Food, shelter, and clothing. In a simpler age, those three were the basic human physical needs. In this modern age, most of us would add two more basics — health care and transportation.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the essentials these past seven years, once it became obvious that my earnings had peaked and were sliding downhill. One clings to a familiar standard of living as long as possible, past the point of reasonable indebtedness.
I knew that I was spending more than I earned each month, resulting in slowly mounting credit card debt. I could not ignore it forever. And in my late 50s, as I bounced from one hourly wage job to another, I realized that my ability to work hard and long hours was waning.
It was clear that I needed to live more simply and reduce spending. If I could reduce spending enough, I would be able to work less.
“What am I spending this money on?” I asked. “And what are the absolute bare necessities?”
My three major expenses were not food, shelter, and clothing. Shelter, yes. I lived in one of the most expensive suburbs in America. The price of a decent house was outrageous. The cost of renting a decent apartment, almost equally outrageous.
The other two money pits were the car, including gas, maintenance, repairs, insurance; and health care. The health care piece came in the form of health insurance, which remained within reach as long as I had a job that offered health benefits.
Clothing has become relatively inexpensive, since most of it is manufactured by cheap labor in faraway places. I already had more clothing than I needed, so clothing expenses were negligible.
Food is nonnegotiable. Food is the last necessity you give up. You can be homeless and walk everywhere, but you still have to eat. Fortunately, food is still relatively cheap because of efficient modern agribusiness. Also fortunately, I do not consume large quantities of food. Conclusion: Not much savings likely in the essential food category.
By process of elimination, the big savings would have to come from housing, car, and health care.
Thinking About Simplicity, to be continued . . .