Freeing frugality

If you can find ways of spending less, you don’t need to earn/work as much (but it’s still a good idea to have plenty of savings for old age or a rainy day). For example:

  • Live in a poor area/country and work in/for a wealthy area/country. Rent or buy outright a tiny place, to minimize mortgage interest, utility, and maintenance fees.
  • Own only 1-2 of the things you need (i.e., one primary and one backup).
  • Keep pictures of things you’ve had/enjoyed in the past, instead of storing and moving things forever. Sell or donate more.
  • Shop at thrift stores.
  • Use prepaid cellphones, avoid long phone conversations, and find the free public wifi hotspots near you (and use HTTPS, Tor, and/or a VPN for protection).
  • Replace large things that use a lot of electricity with smaller, more pinpointed things or well-designed locations (e.g., 1-watt USB fans and LED task/reading lights; phones, tablets, and laptops instead of desktops; put your computer to sleep when not in use; choose a house or apartment that gets good cross-breezes between the windows; etc.).
  • Recharge small electronics from public places (malls, airports, etc.) or buy a small solar panel, if possible.
  • Use free/open-source software instead of expensive proprietary software.
  • Natural gas cooking and heating is usually cheaper than electric.
  • Get in the habit of picking up a few groceries on your way home from work, so you don’t have to use a refrigerator as much or at all, and so that you eat fresher food.
  • The body can adjust quite a bit to summer heat and winter cold, if you limit your exposure to heating and air conditioning systems. Also, fans, sweaters, blankets, and the like can go a long way before air conditioners and heaters really become necessary.
  • Bathe in cool or lukewarm water.
  • Handwash your clothes. Use clotheslines instead of clothes dryer machines.
  • Bicycle or walk if you can. Use buses instead of subways, unless they are the same price (as in NYC). Use taxis and rental cars, instead of owning a car, unless owning a car is cheaper for your profession. If you must own a vehicle, consider a scooter/moped or motorized bicycle. I prefer motorized bikes, because if a scooter or motorcycle breaks down, you can’t pedal it home.
  • Fill the empty spaces in your freezer with ice and fridge with cold water, so it doesn’t use as much energy to stay cool.
  • A dark, thick, or reflective umbrella can protect against both rain and sun, and will probably last much longer than a tube of sunscreen.
  • Watch and take care of wild animals (birds, trees, etc.), which live free and natural lives, instead of keeping pets, which often have genetic/breeding problems that can cause them pain and you high vet bills.
  • Watch videos and listen to music from the public library or FM radio stations, instead of paying for streaming video and audio.
  • Boil and maybe filter tap water, instead of buying bottled water.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle, so your healthcare expenses are likely to be less.
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Mindfulness exercise: Don’t scratch

One of the simplest, and quite difficult, mindfulness exercises I have seen bhikkhus recommend is not to scratch when you have an itch. Most itches go away on their own in a minute or two. If it’s caused by something more persistent, like a bacterial or fungal infection, scratching can worsen or spread the infection, and might wipe away any medicated cream/ointment you may be using. Of course, you still might want to look at the itch, in case it’s caused by something like heavy sweat or an insect on your body, which perhaps you should remove.

Similarly about coughing… both otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat (ENT)) and internist doctors have told me that coughing is hard on the throat, and that it’s usually better to drink liquids to clear the throat.

Long-distance travel tip: Beach ball pillow

I travel pretty often to the opposite site of the planet, and the best way I’ve found to sleep in an airplane, train, or car seat is a $1 beach ball (from a toy store) inside a pillow case. It can be adjusted to suit almost any sleeping position, it compresses well in luggage, and it costs almost nothing. I hope this helps you sleep better on long journeys.

Attachment doesn’t have to be positive

When speaking of attachments, desires, cravings, etc., people often seem to focus on positive things: love of/for pleasure, family, friends, a certain place, etc. However, attachments can also be negative. For example: an activist might hate corruption or injustice, a police officer might hate crime or criminals, a military officer might hate foreign aggressors, a terrorist might hate another religion or ethnic group, an abused person might want revenge, an abusive person might want to exploit others, a corporate boss might want to conquer every competitor, a politician might want dictatorial power, and so on. Of course, most people probably have a mixture of positive and negative attachments.

As I understand, in Buddhism, rebirth happens because of any attachment to this (or any) world, not only positive attachments. The Buddha also seems to have been attached to “the pleasure of renunciation, the pleasure of seclusion, the pleasure of peace, the pleasure of self-awakening” (AN 8.86), which are perhaps attachments leading to nirvana.