August 25, 2009

Livin' the High Life

I've been waiting for a post where I could use this Mad Men icon (avatar?) That's me, Mad Men style. I haven't really worn blue eye shadow since the 7th grade, but it seemed appropriate to the occasion. You can "MadMen yourself" by clicking here. Thanks to Katy at The Non Consumer Advocate for that delightful diversion.

I'm "livin' the high life" at the moment because I'm enjoying a two day getaway at my parents' condominium in north county San Diego. They're at their vacation cabin in Idaho, so they offered it to my husband and I. Unfortunately, he's out of town on a family visit, so I decided to come on my own. I'm across the street from the beach and the condo complex has a pool that no one ever uses, perfect for a dose of R & R.

So right now, for a short time, I'm literally "livin' the high life," but I've been thinking lately about how much my so-called frugal life feels more like the high life to me. Far from being about deprivation, our simple lifestyle is full of abundance.

For one thing, it helps to have super-generous friends when you commit to Buy Nothing New for a year. Our best friends are always giving us their hand-me-downs: a couch, serving dishes, cloth napkins, clothes, you name it. We're "the country cousins" and I don't mind! We will happily take what they no longer need off their hands. They've got great taste. They also invite us to enjoy their delicious homecooked meals so frequently that today I joked that I should be bringing my own soup bowl. I highly recommend acquiring friends like ours if you attempt The Compact or a frugal lifestyle. Luckily, we've known them for years, so there's no danger that they'll think we're using them for their castoffs.

I'm only partly joking, because a lot of what makes me feel so "rich" is the people I'm around. I feel rich in friendships and experiences, plus there's the "stuff" we share with each other. Last week I had lunch with a fellow Compacter and she brought me a jar of homemade apricot chutney and another of peach marmalade, and I gave her half a watermelon from our CSA box. Does that sound like a deprived lifestyle to you?

A lot of this depends on the fact that my husband and I are in our 40s, and though we've never been big spenders, we have reached a stage where we've acquired plenty of "things" (and that was without a fancy wedding and registering, etc.). I heard somewhere that "the first 40 years of life are about acquiring things, and the next 40 are about getting rid of them." So I'm just going along with the natural flow if that's the case.

My friends and I also share tips and information about the millions of things to do here in Los Angeles, many of them low-cost or even free. Here are just a few examples of "livin' the high life," Compact-style:

1. A steady diet of delicious organic fruits and vegetables.
2. Membership at two of my favorite area museums, which means free admission year-round for my husband and I. This was thanks to gifts from the above-mentioned super-generous friends and my parents, when I mentioned recently that we didn't really need any more STUFF. The membership also includes invitations to special events like concerts and openings.
3. A wardrobe supplemented by my stylish friends at our yearly clothing swap.
4. An evening at The Magic Castle, a members-only club for magicians, as guests of friends who are members. Swanky.
5. As a member of our brilliant public radio station KCRW, I am constantly getting bargains like half price tickets at one of our favorite outdoor theaters. I have also won free concert tickets several times from this station.
6. I paid full price to see Jackson Browne at the Greek Theater (pitter patter, there goes my heart again), because I can afford to splurge on things that really mean something to me when I save so much money being a non-consumer.
7. I look just like my Mad Max icon when I'm enjoying a martini with my husband at our new-to-us Craigslist stainless steel table in our partially remodeled kitchen. And if that isn't the high life, I don't know what is.

What are YOUR examples of "livin' the high life?" Got any tips for how to enjoy a nice lifestyle on less money? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section.


stephanie said...

love the mad men yourself!
Just reposted on my blog.
fun show. fun cartoon making.

Ellen said...

Would love to see pics of the kitchen makeover....

WilliamB said...

Best cheap vacation: a long weekend in Tokyo. A friend was stationed at the Navy base there. I used frequent flier miles to fly business class and paid $3/night to stay on base. This meant that spending $80 on breakfast at Tsukiji (the world-famous wholesale fish market) was no problem at all.

I don't expect to ever manage a vacation in Japan for $300 again.

Alea said...

I don't think this qualifies as a tip, but I think the best way to enjoy the high life is to live in the now. I try to notice and be thankful for the little things. I think another important element is to live out what is important to you and not let society, friends, or neighbors dictate your actions. That means establishing your own priorities and empowering yourself to say no to the things that detract from those priorities.

A tip if you like music and theatre you can volunteer to work as an usher and see the performances for free. My daughter volunteered with the philharmonic to help the guest performers during the intermission. She would unwrap the CD's so the performer could autograph them. They always chatted with her before and after the session. She got to hang out with world class musicians for free, as well as see a free performance!

Jill said...

Love this post, Angela- And hope your R&R was spectacular!
I totally agree about the first 40 years - I'm in the second phase and really trying to declutter any chance I can!
Livin' the high life for us? Sticking around home during the summer more than my CSA-owning friends - I get to double up on their shares while they are away!! Yay - free, organic LOCAL food!!

Julie said...

Just hanging out with my kid at the park is one of my favorite non-consumer activities. We go different parks in different towns (we check online for ideas) and if there's a library we've never been to nearby, so much the better. But last week was a doozy: we went to a park in an affluent town, there were 4 different play structures in one park. (Nirvana for an active 8 year old boy.) I struck up a conversation with a nanny when my son started playing with "her" kids. She told me about how the parents of the kids are big time lawyers, always working or out at a benefit gala or whatever. She watches the kids 12 - 16 hours a day while the parents are out earning a ton, but missing out on amazing moments with their kids. It just made me so sad, but also proud of myself for staying home with my son, despite the financial challenges and the soul-draining drudgery that can entail. We live in a tiny townhouse, we drive small, paid-for cars, and we eat beans. But my kid knows he is the center of our world. Frugal is fun because it allows me to choose to stay home and homeschool my kid. I wouldn't trade that for a glamorous life!

Angela said...

Stephanie- Isn't it fun? Ours look similar, except for the 'do.

Ellen- I will post photos, but first I've been inspired by all my husband's hard work to paint the beat up old cabinets. I'd love to replace them, but it's not going to happen, so the least I can do is paint them.

WilliamB- I'd say that definitely takes the cake as the cheapest Japanese vacation ever! Good for you.

Alea- I heartily agree with your philosophy. And thanks for the great tip about volunteering at music performances!

Jill- Glad you liked it! Yes, we had a fantastic trip. And doubling the pleasure of the CSA delivery sounds great to me!

Julie- I totally agree that frugal can be fun. And sometimes what seems "glamorous" is really no fun at all. I'm always struck by how so-called "important" people can never get a minute to themselves- always on their Blackberry or taking a cell phone call, never a private moment to themselves for reflection. I suppose some people like that, but I'm not one of them. thanks for your comment!