Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What is Worth Having?

Back when I started this blog, my idea was that if I could just cut back on possessions and whittle away at my bills, I could get to a place where I didn't need so much money. I would worry less and play more.

Life, kids, and global economic meltdowns have all gotten in the way.

Now I find myself asking tough questions: What is worth having? And what is worth halving? (or doing away with all together?)

My husband and I went over our budget yesterday and it's not food and clothing that are driving up the numbers - it's things like dental care, looming college bills, and the need to eventually replace our van.

Each of these things represents consumption, resources, a drain on our planet. Each represents something difficult to give up: health, education, mobility. I suppose I could make a decision to lose teeth rather than spend money on fixing my gums. I could decide that my kids were on their own when it came to higher education. I could decide that a car just isn't for us and join the hundreds of people in my community who walk or ride the bus everywhere.

But it seems I've found the place where I draw the line. I'm not willing to give up dental care, higher education or personal transportation. The thought of doing so fills me with a kind of dread, like watching black clouds mass on the horizon. I wonder if before my life is over I'll be asked to give up one or more of these things. It's not that unlikely.

When I was in my early twenties, my parents showed me an article that said that my generation would be the first that wouldn't surpass it's parents in wealth and worldly success. I brushed it off at the time, but it certainly has proved true. My parents stood proud of their ability to send four kids to private universities. If my kids attend private universities, they'll need scholarships and loans. I remember how happy my mother was the day my parents bought a second car. My husband and I gave up our second car five years ago. Yay, environment. Sigh. Sometimes it's hard to tell the victories from the defeats.

If our goal is that everyone on this earth should have equal access to health care, education and personal possessions like cars, all of us in the west are going to have to learn to live with much less. Will it be enough to choose cloth bags over plastic and buy organic produce instead of conventional? Or will we be forced to make the really tough choices?


Peggy said...

HI! I finally got around to "halving" my pantry! Check it out!


Alea said...

I was talking yesterday with my ferrier about how the cost of everything is now linked to the concept of the "two income family". If you are trying to make it now on one income, even if that income is decent, it is a struggle.

It takes a lot of creativity to make my budget fit my priorities, rather than the other way around. Like you, college and dental work are still priorities, so we take it one tooth and one semester at a time.

Blessing in your journey!

Jennifer said...

Peggy - that's great! My kitchen is about ready for another 'go-round' of decluttering.

And the books....where do all these books come from?