That’s Entertainment

Lately I’ve been reflecting on the ways our lives have changed since we transitioned into our homesteading lifestyle. Now that we’ve been living this way a while, I’m able to be more objective than I was at the beginning (and I have a lot more experience to draw on).

I recently discovered some old journals from 10-15 years ago, and it was interesting to see how much anxiety and fear I had as I struggled with whether I should quit my job. Quitting meant a precipitous drop in income (from very high to almost nothing) and I expect that should give any reasonably responsible person pause. I mostly worried about whether I would be able to satisfy my responsibilities to my family, but to a lesser degree I also worried about having to give up some of the things we had come to enjoy.

We were never extravagant spenders, back during the city-life/lawyering days. In fact our frugality was the butt of jokes among my colleagues.

But frugality is relative. We didn’t spend piles of money on show-off cars, expensive private schools, ski vacations, country clubs and the like. But we were able to buy whatever we wanted, and even though our “entertainment budget” may have seemed modest at the time, we were still spending a lot on it. We had NFL season tickets, we traveled to my alma mater for football and basketball games several times a year, I went to NASCAR races, we went to concerts, I bought at least one new CD per month, and we went out to dinner about once a week, usually followed by a visit to Barnes and Noble, where we usually ended up buying a book or two.

When I finally quit my old job altogether, it was obvious that we had to cut back on what we had been spending for entertainment.

As it turned out, that part of our transition has been easy and painless. I weaned myself off my sports addiction during the crazy years I was commuting. Having no TV helped. It’s now been many years since I watched other people play sports and I no longer have any interest in it.

Nowadays our “date nights” are monthly, not weekly. Even in our small community, we have excellent local musicians and youth theater groups, whose performances are usually free or inexpensive. This month we’re going to the orchestra, which will feature a world-class trio. The concert is free.

We both love to read and try to spend at least an hour every evening with a book. Now Cherie downloads books from the library onto her Kindle reader. We have a huge personal library of books we’ve accumulated through the years, enough to probably keep me satisfied the rest of my life. If I want to read something we don’t already have, I check to see if the library has it. If not, I try to find a used copy on Amazon. Rarely do I buy books at full price anymore.

Recently the local Friends of the Library sponsored a book sale/fundraiser at the farmers market. I scored this lovely stack of books for only $2.

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This makes my nerdy heart skip a beat

Actually they cost me nothing, as all the farmers market vendors were given $2 in coupons to spend at the sale.

To promote the sale, some books were given away as door prizes. We won this biography of the Romanovs, which I’m looking forward to reading.

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Pristine condition

 

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The prior owner tucked envelopes inside the book, containing articles about the Romanovs, carefully cut out of newspapers and magazines

 

I have hundreds of compact discs, but they’re all packed away in a crate in the basement and I gave my old stereo to my sister. Nowadays I listen to music on an ipod, having loaded all the CDs onto my computer. When I want to add to my collection I can usually find free downloads. And even if I never add another record, my collection is big enough to last a lifetime.

So at least in this respect, my concerns were unwarranted. We have discovered that, as with many other things, we were able to reduce our entertainment spending to nearly zero, while continuing to do the things we enjoy, and without diminishing in any way in the quality of our life.

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27 comments on “That’s Entertainment

  1. Hear, hear! When I think of the money I spent on food, entertainment ,and clothes while living and working in Santa Fe … well, I would love to have that money back I must confess, but simplifying my life has brought immeasurable peace and that is pure gold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Amen. Same here. And as time goes on we continue to discover ways to simplify, making our lives more (not less) enjoyable. I do find myself wondering what the heck I was thinking back then.

      Like

  2. This is excellent. We too homestead, a little less than you have been, but we went from our Southern California lifestyle (not excessive in the least ) to living in a small Texas town where we knew No One in the entire state. We do have T.V. (only rabbit ears type) and we do listen to the radio in the truck and sometimes in the car. We buy everything (almost) second hand,and my husband can finally concentrate enough to record his music. He went from a Investment broker to a security guard, and I work a second hand business from home. We have found an enormous outpouring of strength and giving here. It has been 11 years. And I am glad we did it. I finally got the screaming voices of phone company customers out of my brain, and my husband does not have panic attacks. We live in the country, and learn everyday what we can live without, and how to manage our own lives. We do have our computer and one smartphone, and that is just about all we can take. I don’t think we would go back. Not now, probably not ever. And I am okay with that. (I did rent GOT from the library.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Thanks for sharing your story. It resonates with me and I can totally relate. I seriously wonder whether I’d even be alive today if I had stayed on that treadmill. I was a mess.

