October 20, 2010 by Leah
We’re home. My head is full of information about cooking real food, CSA options (there is really an embarrassment of sustainable farm riches in Southern California), and finding jobs. I’m heading to the Long Beach Volunteer Fair this afternoon in hopes of finding an organization with values similar to mine that manages its volunteers effectively (the idea is that my volunteering could lead to local friends or even employment, both good things). I’ve applied for one job this week and am on track to apply for a couple more today. I canceled both my accounts with thrive.com, bowing to Aaron’s worries about security. I also canceled my $18/month membership to Weight Watchers Online. I’ve been following the program off and on for over 10 years now, and if I don’t know the precepts by now, I never will. (Plus, my weight and general health seem to be tied to the quality of and balance in my life at any given time. Too bad I wasted so much of my 20s wallowing in misery, but I guess I was learning, and I’m happy where I’ve landed.)
So, what about this frugal business? A couple of comments and conversations that happened a few weeks ago made me realize that I’ve chosen a very specific definition of the word “frugal.” It’s one that builds on definition number one from dictionary.com:
1. economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful: a frugal manager.
2. entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager; scanty: a frugal meal.
I think “not wasteful” best explains how Aaron and I want our lives to be. One of the first indicators that we were living in a way more closely aligned with not wasting our – or anyone else’s – resources (you know, like air, water, land) came earlier this summer, when I realized we were having to take out the (household, tall-kitchen-garbage-can-sized) trash once a week, if that. (Although more if we forget and throw fish remnants in there.) Our big outdoor trash can by the neighbors’ driveway often has a few weeks’ worth of trash in it and isn’t full. We can’t quite figure out why it doesn’t get emptied – does the trash man forget to empty our trash because sometimes there’s nothing in there, or does he only take it when the whole thing is full?
At any rate, the point is that several of the measures we’ve taken in order to save money or improve health are having a noticeable effect. I used to have to empty the same trash can a few times a week when I was living alone because it was full of junk mail and food packaging like cans, bottles, and boxes. I also used to roll my eyes at Aaron’s “no compromises” take on recycling, but now I’m right there with him (actually, I’m the one hauling all our recycling the mile to the nearest recycling center every week or so). Our compost bin didn’t seem interested in producing compost (of course, we haven’t exactly turned it) but closer inspection shows that things are actually biodegrading in there, and it doesn’t reek or attract animals, which is about all we can ask for being such lazy compost-tenders.
All of this is awesome – steps in the right direction. There is still the financial aspect to consider, though, especially since we have this looming unpaid rent bill to deal with (thanks, Uncle Sam). Aaron and I have a date to sit down together and work out a budget this week. I’m not sure where we will fit this in between our every-other-day gym dates and the pumpkin-carving/pumpkin-beer-drinking date, but we will carve out an hour somewhere. The plan is to figure out what our income is, then our fixed expenses, and then go from there. Simple, I know, but I am really encouraged by this because I am fairly certain that the missing piece that indirectly caused some of this summer’s financial struggles and debacles has been the “together” piece. I can make spreadsheets and calculate percentages as much as I want, but if that information and my arbitrary goals aren’t making it (thanks to my not communicating) to the other half of this partnership, then we are sunk before we begin. So, do-over. Starting very soon.