The Lessons of Less

I have found myself in reduced circumstances pretty chronically for the past 5 years - probably more. I am sure that I share this fate with many people, but, in spite of knowing this, my predicament has seemed like a very private and shameful hell. At least it did, until I became real about it. More people than not live less-than-prosperously, whether because the economy did them in, or because they chose a less fruitful, if more emotionally fulfilling, path to life. I can count myself in this camp, since I decided to pursue art and creativity as a focal point of my attention for many years.
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I do not believe that wealth and material abundance are the sine qua non to a good existence, and I don't believe that anyone, deep in their hearts, does either. But everybody pretty much chooses to buy into the b.s., and makes their life goal the acquisition of more, or the upholding of a certain elevated standard of living. By buying into the B.S., we perpetuate a cultural situation where we ignore and underplay all the multifaceted things that bring value to life - a value immeasurable with cash, and not easily exchanged. By underplaying the inherent value of certain things, choices, and opportunities due to their bad conversion in the commodities framework, we castrate our sense of personal destiny, and harbour feelings of shame and inferiority if we fail to rake it in. This in America approaches a cultural disease - which, according to some, translates to physical sickness as well.

Back to my circumstance: I have pursued creativity and personal interest above material acquisition, above having a job. Though I freelance and aggressively pursue financial opportunities (such as writing these essays and things), I spent 80% of my time in pursuits which bring no direct cash conversion, and am reasonably happy. This, summed to my failures in the self-promotional department, have led me to inhabit a place of poverty for many years. By choosing to not buy into the cultural disease, I see my situation as a challenge, and as an inevitable consequence of the life I have lived for many years, and of my actual values.

I have felt values emerge as a direct response to tough circumstances: I am thrifty, non-materialistic, and refuse to take anything at face value. I am ingenious, through choosing to implement solutions through materials and resources I may already have. I don't feel entitled to anything, and am generous when I have something to be generous with. I have learned to really crystallize my own morals, and prioritize my goals, since limited resources force such discipline. And, discipline-wise, I have learned to do without - a lot. Do you know how empowering it is to be just fine when not being able to buy something that to most people - and to yourself at one point - seemed indispensable to existence itself?

Most of all, I have compassion and open-mindedness towards all people and treat all folks equally, and I condemn the shallow hateful attitudes I see - even right here in Madison County NC - that most folk who consider themselves 'open-minded' employ, when confronted with someone 'less than'. This might not mean much to anyone save Jesus Christ, but it means a lot to me.

For anyone who's read this far, I invite you to view your circumstances - no matter how bleak or mediocre they seem - as a gift, and a classroom for important life lessons. And please try to view all of life in all its marvelous entirety, as opposed to through the tired-old one-dimensional prism of 'profit margin' or 'cash value'. You may be surprised as to what you find.

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November 12, 20120 found this helpful

I enjoyed reading your article! I wish more people had your values!

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November 12, 20120 found this helpful

Hmm, a thought provoking article. Well written. It has come to me at a time in my life when not just my frugal living, my thoughts, my actions and my relationship with my husband are the mainstay of my life but also the realisation that I could do more, a lot more but the next step would be where? This article is making me dig deep into my whole life and where I go from here. It will be another journey to take. Thanks

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March 25, 20130 found this helpful

Interesting article I shall share this website in my think-piece that I post regularly on Baton Rouge CL ride-shares it is the largest ad on that spot. I have had people thank me for posting. I figure the people that are the poorest will be seeking transportation hence my placement of the ad there. These are the very people that need the insights of being frugal I have worked where people don't manage their life properly and it is not a pretty sight when work slows even when we work plenty they blow through their money and never prep for the lean times.

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Learning to cook food with the sun is something that should occur more for less than $5 a bag of potatoes can be prepared for solar cooking this food can feed your family for the week one cooking session kept in the fridge afterward. I see too many people burn through their cash because they just don't make very simple preps to get through their week. I always keep extra pizza ready to go in my freezer.

In the fridge I keep an already cooked pot of rice, I can nuke it and have a pot of beans on the stove in no time. I also enjoy cooking using my pressure cooker that too is an incredible time saver that produces some tasty meals. One of the best money saving tips is to always have a clean insulated set of cups in your car. You can go into a C store get 44oz of ice return to the car and pour some into the other cups and pour your favorite beverage from a 2 liter you already purchased at a discount store.

