Too many choices: the frugality trap

We live in a land of too many choices.

Even as we try to scale back on spending, we have too many choices!

Quick Grocery update:

I am happy to say that I am sticking to the grocery budget! We spent $96.50 the first week and 92.30 the second. Since I have learned that meticulously planning and shopping for a $100 grocery budget for 5 people is incredibly time consuming, we are trying to switch to shopping every two weeks, with small fill-ins on the off weeks. This week, I have spent $185 for the first big shopping adventure. I have $15 to fill in for this week.

The Dude is now eligible to work (YAY!) and so he has started receiving unemployment and looking for work. This means that if need be, I can bump the budget up to $125 a week. But I have been holding steady. However, we have not yet needed any paper goods, so that might be where the extra funds come in handy. Not $100/month worth, but a little over the $100/week cap.


Quick Life update:

The Dude is definitely on the mend! And this blogger had reached serious burn-out level. I didn’t even realize how bad it got, but this past week was bleak. My life has been commuting to work, working, commuting home from work, eating dinner, chatting and watching Netflix, and passing out. We have spent weekends grocery shopping, meal prepping, and fretting about some car issue or another. Little joy, little fun. After a really big, stress and sadness induced blow-up, I was finally able to communicate my needs and the Dude and I had a beautiful day outside in the national forest. I will include pics throughout this post, not necessarily to illustrate a point but rather to remind me of the importance of rest and enjoyment. And nature.

With the updates out of the way, I will focus on the main crux of this post. Even in the realms of minimalism and frugality, we have too may choices in our lives!

Too Many Choices

What is one of the things that minimalism and frugality can both bring?

Each can help us reduce the amount of consumer choices we make each day. We reduce the size of our wardrobe and don’t buy clothes whenever the mood hits us and it can make dressing a lot easier in the morning. When we simplify our diets, we can avoid full aisles of stuff in the grocery store.

Autumn leaves. Too many choices: the frugality trap

Of course, each can also increase the amount of consumer choices we make each day.

Drowning in choice

The Dude and I have almost never own a TV. This is both frugal and minimal. We didn’t buy a TV, we don’t pay for cable, we don’t have to buy a stand for a TV, and we aren’t tempted by upgrades. We also do not have to make a space for a TV, set up a room around one, and never have to move one.

Tall forest trees. Too many choices: the frugality trap

However, just because we don’t have a TV doesn’t mean we don’t watch TV. Although there have been times when we would get DVDs from the library to watch on our computer (and have a set of DVDs out right now for the first time in a very long), gosh it is easier with Netflix. And then streaming came along. All those choices at our fingertips. We have Amazon Prime and it gives us the option of more videos, and now it has its own content. For some reason, we signed up for Hulu. And Youtube Premium is a godsend.

And just like that, we are paying for and managing 4 different television subscription channels. Granted, we were paying for Amazon Prime already and this is just a side perk, but we still need to remember it and we maintain our lists.

This is neither simple nor is it frugal.

Between the 3 (not counting Amazon Prime), it is $44 a month. We have evaluated this and have dropped Hulu. Our watch lists are bursting with options, and yet we were hanging on to Hulu to watch new shows in almost “real time”. Netflix streams the shows soon after the season is done, so we wait. We get a lot of value out of Netflix and Youtube Premium though, so we are keeping those.

Since this reevaluation of our services is fresh in my mind, I was interested in this article in Wired: You’re About to Drown in Subscriptions. About to? I just paddled to the shore to really think about the water conditions.

Sometimes minimalism and frugality themselves can leads to an increase in consumer choices.

There are hundreds of books about minimalism. Podcasts are dedicated to it. It has its own aesthetic, and that aesthetic is not cheap. One doesn’t have to follow the aesthetic and can be minimalist in any way they desire. I am just pointing out that minimalism has its own marketplace.

Frugality can lead to more consumer choices as well. When you go into a thrift shop that is full to the ceiling with 50 years worth of stuff, you are surrounded by choices. As I have created and stuck to a grocery budget these last three weeks, I have had so many interactions with stores and marketing as I pore over the flyers finding the best deals.

Sun dappled forest path in autumn. Too many choices: the frugality trap

The complications of frugality

As I mentioned above, I have moved to shopping every two weeks instead of weekly. However, I might have complicated it some by adding more stores to the mix. This week, we went to Safeway (actually Albertsons because it was right next door to the kiddo’s dentist so we shopped while he got cleaned), Fred Meyer, Costco, Grocery Outlet, Cash and Carry (now Smart Food Service), Winco, a local liquidation store and our local produce market (twice, and one more quick run tomorrow).

We started shopping at 9 in the morning and stopped for a break at 1:30. Then we did more from 3-4 pm. It was a long and exhausting process and before that, I went through each website choosing our food purchases and tallying the cost. We had to plan the order of the grocery shopping and how to fit other things in to the day. It is enough to give decision fatigue.

I suppose my point here is that even within practices that should inherently lend themselves to a more simplistic palette, we still must always remain vigilant for the creep of consumption and over-stimulation.

Sun burst through trees-autmn forest