Wednesday, February 17, 2016

My Definition of Simple


I read a post yesterday at Frugal Trenches guest submitted by a mother as part of FT's How We Spend Our Money feature. Without going into details, the mother shares how with an income three times her current household, she and her then husband were caught in the simple lifestyle movement. She talked about how much they spent without a second thought. I was very confused by much of her post and how she kept describing her past life as simple and how they spent great deals of money living a life to maintain an image of simplicity. Then it dawned on me, the definition of simplicity that marketers were selling and she and her then friends were buying was very different than mine. Simplicity meant throw money at something, and that will take your cares away. If she decided she was going to wear nothing but natural fibers, there was a store for that, but to fit in with the others, one sweater wouldn't do, you needed an assortment for every day of the week.

On the other hand, I am also not aligned with those that have left the grid almost completely in order to live what they've described as a simpler life. Getting up at 4:00 a.m. to make sure to put a log in the stove so my children won't freeze, a log I've cut myself after felling the trees in the back 40 myself. Sounds anything but simple to me. I don't think knitting my own sweater from natural fibers will keep me warm as it would end in a pile of yarn mess. I suppose the simplicity is in not beholding to anyone else; creating your own income, and living life on your own terms.It also means doing away with many of the modern conveniences, or rationing them to minimal use. In both these scenarios, both extremes, I really am not judging, just comparing.

For me, simplicity is about exerting the least amount of resources to get the maximum rewards. This will probably sound just plain lazy to some folks and skin flintery to others. I am a bit lazy though. I like a good sleep in when I can. I like knowing that after a huge snow storm, while I'll have to get out the end of my drive way myself, a large plow truck is going to clear the roads for me, while I'm safe inside having a cup of coffee made in a coffee maker. I try to be careful with money, not spending money just to spend, though indulge in the odd treat now and then. I don't mind, and even enjoy a useful secondhand purchase at a garage sell or charity shop.  Hello $4.50 like new jeans.

Simplicity, in my world, comes down to what those resources and  rewards are. I don't want to work 60 hours; the reward of a higher paycheck, but no spare time, was not simple. It meant I was stressed trying to fit laundry, child care, friends, and other obligations in. Alternatively, at this stage of my life, cutting back to no work or even half time would require me to take on tasks that I am not good at, do not like to do, and would take much longer than just using my salary to pay to have them done. There are other rewards I get from having more income. I can donate where I want to. My family can have experiences that would not be doable if we had a slimmer monetary budget. Simplicity also is knowing if things financially took a downward turn, which they have before, I can muddle through and make changes without sending our life into a downward spiral.

I'll continue to use money to pay for some simplicity where the time savings or quality of the purchase matters to me. I'll bake and cook from scratch when I have people over, clean my house, wash my own laundry, taking advantage of sunny days with light wind when I can dry them outside. I'm not going to have a weeks worth of laundry strewn about my house mid winter, waiting for things to dry. There will be dozens of trade offs in decision making everyday. Simplicity for me is not stressing over each one of them.

11 comments:

  1. I would be naked and die if I were left in the woods. That makes no sense to me but to each his own.
    I've been reading a lot on how people paid off say $50k in 18 months or something like that and after reading it, I was just disgusted. One woman said how the weekly mani/pedis had to go. WTH!?!?!?! You really were just wasting terribly before and now you cut back a little. In my opinion, they really have nothing to teach and shouldn't be preaching. Ok rant over.

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    1. I know what you mean. "We downsized from a McMansion, to a 3,000 square foot house." Quite a sacrifice, I'm sure. Bottom line, is we all need to do what works to keep us balanced and sane, and for some, giving up the weekly mani-pedi felt like a huge sacrifice. For me, it's wine. I'm sure ou wine club is terribly extravagant to some-but I'm not givin git up in th enear future.

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  2. I'm with you - it's about a balance based on your priorities. I've never needed to "feel like we're leading a simple life" to keep up with others. That's amusingly ironic. Instead, we are continually evaluating our own lives & spending to make sure they match our priorities. Sometimes that means we find areas to cut back. Sometimes not.

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    1. That is the point the mother in the post was trying to make, I think. Spending large amounts of money, to appear like something, but it really took away form her quality of life. I am impressed with how honest people can be with their finance life-I skirt the edges.For me, I'll spurge where it matters. I could case less if I am eating generic brand canned tomatoes in a pasta sauce, but am fine paying a bit more on a farm stand fresh tomato I'll be enjoying in natural state.

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  3. I no longer have kids at home so my life is much simpler than it was. I thank God my neighborhood has covenants banning clotheslines. I have a hanging rack in the laundry room for things that can't be dried and the rest of my laundry gets tossed in the dryer. If it costs 12 bucks monthly in power to dry me clothes that is something I will happily live with. Same thing with travel. 2 of my 3 kids live on opposite coasts and I am going to see each of them a couple of times a year (at least) I can do without new clothes and a new car and all kids of luxuries but I can't (or won't) live without seeing my sons and granddaughter (especially granddaughter) Life is a series of trade-offs and each of us gets to decide what we can and can't do without.

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    1. I do love sun dried linens so I do take advantage of free dryers when the weather is nice. Lovely to budget to see your kids and grand daughter. Our splurge was paying for airplane ticket for son to be home for Christmas and seeing our daughter in London. Best spending yet!

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  4. The best thing is watching the postman walk by my house and not come anywhere near my letterbox with a pile of bank statements and bills. Now all I get in the post is the odd bit of junk mail and birthday cards. I used to hate the post because of all the demands for money I used to get. Most of this was due to trying to look after 4 kids on my own and thinking I needed to keep buying unnecessary stuff etc. Now I don't owe anything oh the bliss of it. This is simplicity to me.

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    1. That would fit my view of simplicity as well. Juggling funds to stay a step of the bills is not my idea of simple, which is why regardless of of our means at the time, I tried to stay living below them, which was really hard at times, and impossible others. Remembering though helps curb the impulse on purchases that we can't pay for out right-need or want.

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  5. I really like your definition - the balance of resource and reward, thank you.

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  6. I think that simplicity (and frugality) are relative to each individual's starting point. We do what works for us, within our budget, and what makes us happy. I think it probably helps that we don't care what anyone else is doing or buying and that we don't feel the need to fit in with anyone. Life for us is simpler without a car. I doubt that would be the same for most people, but not having to worry about the cost of owning a car ( even though it was paid for and not on finance) is preferable to the odd occasion that we have missed it in the last 23 months. I do think that in some circles there is a degree of one-upmanship about simplicity/ frugality - it reminds me of the Monty Python ' Four Yorkshiremen' sketch.

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    1. Yes! I see that skit and it does remind me of that.when we had less money, we tightened out of necessity, now, we watch spending where it is not part of our priorities ad values so we can put more there. Having visited some areas with decent public transit, and cramped, crowded roads and parking, I think owning a car would be more stressful than helpful. Another TV reference, Seinfeld and the car parking spot episode.

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