Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The high cost of low budgets

We literally drive our cars for so long they are literally wearing thin and falling apart with every kilometer. We aren't doing it to counter consumer culture. Our cars are 13 and 15 years old because we simply can't afford to replace them.

When we want to do something on a weekend that comes with any price-tag other than "free", we have to consider how to make that money, most often by selling our possessions.

As we re-evaluated our budget, realizing we were outspending ourselves, we cut our grocery budget. Again. We're not scraping the bottom of the butter dish to try to make everything stretch just a little further. But we do try to really evaluate the difference between what we want and what we need.

Knowing it's only short term (less than 4 months until Scott's done school!), we figure it's short term pain for long term gain. But the other day, we were sitting on the couch, watching TED Talks, and browsing Pinterest for new recipes. I was explaining why I accept (some) of the theory behind vegetarianism and veganism, but why I don't feel it's the right decision for me. I feel meat is necessary for my body (yes, I do know the health risks of a diet heavy in red meat, etc). My body's desire for meat, however, has to outweigh my dislike of factory farming.

The answer was simple: eat sustainable, organic, or free range meat. But it doesn't come cheap.

As Scott said when I posed that conundrum to him, "We don't have enough money to be good people".

Comments about the high cost of low prices are generally targeted at stores like Walmart, which offers low prices at the expense of the workers, both domestic and international all in the name of profit. We pat ourselves on the back for boycotting Walmart as we eat our grocery store meat, which offers low prices at the expense of the animals.

I know this is the point where I should be voting with my pocket book and going fully vegetarian or vegan if I can't support the ethical farming process. But I also know I'll be benefiting the animals at the expense of myself (I struggle to maintain enough iron and protein levels on my current diet) if I do that.

But my hope is not only that one day we'll have the funds to be "good people" but also that one day, being ethically conscious will not be a privilege for those with money.


  1. I struggle with this a lot. It's a lot easier for me to buy organic fruit/vegetables, because many times they are available for similar prices or, in weird instances of Gala apples, cheaper than the 'regular' kind.

    I have similar diet issues, not getting enough protein/iron, and tend to lose weight too easily. I think it's one of those situations where you simply can't do every last thing, especially on a budget, but it is important to do what you can, where you can.

    Small actions build up, and when something becomes habit/affordable, you can add in new ways of sustainable living.

    One thing I'm planning for, and might be a good idea for those struggling - look for local farms that sell meat. I am trying to encourage my in-laws to buy into a quarter or half cow from local farms. We have the freezer space, but putting up the initial cost does become an investment, one that I cannot make myself.

    As for cars, it might be worth looking into what it costs environmentally to build that shiny new 'sustainable' car and see how it matches up in how long you would have to drive it to offset what it cost to make. Our car is about 13 years old, but it gets gas mileage about the same as many new cars and we fix it when it breaks. We'd like a new car, but like you, simply can't afford it.

    Being able to afford something shouldn't make you (or anybody) feel guilty. We all live in a real world where we have to eat, get dressed, go to work/school. We can't just drop reality to achieve the ideal. Try reading about the Nirvana Fallacy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana_fallacy

  2. What a thought provoking post. Good Luck with your frugality.

  3. It's very very challenging! As a vegan, my grocery bills are quite expensive as I try to eat organic and local as needed (you should watch "Forks over Knives" it's very motivational!) I just looked at my budget and realized I spend over 50% of my income on entertainment and shopping which is despicable so am starting a new saving regime! You can do it Cara!


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