It’s no secret around here that I LOVE mid-century modern design and decor. Hence, I loved the series, Mad Men, that originally aired on AMC, but is now available in its entirety on Netflix. I figured out the exact reason I love this coveted period in history just recently. My childhood home, a modern-day tiny house, was built and decorated in that era. Read more about that here.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this post, I need to clarify that when I refer to Mad Men, I am also referring to Mad WoMen. I love all of our readers and don’t want anyone to feel excluded. It is also worth noting that Mad Men was a fairly racy TV series that pushed some limits. For the purposes of this post, we’ll keep it kinder and gentler. And, here we go…
The Characters (Spoiler Alert)
Mad Men: Per the first episode, Mad Men refers to a term from the 1950s given to advertisers, by advertisers, working on Madison Avenue in NYC.
Don Draper – Main character. Talented advertising executive living a double life, drinking and smoking himself into oblivion – even his wife doesn’t know his real name. Some would say that’s glamorous.
Betty Draper – Don’s hot blonde wife who never breaks a sweat, is admired by everyone for her refined beauty, and is never without a cigarette. Glamorous.
Megan Draper – Don’s sexy, hotter, and younger second wife. Brunette bombshell. Definitely glamorous.
Roger Sterling – Older, but still very cool, partner at the advertising firm. Dating the cultured and curvy office redhead. Silver fox glamorous.
Joan Harris – Cultured and curvy redhead. Office Manager. Epitome of glamour.
Peggy Olson – Timid secretary in early seasons. Worked her way up to a powerful professional woman in a man’s field in a few seasons, flat. Way glamorous.
There are others, but you get the idea.
Who hasn’t watched an episode of Mad Men and been dazzled by their glamorous lifestyles? The clothes, the design, the coolness that oozed from every inch of dialogue and every flip of the hair. I know I’m not alone in this assessment. These people lived what our modern society would still deem to be a charmed existence.
Don would go to the office and bring home the bacon. Betty would stay home with their perfect children and have titillating conversations with the other ladies in the neighborhood. Office politics included who’s dating whom, rumors of promotions and demotions, and speculation about the next big account. Evenings and weekends were reserved for children’s birthdays and adult dinner parties. Times they have changed…but, not that much.
Aside from a few caveats, this existence pretty much resembles our modern day lives, does it not? We work. We talk with our friends and neighbors. We gossip. Our children get invites in preschool and elementary school for birthday parties on the weekends. We go to dinner with friends. When I say it like this, it doesn’t seem like there is any difference at all.
Related: Lavish Luxury & Lean Times
The picture on top is Don’s fabulous apartment in Manhattan. The picture on the bottom is my family room. Minus the modern fireplace, it’s difficult to tell they’re separated by 50+ years. I’d love to think my space compares to the set design of Mad Men, although I know better than that. I’m happy with resemblance.
We were able to outfit a lot of our family room with vintage pieces from the era. There is a local shop that sells mid-century modern furniture and decor. We spent only a fraction of what we would’ve spent had we decided to go to a big box store. I know this style isn’t for everyone, but there are ways to get the style you do desire without breaking the bank. Check out furniture consignment shops, Craigslist, local one-of-a-kind shops. You never know what you’ll find and you’ll most certainly be able to negotiate. Most local shops are owned by local people. They have the power to give you a deal. Big box stores do not. Never underestimate the power of creativity.
Related: We Made Our Dream Home A Reality
Living Well With Less
Of course Don and the gang spent way too much money on things that were inevitably going to kill them. Think: cigarettes, alcohol, and high-cholesterol foods. They also dropped a lot of dough on restaurant meals, which is a major money suck and not something we advocate. But, they also knew how to have a good time by throwing dinner parties and after-hours office parties. We can all learn a lesson from their glamorous (there’s that word again!) dinner parties. Why don’t more people invite friends over for home-cooked meals or potlucks? In my opinion, it’s just as enjoyable as dining out, and it’s more than likely, more relaxed.
So, we have arrived. Do I have to say the obvious? Probably not, but I’m going to anyway. What would this post be without gleaming financial comparisons between the awesome mid-century modern design, decor, and glamour documented above and the modern world we live in? I’m not exactly sure how to answer said question, so we’re going to roll right into The Obvious.
The Obvious: If you live like Mad Men, You’ll Finish Rich.
-Mad Men didn’t have mobile phones.
-Mad Men didn’t have two vehicles.
-Mad Men didn’t have GPS devices.
-Mad Men didn’t have the Internet.
-Mad Men used public transportation or carpooled.
-Mad Men didn’t have excessive credit card debt.
-Mad Men did their own home repairs.
-Mad Men didn’t have snow blowers, leaf blowers, John Deere tractors for < 1 acre.
-Mad Men didn’t have cable TV.
-Mad Men didn’t have computers.
-Mad Men didn’t have gaming systems.
-Mad Men didn’t have surround sound.
-Mad Men didn’t invite 30 kids to themed birthday parties for 5-year olds.
-Mad Men didn’t have air conditioning.
-Mad Men didn’t have power EVERYTHING.
-Mad Men didn’t have Starbucks.
-Mad Men didn’t have iTunes or other digital means to spend money.
-Mad Men didn’t have “i” anything.
-Mad Men didn’t have…wait for it…Amazon Prime. Gasp.
Related: Stuff We Just Stopped Buying
I’ll stop there. You get the idea. I’m not saying it’s necessary to give up all modern luxuries. I am saying that having all our actual modern luxuries does not automatically mean you’re glamorous. As noted above, you can live a pretty damn glamorous lifestyle without most of the stuff we have today. By giving up just a few of these things, you can live like Mad Men and finish rich. Really rich.
Go ahead, remove a few of these luxuries from your life and do the long-term compound interest calculations on the savings over the course of a few decades. Here is a calculator.
After looking at the numbers, I guarantee you’ll want to have a cigarette, high-tail it to a hippie retreat in California, and teach the world to sing. Don’t get the reference? Hmm…maybe you should add a new series to your Netflix queue.
NOTE: Mad Money Monster does not condone excessive smoking or alcohol consumption. These activities were all the rage back in the day. A healthy lifestyle was not. Just sayin’.
All Photos (minus Mad Money Cat) courtesy of Google Images
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