Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Unexamined Life

One of the best things about leaving the working world, which I discussed in my last post, is having the time and space to critically think about how we live. These days, with the economy so uncertain, a critical examination of our lives is crucial.

I guess I must drive my husband crazy with my musings about things. For instance, lately here when he says he enjoys an activity or something I've cooked, I ask him why. There's a method to my madness. In these days of scarce resources, I want to critically consider why I do what I do and what things bring joy and contentment for what reasons.

Because we are on a tighter budget, we're doing a lot fewer things that I used to think I really liked to do. Yet my contentment level is much higher. The Bible talks about being content with what you have. "Godliness with contentment is great gain," the Pauline Epistles say. I only say Pauline Epistles cause it sounds so smart and because I'm too lazy to look up where in the New Testament Paul said that.

I've finally figured out that the reason we were running here and there, eating out all the time and buying things we didn't really need was because of tension. The house was disorganized, my job brought enormous tension into our lives and instead of facing that, we escaped from it.

Nearly a year after quitting my work outside the home, our house is well-organized. I don't over-buy groceries because I forgot we had stewed tomatoes or couldn't see them. I only buy extra now when things are on sale at a great price. I store them in the deep freeze or in the basement. I don't go out and buy new clothes, I use what I have and get creative with accessories. I don't misplace bills and then stress out about whether they got paid on time.

We don't go out to dinner all the time because I plan our meals. I have time to cook them now. Our meals are far lower in fat and empty carbohydrates. I can include all the vegetables we like and the Food Pyramid encourages.

I set our dining room table with beautiful china I've been given or inherited. Why use the every day stuff all the time? I have time to wash it by hand. We put on music. Our meal times are relaxing and we want to eat at home.

We used to eat at IHOP on the weekends. Was that because I love IHOP particularly? No. I like the luxury of having someone else make breakfast. I'm not a great breakfast cooker. I actually disliked part of going to IHOP. I hate tea with microwaved hot water. I actually found out why from Martha Stewart. Microwaved water isn't aerated with oxygen like boiled water. How freakin' picky am I? I like Earl Gray tea, I like half and half, and I want a certain sized cup.

What do we do now? On Saturday and Sunday, Bruce cooks breakfast. He has a very limited cooking repertoire, but he is the King of the perfect egg sandwich on whole-grain bread. He also knows how to make my tea perfectly. He slices the oranges thinly, lets me sleep in, and brings it all to me in bed. We snuggle with the dogs and watch the morning news. No cigarette smoke blowing over from the smoking section. No noise and cussing from the kitchen. Well, usually. Total cost at home: fairly negligible, because we often make the bread. Total cost per weekend in the old days at IHOP? About $40.

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. The unexamined life is also expensive.

I spend money on some things that true frugal zealots would cringe at. I go to Starbucks and I enjoy it. However, I've considered why I enjoy it. I love the music, the decor, the quiet, the smell, the comfy chairs. I really dig their vente, three-equal, sugar-free vanilla lattes. I know I can make coffee much more cheaply at home, but I don't like it nearly as well. I love to do my Bible studies there without thinking that I should get the clothes out of the washer and hang them Bruce and I like to meet there as he exits the tunnel coming home from work and have a little date.
I make Starbucks fit into our budget because it is a lot of luxury for me at a minimal cost. There is a bang for my buck. Having critically considered that, I also charged up a Starbucks card that gave me a discount on each latte. Starbucks then introduced a premium card with an annual fee. I got one of their promotional cards for this plan free for a year because I am pleasant to the staff and they used their promotion dollars on me. Now I get my drinks even cheaper.

Our family knows that we adore Starbucks and so we get gift cards. We organized all our drawers, cleaned out our wallets and found gift cards we hadn't used. We inquired and found out we could transfer them all onto the current card. I haven't actually paid for a Starbucks coffee for quite a while.

Not everyone reading my blog likes Starbucks or even has one nearby, but once you determine what things are really important to you and why, you can do the same thing with your particular guilty pleasure. It is my opinion that nearly everything which is critically examined can somehow be done more cheaply.

This weekend Bruce and I spent a grand total of $3. On Friday, I made a fabulous roast chicken with an infuser a dear friend loaned me. This item makes the chicken "stand up" in the oven and all the grease runs off. I filled the infuser with wine, garlic and rosemary and nearly swooned when we tasted it. I hear you can do the same thing with a beer can, so that's next. The chicken was on sale for 99 cents a pound. This was a lot cheaper and more tasty than the rotisserie chickens I used to get at Farm Fresh. It was much, much cheaper than the roast chicken at Baker's Crust.

We had movie madness night and rented three from the kiosk for $3: Memoirs of a Geisha, The Queen, and And Then She Found Me. I recommend each one. Bruce made popcorn on the stove top the old-fashioned way. Far cheaper than microwave and much tastier. We planned the luxury of some Coke Zero. It was special because we don't drink soda much at home these days.
I estimate that a dinner at Bakers would cost, with tip, maybe $60. The movie tickets would have been $20 for both of us, times three at $60. Add another $5 at least for popcorn and drinks. Never mind the gas. Never mind the parking charge at the garage. $3 is a lot less than $125.00. We spent less than 2% of what we used to with even more satisfaction. What a difference a year makes!

The unexamined life is not worth living. The examined life brings contentment. The choice is yours.

1 comment:

Ms. A said...

Isn't it funny how all these recent years society told us that the more we had and the more we could do, the happier we'd be?

It seems evident to me that the simpler we make things, the happier we can be. You are right!