Thursday, October 4, 2012


I believe I've mentioned here that A. is very unhappy in his current job. It is in a field he detests and his workplace is positively toxic. His health has suffered; he doesn’t sleep well, he has frequent headaches and his acid reflux is nearly constant. Not to mention he is very, very unhappy.

He put in his notice a month ago. Next Friday is his last day!

I am so relieved! I’ve been recommending this for months and months, but he finally saw for himself that it was a good and necessary move.

It is scary, for sure. He does not have another job lined up yet. I hope that he will find ways to stay active and remember his self worth, even if he is not earning money. I, personally, think he will contribute to our family in a wonderful way, regardless of income. Money isn’t everything. But happiness is.

I’ve been ruminating on happiness for some time. I’ve been freaking out about the role money plays in structuring our lives, and effectively stamping out happiness. Of all the distractions that cost us money, time, and happiness. Really, is an iPad or iPhone necessary? And not only that, is it necessary to improve upon models annually and for consumers to updgrade? What is upgrading, after all? The smartphones and super gadgets are all cool, and truly feats of engineering genius. I appreciate that, and don’t think innovation in and of itself is a bad thing. But most innovation just creates products we’ve been trained we need. We automatically value innovation and equal it to “progress.” Do we really even need cell phones, let alone smartphones? Not really.

It is a spiraling train of thought, and I often find it overwhelming and frightening. But I really, really want to find a way for A. and I to define our lives the way we need to in order to be happy and not to meet some standard forced upon on us and approved by the current capitalist system. It is not working, this mainstream idea of the good life. (I don’t think we are any “better” or whatnot than the mainstream, and am not interested in being contrarian just for the sake of it. I just don’t know if we can find happiness this way.)

We are going to be a one-income family for a while. For how long, we do not know. I’ve been considering things to cut back on or even eliminate entirely both to help bring some breathing room into our budget, but also to remove unnecessary distractions. I want to chuck the TV altogether, but A. really enjoys watching baseball and hockey. Of course, with the hockey players on strike that argument is currently moot. Unfortunately, I am a simpleton that cannot keep myself from getting sucked into the TV. If it is on, I am a zombie.)

I have an iPhone, and I do use it quite a bit. I will readily admit that it is fun to do all the stuff you can with it. I love having a live calendar and adore Instagram. But otherwise? I wonder if it is just a harmful distraction. I ignore A. more than I think I do, I am sure. I do not need Words with Friends or the Rachel Maddow app. (Though I looooove having access to her show - I have such a huge crush on her.)

Should I unplug? Suck it up and pay the early termination fee from Gigantic Cell Phone Company and get a pre-paid, less sexy phone? I would save $540 a year. And would hopefully quit ignoring A. Why am I so hesitant?



  1. Yay for A.! This is such a hard and admirable decision to make. And as a member of a couple that went low budget for years and years and is now much less so (insane expense for random child activity? bring it on! seems to be our motto now), I so hear you on the "what can we live without" questions. For years we had one vehicle, no cell phones (this was well into the cell phone age, but also well before fun mobile devices), watched only Fox, as it was the only channel our antenna picked up. Part of me loved living like this - the virtue was a reward in itself, I am sorry to say (was I unsufferable? I must have been insufferable), plus there was that great feeling of Not Needing It. There was also the bleakness, sometimes. I maybe got a little bit addicted to the bleakness, and I don't really recommend it.

    But I didn't mean to go on so long about me: I wonder if there is a middle path. If, for example, you could go x number of months keeping your cell phone and then look again at how you use it (how much longer on your contract, for example?) Although sometimes it's easier just to give something up when you're first thinking of it.

  2. I went through a similar scale-down a few months ago when I was facing uncertain job prospects and a dwindling bank account. Of course, as soon as I got a job, I ramped right back up! But I have a feeling once my student loan payments start coming due, I'll be back to basic living.

    Cable: I've found that I can find most of what I want to watch online for free or less than the cost of cable. (MLB offers online streaming packages; NHL might have the same.)

    Phone: Will your phone company let you suspend your service for a while? I did this while I was in Malawi; it cost $5/month to maintain the contract and keep my number. Just tell them that you are going to a remote country where the company's network doesn't reach (Malawi is good for this). You can try a prepaid, no-contract phone for a month or two to see if you can live with it---and go back to the fancy phone if you can't without the regret of paying the termination fee.

    A couple of other suggestions:
    * If A isn't working full-time anymore, he presumably won't be driving his vehicle as much. You might call your insurance agent to see if you can get the vehicle reclassified on the insurance as a secondary or recreational vehicle to get a break on your premiums.
    * Call the power company. With a lower household income, you might qualify for energy assistance credits.

    Good luck to you and A. I'm looking forward to future blog posts on what you decide to do.

  3. I love this post because these are all things I think about often too. You'll figure out the money thing as you go. My guess is that you'll look back on this time when it's over, and realize you're better off in more ways that you would have imagined. And if you're asking for an opinion, I say this - whenever facing a question about unplugging a device and plugging into a human, it's always better to choose the human. You can do it. You're just hesitating b/c it's your routine. You'll find a new routine. We humans are creatures of habit like that.

    I'm also looking forward to hearing more from you about your comment on defining your lives the way you need to in order to be happy and not to meet some standard forced upon on us by mainstream ideas. I think family is family - and no one should say what a family should or shouldn't look like.

  4. I'll second the "you can probably stream all the games" comment - when my dad was looking into going TV-free, from what I could tell the NFL is just about the ONLY sport that has no pay-to-stream option. I know the MLB does have one. $8.99/mo for streaming netflix (or hulu plus) can replace an AWFUL LOT of the rest of tv.

    (ah yes! here is baseball and presumabley, if there were a season, here is hockey)

    Major props to A for doing this - a toxic job contaminates all other aspects of your life. And major props to you for being so supportive!

  5. I think a lot of people are starting to think about (or being forced to think about) "scaling down" as we all realize that our current trajectories are not really sustainable. I HAVE to get out of my current job soon. Like, probably in the next 1-2 years. I'm trying to make my base expenses as low as possible, but yeah. It's not easy. Good for you guys.

  6. Agree with just about everything you said except for cell phones, I have a prepaid cell phone plan that doesn't cost much and it's nice to have if my car breaks down. Cell phones have just about done away with any pay phones so it's not so much a luxury as a necessity.

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  8. Have I forced my "distractions" quote on you yet? Yes, I'm still stalking your blog and now I know how to write stuff. Scary.
    So, here it is:
    "These music-oholics. These calm-ophobics. No one wants to admit we're addicted to music. That's just not possible. No one's addicted to music and television and radio. We just need more of it, more channels, a larger screen, more volume. We can't bear to be without it, but no, nobody's addicted. We could turn it off anytime we wanted. ... These distraction-oholics. These focus-ophobics. Old George Orwell got it backward. Big Brother isn't watching. He's singing and dancing. He's pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother's busy holding your attention every moment you're awake. He's making sure you're always distracted. He's making sure you're fully absorbed. He's making sure your imagination withers. Until it's as useful as your appendix. He's making sure your attention is always filled. And this being fed, it's worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what's in your mind. With everyone's imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world." - C. Palahniuk

    I feel like my husband ignores me and my son a lot due to his phone and/or computer. It's very frustrating.

    Much love - - - -


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