Long time no blog! I am using this time of quarantine as a way to get reacquainted with the wonderful habit of journaling and blogging with a first person voice, keeping you and me entertained in the process. You may feel like you have missed a few episodes, or rather a whole season! I will try to catch up as we go. In the meanwhile, stay safe and wash your hands 🙂
During this quarantine, I have been watching more than my fair share of TV. I enjoy watching full length documentaries on YouTube, and favorites include House Hunters international, RV/alternative living stuff, and societal topics, like how people in different places make end meet or live day to day.
I was just watching a French one about a single mom of 3 who has $400 left each month after paying rent and utilities. Things are tight to say the least. She is filmed at the mall and her teenage daughter says she doesn’t even ask for new clothes anymore because she knows they can’t afford them.
Then the mother starts crying when she mentions having to go to Goodwill to dress her kid instead of buying her an $18 t-shirt. And I think to myself “I’m wearing thrift store things today! I wouldn’t pay $18 for a t-shirt.”.
But frugality, like fitness, eating healthy, or even having to stay home during this lockdown, feels like crap when it is imposed to you. Having no say in the matter is the worst. Every weekend, people just want to Netflix and chill. Now that we are ordered to do it for 8 weeks, we suddenly hate it.
And it is why this mother, as soon as she can afford it, will buy $18 t-shirts to her kids. A couple of sentences later, she tears up again saying her elder son used his scholarship money to buy his sister the required reading novels. Which I would have gotten at the library for $0.
I think the shame put on frugality, the fingers pointed at it being deprivation, end up writing the wrong kind of scripts in people’s mind.
All that mother wanted was for her daughter to be like the other kids. Who may just as well have frugal parents that get hand-me-downs and used books. But the image she creates has another narrative. She will feel poor, even with a higher salary, until she can buy everything full price.
Right now, I am wearing a free promotional t-shirt, $3 shorts from the Guatemalan thrift store that are ripped after a good 3 years of using them almost daily, but I still can’t find any that are half as comfortable, $8 underwear that I have 6 pairs of from MeUndie, super comfy and they dry fast so I have been rotating them for over 2 years, and $2 Guatemalan flip flops. A $2 headband and a $0 haircut courtesy of my husband.
$15 head to tow. And it is very liberating to have fewer things in the RV. One frugal choice we have, that most poor people don’t, is the budget to buy quality items that will last longer, and ironically, cost less than repeatedly buying cheaper options.
Remember Terry Pratchett’s passage on boots theory?
The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.
I have come to that conclusion with flip-flops. I always break them between the toes, on my left foot. I guess it’s pulling stronger, and the dogs also manage to step on it as I walk and the flip flop rips. I usually buy five pairs of the same $2 ones in Guatemala. I like the Ipanema brand that has a more ergonomic shape for the heel and toes, unlike the flat Hawaiianas. There is usually a $2 version at the market.
But in the U.S., I am looking at $15-25 for a pair of Ipanemas. So I went for $50 Olukai brand instead.
Like Rainbow and other higher end sandals, they are guaranteed (for a year in this case), and the materials are like walking on a cloud. They look a little more like sandals to wear with dress, and the sole is much sturdier for long walks. And they have that foot shape I like.
They were on sale on base at $24, and base purchases are tax free, so win win, but I was mentally prepared to drop $45+ on a lasting pair.
My husband was also looking and when he saw mine, dropped about $100 on two pairs! The men section didn’t have as good a sale, but they are $65+ on Amazon with 0 tax and everything, that was still pretty good.
Back to imposed frugality, all we have in our lives are choices. We can pick when we don’t want to pay full price for something, and we can pick when we want to pay twice as much as other people do on things that bring us value.
What is one item you enjoyed spending money on?