Inverted Crescent

One Woman's Journey Over the Moon and Beyond

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Alternative Lifestyle

I am no stranger to living within a budget.
I cook my own food (mostly), get movies at the library or on loan from friends, repair my existing favorite pair of shoes instead of buying new ones, and always, always, manage to put at least $30.00 per month into my Miscellaneous envelope for those “just for fun” expenses which keep my consumer soul a blaze with good, healthy capitalist fervor.

On the whole, that is.

Do I go out for movies? Yes.
Do I occasionally buy a new pair of shoes? Yes.
Do I sometimes spend some of my food budget on the “just for fun” stuff? Yes.

Although I embrace thrift as my “alternative lifestyle”, it hasn’t turned me into the humorless bastard you see at cocktail parties, bemoaning the injustice of a modest income.

Quite the contrary…
I get what I absolutely need, and a good deal what I want. I keep “the big picture” of where I want to be (financially and otherwise) in mind when I’m faced with tempting invitations (join us for lunch!), exciting opportunities ( let’s take a trip to Ireland!) or considering that major purchase(I really need to get a new vehicle.): Does it mean that I never join my friends for lunch, or take those awesome trips? No, it doesn’t. But it may mean that I invite them to bring a bag lunch and to join me on the picnic table. Or that the trip is to Memphis, instead of Ireland--, or that I carpool to work for just a little longer before I launch into vehicle ownership.

Sure, it may not be completely convenient. And I imagine a few of my friends are a little frustrated by my strict adherence to THE BUDGET. But it gets me to where I need to be.: student loan free and working on the future. And isn’t freedom a beautiful thing?
I spend time and money on the things that mean the most to me. And I don’t think I’m missing anything.

Getting to that place where thrift is natural and useful takes time.
I’m not there yet, but I’m getting better.
Sure, I repair my shoes and keep them for longer than the average person. I carpool, I get my books from the library, and even buy in bulk when possible. But I am a sucker for good quality skincare products and my grocery bill is far more than the average person’s. It’s something I’m working on. I realize these are my weaknesses---and I’m trying to find ways to work it out.

The point is…frugality is a journey that starts somewhere---whether it’s repairing your shoes, forgoing that Latte’ at Starbucks, or making bulk purchases.

There are a few good books out there that talk about the pathway to frugality. Amy Dacyczyn’s “The Complete Tightwad Gazette” is the very best of them all, as it has recommendations on how to be frugal with EVERYTHING. And what she doesn’t comment on concerning frugality, isn’t worth knowing.

Judy Levine, author of Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, chronicles her great experiment with buying only the true necessities of life. Though it is little thrill to anyone who is already living on a strict budget to see a middle-aged yuppie come to terms with only buying life’s necessities instead of its luxuries ( not buying your latte is a sacrifice!), the book still fronts a cool idea: That our idea of needs can be quite different than our wants.

Even though the later book has been poorly reviewed, and mainly for Ms. Levine’s politics more than for her actual experiment, I cannot say that I fault her for finding out what was truly most important to her—physically and psychologically. Her voluntary sacrifices, even though of luxuries, are still to be applauded.

As I said before---a journey to frugality is just that---a journey. And for some of us –the road to frugality is longer than others.

Due in part to Ms. Levine’s inspiration, and with the encouragement and wisdom offered by Amy Dacyczyn’s books and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Revisited I am going to be spending (aargh! The “s” word!) the next year conducting my own experiment: How low can my debt go?

Why? One word: Freedom

I don’t want to be beholden to anyone; least of all the student loan folks.

I’m grateful their loans enabled me to get the education that helped me land my dream job---but now its time to pay it back as fast as I can. If I can get out from under those loans, I’ll be free, truly free, to do the following things that I need and want to do:
a. Have an emergency fund
b. Plan a beautiful wedding
c. Get a good quality used vehicle
d. Take care of my family
e. Donate to charitable causes
f. Have a retirement plan

I know it will take time to achieve all of these things. It’s a journey, after all. And it all begins January 1, 2007, as by then I will have put aside a “baby emergency fund”, per Dave Ramsey’s recommendation, —and thus can start shoveling funds toward debt elimination.

Tune in later to find out “How Low Can My Debt Go?” is progressing.

I’ll keep you riveted with charming anecdotes of frugal life; yummie homemade recipes; tips on keeping warm in winter (most of these will involve snuggling up to warm boyfriends, putting extra quilts on the bed, or placing your restless kitty cats on your feet to keep them cozy), and of course, the requisite “weekly transit report” to let you know how I’m doing transitioning to semi-complete pedestrianism.

Sounds like fun?!

You Betcha!

And while I’m at it, I may include a little eco-kitsch musings. There is an awful lot of overlap between frugal living and a healthy environment. It’s not exactly your mamma’s “Voluntary Simplicity” movement---but it’s a good place to start.