vehicle I'm driving and no certain way to replace it when it goes kaboom.   (There are unpalatable credit shananigans that would work if I did them today, but those will be the first to go in an economic disruption.)

How do you get your melons and other heavy stuff to the farmer's market you've mentioned selling at?  Is it close enough to your various fields to just wheel them down there in your wheelbarrow, or do you have a cargo bike setup like that urban-farmer guy up in Vancouver?  Somehow I always imagined you rattling to market in one of those 1978 Chevy farm pickups with oxidized paint and different-colored fenders. 
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Dan Boone wrote:How do you get your melons and other heavy stuff to the farmer's market you've mentioned selling at?  Is it close enough to your various fields to just wheel them down there in your wheelbarrow, or do you have a cargo bike setup like that urban-farmer guy up in Vancouver?  Somehow I always imagined you rattling to market in one of those 1978 Chevy farm pickups with oxidized paint and different-colored fenders. 


That's the truck... It belongs to a family member. We travel to market together in the truck. Going to market is about the only time that it gets driven. I often fill the truck with things that I carried to it on the cargo bike that I ride... I drive the truck to the fields during early September for the squash harvest. And I drove it to the greenhouse during early spring when it got filled to the brim with potted plants.

 
glen summers
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We always felt the awkwardness of deviating from the family norm.  But our family was always pretty tight knit and while its not clear just what they may have thought of some of our ideas, they were tolerant.  It certainly didn't hurt that some of them "had to live like that" at some point in their life and while they may have thought us silly or worse, they did have a grip on what we were experiencing.  And sometimes they thought some of the things we did were pretty cool....god forbid they would ever do it.
Christmas was always the most awkward time...particularly when the kids were little.  What we managed to finally do was draw names.  Since everyone in our family had pretty much everything they needed, the task of buying presents was usually an ordeal.  If they didn't have it already, it was probably beyond the scope of a present.  By drawing names, we managed to save ourselves and the rest of the family from the agony of buying presents and spare us and other family members of the burden of unwanted junk.  The way everyone finally accepted this idea, though, was to exempt the children.  Sure, buy for the kids if you want, but we only need to buy a present for one adult.  This worked great.  Since over time, everyone wound up with one of our hand made objects, we began trading our stuff at art shows we attended to add a little variety to our gifts.  Although it didn't always happen, it was best to get the names chosen early so we would know who we would be buying for.
Don't know what you all think of this, but it seems to me that choosing a life style that differs  quite a lot from those around you can be interpreted as a criticism of the life style you're ditching.  Its like not drinking or doing drugs at a party when everyone else is.  It might be good to keep in mind that when you leave behind the values other members of the family hold, they might feel a certain degree of rejection.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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glen summers wrote:it seems to me that choosing a life style that differs  quite a lot from those around you can be interpreted as a criticism of the life style you're ditching. 


Here's an apple for that comment!!!

I have a born-into family member that is obese.  She does not like it at all when I tell her that I didn't taste the dish that she brought to the family dinner, "Because I like being fit and trim, and the dish would cause aches and pains through my whole body, and would make me fat".  When she asks why she feels bad all the time, and has so many aches and pains, I say, "It's because of all the ice-cream and sugar that you eat." I could be nice, and just shrug my shoulders. But I still have hopes and dreams about making a difference in the world, or at least in my own family.

 
K Putnam
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She does not like it at all when I tell her that I didn't taste the dish that she brought to the family dinner, "Because I like being fit and trim, and the dish would cause aches and pains through my whole body, and would make me fat".  When she asks why she feels bad all the time, and has so many aches and pains, I say, "It's because of all the ice-cream and sugar that you eat." I could be nice, and say "Hard to say". But I still have hopes and dreams about making a difference in the world, or at least in my own family.



Ahhhhhhhh, and there you sound like my mother.  And I can 100% absolutely guarantee that this approach does not work for most people.  In fact, it creates a major point of contention.

It's one thing when my mom says, "please leave dairy, wheat, tomatoes, onions, and salt out because they make me feel bad."  No problem, mom.  Happy to adapt for you. 

Or if she skips dessert.  No problem.  No one should have a problem with my mom skipping dessert.

It's another thing when she goes on about skipping something because almost verbatim to what you said, "because she wants to be fit and trim" because that implies everyone else who is having dessert is stupid.   The odds of this approach ever being favorably received are about 0.0001%.  Your results may vary.

