A Simplified Life

It’s been a sobering week for me in some ways. We knew it was crucial for me not to work during the pregnancy to give the process the best chance, and we became a single income family. When we lived in our other home it was affordable. Then we had to move, and our rent increased by $450 monthly. I’ve been tracking income and expenses since January, and with the layout of money for baby gear, medical costs, and the move, we’ve discovered that we are living a bit beyond our means. We have savings and can use it, but our goal is really to live within our income. And the reason we have any savings at all is because that’s what we’ve been doing for years — living within and below our income.

Of course, living with debt is an experience that permeates most people’s lives. In fact, I would say it’s a defining factor of being American. But I’ve lived with great debt before; and since I’ve gotten out of the pit, I’d rather not return. Husband’s financial personality is conservative, and this has helped my transition from spendthrift to saver. Living space is smaller here; I’ve been slowly divesting of stuff that collects dust, has no use, or brings no pleasure, and I’ve set an intention not to accumulate more.

So it’s time to simplify. We’d already taken steps since the new year. For the most part I don’t purchase books anymore and go to the public library. My spending on yarn and art supplies has dwindled significantly (I’ve got plenty stashed away). Yet we’re looking at all our spending and tightening things. Gifts, magazine subscriptions, travel and dining out with friends are being deleted from the budget. The area of biggest concern has been the dining out. Food is social. Getting together with friends is usually a food occasion. It’s fun to eat out and try new places, but it’s also expensive. Now that we’re becoming parents I’m sure we’ll make friends with other parents who can relate to the financial paradigm. Yet a number of our friends are working couples with no children. How do we remain friends with them?

Some people might attempt to keep up; that is, to continue with the dinners and carry debt. Others might phase the friends out; it’s probably not hard when all time is consumed by a new baby. But I’ve chosen a different approach. I’ve explained to these friends (without going into detail) that our budget is smaller and our lifestyle changing, and we’re going to focus on dining in and inviting people over more often. Then I’ve invited them over for a meal soon.

The response has been loving. The sweet thing is that these friends are more than happy to focus on quality time together and not on spending money. They understand that when you have money, you have more for discretionary spending, and that priorities change. We knew this about them already (or we’d not likely fit so well as friends). Yet, to take the step of confiding this change is actually a step toward intimacy. By setting forth our situation, our friends can include us in their plans without creating awkwardness for anyone. They’ll invite us to parties at their homes but not invite us out to restaurants. We can entertain them at our home. We’ve been pondering, learning about, and slowly evolving toward a simple living style, so this is a natural step in our evolution. Another term for this is voluntary simplicity.

This means a change in role for me as well. Until recently Husband and I could be very independent. If I don’t feel like cooking (I’m the main cook), we “fend” for ourselves. At some point I’ll have a child who needs regular meals – not immediately, but soon enough I’ll need to actually plan what I’m going to do so my kid, at least, doesn’t starve. I hate cleaning house and have a pretty high tolerance for dust, as does Husband. But soon we’ll have a little one creeping around the floor, and since his job is to earn income, my job will be to maintain home. Husband launders his own clothes; I never touch them (a liberated man!). I launder my own and wash linens, blankets, etc. Soon there will be baby clothes and such to maintain, and this will probably fall to me more often. No more self-centered living. Time to grow up in a new way.

It’s all a new adventure.

Explore posts in the same categories: Journal, Pregnancy, Recreation, Social Science

4 Comments on “A Simplified Life”

  1. Susan Says:

    The physical readying of the nest, and the intellectual readying of the nest… I’d say all systems are GO for sweet baby! Hope you are feeling well.

  2. Karen Says:

    You are right–it is an adventure, a process that will “simplify” itself. Baby comes and your life will be simplified down to the essentials of breathing, sometimes eating and (never!) sleeping. There are expenses to even the bare necessities, all for the baby, but everything will sort out without forethought.

  3. Chris Austin-Lane Says:

    Have your husband do all the laundry at least at first. Especially if you are breast feeding, he can advance a load each time the baby eats (after getting you the glass of water). It will be useful and only fair. A division of labor after birth is not likely to be fair no matter how much house work and paid work the partner does. And laundry is amazingly copious at first.

  4. Liora Says:

    Ouch. $450 is quite a jump. But good that you’re finding ways to stop the spending that isn’t really fulfilling. Potluck? That was the first thing I thought of. Those seem like they’re so much more fulfilling as far as quality time with friends. That or maybe friends rotate who makes the entire meal? So once every several weeks it’s your turn and you get to take a breather until then while still seeing your friends and having fun.

    I know, it’s not spontaneous. And it takes some effort. That’s my problem with spending on food out. But it’s one area that seems like it has multiple rewards. Arie and I were just talking about this tonight. You go out and you usually have no idea what they put in your food. Whatever they do, it tastes great and different than home food. So it’s probably not stuff that you’d typically put in your food if you were cooking for yourself. Here in Atlanta even it’s so easy to just lose $20-25/day on food out.

    I love owning books, too, and underlining in them and taking as long as I want to read them, but that’s another killer.

    So I’m with you in this boat. I’ll be reading and hoping you share anything you’re learning about eating at home more. One site I like is allrecipes.com. I like how people rate the recipes and give their tips for adjusting them. Could probably throw out all my cookbooks and just use the Internet instead. 🙂

    Sounds like some of the mommies here are giving you some indicators you’re about to have baby. I’m excited and can’t wait to read and see your pictures!