Annie Raser-Rowland – The Art of Frugal Hedonism

Annie Raser-Rowland, author if the art of frugal hedonism, joins me to discuss the concepts of her book and how we can enjoy life but consume less. We chat about the hedonic treadmill, experiences vs. stuff, marketing mania and what it means to really savour and enjoy our lives.

You can grab your copy here – The Art of Frugal Hedonism


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to Unstress, I am Dr Ron Ehrlich. Well, today we are going to explore The Art of Frugal Hedonism, a book written by Annie Raser-Rowland, and Adam Grubb. It explores ways in which we can have a fulfilling life while still being frugal and conscious of what we spend and what our attitude is to our consumption and how that affects our well-being. I think the period that we are going through is a global pandemic that has driven an opportunity for us all globally to take some time, reflect on what is important in life. And I think this conversation is and is an important one to have for us all. So I hope you enjoy this conversation I had with Annie Raser-Rowland. Welcome to the show Annie.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:01:08] Hi. Pleased
to be here.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:01:11] Good. Well
Annie, listen, we’re going to talk about your wonderful book, The Art of Frugal
Hedonism, and the two words frugal and hedonism don’t immediately connect. You
know, when we think about hedonism, we don’t always think about frugality. Tell
us how you brought those two together. What brought you to writing this book?

