Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Downsizing-It's Not All About The Down

As  a reader of all things frugal, in my younger years I was a follower of the Tightwad Gazette. I'll say here that I found some of her suggestions not ready for prime time.  I also find, at this point in my life, that this frugal book (like most) is more relevant for young families than it is for singles,empty nesters or retirees.  Nevertheless, the author has more than a few nuggets of wisdom I find myself turning to over and over again.

One of her "rules of the road" is the Cost Per Wow when it comes to purchases (as well as intangibles). In other words, since most of us cannot have it all, we should evaluate the rewards on a ten point (or other) type of scale.  Is a $50 dollar restaurant meal ten times better than a five dollar meal made at home (or the opportunity to eat two $25 dollar restaurant meals).  Is it worth it to eat two weeks of simple five dollar meals at home in order to have the $25 dollar or $50 dollar meal out, or would we rather have more expensive at home meals with better ingredients and forget the dinners out?  Everyone's choices are different, certainly.  There are also intangibles that come into play. Even if the meal is not ten times better, is it worth the intangibles of not having to cook or clean up-or the social value?

As I continue my downsizing journey (my move is scheduled a week from Saturday!) I find that I've asked myself that question over and over again (albeit in different terms) in the last few months. Many of my reader's have followed on my journey, one that is not over yet.  The end result when all is said and (almost) done, is that all the downsizing and budget cut will have made for a better lifestyle overall, and increased opportunities (for lack of a better word) in areas that are important to me.

Too often the phrases "downsizing" and "budget trimming" are associated with deprivation.  I certainly don't mean to make light of the situation in this country. Many people ARE struggling both pre and post retirement-often through no fault of their own.  The idea that one can be fully prepared and do everything right is, I think, wrong.  For many of us though quality of life and finances can be improved by making decisions, large and small, that allow us more financial freedom.

When I sold my house, my intention was to rent a two bedroom apartment or condo with a small patio. That would have been a very large change from a 2500 food square house with yard, and would have seemed a miserable adjustment for many.  As I discussed in  one of my downsizing updates, I was in fact looking forward to that lifestyle for a year or so-except for the fact of two large dogs.  Still, had that been the decision I made, I would have been VERY comfortable in that house (and could in fact have afforded a dog walker two times a day).  More importantly, by downsizing my living space, I would have freed up both energy and money for things that were more important to me than a home and the attendant maintenance.

Since, then my downsized life has taken a turn, as most readers know. My current downsizing consists of sharing a house the size of my previous one.  My life is still downsized, just differently. I will now share a house, paying half a mortgage,  I will have the first floor. My roommate/sister will have the basement and we will have both shared and separate living space. While the space I live in may be larger in total, I've still downsized both the amount of energy and money spent towards housing-while sacrificing some privacy and space in the process.

It's really not important how I downsized. What is important is what I have gained. For me that is primarily the chance to travel two or three times a year instead of once (I have spent my life traveling, so I no longer have the need to travel constantly), to afford my expensive hobbies, and to spend part of the year living elsewhere.  In my case, less space and having to "share" is worth it in order to be able to do/have those things.  Rather than "giving up" a home, I "gained" those other things, from my perspective.

In general, I choose to have a more "downsized" and "simplified" life in order to afford some of those "big things" when I can. Most of my entertainment life involves free festivals and neighborhood fairs, church concerts, concerts in the park, rented or free movies, and the like.  There are very few movies in my experience that are worth seeing in a theater, when the cost is a tenth through the library or Redbox.  On the other hand, watching those free movies allows me that one wow midnight movie opening night every month or so, if the moment strikes.  Eating simply, healthy, cooked from scratch meals on a day by day basis means eating out every week or so is affordable (and often appreciated more than when I ate out multiple times a week). 

Everyone's "Wows" will be different, and we all have to put things in perspective. While I don't think the fifty dollar dinner is ten times better (most of the time), I do tend to think that the two hundred dollar dinner is at least twenty times as good (yes, I am a gourmet food snob)-but acknowledge that without all the five dollar dinners the other would be impossible.  Others may decide that the house and garden are worth staying home for and limit travel and outside hobbies. Everyone's choice is different, and we will all downsize different things. For most of us though, the end result will be an "upsize" be it financially, emotionally or otherwise in another area. We need to look at both sides!

In other news, I impatiently await next Saturday.  I've spent the last couple of days talking to movers. While I realize that my son and his friend loaded all of my items, we now have a washer, dryer and freezer as well as additional furniture to add to the mix-and we want to move as quickly as possible. I see professional movers in our future (along with the added expense). This Saturday my sister will have a yard sale. A buyer has asked to see her home (knowing that she has not painted or cleaned and packing boxes are everywhere). In other words, we are in the final stretch, and  I am more than ready to get to all my "stuff"-with all that implies!


  1. Terrific analysis of determining priorities. I read "Your Money or Your Life" about 20 years ago. It had a profound, permanent impact on my life, and I still apply many of the the principles it laid out to our early retirement lifestyle today

    One of the adages I live by is that you can have it all, just not necessarily all at the same time, which is also what your post describes. As just one example, on the road in our RV, I prefer to eat out more often then at home because of the limited cooking space in our trailer. I'm willing to make compromises on 'the number of stars' for the restaurant if you will, in order to accomplish that within our budget. Of course, does help in pointing us to eating spots that do whatever they do very well, but that's probably beside the point!

    1. Yes, yelp is a wonderful thing. I adore really really good six course gourmet type food, but only get it a few times a year. I already have my birthday meal picked out. However, I am more than happy eating whatever the rest of the time.

  2. I have been watching/enjoying your downsizing/moving from the sidelines; thanks for taking the time to write about all your adventures.

    I'm doing something similar; when I retired I wanted to downsize/simplify my stuff (even though I didn't want to move from my home, I realized that home had WAY too much stuff in it) & slowly working at the project.

    The surprise was that my daughter & her Aussie moved in with us for financial reasons; she also has stuff, so we are clearing together.

    I agree about downsizing not being bad. It does free resources, including life energy and finances, to relate to our current priorities.

    One of the bloggers (I'm sorry to say I don't remember who) called it constant optimization, continually checking to see if what was important before is still important.

    Good luck! I'm almost as excited as you are to have you re-united with your stuff!


  3. In following your downsizing journey I am slowly but surely leaning towards doing the same. Life is to be lived and having a smaller place would really be a blessing in the long run.

    God bless.

    1. It certainly has turned out that way, Jackie!

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  5. Congrats. on all your moves ... all of them make sense to me. Yeah, I prefer to call it "simplify" rather than "downsize" -- has a better feel to it, and is also something I look forward to doing. But a $200 dinner?!? Never had one of those, so I can't downsize/simplify from that!

    1. Neither can I, I cn just have them more often.........sigh

  6. Hi Barb....congratulations on your big step to scale back and simplify. I actually call the process "right-sizing" because I think that when we consciously choose to let go of all the stuff and focus on the things that bring us the greatest pleasure we are actually enhancing our lives (right-sizing) our lives in so many ways. I write about right-sizing, minimalism and simple living quite a bit on my own blog and even though I'm not retired (and neither is my husband) I'm not sure we will ever retire because we've created such a great lifestyle along the way that what we do only adds to the mix. I look forward to reading here on your blog about your discoveries as you continue to rightsize you life! ~Kathy


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