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In this episode, Chelsea dives into things that get coded as classy or tacky depending on whether you're rich or poor, from acrylic nails to tiny homes.


-exposed brick:

-living in the country:

-casual dress:

-acrylic nails:

-tiny homes/van life:


-outsourcing childcare:,13_IM615_KO14,19.htm

-wearing logos:


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Hey, guys. It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And this week's video is sponsored by Nuuly.

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And today, I want to talk about something that is very much a part of the zeitgeist on social media when it comes to talking about money and class. There has been a pretty popular prompt that I've seen go around quite a few times and have even done a response to myself on TFD. And that's basically things that are trashy when you're poor but classy when you're rich.

I've talked a lot before on the channel about the ways in which class perception not only affects how we perceive things but even the very basic ideas of what people are entitled to. For example, constantly judging people who might be living in poverty for having things like a smartphone, even though in 2022 smartphones are basically all but required to live a normal, functional life and have a job. And on top of that, for many households, a smartphone is the primary home computer.

And of course, the people who are going to be judging someone in poverty for having an iPhone would be the same person to judge them if they're not able to hold down a job because they can't do things like respond to emails or even use GPS to get to the job site. And this concept of who is entitled to what, or deserves what, or has worked hard enough for what is all the more insulting when you realize that the majority of wealthy people in this country were, to some extent, themselves born wealthy. If you're someone who lives a very upper middle class or upper class lifestyle and were born into that lifestyle, is it fair to say that you deserve that money or that just by luck of birth you are the kind of person who deserves to be flying in business class from the age of two?

Almost certainly not. Because the reality is how much money we have is rarely coupled with things like how hard we work or how personally deserving we are in terms of character. But long story short, we have a deeply ingrained tendency to judge the same behaviors, choices, or purchases in two different ways, depending on the perceived or real class status of the person making those choices.

So without further ado, here are 10 things that are trashy when you're poor and classy when you're rich. Number one is exposed brick/industrial chic decor. So as most of you are probably aware it's been quite some time now that we have repurposed what was once perceived as a very industrial, unfinished, and in many ways, low-class aesthetic-- which is to say warehouse chic-- into something that's considered aspirational and classy, even though for a long time, things like exposed brick were associated primarily with unfinished or poorly-finished housing, or a place where people don't even live at all.

And it's just one part of a long tradition of things being perceived differently from an aesthetic point of view, depending on the person who's using it. Rough, bare brick walls, mottled gray concrete, and bulbs hanging lampshade-less from an exposed ceiling-- once these were the markers of a building under construction. Now, these industrial style interiors inspired by warehouse buildings are proof that the owner has their finger on a design pulse.

And it's not even necessarily a good trend because of the many issues that can come with exposing brick. Brick walls are covered for a reason, usually to insulate homes and make them more cost-effective when it comes to heating or cooling. So people who choose to strip walls to their brick for aesthetic reasons are often choosing to pay more for utilities, which, again, is probably just another signifier that you can afford to make that choice.

Number two is living in backwoods or country areas. During the height of the COVID pandemic, there was an enormous wave of city dwellers who fled their urban metropolises to look for places where they can have more space and a very sort of aspirational, country chic lifestyle. Enormous amounts of residents, for example, fled New York City, the majority of whom were wealthy and already living in wealthy areas, which when you think about the city danger reasons for fleeing the city, which when you break it down statistically is actually not super accurate, is all the more funny, considering I don't know how much safer you can get than living near the park on the Upper East Side.

The average income of New York City residents who moved out of state was 24% higher than those who moved the year prior, according to a New York Times analysis of federal tax returns from 2020. Take Vermont, for example. Plenty of residents of the state are working-class families.

But because the housing stock was essentially bought up by wealthy work-from-homers during COVID, on top of a lack of affordable housing and new homes being built that was already an issue, it's becoming less and less affordable to live where they always have. Places like Vermont are seen as an opportunity for escapist, dreamy life for rich former city dwellers. But that bucolic dream comes at the expense of the working-class people who are already living there.

The median sales price of Vermont homes rose by 19% in 2020 and 2021, according to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, which promotes and subsidizes affordable housing. Salaries though have simply not kept up. In the three decades that ended in 2019, median household incomes in Vermont rose by 108%, lagging well behind a 143.3% jump in median home prices.

A growing number of Vermonters can't afford a whopping down payment and a hefty mortgage, though they earn too much to be eligible for subsidized housing. For them, the American dream is no longer within reach. They're trapped in the rental market, where prices have also marched relentlessly higher, paralleling real estate costs.