[00:01:32] Well, it does seem like an oxymoron to most people, but it really
came out of a recognition that my co-author, Adam Grubb, and I came to when we
were in our early 30s and we had lots friends who were definitely starting to
feel like life contains very little hedonism. Whereas ours still did. And we
realise a lot of that came down to money in spending patterns in that we were
able to continue working. More minimal amount. And on projects that we really
enjoyed and take a lot more holidays. Whereas a lot of them were already of
that age, finding themselves quite stuck in the spend earn cycle. That meant
they always felt frantic about money and that they felt like it was no time
left for pleasure in their life and that they were losing sight of what had
been making them happier when they were younger. And. As we expected, and that
became more and more of a revelation and within a couple of weeks of starting
to ask myself that question, I had several friends ask me, how do you spend so
much time doing fun stuff and going on holidays? And you never seem to have any
money troubles. And. I thought this is a question really worth trying to
answer. So I started to write a break down of my spending patterns and how I
approach money and how I thought about money. And I realised that there really
were some very big differences, too. Lots of people that I knew. And I realised
that my lack of need for much money to live on was very protective of life’s
most fundamental hedonism’s. Being able to just revel in the moment, being able
to take daydream time when you want to. Being able to do things without
background stress. Staying healthy. And the more I looked at it, the more I
realised that lots of the stuff I was doing that was actually my stingy
behaviours that lots of friends teased me about was the exact stuff that was
giving me the ability to stay really attuned to life’s pleasures. And it became
clearer and clearer that in lots of ways, frugality was the facilitator for
hedonism in my life, and I don’t just mean in the way that saving money meant
that I could work less, but I also mean that there’s a lot of things that
gradually reveal themselves, that make appearances in the book that are frugal
behaviours that are actually protective of having a more hedonistic life. And
yes, lots of those hedonisms are deeper hedonisms. Like staying more connected
to people, staying fitter and healthier, staying more attuned to the natural
world. But some of them are straight up in the moment, classic hedonisms,
things as simple as because lots of friends by that point had taken up eating
out a lot and buying the latest fashion whenever they felt like they should
update their wardrobes. They didn’t take much pleasure in getting anything new
ever. And you may have come across this term. It’s called the hedonic
treadmill. It’s the more new things you get and the more you satisfy your urges
to acquisition that the number you become to each new acquisition and the
faster you get over it. Whereas I found that because I was you know, I was kind
of a bit more old fashioned in some ways you could see it and more stringent on
myself. And I said, no, I’m just eat home cooking like 90 percent of the time
that when I did go out and have a meal or say, I’m going to buy takeaway when I
go work in the library today, it would seem like the most decadent thing. And,
you know, when I did buy takeaway coffee, which is something that I still would
only do perhaps once a month on average, that that would be a real treat,
whereas I’d have friends that were down three of them a day and only drink two
thirds of the cup. In some cases, it was just like a knee jerk reaction,
getting another coffee. And I realised that there are so many ways in which
being frugal keeps you very sensitive and attuned to luxury and pleasure in a
way we never dull your appreciation of it. So this is actually rewarding on
that basis. Minute to minute at some level.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:06:25] I met the
flip side where you’re just not suffering from the constant pressure of
monetary stress and the burden of having too many possessions, which I see so
many people struggle with. It’s constant garage cleanouts, overstuffed
cupboards, feeling like everything is a mess and you can’t keep up with what
you have and that everything you have seems to need something to help you look
after. You have you have a special pair of shoes that need a special cleaner to
go with them and then need a special bag to store something in to protect it
from getting damage. And then that thing breaks and you’ve got to replace that
thing. And then you have to store the thing that looks after the thing in a
cupboard with the thing. And there’s a lot of stress that comes with having a
really large level of possessions circulating around you. And that is anti
hedonistic, you know.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:07:14] Well, you
know, it’s so interesting because you wrote this book in 2016 or that’s when it
was published.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:07:19] Oh, I
can’t. I know. I know. I’m sorry. That was the previous book.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:07:24] But about
any way it came out in 2016. And I love this term. I hadn’t heard it before,
but I can certainly relate to it. The hedonic treadmill, that hedonistic
treadmill trend. And I mean, God, if we needed motivation for keeping the
economy going, the hedonistic treadmill is just it is just you have got to keep
buying to keep yourself happy. And, you know, I guess that’s where our society
is. Although we’re going to talk a little bit about what this latest period of
global reflection has taught us because it seems like your book is very timely.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:08:01] We have
been getting lots of emails saying that people are finding it very useful to
help get them through this, which is including ones from America which given
how deeply entrenched the US is in consumption psychology. I’d say there, even
if not further gone, then most of us Australians. Yeah. If they find it useful
in the US. That’s the high recommendation.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:08:23] That’s a
very high recognition cause the US and hedonism just almost synonymous
sometimes. Let’s not go too. Let’s not go too far on that one. But I think it
is true. I mean the consumption and the use of resources. You know, what is it?
Five percent of the population, five percent of the world’s population and the
impact that they have globally. And I don’t think Australia is, as you say, not
that far behind.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:08:49] No, no.
We’re we’re very much up there. And I mean, I don’t think that any of that is.
Our fault? I’d be very quick to say that I’m not sure exactly what has helped
me escaped some of the escaped some of those spending patterns. I think it’s
partly upbringing and partly certain traits of my character. But. I continue to
be susceptible and to have to check myself because we are at the mercy of an
extremely effective propaganda machine that is doing a phenomenally good job at
teaching us that happiness does come from buying things. One little figure we
have in the book is that in modern-day Germany, spending on online advertising
