Living Small

Let’s go shopping!  Retail therapy is a high that many of us keep returning to as our “drug of choice”.   It’s all fun and games ’til the money runs down and our homes are jam-packed with more stuff than we can possibly use, much less need.  And we still want more – we’re culturally primed by advertising that buying more stuff will result in (fill in the blank…) happiness, status, security, escape from problems etc.  Many of us are short sighted, preferring to live it up now and enjoy life.  Assuming you have a big pile of money, and have factored in the astronomical costs of providing senior support services as you age, you might be able to get away “living large”.  Philosophically, being “spendy” has a dark side for us personally, as well as having a negative impact on the planet.


Figure 1 Credit Steve Snodgrass CC license via Flickr

Perhaps there is some truth to the stereotype about my heritage as a Thrifty Scot.  I’ve done my share of overspending, but unlike many Baby Boomers, I try to live within my means, a terribly unfashionable stance.  This is not easy, either from the pragmatic or emotional aspects, and requires a healthy dose of self-discipline and introspection.  This post on TV Tropes sheds some light on the Thrifty Scot myth.  Note that Wikipedia also has a reference from the early 20th century on how Scotch™ Tape got its name!

I’ve recently been inspired by a dog-eared paperback from the library, “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin and Joe Rodriquez.  In Chapter 6, they discuss “the American dream on a shoestring” which I found very enlightening.

Also from Chapter 6:  “How did frugality lose favor among Americans?  It is, after all, a perennial ideal and a cornerstone of the American character…And the challenges of building our nation required frugality of most of our citizens.  Indeed, the wealth we enjoy today is the result of centuries of frugality…”

Even the word “frugal” is unappealing, as are its synonyms – prudent, stingy, thrifty, scrimping and meager.  Chapter 6 continues to explore what they call “the pleasures of frugality” and state that “Frugality is enjoying the virtue of getting good value for every minute of your life energy and from everything you have the use of…To be frugal means to have a high joy-to-stuff ratio.”

A Google search for “frugality” will result in many blogs, and many world views.  An early adopter in the frugality movement was The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn in the late 1990’s.  As Vicki Robin says, “Frugality is the balance we seek…(it is) being efficient in harvesting happiness from the world you live in.  Frugality is right-use…the wise stewarding of money, time, energy, space and possessions…We aren’t talking about being cheap, making do or being a skinflint or a tightwad.  We’re talking about creative frugality, a way of life in which you get the maximum fulfillment for each unit of life energy spent.”


Figure 2 Credit John Morgan CC License via Flickr

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