Friday, March 14, 2014

Could you live on a dollar a day? She did!

I thoroughly enjoyed a book titled, "How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day" by Kath Kelly. The author decided to live on a pound a day for a year (excluding only her rent) to save for a special wedding gift for her brother.

As you might imagine, she has to get mighty creative to do so. But she is in fact so successful, at one point she wonders if she could even reduce costs to 50p a day. And what she finds she has a lot of is time so she spends it taking a free art class at a university and going on LOTS of picnic lunches and dinners (with cheap eats) with friends.

It is fun to see how she manages a trip to France (hitchhiking, camping at free places, and eating sandwiches). Or how she finds there's a lot of free food along roadsides with old apple orchards and berry bushes. She learns about Freegans, Freecycle, and dumpster diving. And she says not a day goes by that she doesn't find yet another way to reduce costs. And for anyone who truly gets a kick out of tighwadding in general (whether to save for a special item or retire early or for environmental or other reasons) you can't but take your hat off to her.

And it makes me want to recommit to my four no spend days a week. But also, in doing so, to figure out why I'm so drawn to spend as it is. Because at some level, though I like to tease my friend who spent $20,000 on clothes via a personal shopper last year, I'm kind of doing the same thing in the sense that though I will have spent a tiny, tiny fraction of that, I'm still getting a huge kick out of getting something new (used) for a bargain. Both of us could get by a year easily without buying new clothes, so it's not a "need". For me, it's not just the thrill of the new item, but the thrill of getting it on the cheap. And this, according to Kath Kelly, is a problem.

Going back to post WWII, we were able to ramp up production of goods to never before seen levels. And there was an actual government program that addressed the problem that to feed this economic machine, we needed to convince Americans to buy more stuff than they needed. We simply produce far too much. And if everyone just bought what they needed, our economy would come to a halt. So then came the idea of a consumer society, consuming or getting rid of this year's model for next year's or risk being out of date. (This part isn't talked about in Kelly's book, but is talked a lot of in the book Affluenza.)

And that did quite well. But now Kelly points to the dollar stores, where people get the biggest kick out of seeing how much they can get for their money, even items they didn't need, and if an item doesn't work, no one feels bad as it was just a buck and it's easier to buy another than try to fix it. We've had this experience with a few dollar store plastic water guns for Kirk that worked maybe twice, then we tossed them.

I know for a fact, while I generally eschew the dollar stores because I try not to buy new, that I get that same high from the bargains I get at my local thrift store. And if I come home with a big bag stuffed full of books, toys, clothes, and a new juice pitcher for $8.00, I feel great! At least for awhile, then I've used the new (used) stuff, and feel drawn back to get another haul.

I often bag up things that didn't work out for our family and then donate them to a thrift store or another family.  The environment gets a break, but what exactly keeps me wanting the new stuff? I'm not sure.

I have too many clothes now, but if I see a lovely cashmere sweater, I get a thrill both in buying it and wearing it. But after I've worn it lets say ten times, that thrill is much dimmed and I want a new one. I will continue to wear the other one, but I don't get that, "here I am in my new, bargain cashmere sweater and feeling great!" 

I'm not seeking an austere lifestyle. I frankly like my flowered cushions on the sofa, my 20 various white planters, my collection of vases, my silver framed family photos and other items. I like our Christmas, Easter, and Halloween decorations. But what I want now that I already have so much is to enjoy more, to savor more, to get more of a kick out of using what I have, than in the gathering of yet more new (used) stuff.

Would love to hear your thoughts on any of this. Today I recommit to four days a week no spending.  Best wishes. Eileen

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