alone. So that’s just online advertising is more than seven times the amount of
the entire Nazi propaganda budget. And that’s adjusted for inflation, of
course, which if you think about how that propaganda was effective at being
able to persuade people into an extremely rotten and destructive value system.
And we have infinitely more money than that been thrown at us to change our
fundamental, to evaluate in direction that the people throwing that money at us
want to change them. It’s nearly impossible to resist because the psychologists
who work on pitching those ads to us are very practised at what they’re doing
and they know how to hit us in all the soft spots. That’s a reference to the
philosopher Epicurus in the book. Who as much as his reputation is actually
just eating cheese and glugging wine, you know, there’s even restaurants and so
on called the Epicurean because he’s so deeply so associated with pleasure.
That he actually had a very similar principle for maintaining high pleasure
levels in life. His whole approach to hedonism was to live fairly simply. But
to appreciate the hell out of what you are consuming. That was a very strong
part of his philosophy. He’s like. Don’t overdo it, but just absolutely relish
whatever pleasures you are having? And he considered three things essential for
a really happy life. And none of them are to do consumption. It’s friendship,
freedom and time for contemplation. And. If you look at what is happening in
lots of modern ads and the much more recent philosopher Alain de Botton writes
about this, that most ads will feature one of those things friendship or
freedom or time for inflation, and that what our brains register when we see
the ad and oh, that feels like a good place to be. That feels like something
closer to what I want my life to be. We’re not registering the bottle of Coke
in the hand or whatever it is. We’re registering that person with a bunch of
mates on the beach. That’s the bit we want. We don’t want the Coke. We want the
friendship and the freedom.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:12:34] Or, you
know, when it’s in the image of someone like gazing out across the valley with
the latest Samsung in their hand or whatever, making them feel connected,
supposedly. It’s the time for contemplation that our brain is registering that
we want in that scene. It’s not the phone and it’s really devious. And this
wave of self-reflexive ads has appeared where advertisers kind of poke fun at
themselves so that they’re saying we’re on the same side as you. We get how
cheap and trashy advertising is. And so you’ll have ads saying, like, it’s not
about how big this ad is. It’s about the shoes or something else. You’re
supposed to see that ad. And they are they get it. They’re in on the joke. And
so they feel like they speak your language. They’re cool.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:13:27] It’s become
very sophisticated, hasn’t it? I mean, the psychology of it. And you can see
and actually it’s a bit hard to tell the difference now between news and
entertainment. Actually, it’s almost like the news is just a break in between
the commercials on some channels. You know, the the main point is the
commercials. And when you end up with somebody who’s a reality TV show host as
the president of the United States, the difference between reality and reality
TV is really blurred.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:13:58] Oh,
absolutely. Yeah.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:14:01] And and
also, we’re kind of can we’ve kind of encouraged, we always have been to be
good consumers. You know, whenever there’s an economic downturn, get out there
and spend more and drive the economy along. But good citizenship is not really
the focus, is it? I mean, it’s just the whole system is conspiring for us to
get on that hedonistic treadmill.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:14:23] And because
it is so well designed and because it’s impossible to keep your guard up all
the time. And. I mean, lots and lots of those ads appeal to two very strong
things, which is. Most of us want on some level to be a better person. And the
ads imply that if we have the thing in the ads that we will on some level be a
better person and be a person who is closer to the kind of person we would like
to be. But they also tend to aim for the. Treat yourself. Angle, which is
become a very once you have sold to people everything that they possibly could
need. Then you have to start selling them things on the basis of luxury. And so
the the treat yourself kind of tagline or you deserve it has become very common
in ads, which makes us feel like, oh, yeah, my life is hard. I do deserve a
treat because life is inherently difficult. I mean, that’s why Buddhism is
popular, is because it confesses that and helps people deal with it. But. It’s
a pretty dangerous way to look at treating yourself when anytime you feel like
life is hard. Instead of. So. Well, life is hard. How do I deal with this
philosophically? How do I sit and contemplate that difficulty and think about
how I would like to approach it mentally and with strength and to go. Life is
hard. I should treat myself because it doesn’t change long term game or… But
those messages, yeah, they hit all these very vulnerable spots. And so a really
important thing I think to do to help is both fun and effective is you wouldn’t
you self administer counter-advertising. So we have one chapter in the book,
for example, called Romanticise Other Eras, which is not strictly so much about
other eras, in fact, but about other types of value systems. So when I give
talks, sometimes I encourage people to pick a figure, be it a grandparent or a
fictional character. Or someone they’ve read an autobiography of where what
they admire about that person and what they covet about their life has nothing
to do with that person’s material status. It has to do with that person being
someone who they would like to be more like and feeling romantic about that
character because ads make us feel romantic about those lifestyles we’re
seeing. Oh, yes, I would love to be like that. Whereas you need to be romantic
about the things you really want to be more like. So. An extreme example, if you
want. I’ve had people say that they really would love to be more like a wild
horse. They’d love to have that strength in that sense of freedom and that that
sense of… not changing yourself for everyone around you, but looking people
directly in the eye, which actually I don’t think is that true of horses. But,
you know, I let them run with it at this talk because this is obviously their
perception of horses. But for lots and lots of people, say a grandparent, often
in the book, I cite the examples of having read biographies of Shackleton and a
couple of other figures like that when I was younger and going, I want I want
that sense of.. ferocious, just not being deflated by the setbacks and finding
things to laugh about in any circumstance and everything that I want that I
desire about what I see in those figures lives is to do with how spunky they
are, how intelligent they are, how adventurous they are. It’s got nothing to do
with. What they are own and unless we create other role models in our lives like
that to tap back into anytime we think, oh, I want to be more like Kim

