Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Living Beneath Your Means

One of the podcasts that I listen to had a discussion regarding life as an "artist"-type, and what that sometimes means...  It was called "Escape from Art Jail".  It's put out by a guy named Chris Oatley.  Incredibly thoughtful man--a professional illustrator living in LA.  I highly recommend you subscribe to his podcasts.

On this particular episode, Chris invited some guests to talk about lives as artists.  I don't do what they all do specifically, but it was remarkable how many experiences artists have in common regardless of their discipline.

One of the things they talked about was being a successful artist by "living beneath your means".  In other words, you simply decide that you can do without the latest new technological gadget, without the 500 channel cable package, without the newest model of car.  If you don't have a credit card, you won't have those bills.

I've tried this--and I'm still trying to succeed at it!! Haha!  I think it takes a bit of a mind-shift to look at things differently...  It's not easy.  Sheryl Crowe said it best in one of her songs--"It's not getting what you want, it's wanting what you've got."  Celebrating the small, the precious, the heartfelt.

But it's hard.  Really hard.  You're fighting advertising, societal pressure and basic instinct to fit in.  It is the nature of humanity to want to improve one's self, and in our contemporary world, that often means buying the tools/technology to assist us in doing so.

But that doesn't mean having the latest iPhone, the trendiest clothes, the best haircut, nor the gourmet meal prepared at your favorite restaurant once a week.  It might mean holding on to that phone for a while, postponing the purchase of that suit, taking the time to comb your hair more often, and garnishing that bowl of canned soup at home.  It might mean buying a bottle of wine and settling in for a movie night at home watching one of your own collection, rather than spending $40 to see that new movie everyone is raving about.  And it might also mean giving up on that cup of coffee we purchase at the corner Starbucks and settling for that 7-11 brand at the convenience store.

With a shift out of the "rat race" that is keeping up with society, you've let yourself off the hook as an artist to focus your attention on what's important to you.  And when you circle yourself with a family of friends that have adopted the same lifestyle choice, it's easy to see how conversations can shift to things that aren't necessarily hot topics in the "normal" world.  It's easy to see how artists can somehow look somewhat..."off"...  It's easy to see how they can celebrate the small things--like a simple basket of homemade tomatoes as the best thing since sliced bread, and then enjoy an evening of munching on them that draws them even closer together.

When one just can't afford to buy into those things that mark a person as a card-carrying member of society at large, one begins to embrace the opposite and marvel at the basics.  Lack of insurance, paying rent instead of a mortgage, and eating lots of cheap vegetables from the produce market--these are facts of life for a lot of my friends.  I'm not trying to romanticize the "starving artist" stereotype--but there is a strength in reevaluating just what's necessary in one's life and learning to live with less.

I think part of why I like being an artist is that I can relish the simple, and take time to contemplate things.  It's a conscious choice to focus on the work of being an artist, and surround myself with like minds.  And I think "living beneath your means" is a tool to help accomplish that.

Food for thought.  Take it or leave it.  : )

Until next time, Live Life with Relish!


  1. Certainly something to think about. In Singapore, we have the 5 cs - cash, car(cars are insanely expensive here), credit card, condo and country club membership - the goals for most folks. To make my life less stressed, I'm pursuing a different c - creativity. It helps too if creativity generates cash!!

  2. Jane, I am proud of you--I think that sixth C is an awesome way to get the stress out of your life! I know it's a different kind of stress trying not to succumb to the temptations of the other five--I keep reminding myself that what I have is enough and what I want is really what I already have... But that's a stress that is becoming less and less as I concentrate on creating and making.

    The substance of satisfaction when I've finished making or creating something is slowly starting to replace the commensurately satisfied feeling when I buy something... The shift is slow. But surrounding myself with folks that can appreciate the first kind is key. If I only have friends that can only feel good about what they own, well... I'm never gonna win that game--why play at all?

    Best to keep Creating, I think. And relish that. With friends that enjoy it as much as I do. : )


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