Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Learning to be Frugal

I've been thinking a lot lately about frugal living. Over the past few months I've read several interesting blogs about being self sufficient, eating healthy and inexpensive food, and making significant changes in life style in order to help others more.

As a result of this thinking and my continuing struggle to reduce clutter, I took on a challenge to reduce 30 things each day for Lent -- either giving away or throwing away 'stuff' we really didn't use or need. That has actually been going well, and hasn't been difficult at all. I probably ought to keep reducing until it becomes painful!

During this time I read this blog http://notquiteamishliving.com/2014/03/simple-lessons-from-mennonite-upbringing-shirley-hershey-showalter/ that talked about a popular book among the Mennonite community called Living More With Less by Doris Janzan Longacre. She has a very interesting explanation of frugality -- not necessarily living in a frugal manner because you have to, but because it's the right thing to do.

Not only can we cut our costs and donate the money to good causes, but she seems to indicate that it is almost sinful of us to live extravagantly, even if we can afford it, because there are so many around us who are unable to do so. She goes on to talk about the unseen costs of our extravagance -- the impact around the world because we use so many of the worlds resources and we, as a society, often support horrible labor policies in other countries. We take so many things for granted, and we ought to focus on what we need to live.

So, with all of these thoughts in my mind, I drove past a commuter parking lot in St. Charles. I drive past it probably 3 - 4 times per month, and frequently there is a man who lives there out of his car. He's been there for at least 3 years on and off. I've actually tried to deliver food and drinks to him once or twice, but those times he wasn't there.

I started thinking about how he lived and initially felt a bit sorry for him. But then I turned my thinking around a bit. What if someone CHOSE to live out of their car (not saying that he does). How much would one spend to live? What would I take with me if I all of a sudden had to start living out of my car? Does he use all the stuff he has with him, or does he, too, have more clutter than he needs? How much would one have to work to eat?

Now I know I would not like that lifestyle -- hot in the summer, cold in the winter, no regular place to shower or comfortable bed to sleep in. But how many people in the world live that way every day?

What could I learn from him, and others, about frugal living and what we REALLY need to live?

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