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:19:01] Well, I was
kind of I was gonna say I was going to say maybe our preoccupation with
celebrity is a desire an innate desire for us to look to other figures, you
know, to aspire to. I mean, it’s just when they start selling us stuff, it
becomes a little bit confused again, doesn’t it? I mean, you might want to look
up to a hero figure or somebody else. When they turn around and go, oh, and by
the way, I’ve got this wonderful product, which you can. Yeah. Which will give
you a shortcut to me. Yes. And what I stand for. Yeah. I mean, that’s
celebrity, isn’t it?

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:19:35] It is. And
I think it is a basic human need for celebrity. I think that I mean, I am not
religious, but I think that there are certain things that a religious society
used to provide for people and that was one of those things, was role models
that you would have saints.. Or you would have gods or you would have whoever
it was, having qualities that you felt like you could use as a reference point
for the way it was good to be. And. Since we have lost religion in many
people’s lives, it hasn’t been replaced with other role models that aren’t
Kardashians. Those those figures have horrifically moved in to fill that void
before we really had enough time to think about it and go. Well, actually, I
think I’d rather replace the baby Jesus with a leading public intellectual who
I find really inspiring and how they think, you know, for me, I try and pick
people like David Attenborough. Who has lived an amazing life and done amazing
things. But yeah, honestly, creating some role models is a really great counter
to advertising because it means every time that you’re there having one of
those moments where because we all get seduced by advertising, I try and limit
my exposure. I don’t have a TV. I haven’t had one in 25 years. 30 years. I
don’t read magazines, I don’t read especially lifestyle sections of the
newspaper and so on, they are very insidious. I find. But still, it’s so well
designed that I will find myself in shops. Well, I something about that
packaging makes me feel like that would just be a really delicious kind of
slightly gourmet bread to buy. And then I. What would David Attenborough do in
this situation? He would just get some bread. He wouldn’t he wouldn’t be going,
oh, that one looks somehow better. He would get the bread because he’s got more
important things to do with his life than covert products.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:21:56] Yes. Yes.
The book is is divided up into, what, fifty one or so chapters. And it’s really
accessible. And I think some great, you know, this really short and an
accessible, digestible ideas. I wondered if we might just pick out a couple of
your favourites to give our our listener a bit of an example of how we might
implement some of these in our everyday life.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:22:23] Yeah. Well,
we have already touched on a couple. Yes. In terms of, you know, creating your
own role models. Yeah. Yeah. A couple of my other favourites. There’s not it’s
not as sort of a how to reuse your tea bags, money saving book. It’s much more
based on your psychology around money and spending. There are a few practical
ones in there. Maybe I’ll kick off with one of the practical ones. The
practical ones tend to be very short into the point because they were just a
handful of things that we pinpointed where we went. This is such an easy thing
to change. And yet really saves you quite a substantial amount of money very
easily. So I will grab two of those to start with one is to really limit buying
drinks, and I don’t just mean alcoholic drinks, but you if you are going to eat
out and if it’s something you do regularly, lots of people will just automatically
buy the bottle of orange juice or the coke or if it’s a restaurant meal, the
wine or whatever it is with a meal. And yeah, if that’s something you really
want and you’re really going to appreciate it in that moment. Sure. Do that.
But if you are going out for that. Don’t just automatically go, well, I’ll get
a lemonade with that, because drinks really often are expensive. Not as
expensive a half to two thirds of the price of the meal that you’re offering
may even have a table in the book where went around and looked at different
levels of dining, right from a convenience store up to fine dining. And you’re
often paying close to half on a drink, what you are for the meal. And you often
just don’t need it. Like it’s often empty calories. And you’re just ordering it
as a knee jerk reaction because the waiter comes up and says, what would you
like to drink with that? You feel weird to say no I will just have water
thanks. Lot’s of people feel uncomfortable refusing things in that context.
Don’t be uncomfortable with that. If you’d be just as happy with water or
almost as happy as water. You can save yourself a whacking a lot of money over
the course of a week for someone that eats out regularly, just try skipping
drinks. Sometimes exceptions that would be drinks that stand in for that eating
out experience, which I think can be. If you really are trying to stand a very
low budget. Having a coffee or a glass of wine as a reason to sit down when you
might go, no, to buy something to eat is more than I wanted to spend. But I
want to be in that public space. I want to sit there. I want to soak up the
passing people. That can be a really good reason to buy a drink if that’s all
we’re having. Just sitting there to really enjoy that ever. You know, coffee
and alcohol, they’re both drugs. Don’t rush them. Appreciate that drug
experience. Sit there and feel it. Take over your body and alter your mind a
little bit and provoke thoughts and change your mental state and use what
that’s doing for you. Don’t just slam it back and go. All right. That’s just a
tool to let me get on with my day. Enjoy taking drugs. There you go that’s one
of my tips.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:25:41] There we

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:25:45] And another
practical one would be to with whatever capacity you have for light is usually
the limiting factor to grow some of your own greens. So herbs, a little bit of
lettuce. Most people have a sunny windowsill or a balcony or a garden where you
can at least grow a pot of parsley and rocket and spring onions, perhaps. And
the reason that I would suggest those things is because I have looked in so
many fridges in my life where people have seven or eight little packets of this
much thyme. And this much oregano and this many chives slowly mouldering away
in huge amounts of plastic packaging that cost $4.50 Each, like this tiny
amount of herbs because they wanted to use it in some dish. And you grow those
things yourself. They’re all some of the easier things to grow. They taste much
better when they’re fresh and you get to use exactly the amount that you want
when you pick them. And it’s just a really nice little thing to do. Have at
least something growing. Lots of people are becoming absolute guns at growing
indoor plants. And if you can do that, then you can definitely look after some
pots of herbs.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:27:19] I mean, as
I was reading your book, I kind of thought, wow, this is like. I mean, we did
we hear a lot about mindfulness, you know, doing mindfulness exercises, which
people think of as a kind of meditation lite. But this book, you know, when you
when you look at even your example of having a cup of coffee or a glass of
wine, it’s mindfully being there to drink each drop of this. And, you know, you
pick a herb and you look at that herb that you’ve grown. So it’s just kind of
engaging on a moment to moment level with what it is what it is you’re doing. I
kind of thought. There’s another word for describing this whole concept. And
mindfulness while being there or just taking your time to think about
everything was really that was a good example. I picked up on those two
because, you know, we sit and have coffee and sometimes I drink mine far too

