My lifestyle seems to be significantly more simple and frugal than most other people I come in contact with. It's partly by choice and partly a necessity--but I'm happy with it and wouldn't want to live any other way. In my daydreams, I live in a smaller apartment and own fewer things. Most days, that element of struggle in living according to priorities that go against the norm is far overshadowed by the benefits, but once in a while, it can get frustrating. Like today.
This evening, I had a discussion with a well-meaning coworker, who was excited to find that we were both avid cyclists. It was uncomfortable for me because I don't have anything even vaguely resembling the "right" gear to be a "real cyclist"--but I don't even care. I got my bike from Goodwill, and I think it originally came from Target or somewhere. Yes, I know my equipment is inferior and inefficient and blah blah blah--it would be hard for me not to know, considering how often I have to fix something on it--but I have every bit as much street smarts as a "real" bike commuter, and I am gaining more strength every day. I don't ride to impress other people: I ride because I enjoy it. Shocking, I know. Without stepping up on a soapbox, which I didn't feel comfortable doing, I couldn't get my coworker to understand that my priorities were simply different than his.
The rest of my lifestyle is pretty similar. I have a good memory, so I've learned what stores around town can give me the best deals on the grocery items and toiletries I need. I can't even understand how some people can spend so much on groceries. And I don't really buy much else. I've never really been inclined to make impulse purchases. I use libraries for CDs, magazines, and books. I'll usually buy one new clothing or accessory item each season, but I try to limit myself to $2, either by shopping clearance sales or thrift stores. I've learned it's really easy to make your own coffeeshop drinks, so that's only a rare expense for me now. I occasionally salvage things from dumpsters or pick up unwanted furniture as people are moving out, and I've made most of my apartment decorations myself.
Around my college campus, I can find all kinds of entertainment events for free--and there's usually a (legal) way to get into the others for free, too. (For example, I *love* going to the opera, and even though $10 student tickets are a relative steal, I attend dress rehearsals for free. There's always ushering, too...) Pretty much my only entertainment expense is the occasional $4 for my town's indie film series. Rather than going out to eat, my friends and I cook fancy meals together. (If you make things from scratch, gourmet food is surprisingly cheap.)
It's hard to think of any material thing that I want and don't already have--by no means because I am living in the lap of luxury, but because I feel like I am already living in a way that is more healthy for both my psyche and the environment. Between my being vegan, my choice to live without a car, and my disinterest in consumer culture, people are often intrigued by some aspect of my lifestyle and ask lots of questions. I struggle for the right words and do my best to explain how and why I live the way I do, but I get the sense that no matter what I say, most people just aren't going to understand. I have two friends who are sympathetic to my lifestyle and aspire to it in a far-off way, but both were raised in rich families, so there are some things they seem to not even have a concept of. Both of them are out of town right now, so I wrote this because I wanted to connect with people who would understand my lifestyle, and I have been really inspired by the ways some of you are living. I thank this community for all I've learned that has made my life so much more fulfilling.