Friday, April 23, 2010

Frugal Living and the American Dream

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."
Victor Frankl

This quote seems to be true in many cases. Especially when you take a closer look at our economic situation. Somehow, I don't know how or when, the general lifestyle in the US seems to change. Last year I heard of people staring to swap cloth and re- or up-cycle things. In my opinion, the fascinating aspect of this is not that there are people doing so, they probably did so for a long time, but that it's kind of en Vogue. The media reported about it, even here in Europe. From European perspective it was like "oh my god" what happened to them?
To be honest I guess some people have to cut back and maybe the attitude changes a little bit but great changes need more than just some weeks and an event which was shocking but buffered by the government.
The upside of all this is that living frugally is a topic which is discussed publicly and isn't considered to be odd or a stigma.

I prepared a small series of post because I was fascinated of the topic and I wanted to learn more, understand better, and of course think about my own attitude (as usually).

Before we had into the topic a brief explanation what living frugally means is necessary. Thanks to Wikipedia it's an easy task:
Frugality is the practice of acquiring gods and services in a restrained manner, and it's the practice of resourcefully using already owned economic goods and services to achieve a longer term goal.
As far as I figured out the long term goal often is getting out of a debt or to save some money for the future.
The aspect to acquire gods and services in a restrained manner is probably the bigger challenge then the second one. A part of our recognition is based on the fact what we can afford thus buying is deeply linked into our behavioral patterns. The question here is wether we build up our self esteem based on the stuff we own or on other aspects.
For those who need status symbols it might be difficult to cut back spendings.

The second aspect is basically to use up the stuff we own in an efficient manner. This part is easier if you are creative but being creative is a question of practice. If you aren't creative right now or if you are searching for inspiration you will find thousand ideas on different websites.

When I came across the topic for the first time it started thinking:
  • Is there something I'm spending to much on?  Yes
  • Can I cut back spending money in some areas without lowering my standard of living? Yes
  • Do I want to cut the edges? For some the answer is yes, for others it's a no.
  • Do I own stuff which could be used better?  Yes
  • Do I want to focus on using the stuff better?  Hmm, yes and no
Start to question yourself! If one of the questions is answered with a yes the following post might be interesting for you.

In the next post we will learn from the pro's. So if you think managing a family of seven is not possible with an average income of barley 26000 € per year, you will be surprised.