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:28:16] Yeah, it
really does change the quality of life because lots of people think are not
going to be able to start enjoying things till they go on holiday or they get
some time off, at least another one.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:28:32] Another one
that intrigued me was beware of fake frugalism. Go on tell us a bit about that.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:28:40] Yeah. I
mean, that’s that’s a fairly straightforward one. You just don’t want to make
the mistake if you become someone, that is if you’re if you’re trying to cut
down your consumption primarily for the sake of saving money because lots of
people want to cut their consumption to change tack, to have a more hedonistic
life or two for environmental reasons. But if you’re doing it to save money,
particularly, people will fall into that trap of going. Well, I just buy the
cheapest and bulk amounts of everything from the cheapest source. And that
really isn’t true hedonism in the long run, because if your if you’re buying,
say, the cheapest factory farmed eggs or animal products, you are creating a
world for yourself to live in and possibly your children if you had children.
That is anti hedonistic because it creates a culture where quality of life is
not valued, whether it be the person working in slave like factory conditions
in a country who is making those cheap goods, be it that animal that is
suffering to create those goods and I think we compartmentalise often and say,
well, I can’t see that that doesn’t affect my sense of pleasure in the world.
But I think most people on some level have this gut sense of what is happening
elsewhere. And when you have this sensible world where there’s a whole lot of
just nasty shit going on and that you know, that you’re partly involved, that
isn’t a good hedonistic feeling. That’s a dark, niggly feeling that pecks away
at your soul. Oh, absolutely. I mean, one interesting thing about it in the
dictionary definition of hedonism is it is not only the engagement with
pleasure, but it is the absence of suffering. Right. So if you’ve got things
that are causing you sort of psychological or emotional suffering on some
level, that’s not a hedonistic life. And the counter to that is that if you pay
that little bit of extra money and get the organic free range eggs instead.
Then anytime the eight one of those eggs on some level, your brain is having
that association of oh, I can imagine happy chicken scratching around in a
field and pecking and clucking and feeling the sun on its feathers and not
suffering. And that is actually a good feeling that replaces that potentially
horrible literal feeling you’ve got niggling away somewhere in you. And when
it’s a story that you take even a bit further away, you make an effort to know
the producer a bit of whatever you are consuming, which is not always possible,
but sometimes it is. You know, when I get local, honey, I know where it is. And
I happen to know that where the beehives are in my neighbourhood. And it means
that I get that little pleasure, that little hedonistic spike of looking at a
bee and going buzzing around the flowers outside my apartment. You could have
possibly made some of my honey and then little micro hedonism that I get to
enjoy on a daily basis. That also makes me feel part of a bigger web of things
in the world, which is a pleasure unto itself. And I know so many people that
say buying quality food is not affordable. But to be brutally honest with you,
the majority of those people still buy things like takeaway coffees, possibly
cigarettes. In some cases they buy, you know, a chocolate bar. The difference
between buying a carton organic free range eggs. And buying a supermarket
factory farmed carton of eggs is the difference between you buying that one
muffin in a week or a one coffee in a week. And I choose to buy the better eggs
and not buy the muffin because I don’t spend very much money. My budget for
part of writing this book. We actually kept budgets for an entire year and I
was shocked, really.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:33:25] I felt like
I’d actually spent quite a lot that year. And we’ll get to this in a moment.
But I don’t skimp really on spending money, on experiences or things I really
want to learn about or do. And I feel like that a particularly high level of
that kind of spending this year. But it still came out during the year that we
kept the budgets. It still came out that we spent about a quarter of the
average Australian adult. And if I can spend that level and afford to still buy
organic eggs.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:33:58] And so
remind us what what that is. What is the average Australian spending?

