I found a variation on one of my writer’s acronyms: IIHMTIWHMIS If I Had More Time I Would Have Made It Shorter. Do you realize I have published over a million words by now? And today a friend suggested I write even more. (He thinks my story is a book, a movie, a series. Okay.) I’ll have to write him about my progress. There’s a frugal version of the same acronym: IIHMMIWSL If I Had More Money I Would Spend Less. Both messages present themselves every day because every day I write and every day I research and publish stories about living a simple, frugal life – alternative lifestyles that I admire but can’t afford because I don’t have enough money.
It takes money to make money. It also takes money to save money. Buying quality pays for itself if the goods last long enough. Old diesel Mercedes are marvelous, and last a very long time. Do I need to replay the story of the three little pigs and variations on building techniques? Good fabric, sewn well makes clothes that last long enough to become old familiars. But, if you don’t have enough money for a well made car, house, or jacket you have to buy what you can; which is why junk used cars, old mobile homes, and ratty coats are bought. It is one reason Wal-Mart’s incredibly low prices will always have shoppers as long as there are people who can’t afford better.
I’ve been a fan of simple living since, well, as long as I can remember. I enjoy looking at fancy cars, mansions, and the latest ski clothes; but that’s mostly to find which features I find most useful. Then I seek the useful at a far lower price, but without sacrificing my definition of quality. Just right is best. Extra features cost more without providing a benefit, and can even make a higher end item worth less to me. My appreciation for simplicity is why I write in my computer’s free software instead of Word. Word does amazing things, and frequently is so eager to show off that I can spend as much time Undo-ing and I spend Do-ing.
The frugal crowd is a fun crowd. These people celebrate resourcefulness, creativity, and function over form. Cars are replaced by motorcycles, bicycles, boats, buses, and walking – and there are more stories to tell as they spend less time worrying about fuel, traffic, and parking. Houses are built from conventional materials in unconventional forms, or in conventional forms using unconventional materials, or in combinations never to be repeated but surely to be appreciated – and I am drawn in by their attempts to find what is just right for comfort without adding in too much, or giving up too much. My next computer will probably be a Chromebook because it gives up the complexity and replaces it with utility, though it does so by embracing the innovation that is the cloud of the Internet.
But to buy a hybrid or electric costs far more than the resale on Chuck the truck (which definitely wins on utility).
The materials for the tiny houses I am so drawn to cost more than my liquid net worth and would only be truly useful if I had the land (and the zoning rights) to site it.
Even a $200 Chromebook is out of my budget, so until I have a spare couple of hundred dollars, this years old MacBook will have to hang in there (which is worrisome considering the random glitches that have been arising.)
Every day I get to enjoy reading articles and posts about frugal people, independent souls investing their lives and money based upon their values. As a general rule, the closer someone gets to their core values the more they can ignore the externally imposed values. Concentrating on the values that matter generally becomes a simpler, less expensive way to live.
Unfortunately, it is possible to have too little. When basic needs can’t be met, basic values become dreams and wishes.
My path through frugality was bolstered by Your Money Or Your Life, the New Road Map Foundation (aka financialintegrity.org), the Simple Living Forums, and has been the subject of this blog and the book it is based on, Dream. Invest. Live. Within those decades there are only a few years when I’ve had less than enough for my frugal values: just after getting my bachelors in engineering, just after getting my masters in engineering, just after buying my first house, and just in the last two years. Throughout, I’ve been decluttering my mental and emotional want list. I’ve known that I want a small house (a smallness that continues to shrink) with a good view (preferably of sunsets over the sea with maybe a mountain range on the horizon) on a large piece of productive property (gotta be able to grow trees and more than just lawn) some place quiet (Ah, Whidbey Island – south of the Naval Air Station’s jet noise). In all of those years of more than enough, I concentrated on saving to sustain the lifestyle I had, with dreams of expanding free time, philanthropy, and maybe someday downsizing to my small house ideal. If I had done that then, I wouldn’t be in the situation I am in now. (Anyone over the age of 40 can apply that phrase to so many different aspects of a life.)
I am frugal and it is frustrating, but I have also set new goals which are really just refinements of old goals. At this point they are back to being dreams and wishes, because even my basic current plan still awaits the action of my mortgage company, a buyer for my house, or significant improvements in my finances. Hey, it could happen.
If I have to find a place for me, then I’ll rent until I can afford land, and then I’ll continue to rent until I can build the smallest house that zoning will allow, and then I’ll rent no more, mortgage no more, and see what progress I’ve made on the rest of my values.
Of course, at my current rate of recovery, that may all be so many years away that things may change considerably. What probably won’t change is my frugality, despite its frustrations. The value in frugality isn’t the denial of wealth. The value of frugality is the appreciation of values, and they are worth far more.