Prior to the pandemic, I had made student loans my identity, hence the name of this blog. That is the reason why I initially started to live a frugal life. I figured, accepting my surmounting student debt, face-on instead of running away from it, would make it easier. I was commended many times over for being courageous and sharing my story. The truth of the matter was, I was just hoping I could reign it in and control it before it did me.
Sometimes though, when you take a part of your life and make it the definition of yourself, it could make you forget the other bits of you. I was fiery, yes, but so was it. I was fighting fire with fire, and I can’t be sure who was winning.
That’s what the pandemic gifted me. It deferred student loan repayment (it’s been almost a two year stint now) and thereby took away the identity that was eating me alive from the inside. These past two years have been a blessing. I’ve not only rediscovered the “old me” but I also was able to shed negative bits of the “new me”. It gave me the space to be able to step back (from everything) and to re-evaluate which parts I wanted to keep. It gave me options.
But the student loans gave me good things, too. And those, I chose to keep. It taught me how to live a frugal life. There are things a frugal life affords you that rich people will never find.
As Soetsu Yanagi wrote in his book, The Beauty of Everyday Things,
“Some day in the future the West will undoubtedly welcome this magnificent gift. Muji can alternatively be called simplicity. In religious terms it might be liked to the virtue of honest poverty, a poverty that is replete with riches. The beatuy of muji is the beauty of poverty. Roughness and quiet appreciation characterize this beauty.”Soetsu Yanagi
I discovered the art of mindful living and the perks of simplicity. I learned the skill of decluttering and giving gratitude. These parts of frugal living I did not abandon.
So one of the negative things about the student loan deferral is this stagnant limbo I’ve been in these past two years. With the space I have now, it’s quite easy to forgo frugality. The pressure to pinch pennies has slackened. The success rate isn’t as high. But that’s the thing about frugal living. It has room for grace.
Frugal living does not mean deprivation. Neither is it black or white. It is a practice in reigning in it, just a bit, to make room for what matters more. Frugal living is another aspect of mindfulness, intentionality, simplicity, and minimalism. Those things go hand-in-hand and compliment one another, without the need to be extreme.
For those who are on the fence about trying it, why not take a it a step at a time? I find that Marie Kondo was on to something. The easiest thing to start with is clothes. Try to declutter your entire clothing closet, then set a challenge to not add anything back for 6 months. Trust me, after all that hard work, you won’t want to anyway! It’s a great place to start, because we all have too much clothes. It’s not something you would miss. Then challenge yourself little by little, day by day. Frugal living actually ends up being fun.