Living Frugally


It is not necessary to point out that we are experiencing a significant increase in the cost of living. Especially for food. Living outside of a major urban area, we expect rents and related housing costs to be a little less than the corresponding costs in an urban area. However, transportation and food tend to be more expensive in rural areas. The economic demands of these higher costs suggest “frugal living”.

But “affordability” is the cornerstone of frugality. And some items remain basic and essential to living. We all need nutritional food, suitable clothing, and reasonable living quarters. Within these requirements we are to follow three basic rules for living a frugal life. First, minimize waste – buy items that can be reused whenever possible. Second, maximize the value of every item bought. Buying cheap may mean replacing often; overpaying is wasting money. Third, realize that money does not equal happiness. There are great things in life that are not expensive.

And yet, despite genuine efforts at adopting voluntary simplicity as a central virtue, many are facing the reality of a lack of income sufficient to meet the most simplistic of lifestyles. Further, this economic problem has existed long before the current round of inflation. A more reasonable solution would be a basic guaranteed income giving each person and family enough financial resources to live frugally and securely. A basic income is an unconditional sum transferred from the government to individuals. This transfer will be sufficient to allow each person to meet basic needs regardless of work
status and ability.

Essential to the system working is the unconditional aspect. Unlike social assistance, there should be no “means test” nor reduction for limited income earnings. Basic human dignity and civic participation require a minimum level of financial security. Beyond this are benefits to health, education, and environment that follow from the elimination of persistent poverty. A guaranteed income will also help reduce precarious work – employment that is temporary, lacks benefits and is associated with low income. The guaranteed income would also reduce the male-female pay gap.

There is one significant civic tension that will be reduced. This is the increased mistrust of government and search for extreme radical solutions. Gross uneven income distribution is behind much of the dissatisfaction displayed in extreme acts of social unrest.

The benefits of a basic guaranteed income for all Canadians are many and significant. But some would ask “Can we afford it?”. Our governments now support many programs to help those in the lower income range. One centrally administered programme would replace many of these. And the recent Covid crisis has demonstrated that governments can raise funds when desired. The fundamental issue is this: we are facing uncertain times and some form of financial security is essential. A guaranteed basic income should be part of the solution.