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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Do sweat the big stuff

The Bargain Queen usually likes to keep things breezy and fun, but today she's going to talk about some of the serious stuff: lifestyle trade-offs.

If you want to stick to your budget and still be fabulous, there will be some trade-offs you have to make. Maybe you spend all your money at the hairdresser and live in a hovel? Or eat like a King and dress like a hobo? Or drive a great car but panic each year when the insurance bill comes in? Or perhaps you ignore the trade-offs and buy the things you can't afford on credit cards or hire purchase. The first three are completely valid trade-offs to make; the fourth will lead you to a world of financial pain.

So what are the trade-offs The Bargain Queen and Mr Bargain Queen have made?
  • We have a flatmate. The Bargain Queen used to think that once she could afford to live alone, she'd never have a flatmate again. It only took a year of apartment loneliness to convince her otherwise. The Bargain Queen and Mr Bargain Queen now live in a big house in a tree-lined street near the centre of town, with our friend Jon and his dog. The good bits are that we spend a lot of time with our friend; the dog's adorable; we share household chores; and we save money on rent and bills. On the down side, we've all had to cull some of our possessions (we had three of everything) and The Bargain Queen and Mr Bargain Queen can't have sex on the kitchen floor lest Jon comes home and catch us (although he's lived in band houses so he's hard to shock). Sharing a house works really well for us, but it's only feasible when you've got someone as cool as Jon to share with.

  • We don't have a car. In some places it's literally impossible to live without a car; in other places it's more-or-less doable. Living close to work, shops etc. makes it easier; being able to use Jon's car occasionally helps; and when all else fails, an occasional taxi ride is much cheaper than car ownership. On the down side, Sydney's public transport gets worse all the time, so being late is sometimes unavoidable. Again, this trade-off isn't for everyone but it suits us.

  • We're cool with pre-loved stuff. Our house is full of cool old stuff; we're avid Freecyclers; and The Bargain Queen buys half her clothes in op (thrift) shops. We try to fix stuff up rather than throwing it out. We even occasionally drag things in off the street, clean them up and make them look nice again. Some things are off-limits (no used underwear or shoes; nothing too stinky) but overall, we're happy to reuse and recycle. To some this will sound totally normal; to others it'll sound gross. The Bargain Queen knows people who are revulsed by the idea of wearing secondhand clothes or sitting on a couch someone else's bum has been on. If it works for them that's great, but it wouldn't work for The Bargain Queen. By buying pre-loved items she's able to have better quality things for less money - plus it's good for the environment. But most importantly, noone else has the same vintage dresses as The Bargain Queen ;)

  • We don't shop recreationally. While we both LOVE buying gorgeous new things (especially when they're on sale) neither of us shop recreationally. The Bargain Queen knows people who go to the mall every weekend to hang out and end up spending money every time. Great if it works for them, but we don't need much new stuff so we don't go shopping very often. Mr Bargain Queen only goes shopping when a piece of clothing has worn out (or offended The Bargain Queen's aesthetic sensibilities); The Bargain Queen goes a little more often because she's the household organiser so she needs storage boxes and file folders as well as clothes.

  • We make the most of what we have. This will definitely fall into the 'too obvious to mention' category for some readers, but it's important to us. When either of us 'need' something we see what we can do with what we have before we go and buy anything. For example, The Bargain Queen regularly proclaims she has nothing to wear. She then goes shopping in her wardrobe and finds an outfit that will look great for the occasion. This prevents a whole lot of 'cheap and fun' fashion purchases that would be worn for a single night out, then discarded. This also applies to kitchen gadgetry. The Bargain Queen LOVES gadgets but realistically, you can do almost anything with good saucepans, knives and food processor. Some great cooks even skip the food processor. (Plus every gadget needs to be stored somewhere and if The Bargain Queen bought them all there would be no room in the kitchen for food or cooking...)
So what's the up side of making these trade-offs?
  • We live in a big house on a tree-lined street.
  • Our house is nicely decorated.
  • We eat well.
  • We have generous clothes budgets. (Hey, The Bargain Queen's vain ;)
  • We take great holidays.
  • We're still living within our means.
Everyone's trade-offs are different so please don't feel bad if your financial priorities differ. If you know what's important to you and spend accordingly already, you're doing great. If not... think about it?

(The Bargain Queen will post some tips for sorting out spending priorities in a few days, so check back for more!)

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  • At 11:48 pm, Blogger The Cheap Chica said…

    i couldn't agree with you more, however, about the used shoes, i wear shoes from the thrift store, but they have to be in near perfect condition, and when i get them home, i make sure i wipe them down with disimfectant (don't want to catch some foot fungus, lol). i live the same way, and what a lot of people here in the U.S. don't understand is that you don't need a lot of money to live well, just live within your means. by way, i love your site!

  • At 3:29 am, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Great post. Really important topic, too.

    If only we could find a way to do without a car ...

  • At 9:15 am, Blogger The Bargain Queen said…

    The Cheap Chica: I'll have to give that a go! I spot really cute thrift store shoes occasionally but I feel really 'ick' about other people's feet. Which is silly because a lot of the shoes in department stores have been tried on a dozen times already.
    Thanks about the site too :)

    Rebecca: Thank you!
    Different stuff works for different people, so if the alternatives to having a car (bicycle, walking, public transport, taxi, motor scooter) don't work for you, don't sweat it. I doubt we'd be happily carless if we had kids!


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