Last month’s edition of this proved so popular, I’ve written a sequel. The premise of the diamond-cut life is that joy and well-being come from what we do and who we are with, not from possessions that are costly to both us and the planet.
1. Cable television. The average cost for cable TV in the U.S. is $40/month, or $480/year, or $4,800 over ten years. But it’s much more than that in lost interest if you would have saved or invested the money. Many cable TV offerings can be checked out of the library for free. And less TV time in general is correlated with weight loss.
2. Bottled salad dressing. These cost several dollars per bottle, have ingredient lists that are dangerously unpronounceable, and if they’re at all gooey, about 15% stays stuck to the inside of the bottle, unusable. Using olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead saves money and is more healthy. (Colleen contributed this item in last month’s edition of Top Ten Things To Happily Live Without).
3. Desserts – except as a special treat, say, once a week. They’re habit-forming and costly. If I have dessert after dinner, I crave dessert the next night. But if I don’t have dessert a few nights in a row – no cravings. When I was in my 20’s, I baked cookies and sweet breads as a steady habit. It took me years to realize that for me, baking equals overeating. Overeating equals overspending. Have you ever binged on broccoli, beets or bok choy? Neither have I. But my struggles with Haagen-Dazs are legendary, and I’m happy to report I almost never buy or eat it anymore.
4. Hotel-stays when you can camp instead. We returned two days ago from a camping trip with friends, our tent pitched a few steps from the Little White Salmon River under a canopy of Douglas fir. Deliriously beautiful. I’m still reverberating with joy. High-end hotels haven’t left me half as happy. The cost? Ten dollars per household per night. Certainly, camping isn’t always an option. But when it is, it saves hundreds of dollars in averted hotel/restaurant costs – and leaves us feeling more alive afterwards.
5. Manicures. After I’ve gotten them for special occasions in the past, my polish was chipped, unsightly and embarrassing within a few days. I use my hands constantly for gardening, playing the harp and guitar, and the list goes on. Unadorned, short-clipped fingernails let me live an active life without feeling like I have to hold back on the many things I love to do—and I don’t spend hundreds of dollars a year on manicures.
6. Designer duds. Folks burn through hundreds, even thousands of discretionary dollars on these – for what real purpose? Impressing our friends? Let’s wear clothes that flatter us and make us physically comfortable, no matter who designed them, and cultivate friendships that care about our insides rather than our surfaces. If designer clothes truly do it for you, they’re available at lots of good secondhand stores at reasonable prices.
7. Mouthwash Expensive stuff. Chewing fresh mint leaves cleanses the breath beautifully. Anyone with a pot and some dirt can grow a mint plant; they’re the hardiest things I’ve ever seen. Tic-Tacs accomplish the same thing, and unlike a bottle of mouthwash, are portable. I used to use a fluoride rinse product after brushing my teeth. Then I learned that Kaiser, my health care provider, offers a special high-fluoride toothpaste. For years I’ve used that, and nothing else. The fewer items in my life to buy, the better.
8. Buying lottery tickets We all need to have a dream, but winning the lottery is a notion for people who are really bad at math. If you’re spending money on lottery tickets, how can you instead pursue your dream, or a part of your dream, in real life, here and now, rather than as a passive, expensive fantasy?
9. Sales and coupons for items we wouldn’t otherwise buy. Let’s say an X-box is nowhere in my plans, but a sale makes one available for $290 instead of the normal price of $370. Buying it wouldn’t save me $80. It would set me back $290.
10. Please tell me about your own tenth item — what product do you think you (or the culture in general) would be better off not consuming, or maybe even manufacturing? Comment here.