Sunday, 12 June 2016

Am I a booger-eating, bed-wetting idiot liberal too?

The Guardian ran a story last week about a woman who has committed to spending nothing for an entire year (apart from paying for food and bills). She's even foregoing public transport and holidays, which means not being able to see her immediate family who live beyond cycling distance (a bit too drastic, if you ask me). 

Michelle McGagh's inspiration for jumping off the treadmill of constant consumption was Buy Nothing Day and the minimalism movement. She's six months in and has struggled at times, but says it has made her happier, which is a common theme running through the stories of people who have drastically reduced their spending: it not only makes them more financially secure, it also enriches their lives in other more profound ways, such as becoming more grateful for what they have.     

Not everybody is applauding Michelle (and other non-spenders) though. On The Guardian's Facebook pages, one woman commented:
Oh shut up you booger eating bed wetting idiot liberal, POOR people do this every fucking day
This comment garnered 26 'likes' and supportive replies from several others. Harsh, but true, of course. A lot of people don't have the luxury of choosing not to spend their money on non-essentials and frivolities.

As a new member of the non-spenders (or less-spenders), I cringed a little when I read the comment. If I were poor, I'd be pretty insulted too (or I should say, 'if I were still poor' - my family background is solidly working class battler).

But then I thought, I think it's just as insulting - if not more so - to splash your cash on non-essentials and frivolities you don't even use. Behold my shoe closet as big as your bedroom with its 300 pairs of shoes that cost more than you earn in a month and barely have a scuff on them. (No, I do not have 300 pairs of shoes).

If you have the money available for discretionary spending, buying stuff you use and appreciate is less like rubbing the noses of the less fortunate in it, isn't it?

Practising enough-ness

One of the gurus of minimalism, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, published a post this week about "enough-ness" inspired by the Zen saying "ware tada shiru taru", which translates as: 
All you need, you already have.
"As you sit here reading this article, pause and take an assessment of your life right now. Chances are, you have enough food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities in your life. You might also have loved ones, people who care about you. You are (mostly) comfortable, without any desperate needs. All you need, you already have."

He lists ideas for how to practice "enough-ness", including asking yourself before buying something whether you really need it or if you have enough. 

"Ask yourself, regularly throughout your day, whether you have all you need. I think you’ll find that you do, and by appreciating that fact more often, you can see what a profound miracle that is."

Profound miracle indeed. 


  1. I've read Leo's blog in the past and he always makes good sense, although I now think he pushes 'self improvement' too far for me.

    Although it takes some interpretation I've come around to the ideas of Epicurus (much maligned by other philosophical schools). He said:

    Nothing is sufficient for the person who finds sufficiency too little – Epicurus


    Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance. – Epicurus

    He argued that nothing undermined *eudaimonia more than wanting more 'stuff' or fame.

    So not buying more unnecessary clothes is also a philosophical practice....

    *eudaimonia - literally means ‘a well-disposed soul or daimon’, but which philosophers used in the general sense of ‘flourishing, fulfilment, happiness’

  2. Thanks for your comment. Yes, there really is a strong philosophical element to making a decision about how to spend - or not to spend - your income. After I published my post about spending money on a holiday despite trying to save, I found a list of quotes I'd collected about happiness and related topics and one was this:

    “The real pleasure-seeking is the combination of luxury and austerity in such a way that the luxury can really be felt.” - G K Chesterton

    It made me feel better about my splurge!