Three years ago, soon after our son Bob was born, my husband and I made the decision that I would stay-at-home with the new guy and that we would do the necessary downsizing to accommodate living on one income. We saved a lot by making the move from our cute place in the nice neighborhood by the beach, to the cheaper place in the sorta sketchy neighborhood between the Sikh ashram and the duplex of ill repute. Later we made another move to the even cheaper place in the pretty trees neighborhood with the great public schools. The work to make that cheaper/nicer/school-ier wish-list a reality was a job in itself and took the better part of last year.
We have also made a number of little changes along the way. There was a subtle but substantial shift from moderate DINK-hood (Double Income No Kids) to SITPD-ness (Sweating It 'Til Pay Day). Goodbye Banana Republic/Pottery Barn/Whole Foods. Hello Old Navy/Target/Trader Joe's. Again, these were small adjustments but they did add up to savings. We are fortunate. These domestic and lifestyle tweaks were not hardships. Making some moves to clear the debt side of our balance sheet, build for the future (Home Buying/College/Retirement) and save for the possible (Lay Off/Unemployment/Uh Oh) is common sense, but not extreme behavior.
“Extreme Frugality” is writer W. Hodding Carter’s weekly series on gourmet.com. The Carters, like the rest of us, are feeling the nastiness of the economy. They have made the decision to change their family lifestyle to reflect their new financial actuality. For them, living within their means will be a new and “extreme” experience. Because this column is for gourmet.com, much of the talk is, understandably, about food.
Mr. Carter is a self-described former spend thrift and this exploration into affordability is all new for him. He experiments with some old-school ideas that I can get behind like gardening and sale-only purchasing. There are some moves that are just icky, like dumpster foraging and fresh road kill bbq. So far, I have resisted the urge to send him a Costco sized palette of ramen.
Following these folks has gotten me thinking about frugality and our own habits and what our family might consider "extreme". Financial guru Suze Orman suggests that during this crazy-nuts financial time, we should all be living off half of our income and banking the rest for the storm. We are not saving at that rate. Now that our previous cut backs are just part of the regular routine, I believe I have become somewhat complacent. Time to switch it up a little and look for new ways to save. I am also feeling grateful that roadkill bbq does not have to become a part of our culinary repertoire... yet.