Thorstein Veblen was an economist and sociologist who coined the term “conspicuous consumption” several decades ago. Conspicuous consumption: spending money just to publicly demonstrate wealth or status. The flip-side of that, I guess, is being embarrassed to appear as if you don’t have money to spend. Logically, it seems ridiculous — especially to anyone trying to save and invest from an ordinary income. But I can tell you, it affects me and perhaps many other people.
I can remember, at times, feeling just a tinge of embarrassment as I sat down in the workplace cafeteria and was getting ready to eat the lunch I brought from home. In fact, there were times when I ate my lunch at my desk instead of going to the cafeteria and letting everyone see that my lunch consisted only of a couple hard-boiled eggs or sardines, crackers, and a flask of homemade iced tea.
Can you imagine that? What was I afraid of? That my friends, people I have known for years, might make some comment about my what I was eating for lunch? How absurd is that?
Luckily, one day when I was getting ready to have my lunch at my desk, I suddenly came to my senses and said to myself: Stop being stupid. No one cares what you eat for lunch.
I went downstairs to the cafeteria, sat with the regulars, and had a perfectly normal, enjoyable lunch. No one said anything about my meager fare.
There’s a lesson in that.