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:34:04] Oh, I
wouldn’t want to try and give those figures. 2016 figures. Yes. Say. And I’m
even hazy on what the ones that we can go to.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:34:14] Yeah.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:34:14] But the
average spending to this point. Continues to be about fifteen thousand a year.
Right. Excluding rent. So for all of our county, because rent and mortgages can
be such a big variable depending on people’s living situations, then we did. We
accounted for all of our spendings excluding rent.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:34:38] But it is
true about seemingly cheap food or seemingly cheap clothes or seemingly cheap
products. They’re not actually seemingly cheap, particularly the food. When you
factor in the health and environmental costs, which we can now know, which we
now really in tune with. What is the health cost of poor health in our society?
Well, we know.. One hundred and eighty billion is just one hundred and thirty
billion has just been spent to support us through this health crisis. So, you
know, health can be a pretty expensive thing. Absolutely. And the environment
is a whole other story.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:35:15] But, you
know,  food is actually much cheaper now
than it has been at any point in history. That’s because it has ceased to
reflect the true costs of production. Whereas before there was chemical
fertilisers and monocropping, agriculture, factory farming, the cost of food
had to reflect the farmers work and inputs to renewing that land to continue to
make that land farmable. Permanently. Because that’s how agriculture operated.
There were no subsidies, there weren’t chemical fertilisers where you could
just take and take from the land and then replace them. And there weren’t
subsidies for water use that were draining entire water catchment systems. So
the cost of food was reflective of how much water you could stay away from that
system and how much work you had to do to replenish that land. And we’re now
just creating this drawdown on future generations. So we’re actually every time
we buy really cheap food, we’re actually borrowing money from our children and
grandchildren to pay for our very cheap food effectively. And in the more
direct, hedonistic level, there is nothing less hedonistic than living in a
world with no beautiful natural environment and no rivers that you can swim in
without being scared of having an open cut on your body. Or Oceans that you
feel comfortable swimming in and putting your face under the water, that is the
most anti hedonistic thing I can think of.I’m sure you agree.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:36:58] I do. I do.
So pick another one. I mean, there’s so many great titles here that I know.
Don’t be a snooty bum bum. I know my granddaughter would love that one if I
read it to her. Go on tell us about don’t be a snooty bum bum.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:37:15] That was
probably pitched at a higher level of consumption addiction where along with
that marketing of luxury goods that I was talking about that is really filling
the void for advertisers being able sell us things, we need the delineation
between very similar products that we have been sold over time to create
reasons to buy new things, because they’re always having to come up with new
reasons to buy new things. Is that whereas, you know, in the 40s, if you wanted
a pair of jeans, jeans would just jeans and they would look at people wearing
jeans now and they just don’t look like some denim pants to me that now we have
been trained as consumers to recognise these microscopic style details and
brand details between several very similar products and feel like those things
are very important. And mark us out as a as a person of taste or not. And
sometimes I like to be the devil’s advocate just by declaring that I really
like instant coffee, for example, because which isn’t strictly true. I don’t
mind it. It’s you know, it’s not as good as the other kind. But does it really
always matter that much? We’ve been taught so much that we need to be
incredibly discerning and that this is somehow a mark of good character to only
want to have very good quality things. Whereas in the 70s. People really they
could just enjoy a cup of instant coffee, and that was fine, and they really
enjoyed it because there was no one telling them that that was somehow a really
low brow thing to drink.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:39:12] Coffee is a
really good example of that, isn’t it? I mean, coffee, because people have
become really snooty bum bums about coffee. You know, like, this shop doesn’t
do it as well as that shop. And this doesn’t taste, you know. Yeah, that’s a
good example of it.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:39:26] Yeah. And
there’s it’s nice just to have a bit of a reality check on that and say…
Really doesn’t matter that much like… It doesn’t matter if you know, the the.
And these are much bigger examples that we do go into in some other chapters in
the book. But when you get things as large and substantial as people’s homes
becoming things where they feel like it’s really important to reflect good
taste. To the extent that people will move into a completely adequate house and
feel the need to redo it before they feel comfortable or that it’s an OK place
to live because the kitchen just looks a bit outdated. That’s a dangerous level
of discerning consumer behaviour. Because you can’t. The world cannot afford
those kind of resources and most people’s hip pocket cannot afford keeping up
with that level of style and discernment is quite unhealthy. If if the kitchen
is functional. Figure out some other ways to make it nice. Put some new paint
on. Change the doorknobs. Don’t gut your entire kitchen and have a whole new
one put in. That’s probably made out of really cheap materials that are going
to break and we’ll need redoing in another fifteen years because that is a huge
renovations are one when the biggest drawdowns of expenses of resource use. And
yeah, it’s a pretty dangerous psychology to come into and. There is actually
there’s we have a whole chapter, a very short chapter on the book around the
strange liberation of deciding that what you have is okay and I give to make
the point, I give the tiniest example conceivable. Which is that I like to make
gnocchi and like to make pasta like to make various things that might use a
slotted spoon in the kitchen. And. I put on my list for when I next went to an
op-shop. Get a slotted spoon because at some point I went.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:41:51] I make
gnocchi all the time. I should really have a slotted spoon. And I got there and
it wasn’t about the money because there was plenty of slotted spoons at the
op-shop and they cost 99 cents each. And I looked at it and I went. But I’ve
been making gnocchi for 20 years without the slotted spoon and it’s been just
fine. Like, guess I don’t need one then it might be more convenient, but it
clearly didn’t need one because I haven’t suffered at all for not having one.
And there is something incredibly liberating about making that choice. And you
can do it when you’re going a bit consumer loco brain over something you think
you really want. Like, you saw some amazing shorts in a shop window, and you
just imagine yourself in those shorts and when I would look so great in my
shorts and my summer wardrobe would suddenly become stylish. I had those shorts
and people would see what kind of style I had and I’d be perceived as the
person I actually am if I was wearing the shorts. And if you just put that
spacer between that moment where you have that feeling and let it sit for a
couple of days and go. Does it really matter? Like, do I really need them? And
then you sort of go I don’t and my life actually probably won’t be any
different at all in a year’s time if I have them. And then there’s this
beautiful lightning feeling where you like the ability to not want something
it’s almost as rich and pleasurable as satisfying the craving to get it..
Sometimes even better, which is quite a revelation. If you work up the
willpower to practise it a few times and the science behind that, too. I mean,
one, I’ll come back to that point that I was going to make about spending money
on experiences and on learning because there’s a lot of science that says that
the pleasure that comes from purchases and acquisitions fades very quickly,
that people’s happiness levels, even after a remarkably big purchases, like a complete
home refit or a new larger house or a new expensive car, that everything about
people’s happiness levels, the satisfaction levels have returned to the same
level within a year. and for smaller purchases much, much faster. Whereas
experiences, when we spend money or don’t spend money on experiences, the
opposite is true is that it tends to be the more you invest either your
available cash or your life, energy and thoughtfulness in experiences, the more
content you become. And there’s several reasons why that’s true. Experiences
don’t tend to date in terms of the way that lots of consumer goods do. So you
don’t tend to look at your experience and go, oh, that just doesn’t seem as
great as it did when I first wanted it. They’re not they don’t have the comparable
the capacity to be compared in the way where if you go, I have a beautiful
time. Walking on the beach with your daughter, your partner, your dog, and you
look at the waves crashing. You don’t tend to look at someone else who’s gone
for a walk that day and go… I bet they had a better walk than I did in the
way that people will covet each other’s possessions and suddenly look at theirs
and feel like it’s a bit shabby compared to the other person. They also build a
sense of self. And we are the sum of our experiences and experiences creates
stories that you get to tell people that give you a sense of volume as a human
being in the way that consumer goods don’t. And the remarkable thing is they do
that even when the experiences are a failure. There’s a phenomenon called
positive reinterpretation. Yeah. Where you have a bad experience that might
actually be categorically a disaster. And yet when you look back on it, because
it becomes a story and it becomes a narrative and it becomes a moment of intensity.
You start to look on it as a positive, positive experience, even though is
technically a failure. And I’m sure you can think of a million examples of this
yourself. I think, by the way, a kayaking trip that I did with my partner at
the end of last year, the first two days of this were beautiful and sunny and
the last three days when gale force winds and we were freezing and we were
exhausted, we were having to paddle like Vikings for seven-hour days and there
were so many points then where we were just looking at each other. I don’t know
if I can do this anymore. Like, where is the weather forecast we’d hoped for?
But by the time it was done, we were like that.. that was amazing. Right. And
we still talk about it and how hard we had to paddle and how insane that
weather was to this day. And that happens in much smaller ways, too. Now that
positive reinterpretation. Almost never happens if you buy a fridge that just
doesn’t work.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:48:01] While
you’re talking about positive reinterpretation. It’s interesting about the
period we’re going through at the moment isn’t it really? I mean, so many
people now I mean, as long as you are fortunate enough to have a roof over your
head and food on the table, and if you are fortunate also to have your job
still, you know that putting that aside, so many people have reflected on this
period in a positive way, isn’t it? What are some of the lessons you’ve
learned, given you’ve written a book called The Art of Frugal Hedonism… What
are some of the things you’ve taken out of this period? Yeah, kind of. Is it
more than just… I told you, so?

