Many financial gurus and geniuses will tell you that it’s okay to like stuff, that they aren’t going to tell you that you can’t have stuff or that you have to skip going out to eat altogether or to totally eliminate some other occasional treat in order to make it financially, and they are certainly not going to tell you that you need to give up most of the convenience foods in your diet, because who lives like that?
The reason they say this is NOT because you are entitled to those things, you deserve them. And it’s certainly not because it won’t make a big difference to your budget if you can do without them. They tell you these things because they are in business and they know the majority of their market isn’t interested in hearing that and won’t pay for that advice. They are right. Most people won’t want to do without these little extras and they will not pay to be told they should give up convenience foods.
But I am not selling my financial advice. I am giving it away for free, and I am here to tell you that there is a long, long list of things our culture has taught us to feel like we deserve because our culture is a liar. Those things, in fact, are not an entitlement. You really do not ‘deserve’ them. It really will make a huge difference in your budget if you can brace yourself and skip them.
I would suggest that you consider that for more of the history of the world, disposable income of any level was largely the provenance of the very wealthy, and splurging was buying raisins for an extra treat, and in some cases, eating more than once in a day (in other cases, eating.). I’m not saying you have to go that far, but it does help to get a sense of perspective with more depth and breadth than last month in America.
A couple years ago the kids gave me the book What the World Eats This is a project done by the same team who did the book Material World. In Material World (you can see some photographs here), they traveled the world and took photographs of an average family in various countries with the family’s possessions.
In What The World Eats, the photographer and journalist went to 24 countries and photographed 30 families with one week’s worth of groceries, most of the families the same families who were in their first book.You can look at a short story about it with some of the photographs here. You can see other photographs from the project here. They include data about how much the food costs, how some of the food is prepared, recipes, and a list of the food.
The family from the refugee camp in Chad get 16 ounces of dried meat each week for their family of 6. Their fruit and vegetable consumption in a week includes five small limes, 4.6 pounds of legumes, one pound of Red onions, 1/2 pound of garlic, a few ounces of okra, five ounces of dried tomatoes and chilies, each. There are some other items- plenty of millet, for example, but not really all that much more.
Now, I am not one of those people who believes that we owe it to the rest of the world to feel guilty because we eat well, and may people do not. I am grateful for the blessings we have, and I am sorry for the blessings that others do not share, and we do have our favorite charities and various acts of service we do to try to help others. But feeling guilty because I was born here instead of in Chad is an unproductive waste of time. My point is not that we should all give up meat and live on a dollar a day to show our solidarity and appease our guilt for not having been born in dire poverty.
What we do need, however, is a sense of perspective.
I would also suggest that it is not deprivation, suffering, or starvation to use meat as a seasoning for a season rather than as the main part of the meal if you need to save money by doing that, or at least, it does not need to be. It is not deprivation to have old fashioned oats for breakfast instead of pop tarts, to have an egg omelette using leftover vegetables for filling instead of store bought cereals (one of the biggest rip offs known to the western world) or to have a bowl of home-made granola instead some frozen breakfast pastry you pop into your toaster.
If you need to save some money, it’s just reality. It doesn’t mean it has to be that way forever. But it might have to be that way now, for the moment. Make the best of it as well as you can.
Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.