Apparently I live on the cutting edge of a new trend. I don’t have cable TV, air conditioning or even a dishwasher and that, says the Pew Research Center, means I am part of a “pervasive new creed of thrift” that is sweeping North America.
Pew surveyed American adults to determine what people consider a necessity and what they view as a luxury. The study was done after the markets crashed and people started losing their houses and jobs, so it isn’t so surprising there’s an attitude shift. When you watch your retirement savings evaporate and cannot make your mortgage payment, that spiffy new home entertainment system does start to look like a luxury you can live without.
Choosing between necessity and luxury is easy when you decide to live on a boat. Our move to a boat in Victoria’s inner harbour was a lifestyle choice, motivated by upheaval on the job front and a longing for a simpler life. In three weeks, I divested myself of 30 years of possessions and became a convert to extreme thrift. And now it seems I am a bellwether for the entire continent.
The Pew study also found that people are changing their spending habits. More people are shopping in discount stores, cutting back on alcohol and cigarettes, reducing spending on TV and cellphones, or cancelling them altogether, doing their own home repairs, and planting vegetable gardens. I read the report, mentally checking off each one of these new habits.
We do not have cable, although we do have high-speed Internet. We have a small flat-screen TV we use for watching rented movies. There isn’t room for major appliances. We rented a plot in a public garden to grow vegetables and have boxes on the dock for the herbs we like. We have library cards and use them. We do not buy anything that we do not absolutely need, which means we have not bought anything in the last six months. The prime minister would say we are not doing our bit for the economy with our non-spending ways, but this is how we want to live.
Even simple lives with free entertainment provided by harbour seals and beach walks are not worry-free.
We worry about money, health, bad storms, engine trouble and weird boat noises, but we do not argue about whether we should buy a 42- or 62-inch TV or stay up nights worrying about our mortgage.
Watch us. We are the trend-setters.