My mom also comes from very light-boned, lean genetic stock and has no idea whatsoever what it's like to come from heavier stock.  The Putnam side of the gene pool are draft horses and air ferns.  We actually have to work a lot *harder* to stay lean than my mom's side of the family.   This goes back to the earlier point about it being painful when family members do not recognize you for who you are. 

Of course, that includes passive-aggressive meal prep, such as specifically making dishes you can't eat.  I've seen that a few times with friends with Celiacs.  Family members purposefully make pasta every time they come over.  Ridiculous. 

I think families would get along a lot of better if they made a point to treat each other as if they were friends instead of family.  Wishful thinking.
 
Carrie Graham
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Well I have to say most of them do come to the farm for our kids birthday parties. We invite everybody but don't demand that they come or even ask for reply. We just make lots of food and wait and see who comes.

Asking them to help us in our big tasks - they won't have the time, they are all extremely busy people and their calendars are always full. Jobs, kids hobbies, vacation trips, you know. They can only see us  on those certain special occasions. We could see them any time if they came to the farm but they don't have time to do that. Once somebody offered to pay for our trip... that was when it hit us that we cannot be honest about our situation!  We just couldn't figure out what to say. We couldn't take the money of course. I'm still not sure what to make of that incidence. Don't ever want to be in that situation again though. I guess it felt too humiliating, like we were children and they were our parents or something.


This is an important point that is being ignored. The fact they they do come to your family events and you can't afford to attend theirs- and thus participate equally with your presence in their lives is what is making you feel guilty, and they may not be misplaced.

  Why couldn't you let them pay for you to participate in their lives?  If they willingly offered and you refused, what else can they do?   You have chosen a lifestyle that is closer to poverty by choice. They have chosen a more traditional or wealthy lifestyle.  That they make the effort to come and be a part of your lives says a great deal of how much you mean to them. That you can't put your pride aside and own up to the truth of yourchosen circumstances says something about you.   You can't participate in their lives more equally without monetary assistance from them. If they offer and you refuse, you are basically choosing not only to live a non-traditional impoverished lifestyle, but you are also choosing to exclude them from your lives.   It would be different if you were blaming them for not wanting to help you, because they are richer, that would be selfish. But if the gift they offer you is to pay for you and your children to attend family events like everyone else, then I think you disrespect them by refusing.
Certainly your children lose some of the benefits of close extended family.

I have more "wealth" than some, but make far less per year than most families and we live a pretty frugal lifestyle.  Because we are frugal, we have some different values than "normal" people. Like hand me downs and thrift shop items are not only appreciated but preferred, even as gifts.  It does indeed become the appropriateness of the gift, not the dollar amount spent.   Among some of us, the one who can spend the least and find an appropriate gift is the "winner". (Did you glean that from dumpster diving? Wow lucky score!)   Conversely there are family members who are very wealthy, and those who are very poor.  The wealthy great-aunts do not expect the poorer children with babies to give lavish gifts, or even gifts at all.  A token is expected and appreciated- a favorite box of cookies or a picture of the kids in an ornament, or a thrift shop find if it is appropriate.   The poorer children do get and appreciate the large value gifts that are given- music lessons for their kids, a new television for the family or  new winter coveralls (which can be rather pricey, but needed on a farm.)   The wealthy older relatives may offer "hand me down" vehicles, which are gratefully received and cared for.    In return the poorer and younger relatives may offer to do manual labor things that are harder for the older/busy ones- put in their garden, paint the living room, babysit their animals, etc.   Mutual respect of lifestyle choices is a two way street.   If you want them to accept yours, you must accept theirs as well.   This is as true for siblings as generation gaps. If one sibling can afford to share his material blessings and wants to, you must respect him to receive and reciprocate with whatever you are blessed with.

