For people like us in big western cities, everything we do, and our whole value system centers around buying stuff, or doing stuff. The very least you can possibly do, is chill out and chat to friends or watch telly. (Or pay to attend a meditation class).
Photo from mestes76
Imagine the following conversation on the tube:
"Hey John - how's it going...! Yeah (yeah yeah), not seen you in about months, isn't it? What have you been up to?"
"Oh yeah, cos I last saw you at Gin's leaving do... yeah, well after that night, I got into bed with my whole family, and we've all been asleep for the past 6 months. We got up once a day for 10 minutes to eat a bit of bread and have a vitamin pill, and we took it turns to check the heating was on. It was alright. Quite a cheap few months. Yeah, exactly, couldn't be bothered with winter."
This is what peasants in rural Russia (and in other parts of cold Europe (e.g. French alps) did until up to 1900 - quote from a New York Times article:
In 1900, The British Medical Journal reported that peasants of the Pskov region in northwestern Russia “adopt the economical expedient” of spending one-half of the year in sleep: “At the first fall of snow the whole family gathers round the stove, lies down, ceases to wrestle with the problems of human existence, and quietly goes to sleep. Once a day every one wakes up to eat a piece of hard bread. ... The members of the family take it in turn to watch and keep the fire alight. After six months of this reposeful existence the family wakes up, shakes itself” and “goes out to see if the grass is growing.”
Link to full New York Times article here.
The second lesson on buying stuff comes from Guatemalan Pedro Zapeta.
Photo from Jose Amado Peguero
He went to the US in 1996, and working on minimum wage (5.50 USD/hour), he saved 59,000 USD in the 11 years he was there. In 2006, he then tried to walk through US customs with it, intending to take the money and to buy land and build a home for his wife and children, but US customs seized the money and now he's pretty screwed with legal battles. You can read the full story here or sign a petition to help him here.
How on earth did this guy save 60,000 dollars on minimum wage? He makes a bit of a mockery of us, who earn a zillion times more, but still fall in and out of overdraft.