21 March 2011

Moving in the opposite direction

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more
violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.”

-- E.F. Schumacker

When we chose to live as Cheapskates, we chose to move in the opposite direction - to our families, to our friends and neighbours and to our community in general.

At the time it was out of desperation. Nowadays I like to think it's because we are not only older, but wiser, and recognise what lifestyle suits us best. We are homebodies. We love our family and spending time with them, and that includes our extended family and friends. We like our home to be warm and welcoming. And we like to live beneath our means.

I don't think there was, or is, any genius involved, just a desire to live the lifestyle we want.

When we first started our journey to frugality very few people knew. I told my mother and Wayne told his parents. And they smiled oh so patronisingly at us and said "good for you" in a condescending way. They even laughed out loud (kindly of course) at my money saving efforts and made jokes about my abilities as a cook. And as a gardener. My mother, bless her, even laughed at my efforts to make our clothes. Ok, some of those early efforts were a little funny, but my skill grew with each garment made.

We were moving in the opposite direction to them and yes, it took courage. We were moving towards consuming less, spending less and living life more simply.  It was a way of life we had never experienced before. We lived a consumer life. We bought what we wanted when we wanted. We didn't think twice about buying the latest gadgets as soon as they hit the shops. We spent a fortune on our kids, on clothes and toys.  It never occurred to us to look for these everyday things at garage sales and op shops.  The only things we bought second hand were from antique shops and cost a fortune.  I understand their scepticism. 

When we were back on our feet we kept living frugally and really embraced the Cheapskates lifestyle.
It would have been very easy to slip back into the consumer and spendthrift habits we had swapped for resourcefulness and thrifty ways.  It is easier to walk into a shop and just pick up the item or items I want or need and pay for them, ignoring the price.

What It's not easier to do is worry about how to pay the bills when they come in, or how to put food on the table and clothes on the kids' backs. It's definitely not easier to try to scrape together the money for the mortgage payment each month.  I would be doing these things if we hadn't made the decision to move in the opposite direction and find easy ways to spend less.

It has taken courage (and patience, tolerance and more than a little humour) to listen to well meaning people criticise my children's lunchboxes, or their hand-me-down clothes. It has taken courage to ignore the  abusive emails when I've suggested shopping around and haggling when buying big ticket items or threats to have my children taken into care because our lifestyle is abusive (it's not, they are perfectly healthy, happy and now thank goodness two of them are legal adults!). 

Over the last 16 years I have learned that I can do things myself, I don't need to always buy what we need or want.  Perhaps that has taken courage. I rather think though that it has just taken persistence and continual movement in the opposite direction.

1 comment:

  1. Cath, love this article. I have your book and have seen many references to "when disaster struck" - is there a story written anywhere that describes the disaster and tells the story? Thanks


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