How many people do you know that live within their means? Written in a simply language it means not spending more than people earn each month. Or even better, it means spending less. We live in a strange time where items like cars, houses and even entertainment (like concerts/musicals) are nearly out of reach for many of us in this country.
My parents probably had no idea how much their frugal and self sufficient ways had an impact on my adult life.
- I can't seem to spend $10-$15 and hour on a babysitter so Dave and I rarely date.
- I won't pay high prices for hotels so we have to think strategically every time we travel. My latest find is AirBNB.
- I certainly won't spend $100 for a night out to see a music group or musical. Of course bands usually start when I'm going to sleep.
- Every time I do bite the retail bullet and shop at Anthropolgie Sale section it comes back to haunt me when all of the buttons fall off. I can't think of one Anthro item that I've purchased that hasn't lost multiple buttons. This leaves me with retail regret.
These stomach ache inducing emotions is why I live frugally. It's why I live within our means.
Dave and I are being tested at the moment.
We have learned that we can possibly qualify for a special loan designed for people with great credit ratings. This would allow us to buy a house. When we punch in all the numbers to be pre-qualified we learn that we can buy a pretty expensive house. Far more than anything we've bought before. Which of course sounds wrong. Isn't that partly what has got us into that mess?
Sonoma County is full of these houses that are pretty expensive and pretty seductive. The cheaper houses aren't too brilliant and do nothing for my soul. Of course my soul isn't always on the same budget that my brain is on.
Dave and I have to remind ourselves over and over that we want a property with a piece of land that will give us self-sufficiency. We need a bit of land that is zoned properly so that we can have chickens. It needs to be sunny so that we can grow our own food. I want a well so that I can avoid chlorine and fluoride and water bills. When I think of the future I think that food, gas and water are only going to continue to rise in price. What can we control and what land can help us with these challenges? We've seen beautiful homes that are in our budget but legally we couldn't keep chickens. We've had to walk away from them and stay true to our needs even when the house had a lovely swimming pool.
Another part of our house hunting goal is to buy a house only on Dave's salary and one that isn't dependent on my fluctuating one. Every house we've purchased since 1997 was bought with his salary in mind. This allowed me to be a stay at home mom and later to create my own businesses without the pressure that I had to pay for the mortgage. This meant that we bought a cheaper home than many people. We were living within our means and that gave us more options and financial freedom.
Our retail world is so enticing. There are so many beautiful fancy cars, stores full of things that I "must need", on-line shops with items shouting my name to buy and of course lovely homes on acreage that I simply long for. Our culture creates this longing without much support when we don't have the money. We are told to buy and shop and buy some more. We can just swipe our magic credit card and not even have to pay it in full each month. What's a little interest between months, right?
I bought some new clothes (from the sales rack) at Macy's before our trip to Nevada. I made the mistake of not washing a new top and instead cut the tags off and wore it. Wearing this shirt gave me the worst headache. And no it wasn't from retail guilt, it was from the chemicals left on the clothing. You know that "new" smell?
As Annie Bond says in this article: "That “new” smell is a potent mixture of chemicals such as formaldehyde and urea resins, and they should be removed. The chemicals are used to “finish” fabric for a range of purposes including stain resistance, mercerizing, keeping them from wrinkling, and even sometimes for disinfecting. Most contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which, like formaldehyde, are often sensitizers and suspected carcinogens."
It's hard work raising frugal children. They see what other children have, they want the toys their friends talk about and they don't always understand why we choose thrift over retail. And yet they also see the other side of frugality where they might get something every single weekend from yard sales, albeit items that cost 25¢ and 50¢ rather than $15.99 at a toy store.
Some days, It's hard for me to keep back the cravings of wanting a life full of luxuries. As a thrifter I buy many high end items for pennies. I'm used to owning quality items rather than junk. Imagine though, if it's hard for me with my frugality keeping me in check, how do non frugal people handle those urges? We are not a society that stops spending if our bank account is empty or we have overdue bills on our counter. We instead buy things on our credit card and ignore the consequences until they catch up with us. As a culture we do not know how to budget, we don't know how to stop spending and we often don't know how to say no when the urge to spend hits us.
Dave and I have found a house that can give us a self sufficient life we crave. It's less than what the bank tells us that we can buy (although at a price the bank should be limiting us to). It's not in an area we imagined living in. It has no view of anything but more houses. We have to remind ourselves that buying a house at all is a huge privilege and not a right. We have to step away from our egos that tell us we should be living in the country, on a hill with a stellar view.
I still long for that million dollar house (that sold and ironically I went to an estate sale there) but for now that isn't in our cards. We need to buy and think within our means. I'm okay with that. I can't wait to live in an affordable home, invest in our garden, fruit trees, chickens, animals and finally settle down after four somewhat stressful years.