Austerity

I was reading the news a few days ago, and besides struggling to find news articles devoid of the terms bungling, incompetent, shambles and misconduct, the one thing that struck me (and have in previous years), was the use of the word ‘austerity’.

It’s become the latest buzzword for the papers and politicians to use. Like dot-com, sub-prime mortgage, double dip and financial chaos. In reality, it means cuts. Cuts to the budget, welfare, NHS, defence; you name it, it will be cut. With the exception of politicians’ salaries and benefits, and of course the breaks given to the super rich of society.

But I digress. In light of the austerity drive, the wife and I decided to adopt a more ‘frugal’ way of living. The ‘theory’ of living this way goes like this:

  • We can’t buy anything new, unless it’s absolutely necessary (for the definition of absolutely necessary, see below).
  • We can’t buy anything to replace something, unless it’s beyond repair.
  • No unnecessary outings or holidays, unless it’s to spend time as a family.

Something is deemed to be absolutely necessary if we’d die without it, e.g. food and shelter, and even then, it’s only to buy things that we absolutely need, i.e. no champagne or truffles. Or if it’s essential for safety, e.g. if the car’s brakes need changing. Or if something broke and we can’t get it fixed, (e.g. if a jumper was holed beyond repair). Or if Sophie grows out of her clothes, and there are no hand me downs.

The idea was actually suggested by an American family, who realised that they were spending more and more time in shopping malls chasing the latest fashion trends and/or the latest gadgets, and spending more and more money, and spending less and less time as a family.

So they came up with the idea of not buying anything that they didn’t need. Clothes, gadgets, indulgences were all out. They learnt to sew, darn holes in their clothes, fix broken stuff, spend quiet time together; all unheard of in this increasingly temporary lifestyle.

What they found was, besides saving more, they’re spending more time together as a family. Weekends were spent as a family either at home or in other enriching activities. Their children would find very creative ways to make use of old stuff, for example their teenage (yes, you read that right!) daughter converted one of her grandmother’s skirts into a miniskirt instead of going out and buying one.

They tried that for a year and after the year was up, they decided that they liked their ‘new’ way of life and continued living that way.

Can we do it? Well, we’re trying to. The wife is mending holes in her jumper and I have holey socks. We haven’t bought something new for ourselves for many moons. Are we worse off? Nope. I admit that we we’re as disciplined as the American family. We do go out for meals and we do indulge in some treats sometimes but we’re trying. Hopefully it will bring us closer as a family. 🙂

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