Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I've been reading a lot about minimalism over the last six weeks (when I should be reading about school topics).  Reading about minimalism is kind of like therapy...or maybe like walking through an Ikea showroom:  you get this sense that serenity and order and contentment are completely attainable.  It's inspiring.

Truth be told, I thought I was kind of well on my way to something like a less-extreme version of minimalism anyway.  I'm already pretty organized.  I prefer spaces with some breathing room.  I eschew collections and doodads and tchochke.  I make my Goodwill donations about twice a year.  I'm not a cutting-edge-of-technology girl.  Sure, I have the occasional shopping spree for clothes, but my intake isn't excessive.

...I thought.

In my browsings, I came across a blog about ways to control idea that seems pretty smart, really.  I live in a ridiculously expensive part of the country.  I have a mortgage that's more than a lot of people's monthly income.  I knew my fixed expenses were high, but I hadn't really done the math in awhile to see how much "discretionary" spending I've got available to me each month.  So, being an Excel aficionado, I pulled out a fresh workbook and got busy.  

Bi-monthly income...check.  
Fixed expenses...ok...  
More fixed expenses...
(Whew!  I've got a LOT of fixed expenses)
Oops...that's a fixed expense too... 
(Dude, that's a big number!).  

So, after some adjusting and averaging and double-checking, I discovered that my grand total discretionary income each month is $115.  Yes, that's right:  one hundred and fifteen whopping dollars every month for me to do with as I please.  And, I should point out, that $115 assumes that our eating out balances within the limits of the grocery bill (it rarely does)...and that no one needs a hair cut (we do)...and it doesn't factor in doing anything remotely fun spendy with the Monkey (gah!).

I am considerably more out of balance than I thought.

Part of the problem is that the private Occupational Therapy that the Monkey needs is a large monthly expenditure that never factored into my original spend plan...but it's helping, so I'll make due.  That bill notwithstanding, there's definitely fat that can be trimmed, so I've started noting places where I can make adjustments.  I can easily switch my phone plan, because I don't need all the minutes I'm currently buying.  I'm also seriously considering giving up cable.  With the exception of a few shows that the Monkey likes and an occasional veg-out session for me, we rarely watch TV.  I'm 99% positive that most of our "TV" needs could be met through Hulu (free) and Netflix (cheap).  After the initial shock, I'm betting we don't miss it.  My hope is that if I take a whack at these big ticket items, I can double that discretionary number -- and even doubled, that number still feels way too close for comfort.

The scary thing is that, frankly, those changes are the easy part.  The trickier part is what comes next.  After cutting back on what might be called "clear luxuries," I have to move on to fine tuning the spending on "somewhat-flexible necessities" like food, heat and air conditioning.  It will be marginal improvements in those areas at I'll be looking for a happy medium between comfort and excess. 

Different people cite different reasons for minimalism and for me, what really makes sense is a happy medium.  I'm not cut out for an acetic lifestyle.  I don't do suffering well.  I also have no interest in the trappings of the comparative, luxury lifestyle.  I don't know who the Joneses are and I don't care if I keep up with them.  I'm a somewhere-in-the-middle girl...aiming for a reasonable sweet spot between the two extremes.

That's it!  Let's start a new niche for those who find the parameters of minimalism a little too confining and the excesses of our modern culture a lot too soul-sucking.  Maybe a catchier title will follow, but for now, I'm calling that sweet spot Reasonablism.


Amy said...

I completely understand and commiserate. We go through a biannual reassessment of expenses and have panic attacks for a week afterward.

Does this mean that we'll be selling plasma at the beach for beer and seafood?

MonkeyMom said...

I think we can avoid that...


Labelmaker said...

we've had a similar family discussion, and if we make a few changes and the economy doesnt spiral EVER AGAIN, we can retire around my 743rd birthday.