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:48:46] I mean,
I’ve found parts of it hard to as it hasn’t being highly protective, having the
philosophies that I do. I guess one of the things I’m really grateful for is
that I have heaps of friends who are in money stress because of this. And I’m
very I’m very grateful for the ability to live off so little money, that it
means I’ve always got a buffer that I have always got savings because of how
little I spend. And so even though my work is cut down a whole lot, then it
doesn’t worry me, particularly if it just means I’m saving less than I usually
do. And that’s a really nice peace of mind to have. It’s reinforced for me.
The. The way that people, including myself. Just thrive on nature at a time
when we’re under any kind of stress. And when a thing feels uncertain on
nature. Yeah. I don’t know where you are. But here, the parks and the gardens
are just packed with people. And yes, that’s partly because people don’t have
other places to go and want to go out into the world. But you can also just see
that people would just want to look at the sky. And they want to look at plants
because it helps them feel sane and feel okay. And, I guess I keep thinking
about. Not so much on a personal level, maybe more on the policy level of how
I’m really hoping that this becomes a catalyst both for people in their local
council areas to write to the council and say, we need more green spaces. We
need, as especially cities become places that have fewer and fewer silent
places. We need green spaces big enough that you can’t  always hear traffic noise in them so that
your brain can find some stillness. Because I think the noise aspect of being
in natural places is really overlooked. And I notice other people like myself
at this point seeking out the parts of the creek that I live near. There’s only
a few parts where you can’t hear traffic noise anymore and people need to be
proactive about this, like write to your local council and say “Covid has
taught me that we need this please, can policy move in this direction”
because it’s essential for giving all of our minds and bodies the resting
places that we need as part of being sane, functional, healthy human beings.
Cities need to cater for that.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:51:52] It’s a very
important part of good care of citizens. One the other bits that I guess I’m
finding very interesting is. And I don’t know. I move in social circles that
don’t necessarily reflect the dominant culture. So I’ve got a strange gauge on
it. But. I would like to think there’s a lot of people reflecting. On the fact
that for a good chunk of the last year. 80 percent of businesses in lots of
areas are shut. bebeAnd no one is going out is suffering from not having things
they need because of that, which seems very lovely and stark measure of how
unnecessary most of the businesses that we have around us and most of the
things that are selling up, all those homewares stores, all of the gift stores.
I mean, even lots of what stays open is not strictly necessary. I know a lot of
fashion shops that are still open and the, you know, a lot of cafes and so on,
but are still open. We strictly don’t need most of those either. But it sends a
pretty clear message. And I know there’s lots of online shopping going on, so
that messes that clarity up a little bit. I was pretty horrified after speaking
to a postman not long after this started, some at the post office who said the
online shopping just gone through the roof because people still want their fix
of acquiring something new. But it is still a really beautifully simple and
elegant demonstration of how many of the shops selling things are selling us
things that we just don’t need at all. It’s all shit to keep the consumption
machine ticking over. And I really hope people reflect on that and go, well,
other businesses, I actually need that sell me stuff. I need that. I really
want to consume for really good reason or necessary to life, because we do need
to cut our consumption back because we are acting like a very, very greedy,
spoilt child in most of the Western countries. And it’s not going to work for
very much longer. It’s already starting.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:54:29] Now,
listen, we’re coming to the end. And I just want to ask you one one last
question. You’ve covered it to some degree, I guess, because we’re all on this
health journey to get through life in this modern world. And I’m wondering what
you think the biggest challenges for an individual on that journey?

