Jorge and I just slowly sipped our coffee in contented silence with smiles on our faces. We were seated at my kitchen table where we had been discussing Epicurean philosophy.
I soon felt the desire to express my appreciation of our friendship. It means a great deal to me to be able to engage in authentic conversations with him that don’t simply rehash the subplots of the latest teevee shows. I like the fact that we can discuss politics without resorting to personal dogmatic partisan talking points. I noted that very seldom have I known anyone who can discuss history, philosophy, and cross-country truck driving in the space of 30-minutes.
Jorge leaned forward, took another sip of coffee and said that he has grown into this personality with the choice to live a simple life. This lifestyle is one both of us wish to enjoy. Because we consciously choose to live below our means, the quality of our lives has risen far above our expectations.
I replied that both of us absolutely hate car payments and indebtedness of any sort. Even the smallest credit card balance drives us to distraction. It’s not that we’re cheapskates. We gladly donate to charity and do what we can to help friends and family who need a little help. We buy our lovers nice things for the holidays, birthdays, and for no reasons at all.
Jorge mentioned that he appreciates the French pressed Hawaiian coffee that we sometimes drink during our visits. I replied that it’s not only more fresh, but it’s more economical and environmentally friendly than having a cup at Starbucks or some other coffee shop.
I asked how Jorge decided to adopt the below his means lifestyle.
He said that he started to think about it when he still lived in Los Angeles. He was having monthly worries about paying his share of the exhorbitant rent for a humble two-bedroom apartment he had to share with a roommate. The roommate was someone he found in a want ad. Neither of them could financially afford to live alone.
It turned out that the roommate was unreliable and not trustworthy. Jorge frequently had to scrape together enough money to pay all of the rent and groceries. That’s when he decided to never put up with money problems ever again.
I had a similar situation. However, my roommates were always reliable and trustworthy. I usually ended up befriending them, too. In addition I clinched the below my means lifestyle decision when I could barely scrounge enough change to buy a pack of cigarettes. Counting out change at the supermarket just to purchase some cigarettes was embarrassing. I never wanted to be that desperate again.
Jorge and I came to similar conclusions. We wanted to live happy, comfortable lives without having to chase after money. Neither did we wish to hoard money. We managed to find jobs we enjoyed and spent less money than we could afford.
I know several people who work at jobs they hate in order to buy luxurious homes and prestigious motor vehicles. Some of them run up credit card balances and go on lavish vacations to chic resorts. I also know some acquaintences who live within, but not below their means. They express unhappiness about their wage slavery.
Jorge and his boyfriend rent a small house in an older suburb of Denver, Colorado. Their home is attractive, neat, clean, and very affordable. Their low-crime neighborhood is quiet and friendly. Because they have finally decluttered most of their excess belongings, the pair can pack up and move “at the drop of a hat” if they so desire. They also have a small circle of like-minded friends with whom they socialize.
Meantime, my lifestyle is still a work in progress. I have the small rental house, but because I’ve lived in it for many years, I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff. At least I’ve cut back my thrift store patronage down to one store, and I re-donate stuff often. In a manner of thinking, I rent much of my stuff. I need to follow Jorge’s example.
Because we consciously live below our means, we have more time to spend on fun hobbies and pasttimes. There is more time to enjoy with loved ones. I feel more free to visit my aging father on a regular basis.
Certainly, there is pleasure in the challenge of increasing my income, but not at the expense of working at a job that I hate nor violates my sense of ethics. There’s a real sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that one feels when engaged in constructive work.
More frequently, I find myself fascinated with the minimalist lifestyle. It’s not quite time to make that leap. Honestly, the minimalist lifestyle seems quite intimidating. Yet, it is something I want to try.
Luckily, there are some good mentors in my circle of acquaintences. I sponsor a couple of Tibetan monks who live in South India. They are absolute experts in living a balanced, comfortable physical life, well below their means. The monks have taught me much helpful information and ways of thinking. I need to also pay closer attention to their lifestyle.
Jorge says that I might look good in purple robes. I laugh, and say that jeans and t-shirts are simple and comfortable enough. I don’t need to move to Asia to discover the joys of simplicity. Maybe simplicity will enable me to move there just because I simply want to do so.
Jorge says he’s very happy living in Colorado. Knowing that he can quickly pick up and move somewhere else makes him feel happier, because he doesn’t feel trapped by stuff and debt.
Jorge says he really doesn’t feel like he’s living below his means because his life is so very rich.
All I can do, in reply, is to lean back in my chair and smile at my wise friend.