People who live in big houses have problems too. This is what I tell myself every time I start to feel cooped-up in this little 700-square foot house the 4 of us share. Sometimes we need to be reminded why we live the way we do and sometimes it’s good to remind others that quality of living doesn’t have to be compromised when we make a decision to reduce spending.
I have often been asked, “How do you live in such a small house?” But then I tell them what my mortgage is every month and the look of shock on their face usually makes me feel a whole lot better. I know they are considering their own mortgage versus mine and maybe even wondering to themselves if it might not be worth it after all. Other people are content to live in debt up to their eyeballs in order to have the things they have. Personally, I enjoy living without all that stress.
I think most Americans are trained to want the big house, big car, big boat, etc. and so when they find themselves struggling to pay the bills they are confused because really, this way of life has become so ingrained in our culture that we don’t know any different. It’s necessary to take a step back every now and then and really evaluate what is a need and a want, to evaluate frugality, our commitment to our health and well-being and our stewardship of the land. If we need a little reminder (or the education in the first place), we can turn to books. One of the more recent books I’ve read on this subject is The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better By Chris Farrell.
According to Farrell, being green and being frugal are synonymous. I couldn’t agree more. Farrell encourages us to make choices based on what is affordable and sustainable. For example, my husband and I reduce our use of the car significantly during the Spring, Summer and Autumn months. We tote ourselves and kids around on bikes using a bike trailer. It made sense for us to shop for a bike trailer that was inexpensive yet safe and durable. Taking the time to research the right choice rather than jump in the car and run downtown to buy the biggest, fastest, flashiest model falls in line with Farrell’s ideology that frugality should also be sustainable. The item purchased needs to be inexpensive, yes but it also needs to last. Otherwise, what’s preventing us from having to go down and buy a new one when the cheap one falls apart after one summer of heavy use? Having to buy two cheap ones in two years costs more than buying one durable one in the long-term and is better for the environment because there is less manufacturing and shipping involved. Has anybody else ever wondered if certain companies make their products flimsy and crappy on purpose so that we HAVE to buy more?
Here’s a little secret that a lot of people don’t know. Once you get used to living frugally, the smallest things then become “big deals” and happiness comes easier. This is where the Live Better part of the title comes in. Think of a child who gets ice cream everyday. After a while, is the ice cream a treat or is it just routine? What then needs to be done to give that child a treat, to bring happiness? A banana split? Triple-decker cone? When does it become enough? By limiting some of the things that were once considered “special” (a time before people just busted out the credit card out of habit), we are able to allow ourselves that happiness in a more frugal way and the stress is gone. It may sound difficult at first, but by adopting the new frugality mentality you can really improve your quality of life. Reading Farrell’s book is extremely motivating. After reading it, I want to see how much I can save and challenge myself to be as frugal as possible.
The book does have useful information for people from various economic classes but the majority of advice seems to be directed to those in the upper classes. I do not fit into those classes but it doesn’t mean I can’t learn from the same book. It is a little frustrating to read that an ideal savings would be the amount one would need for an entire year’s living expenses. I can’t even fathom saving up that kind of money, and if I could I would probably consider moving someplace warm and third world but I guess it is an ideal I should strive for someday.
Really this book is for anyone just starting out that knows nothing about finances or for the person with a larger net worth but who knows nothing about living frugally and wants to start. For people who have been living green and managing their own finances (people who understand what a Roth IRA is) for years now, it might not be the right book. I only say this because I let my dad read this book and he fits the latter profile and said as much to me in a quick paragraph.
Who this book would be perfect for:
-People like my brother who make a fairly good chunk of change but have no clue what to do with it and have never thought much about sustainability.
-People like my husband and I who need a reminder every now and then why we need to keep saving and keep living green.
-People like the folks down the street who are newly retired and thinking about becoming more green but want a little more motivation, resources and information.
-People that I work with whom have enough money they can consider paying for their kids’ college with cash, charitable gift annuities, make major investments, etc.
It’s a pretty wide cross-section.
Perhaps my favorite section of the book is the one titled, “Investing in Yourself”. Farrell writes, “Our most important investment is in our education and career, skills and knowledge- what economists call human capital.” He goes on to explain that we are only worth as much as we are able to create, produce or otherwise bring to the market. He emphasizes with a quote from Fischer Black, “A raw human being has about as much economic value as an uncultivated piece of land in the wilderness.” This isn’t depressing to me, it’s motivational!
I am giving away one copy of this book.
In his book, Farrell mentions the benefits of renting over owning in today’s market. For example, when one rents, it is much easier for one to “pick up and move” in order to chase after a particular job.
In order to win, please leave a comment below answering the following question:
Do you believe it is better to rent a home than to own in today’s economy?
You can enter more than once by tweeting this giveaway (please let me know you did so in a separate comment below).
Winner will be chosen via Random.org. The book will be mailed to you from the publisher, however the review here is the sole opinion of mine and was not influenced in any way by the publisher. They simply allowed me to read and review the book and have agreed to provide one copy to a lucky winner at my request. The contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. The contest will close at Midnight on March 10th. I will contact the winner and announce it here.
UPDATE: Congratulations to Devona, winner of this giveaway!