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:54:47] Health…
Did you say?

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:54:50] What the
biggest challenge is for an individual on this journey through life in our
modern Western world?

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:54:57] Health

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:54:59] Not not
necessarily health-related. Just what would you say is the biggest challenge in
our modern world as individuals?

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:55:08] Being
appreciative. I mean, it’s cheesy, but most people struggle with it and I
struggle with it as well. But any time I stop and compare myself and this is a
great strategy for reminding yourself how lucky you are and that you probably
don’t need whatever it is you’re currently craving… compare yourself to
basically any human being, with the exception of kings and emperors, throughout
history, and we so well catered for in terms of comfort and convenience, even
those of us in society who spend the smallest amount. Have such a luxurious
lifestyle compared to most humans throughout all of history. And to me, the
best thing we can do at this point in civilisation is to recognise that and
find that sweet spot where we are really enjoying some of those conveniences
and comforts. And diversity of products and services that technology and
globalisation has brought us. But we’re not overtaxing them, that we really
enjoy the most precious ones and suck every bit of pleasure and gratitude out
of the ones that we are consuming, whether it be having the heating on so that
you don’t have to have fires smoking up your house all through winter. That’s
amazing. And most humans throughout most of history would be like, oh, you can
just push a button and be warm. And you don’t have to go gather fuel and have
smoke and soot issues and like, that’s just all by itself. Just that little one
is amazing. Just don’t turn the heating up too high. And then only use it when
you really need it and put on extra clothes. That one tiny example. Or that you
can buy. Food that comes from 100 kilometres away rather than only 10
kilometres away. Yes. Maybe do that. Maybe allow yourself those Tasmanian grown
apples if you live in Melbourne. But don’t buy the lemons that come from
America. Just, you know, enjoy a bit of that incredible luxury we have. Really
appreciate it and recognise how historically phenomenally indulgent even those
small things are. And then just pull it in a bit on all the excessive stuff so
that we can keep enjoying this level of luxury. For another century, at least,
even that may be optimistic.

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:58:13] Well, what
a great note to finish on and thank you so much for joining us today. And we’re
going to have links to the book. It’s a very timely read. I really enjoyed it.
Very accessible. Thank you so much.

Annie Raser-Rowland [00:58:25] My

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:58:29] Well, what
a note to finish on. Gratitude being appreciative of what we’ve got, because in
human history, we are in a situation where we have just so much at our
fingertips that we take for granted. I think the whole concept of hedonic
treadmill. The hedonic treadmill and also positive reinterpretation were such
interesting concepts. I really enjoyed the discussion. We will, of course, have
links to that book, The Art of Frugal Hedonism, and I would recommend it. It’s
a very easy read. It’s got some great ideas in a very accessible.

[00:59:10] Now, also, don’t forget to download the Unstress with Dr Ron app. It
gives you access to the podcast. There’s a whole lot of webinars on there and
there, ebooks. We’re actually just reviewing our Web page and organising some
amazing courses coming up in the second half of this year.

[00:59:28] And also, don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes. So more reviews
the better. I think this is an important message. I hope you agree. So until
next time. This is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well.