My older cousin would not appreciate a box of used half gallon canning jars.  My other cousin would be  absolutely thrilled.  My older cousin was thrilled with the candy house I made her for Christmas using her favorite candy bars, (purchased at the after Halloween sales). My poor but crafty cousin would have thought it was cute, but mainly so she could make it herself for next year.    Most kids would appreciate something like that, and if they are allergic to dairy, get hard candies.   Be creative, but thoughtful.   You almost can't go wrong with junk food, everyone has some kind they like, even if it is dairy, vegan, organic, sugar-free, rainbow brand from Whole Foods or whatever.   And a word about crafts.  Giving everyone fancy hand towels because that is the "gift of the year," is a nice gesture. But giving a gift that actually shows you pay attention to the receiver is far better.  My friend gave me an item with the initials representing one of our favorite inside jokes.  Not expensive and not time consuming, but dead on for renewing our shared memories.  Another gratefully received gift was a paper panda sculpture, printed and assembled from a free-online paper craft site.  My daughter loves pandas, but no way would we put something like that together.  It is still on display in her room, years later.  My grown children are grateful for "hand me down" computers from me and I want my grandsons to have access to online educational resources.  Fortunately they weren't raised to be too prideful to refuse either hand me downs or gifts from those who can afford to  share.  If they were demanding, or didn't care for their things, I would stop giving them.  But there is great joy in older wealthy people to see their money and time appreciated, as their is great value in humbly accepting gifts you can't afford to buy.  Then when your season comes, pass it on. 

A word about the wealthy nephews.  My son and his cousin are young adults. They live within their means, but can buy themselves whatever they want.  But I pay attention, so for Christmas both young men got a five gallon bucket with Mt.Dew (bought on sale) on the bottom and a giant Rice crispy treat on the top.  At first they were  both worried the bucket was completely filled with rice crispy treats, too much of a good thing.  LOL Those were much appreciated, even though they could and do buy their own Mt, Dew, it was a week or more worth they didn't have to.  Also at one time in this frugal family, 2ply, extra soft TP  was considered a "luxury",  so now every year each kid no matter how old gets a roll or a bulk pack of their own.   Kind of practical, kind of funny, loads family fun.  (Did you know they even make Panda TP?)  




 
John Weiland
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@K Putnam: "This goes back to the earlier point about it being painful when family members do not recognize you for who you are."

@Joseph L: " "It's because of all the ice-cream and sugar that you eat." I could be nice.....But I still have hopes and dreams about making a difference in the world, or at least in my own family. "

Part of the title of this thread was "...expectations from friends and family", so I hope I'm not too off base with this comment.   In the just MHO department, copious consumption of ice-cream and sugar are coping/self-soothing mechanisms that hide emotional pain....like most other addictive practices or substances and irrespective of their chemically-addictive natures.  Like many other addictions, once the person is really willing to change one of the most expedient targets for improvement is identifying the basis for the emotional pain and handling that equally, if not as a priority, in other aspects of addiction reversal.  Clearly this type of approach can lead, in a parallel way to that indicated by the OP, to family discord.  Just in case you haven't tried that angle, Joseph, and still wish to make that difference, you can be on the lookout for signs in your family member of finally wanting that help.  But stressing again, the recoverer needs to be willing....
 
Melissa Parker
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Get a milking animal. We answer all invitations with "Sorry, we have to milk the cows"...

Farm fresh food are the best gits. Last year we had a litter of piglets at the wrong time. We butchered them as suckling pigs and gave them to family who would get a 'great' gift from us. If you buy one just about anywhere online they are $100-300. We wrapped and boxed them with instructions for cooking. If anyone was disappointed they sure didn't tell us... and phone calls have trickled in all year to tell us how their New Year's and Easter dinners, BBQs, Dinner Parties and Luaus have come out with the pigs.  The year before it was a jam and jelly assortment made from our farm's fruit. Again, everybody was happy.

I know they think we are weirdos... but they think we are nice weirdos... and that's good enough.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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John Weiland wrote:In the just MHO department, copious consumption of ice-cream and sugar are coping/self-soothing mechanisms that hide emotional pain....like most other addictive practices or substances and irrespective of their chemically-addictive natures.  Like many other addictions, once the person is really willing to change one of the most expedient targets for improvement is identifying the basis for the emotional pain and handling that equally, if not as a priority, in other aspects of addiction reversal.  Clearly this type of approach can lead, in a parallel way to that indicated by the OP, to family discord.  Just in case you haven't tried that angle, Joseph, and still wish to make that difference, you can be on the lookout for signs in your family member of finally wanting that help.  But stressing again, the recoverer needs to be willing....


John: Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Duh that I hadn't realized it already. As far as I can tell, the pain is too deep, and the wound is too old, and the prospects of recovery are too scary. I expect that the emotional pain which is hiding behind the sugar and ice-cream will never be dealt with.  With that in mind, I intend to keep my mouth shut about the ice-cream. A different family member chooses to hide emotional pain with alcohol. Yet another with opioids. In comparison, ice-cream and candy aren't all that bad. I'm still going to grumble though, because I end up being care-taker for the obese family member, cause the obesity causes illness, and cause the rest of the family have "jobs". 
 