      Like y’all, we didn’t diminish the quality of our lives by leaving that stuff behind. We improved them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Laura says:

    This is a great post. We have been talking lately about making this sort of change in about 10 years. We currently spend entertainment money on about the same things you used to, and it is one of my concerns when my income drops significantly. I’m glad to know it can be done and relatively pain free.

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    • Bill says:

      It can. It didn’t happen immediately for us. In the first year or two I continued to spend way too much money. It took me a while to get serious about the downshifting. But once we started shedding things I realized how easy (and painless) it was.

      It reminds me of an excellent book I read a few years ago–The Everlasting Stream by Walt Harrison. He was a reporter for the Washington Post and his wife was an insurance company exec. That had all the stuff that comes with “success” but were miserable. So they quit their jobs and moved to a Midwest college town. He became a professor and she became a librarian. They adjustments they made remind me a lot of our journey. Simple things like going to see the play at the college instead of an expensive theater. Or buying less expensive wine. I used to think I was being frugal by buying wine that cost less than $10/bottle. Now I’m perfectly happy with two buck chuck. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. avwalters says:

    Just the other night, as we were settling into the evening, each with a book, I asked Rick if it was okay, this quiet life with evenings of reading. He paused a minute and said that he preferred it. So all is right with my world.

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    • Bill says:

      Yes, exactly! I too greatly prefer this quiet life. I’m happier sitting quietly with a book and a glass of wine than I would be at a concert, a movie theater or a restaurant. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get any better than that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad you posted about this! I’ve been trying to curb our spending ever since we started our plan to farm not just to put that money towards building it but also in preparation for the time when we won’t have much, if any, “disposable income”.
    We rarely go out anyway with M’s hellacious commute and us spending most weekends going down to the farm to work, but we do find ourselves getting caught up in a mail ordering frenzy every once in awhile, justifying extra expenses with “better buy this now while we have the money”. We were just discussing this last night and rethinking the “bacchanalian” approach to Christmas (the little kids in us still like to see tons of presents under the tree).
    Don’t get me wrong – we are not extravagant by any means and we do everything you listed (library books, free downloads, second hand, etc) and I consider myself a first class bargain hunter, but we will certainly be in the same situation as you were – going from a nice income to almost nothing when we “pull the trigger” on M’s job, – but I’m thinking we are going to be so busy and so tired and so happy we won’t miss it at all.

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    • Bill says:

      This makes me smile, because I used that “better buy it while we have the money” excuse too. 🙂 I was anxious to quit and wanted to have as much done here as possible before the paycheck spigot was cut off. At one point we were building our house, our barn, renovating our old house, putting in fences, sheds, etc., building a pond, all at the same time. I was working like crazy to earn the money to pay for it all. Looking back I can see that some of it was unnecessary and it would have made better sense to just bank the money then do the projects more slowly once I was here full-time. I was also trying to spend money on things that would eliminate or reduce the need for money in the future. So I had Lasik surgery, for example, to eliminate the expense of contact lenses. Crazy times.

      I think once you’re on your farm all the daily demands of that life will keep you plenty busy and satisfied with life. That has, fortunately, been our experience. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, Bill. Amazing how our lives and desires can change.

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  7. I agree-there are MANY options out there for keeping ourselves entertained.
    I used to buy books all the time. Now–it’s VERY rare. I borrow from the library. If it’s something I know I will want to reread many times, I’ll put it on my “wish list” at Amazon. Then, surprise, I end up getting it from my son for Christmas or birthday. Sneaky, yes, but I always get EXACTLY what I want. Teehee!

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    • Bill says:

      I like that. 🙂
      The library was very important to me when I was growing up. I’m now rediscovering what a great public resource they are.
      The internet is a fantastic resource too. It’s easy to take it for granted now, yet it puts all the information in the world at our fingertips instantly (and very inexpensively). And to think that it didn’t even exist not long ago!

      Like

  8. MansWhirld says:

    Excellent! We’ve only been on our homestead for about 6 months now and honestly do not miss TV or the internet at all. Of course I can get some of that while I’m at work, but the point is that when I am on my farm I find so much more enjoyment out of watching and taking care of our animals than I ever did watching someone else try to entertain me on a little rectangle screen. I spend more time sitting on my back porch looking in amazement at all the stars in a truly dark night sky than I ever did watching television.

