Thursday, November 16, 2006

Rule #15: All and Nothing

I'm not sure this is even a rule per se-- it's more about a certain personality trait I think some people have that helps save money, and it might not be a rule you could follow otherwise. But it's worth trying!

  • Be interested in everything.
  • Let yourself think about nothing.
Go ahead, say it-- huh? Is she on some kind of Zen trip? What does this have to do with money, and why does it matter?
I started to think about this rule during a trip to Coney Island on the last gorgeous weekend of summer. From the minute the subway train went above ground, I was glued to the window. There are so many interesting things to look at from an elevated train-- you see interesting architectural details on buildings, and brick walls painted with advertisements from bygone days. You can see teams playing sports when you pass school fields. You can see the changing ethnic mix of each neighborhood you go through. You can see new buildings sprouting up where there were none before and watch their progress. I'm sure not everyone finds this interesting, but I do.
Then at the beach, as the afternoon went by and the already sparse post-Labor Day crowds started to thin out even more, I was looking around at the little clusters of people. Some were chatting with friends, but like me, a lot of people were there by themselves, reading or listening to music, sometimes taking a dip in the water... But what people were most often doing was just sitting and looking out at the waves, watching the sailboats, motor boats, tankers and cruise ships passing by. It's one of the reasons I love the beach. I can't think of any place that seems to allow so many people to feel completely relaxed and at peace just doing nothing.
What I am getting at is that sometimes we spend a lot of money just because we're bored. We need stimulation-- books, movies, video games, sudoku, hundreds of channels of TV, nightclubs, exercise classes, new clothes, new cars, new homes. So much of what we spend money on involves entertainment, going out with friends, and change just for the sake of change. Look at all those people waiting in line for the Playstation 3! And yet there is so much around us that is free to enjoy. Do you ever just sit and think? Do you ever just take a walk to see what's on a street where you've never been? I'm not saying that is the only thing anyone should ever do, but did you ever stop to think about what you do to stave off boredom, and how much money it costs you? Approach life with a mind that is open to the little details, and also relaxed enough to sometimes just peacefully think of nothing. After all, "nothing is free." How true that is, in more ways than one.


Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of a quote I once read. Goes something like this, "The root of all man's problems comes from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone". Forgot who said it though.

mapgirl said...

That's why kids get into trouble afterschool. Frequently they are bored with nothing to do. Eventually when they get money, they shop out of boredom.

Having been forced at school to sit in silence for worship, I'm pretty good at sitting quietly for long stretches. It turns into a pretty good nap.

Anonymous said...

Madame X -- the philosopher!

Anonymous said...

This blog is free entertainment (minus the obvious - internet connection, computer and time) :o) .

It has been said that America is one of the best Entertained countries in the world...therefore the decline in education as a nation should not be that surprising.

My gram used to say...bored is for wood...get outside and do something or I'll find you something to do...amazingly we always managed to find something to do.

Luke said...

My mom used to tell me to find something to do or she would put me to work. I guess I learned the lesson well. I haven't been bored for many long years. Sometimes I wish I could get back to being bored.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the middle of nowhere, with very little money and three siblings. Over the years, we came up with hundreds of ways to entertain ourselves for free. My husband I still spend most of our free time doing things that are free. The added bonus is that the things that are free tend to also be good for us, body and soul. Thanks for a great post.

Anonymous said...


the quote is from Pascal.

Anonymous said...

So true...we've become addicted to consumerism in some fashion or another. I saw a news spot about the holidays and Compulsive Shopping and it reiterates what you're saying...simple living is the best, no question.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog, I understand it all!

I am a voracious reader and visit the local library at least once a week. I can get books, audio books, CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes for FREE. Now that's my idea of entertainment.

Anonymous said...

I want to chime in with Anonymous directly above, and expand that to what for me is another Rule: Use free (or low cost) resources.

Libraries, Freecycle, concerts and plays in the park. Where I live the libraries have free high-speed internet, and we also have publicly funded entities that help you if you're looking for work: resume writing, interview skills, career counselling, free fax machines, internet for job searching, all kinds of stuff.

Anonymous said...

Madame X,

You Go Girl. Continue to do what you do, FOR YOU!

Jimmy B said...

Just stumbled on your blog from somewhere in my open browser. What a treasure. I can relate on so many levels and just ploughing through all your rules. This one rings so true to me. Grew up middle class but no frills in suburban England. Probably make 2-3X what my parents ever made but often feeling broke in New York despite making a decent 6 figure income. There is indeed so much to treasure in the world that does not have to come packaged with a $$ price tag.