I was watching a clip from CNN about a couple that lives in a 200 square foot house. They decided to buy this house in order to have no mortgage. Being mortgage free would allow them to work less and live more. I am happy for this couple and wish them well but this will only work if they avoid one thing. They can not under any circumstances, ever ever ever ever go to their rich friends homes. Once they do that their perfectly adequate tiny house will seem to feel like an unbearable matchbox. This is why i avoid driving the cars of my rich friends (2013 BMW M3). I cant do it anymore. I also believe that inner city crime in America is not due to being poor in absolute terms. It is due to being poor in relative terms. Alain De Botton touches on the dangers of comparing wealth in the book Status Anxiety. He does not link it to crime though.
I own a 2000 Toyota 4 runner. It is a perfectly adequate vehicle and has given me no maintenance problems ever. My CD player does not work but that is ok because it gets me from point A to point B. One fateful night a good friend of mine told me to drive his car ( i think he had been drinking). At the time he owned a late model BMW M3 with a peanut butter interior and a white exterior. This car was gorgeous. It was sex on wheels. I have never looked at my car the same way again. When compared to a more expensive alternative, anything that was once adequate ceases to remain adequate. This causes us to work the extra hours to buy that new toy. If this couple wants to survive with frugality they have to limit their interactions with people that are not frugal. Even the most disciplined consumer will eventually give into the pressure of conspicuous consumption.
The subject of crime is very complex. I realize i am about to oversimplify it but this is just a hypothesis. I lived in a third world country for 2 years. In this country there was a small middle class, an even smaller upper class and a sizable lower class. I noticed that there was essentially very little crime. For a comparable sized US county the crime rate would be much higher given a similar level of economic stagnation. I began to wonder if being poor in America is the worst place to be poor. The poor in this country are constantly reminded that being rich is so much better. What if marketing is telling them that being poor is a flaw and a serious cramp on their quality of life. If the poor had no knowledge of the wealth gap would they still be discontent? Would the level of crime be as high if the poor had no real knowledge of the lifestyle of the rich? Its hard to fault inner city youths for participating in the drug trade in order to get money to spend on conspicuous items. Our society tells them that they are nothing without these items.
If i ever become a medical professional i am going to live very frugally ( i say that now). I will have a small eco friendly home, one compact car, and a bike. I just cant be the designated driver for my rich friends. I wonder if people would accept a doctor living this frugally. Would they think he/she were crazy? Once you move up a tax bracket society tends to put pressure on you to live like it.