27 Jun Getting by with Less
Recently, I encountered a couple of friends chatting. One was saying what a challenge it is to make ends meet; the other quickly responded, “We’re all broke. Nobody wants to hear about it.” That got me thinking. If we’re all broke, isn’t it something we need to discuss? Certainly there are factors beyond our control, but how can we change this experience? Getting by with less is possible. Getting by with less requires living simply, changing perspective and habits.
SEPARATE WANTS FROM NEEDS
In our culture, it’s often hard to separate wants from needs. We relate to the world through consumption, buying the hottest new item or upgrading to the latest tech device. Even if you’re not a shopaholic, small things add up. A daily stop for coffee? Dinner out with friends? The truth is that these things are luxuries, and cutting them out can save you a bundle.
Part of this is recognition – identifying the wants in our lives that are masquerading as needs. What challenges can we take on ourselves? DIY projects, self-taught skills, and creative thinking allow us to circumvent unnecessary costs in our lives, and identify our priorities.
The other part is letting go, realizing that your possessions don’t define you, and lightening your footprint on the world. We are convinced we need all sorts of gadgets and adornments that, upon closer inspection, hold us down rather than propel us forward. They are distractions to keep us from focusing on what is really important.
When I quit my job two years ago to become a freelancer, I knew things would be tough – at least for a while. A client base doesn’t appear overnight and even when you have a steady one, work comes and goes. The first thing I learned was to eat rice and beans often. It’s a complete (and do I have to mention cheap?) meal, providing protein and clean carb energy. I got off organics, choosing to buy from inexpensive farmer’s markets instead. I started eating with the seasons and gave up things that don’t grow here. Simplifying my diet also made me healthier, bringing me closer to my sources of food.
I began living more simply as well, opting to invite friends over for potlatches rather than dining out, or even just a cup of tea. The simplicity of a hike with friends or creating fun projects became far more inspiring than the hazy nights out at bars that inevitably ended in a did-I-drink-that-much tab. It’s not to say partying is bad, but it’s expensive. Go out drinking a lot? Don’t complain when things are tight.
Organization and preparation are two skills that can stretch your funds too …particularly when it comes to food. It’s astonishing how quickly little things can add up. Making smart purchases, cooking at home and planning ahead can mean more savings to take your next trip.
By creating a schedule by which to live, you not only retain boundaries with your time – you retain them in your resources. Build your food purchases around the best local market or your availability. Make a list before you go and don’t buy extraneous items – anything from candy to face cream. Take the time to weigh what you really need, so when you arrive at the supermarket you’ll have a plan. And of course, never shop while hungry.
The same goes for any other purchases. Don’t buy things on a whim. If you know you need something (as I recently realized I needed a new laptop), plan for its purchase. Budget the money with a consciousness of how it may affect you in the upcoming month. I’m a big fan of setting aside whatever amount I can of each “paycheck” (obviously that term is relative for me since I don’t know the frequency / quantity) and put it inside a sealed jar. I do everything I can not to dip into what I have set aside, because I set it aside planning ahead for what I would need in terms of my living expenses.
We all have stuff we don’t need. You know what I’m talking about – the boxes tucked away in closets or attics, the storage rooms and things that simply don’t serve us. I believe the experience of shedding all that stuff is not only cathartic, it can make you some cash. It’s amazing how quickly we can unburden ourselves of our things. Between consignment shops, online classifieds or auctions and donations it’s not a hard thing to do. The hardest part is changing your perspective.
We often feel that we need things because somehow they represent us a people – they show our taste, reveal our personality and achievements, but the truth is they no more represent us than clouds represent the sky they pass through. We are not our things, and in fact, each one of our things is like a tiny weight that we drag through life. It slows us down, retards our decisions and leaves us with anxiety and a lack of fulfillment.
Let go of your things. Sell them if you feel inspired to do so; you’ll be shocked how little you’ll miss them.
How do you get by with less? Thoughts on our ideas? Share in the comments below!