I have a different perspective on life than some. For those of you that have met me in the last few years, you might have seen material possessions and made certain assumptions about my “financial” life. Chris and I are minimalists, and we select each and every purchase we make with care. We want to love each item, we want it to have a purpose, and it be something that inspires us (whether from its beauty, or how it fits together with everything else).
I did not always have the option to be so selective… or selective at all. Chris and I have worked very hard for each thing we have brought into our lives, whether it meant saving for something for years or just deciding to not have something until we could afford what we really wanted. I can remember when we first moved to Portland we did not have the money to buy furniture. Chris was looking for a job and the work I was doing was just paying our rent. We could have gone to Goodwill, or looked for something used on Craigslist, instead we purchased inflatable chairs (yes, you read that right). We used them until a family visiting us in the winter got them to close to our heat vent and bye-bye went the chairs. We finally decided to purchase a couch, but even then it was the one we felt was the most “us” and within the means we had at the time.
How did we become so frugal and so aware of our choices? I grew up poor. I watched my parents struggle to have enough cash to put food on the table. It was before credit cards (and even when they did exist my parents did not have the credit to have their own credit cards). What did you do to survive without credit cards? You had to be able to have enough liquid cash in the bank, or put things on layaway. My mom started Christmas shopping for the few items we did receive (which got smaller and smaller as we got older) in July. She would purchase the items and put them on layaway until they were paid off. The hard part? You cannot purchase food on a layaway plan. You cannot pay the electric or water bills via layaway.
Growing up poor taught me to focus on what matters and what is important and once that is handled you can then think about the perks and pleasures. Until then, we should not be splurging and spending when we do not have the means to handle the necessities. I often wonder what individuals would do these days with out access to credit cards. Imagine living for one year paying with what you have in the bank — no plastic. Everything is paid off each month, or paid up front with cash. What percentage of our country could do it?
Overall, being poor taught me to appreciate everything I have, to remember what it takes to keep it, and how easy it is to make bad choices and live way beyond our means. The funny thing is, even though we have been so selective and love everything we have, if it all disappeared today we’d be just fine without it. We’d just start over tomorrow. Together.
This week, Chris and I were pondering the last 12+ years and how we know when we feel settled with decisions. Sometimes we know right away and other times it takes a bit longer for the decision to feel right. Sometimes he knows so clearly, and sometimes it is me. It really depends on what the decision is, how big it is, how costly and its impact on our lives.
A plane ticket: I will not purchase it until it feels right to me. I have had quite a few occasions when the trip changed drastically, and I saved a lot of change fees because I had waited to purchase the ticket.
Furniture or large house items: Usually I am not as picky as Chris is – I know when I like something and I know when I do not like it, but we have a rule that we both need to like, want, and appreciate it before we make a large purchase. Sometimes I can push the envelope a bit and continue to show him different options because I am not set on his choice. Other times all the other options still lead us back to our original choice.
Large financial decisions: These always get me to slow down to a snail’s pace. I hate spending money, and even though not all financial decisions are spending money — they could be about investing money. I still want to look at it front and back and all angles to make sure we are making the smartest choice. Nothing wrong with that.
Food: If I know I do not want something I voice it, but generally, I just want Chris to decide on food. If something sounds amazing, I will state that, and whatever sounds nasty I will state that too, but I have way to many other decisions to make in my day, the last one I care about is food!
What I find interesting — on most things at work I know fairly quickly what feels right to me, but at home I tend to hem and haw about decisions. Maybe because it might be a large purchase, or a decision that is extremely permanent. Maybe it is also because Chris and I always make our decisions together. Regardless of whether the decision is at home or work, it is always important to feel settled, happy, and content with your decision. You have to live with it and the consequences.
A few weeks ago we purchased new desks for our office. We love them. After having a variety of online ordering issues pertaining to bathroom towel rods, odd fitting clothes, and furniture arriving damaged, I tend to have no idea how a product will arrive to our home.
We found Blu Dot desks on Fab.com when they were having a half price sale. We had explored many options from local modern furniture stores, others that were made out of reclaimed wood, and a variety of desks online. I had seen the Blu Dot desks online a few times but did not want to spend the money. When we found the half price sale we were ecstatic because it meant we were basically getting two desks for the price of one. The desks arrived, were easy to put together (or so Chris told me), and we love them.
Fast forward to yesterday. I received a hand written card in the mail from Fab. It says:
“Hi Tami, I saw your recent Fab order, and I just had to reach out! I absolutely fell in love with your powder-coated white desktops! The combination of warm walnut and bright white steel accents really cuts a chic silhouette. 🙂 I hope that your order is an utter delight, but if there’s anything you find yourself needing, I and my fellow crackerjacks are here to make you smile – we’ll do what it takes! Get in touch anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-463-4322. All the best, Tula/Fab Crackerjack”
I was shocked. It is 2013, and I just received a hand written thank you card from an online retailer. Yes, it is a sales tool, but one that takes the time of an employee and the cost of a stamp. A very nice touch.