Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Small Frugal Measure

Since we're about to move into a new apartment, all sorts of new expenses have popped up. Appliances still hit the top of the list, costing us the most money, but furniture, paint jobs, and random fixing aren't much further down. At every step of the way, Mr. NMF and I double check, triple check, and keep checking on ways to try to keep our expenses down, without totally living out of apple crates.

(Actually, when we got married, Mr. NMF told me that the key to a happy marriage would be to marry someone who wouldn't mind having one apple crate for him/herself, one apple crate for the spouse, and one apple crate for the table. Then, one could be assured that both sides would be okay with anything.)

One expense we chose to do without would be air conditioning. Our future apartment has large windows, a good cross breeze, and isn't directly in the sun, so we think we can get by. We've also lived in an apartment for the past year without A/C, and it wasn't so bad. We invested in two fans for 80 shekel a piece, and blasted them anytime we felt the need.

So, when I saw this article in the NY Times about living with out A/C, it resonated with me. Mostly, the reason why people live without A/C would be financial. The installation itself, at least here in Israel is costly, as well as the aesthetic problems- it lowers your ceilings as well as having to remodel the concrete around it when you install it, and it has to be done professionally, otherwise you risk ruining your apartment. Plus, sometimes the electricity in your apartment has to be upgraded to a different level in order to install A/C in the first place.

And, it is possible to live without it. I've dehydrated in Israel several times (especially when I was pregnant with NBD), but if you drink plenty and make sure to eat salty food sometime during the day, the risk is much less. There are those who need A/C- like as the article mentions, the old, infirm, or very young run higher risks, but most average people could be fine without it.

Yet, I wonder. Is there sometimes such a thing as being too frugal? Living without A/C isn't frugality, it's more practicality, but there are other examples of giving up on something for financial reasons that eventually turns out to be necessary.

For example, someone who doesn't have the extra form of health insurance here in Israel runs the risk of needing some of those services one day and that they won't be able to obtain when they need it. Wearing uncomfortable shoes may be cheaper, but may hurt your feet in the long run. Buying shoddy furniture runs the risk of having to buy new ones all over again. Doing a cheap paint job, but inhaling the poisonous fumes, isn't such a good bargain.

So one has to strike a compromise. Frugality, along with common sense. To look for a used appliance is one thing, to take risks with your health, another. Many would give up on A/C if they could, but some need it for health reasons. So, if you go into someone's house and judge them on their frugality by the fact that they have their A/C blasting, think twice. Frugal isn't always the answer.


CJ Srullowitz said...

Years ago, air conditioning was, lulei demistafina, a luxury in most of Israel. When my family visited cousins in Tel Aviv one summer, they had no AC. I positively melted. So when my mom announced we were taking a trip to Haifa to visit friends, I headed solo back to Jerusalem.

Little did I know that the husband worked for the electric company, and they didn't pay for electric, so they had AC!

Ezzie said...

No, frugal is not always the answer. People have posited that the key to peace in the Middle East would actually be flying in tons of A/Cs (and supplying the power for them). Lack of A/C makes people hot --> irritable --> more likely to be outside, hot, and irritable --> easier to get riled up, make poor decisions, get involved in bad crowds, etc. (It's like why riots are far more likely to happen in warm weather.)

We have our A/C on in the winter, so I may be biased. :)

jb said...

You have to judge each purchase. For some things, there is absolutely no difference in quality between the el cheapo flea market version and the celebrity-licensed-her-name-for-it version; others, you don't need to go for top of the line, but the lower end will have so many problems that you will end spending more money to fix or replace it. And then, for some things, you really do have to get the most expensive one in order for it to be worth your while (and your money). Consumer Reports is an excellent resource for checking these kinds of things out. We always check CR before any significant purchase.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Great post!

"So one has to strike a compromise. Frugality, along with common sense."

I agree!

nmf #7 said...

CJ Srullowitz- Hah. Well then. It's still a luxury here in Israel, although many have it. It's usually the only way to survive the grueling month of August. Good story though!

Ezzie- :) LOL. And, I didn't know that about riots!
Oh, and you're one of those people who is always hot. Don't come live in Israel in August.

JB- Thanks! Will do. Although, consumer reports is only for products in the US. I wish there was something like that here.

Jewish Side- Thanks!

Anonymous said...

A/C used to be a luxury here in the US too, although most don't remember. My father is b"h 85 years old and he worked in the Chrysler building when there was no A/C (I think; I know he worked in that building and I know he worked in a building with no A/C, but I'm not sure about the overlap). When I complained I was hot as a kid in the 1970s he told me about nights in te 1930s when he was too hot to sleep (and yes, my parents had central air by this point but were too frugal to turn it on very often). We use ours quite a bit.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Both our A/C units in our home died last year and needed to be replaced...we invested extra by purchasing "inverter" technology A/C's -- the upfront cost was more, but we save 30% on our electric bills!

I recommend them highly!

nmf #7 said...

Tesyaa- And, yet, he survived without A/C, making me even firmer on the fact that we won't get it until we can afford it.

Jameel- Thanks for the advice. We're not putting it in yet...but maybe someday. Sigh.