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    • Bill says:

      I don’t miss TV at all. In fact, now it annoys me to be somewhere with a TV playing in the background. I do enjoy the internet, but whereas back in my office days I was staring at a screen nearly all day long, now I just get in my internet time while having coffee in the morning and at night when the day is done. Much better…

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  9. ain't for city gals says:

    I always tell my husband we get our property taxes back in full by me using the library for almost all of my books and dvds….since they started the online ordering there is no reason to buy new. (or used most of the time)

    Like

  10. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, downsizing and living simple just seem to go with homesteading. I’ve really had the live simple mentality all my life. It was mainly because even though I made a good living the medical expenses for my wife sucked it all away. Living pretty frugal for so many year has given me a good start on the retirement less income life. I don’t go without TV, cell phones, or Internet but they are very basic to my family and friends disgust. My cell phone can only be used for talking or texting. There’s no Internet on the phone or data service of any kind. Folks keep telling me they can’t send pictures to my phone. I chuckle and say nope you can’t. Cable TV is the very basic of basic and I have it only because of my daughter and grandson that live with me. I don’t watch TV perse but see all my TV shows on HULU when I want to see them and with fewer commercials. Clothes were never a thing with me. I just wear them until they become work clothes only and then rags. Most of my garden tools have been given to me. The only two thing I splurged on was a Stihl chain saw and a Honda lawnmower but those two items will last the rest of my life. My Ford Ranger truck is 2004 with 211000 miles on it and heading for 300000. It still looks good and runs good. I haven’t babied it either. I’ve hauled rocks, bricks, pallets, sand, gravel, bags of yard waster and the list goes on and on. It’s been a real work horse and the best part is that it’s been paid for; has low insurance and licensing. The secret is being content with what you have. Everyone can live simply whether on a homestead for an Urban Ranch like me.

    Have a great day on White Flint Farm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I think you nailed it Dave: “The secret is being content with what you have.”

      Once we have the necessities of life and the ingredients for a peaceful happy life, why do so many of us nevertheless keeping going after more and more?

      I’m a firm believer in being discontent with poverty and ignorance, and in cultivating the drive, determination and ambition to overcome them if possible. But it seems to me that once that goal is achieved, you have to take your foot off the gas, slow down and be content.

      But imagine what would happen to “the economy” if there was a sudden outbreak of contentment in our society. So we’re constantly manipulated to be discontent, no matter what our circumstances.

      It’s impossible to be truly happy without being content. That really is the key to it all, in my opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. There is always something to do that is free. You should plan more date nights though. Good to just be together doing something fun.

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    • Bill says:

      We spend every evening together reading. That’s our idea of a hot date! 🙂
      We do like occasionally going out, but we’ve always been the kind of people who were just as happy (or happier) staying home.

      Like

  12. I always like your story, Bill. It wasn’t riches to rags, it was a conscious decision to simplify your life that both you and Cherie bought into. It was a realization that beyond basics, materialism doesn’t really lead to happiness. This in no way implies that the lifestyle you have chosen is without it challenges! I would have a hard time giving up my freedom to wander that farming would entail. Beyond that… well, we do like our date day once a week. And I haven’t totally give up on my love of bookstores even though Peggy is president of the local Friends of the Library and we always have access to inexpensive books. For the most part, we live a simple life style and have always loved the freedom it gives us. Being owned by things has never seemed to me to be an enjoyable way to live. –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      I very much like your approach to life Curt. You figured it out a long time ago.
      Your last sentence nails it: “being owned by things.”

      As we made the transition we tried to look at literally everything that we spent money on and honestly ask ourselves whether we needed it, or whether it brought us happiness. It was surprising to me how much stuff we were able to jettison, as I thought we were already living simply and frugally. Our “entertainment” spending was a perfect example of that. We realized that the things we most enjoyed cost little or nothing and most of our expensive entertainment wasn’t worth it.

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      • Our four years of living in a 22 foot van as we wandered North America, really brought it home to Peggy and me, Bill. Peggy was looking at the van yesterday and said, “I could do that again.” We enjoy eating out, a movie, and a cultural event on occasion, but a good book and a walk in the woods are hard to beat for entertainment! –Curt

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Candace says:

    I just recently discovered free library books on Kindle, too, and was totally bummed at all the money I’ve paid Amazon over the years. I also subscribe to bookbub.com and freebooksy.com which both email you the free or very cheap Kindle books available each day. But we are looking for more ways to cut back on our entertainment, too, as my husband will be retiring soon (I retired a year ago)…dropping satellite TV, not eating out as much, looking for free events like you mentioned. Our public library also has a limited number of monthly free passes to local museums, zoos, places of interest, so I plan to use those and drop a couple of our memberships to these places (even though they are a good cause). Therefore, I am always interested in seeing how other people pull all this off.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I passed along those sites to my wife. She already subscribes to bookbub but didn’t know about the other one. Thanks!

      We’ve had no trouble finding low-cost (or free) ways to enjoy high-quality entertainment. It was one of the things that worried me most about retirement and yet it turned out to be one of the easiest adjustments. I hope your experience is the same!

      Liked by 1 person

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