That, my friends, is one.. uh, highly patterned couch that my parents kindly gave to me when I moved in with my then-boyfriend, now-husband nearly four years ago. Fast forward to today and it is still hanging out in our living room, along with a comfy recliner that also came from the same time period and place in my parent’s house.
So why I am I showing you pictures of my
ugly doesn’t-match-anything couch? Because I feel like it is a prime example of how we’re living well spending less. In other words, this couch is smart frugality in action.Let me tell you a little bit more about this (Santa Fe style inspired?) couch. This bad boy is the comfiest dang couch I’ve ever met. Goldilocks would love it – it’s not to soft and squishy, not to hard and and stiff, but just right. It’s perfect for sitting, lounging, reading, and napping. There have been more than a few nights where I simply couldn’t get to sleep in my own bed, but as soon as I plopped my pillow on that couch and snuggled up under a blanket, I went right to sleep.
To me, the amazing thing is not that my couch is a comfortable piece of furniture, but that it is a seventeen year old piece of comfortable furniture. My parents bought that couch when they moved from a mountain cabin to a new home in the suburbs - in 1996. As in, I was six years old and have been sitting my butt on that couch ever since. Seventeen years, people! It’s outlasted family pets, my school career (including college!), and has survived a total of four moves to different places, and has held up beautifully. The cushions aren’t flat, it hasn’t sagged, and it barely has a mark on it.
It’s one fatal flaw is that, sadly, it is tragically ugly. Perhaps a kinder (and probably more fair) way to put it would be to say that it is terribly outdated. Fashion-wise, that pattern dates it far more than any visible wear and tear does. It didn’t bother me so much in our apartment, but when we started house-hunting, I told myself that the first thing we’d save up for to buy would be new furniture.
I’ve written before about how there’s only one piece of brand-new furniture in my entire 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house. (Hang on, let me address that sentence before I move on: yes, our house is too big for two people, but when you buy at the bottom of the market in a low cost-of-living area you get sweet, sweet deals on places that are normally much too nice for you.) It’s our mattress, which we bought in the spring. Everything else was either a hand-me-down from family members, inherited from grandparents who downsized, brought along from our childhood bedrooms, or a secondhand item scored from Craigslist.
So the couch is in pretty good company. But earlier this year, I nearly caved and bought a new set of living room furniture. The couch and recliner don’t offer enough comfy seating when we have friends or family over, I thought. The couch sticks out like a sore thumb! If only I had a SOLID, neutral colored couch, this house would finally look like real adults live here. . I started thinking more and more like that person I used to be before I got my financial mindset straight, the person that dreamed of having designer furniture in every room and creating a home that could have popped out of a lifestyle or design magazine.
We even went so far as to go to multiple furniture stores, pick out a few different sets of couches and loveseats and accent chairs that would be perfect, and I employed a few of my excellent negotiating skills to get a quote from salespeople that was far below the retail price. But the closer we got to actually pulling the trigger on a purchase, the more I started thinking.. why?
Why spend between $1,000 and $2,000 on living room furniture when I had a perfectly good – no, more than just good – couch waiting for me at home that was given to me for free? What had it done to deserve to be thrown out? Hadn’t I learned not to judge a book by its cover? In other words, did it matter if it was kinda ugly and didn’t match a thing if it served its purpose by being a comfortable place to sit, stretch out, or cuddle with my husband and kitties?
Of course it didn’t matter. There was no justification for dropping a couple Gs on something that I really only wanted for an aesthetic purpose – for looks. There was no reason why we needed to replace the couch, or anything else we owned that functioned well and served its purpose. And that’s what being frugal, or living a frugal lifestyle, is really all about: wanting less, learning to not be wasteful, and being happy with what you have (especially when what you have works just fine!)
Looking back, I can’t help but feel a little ashamed. That couch is something to be proud of, not something that I’m trying to kick out of my home. It’s well made and durable, and more importantly, I’ve spent years reading books, cuddling with my pets, watching movies with friends and family, and taking the time to unwind and decompress with that couch. Getting rid of it just because it’s just not pretty as it used to be feels sort of like abandoning your grandma because she got old.
I thought that, since college, I had become a truly frugal person who wasn’t interested in comparing what I had to what someone else did, or who wasn’t worried about what someone else would think about my not-brand-new possessions. But I clearly still had – and have – lessons to learn. Even the most frugal folks who think they’ve learned to shun consumerism need a good reminder of the basics from time to time, and my most recent friendly reminder that there’s better uses for my money than spending it on more material stuff came from my old couch. Thankfully, I got the message in time to save my money, and I continued on the right path that will allow me to reach my big financial goals if I can continue living well spending less.
I may have been tempted by the idea of having something new and fancy, but in the end I stayed true to the person I want to be: a practical, sensible person who doesn’t get caught up in the need to have the latest and greatest, and a person who would pass up an afternoon of shopping for a few hours reading a good book with what feels like an old friend.
In what ways are you living well spending less in your own life? Do you have a tangible reminder in your home of what the frugal lifestyle is all about?