Minimalist Monday: Starving College Students

Box Girl

College students often live in boxes. Or out of boxes. Whatever.

Okay today is going to be a fun one because I got to go through Facebook and find lots of college pictures of me being homeless.

Last week I read an intriguing post on Raptitude entitled “How much of your life are you selling off?” It really appealed to me because 1) I think money is a big government conspiracy and 2) I can’t seem to figure out how I spend so much of it. If you didn’t read the post, it basically talks about how we are quite literally selling our souls. We work and save around 10% of our paychecks so that someday we can retire,  by which time we have spend the majority of our good health and time working. The post introduces a novel concept in our “American Dream” society where, rather than working our whole lives so we can have the $1 million or so dollars we need to retire, spending less, saving more, and retiring before our lives have passed us by.

The key here is to live on less. I got to thinking about college when I read this. In college, well, I was essentially homeless for about the first 3 years. I technically “lived” with my parents, however I spent so much time studying, researching, and working 3 jobs that I ended up sleeping in my $300 minivan, camping out at the beach with my textbooks,  or just not sleeping and staying up all night in the chemistry student lounge and hiding from security when they tried to kick me out.

Van GirlBlanket GirlWhiteboard

At this point in my life I was very capable of living on little. Even while living in an apartment with $800 rent and

Change

A professor actually stopped and gave me change as I was sitting on the ground of the science building.

spending $500 a week on gas, I kept all of my expenses from exceeding $1500 a month. I had to. Internships and tutoring only pay so well. I borrowed my textbooks from the library, barely ate out, never spent more than $10 on clothes, and only spent $20 a week on groceries. And I wasn’t living off a diet of Ramen (although I didn’t have a whole lot of variety). I discovered that you could get a lot of really decent food for less at Trader Joe’s.

Somehow, upon graduating college and securing decent employment, my expenses ballooned. Yes, I was paying student loans so that added about $400, but I reduced my rent to $550 and a smaller car and fewer places to be reduced my gas expenses from $500 to $120. Technically I should have been spending way less than I was in college. But since I could afford it my tastes got more expensive. Growlers full of craft beer, sushi dinners, massages, a cushy gym membership,  clothes. My expenses started to top $2600 a month, over $1000 more than I was paying as a college student. Had my expenses stayed at their college levels, I would have around $25,000 saved by now, nearly enough to be free of my student loan debt.
Now that I am (not so patiently) awaiting my return to school in 2 months and 6 days, I’ve re-assessed my spending. I’m going to have zero income, living only off the money I have saved. Starting this month I am flipping the switch back to college-student-broke mentality and perhaps this time I will keep it that way.

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Simplicity to be… Prepared???

To the average person, simplifying your possessions seems like it would be counterproductive in being prepared. If you’re getting rid of those items intended for some obscure purpose, how could you possibly be prepared for everything? Well first, I think that minimalists and frugal people can be much more resourceful than most. They are able to find a single item to fulfill multiple uses. Second, they are more prepared to cope when life throws them something unexpected.

Let me explain.

Tristan’s parents live in your stereotypical two story suburban house with a cluttered garage, filled to the brim with stuff. His mother is a firecracker, I love her to death. Although she is approaching retirement age, she has just earned another credential in special education and shows no signs of retiring. Ever. She loves her job, and she loves to take on projects (of late they have revolved around redecorating the house). Recently, she fractured her back in a horseback riding accident. His father is not in great health. He is not able to help around the house much, and his health requires constant care. Around the same time as his mom hurt her back, his dad tripped on a garden hose and broke his rib.

With the double onset of these injuries, the house became less of a sanctuary and more of a source of stress. Neither of them could clean, sort, organize, or take care of the garden. They are embracing the idea of simplifying and decluttering, and all of the benefits of  owning fewer possessions. After witnessing the burden that possessions can place on people, we are now more determined than ever to live simply so that if something unexpected happens, we have less stuff to worry about!

Minimalist Monday: Advertising

Flo (Progressive Insurance)

Flo (Progressive Insurance)

In an effort to organize/focus my posting, I will now be posting Adventures in Minimalism at least every Monday! This complements my Friday Rants 🙂

One of the things that has really stood out to me as I have more fully embraced living with less and rejecting our harmful consumer culture (and also exposure to the Wedding Industrial Complex) is advertising. Pick up a fashion magazine and look at one of the photos. Most likely, there is a one sentence caption followed by a list of what the model is wearing, where to buy it, and how much it costs. Turn on the TV. There is an advertisement telling you about how this sale is a ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY, and God forbid you miss out on the amazing deals for the clothes made by some 8 year old in Indonesia. You MUST go here, you NEED this, look at how happy that family is because of their matching sweaters!

Advertising is 100% a big trick. First they tell you you’re missing something, then they show you someone who is so happy that they have this thing, and in order to be happy you must too have this thing. But lately I’ve been picturing advertisements being made. Being an actress or a model, pretending to enjoy myself so I can make a dollar. It’s all pretend. Flo is not really going to help you with your Progressive car insurance policy. There is no “kitchen counselor” coming to rescue you from an argument about dishes with your mother/spouse/whatever. The smiling woman in the magazine probably has sore cheeks from faking it. It’s all fake. It all reeks of desperation to take money out of your pocket for something that will not fill that void they created in you.

So on that happy note, here’s some great Monday reading:

From The Minimalists, Create More, Consume Less calling the advertisers out on their lies.

From mnmlist: The Future of Advertising in which we can opt to make advertising unprofitable by going ad-free in our information consumption.

Children or No Children: A Deal Breaker?

housewife [derogation]

When you are considering spending the rest of your life with someone, all of the pre-engagement literature says the same thing. Make a list of relationship deal breakers. Ask your partner this list of questions. The subject of whether or not to have kids will be on both of these lists and it will be a big one.

Growing up I always assumed my life would go like this: go to college, get science degree, become a medical professional, find a nice man, get married, move to a big house in the suburbs, have kids, raise kids, maybe be a stay at home mom. I never thought much of it. That’s how life was supposed to go. So when Tristan and I started discussing marriage the kids conversation naturally happened. I assumed I wanted two kids. He told me he would possibly want kids someday.

Then after a while the truth came out.

He wasn’t sure if he wanted kids. He always pictured his future with his wife and a couple of dogs, having outdoor adventures and traveling the world. Maybe someday he would want to have kids but he couldn’t picture himself with them. And not once did I ever consider moving on because of this. Tristan is 100% my soulmate. I have never in my life met someone I could be so completely honest and happy with. Someone who was like a mirror into my own soul and gives me more insight into my personality than I had ever had. Would I really throw all of that away over some hypothetical future person that I wasn’t even sure I wanted?

Within 24 hours of this revelation, I found myself relieved. I had always felt trapped by this idea that I had to have a certain lifestyle and that lifestyle was a prestigious career and a house in the suburbs with two kids and a dog. I had never considered the idea that I have a choice. I can write my own story, and it doesn’t have to be dictated by society. I am not a vehicle through which society projects its expectations. I am not a puppet on a string doing what someone else wants me to.

Honestly, Tristan’s visualization of his life sounded pretty awesome to me. So now I think I might not want children, or at least none of my own. But that is a story for another day.