Money Matters: Counter-Cultural Finances

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Gretchen, Isa and I arrived home last night from our much anticipated vacation in Tennessee. I wrote about that in my last money matters article before leaving and talked some about how we manage to afford periodic vacations. Every time we take a vacation, I find myself more and more convinced that making this a financial priority is a wise choice for our family. For me, a vacation gets me breathing different air and able to view my life from a perspective that I simply do not get when I am wrapped up in it. There is no way we’d have these opportunities if we did not make a lot of abnormal (by our culture’s standards) financial decisions.

We live in an economic era when the overall trend is a need for tightening the belt buckles and cutting back. I want it all and I want it now has been exposed as a reliable path to big problems. I talked in my last article about how our spending money on periodic vacations represents an intentional prioritizing of our values and, accordingly, our spending. There are other things that we would like to spend money on that get sacrificed so that we can spend on an area that we have determined to be a priority. Since we can’t have it all now, we’ve got to be good at picking and choosing.

In that article, I briefly mentioned some of the counter-cultural financial decisions that we make to support our values. I’d like to spend more time on that today, while highlighting the need for all of us to continually examine whether different cultural norms for money management and “stuff” really make sense for us.

Remember, what works for us will not necessarily work for you. I’m mainly hoping to inspire all of us to take a second look at conventional financial wisdom.

Kingsley Counter-Cultural Finances:

  • 1 Car Family: I am blessed to have a job that I can usually walk to. This has been a huge help in our ability to manage with only one car. It would be more convenient to have two cars, but having one less car to insure and repair is worth more to us at this point than the convenience of two cars. Any time a household denies themselves a normal convenience, it’s definitely counter-cultural. What! You COULD have it, but you DON’T! I know. I know. And I have to live with myself.
  • 1 Income Family: Well, we all know that you need two incomes to make it these days. Right? I mean, that’s what TV told me. Look, this isn’t some soapbox thing here. Another value choice that Gretchen and I have made is for her to be a stay at home mother. This has obvious financial implications; some more so than others. We obviously have less income, but don’t forget that we also have fewer expenses. We almost never go out to eat. We don’t pay for child care. We don’t need two cars. We don’t need two cell phones WHAT DID HE JUST SAY!?!?!?!?! [hair being ripped out]. The experts say that Gretchen and I can’t do what we are doing.

Side note on our beloved experts: I was a juror in a trial where an expert explained to us that if there is a layer of snow on a parking lot, we should not expect that there could be ice under it. That was his expert testimony. (recovering from belly laugh and several knee slaps) Many experts will tell you whatever they are paid the most to tell you.

Now, Gretchen and I are seeking some supplemental income (thus this blog and our market). We do have a lifestyle that we are interested in supporting and we hope that this contributes to it, but we aren’t depending on it. Counter-cultural finances definitely take some ingenuity and creativity. That part is a work in progress.

  • 1 Cell Phone Family: We share one cell phone and our “landline” is a magic jack ($25/year internet based service). The cell phone is on a family plan and we pay about $17/per month for it. No—it doesn’t have a data plan. No—it is far from smart, much like myself (at least that’s what I’ve been told by some reliable experts). Again, this works for us. It may not for you.
  • Cars with Cash: We have never financed a car and our intention is for that not to change. We buy older used vehicles with cash and put up with the periodic repair hassles (again, with cash). We avoid consumer debt of all forms and the only interest we pay is on our home loan. We rented a car for our vacation and let me be the first to say that I reeeeaaaallllly want a new car. Someday I hope to have one – bought with cash. I hate car repairs and I do not relish driving the by now infamous ’96 Saturn SL1. Again, it’s just a values and priorities thing for us. If unexpected money comes our way, the first place it will go is to replacing our vehicle (sorry SL1 – it’s not you…it’s…well…)
  • Washing and Reusing Sealable Plastic Bags: Just an example of the old a penny saved is a penny earned principle. Reusing sealable bags saves us only a bit of money, but I mention this one simple expample, because we do a lot of little things. Little things add up. Also, if you do good in little things, you tend to do good in big things.

One of the biggest enemies of our financial lives is advertiser-pushed conventional wisdom. It is important that we think for ourselves about money and stuff. When I talk about counter-cultural finances, I am talking about positive, healthy perspectives of money and stuff that contribute to stability and long-term peace. Our culture is formed and driven by marketers who want our money and care little for our well-being. As you think about your values and priorities, have you made enough abnormal decisions to truly support them? Do you see areas where you spent money because, well, that’s just what you do? I know I have! I’m trying to get better.

Where are some places in your life that you go against the “norm” to cut back?

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This post was linked to Traditional Tuesdays at Cooking Traditional Food, This post was shared on Women Living Well Wednesdays at Women Living Well, Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food, Whole Health, Frugal Friday at Life As Mom

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3 Responses to “Money Matters: Counter-Cultural Finances”
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  1. We have a very similar life style and budget choices. My husband works while I stay at home, we have one car, one cell phone, and no debt other than our house payment. People think this is so radical! They wonder how we can afford for me to stay home but really it isn’t too bad because we don’t have a lot of extraneous expenses. It is a very freeing way to live.

    This is my write up on how we spend and save. Gotta love it! http://naturallivingmamma.com/2012/02/15/saving-money-living-better-being-green/

  2. Argh! I just filled out a comment but it got deleted because I did not log into my WordPress account. Really bizarre. And now it won’t let me log into my WordPress account, so I’m using Twitter instead.

    Anyway, I wanted to say that it’s so nice finding a blog with a male co-author! I don’t encounter that very often.

    My husband I do many of the same things you. We have one car, don’t go out to eat and cook most foods from scratch. We are lucky to have a number of extra amenities, though, because our parents, who have a lot more money than we do, are generous and like giving us nice birthday/Christmas presents that we wouldn’t be able to buy ourselves.

    I like that you used the term counterculture. It makes me think of the 60s but I think it really works for what we’re doing now, too.

  3. We do a lot of what you mention – 1 cell phone (although my husband has one through work for emergencies), 1 income, cook from scratch…. We want to be able to travel with our 2 kids, so we save where we can and throw “extra” money into a separate account to fund the travel. That way, we do not count it toward our “savings” and do not have to feel bad about spending it! By the way – I re-use my plastic zip bags too – usually for its original purpose!