And let's not even talk about what the COVID evacuees did to Mexico City. Number three is overly casual clothing/athleisure. So for every billionaire tech CEO who wears a $400 t-shirt that looks like something you could have bought at Old Navy, there are low income workers who have to present themselves in a specific professional or even uniformed way just to be able to do the job.

And, in fact, this hyper intentional dressing down is so prevalent it even has its own term, countersignaling. Countersignaling is when you go out of your way to show that you don't need to go out of your way. The boss doesn't have to wear a tie or even dress up.

If he did, that would suggest that he had something to prove, which would be a negative rather than positive impression. But don't be fooled. This new form of status-seeking is no less oppressive than older practices.

And in some ways, it is less conducive to upward mobility. A culture of the casual is a culture of people who have already achieved something and who can already prove it. And countersignaling only works in certain contexts.

If you're just hanging out in a train station and watching travelers passed by, you probably won't think the same lofty thoughts about those people in the jeans and sneakers. Instead, you would sooner assume that those with the suits and ties have more money. In short, when people see Mark Zuckerberg in a t-shirt, they assume it's because he's so successful that he has nothing to prove.

When people see a low income person in that same outfit, they assume they're just slacking and not putting in the effort to be taken seriously. But I'd like to go on the record and say that I hate it in all contexts. And the fact that men are now allowed to just walk around in t-shirts and still be billionaires is really a big marker of the decline of society.

Mark Zuckerberg should be forced to dress like the robber baron he is. I want to see him in a top hat. I want to see him in coat tails.

That man should have a monocle. He should have a pocket watch. Yeah.

And when he gets shocked, it should pop out of his eye socket and into his Martini. Number four is acrylic nails. Acrylic nails in our culture used to be more heavily associated with lower class women but in recent years has been a bit co-opted by middle and even upper class women as its own status symbol.

Nowadays, if you are a woman of a certain age, it's basically impossible to scroll places like Instagram or TikTok without coming across ample content around intricate acrylic nail design. In many cases, however, the association between false nails and the lower classes transcends social status and finds its roots in race. In the early 1990s, a growing number of American hip hop starlets began showing off their acrylic nails, a direct opposition to the neat, nude, French manicured styles of previous years.

Despite the bold transformative power of long acrylic nails, they too were looked down on. These lengthy styles have been described by nail technicians and consumers alike as ghetto, hood, and shabby. But it begs the question, is it the nails that are looked down on or the wearers who have previously sat in more marginalized groups?

But now, fake nails are seen as an aspirational commodity, even being rebranded as gel nails to sound as if they're different from the '90s acrylics. Nails are now a lucrative business, thanks to popularity among the middle classes. In richer areas of London, for example, such as Soho, booking for jelly nails-- one of the biggest nail trends to blow up on Instagram of late-- could potentially set you back around 80 pounds.

And that's without all of the add-ons, like gold leaf, pearls, and intricate silver wire designs. Where nails were once viewed as cheap, they are slowly becoming markers of substance and luxury. And the power of new school hip hop stars and influencers is a bigger factor than we think, according to nail artists.

If you think about it, this phenomenon is not totally dissimilar from one of rich people being able to wear t-shirts, which would be perceived as unprofessional on a lower class person and being taken even more seriously as a result. Number five is tiny homes. And this is a subject I'm very passionate about as a New Yorker who lives in a two-bedroom apartment that's like 820 square feet, which, to me, I think is very large for two people.

But I'm constantly receiving comments about how tiny it is. And also, sometimes when I'm on Airbnb and I'm looking at things labeled tiny homes, I'm like, this could fit three of my homes. In what world is this tiny.

Also, I posted a picture on Twitter recently of my kitchen, tee-tee, just kind of on a whim. And it sort of like a little bit blew up and so attracted some comments outside of my usual circles. And most of them are really sweet.

And thank you guys for saying nice things. But one of them was like-- more than one, actually, was like-- well, I don't want to say this literally, because I'll get censored on YouTube. But basically, someone was like, man, good for this person.

But if I had this little counter space, I would-- myself. I'm like, was that necessary? But I'm getting comments like that all the time.

When someone sees my kitchen who doesn't live in New York, they're like, how do you live like this? And someone from New York comes into my house-- they're like, your kitchen is so big. I love it, so anyway, tiny homes.

So the problem is not with tiny homes as a concept. Because if anything, Americans live in way too large spaces, as we've talked about before on the channel. And consuming less, having less space is almost universally a good thing.

But it's very clear how differently we perceive the choice to live in a small space or the need to do so based on social class. It's seen as an ethical choice to forego more space and get rid of extraneous stuff-- the same way minimalism is praised-- when you're wealthy enough to be able to make that choice. But there are plenty of lower income people living in trailers who don't have a choice.

