I saw this image going around Facebook the entire week of Thanksgiving, and it struck a chord with me.
Courtesy of planetsmith.wordpress.com
I’ve been trying to live by this philosophy for quite a while. When Hubster was in grad school and I got pregnant with C/lost my job/dropped out of grad school, we ended up living below the federal poverty line for two years. I became somewhat of a wizard with our finances. We sold things that we didn’t need. We started grocery shopping at Aldi or buying only sale items at the bigger grocery stores. I learned how to coupon, and then how to coupon effectively by matching manufacturer coupons with store sales and incentives. We cut unnecessary expenses out of our lives. We bought each other a joint Christmas gift instead of numerous gifts, and we bought them on Black Friday so that we saved the maximum amount of money on them.
You know what? Those gifts are so much more meaningful to us. When we do splurge, it’s on something that we are truly excited about or would really make our lives easier. Saving $10 here and $20 there has allowed us to use our savings more effectively.
Once C came along, I wanted to make a point of keeping his toy collection small. First of all, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment. There simply wasn’t space. Now that we’ve moved, our apartment is three times bigger, but the principle is still the same. He doesn’t need a lot of toys. Too many toys, and, to me, a child just seems overwhelmed. How can one possibly play with hundreds of toys? It’s great if there’s a basement to store some of them and switch them out regularly; but we simply don’t have that option. I’d rather spend our money on other things that will actually be used; and I’d rather our loved ones spend their money on more important things as well. Material gifts are lovely, but in my opinion it’s even more wonderful to give a handmade gift, an experience (i.e. a zoo membership, a museum membership) or money for a child’s practical needs (i.e. clothing, shoes) or college fund.
Defining necessity is about more than just gifts. Less than a month ago, Hubster and I were still seriously considering selling our economy-size car and purchasing a mini van. The thought of spending that much money scared me, and the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that we could get by with our little car. It will be a tight fit with a family of four, we won’t be able to haul much stuff, and we won’t be able to carry any other passengers with us; but we can make it work. We don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a car, significantly less gas milage, and higher cost of insurance. It’s not a necessity right now.
Defining necessity has made me value what we do have even more. It has allowed me to shift my focus from material things to investing in time with loved ones. It’s released me from the “shackles” of the buy, buy, buy philosophy of the holidays and helped me to put my attention on making good memories instead.
This lifestyle isn’t for everyone. It does force you to make some unpopular decisions, not go out as much, and simply not have as much. You have to say “no” sometimes – to yourself, to your kid(s), to your spouse. You sometimes need to gently remind each other to evaluate a “want” versus a “need.” But for us, it’s going to allow us to recover our savings after a financial hardship, pay off our student loans years earlier, and allow me to stay home with our children. It’s a trade-off that I’m happy to make.