Putting on the poor mouth
It’s so easy to spot who’s lying about being strapped for cash, says Anna Coogan
They're still doing well financially and haven't had to deal with redundancy or the recycling of last year's clothes, and aren't worried about bills. Yet they know where the cheapest bargains are, and where to get the best deals.
The faux poor are afraid of being judged for having too much and are afraid to be perceived to be flaunting their money in these recessionary times. So they lie and pretend to be struggling like the rest of us so they can be in the grumble gang.
Sometimes they overdo the lying and end up protesting their poverty too much, which is a dead giveaway that they're not broke -- as those among us who are genuinely financially stretched pretend things are a little better than they actually are.
'Spray tans are so cheap these days' Spray tans are much more competitively priced than two or three years ago, and deals like six for the price of three wouldn't be unheard of. Yet there is something suspicious about a spray tan which not only gives a colour, but also brings out freckles and gives hair a lot of natural golden highlights. It's what a real tan does, and yet to admit to having a real tan would be to admit to having been on holiday, and owning up to still owning that house in the South of France.
'Oh this old thing' Finding bargains in TK Maxx and Penneys is a whole new adrenaline rush for them, and addictive, and they just can't stop talking about their latest bargain.
Meanwhile, anyone normally broke is busy pretending their new dress comes from a much posher shop than where they bought it.
A pretending-to-be-poor shopper shows off frugal purchases with comments like, "Well, it's time to get real girls" or "Guess where it came from?" Wearing a bargain frock is a new experience for them, like discovering you can refill a water bottle and don't have to buy a new bottle off the shelf each time. Super!
Yet push them and they'll admit that their shoes come from BTs and their handbag from Harvey Nicks.
'Aren't buses brilliant' It's not often someone feels a need to declare public transport is fantastic. Yet when you've been enveloped in a flash car for more than a decade and decide to go public for a day, the novelty of being down with the ordinary folk can be quite exhilarating.
Or it could be that they have survived being outside their comfort zone which drives the pampered and privileged to make a song and dance about getting a bus or the DART.
They talk about travelling with Ryanair as if no further proof is required that they are down and in debt like the rest of us -- except being in the red means we think any flight is a treat.
'Where would we be without Lidl and Aldi?' In the Harvey Nicks food hall and Superquinn shopping for artichokes and tapenade -- except the faux pauvre will never admit to this and will instead boast about the money they have saved shopping in cut-price supermarkets.
They go shopping for bargains with the same joie de vivre they once went shopping for designer goods, congratulating themselves on their survival spirit and how they are taking these recessionary times on the chin.
Afterwards they drop €15 on a latte and cupcake and celebrity magazine as a reward for being thrifty and prudent.
'Oh sorry, I thought you could hear me' They lower their voices when talking about private school fees, prices of holidays, how much they spent on gifts for their children, how much the renovation of their house is costing, and how they have renegotiated the hourly rate with their cleaner.
This is not only to avoid the resentment of poor people nearby overhearing their conversation, but to impress upon the listener that spending is a solemn and serious business in these straitened times, and that they are as much in the thick of it as anyone.
Really, it's as convincing as Victoria Beckham saying she never diets.