Dillon Nichols
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One of my favorite sayings seems very applicable here, you've probably heard it somewhere...


Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.


I usually think of interactions like this as a wonderful opportunity to improve the quality of people I interact with, in the simplest way possible; culling the bad apples.


Carrie, the picture you paint of interactions between various income levels sounds pretty great. Yet, I can't agree with your stance that it is necessarily disrespectful to decline a paid trip if proffered.
Carrie Graham wrote:
If they offer and you refuse, you are basically choosing not only to live a non-traditional impoverished lifestyle, but you are also choosing to exclude them from your lives.   It would be different if you were blaming them for not wanting to help you, because they are richer, that would be selfish. But if the gift they offer you is to pay for you and your children to attend family events like everyone else, then I think you disrespect them by refusing.


This may seem reasonable if relations are generally smooth, and there are not strings attached... but this is sometimes not the case in my experience. I certainly have relatives I would never accept financial assistance from, whether to visit or for other purposes. It would come bundled with a lifetime of condescension and an implied acknowledgement of inferiority. 'Free' money from these people isn't something I could afford the psychological cost of.


Melissa Parker wrote:
I know they think we are weirdos... but they think we are nice weirdos... and that's good enough.

Well, and who would want to be normal anyway? How boring...

It's all relative anyhow; normal compared to who? When I was wwoofing last fall, someone remarked how nice and normal everyone on the site was... by the prevailing societal standards, none of the people there were particularly normal.. but we were similar enough to each other that our oddities seemed normal.
 
Lucia Moreno
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We went out of the "gift circuit" years ago, as one of the first measures to downsize. We just called everybody in early December and told them we did not want gifts and we will not buy gifts. We did the same every time we travelled or someone travelled (in my familly when you visit a place you have to bring gifts from that place), in birthdays, etc. It took some years but now there is no problem.

Both my brothers are big executive type guys and they make easily 20x what I make. Even my father, with his retirement makes more money than I. I am the only one that has savings. I am the only one who owns the place they live in. Ironically, in my familly I am know as "the rich one"!!!

When there is an issue about money, I say "You chose to make money, I chose to do what I like. Both choices are adecuate."  Also, there are sometimes issues of envy (on their part) because I actually have time to do what I like and spend time with my children.

Bottom line is, your life is yours to live up to your expectations. Other people have a say in their own lives, not yours.

Cheers,
Lucía
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Boy, did you ever hit a nerve, here Nina! In a good way! Loads of super excellent responses all around. I'm kind of laughing on my end, because I have some funnies to add.

Nina Jay wrote:Homemade presents are not so popular with our friends and relatives....

This comment reminds me of the time I made homemade bacon fat mayo for my nephew. I just assumed he would LOVE it. Haha! The look on his face...he was doing his best not to gag. Sooo funny now, though not really at the time. 

One side of my family does a version of a white elephant gift exchange. Each person brings a gift worth about $10, wraps it, and puts it in the middle. Numbers are drawn and you get to take a gift or "steal" an opened gift in turn. Number one gets one last round to "steal" at the end.

In that family, a bunch of uncles and cousins bring wrapped six-packs of beer. Then folks are "stealing" beer from each other - it's rather hilarious in a redneck way! One cousin couple brought their own homebrew hard cider (wow!) and hand-crocheted washcloths (super cool, too!) as their two gift contributions, though the rest of the family wasn't as wowed as I was. Plus, there is usually something truly awful, in a tacky or ridiculous sort of way, that adds to the humor of the whole thing.

I'm also reminded of some more fun - a homesteader video from a few years ago where michigansnowpony jokes about things sheeple say. Ya gotta head over to that thread to watch that video. It's perfect.



 
Carrie Graham
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Carrie, the picture you paint of interactions between various income levels sounds pretty great. Yet, I can't agree with your stance that it is necessarily disrespectful to decline a paid trip if proffered.
Carrie Graham wrote:
If they offer and you refuse, you are basically choosing not only to live a non-traditional impoverished lifestyle, but you are also choosing to exclude them from your lives.   It would be different if you were blaming them for not wanting to help you, because they are richer, that would be selfish. But if the gift they offer you is to pay for you and your children to attend family events like everyone else, then I think you disrespect them by refusing.


