Neo-Victorians: They’re Financially Just Like Us!

back to the future iii

The Toast tipped me off to Collectors Weekly’s interview with Gabriel and Sarah Chrisman, aka “that couple living as if it were the 1890s.”

I, in turn, am tipping the interview over to you. The whole thing’s a great read, especially if you are curious about how you get Victorian-era soap in 2015, or why the Victorians slept in their corsets, but I wanted to highlight the parts of the interview dealing with money:

Collectors Weekly: In terms of work, how do you afford to do this?

Gabriel: Scraping by. It’s all in prioritizing. I work as a bicycle-shop manager and mechanic.

Sarah: I’m a writer. Our income every year is very, very low. It’s much lower than any of our neighbors’. But we don’t have the same bills that most Americans do. We don’t have cell phones. I don’t have a driver’s license. Since I make all my own clothes, I spend far less than most American women spend on clothes, because all I have to buy is fabric and notions like buttons. Gabriel has his clothes made by a local seamstress, which is less than a businessman would spend on his clothes.

Gabriel: But a lot more than most bike mechanics.


Collectors Weekly: In terms of class, what do you imagine yourselves at this time period?

Sarah: We try to be middle-class people.

Gabriel: Our income now doesn’t match up with what middle class is defined as anymore. Which fits very well into what the Victorian era was. People at the very bottom of middle class tried desperately to seem like they were toward the top of middle class. It’s amazing how many people will look at us and what we do and be like, “Oh, you must be independently wealthy.”

That last bit sounded very, very familiar. I don’t think I’m aspiring to present myself at the top of the middle class (it’s pretty obvious, when you enter my home and see my DIY wire cube bookshelf, where I stand financially) but I absolutely resonate with “we try to be middle-class people, but our income now doesn’t match up with what middle class is defined as anymore.”

And who else feels like they are constantly just scraping by and prioritizing purchases? Earlier this week, Mike wrote about the Cards Against Humanity team giving 17 employees a $4,185 windfall (earned by asking Cards Against Humanity fans to give them $5 for “the Superior Black Friday experience of buying nothing”), and just like the rest of y’all, I immediately thought about what I could do with an extra $4 grand—and how long it might last before I was back to prioritizing my purchases again.

So it’s refreshing, in a way, to know that the Neo-Victorian Chrismans are just like us. They’re not doing anything particularly different, besides wearing hand-sewn Victorian-era clothing and using oil lamps. We’re all making the best with what we have.

If you read the whole interview—and you should—let us know what you think.



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