Friday, November 13, 2009

Oh, Poor Little Old Me

You know, I like it ... thrivalist. I think Kate may be onto something, because, truly, that's what we're trying to do, right?

I've spent the last several years trying to simplify our lives. The goal has been to make us poor. I know that having such a stated goal is counter to everything we college educated individuals who came to adulthood in the 80s and 90s were taught (our legacy will be one of blind obedience to the consumer gods), but the point is that I want to live simply and fully ... and just be free. Those things can not be done while we are wage-slaves.

So, I've been trying to make us poor.

The first step was to stop our crazy spending habits, and I cut up my credit card almost four years ago. At first, it was tough, because I'd grown accustomed to having it as a buffer. It was a good just in case back-up, but mostly, I didn't use it just-in-case. I used it for books, for eating out, for toys, for clothes, for any number of non-essentials and clutter-producing items with the occasional tank of gasoline thrown in.

The hardest part, in the beginning, was planning for emergencies. Like I'd be out, and I had no cash, and it was not during banking hours, and I needed gasoline (I have no ATM card and I don't carry my checkbook with me unless I know I'm going to be using it). Oops! I haven't, yet, run out of gas, but I've been too close for comfort on too many occasions.

The next step was to reduce our consumption, and the first, major, step I took was to line-dry our laundry. If there's one symbol that screams, "We're too poor to care" here in America, it's the laundry on the line.

After that, it was changing how we heat our house, and we went from using our oil furnace as our primary heat source to the woodstove. I don't know what the stacks of cordwood all over the yard say about us, but I'm pretty certain the blue tarp covering the woodpile last year didn't have too many positive connotations associated with it. At least it wasn't on the roof, right?

Next was to reduce our driving, and while we're still doing all of the things we did before, trips in the car are consolidated. We never go just one place. I always combine trips out so that if I have an errand, I do it when I'm going to be out anyway. Otherwise I stay home. In addition, whenever we can take the more gas-efficient Honda instead of the big, family-sized, less gas-efficient Suzuki XL-7 SUV, we do. We've saved a few dollars this way, but we certainly draw some interested stares when we unload the clown car.

I'll admit it. I was a bit of a suburban snob when we first started this adventure, and when I heard that a family member had a discount to Goodwill, I thought she was teasing me. I've since learned the error of my ways, and I've become quite the second-hand store aficionado. If I can get it second-hand, I will. Buying new has definitely lost its luster for me, and rather than being dazzled by all of the pretty colors and trinkets at the Big Box stores, I find that my skin starts to crawl and I feel a bit nauseous. So, I avoid discount department stores (all of them).

Over the years, we've localized our diet, we grow or raise part of what we eat, we buy in bulk and limit our trips to the grocery store.

We repair, make do or do without a lot of stuff we once thought we needed.

Deus Ex Machina has taken on a lot more DIY projects, especially with respect to our transportation (cars and bicycles).

We started making these changes well before the rest of the country fell into the recession, and so, when our income was decreased by 2/3rds earlier this year, it was no big deal. We'd been living pretty frugally anyway, and we didn't, really, miss the money we'd lost. We still lived pretty much as we had been living, we didn't touch our savings, and we didn't increase our debt.

What we learned was that we can, actually, live quite comfortably on less money than we were making, and as a result, for the first time, Deus Ex Machina is considering a career change that will come with a significant reduction in his salary, but the bonus will be the work will be infinitely more fulfilling.

Ultimately, my goal is for both of us to step just outside the money-economy and work for money at odd jobs we do from home. It's unrealistic to think that we can live in our society without any money at all, but I hope, someday, we can live as we are right now with very little of it.

So, I buy second-hand clothes, I use as little energy as possible while still doing the things we need to get done (and I'm always looking for ways to cut our usage even more), I buy groceries in bulk and/or from local vendors, I cook more at home, and we grow or raise part of our own food.

All in an attempt to thrive with a smaller income.

In the end, if the economy collapses, as is predicted, we'll have been living on less (money) for so long that we'll know how to thrive without it. If things go back to normal, we'll be able to retire debt-free (including our mortgage and automobiles) when we reach our 50s.

Either way, we're thrivalists - thriving on less.


  1. *blush*

    And I like this line: "The goal has been to make us poor."


  2. I like being a thrivalist. Great word.

  3. Yeah I will say I try not to be too smug when other people whine about the recession...because it's really not that bad for us. Yeah we had a kink with this whole hubby not drawing a paycheck until 9 months AFTER we anticipated, but we've been thru this before. Not a big deal.

  4. SWEET! I gotta make Mr. Barefoot read this one....

  5. Thrivalist. Love it. Your post touched a cord. Trying to get poor. Genius. Totally counter intuitive - and exactly what will be required. I find a lot of things in my life can be greatly simplified, and far less expensive, if I just do what I don't want to do. Because the want, nine times out of ten, was created by some add agency that does not have my best interests in mind. What your espousing is a way of life that can save us all a great deal of anguish when the proposed economic miracle that will return things to the way they were, does not come to pass. Thrive on!