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 🙂
I was musing yesterday about frugality being much more joyful when it is a choice than when it is imposed to you by lack of income and straight up poverty. When you lack money, the first thing you want to do when you get some, is “treat yourself”, and spend it.
I derive very little pleasure from spending money. I like to eat out once in a while, and I travel a fair bit, but the reward is in the experience lived and not the amount spent.
I know a bunch of people who hate quarantine because they can’t go shopping. In the boot Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, the author follows a lady on food stamps who spends most of her stamps on the first day on lobster and crab legs, then goes hungry for the rest of the month.
At the other end of the spectrum, I have the privilege of frugality. And that privilege extends far beyond it being imposed or not. Most of these struggling people have zero or little network around them. My network bring me so much value I can’t even put a number on it.
We have bought exactly one bag of dog food since I arrived around Thanksgiving with two Great Danes. The nice people at the USO, a charity for active duty military, gets bags that are damaged or returned from Costco, and gives them to us for free.
Usually, they even have other pantry items, baked goods near expiry, and random stuff from Lysol (got three sprays a week before lockdown!) to perfumes.
Because my husband works with them as part of his job and the staff likes him, they even call him to pickup food now that they’re closed to the public, and he brought SIX BAGS today, a $200+ value!
When I go to France, I buy a $500 or less flight, I stay for a couple of months, visiting friends and family around the country, often with extensions to Spain, the U.K. or Switzerland. A typical day is putting $20 of gas in my bike, buying a $10 bottle of wine for my next guests and a $20 bunch of groceries, and stay with them for a couple of nights until I move to the next visit. So that works to $25 a day on average.
My friends have nice houses, some have swimming pools in Provence, some have chalets in the Alps. My grandparents even have an empty apartment in Paris I can use for free. My uncle has a house and a boat on a Mediterranean island he lends me.
Sometimes, my friends want to go out and I get the restaurant bill, but generally, we are happy to see each other and spend quality time grilling in their garden and hanging by the pool.
On a documentary I was watching yesterday, I saw a group of three broke friends rent a van for a week to sleep on parking lots by the beach, eat ramen and not enjoy much more than talking to girls on the beach, for $1,500 for the week.
That’s $500 per person, I spend half that thanks to my friends and family. Without getting a handout. I visit them in their residence, it’s not like they rent a holiday home and I come to mooch. But I have that privilege that helps my frugality a ton.
Your network may include parents who baby-sit your kids, or give you hand-me-downs from their bigger kids. A neighbor to split a Costco membership with. You don’t have to take from people to reap the benefits of privileged frugality.
While I have always been a saver and a hustler, I can’t deny that having the privilege of a strong network has helped me cut costs in ways that are not accessible to most.