Since we started living on one income – in fact, well before that, when we started living as if we were living on one income, as a trial run! – we’ve been very focussed on being frugal, but at no point have we been as frugal as we could possibly be. We certainly wouldn’t claim to be spending the minimum that we could, as our choices often focus on other things.
What we are really aiming for is a simpler life. Trying to keep our needs simple, and meeting them in a simple way. Each choice we make may not be the most frugal option but it will be the one that most closely matches our philosophy and our physical capacity. We want things to be affordable but also low-impact, healthy, fun and low-maintenance if possible.
Sometimes saving time and energy feels like the priority. On Friday evening, as Lucy came out of the office to head home, she realised she had a flat bicycle tyre. A puncture repair session in the car park is easy enough on a light evening and she has done it many times before, but on this occasion tiredness and a need to just get home were the priority, so she took off the wheel, locked up the bicycle and took the wheel home on the bus:
It felt a bit of a cheat to spend money on a bus fare when she could have just fixed it straight away and cycled home, but it was the right thing to do this time. And, it gave her some time (on the bus) to think of a couple of ways to stop this happening in the future, such as keeping an entire spare wheel at work, or just checking the tyres at lunchtime so that any flat tyre isn’t discovered at the very last minute when wanting to get home. (The wheel is now ready to be put back on tomorrow with a nice new inner tube inside).
Brian has been starting a few long term strategies for managing his back pain, doing a series of strengthening exercises several times a day and structuring each day to allow plenty of time to rest between tasks. We need to think about the physical impacts when making choices too. One situation where the most frugal option carries a significant physical burden is the way we heat our home: cutting, chopping and stacking firewood and moving wood and coal, in cold weather, not to mention actually making and maintaining the fire each night. In future years we’ll have less open fires and treat them as special occasions. We will be spending more money on electricity as a result, but less on coal, and reducing the physical demands.
So like everyone we are trying to make the best choices in each situation, finding the options that tick the most boxes, and making compromises. The goal is not to spend the minimum amount possible, because we are incredibly lucky that we do not have to go that far. We’re trying to find a balance that suits us but that still does as little harm as possible to others, and that enables us to enjoy our lives every day.