Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Dare to be boring

It may be repetitious, but at least frugal living is relaxing.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 6, 2009 6:55PM

Over at partner blog Wise Bread, writer W.C. Porter has proposed the "Boring Challenge." Porter suggests changing a habit for one week to see how much money you can save. Making the replacement habit "boring" makes it simple, he says.

In his case it was taking a lunch instead of eating at a restaurant -- "boring" because it was the same lunch every day. And it was simple, so simple that Porter kept going. After three years, he'd saved $2,000.

The Boring Challenge kind of describes my life, although I don't think of it as particularly boring. I'd call it the "Who Cares? It Works!" Challenge. 

For example, jeans and T-shirts constitute my day-to-day wardrobe -- and I haven't bought new T-shirts for at least eight years. (Sometimes I get them as gifts.) Boring? Maybe. But clothed.

Some would consider my meals boring. I often cook one dish and eat it for up to a week. Breakfast is always oatmeal: Fast, cheap (less than 4 cents a serving thanks to coupons) and healthy both for the whole grain and the addition of blackberries and nonfat powdered milk.

The repetition honestly doesn't bother me. Some people crave variety, but for me the security of knowing there's something quick to fix trumps the excitement of a different repast every day.

My idea of relaxation might seem incredibly boring to some. For the past four years I've been consumed with university classes, course reading, homework, freelance writing deadlines and apartment management chores. Free time has mostly been reserved for, well, decompression: a hot bath, a good book that wasn't for school, a visit with my daughter, my sister or a friend. Occasionally I'll go to a free movie preview, or spring for a ticket to the Seattle Symphony or a massage professional  (both bought with student discounts).

I don't own a television or belong to a movies-by-mail service. When I've had free hours this summer I've thought, "Maybe I should go out" -- but inevitably I wind up reading, listening to the radio, doing a New York Times crossword puzzle (I bought a book of them for a quarter at a yard sale), writing letters, poking around on the Internet, or making jam.

Boring? Nah. Restful. 

I'm not the only boring person out there. A Smart Spending message board reader posting as "ATSiaRU" claims to have led "a dull and boring drama-free life for the last five or six years." The reader says it lets her "concentrate on the stuff I'm most interested in doing or accomplishing." 

For example, ATSiaRU got tired of worrying about clothes. She created some basic garment combos and dresses according to the list. "No more 20 minutes of stress every morning deciding what to wear.  No more shopping agony trying to figure out what to buy -- or, worse, buying things I'd never wear."

(Man, I have got to try that. Except my list would probably be heavy on T-shirts.)

Reader "NancyinFL" has put 107,000 miles on her 2002 Mazda. "Dull as dishwater? Sure. Saving money and spending it on things that really matter? Indeed," Nancy writes. 

(Until I gave away my 2001 Chevy Cavalier last week, I could have said the same thing. My auto criteria have always been simple: Must get good gas mileage; must be easy to parallel park; must be too boring to steal.)

"Jo in IL" is lucky: Her job requires a uniform, so no hassles about what to wear. She prefers simple meals made in bulk so there will be leftovers, and she drinks a lot of home-filtered (not bottled) water plus the free iced tea that's available at work.

"Sounds boring but I don't consider my life boring," she says. "I am very good about having diversity in my free time, including self-education. The days I don't work I prefer to simply stay home...It's enough for me. This is what makes me happy."

I'm with you, Jo. Maybe we should start a Boring But Happy Club. Better yet, a Boring But Solvent Club.

Published Aug. 28, 2009


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