Um, No, Hedonists Don’t Have to be Rich

| May 30, 2012 | 2 Comments

A friend emailed me today to say how much she was enjoying reading the blog posts, and to congratulate me on “doing so well you can afford this lifestyle.”  Reading those words, I took a long look around the room. Dog is snoring in the bean bag chair, my side table is a big black Rubbermaid® tub full of office supplies, and my coffee cup is from the animal rescue thrift store down the street, with a thin hairline crack where I once dropped it on my foot.

Photo by Peter Sapper

If it took wealth to enjoy a hedonistic lifestyle, I’d definitely be out of the loop. The HH* and I are neither rich nor destitute, just one of the zillions of families who float somewhere in between, and don’t bob anywhere close to the top 1%.

We afford the luxuries by identifying exactly what kinds of things truly make us happy (and what kinds just pretend to), and then make smart-but-simple decisions about money in order to have them.  It also helps that I detest giving my money to certain institutions so much that we’ve made a game out of playing keep-away from these bad actors. Just a few of the things we do:

  • I hate, hate, hate giving my money to the financial services industry. So we don’t carry balances on our credit cards, and so aren’t paying every month for the privilege of using a multinational bank’s money. It took a little doing, but there are dozens of programs out there for helping people pay off their debt in an intelligent way, and the sense of freedom when you do is exhilarating, like a drug rush.
  • We have two paid-off, reliable, well-maintained cars – not new, not leased, who cares about that? – and so aren’t paying hundreds in interest there either. See “I hate paying banks” above.
  • We don’t need the latest electronic gadgetry from Shenzhen unless it seriously adds quality of life – and most of them, frankly, just don’t.  (Hint: The thing had better give a great foot massage and make me stuffed french toast in the morning or I’m not buying it.) I see to it that telecom companies receive checks that are as small as I can possibly squeeze them, while still able to communicate easily with my friends and fam.
  • We rarely watch TV, so don’t bother to buy the top-of-the-line cable package, or anything close to it.  Thus, we don’t have the bill for said cable package hanging around our necks every month. We prefer hanging with friends, cooking, being outside, and roughly a million other things to sitting on our butts watching “Jersey Shore.” And with that extra $50-100.00 each month, I can almost guarantee we’re having a better time than those who are.
  • We do no-brainer energy-saving things around the house that save hundreds of dollars per year: Switching out lightbulbs, fixtures, and appliances for more energy-efficient ones, drying clothes on our whizzy clothesline, never running the washing machine with just two pairs of socks and your favorite shirt, etc.
  • We walk to as many places as we can, and bundle trips to stores, errands, etc. (yes, it means thinking ahead, but that doesn’t kill any brain cells) rather than firing up the car for a two minute run to the convenience store for a box of linguine, which becomes a five-dollar box of pasta.
  • And speaking of which, we NEVER buy food at jacked-up convenience store prices unless we’re, like, stuck on the interstate in the middle of Nebraska and are literally Donner-Party-starving.
  • Buying things in bulk has saved us mega-money – we’re fortunate to have the magnificent Golden Organics within striking distance, and so can load up on the best organic goodies like fresh local flours, cranberry beans, brown basmati rice, black quinoa, dried fruits, nuts, spices . . . all for a fraction per-pound of what those stupid little baggies in the grocery store cost you, and most of them from within 500 miles (you are always told the item’s source, so you can choose local as much as possible). And that adds up big time.
  • There are a thousand ways to save a little here, a little there, WITHOUT having to go without, or spend time on minutia.  The amazing book Your Money Or Your Life is still possibly the best guide to painlessly rearranging your spending so you have enough for what truly makes you happy.

All of these savings go into our hedonism fund instead.  We shift a few behaviors around here and there, and voila! We can live well and live right at the same time.

A lot of people don’t want to go to this trouble.  I’ve had people bend my ear for a half-hour on how much they think I’m a moron for doing this stuff, and then another half-hour whining about their debts and their marital fights about money.  But really, changing a habit here, a habit there hasn’t hurt.  It’s EASY, it isn’t a time burden, and it’s huge fun to find money that we can then spend on . . . anything that makes life feel fantastic. It means we can afford to go out and search for great meals, try out new sustainable  wines/beers/cheeses/whatever, take little day pilgrimages to support nifty places like Wit’s End Brewing, and all those other hedonist pleasures. Without having to perpetually be in debt, and without having the Occupy folk give us the stink eye.

So I suppose we are “doing well,” just not in the sense my friend meant.  The coffee cup? Thrift store special. But what’s in it?  Gorgeous little cafe au lait, just made from freshly-roasted and freshly-ground beans, the steam rising to form the perfect olfactory soundtrack for a chilly morning.

Now that’s livin’ the good life. Off to enjoy it.

*Hedonist Husband




Category: Energy Saving, Food, Money Saving, Products (Green and hedonistic), Uncategorized

Comments (2)

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  1. Annie says:

    “We afford the luxuries by identifying exactly what kinds of things truly make us happy (and what kinds just pretend to), and then make smart-but-simple decisions about money in order to have them. ”

    Yes and yes! We’ve made a choice to go through life in pretty much the same way and it’s definitely been the right choice for us. I prefer practical over trendy or fancy, am a saver not a spender, and go to thrift stores far more often than retail establishments. But we buy good fresh produce so we can cook meals we love, always have quality tea on hand, take the time to do things we enjoy, and challenge ourselves to say “yes” to new experiences that sound intriguing. Why? Because these things make us so much happier than accumulating stuff or keeping up with the Joneses. Life is good. 🙂

  2. Kelli says:

    Amen! Your Money or Your Life changed my life – and all for the better. Highly recommend. Make sure if you are picking it up for the first time to get the 2008 version.

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