Zoom out to see the truth of Extreme Frugality

I spend a bit of time on this blog trying to dispel the misconceptions around ‘deprivation’. If you are to believe the brainwashed consumerist crowd, a balanced life consists of a couple of meals eaten at fancy restaurants, several barista brewed coffees and discretionary spending budgets of several hundred every single week.

I come here to say that all of our personal concepts of what ‘balanced’ looks like has an awful lot to do with our life experiences up until that point of time.

Indeed when recently talking to Steph, at my dismay she suggested that I was the ‘poor’ kid at school.

I looked on in disbelief as she laid out her argument and stuck to her guns. Bringing everything up from out of school sport to having a plastic instead of insulated lunch box at school.

As we discussed our different childhoods, I quickly realised that each of us thought that ours was a completely ‘normal’ middle of the road upbringing. We judged everyone else as poor or rich relative to that.

So Steph described her childhood, in which she was an only child up until the age of 9. It was filled with private tennis lessons, an early childhood music program, out of school swimming instruction, several family holidays and her very own bedroom. From this position of what was to her, a completely normal middle class childhood, my upbringing looked positively poor.

On the other hand, from my perspective, I grew up sharing a bedroom, having a very large family, playing sports in the backyard or at the local park and no family holidays ever. I considered my wealth and upbringing to be completely normal and middle class, while Steph had a very rich upbringing.

We went to and fro, teasing each other, but it was still not apparent who had a more correct perception of our reality.

So how are we to discover what a ‘balanced’ life and normal upbringing truly are if it is all marred in our personal experience?

This definitely affects how people perceive their own spending. Even with vast differences in the amounts of money that people spend, most people that are on different ends of this scale consider themselves to be quite reasonable with how they handle their money.

The problem was we were having a discussion so narrow in view, it was a bit silly.

This is how we were having our argument.

So let me just make a few offensive statements right about now. If you are reading this, I can assume that you have access to a super complex computing device. If this website’s analytics are anything to go by, your ‘computer’ is probably one that you can place in your pocket and take around with you. I can also assume that you have some sort of science fiction power in which you can beam vast amounts of human knowledge straight to that device upon request.

This ability immediately places you in at least the top, more privileged half of all people on this planet. I.e approximately 48% of humans have access to the internet.

Here is a little diagram I put together to help visualise this advantage we have.

But we need not stop at that. If you are reading this from a developed nation, (you know, one of those extremely rich nations on this planet that literally have people clamouring on tiny unsafe boats for months just for the chance to reach here), then you are almost certainly in an even more privileged tier of people. The system is designed so the vast majority of these people can live a comfortable life with everything they need. This is the, through absolutely no cause of my own I was born into a situation in which I can succeed in life by simply not doing anything outrageously stupid, type of privilege.

I have drawn this little diagram to help visualise in just what a lucky minority we live in by world standards.

If we start looking at the history of the human race, things become even more outrageous. Though hard to nail down with any sort of exact numbers or science, I do believe we live in an unprecedented time of extreme wealth and prosperity, when compared to human history. Again we have been born into this time of extreme privilege and wealth out of extreme luck and good fortune. No hard work or smarts involved from our part.

This is what that looks like by my reckoning.


After looking at it from this perspective, it looks like Steph and I were having a discussion about the minutest of differences between our extremely privileged lives up until that point.

So when people start throwing around words such as deprivation and balance, or as someone once very elegantly put it “having a shit life so you can retire early” I always think back to this. Even as hard as I try to live an efficient and low cost life, I will still be living a life of outrageous wealth and plentiful supply of all the things that I could need and all of the things that are actually important to make me happy.

Shuffling my perspective

Pat the Shuffler

4 Replies to “Zoom out to see the truth of Extreme Frugality”

  1. Good points here Pat 🙂

    Perspective is so often forgotten about. In terms of history, and in terms of other countries.

    It gets a bit disgusting to listen to people whine about modern life, when you realise they aren’t putting things in perspective.

    We have basically nothing to complain about. We are living insanely affluent lifestyles compared to folks of only 50 years ago.

  2. According to Professor Richard Dawkins (Biologist-Oxford University), the odds against any of us even being born are greater than the number of individual grains of sand in the Sahara desert – think about that for a moment.

    My point is that, simply by being born, we are already immeasurably privileged and ‘rich’. In a sense, being born is like winning the longest odds lottery in the history of the world.

    Now, add to that that we were lucky enough to be born (most of us reading this) in Australia, middle-class, white, able bodied, in the latter 20th Century and, if it is the case, male, then that’s about as good as it gets.

    I have traveled extensively in Asia, Africa and the Pacific islands and I currently live in Kazakhstan. Nothing gives one perspective quite like foreign travel. I visit Australia every six months and every time I walk out of Sydney airport I think the same thing: how lucky I am; just how unfortunate so many are; how so many Aussies complain about totally trivial things; how much we all take for granted.

    Sorry, but you really are not deprived if you live in Australia. Take a trip to the slums of Manila where families of four survive on $1 or less a day without access to a toilet, clean water, accommodation, any health care and 1 meal a day of garbage scraps. I’ve seen this.

    As Pat says….to truly understand deprivation, you need to zoom out.