Claire Thomson evaluates the hypocrisy of the class system at university, wherein we shame cheapness while also praising each other for finding deals.
As students, there is absolutely no hiding the fact that we love a good bargain. We're always hunting for student discounts, cheap nights out and any hacks that will keep us on track with our budgeting. However, as we discovered pretty quickly after starting university, life is not cheap, and we must find ways to make the most of what we have.
In society, there is a double standard when it comes to consumption. We praise inexpensive yet also degrade it, whilst equally shaking our heads at expensive but also admiring it. Money is always an awkward subject to discuss as opinions vary so deeply, however, as students we are often in the limbo of education and employment, making money so much more precious. Where does this damaging attitude of money shaming come from, and will we ever find a balance?
"We praise inexpensive yet also degrade it, whilst equally shaking our heads at expensive but also admiring it."
The bigger picture of this argument centres around classism, of course. Dating back several centuries, it's no secret that those who had more money bought more items and looked down on those who could not meet their standards of consumerism and consumption. The class system has certainly evolved towards the modern day, but in many cases the concept remains very much unchanged. You don't have to look very far to find examples of flaunted expensive assets. Every day, thousands of “influencers” are showing off their latest purchases, big brands and high-quality organic meals. Subconsciously, so many people are in awe of these things, with a goal to be like them and save up to have a life like that. In terms of money, we are never happy with what we have and always want more. When it comes to designer and technology, expensiveness is praised — the more it costs, the better it is, the more popular you'll become and the more attention you'll receive.
It's a dangerous path to go down. Right from a young age, you can see this mindset amongst children. The children with the branded clothes and “cool” trainers are the ones everyone else wants to be friends with, whereas the kids with the school uniform from Asda are frowned upon. It makes no sense, but unfortunately, money affects appearance and first impressions. As we have already discovered, these run your life for you.
However, this same class system has developed such that we also applaud cheapness. You're lying if you haven't shopped the sales, searched on the internet for a discount code or bought second-hand, all to save a penny or two. Deals, deals, deals — the less money you're forced to fork up, the better. When it comes to students and student life, this is where society's attitude about money doesn't quite add up. Students will buy hundreds of pounds worth of clothes, make-up, and perfume to wear on a night out, but will buy the cheapest bottle of alcohol in the supermarket and try to get free drinks as much as possible. In this situation, no one bats an eyelid — yet, why do we see this as normal? Do we see it as normal? On the flip of this, students who drink expensive drinks are made fun of and given labels, showing that money doesn't always equal popularity or power.
Unlike children and teenagers, by the time we hit university we tend to have grown out of a lot of those Mean Girl phases and cliques as we realise we're all in the same boat. We have to look after ourselves in whatever way possible. Societal norms have always dictated the ways that we view money and consumption, but in today's world, the bottom line is that we shouldn't be judging the way that people choose to spend their money.
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