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Are we Living Larger or Living Differently? (Part 2)

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I hadn't anticipated yesterday's Are We Living Larger or Living Differently? turning into a two-parter, but there were some interesting comments including:

  • "Question is whether the living larger requires dual income "” or dual income forces the living larger." - MossySF
  • "With dual income families I might offer that a lot of these situations are out of necessity. Even for the ones that don't start out of necessity, the lifestyles choices often cement dual incomes as necessity. It could be argued that dual incomes are needed because we are living bigger." - The Happy Rock

Both of these hit the same point. Is it a question of what came first, the chicken or the egg? I believe that the dual incomes came first. Women had been progressing towards equality throughout the 20th century and with that comes equal career opportunities. I don't think it was a situation where America gave a collective "oh snap! We spent too much money, let's get another income in here." I don't have any data to back this up, just my opinion.

  • "To answer the title of your post exactly, just this morning I heard on NPR that 1 in 5 homes now have 4 bedrooms versus 1 in 6 in 1990. (I could find census data to confirm the 1990 number, but couldn't find the more recent number) So, yeah, it appears we are living larger (at least our homes are)." - KMC

I had dodged the question of larger homes from the original MSN article. KMC called me on it and now that I've thought about it a little more, I've come up with the answer. Homes may be like McDonalds' french fries. They started off at a normal size and price, but eventually big business realized something. If they make it bigger, their costs may go by a little, but their profits would go up more. Does it really cost that much to make each room another couple of feet bigger?

  • "This is actually one the bigger questions with regards to inflation. How do we measure it? Alot of people feel that the CPI is a poor measure of "True" inflation because it measures really just commodity cost. The oft cited example is that we have 100% more channels for cable and we pay 100% more for it, it costs the same because we have 100% more service. It's not clear to me if that's really a true measure. But at the same time is inflation suppose to measure standard of living improvements?" - Ask Dong

I think this could be the point that I had tried to make when I said that we are traveling more. Since it's more affordable to fly we are getting more for our money. Our standard of living might be three times as good, but we are paying twice for it. And finally,

  • "All I can say is thank you productivity - I love my quality of life." - Rate Ladder

I couldn't have said it better myself...

Posted on May 24, 2007.

This post deals with: ... and focuses on:

Society and Money

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13 Responses to “Are we Living Larger or Living Differently? (Part 2)”

  1. Ted Valentine says:

    I almost responded to part 1 because most of you reasoning was attributed to two people working. The ultimate answer is “both”. We live differently and larger.

    Let me tell you that it is a fact people choose larger lifestyles because of dual incomes. I have 3 small children. We live on 1 income and I make just over an “average” salary. We chose to have mom at home raising our own kids because those are our values. We made this decision before we were married and planned accordingly.

    We could have a much bigger house, drive new cars, eat out more often, have more cable channels, and afford expensive vacations if my wife worked. Instead, we have chosen what we feel is best for our children and eschewed those material rewards. We have all we need, and the pressure to “upscale” everything is ever present. We feel our children, and society indirectly, will ultimately be rewarded with our decision to live 1970s large instead of 2007 large.

  2. Fab Female says:

    “A collective ‘oh snap!'” You just made my morning and created a killer catchphrase. :)

  3. Lazy Man says:

    Fab Female, I’m just bringing back what Biz Markie created (at least I think he did).

  4. I don’t think it is possible to live in the bayarea without roommates or at least two jobs… I should clarify slightly… The bay area meaning anywhere that can get to the mid peninsula in an hour excluding any free housing one can find in the mountains.

  5. Or your startup has already had a liquidity event.

  6. cami says:

    As far as housing goes, I think that the desire to live larger came first, but I think that it crept up on us slowly. When we have a bigger house, we have to spend more money decorating it, heating and cooling it, and maintaining it. I actually wrote a post on this a week or so ago (it’s here if you want to read it: http://www.greenmindedwallet.com/wpdb/2007/05/15/live-small-so-you-can-live-large/). I read articles all the time about people who need to buy a bigger house because 2000 sqft isn’t adequate for starting a family, that’s not a need, that’s a want.

  7. Lazy Man says:

    I was looking for a house about 18 months ago, but I wanted new construction as I’m not handy. I was told that they don’t make homes under 2000 square feet, because it wasn’t as profitable to do so. So maybe for some their want is a new home and they forced into the bigger one.

  8. pfodyssey says:

    * The decision to have or not have dual incomes is more often the natural result of making a choice about the lifestyle you want to live…whether it be materially (ex: large house), financially (ex: be secure, retire early, etc), or emotionally (don’t want to just stay home and raise the children). Typically, it will be a combination of the three with varying weights on each.

    * I agree with Cami about larger houses…it is more often a matter of “want” as opposed to “need”. I think this can also be extended to RateLadder’s comment about living in the Bay Area…you may in fact need two jobs to live in that area at a certain level of housing…but you don’t have to…you WANT to…it’s a choice. Beyond the basics of food, shelter, etc…it always becomes a want question…it’s just how far along the spectrum.

  9. Ted Valentine says:

    LazyMan – I’ve owned a house built in the 1920 and one built 5 years ago. New construction does not have less maintenance than an old house. In fact new construction may cost more to maintenance. Things used to be built to last. Now they are built to be consumed and disposed so you have to buy a new one.

  10. Tim says:

    I don’t get the purpose of the article or the question. it would only apply if one equates living a full life based upon stuff as Liz mentioned in the article. the comparisons just don’t match up either. it would be more useful to compare percentage of income to those expenses.

  11. Minimum Wage says:

    I’m not living larger, I’m living smaller. In real terms, I earn less today than I did in 1980.

  12. erik says:

    I think it’s easy to improve the way you live when your household income increases. Sometimes, dual incomes are a curse because you were perfectly content living the way you were on one income and now the extra income entices you to get a bigger house, get a new car, and buy some new stuff. I think we have to be careful of balancing our lifestyle with our savings strategy. If you do that, then you can live comfortably and save a good chunk of cash.

  13. […] living larger and living differently part 2, for more thoughts and conclusions on how we’ve changed. This post deals with: … and […]

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