This may seem reasonable if relations are generally smooth, and there are not strings attached... but this is sometimes not the case in my experience. I certainly have relatives I would never accept financial assistance from, whether to visit or for other purposes. It would come bundled with a lifetime of condescension and an implied acknowledgement of inferiority. 'Free' money from these people isn't something I could afford the psychological cost of.


I was speaking to this case as it has been explained and it sounds like relations are mutually caring, but financial differences are the only thing actual preventing socialization.

I have a child whose husband refused to participate in "gift gatherings," which at first he said was because of philosophical reasons.  It was actually a symptom of a much more serious sociopathic personality disorder.   But it not only was it stressful for my daughter, as he didn't want her and the kids to participate either, but it was a strain on the whole extended family as they were the only ones not attending,  what had previously been a close extended family group.  It upset the elderly who now didn't get to have the joy of watching the little kids open their gifts, or even seeing them on Christmas, as had been a tradition for generations.  Being a part of a large and close family does have some inherent social responsibilities, that can cause real hurt if one part decides to adopt practices that alienate everyone else.    Occasionally one should set aside or at least keep silent. even their heartfelt convictions, if waving that banner will cause needless hurt to an elder or family who won't understand but just feel cut off.    My mother had a mental illness and chose to believe that Santa was if not real, then close enough.  Our immediate family didn't like to emphasis Santa in our celebrations.  But for her, we absolutely did, because that was meaningful to her.
 

As far as a "lifetime of condescension and implied acknowledgement of inferiority" those are things that you can't escape if that is the kind of folks you are dealing with.    If you don't take the money and participate as they do, they would still feel that way as it proves you are unable.    If you do take the money and participate, it proves you needed the assistance.    But you can choose whether or not them feeling that way towards you makes YOU actually feel inferior Their prideful feelings aren't your responsibility.   So do what is best for the family as a whole.   

As an advocate of a frugal lifestyle I do not feel inferior if I eat at a cheaper restaurant or drive a serviceable, but old and ugly vehicle.  Nor do I feel others are superior if they eat at very expensive restaurants and drive cars that cost the same as buying a house.   Actually I think they are lacking in financial wisdom, so unfortunately I  feel superior to them.   That is pride no matter how you slice it, but if you must feel a bit of pride to promote a good self esteem in the face of differing values, there it is.   Now that said,  there  always are and should be "strings attached" to gifts, the string is gracious thankfulness.  If that thankfulness can be properly expressed in a thank you note, so be it. But perhaps it is better expressed in a deed or presence or attitude.   Gifts are expected to be given to express support, respect and love.  Gifts are accepted to accept support, respect and love. Correctly giving and receiving is an important sociological glue.  Gifts can't be demanded or expected and should only be refused with careful consideration. 
 


 
M.R.J. Smith
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I take a mix of Nietzsche and Hegel's Aesthetic view plus an Aristotelian Virtue ethics perspective of sorts. Here's how I argue for it:

I first ask: What is the purpose of life?

When we have talked about theirs for a while, if and only if they ask for mine, I respond:

To live the most beautiful life possible, expressing my human nature to the maximum extent.

To which it is quite simple to argue for a permaculture perspective. I'm sure everyone here can issue their own reasons for why this lifestyle is so beautiful and fulfills our nature as human beings.
 
Katya Coad
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This is a big issue for anyone who chooses to go against the mainstream in any way, but it brings up a very wonderful opportunity to provide a role model for others, not that should necessarily be your intent.  Your intent is simply to let people know, in a direct way, where you stand in consideration for both them and for yourselves and to avoid confusion or hard feelings.  My husband and I have found that the best way to deal with it is to simply have a conversation with loved ones and let them know that you have chosen to opt out of a consumeristic lifestyle.  We ask our loved ones to either get us no gifts at all, or if they do, to get, or even better make, only healthy, organic food or perishable items (soap, candles, etc).  And we do the same for them, things like homemade chocolate, almond bark, jams, etc.  Granted, not all families will respond as well as ours, but this is your best chance for a positive response, for sure, as it is respectful for all involved.  People have to come around on their own time, but if they don't respect your wishes when you have spelled them out clearly, I'd ask them again and then simply opt out of family functions if they are not able to abide by what you've asked for.
 
Katya Coad
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Also, emphasis can be placed on how important it is to spend warm family time, eating and sharing love with one another... helps them to understand your priorities and not make it about what they are doing wrong.  Anyway, this is what has worked for us.
 
