Sunday, 27 May 2012

How Simplicity Prepares You For The Harder Times

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Late yesterday evening I wrote on my personal blog about the difference in the experience of frugality when it is forced vs. it being a choice. The days grocery shopping "adventure" was still fresh in my mind. And in truth, my mind was on the black formal dress shirt school is insisting each child owns by Monday (for a concert), my daughters need for sandals, my son outgrowing his trousers (again!), four prescriptions that need renewing this month, three bills which recently arrived and a petrol tank in the bottom 1/4.

I've lived a frugal and simple life for many years. You will find us hiking instead of shopping, watering our community garden plot instead of going to an adventure playground or theme park, and spending our evenings reading, playing games, riding bikes or volunteering instead of frequenting paid activities. But this is the first time under our new circumstances of it not being an adventure, or a reason to save for something (emergency fund, car repair fund, holiday fund, long term savings plan). This is no longer about choice, but circumstance. The two very different c's.

The difference for me is two fold. Firstly, the "what if' thought is never far from my mind (what if there is another bill, or an emergency which costs $$ arises) and secondly, the constant need to prioritize, or choose what to cut in order to make it all work. And that isn't a nice feeling at all.

And yet, honestly, I see beauty in how we live. Yes, I've certainly learned that when things are already tough, more seems to go wrong - like a double blow that seems, at times, ridiculously unfair. But I've also learned about joy, faith, perseverance and commitment to a choice, and owning that choice even when it no longer feels like you've chosen such a path. If we had an extra $1000 a month, the reality is, our activities would not change, you would still find us hiking, bike riding, visiting parks, cooking from scratch, playing games, making art and crafts and loving life. None of that would be any different. What would change is the bank balance, our ability to easily deal with the emergencies that arise and perhaps a little bit more peace. But the reality is, we are not poor, we have a very nice roof over our heads, our fridge and cupboards are full, everyone has all the clothes they need, we have more books than we could possibly read (though we are trying!), we have our garden plot, a car that gets us from A to B, each child has a hobby, or two, that they enjoy each week. And our life really isn't any different, except that I need to be far more creative at times. And you know, the artist in me knows, creativity is never a bad thing!

I'd love to hear from you. Do you have any tips for me, or other readers, about embracing forced frugality or living well on less?


Anonymous said...

Lovely article. I enjoy the simple activities and by choice I want to do them. A lot of the expensive activites simply do not interest me

Barb said...

Feeling your pain here. I do wish schools would realize that we can't all afford to drop $1000/year on special event clothes, graphing calculators, trip fees, lab fees, etc. I've discussed this with the school administration in the past, and have been met with blank stares. I guess we're just supposed to put it on our credit cards, right? If it weren't for our otherwise frugal lifestyle, we couldn't have made ends meet this year.

Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration.

Lesley said...

I enjoyed reading your article and I want to aspire living frugally and recycling whatever I can besides plastic, paper, glass and tins.
- I've just crocheted a bathroom mat out of plastic bags. I cut the plastic bags in to strips, pretty much like cutting up an old tee shirt in strips and crocheting a handbag or hat out of the strips. It really looks groovy and the T-shirt material feels nice and soft.

- I've also just made a little cell phone pouch from my husbands old corduroy long pants for my ($90) Tracfone LG500G as I didn't want the touch screen to be scratched. I then cut up an old blue check shirt of Alan's and sewed a giraffe motive on the cell phone pouch, and sewed in the eyes, nose and mouth.

- Cutting out squares out of old clothing can make great little granny squares for quilts,cushion covers, bags or picnic blankets, etc.
I love that people are recycling old furniture, in the shabby chic trade,it's exciting to turn old junk, farm implements,old rusty buckets,etc into something useful.

I get such a thrill out of being resourceful and creative to save money.
My happiest times in life is when I'm hiking, working in animal shelters,relaxing with my animals, propagating plants and hanging out with friends and family.
Hanging out in shopping malls is a waste of your life and this year I've decided to not buy Christmas presents, but to donate that money to saving an endangered species so that your grandchildren can enjoy the wild life too in decades to come. All this extravagance on Christmas day nauseates me.

Anonymous said...

We love to be frugal, creative and self reliant when possible... And truly, have all that we truly need. However, it has been discouraging to have about a 25% reduction in income over the years while feeding increasingly larger teens. We've mostly accomplished this by cooking from scratch, where the necessity has resulted in better food for our family. But, we weren't able to keep our older cars (10 year old) in reliable condition, and actually have saved money by buying NEW on credit. (Monthly outgo dropped substantially.) Ugh. I would have liked to repair the old, save up, and eventually buy a new-to-us vehicle, but with such catastrophic repairs, we didn't find any other choice. At least our creativity allows us to know how to fill in the gaps in other areas.

Marijke VanderVlist said...

Since copping unfortunate double mortgage payments, we’re forced to review our spending habits.
We’ve been there before, and it put us in a very bad spot we could barely crawl out. We vouched never again. This time we have yearly budget worked out in Excel. It states what comes in, and which bills will come through the year and monthly allowances for luxury (clothes, medicine,..), groceries, fuel, garden. Then there is a fund for just about else. Every month we put a set amount away for the car, hubbies work related costs, tax, holiday, house maintenance and electricity/rates/water. You won’t be caught out again as easily, bills can be paid out of those funds. And build up little by little and not to be touched we have set up an emergency fund.
This time around not much has changed in our way of living, some luxuries (flute and tennis lessons) had to be temporary cut out, money flowing in certain funds (holidays, car) have been lowered or cut. We stay true to our frugal values in good and bad times. Knowing how much you spend on things can help you see if you can lower it by changing habits.
Once our second house gets finally sold we can allocate our money differently. Extra repayments on the mortgage, house maintenance and holidays.

Anonymous said...

It might be worth asking around at your kid's school of mums with older kids who may have little used dress items sitting at home that theirs have grown out of, those items don't get used that much, or checking nearby opportunity/charity shops. You shouldn't need to buy them new.

Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job to me!