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Thursday, December 6, 2012

tunnel vision

I've been on this frugal living/minimizing lifestyle path for a while now.
It's been long enough that I sometimes forget that not everyone around me thinks this way.

A co-worker was recently talking about budgeting concerns and questions. I had trouble remembering the first steps I took on this path. To talk about where I'm at now might sound restrictive and a little crazy.

That I enjoy tracking my budget with Quicken to the dollar (in most areas of my life, I am not this obsessive, really!). That going out to coffee is a luxury that happens maybe twice a year. Let's take a walk instead! That I will delay watching movies until I can get them from the public library, to save that Redbox dollar. That not buying furniture or linens or new clothes (I do make a clothes exception for my family, particularly the older teen) is a way of life. That I pass by the dark beer and red wine, both of which I love (in moderation of course), at the grocery store. I haven't had my hair cut in a salon since I was 17 (I do it myself) and I cut my husband and boys' hair too.

I would have shuddered and run at a vision of this lifestyle when I was younger. But I really appreciate the awareness now of the difference between needs and wants. I love small luxuries, and I really enjoy them when I indulge in them now, since they are less frequent--like good chocolate, a glass of wine, a mocha out. I also feel so much better to know that I can live on less, and save.

It sounds restrictive, but it actually brings me a greater sense of peace and freedom. But where to start? How to explain? Luckily, another coworker had some great suggestions for my friend: Keep track of everything you spend for two weeks. Write it all down. Write down your monthly bills, when they are due, and when your paycheck comes in, so that you don't overdraw. Such good advice! And I realized how far I have come (still have a long ways to go), personal finance-ways.

Living paycheck to paycheck is not something I think about. I'm extremely fortunate because I have a relatively stable, above minimum-wage job. I don't have to make the monthly choices of: buy gas for the car, or food? Pay for medication, or pay the electric bill? But there are surely people in my position who do worry about running out of money at the end of the month. Instead, I would rather see what I can live without, and make it a game to see how little I can spend on groceries (and still eat and feed my family  tasty, healthy food) each month. It's kind of fun.

Is that strange?

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