Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Low Cost of Low Living

One of my goals for the blog is to promote not just healthy, sustainable living, but simple living. All I can share is my experience, but one of the surprising elements of my stay-at-home life is that my cost of living dropped significantly, in ways I hadn't expected.

I'd already made some choices such as not having my daughter in afterschool (therefore saving about $200 a month), even if it meant I had to pick her up early and arrange my work schedule around it. But the additional savings were the obvious (I probably save about $20 in gas a week simply by not driving to work) and lunch (I didn't eat out often but let's call that a savings of $50 a month). But the most interesting discovery was that my desire for products and experiences declined--no impulse cups of coffee at $2 (or $1.25 if you brought your own cup, which I usually did), no snacks, no temptation to go do something mindless but fun. The cell phone that costs me about 8 cents a minute now only gets used about once or twice a week (it's a by-the-minute plan) since I don't need it to keep up with work.

Simply put, by being at home and focusing on my few favorite interests--family, my writing business, the garden, fixing the road, tending to household chores--I had less interest in all the flashy stuff that was stuck in my face while I rolled through civilization. I carry a little cash now instead of relying on plastic cards, so the spending is real and not hidden. The garden has reduced our grocery bill to probably $80 to $100 a month, year round. Most of my recreation is on the Internet, though we also have Netflix for those rare times I want to escape from my escapism.

The irony is because we have so few needs, we have a little extra to indulge in fun like movies and trips, and even the occasional pointless splurge. We are in no way depriving ourselves. My point here is that you don't necessarily need "more, more, more" to build a better life. I get annoyed when the politicians debate the "cost-of-living pay raises" for public employees, especially when the private sector takes job losses and pay cuts. "Cost of living" doesn't always have to increase. It can actually go down, and you don't have to lower your standard of living or drastically change your lifestyle to do it--though you might actually find you're happier if you give it a try. I sure am.

If you have any simplicity or money-saving tips, feel free to share them.