I have had some time to think about this word. My take on it is that it is a life style. Keeping things simple is all. I recon that it is akin to poverty but with greater comfort. The kinship to poverty is that we are using less – a lot less. And an austere lifestyle is having a roof over your head and food in your belly and knowing that it will stay somewhat static. And that static is balanced between you needs and you wants. This is practicing Austerity by choice.
Poverty is not static – it is a lot of unknowns. Will you be able to make the rent and eat? And where is that next meal coming from? New cloths to find that job that will take you out of poverty can be so overwhelmingly out of reach! And those are just your needs. The want tend to come at very high prices. That is why I learned to sew and it was the beginning of who I became.
So, as I am still in the work force full time I need to look to living an Austere life without the disarray of poverty. I have lived in poverty most of my life and am grateful that I have worked my way out of it! Having low literacy was a huge hindrance but perseverance has helped in that venue as well.
So I work my way up as it were. Life is looking good, a stable relationship, steady and profitable work as a self employed bookkeeper and almost enough time to save a small bit for the retiring years.
That was until the Government of Canada under the Conservative Party controlled by Mr. Harper stated that I have to wait two more years to retire. They didn’t ask me. They put into legislation the I have to work until I am 67 determined solely by the year of my birth. So out of my pocket and future earnings is 13000.00 $ – perhaps a bit more if you factor in the tiny amounts that are allocated to adjust cost of living each year. Fair or not, I don’t seem to have a choice or a say in this.
I could just retire at 65 but I have nothing saved. It is not like I have been living a high life. I have everything that I need now. A few pleasures but no real thrills. No house, just the passions that I have in it. A lot of people will be in and are in this same position as myself.
When this new Government legislation was introduced I worked out what would it take for me to save the additional 13000.00. Doesn’t seem like much but I worked out the government gets the first 22$ for every 100$ that I bring in. The next 40$ go back into the business – programs, supplies and the like. So it leave me $38 per 100$ that I bring in. This 38$ covers my debts, living expense and a few treats. And my savings. It really doesn’t leave a lot for retirement. And when the cash slows or stops from time to time in the business – the expenses continue and the savings get depleted. And so in the end there is almost nothing for retirement.
Really. And this is in the good years. My earlier years were spent in poverty when the cost of having a roof over my head took 50 – 75% of my income. No room for retirement there.
So what am I to do? I can live now in poverty so that I can retire in poverty. Or I can live simply now so that when I do retire I am used to living simply. Then poverty becomes austerity. A simple life.
I suspect that it will be easier for me to do this than many whom you know. Most have little or no experience with poverty outside of the infomercials that plague the airwaves. Many of the children born to my generation or later have a real sense of privilege. They did not grow up listening to stories of a daily 5 mile walk to school and back in snow 3 feet deep. My father loved telling me that one and yes, that is how he and his brothers and sisters trekked to school from the farm in southern Saskatchewan in the 1940s. Those days are long past.
So, I have an idea. It is simple.
We practice as whole austerity on an austerity day. The way I figure it is I need the practice and perhaps every one around me needs some too. So on the Austerity day, we stay home, walk the dog, say Hi to our neighbours. Listen to our environment – birds, bugs and the wind. We can do this on the day that the seasons change. On each of the changes, summer, autumn, winter and spring.
If this day works as I envision no one will pick up the phone – text, email, watch a show, a movie or the news, plug into their favourite game or listen to the radio. Turn it all off for the day. Listen to what we have in our neighbourhood without the buzz of motorcycles or the boom of the base in our cars. Don’t turn on the radio or play a song unless you pick up your guitar. No shopping, on line purchasing, bill payments or wishful browsing.
Stay home and read a story to the kids. Start writing the great American novel with pen and paper (leave the computer off!). Get a tan, tend to the mending, organize your closet but stay out of big commerce. Don’t buy gas or lottery tickets. Or even hop in your car. Just have a quiet day.
Keep every thing simple and less for the day. Less food, less noise, more people interactions and more enjoyment from life. And as an afterthought – keep in mind that 22% of nothing is nothing. I can’t be taxed that day nor can I save however I can find enjoyment in the life that I live.