Today’s post comes from Elsie Brown where she takes a humorous approach to some of the lessons she’s learned from making compromises to live more frugally on ramen. Elsie is a blogger, student, and all around cheapskate who writes about how we can all live better on less. Read more on Gundomoney.com or follow her on Twitter @Gundo_Money.
Let me know what you think of her hilarious guest post below! Without further ado:
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried the delicacy that is Top Ramen but it’s delicious. It costs about $.05 per 5 million calories and has the nutritional value of a moist towelette. Many a poor college student has subsisted on Top Ramen over the years, to the point where it’s become an icon of cheap food.
I don’t actually eat Top Ramen that often anymore but I got to thinking about what it taught me about saving money.
Lesson #1: I Can Get Used to Anything
I think we can be honest that eating Ramen get’s bland and boring after a while. I mean, it’s tasty and I even crave it sometimes but there are only so many ways you can dress up cheap carbs. During the times I ate a lot of Ramen I would add in proteins or prepare it differently. Did you know you can make hamburger patties out of it? What I learned from the Ramen diet was that once I accepted eating it often I didn’t really feel deprived. Sure, I enjoyed other foods but I wasn’t a starving african child. I felt just as fulfilled eating Top Ramen as I did eating other foods.
Here’s another good example of getting used to something: I worked for an outpatient lab that suddenly sent me to work 50 miles away everyday for about three months. I would wake up most days around 4:30 am to go sit in LA traffic and be at work by 7. I grumbled, griped, and even promised to quit. I did not sign up to live my life in traffic no matter how much the overtime and mileage piled up.
But something interesting happened, over the weeks and months I just stopped complaining. I got used to the routine and my life sort of adjusted itself to the new schedule. I got to know my patients at the new location and even got to know the area a little. I had accepted the situation I was in and that seemed to make all the difference.
In my life of frugality so far I’ve learned that I can get used to just about any kind of lifestyle. If I didn’t have a car I’d adjust, if I had to make every single meal at home I’d adjust, if I had to work 12 hours a day 7 days a week to make the income I need to save adequately I know in my heart that I’d adjust. Unhappiness and uncomfortablitiy comes not from my circumstances. It comes from my thoughts about my circumstances, my attitude about where I’m at, and especially wanting to be somewhere other than right where I am.
When I get used to circumstances and accept them at face value I’m at peace.
Lesson #2: I Don’t Give a Rat’s Ass What People Think Anymore
Our Next Life made a point about social pressures that I love, “wealth is relative, and our perception of our own is extremely contextual, based largely on our surroundings.” The culture at my work is to eat every meal at the cafeteria, about $8-$10 per day. If my coworkers saw me eating Ramen for lunch everyday I can guarantee you they’d start teasing me. “Why are you eating that food what did you blow all your money on?” I can hear them chiming in already
The thing is, people’s approval of my lifestyle is not going to get me any extra happiness, fulfillment, or financial freedom. It’s another one of those things that goes into the “useless expenditure of brain space and effort” folder.
If I had to wear a banana costume everyday 24/7 to reach financial freedom I’d do it. The funny thing is, frugal people are sometimes treated like they’re constantly wearing a banana costume. Peers see us ride by on our electric bikes or in ripped thrift store jeans and they say look at the odd ball. I embrace that today because it probably means I’m getting further from traditional ideas of spending money and closer to the radical idea that one can build wealth at a young age.
Reader challenge: if I get 100 (unique) comments on this blog post I will wear a banana costume around town for one day. (DD here: we’ll need pictures once it happens!)
Lesson #3: I’d Rather Have the Walkaway Money
I think cheapskates and frugal people can admit that we lead fairly unique and atypical lives. Our methods range from just plain smart decisions to downright strange behavior. Not only do I know that I can get used to any lifestyle and that I don’t care what anyone thinks about it, but I know deeply that whatever I might go through to save money is easier than financial bondage.
I define financial bondage as not having the ability to make the decisions that are right for me because of money. If I have no money saved I’d have to stay working at a job I hate. If I’m worried about servicing my debt each month I won’t have space to go after the pursuits that give me joy but not money. I don’t think you can compare that type of hardship to eating Top Ramen, no matter how dramatic you are.
In a way having a fancy car or a big house represents for me the idea that I might always be bound to needing lots of money to be ok. I really want to stay as far away from that situation as humanly possible.
Borne out of my strange frugal ways has been the freedom of choice. I could quit my job tomorrow, move to Alaska, and not have to work for at least a year. If I had to buy a new car or I had to pay for my bachelors degree all in one payment with only cash I could. How many young adults can say that? Mostly only banana costume people I’m guessing.
Embrace the Ramen
I’ve been living the savings life for about four years now and I’ve definitely gained some gems of wisdom. I’m not always going to save perfectly. I’m not always going to make great decisions. I’m not always going to feel ok but I will always BE ok. I have doubts, fears, and self-pity just like everyone but I’ve found that if I just do it anyway I grow.
More than anything I try to shed what other people say will fulfill me and get at the root of the thing. I have to say I’m the most fulfilled I’ve been in my life and I don’t have any of the things I thought one needed to be happy: a partner, a degree, a house, those awesome yoga pants.
That begs the question, if I can feel fulfilled and happy with or without, then how do I want to live so that I have the utmost freedom to choose my lifestyle in the future?
I think I’ll embrace the Ramen and be able to relax later.