Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Joys of Debt-Free Livin'

Since there is no rhyme or reason to the order of my least not yet. I thought I'd engage in a little self validation today.

I live debt free. I pay off my credit card every month. Sometimes more than once a month. I rent rather than carry a mortgage. No car debt. School loans are paid off. Nothing.

This makes me odd, and in the eyes of our current regime, may well make me unpatriotic. Screw 'em.

I know that if I lose my job I have enough in the bank to live for a year. I have enough to sell to make it a few months beyond that. That would be with NO new job. Nothing. Just sitting on my ass. Of course, that is also because I live simply. No monthly bills other than utilities, cell phone, and netflix (you have to live a little!).

I've noticed that debt free living (which is all part of my approach to voluntary simplicity) makes me something of a freak. I live below my means by mainstream standards. I prefer the term "within my means." I often feel that people are judging me or wondering about me because of this. Recently, my temporary kid had a friend and the friend's father come to pick him up at our city apartment. That family is fairly well-to-do. They live in a fenced, though not gated, development of giant houses with many bathrooms. When they came into my home, I felt self-conscious. I think the father felt disoriented. I have a piece of fabric for a door between the stairwell and the kitchen/dining room (it saves a great deal on the heat bill). The father came into the dining room to give me all the appropriate information for my kid's visit (the address, phone, how to get there to pick him up). My dining table is a card table with a gingham tablecloth and a variety of camp chairs with one office chair that the kid sits in because it's more comfortable for him. I have another folding table for a desk and under that is what appears to be an inverted empty box, but it's actually my vermicomposter. The kitchen is simple and I'm using my camping pots for cookware here. Those were out. There is a jerry-rigged wall made of fabric dividing the dining room so that I can have a bedroom space (with two big working windows and a walk in closet! it's a very good room).

I don't know if the father was judging me, if I was just being overly self-conscious, or if I was seeing my home through mainstream eyes for the first time in a while. Which ever may be the case, it was interesting experience. I really like my apartment and enjoy the low-cost, low-maintenance features (spilled something on the table? who cares. It's a card table with a washable cloth). I like that we got a very comfortable and clean wingback chair from the spot next to the trash cans when the girls downstairs moved out. I like keeping my clothes on a set of shelves we got at the same time and place. I love the ladder I found by the dumpsters which allows me to go up in the multiroom (though unlivable) attic and contemplate the history of the house as well as the stars. I love all the big working windows, some of which lead to the roof where we can barbecue just by leaning out a bit!

I also realized that these things I love about my place are seen by many to be immature or odd or signs of poverty or some other form of "not middle class," not normal.

When I went to pick up the kid, I got to see how the other half lives. Their house has many big windows too. But they don't open. There is an airconditioning system for ventilation instead of relying on the breeze. They had a big foyer (I didn't make it out of the foyer. I had invited the father right into my kitchen...the heart of the home. At their house we stood in front of the door for 10 minutes) with a stairway and upstairs balcony in it. I'm thinking "heat sink" and "waste of space". They were probably thinking what a lovely open welcoming space. They had a double garage and paved driveway (I park on the street). It made me wonder how much food could be grown in the amount of space covered by cement.

They had a big lawn groomed like a putting green. I wondered about the cost of maintaining that and the time spent on it when it wasn't even food but rather the legacy of a feudal past on a different continent (sometimes I may think too much). All in all, their house and neighborhood made me feel disoriented.

Perhaps the whole experience just made me realize how far from the mainstream I've come. I have enough money, by other people's standards, to buy a nice little bungalo, ranch house, or {HORROR} .. a CONDO. But I don't. I live in my lovely apartment. (I almost wrote "little" but it seems like plenty of space to me. maybe I'll measure it up one of these days.) I save my money, and dream of buying an acre or two an building a cob or cordwood house, or maybe an earth sheltered structure, of just a few rooms. Having a composting toilet, a garden and a few animals (chickens, perhaps sheep or a goat) and being self-sufficient and removing myself from the cash economy to the extent possible.

I used to "own" a home (the bank owned something like 90% of it), had school loan payments every month for years, briefly had a car loan, and for years had credit card debt left from struggles in graduate school. I don't miss those days. The debts were a constant source of stress.

1 comment:

Fly Right said...

Goats will save you money on a lawnmower, too. And they're cute. And they'll eat whatever your worms won't.