Simple stuff

While talking to the mystic brother who is taking up a lifestyle that includes (among other inconceivable sacrifices) a commitment to the adage of living simply, I took note of my new wastebasket. I admitted to a friend that it costs as much as feeding a family of four on a budget for weeks. Perhaps I should feel guilty about this.

Of course, I’ve decided not to. First off, I have been hoping to get one for a year now, and only a 40% off coupon prompted the purchase. More importantly, as I explained to Kurt, I am fairly frugal with how much I spend on material goods, even if the items I do buy tend to be premium. It’s all in line with the minimalist zen-like layout of my physical life after the great purge of 2002.

The padre-in-training has a habit of distilling his policies to four- or five-step decision processes. He’s got enough “five steps for making moral decisions” and “four steps to living healthy” to start his own self-help franchise. Naturally, he asked me to present my process for buying stuff as such, so here’s a stab at what I’ve been asking myself:

  • Will I use this regularly (weekly)?
  • How durable will it be? If I replace it, will it continue being useful to someone else, or end up as landfill?
  • Is the design thoughtful enough that I’m going to be pleased every time I use it?
  • How much space does it consume?
  • Is the price inflated because of some elite brand status that I won’t benefit from?

By the time I’m done answering all that, I usually find I don’t need whatever I was considering. It’s not a grudging self discipline, either after thinking about purchases, I just rarely have any enthusiasm left for buying. If I still actually want something, then I’ll get it, even if it takes a year.

This has had the effect that I feel more wealthy while spending less, as my life is full of simple, quality things (and charitable donations) rather than truckloads of crap. For example, getting a chai latte daily is a luxury that I can indulge in because I talked myself out of a new car. The old car is still reliable and fun to drive, so while the Miata and a loaded Starbucks card is a lot cheaper than a BMW, I feel more pampered.

Besides, it’s a really nice trash can.

I posted this in October 2003 during week 1545.

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