I think this is a big reason I don't want to move to New York. It's not possible to be frugal there. Every opportunity to reduce stress requires money- there's no quiet space, the green areas are crowded, the groceries are expensive and there's little time to cook dinner anyway, and rent is $4400/mo. If I went to the jobs there, I'd get money, but that's all I'd get. Money isn't something to hate or fear, but it's pretty much orthogonal to what I want.
What I want is to live comfortably. And it's a lot easier to live comfortably when you're frugal, because then being comfortable is cheap, and it's usually easy to meet cheap needs. I discover that feeding three people on $100/wk is no burden, it's not hard to restrict houseware expenditures, I had waaay too much health insurance and a high-deductible plan with an HSA makes a lot more sense, and in general that I hadn't been paying much attention to where my money was going, but a trivial amount of mindfulness means my effective pay can drop to about 40% of what it was and I'm not losing savings.
Being able to break even on unemployment is not really what unemployment pay is supposed to do, but it gives me the freedom to take the job I actually want to do because I care passionately about the work, even though it doesn't pay the best. If I'm breaking even this way, I'll put a thousand dollars a month in savings with the job, and that's better than I did with Microsoft's salary.
I suppose I'll feel the financial pinch in about six months, when my scheduled annual computer upgrade doesn't happen. Well, given that my computers seem to be meeting my needs, I don't think I'll miss it. I'm not doing much high-spec computer gaming; consoles are more practical, especially vs. DRM issues (because the console's DRM can't screw up my computer), and I'm not doing much that needs very high specs.
It also helps that money isn't the only way to get gadgetry. I won a C# contest (a trivial ten-question quiz that apparently I aced in the fastest time) a couple of weeks ago, so they're mailing me an iPad. Once again, I'm quietly amused; I've again profited off a whim, like the $450 from TopCoder or the entire life my ACM tournament participation has given me. And this sort of points out something: what I enjoy is following my whims, doing things I care about, and by and large, those things are not expensive. So money is something to live off of, time and energy are things to enjoy- and a job I care about, in a position that actually uses my skills, will leave me with a hell of a lot more of that.
I've migrated to DreamWidth. The original post is at http://kistaro.dreamwidth.org/467419.html. View comments at http://kistaro.dreamwidth.org/467419.html#comments; go ahead and use OpenID to post your own.