Your old flip phone you threw away seven years ago would have been the most mind blowing piece of technology ever seen in 1900.
Your 2001 Toyota Camry you sold on Craig’s List last week would have been the highest form of exquisite transportation ever witnessed in 1920.
Your Kindle would have been an earth-shattering invention in 1940.
Your Amazon Echo would be considered witchcraft by anyone living in the 1960’s.
The technology that we consider normal today would have been considered unfathomable just 50-100 years ago. Yet here we are in 2017 surrounded by thin, sleek, lightning fast technology and still finding ways to complain about our data plans. We still feel deprived when our friends own the iPhone 7 and we’re stuck with the crappy iPhone 4. We consider it frugal to own a car older than 5 years old. We deem ourselves financially savvy when we wait two months for the Fitbit to go on sale.
The lifestyle we consider to be frugal today – buying stuff on sale, driving older cars, using older versions of smart phones – still puts us in the 99.99% club for impressive living in human history. A middle class life in 2017 is equivalent to a prestigious, upper class life in 1950. It’s equivalent to royalty in 1850.
Innovation is a blessing and a curse. There’s no question that new technology improves our quality of life, but simultaneously it increases our expectations. The newest invention becomes the new standard. Although iPhones have only been around for 10 years, we don’t find them impressive anymore. They’re the standard. Whether we like it or not, our expectations rise in parallel with technological innovation.
So when financial bloggers talk about “frugal living”, it’s not so frugal at all when looked at on the scale of human history. Buying a used car is still buying something that’s in the 99.99% club for impressive transportation in all of history. Using a flip phone is still in the 99.99% club for impressive communication. Living in a below average size home by today’s standards still puts you in the 99.99% club for most spacious homes ever.
Take a step back and realize just how impressive our standard of living is today. I find that when I compare my life to that of someone 30 years ago, my perspective radically changes. My three year old laptop, iPhone 5, 2013 Honda Civic, and my home WiFi all become infinitely more impressive when I realize that all of these would be considered luxuries even 30 years ago. Heck, they’d be inconceivable.
The average lifestyle today is overflowing with luxury technology and we don’t even realize it. We take for granted just how incredible (and excessive) our stuff is. Our expectations for what we think we need are hilarious when viewed from a historical standpoint.
But by recognizing just how good we have it, we can view frugality in a different light. We can see that frugality isn’t deprivation at all. In fact, it’s quite luxurious. This makes it so much easier to avoid buying the latest version of every new technology. It makes it easier to practice gratitude and realize that most of what we think we need actually isn’t a necessity at all. It makes it easier to live with less.
Frugal living today, no matter how you look at it, still places you in the 99.99% club of human history.
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