Monday, June 28, 2010

The Stigma of Frugality

Too many look for quick ways to judge the quality of something. The quality of people especially. They have a list to check off, and if something from that list is missing, they move on, whether it be blogs, music, jobs, applicants, or otherwise.

It's lazy.

Instead of investing the time to really understand what something or someone might offer, they want to follow some pre-conceived fad of a metric that has somehow garnered credibility. Often simply because that is the way it has always been. Or on the other side, because some guru blogs about it once or twice,  somebody tweets that blog post, and 6 months later, bingo; a trend.

"Let me see here," says a hiring manager before making a decision. (Or a publisher. Or a Gen-Y blogger. Or you.) "Does it have this much talked about and cleverly named single quality which supposedly indicates a whole lot of information in an oh so subtle way? Nope, move on, nothing to see here."

There are many of these metrics. Almost none of them legitimate. I could, (and probably at some point will) dedicate entire posts to each of them. But for now let's talk about one such asinine metric: money invested.

This is a favorite of the lazy and short sighted. The argument being of course that proof of investing money is somehow proof of dedication. Of seriousness. Of quality. It may not surprise you to read that I have a few examples, followed by a total debunking.

To begin with, you don't have to leave this very website to find an example of what I am talking about. This blog is on Blogger. It has "blogspot" in it's URL, because I have not invested money in buying a domain name. So you find this blog at "

Their response to this. (Believe me I have heard it multiple times.):

"Why would I ever waste my time reading the writings of someone that is too cheap to spring for a 10 dollar a month domain name? If he can't set aside 120 a year to create "", he must not be that concerned with the quality of his product. And if he isn't concerned about it, why should I be?"

My rebuttal:

I suppose you shouldn't be. Because the lazy,narrow-minded, sheep like conformist nature of your personality means you wouldn't get much out of what I would say anyway.

This blog has been featured many times on Brazen Careerist. Referenced on Twitter. Linked to. That doesn't happen with the snapping of a finger. And while I may not have 50,000 followers, (nor do I think that anybody who has those numbers really has that many dedicated readers), the traffic and comments I do get are because I think out what I am going to put on this blog. When I have ideas I write them down. I read other blogs. I spend time writing the posts, and editing them. I go through the effort of telling people I have posted.

In other words, I am dedicated to the quality of Too XYZ. I just don't express that dedication by paying a sum of money to buy a personalized domain name right now. Here, content is king. But nobody knows that if they see "no domain name" and assumes "no quality."

And even if I could set aside the money, I am not sure I would. You either like what I write, or you don't. But I am not going to buy a domain just to prove to you I deserve a chance. If you have read this blog more than once, taken the chance to get to know where I am coming from, and leave a few comments here and there, you already know this. And it is for that that I am grateful, because it means some effort has been taken.

Another example. Less personal but very prevalent today is renting a house as opposed to buying one.

Their response:

" It really makes no sense not to invest in a home. It is the American Dream, and you have to ask yourself what exactly it is people are afraid of who put off the ultimate statement in having grown up. What cord haven't they been willing to cut in order to own up and get a mortgage on something? Can a lifetime renter really be contributing that much, when they won't even put a down payment on home of their own? "

My rebuttal:

I actually don't have time for a full rebuttal on this one. Because there are somewhere in the area of a billion reasons why people don't want to buy a home. None of them relating to a fear of the so called "real world". Let's see, there are, shitty markets. Kids in college. Not enough money. A transient lifestyle. A lack of attachment to one location. An aversion to household repairs. A totally different definition of "The American Dream". (Which needs to be seriously redefined anyway.) All are possible reasons why people would rent instead of plunking down the larger some of money required to invest in owning a house.

But again, a truly probing, curious, conscientious person wouldn't care if a person rents or owns, beyond mere curiosity. If one isn't lazy, and looking for how close someone is to the Jones' as a metric by which to determine the worth of someone's contribution, one can see that the choice to rent is a choice born out of any number of factors. None of those factors need have anything to do with an unwillingness to invest. It may just be a preference. Someone's ambition then, shouldn't be measured by how much they spend on a house.

But of course, it is...

Let's turn now to education. College degrees, and even more so, college reputations are gatekeepers into society in some cases. You are in or you are out based on them. This of course is a crock for any number of reasons. (Read my recent highly controversial post to learn more on the potential uselessness of college.) But let's assume you do choose college. There are still plenty of lazy people who will judge the quality of your choice based on superficial factors.

And they go beyond the academic. People look at what you pay for the education as well. (Or what someone pays for it.) And if it is clear you didn't invest as much money in your education, there are assumptions made.

Their response:

" Community college is just high school with more parking, when you get down to it. The same with night school. You tend to get what you pay for, and let's face it, you aren't exactly paying a lot for the privilege of driving the 4 minutes from your parents' house to your local community college to take your two classes at a time. The truly ambitious, and those who want to be seen as taking their college education seriously will invest the  money in a reputable and well known four year institution. Sure, debt will be involved, but it at least speaks more to your ambitions and dedication if you go 80,000 dollars in debt at an Ivy League school, then it does sending one Starbucks check at a time to pay for your community college associates degree."

My rebuttal:

I again refer everyone to my previous post, the one I linked to a few paragraphs ago, if you want to hear more about my overall views on college. But something I didn't say in that post which I will say in this one is this;

The strongest academic college experience I had was my year in community college.

Yes, I said it, and it is true. There was far less bullshit and a lot more learning and teaching going on at Frederick Community College than at the 4 year colleges I attended. I don't want to get into a discussion of community vs. four year colleges here. But the fact of the matter is that FCC was both the cheapest and the most useful college experience from a purely academic standpoint. It, like any college, had a lot of annoying crap that went a long with it, but I could go home each day and recoup from it. You can't do that at a four year school.

This all relates to this post because once again people take the lazy way out when it comes to community colleges. They see "community" in the title, and assume, since they are cheap, (or at least cheapER), that they must be a joke. Such people don't examine a catalog, talk to teachers, check out the library. Research into notable alumni. They just see a lack of huge monetary investment and assume a lack of quality. (Not taking the time to consider that part of the reason they are inexpensive is the fact that they leave out a lot of the extras of a four year.)

I could go on. And I almost did. The idea that community theatre must be crap because it's actors aren't paid. Or that a free concert in the park probably has lousy music. But you get the idea. The amount of money changing hands is not a reliable metric to determine the quality of something or someone.

Don't get me wrong here. Free/inexpensive things can suck. But expensive things can also suck. Dropping lots of money into something can certainly translate into an experience of the finest quality. Yet, a little research can yield high quality experiences that cost next to nothing, or nothing. It's all in how much effort you decide to put into understanding the nature of the person or the product.

Which in the end is my point. Put in the effort and find quality. Don't use "money invested" as a filter. You could be missing a lot of great stuff out there.

1 comment:

Mneiae said...

As a college student, I often search for entertainment options that don't cost a lot of money. One of the best things about being in college is my proximity to a performing arts school that rivals Julliard. My free Bach concerts are not of poor quality.