Adam writes in:
I’m not feeling the vibe from your recent posts about how to save a few pennies washing Ziploc bags. This won’t get me rich.
Getting rich isn’t the point.
One of my favorite people in the world, Rachel, currently works for a non-profit organization in the Seattle area. She works there because the work she does deeply fulfills her and matches what she views as her purpose in life. To put it simply, she values greatly the work she does with developmentally disabled people. She has a set of natural gifts (patience, communication skills, energy) that suit her very well and it’s a type of work that not only allows her to feel like she’s gaining something of very personal value from the work, but that she’s actually having a transformative effect on the lives of the people she works with and their families.
That’s an absolutely fulfilling job, one with personal meaning and value for Rachel as well as providing value to the world.
The only problem? It pays peanuts.
My position is a similar one in some ways. I had a good, secure job with a very nice salary. I walked away from that job – giving up quite a bit of salary – to pursue writing. Writing is an often thankless job with extremely uneven pay, but it’s fulfilling work – for me, at least. I deeply enjoy the time I spend writing and I deeply value how the things I write have positive effects on other people. I also have an insanely flexible schedule, one that allows me all the time I want to spend with my children.
In both of our cases, we walked away from career paths that offered excellent pay for careers that offered much less pay. We did this because the lower-paying jobs reflected our personal values well, matched our skill sets well, offered deep personal fulfillment, and allowed us a sense of professional freedom and enjoyment that we couldn’t find elsewhere.
In exchange for that, we had to give up some material trappings and make some hard choices along the way.
This means not buying every electronic gadget that comes along or every hot newly released book that appears in the bookstore.
It means figuring out how to replace the shower head yourself when it stops working and shopping at thrift stores.
It also means doing things like washing Ziploc freezer bags for reuse or hanging up laundry instead of using the dryer.
To me, that’s a trade I’m happy to make. My life is not defined by owning an iPad or the type of laundry detergent I use. My life is defined by the fact that almost all of the time, I’m engaged in activities that personally fulfill me, whether it be writing or reading a book or holding my wife’s hand or rolling around in the grass with my children.
I don’t have a pile of new releases on my bookshelf or DVD shelf. But I also don’t have a bunch of job stress and I don’t have a sense of being out of touch with my children and I don’t have the worry of a pile of debt or other bills that I have no idea how I’ll pay.
Every time I discover some little, simple new thing to do that saves me a few bucks, I don’t just see some lame frugality tip. I see another brick in that beautiful yellow road leading to an Emerald City where I don’t have to worry about income at all. I see another avenue that keeps me securely in a life that I’m happy with and that fulfills me deeply.
That’s what frugality means to me.
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