And they're not given the same praise for simply existing where and how they do. The average tiny home size is around 225 square feet. And they go up to 600 square feet.

And that's on par with a typical single-wide mobile home, which starts around 450 square feet. And tiny homes are viewed as helping save the environment, thanks to requiring less energy to heat and cool, using fewer building materials, and necessitating buying fewer things for whoever lives there. But these gains and environmentalism from the tiny house movement is a bit undercut by the fact that they are generally being built in areas where you need cars to get places.

Because what else would make a big difference when it comes to the environment? Driving less. A 10% cut to American driving time would be roughly 110 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or the same as taking about 28 coal-fired power plants offline for a year.

And speaking of cars, a similar iteration of this is #vanlife. Living in your car is almost always referred to as a negative. Whereas choosing to live life in a souped-up camper van so that you can live a nomad lifestyle-- nomad itself being a term the rich have completely co-opted-- is seen as aspirational.

And people are spending as much as a home would cost in some areas of the country in order to outfit camper vans to fit with the #vanlife aesthetic, according to a New York Times article from 2021. A man in the parking lot of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort said he owned a home in town but was using his van as a lunch outpost this ski season and as a camper in the summer. He said the setup had cost him over $120,000, which brings us to number six, which is minimalism, which is both heavily tied in with the tiny home phenomenon, and also that video that I did for TFD's Instagram/TikTok, which I referenced at the beginning.

It's perhaps the most universal example. But in general, minimalism is perceived as a chic, aspirational, and even noble lifestyle choice when it's wealthy people who are actively opting not to buy things. The fact that, in general, by nature, the poor consume a lot less, own a lot fewer things, and live in smaller spaces is not considered any of those things.

It just means that they're broke. Number seven is gambling. So gambling has very different perceptions and connotations, depending on where and how it's done.

But the truth is that gambling, whether you're buying a scratch off ticket, or a lottery ticket at your corner store, or you're sitting at a blackjack table is ultimately two iterations of the same activity. At the end of the day, you're spending money with a very, very real chance that you'll never get it back. But when poor people waste money by buying lottery tickets, society immediately chastises them for doing so.

After all, the chances that you'll ever win are low. And that money could be put to better use if invested. Never mind that over 22% of low income households were unbanked as of 2019.

And nationwide, people who make less than $10,000 spend, on average, $597 a year on lottery tickets, which is about 6% of their income. And one in five Americans believe that the lottery is the only way they can accumulate a significant amount of savings. And this may indicate that people are bad at math, but it's also a sign of desperation.

During the Great Recession, more than half of the states in the US saw growth in lottery sales. Of the 42 states with lotteries, 25 saw a spike in instant and daily games. And the poor likely turn to the lottery simply because they don't have the social safety net that they should have in order to gain upward mobility.

While on the other side of the spectrum, wealthy people gambling is often heavily glamorized. Watching a movie about any kind of gambling and risk-taking, you will see that some of the world's best films do their best to portray gambling in a positive, even heroic light. Since the main character is usually the gambler in the situation, it means that the audience needs to be positively predisposed towards him or her, even if the qualities are not necessarily positive.

It doesn't matter to the viewer then whether the main character is a murderer or if they're looking for real money slots online, as long as they have a compelling and positive story to tell. As a result, today we get a number of films that have managed to glamorize the act of gambling, even if it's self-destructive. Ocean's 11 and Casino Royale are two good examples of this glamorization.

Meanwhile, number eight is outsourcing child care. So we've talked before on this channel about how statistically more upper class individuals tend to spend less time with their families and outsource more of both domestic and child-rearing tasks on a day-to-day basis. Whereas those with lower incomes tend to have to do a lot of this work themselves.

And more rely on things like trading favors with neighbors rather than paying a third party to do these things. Most working parents with annual family incomes of $75,000 or higher say that their young children are cared for in daycare centers or preschools. While those earning less than $30,000 rely more heavily on care by family members.

So in working-class families, children are more often looked after by people like grandparents or aunts and uncles, especially when their own parents don't work strict 9 to 5 jobs. And we view this very differently than we do with upper middle or upper class families. We tend to stigmatize the idea of not raising your own kids or shunting them off to relatives when it's a lower class person who's doing this.

Whereas a more upper class person putting their child with a nanny or in a daycare is viewed as doing the right thing by them, even though, in terms of access, the difference basically just boils down to a question of money. In New York City, the average salary for a nanny-- which, as the parents, you would be responsible for paying-- is $39,000. And in 2021, the average cost for daycare for an American family with one child was $226 a week.

