Our week began with palm trees and ended with a blizzard, so Mr. Frugalwoods and I feel we’ve had a genuine bi-coastal experience over the past few days. We were in San Diego all of last week visiting my family–many of whom have now dubbed themselves “frugal-family member name” for example: Frugal Grammy, Frugal Sister, and Frugal Hound’s Cousins (who are both canine and child in their species).
24 hours after our return to the Bay State, 26″ of snow promptly deposited itself on our city. And we’re thrilled. It’s true. I’m not ashamed to say it: we love snow! Despite widespread assumption, we’re glad we weren’t stuck in San Diego–we would’ve missed the storm. “Weirdos!” the cry rings out. To which I offer scant defense.
To further reduce your opinion of us, Mr. FW actually enjoys shoveling snow. Even I’ll admit this might be a bridge too far. But he likens it to the zen I sometimes experience when vacuuming (you know, if I’m in the right mood and there’s not tooooooo much Frugal Hound fur on the floor). You’ve got to respect a guy’s zen.
In deference to the blizzard, Boston shut down and we enjoyed a glorious snow day on Tuesday. Mr. FW baked bread and shoveled snow, I ranted about Valentine’s Day on the internet, we snuggled up, and we attempted to get Frugal Hound to frolic in the snow. She was not having it and beelined back to our house ASAP. That dog does not like the cold.
However, she has now transitioned into her “I love how all of this dirty snow smells” phase of the storm, which happens every year about 2 days after our first major snowfall. Later in the spring, as the snow melts, we’ll be the people with the dog who only wants to do business, ahem, atop snow piles. We’ve actually walked out of our way in spring months to take Frugal Hound to locations harboring little mounds of snow. She doesn’t ask for much in life, so we try to indulge her where we can.
Ok enough about dog functions and back to my deep philosophical ramblings… this rapid shift in our climatological situation got me thinking about how incredibly adaptable the human body truly is. Mr. FW and I were fine basking in the southern California sun, but we’re equally fine bundled up against the single digit temps we’re rocking here in Cambridge.
I’ve been reflecting that humans are inherently flexible and able to operate at wildly divergent ends of any spectrum. Temperature is but one of those spectra to which we acclimate; lifestyle is another. I say lifestyle because I think our money follows our priorities–you inflate your lifestyle, you spend more; you simplify your lifestyle, you spend less. That old hedonic treadmill, or carousel of consumerism as I’m fond of saying, will ramp up our spending and cause us to lust after an incessant parade of material goods.
Conversely, I’ve found that simplicity in one area of my life–low spending–has led to simplicity and clarity in many other aspects of my life. The less I focus on what money can buy me, the clearer my goals and my dreams are. And perhaps most importantly, the happier and more at peace I am.
At first, extreme frugality is akin to flinging oneself into a snowbank. It’s a veritable shock to our consumer system. But over time, as it becomes habitual, as you begin to see the unfettered life it’ll afford you, and as your desire to spend diminishes, frugality becomes freeing.
Just as my spendy counterparts continually seek out the next hot thing to buy, I actively avoid buying. To put it numerically, the lower your spending, the less you need to earn. The simpler your lifestyle, the less money you require to attain true happiness and fulfillment. And hey, if you become a frugal weirdo, you can shovel snow and vacuum for fun… here you wondered how we maintain our $0 entertainment budget ;).
(The Anti-) Grumble
I bring you the anti-grumble (so I guess it’s really just another woot, but “woot & woot” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…): I’m part of a podcast panel discussion today on Financially Blonde’s Martinis And Your Money podcast. My esteemed fellow panelists are Melanie of Dear Debt, Tonya of Budget and the Beach, and J. Money of Budgets Are Sexy. Come listen to us chat about the topic of saving vs. stealing… dun dun dun.
Full disclosure: I can’t exactly remember what all I said while we were recording, because several times over the course of the conversation one of us would ask “you’re not still recording, are you?” And invariably, she was. So, consider yourself warned. I’m going to wager right now that you shouldn’t listen to it with children in the room. Aside from that, it should be a jolly good roundtable discussion about personal finance.