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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 49 - When being frugal isn't an option

David Blackwell, Flickr

"No matter how rich you get, shit goes wrong." 
(Ex Machina)

When it comes to saving money, your health, the planet, or all of the above, having options might not be conducive to making progress. Feeling constrained, however, is a sure way to get quick results. For example:

Using water parsimoniously is tricky on a daily basis, but much easier when the septic pump has failed and anything you flush down could back up in the basement.

Putting money aside for contingencies is tricky, but when above mentioned septic pump fails, and the total invoice for replacing it (plus emptying the septic tank, while we're at it) approaches $2000 that you hadn't planned on spending (right before Christmas, makes me merry), you're pretty darn happy you did have money put aside for such unforeseen events, and your motivation to keep putting money aside in the future goes up a notch.

As for the question of whether this painful expense is a need, I challenge anyone to argue that pumping our family's excreted substances out of the house qualifies as a frivolous desire.

Always a positive thinker, I can only rejoice that those troubles happened in a time when the ground is not completely frozen and covered in feet of snow yet, and that nothing actually backed up in the basement (we caught it in time).


Apart from wasting my hard-earned money on shitty matters (literally), I've been reading "Money Changes Everything", a collection of first person accounts, by various established writers, on their relationship with money. Reading that book made me realize (if I wasn't previously aware of it) that the amount of money we are granted at birth (i.e. our socioeconomic status or, more precisely, that of our parents) has an immense impact on the way we lead our lives in general, and on our relationship with money in particular. For example, studies have shown that rich people, not the poor, tend to plan long-term when it comes to finances - not because they have to, but simply because they can. A surprising result, but it does make sense: for the poor, planning long-term would be useless at best, heart-breaking at worst: 

"Working for minimum wage means that making a long-term budget is an exercise in wishful thinking. You just have however much money you have until you run out, and you pay whatever bill is most overdue first." (Linda Tirado, The Guardian)

What is certain is that it is hard to understand the poor if you've always been rich, just as it is hard to understand the rich if you've always been poor. 

Who, in our consumerist society, lives frugally? The poor, out of sheer necessity? The middle class, who realize after some years in the workforce that the only way they will be able to afford some real luxury is to make sacrifices in other areas? The rich, out of some entertaining challenge they set for themselves in order to make their lives more interesting?

"Is minimalism a first world problem"? 


Project 2016 is in the making!  Are you ready to make real changes in your life? Are you tired of new year resolutions that die after just two weeks? I might have a solution for you. Stay tuned, and to make sure you don't miss anything...

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  1. Sorry for your weekend. Damn you, frivolous spender!!!

    I have read many times that it's better to have never had money than to have had money and lost it. I don't know, I have only been on one side of that statement. At best I can equate that to fitness.

    By definition I am poor, mostly by choice. I sleep on an air mattress in the back of my fitness studio. The money I don't spend on myself I give to my daughter so grad school won't be a struggle for her. Money is poison to me. Not sure who I'll give it to when she's done...

    1. The fitness comparison might be an excellent one indeed!

      Money isn't poison to me, but I make it and spend it very mindfully.

  2. We had several financial hits this year but fortunately we were able to cover the expenses from our \emergency\ fund. Better not have any more though until I beef up the fund again. A plan for 2016....I'm all ears.

    1. Thank goodness for emergency funds! Sorry to hear that you had a difficult year from a financial point of view. Let's hope 2016 will be easier.

  3. (((sits back to stay tuned!!!!!!!)))

  4. Thanks so much for including my article in your post. :)

  5. I had to redo a septic system a few years ago. As with too many other things, I learned about stuff I never wanted to learn about, lol

    It's interesting to me how my brother and I are very different about money. He lives an extravagant lifestyle and always feels he doesn't have enough money, and I live simply and always feel I have enough.

    1. Interesting mention of your brother. My brother and I also have views on money that are diametrically opposed!

  6. I can't wait to find out more about you project 2016