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Just that tip alone can save you thousands. 3 people go into a C store each buy their beverage that single trip can cost you $5 per purchase. You are on the road you can do this 3 times a day $15 over time this adds up. You can save even more if you leave the house with your cup already full of ice.

Taking a trip ask yourself what you will use on that trip what of this can I buy at the club store that will cost less. So what if you have extra you have extra there will be people you can give it to the point is you need to save money.

One of the biggest saving devices I own is one of the largest wealth wounds people have their car. Prius can get you 45 mpg not even trying in summer it is more like 42 with AC but worth it. I have done math on this some people will save $50K just with vehicle selection if they swap their sports car for a prius. Prius vs mustang you will save $16.5K in fuel every 100K miles using the prius and the car does pretty much the same thing it will transport you and your family in heavily congested traffic the exactly same speed as the guy in front you.

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We leave on a long trip we will make all the sandwiches we have bread and meat for. If we don't eat them I know I can hand them to a homeless person collecting cans that is not flying a sign.

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June 23, 20130 found this helpful

This is a wonderful article. I have sadly come to your same conclusion after many years of thinking that acquiring lots of material stuff would make me happy. I used to clean houses many years ago. I would clean all these huge houses knowing I would never have such a place for myself. Then I began acquiring stuff thinking if I couldn't have such a place, I could have more stuff than they did.

It was only after getting into debt that I realized that the people who owned these houses didn't have much stuff. Just a big house, and it caused me to rethink my thought process. Having lots of stuff doesn't mean anything other than having lots of stuff which clutters up your universe. I am opting into the simpler form of living where space is king and not having stuff means you have your life back. I can actually feel myself getting lighter with everything I let go of. Thank you for this article, it is very helpful to me.

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June 23, 20130 found this helpful

Hi ya. We can talk about the thinking part of it and how ads pull our hearts the wrong way but we all need something to keep us from falling down and letting go. So revaluate who you are and how you are going to live but big words do not make it better.

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Let us think about always getting up for our life and be glad you are alive and do your best not the TV or multi media. and talk to the children early. It is just like drugs and sex talks. It all matters and you have to prep them for life.

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June 23, 20131 found this helpful

I am all for using the arts & creativity however we don't always strictly get to do what we want to do. Everyone has the responsibility to take care of themselves & their families. I think as long as you can provide the necessary health & car insurance food and utilities then you have choices. It is not right for people to depend on welfare, Medicaid for insurance in order to pursue their artistic talents.

I love to quilt and sew however I do not have as much time to do this as I have a job. There is nothing wrong with being poor or choosing to have a frugal lifestyle but you do have to have the means to take care of the necessary things so working folks do not have to pay for your care. I am frugal and I grew up poor but we always had our necessities & did not depend on government help.

It amazes me how people will go to the doctor get free meds hospital care food stamps wic and act like they are entitled to it or that it is free. There is so much fraud and I don't know how we will ever get it fixed. I am not speaking about you I am just venting a bit. My 13 year old grandson is a fantastic artist with no training and yet I try to teach him if you can make a living with it it would be great however you need to go to college and have a back up plan to pay for the responsibilities.

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October 20, 20141 found this helpful

I wholeheartedly agree with C. Crowdis as she stated: "I am all for using the arts & creativity however we don't always strictly get to do what we want to do. Everyone has the responsibility to take care of themselves & their families. I think as long as you can provide the necessary health & car insurance food and utilities then you have choices. It is not right for people to depend on welfare, Medicaid for insurance in order to pursue their artistic talents."

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June 18, 20181 found this helpful

It is always in our best interest to live within our incomes but to call people diseased who spend that income the way they please is not compassionate. Telling people how they should spend their hard earned money is judgemental. As long as people live within their income and are not a burden on society it is no ones business how they spend.

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June 18, 20180 found this helpful

I certainly understand your point of view.

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June 18, 20180 found this helpful

I enjoyed reading ur article. My husband passed two years ago. He was sick with LB for 15 years. I used what we had put back for retirement, our savings because he was just 57 when e got sick. I had just finished cemo 3 months before he was diagnosed. I have so much debt because of his sickness and mind. Frugal is not the word I can use. I am so far down the ladder that after bills including utilities that sometimes I can't buy food. I am not complain am just trying to survive. Thank you for listening.

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