Living simply is not just a nice idea on a piece of paper; it is a realistic and achievable goal.
People make the choice to live simply for all kinds of environmental, financial and ethical reasons and I think in mine and my husband’s quest to adopt a less “stuff” obsessed way of life we’ve come to realise that all reasons of living simply seem to tie themselves up together.
When I was first married over two years ago me and my now husband, B, decided that we’d live without a TV set in our new place – and ultimately set the goal that wherever we went we’d live without a TV set.
We hadn’t lived together before we were married so there was no dry run; we went into things without any prior knowledge of how things would be since we both were used to having a TV and had grown up in a culture so steeped in entertainment in the form of television programmes and the understanding of the World around us from news programmes – and the bias that comes with these programmes.
Plus there was an added expense (and luxury) of owning a TV set. In the UK you are required by law to purchase and own an up to date TV Licence. On top of owning a TV Licence there was the cost of a cable subscription and the running costs of a TV; we just didn’t see the point. We carefully budgeted for what we needed; food, clothes, our bills and rent paid and worked out what we could live without in order that we could save up our money for when we ran into a brick wall and needed funds to fall back on.
Whether you want to cut back on funds, want to save up for something special or you want to live simply, here are a few of my own personal tips:
Always, always write out a shopping list.
This means no impulse buying, (if you have the will power to not succumb to impulse spending, of course) no frivolous spending and if you commit to your list and don’t deviate from it then it allows for budgeting. If you make calculated spends then you know the outcome of the spend; no shocks at the cash register and no shocks when you check your bank balance.
Make a weekly meal plan.
(Image: Good enough to eat but might have you burping bubbles, Dirty Ass Soaps.)
By writing out a weekly plan of what you’re going to eat that week you’re planning ahead and are less likely to be indecisive and pick up the phone to order pizza or any other take away food. It will also save you on the one thing we’re all saying we don’t have enough of: time.
Making a weekly plan also goes hand in hand with writing out a detailed shopping list; a well stocked kitchen with everything you need for the week is a lot less stress and hard work than dashing out to buy food every day and humming and hawing come dinner time. Decide on what you want to eat and plan accordingly. Look through cook books and on-line cooking forums for inspiration!
Host a book/clothes swap
The clothes swap seems to be sweeping the World over; we have convinced ourselves that shopping is therapy (‘retail therapy’, I rest my case) and in turn have accumulated clothes we don’t wear, need or will never work up the courage to wear – or perhaps you’re just bored with the same look.
Don’t go on another clothes spending spree in order to spruce up your wardrobe, organise a clothes swap. The rules of this are pretty simple: you, your home, your old clothes, your friends and their old clothes. Everyone must bring round suitable (not tatty/worn out/out of style) clothes they don’t have a problem giving away. You go through each other’s clothes and take out what you want; win/win all round as you get to have a clear-out and gain a new wardrobe (or at least a few added pieces to the wardrobe) in the process.
A book swap is similar but instead of clothes, you swap books. I have yet to trial either of these ideas but I’m really liking the idea of a book swap – not only because my bookshelves are heaving at the weight of my book collection but because I would get new books in the process of it all!
Join a local library.
I love to read and I know I’m not alone in this feeling. However, by joining a local library, you’re not being disloyal to your favourite author. Authors still receive money when you check out a library book. Libraries also sell off their stock at below average prices – be on the look out for a corner dedicated to selling books or notices for stock that is going up for sale.
Libraries are also a great source of information; notice boards displaying free services, groups and even garage sales in the local area. Most libraries also offer free computer, Internet and WiFi – in fact me and B used the library computers for a whole year until we cracked and signed up for our Broadband.
Children also love libraries; most children’s sections have easily accessible book shelves, reading areas and are generally kitted out for children. They also have a plethora of DVDs and CDs to keep children (and adults) amused.
Have a vegetarian (or vegan) day once a week.
In Once A Week Vegan six friends are on a journey to attempt going Vegan one day a week for a year and have lots of inspiring food ideas. Or pick up some tips on going Vegetarian for a day a week from Ask Men (UK.)
We’re a Vegan family so going vegan for a day isn’t a hardship however the savings we make on our shopping are noticeable from our meat-eating counterparts. Lentils are cheaper than steak, after all.
Gone are the days of pre-soaking foods over night for veggies and vegans and hello are the days of mock meats, tasty treats and all kinds of choice. Having a day once a week where you don’t eat meat is not only good for the bank balance, but good for the body. I know of a few families who have trialled this and have success with it.
Still not convinced? You could try having one vegetarian/vegan meal once a week and see how that works out for you.
By making small changes (and it’s always best to start small and realistically) you’ll notice that you’ll save time, money and sanity when it comes to living simply. So keep it simple, make a few realistic and achievable sacrifices (not everyone wants to live without their TV) and make room for adjustments when you’ve made changes – not everything has to stick and you’ll work out what you can and can’t live with or without over time.