Monday, January 10, 2011
Why do we choose a frugal, green lifestyle?
I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day and she said something that really made me think. I was explaining to her how we had saved $50 last month by using a space heater instead of central heat. I was super proud of this accomplishment. I thought my excitement was apparent but after a few seconds of silence my mom asked, "Are you and Rob having money troubles?" I was really surprised by her question. "Of course we aren't having money troubles," I thought. "We just saved $50!" To my mom this seemed extreme but to us it was merely another notch in our proverbial frugal bedpost. For me, the decision to lead a frugal lifestyle is a choice. For many people the decision comes out of necessity. I feel fortunate that Rob and I are in a position to choose and not forced to do so in order to survive. To some people, however, our choice seems odd.
For me the choice to lead a frugal lifestyle isn't about sacrifice but about opportunities. Rob and I are both teachers. We love what we do and feel that we really make a difference in the world. Money wasn't (and isn't) the most important deciding factor for us. I feel lucky that I was able to discover my purpose in life early on and find my soul mate who is like minded. For us, a frugal lifestyle makes it possible for us to live well on teachers' salaries.
Everyone needs to decide what your own personal "remarkable life" looks like. To us, it is a life surrounded by children broken up by long vacations that we get to spend together. Having expensive "stuff" is not what brings us joy. In fact, I have found that being surrounded by loads of stuff makes me really anxious. For others, their remarkable life may be totally different. I don't see it as a one-size-fits-all sort of philosophy. This is just what works for us.
I really enjoy living a more simple life. I find peace hand drying my dishes with dish towels and clipping coupons. I also love the opportunities it provides us. I am thankful that I can pay for graduate school with cash and not go into debt. I am thankful that we are able to travel if we want to. I am so thankful that couponing allows me to help others by donating food to Metropolitan Ministries and other charitable organizations. These are things that make me far happier than more clothes or the latest gadget ever could. Ultimately, it comes down to knowing what makes you most happy.
I feel that our society has become so bogged down in consumerism that we take simple pleasures for granted. I really feel my life has changed for the better since we began our frugal journey. I appreciate things like a homegrown tomato or a walk with my dog. I love not feeling like I need to keep up with the Joneses. I like feeling that we are doing our part to help the planet and saving money in the process.
Choosing to live more simply has brought me peace. I am happier and more in touch with myself than I have ever been in my life. While it began as an endeavor to save money and minimize our human footprint, I feel our journey has evolved into so much more. By deciding so carefully what we are and are not willing to spend our money on I have gained a greater understanding of what I value. And for me at least, this understanding is priceless.
"Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants." - Epictetus