Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ashley Starts Budgeting | Struggling with Living Simply.

Here’s the bottom line: I’m pretty good with money, I’ve just never made much.

We don’t follow a strict budget – instead, we’ve casually kept an eye on our spending. We spend modestly on groceries, restaurants, and trips to Target each month and manage to save a smidgen here and there.

I’d like to We need to save drastic amount of money, so we will start paying closer attention to just where our money goes this year. Starting now. Using a very simple budgeting sheet, I’ve determined how much we can save a month and still have enough money left over to pay our bills and buy food, and enjoy a tiny bit of “fun” money. In coming posts, I’ll discuss the details of the plan and how things are going; but today, I’m struggling. I'm struggling with living simply and still not having enough saved. I'm struggling with living simply and comparing my life to others.

We share one (used, no car-payments) car, we don’t have a television or cable, we rent a modestly-priced duplex, and keep our heat at a brisk 65 degrees. I’ve only spent $50 on clothes in four months and we borrow movies from the library instead of going to the movie theater. Our cell phones are three years old (sans internet or texting) and I dye my hair from a box. We buy nearly no disposable paper or plastic products and bake our own bread. I think I say honestly that we live simply. We are frugal. We aren’t big, wild spenders.

Sure, we have our luxuries. Namely, going out to dinner once a week and our beloved Apple products (we both have Macs and iPods - mine’s refurbished). But, when I look around at others my age, I'm embarrassed to admit that I get jealous. I'm wearing hand-me-downs and they're wearing an adorable outfit from J. Crew. I'm using a cellphone that rivals Zach Morris' and they're on their iPhone. I'm cooking at home and they're eating out several times a week. I feel so utterly unpolished sometimes. My nails are ragged, my hair is in a messy bun, and my shoes are scuffed.

I went over to dinner at our neighbors last Friday, and their house literally looked like a Crate and Barrel catalog. I went back down to our duplex and glanced around, realizing that 90% of what we own was hand-me-downs. (The other 10% comes from Ikea, of course). I compared their gleaming dark wood dining room table, chairs, and hutch with our beaten-up chairs from Mike's old boss and mismatched tables from our grandparents. I compared their beautiful cream shaggy rug with our motley assortment of well-loved rugs. I compared their plump sage-colored couches with the (while gorgeous, quite) small one we got off of Craigslist.

He is a doctor. She is a marketing rep. Mike is a grad student. I am a campus minister. I cannot compare our lives. I know that we are choosing what makes us happy over what makes money, but sometimes it is difficult.

Sometimes, I want it all.

I will be back with more posts about how to save money, real numbers with how much we want to save, and just how difficult it is to say no to Thai food when you realllly want some. But today, I am struggling.


  1. Just found this posting, and felt compelled to comment. I've lived on both sides of the coin, literally. I lived in Silicon Valley during the height of the dotcom bubble doing a technology job and had that Crate and Barrel apartment, and found myself homeless a few short years later after the bubble burst. Even now, I'm back in technology making a good living, but am putting everything on the chopping block as I center my life more on graduate school (I'm in seminary). One again, I'm moving from the affluent to the simple life.

    I think most people consider being frugal to be a choice about money, and that saving money is just an expression of a desire to choose something other than what most people choose. The problem with that perspective is that it makes money the center of the universe. Everything you do is based on how you feel about money or what you've done with your money, and going into glitzy stores, catalog shopping, or even friends homes is the fastest way I know how to throw oneself off balance and feel robbed of contentment. And, no, you can't just say you feel grateful to God, the Universe, or whatever, and make those feelings go away if money and material goods are truly the center of your world. That's the problem with affluenza. There is no cure.

    Or is there? Given my life experiences with affluenza, I find that having more than I need makes me want more. Having what I need makes me feel content. My 3 bedroom house is gorgeous, but WAY too extravagant for a single woman with 2 cats. Not by the world's standards, but certainly by my spirit's standards. So I'm selling and moving into a one bedroom apartment. That process of downsizing, of prioritizing my needs, is forcing me to face the fact that there really is not a lot that I do need. A sturdy table and chair for meals and work or homework. Bookcases for my textbooks. Things to cook with. A spirit of adventure, of exploration into how I can live a smaller footprint life that keeps my focus on (for me) God.

    Just some thoughts to consider.

  2. I just found your blog--but am SO grateful to hear that someone goes through this stuff as well. Eric and I seem to have so many wealthy friends, but none of them struggle financially like we do. We live in a one-bedroom loft in someone's guesthouse, and we eat out about twice a month...and almost everything we own is second-hand...so yeah, i get jealous. Thank you so much for writing this.


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