Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Joys of Underspending

One of the good things about being a minimalist these days is it's pretty trendy.  OK, there are still plenty of people who think you're weird for not wanting to own much stuff, or 'going without' (in their opinion) but at least more people realise now that it's actually quite a good idea to try and avoid getting into masses of debt, or at least try and be a bit smarter about a) stretching your dollars and b) trying to hang on to them as well.  Lord only knows what people would have thought even a decade ago of a couple who chose to get rid of all their possessions and opt for a van over a house!  In the earlier days of Simple Savings, it was a real struggle to get the media to take us seriously, or think of us in any way but odd.  They just did not understand why on earth anyone would want to go out of their way NOT to spend.  I mean, why would you choose to make your life harder by making your own cleaning products instead of spending ten times as much on a bottle of Easy Off Bam?  Why would you waste 15 minutes of your time making your own lunchbox snacks at home when you could spend twice as long getting in your car, driving to the supermarket and queuing up at the counter to buy a packet of muesli bars?

We have the media to thank for making us write the $21 Challenge book!

Nothing used to annoy me more than taking the time to explain the benefits of simple living to what sounded like an understanding journalist, only to read it described as 'quirky' or ' quaint' in print a few days later.  On occasion, Simple Savings, with its thousands of followers was even likened by some reporters to a religion, or cult!  On the positive side, if it hadn't been for this innacurate portrayal, the $21 Challenge book would quite probably never have come about; such were the lengths we had to go to in order to dispel the myths created by the media swirl and ensure people 'got it', rather than completely missing the point of what we were trying to do, which was simply to help people!

Fast forward ten years or so and these days people are clamouring to learn how they can get themselves out of the financial poo.  You're not considered weird any more if you want to save money;  in fact you're daft if you don't.  Better yet, it doesn't matter any more how you do it either, as long as you do.  People are achieving amazing things with, and on, very little and celebrities like George Clarke are opening everyone's eyes to the fact that tiny houses are a very cool idea.  Not only that, the concept of only living with the stuff you really need is actually quite sensible.  You don't even need to be a hippy or a hermit to live in one!  Who would have thunk it?

Yes, the frugal lifestyle is becoming more and more acceptable.  So I was really quite miffed to see an article a few days ago called 'Excessive frugality can be as bad as over-spending'.  In fact it really got my back up, enough to drop my friend Rob Stock at Stuff a line.  As it turns out, the headline was a little misleading.  Rob explained that a lot of financial advisors, which the author Liz Koh is one of, have aged clients who are so worried about running out of money that they go through life without ever living a little.  As a result they literally have millions of dollars stashed away, without having a hope in heck of being able to spend even a tiny part of it before they leave this earth.  OK, so that I get!  But the headline was a tad misleading to say the least, and instantly transported me back a decade to when I felt I constantly had to justify the way I lived.

My cleaning cupboard and medical cabinet are one and the same!

These days I no longer have to do that; and I'm comfortable enough within myself that I wouldn't care anyway.   But if nothing else, that article made me grateful all over again for being the way I am, and knowing the stuff I know.  Without Simple Savings I'm not sure I would be doing what I'm doing now as I doubt I would have had the confidence, let alone the knowledge.  Being a Simple Saver in a van is just the same as being one in a house, even more so I guess and the article made me think of all the things I enjoy about it.  I still make all my cleaning products rather than buy them; you can take care of most jobs with a bottle of tea tree, or eucalyptus, or lavender essential oil and they're what we use most when it comes to first aid too!  For some reason I really enjoy washing laundry by hand (except on frosty mornings, holy bejaysus I can't feel my hands!) and I really love not being reliant on power. I would love to know what our power bill would be now, if we lived in a house and were charged for our current next-to-no-usage!  I love the fact that even though we live in a van we still walk everywhere as much as possible, even if it means walking several kilometres to the supermarket and coming back with both of us carrying heaving backpacks and still more in our hands.  I love not being tempted or ripped off by advertising; mainly because I don't see it but even if I did, I wouldn't be swayed anyway.  Besides, you can't be going and buying too much stuff when your whole house is only a few metres long!

Whilst I think you can become frugal overnight if you really have the mindset and the drive, I think it takes longer than that to work towards being a minimalist.  Before we left the house, I had been whittling down our possessions gradually for two or three years.  OK, so I had no idea back then that I was going to wind up living in a van, but I just couldn't bear having things around me which I didn't need - especially if not having them around was also going to make me a bob or two.  The clothes dryer was the first thing to go (much to Liam's disgust when he came home for his first uni holidays and realised he had to wait for his clothes to dry overnight!)  After that was the TV and then bit by bit all other non-essentials followed.  By the time the house went on the market, it was already pretty much just a shell!  Hence the transition into van life was incredibly easy for both of us.  The only thing I was sad to pack away were family photos, but even they seem so out of date now, the boys have grown so much since any of them were taken.  I'd rather have one photo I can carry with me of the young men they are now than a wall full of images of the kids they no longer are.

If some of you are reading this and have started following our travels within the past year, you may well be thinking 'Simple Savings?  Who or what the heck is that?!' It's an Australian-based website which teaches people to save money on pretty much everything you can possibly think of.  I consider myself extremely lucky to be a part of it and wouldn't be where I am without it, in many ways.  As a result, I'm rather passionate about it and its philosophy, as you can no doubt tell!

Ohh roast beef, where have you been these past seven months!!

We're still camping out in the kitchen and have got used to it now.  Bevin insisted that we should leave the van as long to air out as possible in the hope of getting rid of all traces of paint fumes before we move back in, so will most likely be here until the end of the week.  It actually really shocked me how daunting and upsetting I found it, adjusting to a bigger space but I'm growing accustomed to it.  Even so, if I lived in a room no bigger than this for the rest of my life it would be quite big enough now, thank you!  It's a bit like being on school camp, it's quite fun!  One definite 'highlight' was at the weekend when we cooked ourselves a full roast dinner using one of our three current ovens.  Oh my goodness, after so many months not having one it was absolute heaven.  I have a feeling we will quite probably treat ourselves to another before moving back into the van!

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