Monday, August 04, 2008

Involuntary Simplicity

Raising two children in the SF Bay Area on the income of 1.5 social workers, G and I have had to follow a plan of involuntary simplicity for years now. You know how they say there are two kinds of people, spenders vs. savers? I am a full-blooded spender. So, however much I try to make cutting corners into a game, and however much I agree that our culture of consumerism is a trap, frankly, I'm still thrilled when I get a gift card (2 presents in one - whatever you buy + the gift of shopping!).

I think simplicity and frugality are fascinating. Kind of like the customs of South American native tribes are fascinating - it's so different from my natural way of being. I have a list of blogs and websites dedicated to these quaint ideas. I nod wisely, thinking, "Ahhh, these people so unlike ourselves, they have much to teach us, no?" (Does anyone else develop a French accent when speaking of other cultures? Anyone?)

I also really try to look for the silver linings in our situation. There are many:

1. We don't need daycare for the boys. We've staggered our work schedules so that one of us is always with them. We save money this way, neither of us feel like we're missing out on their childhood (hoo boy, do I not feel that way), and, although this may be entirely coincidental, they both seem pretty darn well-adjusted. Much of the time, anyway. Sometimes they're completely psychotic. Anyway, there are a lot of advantages to not having to deal with child care situations.

2. We don't have a lot of debt. We have our house mortgage (thank god we bought in 2000), but our cars are paid for and I can usually pay off credit cards in a month or two, at the most (hello, tickets to Arizona, thanks for sticking around, you can go now).

3. We feel like we have choices about our life, as opposed to letting our lifestyle run us.

I may move all of this to a new blog; I haven't decided yet. But I'm embarking on a month of completely conscious saving. I have a couple of goals. I want at least $3000 in savings that I can use in emergencies so I won't have to use the credit card for emergencies (or plane tickets to AZ). I also want a bit of padding - I'm self-employed, so if I get sick or hurt, I don't get paid.

I also want some new habits. I tend to use shopping as my excuse to get out of the house - I want to think first of the library or the park as our outings, not "do I need anything at the store?" I do make a weekly menu, but I'm also prone to buying on impulse anything that looks good or seems to be a bargain. I think some of these are OK, and some are a waste of money, and I want to be able to determine which is which before I buy.

Tomorrow: Why my mother is to blame for all of this.


Anonymous said...

Now I'm feeling guilty about budget...thanks! lol Yes, I agree that we could all do better and should. Its just that at times its hard to put into practice. I have to say that this past year I've found that starting your own business is a much bigger drain than I ever imagined.

Broadway Bloopers said...

WHY ARE AIRLINE TICKETS SO EXPENSIVE?! I hear you. I'm dreading the purchase of Christmas tickets home this year.

PS. My accent varies depending on the day. French is a fancy one. Only the truly worthy work exclusively with the French head-voice.

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