The time has come to live simply--and I mean really, really simply--or to go back to working full time.
This is not as easy a choice as it may sound, which surprises even me. At one time I was such a proponent of simple living, but since then we have tasted the worldly pleasures of free spending. This is obvious because now we're tasting the worldly consequences of the burden of debt.
Once upon a time, we lived simply and paid off all of our debt, even the car. We had a sack of money saved and we were living comfortably beneath our means. But spending is an addiction like anything else and it crept back up on us, and now we're in the position of needing to work to pay for things that we have already enjoyed. This sucks.
Since I left my full time job in January, we've been employing various means to stay afloat, and have cut way back on our spending habits. But now we're out of the usual assortment of funding backups, and we still need to cut some more.
Honestly, my first reaction was to submit to the cultural demands of work-to-spend. I announced to my ever-surprising husband that I was just going to have to go back to full time, and he said, no way. He reminded me that we know how to simplify, and that the time has come.
What does this mean to us? The same thing it means to anyone: making choices. It's not the big things that do us in; it's the ten bucks here and fifty bucks there. We know how to make our coffee at home, travel cheap, have picnics instead of dinners out, and stay clear of department stores with delectable sales racks. To change these little money-mice is not to sacrifice, really; it's just to adjust our habits.
For a while there, our finances were booming. I know just how wonderful it feels to throw whatever I want into whatever cart wherever I am. Some people feel rich by saving; I feel rich by spending, and I don't think I'm alone in that. However, this feeling was a hollow, ephemeral lie. Now the truth is staring me in the face.
If I went back to full time I'd have lots of money for lots of things, and I would be stressed out and too exhausted to enjoy it, so to make myself feel better, I'd have to go out and spend some more. This is the aim of consumer culture.
On the other hand, I love my part-time, flexible life with time for the kids, the house, the garden, the art, and myself. I love being able to be outside, do things on a whim, or have whole afternoons in which I do nothing at all. Even with less money, I'm living the good life.
This is the aim of simplicity, and today I am choosing it all over again.