“Simple living” may seem like a relic term from long ago. Perhaps television shows like “The Waltons” or “Little House on the Prairie” from the 1970s come to mind when you think about simple living. Theoretically, simple living might sound wonderful, but is it even possible in a complicated world?
I can hear some of you saying “Come on, Kelly! Simple living is a thing of the past, an idea like that isn’t realistic in today’s world”.
But I would argue that simple living is achievable regardless of what time period or part of the world you live in!
More people are becoming disenfranchised with their lifestyles and wondering why they aren’t happier, even though they’ve “climbed the ladder” to success. That’s why more people than ever before are looking for alternative lifestyles, i.e. homesteading, that provide meaning, job security and purpose to their lives, rather than just earning money.
What is the Meaning of Life?
Scholars and philosophers have argued the answer to this question for centuries.
But the meaning of one’s life can only be decided by the individual and the answer was likely determined during childhood. Much of the time, children learn and make decisions that will follow them throughout their lives within the home and family of their upbringing.
My parents both grew up with humble means, but my father’s upbringing was one of extreme poverty. The stories he told us kids growing up were beyond heart-breaking. His goal in life was to be a very successful businessman and have a lot of disposable income…and that’s exactly what he did.
But he didn’t really want to be a successful businessman, per se. He wanted what being a successful businessman would give him….money, security, admiration, independence and freedom.
Why do You Go to Work Everyday?
Why do you do what you do for a living? What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
Sure, we all want to pay the bills and give our families a decent life…even save for retirement and college for the kids.
But there’s more to it than that. What do you get out of your work life, besides the paycheck?
Does your career fulfill you? Do you LOVE what you do for a living? Are you leaving the world a better place than you found it?
Much like my father, I saw a lucrative and successful career as the key to happiness. Armed with a strong work ethic and the determination of my father, I built a successful real estate business. At the time, I was making more money than most men in my office even though I was only 28.
However, I found out, like many people do, that the accolades and the money do not satisfy.
That period of time in my life caused me to take a step back and re-evaluate the fallacies of wealth. Was I making a difference in the world by leaving it better than I found it? Did I love my job? No, not really, I was selling new homes that were built on farmland, a sight that I detest today.
Working with home buyers and sellers, I was paid commission at the closing when property sales were final. After a while, the commissions were less and less fulfilling as I realized that I contributed to families taking on higher mortgages than they could afford.
My heart began to change and I soon was repulsed by what I did for a living. My thoughts about life, my goals and my future began to change and crave “simple living”.
Then I read a book entitled “Your Money or Your Life” that completely revolutionized my thinking and gave context to what I was looking for. I cannot recommend this book enough!
For the first time, I understood that I was exchanging minutes, hours and days of my life for money. This is time that I can’t ever get back! My relationship with money was forever changed by reading this book and it took me on an entirely different path in life.
Further, I began to ask myself if there was a way that I could enjoy, or at least feel fulfilled in my work, rather than working for the pay alone.
Could I change my lifestyle to be more self-sufficient, to grow and produce much of what we need by homesteading? Perhaps I could even find a way to make a living at homesteading!
Your priorities are a reflection of what you value most in life.
Not sure what your priorities are? Take a look at your bank account.
Whether you keep a checkbook or bank online, take a look at what bills you pay every month. Those bills are your priorities i.e. mortgage and utilities, car payments, gym memberships, babysitters, food and eating out, etc.
Let me ask you a question…are these expenses really worth what you exchange for them, which is “time”?
If you had a terminal disease with a limited amount of time left on this earth, would you spend it working to pay for that new car? Of course, you wouldn’t, you would want to savor every precious moment of your life while you had it.
Not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow.
Let’s take a look at your housing expenses. We all need a safe shelter to live in and raise our families.
But do you need all of the house you are currently paying for? Could you be just as happy in a smaller home or a home that requires less to maintain overall?
Simplifying your living space by either downsizing or moving to a less expensive area is one example of simple living.
Some people go so far as to reduce or completely cut themselves off from the electrical grid to simplify their lives and reduce monthly expenses!
Most of us fall somewhere in between.
In the book “Your Money or Your Life“, the author does an amazing job of explaining how we give up parts of our life, that we can’t ever get back, just to earn money. Of course, we need to earn money to pay our bills but given that we are giving up minutes and hours of our lives to earn it, how much of your life are you willing to give up?
Now the simple math…
Let’s say you decide to move and reduce your overall housing expenses by $500.
If your job pays you $20 per hour, you can work 25 fewer hours a month at that standard of housing. ($500 divided by $20 per hour = 25 hours)
That means you have gained 25 hours of life back, every month, to live the way you want!
What would you do with 25 extra hours of life each month?
-Spend more time with your wife.
-Play longer with your children.
-Take a class or go back to school.
-Exercise and get in better shape.
-Grow that garden that you’ve been making excuses about for years.
This is how “simple living” begins to take shape in your life! My example is only a starting point for how much money you could save each month by reducing your overhead. You may come to realize that you could cover your bills with just one income instead of two. You might even discover that you could change careers and do something that you really love for a living!
Why continue to “work your life away” and miss the precious hours with family, friends and meaningful pursuits?
Frugal Living Tips to Get Your Life Back
For every dollar that you don’t spend, you’re taking a few minutes of your life back.
Reducing your overhead, through frugal living, means that you will spend less of your life earning needed funds!
In my mind, it’s an amazing exchange….life or money? Who wouldn’t want more of their life back?
Here are just 10 frugal living tips that can save you hundreds, if not thousands every month! Take one at a time and dive in deep until you’ve saved as much as you can!
- Reduce your Rent or Mortgage Payment – This may mean moving to a less expensive house or apartment, or it could mean taking on a roommate or renter.
- Reduce your Utility Bills – Use less electricity and water by tracking your usage on the meters.
- Reduce Your Food Bill – Raising 9 children, I totally understand the difficulty of trying to feed healthy food to a lot of people every day. Check out my free “Master the Grocery Store” class!
- Drive Older Cars – Consider selling your cars that carry a payment and buy older cars that are in good shape. You’ll save the payment and the full-coverage insurance.
- Buy Second Hand – Regardless of what you need, always shop for a good quality, second-hand version of it. This is how I kept 9 kids in clothes, bikes and homeschooled.
- Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies and Detergent – You can save $75+ a month easily by making your own cleaners and laundry detergent.
- Stop Wasting Food – Americans throw away 40% of their food every week because they can’t eat it all before it goes bad. Learn how to stop wasting food and start saving!
- Go Zero-Waste – This is easier than most people think and will save you a lot of money at the grocery!
- Consider Self-Employment – Many people have transitioned to working from home or working for themselves in the last couple of years. This saves money on clothing, parking, food, babysitting, gas and more! Do your abilities allow you to work for yourself from home? Why let someone else decide if you have a job or not? A home business might be for you.
- Sell Everything that You Don’t Need – Pay down debt by selling things in your garage or around the house that don’t serve you well anymore.
Learn to Live Well Below Your Means
Learning to live below your means takes time but it’s incredibly freeing!
Every day, regardless of what you’re doing, keep asking yourself this question…
“Do I really need this?”.
Every time you fill your tank up with gas and stop inside the store to get a drink and a snack…
Every time you grab a last-minute item at the grocery store….
Every time you are tempted to buy anything, ask yourself that question. 9 times of out 10, you’ll answer “No”.
Keep that money in your pocket and add hours to your life as well!