The Secret to Living Below Your Means? Lowering Your Standards! - Live Like a Mensch
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The Secret to Living Below Your Means? Lowering Your Standards!


Picture of an automobile I could realistically imagine J trying to talk me into buying/restoring courtesy of the unfortunately-named Fornax.


It is full spring now, which means J and I have been hit with the home improvement bug. We have been planting some perennials in the garden, removing some of the ugly pavers left over from the previous owners' landscaping attempts, weeding and fencing in the strawberry patch in the hopes that we'll actually get to eat some of them this year rather than just having the happiest rabbits in the greater Lafayette area, painting the picnic table in our back yard, and pruning hedges. We've also got plans to paint the exterior of the house this summer and finally get to work on the downstairs bathroom, which has been on the back burner for about a year and a half.

I was mentioning all of this work to my mother when she suggested now might be a good time to fix the foot moulding in the upstairs hallway.

You see, back when we moved into our house in 2010, we pulled up the upstairs carpet and refinished the lovely hardwood floors underneath. Unfortunately, at some point in our home's history, the original foot mouldings were spirited away, possibly to make room for the world's ugliest Pepto Bismol pink carpeting which we gleefully ripped out. While the company that handled the floor refinishing could have easily made new floor moulding to match our gorgeous floors, it would have put us over the budget we'd set aside for it. So, we let it be.

Other than the time I dropped an earring that got lodged in the space between the floorboards and the wall because there was no foot moulding to cover such a gap and thereby prevent such an earring loss, I haven't given a single thought to our missing flooring pieces in the last three years. (We were able to get the earring out with a pair of tweezers and some patience, and then soaked the earring in a 100% alcohol solution to kill whatever crawlies it might have picked up during its short floor-bound incarceration. So no harm, no foul.)

While J and I could certainly have the floor fixed at any time--we just need to set the money aside--it doesn't bother us enough to bother with. We have other places we want to spend our money (like on our garden) and other places we need to spend our money (like on our exterior paint), so we just let little things slide.

And that, I've realized, might just be the reason why we are able to live as far below our means as we do. For instance, J drives a 20-year old Volvo 240 station wagon for which he receives a great deal of ribbing from friends, co-workers, and family. But the car runs great, has the Volvo level of safety, and J is happy to do the work on it. Even though J's boss teased him about the giant blue brick recently when J drove a group to lunch, we ultimately know that it doesn't matter in the slightest what other people think of the car. It's an inexpensive (and fun) car to own, and it fits our needs. (J's boss also found himself reluctantly impressed with the car by the time he'd ridden in it).

In addition, I'm still wearing the same maternity tops that I bought three years ago that are getting a tad worse for the wear. While it would be lovely to have some clothes that don't have tiny stains on them, I also know that I don't have to look professional (or even pulled together) at any point during my day, so I save my money for other issues. I'm happy to wear out my clothes until they've fallen below even my unfastidious standards of what constitutes something you can wear in public.

You, too, can pare down your list of necessities to a much more affordable tally if you simply lower your standards!

For me and J, floor moulding, a car built in this Millennium, and clothing free of stains/holes are simply luxuries that we consider completely unnecessary. Our lives wouldn't be appreciably better with those things, so we do without them.

What do you do without/consider a want rather than a need/no longer consider as standard, in your quest for frugality? What kinds of teasing do you get from others who just want you to fix the dang floor!?



frugal_fun said:

*grin* It's so true. Lowering your standards does help a lot  in living below your means.

We have driven cars until the wheels fell off and the body was falling apart. We did just buy new, but instead of a Honda Odyssey, we bought a base Dodge Caravan. We're in the low brow mini-van of our neighborhood. *gasp* :) But without the power "family" do-dads, our Caravan gets the best mileage in class and domestic cars are cheaper to repair. Yes, it will be more prone to repairs as it grows older, but I can buy many repairs with the $10K difference of base price.

In the past I've wanted to put high end material in my home - tile, stone, etc. I've actually laid tile and then lived it with for a while. Here's what I want now: high end sheet vinyl, nice carpet, and laminate. (Hardwood is nice if it comes with an older home.) Tile and stone are cold and grout stinks to clean. It's just funny to me that I'm at a point where I actually prefer the "low end" materials, but there it is. They're just nicer to live with.

