Australia is stupendously rich by world standards, and its citizens are spending their hard-earned dough in ever-greater quantities: $40 lunches, $200 shoes, $5 coffees. Many people still feel like they don’t have enough. We are clearly doing a Very Poor Job of turning our historically-unprecedented level of wealth into health and contentment. It seems a shame not to take stock and see where we’ve gone wrong, and whether there might not be something we can do about it.
That is the motivation behind our new book, The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending less While Enjoying Everything More. We coined the phrase ‘frugal hedonist’, to refer to someone who greedily laps up all of life’s non-monetised pleasures, whilst keeping themselves free enough to enjoy these pleasures by under-indulging in ‘comfort and convenience’ spending. Less money spent, equals less pressure to work, equals more flexibility to do the things that make you really happy!
So familiar is the notion that consuming less is a sacrifice made for the sake of saving money or conserving resources, that it is easy to resent whatever we are giving up and overlook all the glorious side effects of a thriftier lifestyle. But take a step back, and the picture becomes clearer. While it might at first seem that spending less requires more effort, oversupply of consumables (of the level most modern first-worlders experience) actually has a tendency to turn right back into efforts that we need to expend. For example, the effort required to go to the gym/ weight loss support group/ doctor because you were oversupplied with cheap consumables and labour-saving devices. Not to mention the effort required to go to work to pay for those services. The Frugal Hedonist recognises the efficiency of a little restraint here and there, and the greater pleasures to be gained! Ride to the shops instead of driving, chop up that whopper pumpkin that you grew with an axe and make it into soup to take for lunch instead of buying takeaway, hang out your laundry because you’re too cheap to use a dryer, and base your holidays around hiking to waterfalls rather than eating at new cafes in different places, and the effort required to stay fit and healthy gets taken care of while you were doing other things. Marvellous.
Another often-ignored side-effect of restricting our consumption is that it keeps us alive to appreciating the consumption we do do. Scoring an amazing cashmere jumper from a second hand store can only be fully relished by someone who doesn’t have a wardrobe already crammed with impulse buys from every shop in the mall. The pleasure of buying a mango from a street stall to eat messily on a summer’s afternoon park bench can only be as succulent to someone who doesn’t grab a chocolate bar every time they go through a supermarket checkout.
Really having not enough is horrible: persistent hunger and cold make you unwell and stressed. Having just enough, plus a little more, is absolutely lovely. Having even more than that, just because it’s the cultural norm, starts to make you unwell and stressed all over again – although the connection is often less obvious. The problems of overabundance and ‘over-ease’ in Western cultures are hitting full stride in the form of our tight waistbands, overstuffed closets and overflowing rubbish tips. Let’s stop denying ourselves the full benefits of a connected, curious, materially-modest, sensually indulgent lifestyle. Let’s get Frugally Hedonistic.
Listen to Annie’s interview on Radio New Zealand with Jesse Mulligan
Annie and Adam have been life long frugalists who are not afraid to enjoy themselves in the process. Their quirky, and sometimes, confronting take on modern life is a welcome new direction in a world of over-abundance and abject poverty. Available in book and digital form from our website with free Australian delivery, with the best price in the country.