Nina Jay
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Carrie Graham wrote:

This is an important point that is being ignored. The fact they they do come to your family events and you can't afford to attend theirs- and thus participate equally with your presence in their lives is what is making you feel guilty, and they may not be misplaced.

  Why couldn't you let them pay for you to participate in their lives?  If they willingly offered and you refused, what else can they do?   You have chosen a lifestyle that is closer to poverty by choice. They have chosen a more traditional or wealthy lifestyle.  That they make the effort to come and be a part of your lives says a great deal of how much you mean to them. That you can't put your pride aside and own up to the truth of yourchosen circumstances says something about you.   You can't participate in their lives more equally without monetary assistance from them. If they offer and you refuse, you are basically choosing not only to live a non-traditional impoverished lifestyle, but you are also choosing to exclude them from your lives.   It would be different if you were blaming them for not wanting to help you, because they are richer, that would be selfish. But if the gift they offer you is to pay for you and your children to attend family events like everyone else, then I think you disrespect them by refusing.
Certainly your children lose some of the benefits of close extended family.



You are right, Carrie. That must be why I feel guilty. It is probably about pride, as you suggested. But there may be other issues as well. It may be that because in the past (in my chilhood and as a youngster) I have been manipulated and dominated a lot  I'm sort of extra sensitive about this.  It may be that I see manipulation and bossiness where there is none. It may also be that I'm still sort of testing whether it's okay for me to say no. It is always okay if other people say no to me and I always understand if somebody can't make it to whatever it is I suggest. But for some reason I feel it's never okay for me to say no or to put up boundaries. Conclusion: I need to work on myself some more (what else is new  )

Carrie Graham wrote:
A word about the wealthy nephews.  My son and his cousin are young adults. They live within their means, but can buy themselves whatever they want.  But I pay attention, so for Christmas both young men got a five gallon bucket with Mt.Dew (bought on sale) on the bottom and a giant Rice crispy treat on the top.  At first they were  both worried the bucket was completely filled with rice crispy treats, too much of a good thing.  LOL Those were much appreciated, even though they could and do buy their own Mt, Dew, it was a week or more worth they didn't have to.  Also at one time in this frugal family, 2ply, extra soft TP  was considered a "luxury",  so now every year each kid no matter how old gets a roll or a bulk pack of their own.   Kind of practical, kind of funny, loads family fun.  (Did you know they even make Panda TP?)  



These are great ideas and now I see that I haven't been creative enough with the gifts. Or paid as much attention as I could have.

That being said, what I'd really like to do is what Lucia Moreno describes:

Lucia Moreno wrote:
We went out of the "gift circuit" years ago, as one of the first measures to downsize. We just called everybody in early December and told them we did not want gifts and we will not buy gifts. We did the same every time we travelled or someone travelled (in my familly when you visit a place you have to bring gifts from that place), in birthdays, etc. It took some years but now there is no problem.


I'd just love to get out of the whole crazy materialistic gift thing that I've always hated. And quite honestly I'd rather skip all the pointless birthday parties too where all you really do is eat and try to keep some suitable small talk going on. There is no opportunity for any meaningful discussion and it just seems to me a stupid waste of precious fossil fuels. We can't spend more than 1.5 hours in many places anyway because we have the animals to take care of (yes, milking cows too  ) . We really do this gift giving and travelling because of the children. Without them, we too would go out of the gift circuit and simply just stay home or visit only those relatives that live within a half an hour drive so there's actually some time to talk before we have to head back.

glen summers wrote:Don't know what you all think of this, but it seems to me that choosing a life style that differs  quite a lot from those around you can be interpreted as a criticism of the life style you're ditching.  Its like not drinking or doing drugs at a party when everyone else is.  It might be good to keep in mind that when you leave behind the values other members of the family hold, they might feel a certain degree of rejection.

Yes, I've thought of this and actually was about to write about this angle in my original post but then forgot. We are very careful that we never critisize other people's lifestyles but not critisizing may not be enough as we are so extreme.

Problem is, I don't really know what to do about this. What could a non-drinker do at a party where everyone else drinks?  Give a speach about how he has nothing against drinking? Go to everyone and say Oh you are drinking quite a lot - I'm happy that it's working so well for you? Most non-drinkers I know just say that they don't drink but have no problem with others drinking. Most non-drinkers also complain that others are not okay with them not drinking but keep saying that they are "ruining the party" or try to force them to "take at least one drink with us".
 
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