Personal finances and voluntary simplicity are both great passions of mine and interests that have greatly informed my general life philosophy. To a certain extent, these two topics are one and the same, intersecting often, but in other instances being different enough to be two separate areas. Both demand a careful expenditure of money but only the topic of voluntary simplicity begs one to ask questions about their values and what life's meaning is, in a way that can allow self-control to flourish and good decisions be made irregardless of income level. Voluntary simplicity is about something richer and greater than the bottom line or what's in the bank account but through asking the questions, greater riches in life generally, and finances in particular, can be had.
Over the years, my interests in frugality, investments, and living wisely have compelled me to read a great number of books; many of which have impacted the way I look at the world and how I allocate my time and money. Some of the most influential books include Plenitude, Your Money or Your Life, Voluntary Simplicity, The Millionaire Next Door, and Radical Homemakers. Through these books, I have made many changes in my life, uncovered new interests, and have been challenged to grown into the woman I am today. One of the most fundamental challenges has been that of answering tough questions, digging deep to ponder what it is I want our of my life, what vision I have, together with my husband, for our family, our future, and our child's life. I gave up on paid employment to care for my child, manage my home, and now to home educate as well. We said no to many luxuries to pay off debt and assure better financial prospects for the future. When the future arrived, we remained mindful, saying yes to a few niceties but remaining true to the many principles of the voluntary simplicity lifestyle that served us well through leaner years. And in so doing, I found myself applying a new idea to my life, one I like to call the Pleasure-Per-Dollar Principle (PPDP).
The PPDP demands a consumer ask the same questions of simple living and apply the answers to how "fun funds" are allocated. The ways to spend money are near endless in our consumer-capitalist society but only a few will bring too pleasure. In fact, psychologists suggest that too many choices may even harm us. The PPDP allows choices to be limited, carefully considered, so that joy can be found and satisfaction had in how money leaves the wallet.
How do I value spending my time? What ethical and moral issues do I wish to support with my pocketbook? What sort of entertainment brings me the most joy? When do I feel most alive? How can I find the most pleasure in this one dollar? These five questions are just the beginning to PPDP spending but open up the door to a beautiful life.
One of the areas most impacted by PPDP in my family's life is that of entertainment. It seems the norm for most young families to have a television with a cable package. We did not own a television, nor have cable service during the lean years and had become so used to the situation that the purchase of such treats did little to elevate our happiness once the money was available for these luxuries. We cancelled our cable package and sold our television, utilizing the funds to buy a Dobsonian telescope to provide starry night amusement in the hours most families enjoy television programming. For us, hobbyist astronomy provides greater joy than a TV.
With our cable package cancelled, we suddenly had these extra funds to invest in an area we have always enjoyed but could seldom enjoy in years prior: live entertainment. In years past, we had forgone trips to the movie theater to instead see at least one play and the Nutcracker every year. These forms of entertainment were not only enjoyable but also enriching as they provided a glimpse into different art forms for our daughter. The cost of a year's expenditure on cable can fund three Broadway in BigCityHere shows, including tickets, hotel, and a dinner at a fine dining establishment before the show. As you can see, to us the shows are about far more than just entertainment; they are a special experience. All three of us have agreed this is a treasure worth far more than several hours of what is to us mediocre entertainment on a random evening.
Saying no to most unnecessary shopping has also enriched our lives. I once calculated how much one of my rare shopping extravaganzas cost and was shocked to learn that even at a modest amount of spending, I could travel for a day trip or overnight trip on a weekend to a museum exhibit or cultural event of some sort--complete with Priceline bid hotel room and one nice meal out! The memories my family has made on these trips and the numerous topics we have learned about our immense and valuable beyond words.
I understand that voluntary simplicity or the PPDP are not for everybody and in no way am I trying to make blanket judgments or condemn others with my writing. My motivation is only to showcase a different way, to question the paradigm of what we must have, and to encourage others to reach for their joys and utilize their funds accordingly. I seldom come across a personal finance blog or simple living website that addresses this area where the two ideals may meet. Asking how does one live well with a decent income is as fair a question as any raised on these blogs, for the tunnel of life as a mindful consumer does not end once the debt is gone and other frugal goals have been met. Ethical considerations and savings goal still exist and new challenges overcome. For me, the PPDP has been instrumental in rising to fight the good fight in this next chapter and I hope in sharing others might find this principle useful too.