So if you have your kid in daycare all but four weeks out of the year, that is over $10,000 spent on daycare in a single year. Lower income families are also often judged for not putting their children in places like daycare or other areas of socialization and education with other kids until they start public school around the age of four or five. But the reality is, for many families, it's just not financially reasonable to do so.

And one thing that we have learned in other videos on this topic is that for all its faults, at minimum, the lower income need to depend on others and build relationships in order to meet these needs does, at least in the long-term, statistically make them more compassionate and more fulfilled as people. So I guess there's that. Number nine is wearing labels or logos.

So we are still in peak logo mania, with many designers absolutely loading up their clothes and accessories with their own logos. An offspring of the ostentatious fashion of the '80s and early '90s, logo mania has been cast off earlier in the pandemic as one of those trends that would be left in the before times for its excessive displays of luxury and wealth. But data suggests that logo mania's latest iteration is a success.

Take, for example, Telfar and Ugg's collaboration, which was first announced in 2020. According to global fashion platform Lyst, demand for both Telfar and Ugg jumped by over 200% after the collection dropped in July 2021. But the logo trend is only perceived as classy if the logos being worn are for legitimate luxury brands.

Logos are a way to signify our higher social status. So it makes sense that those in lower socioeconomic groups would turn to lower cost options that still appears similar to designer brands, such as counterfeits. In 2019, the value of imported fake goods worldwide topped $509 billion based on 2016 customs seizure data, up from $461 billion in 2013, the latter of which represents 2.5% of world trade.

And aside from the obvious stigmas around wearing things like counterfeit clothing, there is also the general perception that being logo centric when you are lower class is try-hard, and tacky, and ostentatious, and, at best, nouveau riche. Whereas a more wealthy person intentionally participating in this exact same style trend is perceived as just having their finger on the pulse of fashion. Not me though.

I think it's tacky on everyone. Lastly, and perhaps my personal favorite, number 10 is negotiating or haggling. Price haggling or negotiating is often seen as tacky when engaged in by someone from a lower social class, perhaps because their wealthier counterparts, often through a sense of entitlement and a perception of power, are simply in many cases more effective at it.

Research has found that powerful people, including those who have access to greater resources than others, tend to demand more for themselves, in violation of fairness norms. Even negotiating salary has different success rates based on social class because there isn't an equal level of access to information. The resources for researching salaries vary.

And candidates need to have access to the resources and know that they exist. And not all candidates have access to the same resources that employers use to demand the market value of a position. There are also other biases that come into play in salary negotiations, such as race and gender.

In a University of Virginia study, where in participants of various races and genders acted out salary negotiation simulations where the participants also answered questions that assess their levels of racial bias, results showed that white and Black candidates were equally likely to try to negotiate their salary. However, evaluators who scored high for racial bias believed that Black candidates had negotiated more often than white candidates. This false perception, likely based on the biased evaluators expectation that Black candidates would and should settle for less, led them to penalize Black candidates for negotiating by granting fewer salary concessions.

In fact, each time a Black candidate was perceived to have made an offer or counteroffer, participants high in racial bias gave them about $300 less in starting salary on average. We also can't deny that racial bias is inextricably linked with class bias, considering the fact that as of 2020, the median household income for white non-Hispanic Americans is $74,912 versus $55,321 for Hispanic Americans and $45,870 for Black Americans. Something I can't stress enough on TFD and is something that I learned from my mother, principally, who exercised this when we were very much struggling financially and still exercises it today when we're in a better position financially, and that is that everything is negotiable-- your phone plan, your utilities, your rent, the big box stores you're buying things from.

There are coupons. There are sales. There are things offered online that will be honored in stores.

People price match. Your salaries, your bonuses, your one-off gig rates-- all of this is negotiable. And in general, the key is just being kind, patient, polite, and remembering that if things don't necessarily go how you would want them to, it is not the poor customer service rep's fault.

But in general, I rarely if ever pay for things full price or at the initial quoted rate. I negotiate. And if I don't get the rate I want for certain things, I find a better deal.

Of course, I don't do this with things like local artisan producers of things, who I'm sure are barely making margins to begin with and who I want to support. But if I walk my [BLEEP] into a Sephora, I'm not leaving unless I get a whole bunch of coupons honored. In a nice way though.

I'm not a Karen. All of that is to say, though, remember when feeling timid about negotiation that not only is everything negotiable but all the rich people are doing it anyway. So we may as well try and see what we get.

As always, guys, thank you for watching. And don't forget to come back every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday for new and awesome videos. Bye.