As I was reading through the chapter in Farmer Boy called “Winter Night” I loved the picture that started forming in my head. I’m pretty sure that Laura intended the reader to form that picture from the way she used word imagery. Sorry this paragraph is a little long but think about the images this brings up.
“They all settled down cosily by the bog stove in the dining room wall. The back of the stove was in the parlor, where nobody went except when company came. It was a fine stove; its chimney warmed the bedrooms upstairs, and its whole top was an oven. Royal open its iron door, and with the poker he broke the charred logs into a shimmering bed of coals. He put three handfuls of popcorn into the big wire popper, and shook the popper over the coals. In a little while a kernel popped, then another, then three or four at once, and all at once furiously the hundreds of little kernels exploded. When the big dishpan was heaping full of fluffy white popcorn, Alice poured melted butter over it, and stirred and salted it. It was hot and crackling crisp, and deliciously buttery and salty, and everyone could eat all he wanted to. Mother knitted and rocked in her high-backed rocking chair. Father carefully scraped a new ax-handle with a bit of broken glass. Royal carved a chain of tiny links from a smooth stick of pine, and Alice sat on her hassock, doing her woolwork embroidery. And they all ate popcorn and apples, and drank sweet cider, except Eliza Jane. Eliza Jane read aloud the news in the New York weekly paper.”
Doesn’t that put a nice picture in your head? One cozy happy family all gathered in the same room snacking and working on projects together? Maybe you are thinking, are you kidding? That doesn’t happen anymore. A modern paragraph might read like this.
“Royal whipped a box of Twinkies out of the pantry. Mother was in the living room watching American Idol with Father. Royal grabbed his gameboy and flopped down on the couch. Alice was on her laptop, online shopping and Eliza Jane was surfing Facebook from her iPhone.”
Ok, I might have over exaggerated a little on that one, but you get my point. Now, taking away the extra things let’s look at what I talked about in my paragraph vs what they were doing in the book in a financial sense. (Oh course this is written to what things cost today.)
Farmer Boy Items:
Popcorn ~ .25
Butter ~ .10
Salt ~ pennies
Apples ~ $2
Yarn ~ $3 (although I’m guessing Mother had her own from her own sheep)
Broken Glass ~ Well I’m hoping Father didn’t pay for this
Thread ~ .50
Newspaper ~ $1
Total: 6.85 if we include the yarn
Modern Paragraph Items:
Twinkies ~ $2
TV ~ $450
Laptop ~ $500
Gameboy ~ $150
iPhone ~ $100
Little bit of a price difference, huh? So why is it that we feel the need to spend all that money to have “family time”? I’ve talked before how we don’t have a tv. I do have a laptop and a phone with email but those are work related. I also am pretty sure I still have a gameboy tucked way in the back of my closet from back in the day. I think I paid $5 for it on Ebay. I’d much rather spend $7 on a fun family night rather than $1200. It’s kind of a no-brainer. But what gets in the way of us doing that? I think it all has to do with contentment.
I have this mindset, a rule in my head. No wanting. My hubby hates this rule sometimes because it’s the reason he has a hard time buying me a present. I tell him that there is nothing I want and that he should just get me something I need. I talked the other day about how I get ready to go on vacation. I don’t spend money throughout the year on things I don’t really need, maybe a little bit here and there but I’d never spend over like $5 or $10. I don’t buy clothes unless I find a steal at a rummage sale and I almost never buy shoes. My poor Crocs are so worn out I’m pretty sure there will be holes in them soon. Vacation is my time to be able to shop. Me and the hubby plan out how much we can each spend ahead of time and not ask the other and then I get to shop. 🙂
Wow, I like to stray from my point today! Getting back on track…I think contentment is a huge part of living frugally and thrifty. No where in the top paragraph did I read that anyone was bored or wanted something else. They were all happy with what they had and what they were doing. They were even excited at the idea of eating all that popcorn! Why aren’t we already content to live this way? Because of serveral things; keeping up with the Jones, shopping too much, feeling sad about never having a frugal break.
We often look at the neighbors or our friends and see all that they have and think that maybe we need that too. I’ve even been guilty of that from time to time. (One of my neighbors has a boat in the backyard and the other has a hot tub, what’s in my backyard? Chickens….) Then there is shopping too much, maybe you don’t even have to shop too much to fall into this one. Anytime you go to any store we see all these things that we don’t have and then we start to want. (That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a list and stick to it!) And then, never having a frugal break. Like I said last week, it’s ok to treat yourself once in a while. If you don’t, there will come a day when you have some extra and instead of saving it or putting it towards something useful you think, wow, I never spend money on me, and before you know it, all the extra is gone. Plus sometimes it’s so easy to treat yourself. Maybe you feel down because you never go out to eat or get treats, and then along comes a buy one get one free ice cream cone coupon. Use it! Have a treat! It will be so fun and since you are already frugal most of the time, even spending that extra few dollars on yourself will feel like a real luxury. (Plus if you used a coupon you still saved money!)
Maybe for a test you should try and think like I do for a week and see what happens. Try not to “want” and if you catch yourself thinking or talking about something you want. Stop! Just try it and see if anything changes.
What do you think?(I’m sorry I know I rambled on today!) Do you already try not to want? What’s the hardest part of finding contentment in being thrifty for you?
Make sure you check out the entire Living Like Little House series!