We're having to cut back -way, way back- but we're not homeless or hungry or lacking in anything really. We just have less than we're used to. Perspective is important.
Regarding cable: As we decided to drop the $20 a month cable package that gave us better access to world soccer games, we realized that we were able to keep some cable channels so we could better follow news, election coverage, and sports. Then we realized that we don't actually need cable for news and election coverage because we get BBC, Google News, and other alerts on our phones that keep us updated. We'll miss the sports on cable, but them's the breaks. We have decided to cut that cord completely, though right now we've just cut back to basic cable since they were going to charge us more for internet access alone than for this package. Isn't that nuts? Right now we're researching our internet options. This just shouldn't be so complicated.
Regarding utilities: We have a two-story townhouse with a single central unit for heating and cooling, which makes it hard to set the thermostat so that it's comfortable both upstairs and down. We're testing how warm we can keep the house so we save money but can still sleep, and we're using 72 as our night setting and 78 during the day. So far, so good. It's amazing how much difference a box fan makes.
Eating out: We're cutting back eating out to once a month, but that still means we're able to eat out once a month. Our July restaurant was the Route 64 Diner in Bolivar, TN. This month is my baptismal anniversary, and I'm still deciding where I want to go for that. It'll probably be one of the local pizza places we've been meaning to try.
The concept of frugality means we have enough so that cutting back is an option.
from The Atlantic:
Frugality is about appreciating simple pleasures and generally easing up in a society that encourages materialism and competitiveness.I guess in trying to cut back because we have to unless we want to live on borrowed money we're not really living frugally in the sense some people mean it.
...individuals’ frugality at the margins -one fewer latte here or there- matters less as the basic costs of living march ever higher. With that in mind, Ben Franklin comes off as a little naive when he wrote, “Beware of little expenses; A small leak will sink a great ship.” Small costs do add up, but they rarely amount to anything close to the big ones.
A lot also depends on the economic conditions people find themselves in. The U.S.’s median household income has been stagnant -even a recent uptick couldn’t bring the figure up to where it was back in 1999, after adjusting for inflation. And even moving up the earnings spectrum, families are feeling squeezed as they pour their time and money into housing and education -their best shot at providing their children with long-term financial security in an economy that can be cruel to the less-educated. In other words, pinching pennies is of limited value when there aren’t enough pennies to pinch in the first place.
Living a pared-down lifestyle necessarily means having a lifestyle to pare down.
U.S. News and World Report illustrates this when they say,
Being frugal actually allows consumers to spend money on what they truly value while saving on the things they don't.We're cutting back on things we want because we just don't have the money any more. There's a difference between that and getting rid of expenses so you can afford other things you'd rather have. We're cutting back to avoid debt. That article assumes you have the money but have decided to re-allocate it. That's not what's going on with us.
The Simple Dollar talks about frugality being motivated by choice or necessity:
sometimes frugality is a choice and sometimes it isn’t, but knowing how to do it well is helpful in both situations.TreeHugger agrees with The Simple Dollar:
All I can say is this: a lot of the best strategies I’ve used to help myself stay afloat and get ahead in life worked (in some form) whether I was dirt poor or doing well. The big difference was in the results – sometimes it was needed to keep us afloat; other times it was useful to help us get ahead.
The core skillset and mindset of getting the most bang for the buck for everything and knowing how to cut corners has been helpful whether or not we were struggling to survive until the next paycheck or we were trying to stretch a moderate income to cover a lot of bills or we were trying to overcome a big pile of debt on a decent income or we were leveraging ourselves toward complete financial independence and early income on a debt-free life with a solid income. The same strategies worked.
I’m not going to pretend that frugal tactics are a magical wand that fixes all financial problems in individual lives or in society. It’s not.
Instead, think of frugality as a basic tool. It’s a claw hammer or a flat screwdriver. It’s something that can be used in a lot of different situations. Sure, some people will have much better tools for some jobs, but the reality is that frugality is an effective tool in a lot of situations. Like a flat-head screwdriver can open a bucket of paint or repair a bike or install a thermostat, frugality can step up whether you’re struggling to afford a basic grocery list or you’re just trying to figure out how to take the edge off of your $200,000 a year lifestyle.
In both cases, the principle is the same.
regardless of where you're at financially, frugal strategies always have a place.The reason for the frugality isn't as important as the commitment to it. I'm grateful I've never been used to fine dining, designer clothes, and expensive vacations. I'm grateful that, though I'm missing some things, I'm enjoying what I have. I'm grateful we are debt free and have simple tastes. I can laugh at my first world problems, knowing how much worse off I could be. We have enough so that cutting back solves our financial issue without causing actual deprivation, and that's a blessing.