As time has passed, technology has become more accessible, standards of living have improved and things that in the past would have been considered luxuries, are now considered basic necessities. Essential.
Take electricity, for example.
The first civilisation arose around 5,000 years ago. Of course, humans had been around before that but for the sake of argument, I’ll start at 3,000BC.
The first electric battery was invented in 1800 but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that advances in electrical engineering saw electricity go from a scientific curiosity to being an everyday phenomenon [source].
And so electricity has only come into use in the last 100 years or so. Throughout the last 5000 years, electricity has only been around for the last 2% of the time.
And yet not one of us would consider electricity a luxury. Instead it would be firmly planted in the ‘basic necessity of life’ category.
Now I’m not advocating that we should give up electricity or any other modern convenience and go and live like they did in the dark ages. But when money becomes scarce, the first step to tightening the proverbial belt is to distinguish between essential and non-essential spending and reduced the non-essentials. Seems obvious and easy, right?
But distinguishing the essentials from the non-essentials can be quite difficult. What non-essential you would have difficulty giving up:
- Mobile phone
- internet (that would be me, actually)
- pay tv
- credit card
- hairdresser / leg waxer / nail filer / eyebrow plucker
- lawn mowing service
- washing machine
- electric stove
- convenience food / packaged food / takeaway
- more than one or two pairs of shoes
With our standard of living going up, our list of ‘essentials’ grows and our income must stretch further and further to cover just the basics. Less than one hundred years ago, the household income had to cover food, shelter, clothing and a few other necessities. Non-essentials like entertainment was either free or a rare treat. Now it would seem that you’re doing it pretty tough if you don’t have a flat screen TV (or so they say).
But the most important thing that hit me was how I had lost appreciation for the basics. Slow internet speed can get me a pretty miffed, a blackout for a few hours is ‘beyond’ a nuisance. But then I realised just how awesome internet is (how could we have possibly managed without Google?) and how much I rely on something as luxurious as electricity. Imagine what people thousands of years ago would say to light at the flick of the switch.
We take it all for granted.
So if you’re in the process of reigning in your budget consider what really is essential, and what you could live without. That doesn’t mean you have to give up all discretionary spending, but it is empowering knowing just what you need and what you don’t. That knowledge alone puts you one step ahead of the live to consume world.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.