Our clothing is also definitely hit or miss. I actually tend to prefer shopping at thrift stores because I know the clothing is durable. Buying new, it seems it's almost impossible to tell.

The kids don't have endless clothes. The baby has 1 pair of shoes, the kids have a pair of sneakers and flip-flops. Sometimes the clothes get a little stained, or if well loved, faded. All good at this house.

What else? We're usually happier with our home cooked meals than with eating out. Our TV is tiny by today's standards and we only have 1. I've considered a smart phone to have my calendar with me. I realized I could buy a *decade's* worth of nice paper planners for 1 low end smart phone. Bonus: I don't care if the baby plays with it.

So yes, our low standards have been surprisingly satisfying and money saving.

May 17, 2013 10:28 PM

haverwench said:

Well, let's see. Stuff we cheerfully do without (that most of our peers seem to take for granted):

A dishwasher

Central air conditioning

A second car

A cell phone plan (we have a prepaid phone for emergency use ONLY and never give out the number to anyone)

Paper towels (a rag can wipe up anything a paper towel can, costs nothing, and can be washed and reused)

Professional hair and nail care

Stuff we consider truly necessary that some folks might view as luxuries:

High-speed Internet (I've tried doing my job without it, and it really isn't possible)

A car (there are too many places we can't reach without one)

Lots of insurance coverage

Stuff we recognize as luxuries but consider totally worth it:

Going out to the folk club

Desserts of all kinds

Coincidentally, there is a post on this topic on TipHero: "What "Necessity" Do You Think Is a Waste of Money?"


May 18, 2013 11:17 PM

haverwench said:

"our Caravan gets the best mileage in class and domestic cars are cheaper to repair."

How so? Is it because the parts are cheaper, or because they don't wear out as often? Or is it just easier to find a mechanic who works on them, so you have more choices?

I Googled "are domestic cars cheaper to repair" and found an article on MSN autos (editorial.autos.msn.com/10-cheapest-cars-to-maintain) about the 10 new cars that are cheapest to maintain. It's about evenly split between foreign (mostly Japanese) and domestic models.

May 19, 2013 5:57 PM

frugal_fun said:

Generally the parts are cheaper and I've been told by our mechanic they are less prone to having proprietary repair codes. Domestics (as I understand it) usually publish all the codes, which means you're not forced to the dealership for certain repairs. That saves money as well.

Domestics usually are not as well made as foreign cars, but I've found they are "good enough" for our purposes.  Even if I have to replace the parts that I wouldn't on a better made car, the parts themselves are cheaper and I've got more options in who does the repair.

Our personal experiences with cars tend to pan that out. I've gotten quite the sticker shock on the very few occasions we needed to repair our Subaru. It's still running, but the parts are higher cost and we ran into 2 repairs that only a dealership was "allowed" to do.

Our recently deceased Dodge Caravan had more repairs during it's life, but the parts were cheaper and we never had anything that required a run to a dealership.

I've also read that when people donate cars to fix up and give away to the poor, the luxury cars are almost all sold at auction despite generally better build quality. The repairs, when they come, are just way out of budget for someone on a low income.

I'm at a point now where I tend to think part of the initial and ongoing vehicle pricing has with what the market expects lifetime repair costs to be. (The other of course, being higher manufacture costs.) The Honda Odyssey should have far fewer repairs over it's lifetime than the Caravan, but the $10K difference in base basically means (to me) that the repair cost was paid up front.

The appeal of pre-paid repair costs does make sense to me. We're handy, comfortable talking with mechanics, and now live in a pretty pleasant part of the country. (We're also lucky to not really have a commute at the moment.) So car repairs aren't a big deal to us. But if you've got a serious commute or hate talking to mechanics, etc, etc, the peace of mind might be worth it.

Just my thoughts on it -- I really dislike buying cars because they depreciate and there's no clear "winning" buying strategy other than marring J, which has already been done. ;)

May 20, 2013 8:30 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

My apologies for not getting a post up yesterday. We were all too exhausted after a day at the Indianapolis

May 23, 2013 2:09 PM

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