14 April 2010

Simple living in your 30s

Hopefully you've landed in your thirties with only a few debts and a passion for living simply.  If you have, you're in the driver's seat.  If you do have some debt, there is still quite a lot you can do to untangle yourself before it strangles you.  The important part of this stage is that if you can set yourself up properly here, if you budget and pay off debt instead of add to it, you'll be fine.

It has been my experience that if young people aren't already attached in their the late twenties, now is the time they start settling down.  There is something about the thirties decade that compels us to find a mate and start having babies.  Even if the babies question doesn't come into the equation, many people seem to choose their thirties to slow down, find a partner, take stock of their lives and mature.

Before you dive into marriage or parenthood, sit a while and talk to your partner about what that will be between the two of you.  Some people don't want children, some want many. Some people have an unquestioned assumption that there will be one parent at home raising the children. Others believe that the children can be looked after in day care or by an accommodating grandparent while the parents work to pay off the home and make the most of two incomes.  Don't think you know what your partner is thinking - this is an important part of your life and you need to talk about it, don't just let it happen.  No matter what your choice, you should work out your strategy early, not when the children are toddlers and things aren't working out how you want them to.  I am not judging anyone here, the choice is entirely yours.  If I knew you personally, I would support whatever decision you made.  I believe we must support and encourage each other in our important life decisions, not criticise or mumble when backs are turned.  No matter what you choose to do, either stay at home to raise your children, work from home, or go out to work, this decade will be one that is dotted with times you'll feel overwhelmed and tired.  It goes with the territory, but it makes you stronger.

So, you've finally reached your thirties.  It's not as bad as they said.  Right?  What you do now could set you up for life.  If you have the means to buy a house, do so.  It's still the number one best way to grow your personal wealth (oh how I hate that word. Please excuse its use.)  If you're not already in your own home, start making plans to save for a house deposit.  Even if it puts you back a few years, it's better in the long run to save a hefty deposit rather than a meager one - or, and I hope you don't do this - borrow the entire amount for the home.  Step up and save for it.  It will result in you paying less interest in the long run.

There are so many things you can do now. If you're married or living with a partner, discuss how you'll save.  If both of you are working, try to live on one wage and use the other one to save a house deposit or pay the mortgage.  This is a time of sacrifice, my friends.  You'll work hard, get tired, go without, regret decisions made, wish you'd done things sooner, or never, but in the long run, you'll come out the end of this decade stronger, more self assured and convinced that you can attain your goals.  One thing I know to be true, working together as a team, especially when times are tough, bonds you to your partner like nothing else.  Hardship makes you tougher and more resilient.

And here is one thing that I want you to remember - being thrifty and not wasting your money on flim flammery is not being cheap or miserly.  It's a mindset that will help you achieve your goal of living well, being content and happy. 

Here are some tools to help you save money and pay off debt:
  • Learn how to stockpile groceries.  It will save you time and money and both will be in short supply during your thirties.
  • Plan your menus.  This will help you organise yourself  so there is less confusion around what to cook for dinner, you'll know in advance what you need to prepare the meals, and there will be less food waste.
  • Plan your grocery shopping. Find the best supermarket close to you and don't be tempted by things you want but don't need.
  • Pack lunches for work and school.  Buying lunch every day is an unnecessary expense.
  • Learn how to make your own green cleaners.
  • Shop at thrift shops for children's clothes or swap clothes with friends.
  • Look on Freecycle or Craig's List when you need something.
  • Stop using disposable products unless you absolutely have to.
  • Don't use disposable nappies/diapers.  Modern cloth nappies/diapers are comfortable for baby, can be reused for all your babies and don't add to land fill.
  • Dry your laundry outside whenever possible.  If you don't have a washing line in the backyard, string one up.  How to build your own clothes line.
  • Learn how to read your electricity and water meters.  That skill will help you save a significant amount of money and natural resources over the years.  Click on the country  to find details for water meters -  Australia,    United Kingdom,    Canada    USA.  Click on the country to find details for electricity meters:  AustraliaUnited Kingdom,    Canada,   USA.  Saving Electricity.
  • Don't get into a habit of giving your children expensive gifts and clothes.  You children only want you to feel safe and secure.  They want to spend time with you and to feel loved - that is the most precious gift available, and it can be given every day.
  • Look for entertainment that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.  Frugal Family Fun.
  • Do an audit on your own assets - do you need a second phone, cable TV, a second car?  Get rid of everything you don't need that is adding to your cost of living.  Try to cut back on your phone and internet bills.

Starting your family will be like a minefield of conflicting messages and influences.  But if you stay close, if you live true to your values, your thirties will set your family into a firm and supportive unit.  Be a role model for your children.  That is the most important thing you can give them - it's more valuable than any toy or fancy bit of electrical computery.  Give of yourself to your chidlren and you'll get the best back from them.  Aiming for the best for them will remake you too.  Your children will see you when the outside world doesn't, they see you behind closed door when you aren't on your best behaviour and trying to impress.  Even in those times, you must be a role model for them because they'll become what you show them.

Amanda and Steve at the  Soulemama blog provide a loving and confident example of what life can be like at this stage.  If you've never visited that blog, go there soon and soak it all up.  It's inspiring and gentle and full of happy children, home loveliness and contented parents.   At Down in the Meadow the children are a bit older and a delightful example of family life.  And finally, an Australian family I have only just discovered via Little Jenny Wren - Hugo and Elsa  I love their stylish home, put together after trips to thrift shops and junk yards.  It clearly shows just what is possible.  If you are in your thirties and have a blog that illustrates the ideals I'm talking about here, please add a comment so that other readers can find you.

This decade is all about consolidation.  It's about bonding as a family, establishing boundaries, working towards common goals, becoming the person you want to be, being the kind of person you want your children to be and, again, being very careful with debt.  There is always some money trap waiting to spring - be careful, know your limits and stay strong.  Refusing to join the teeming masses is good for the soul as well as the bank balance.  By staying true to your values at this time you can become self confident, and feel a sense of enrichment that will carry you through those times when your friends can't quite work out where you're coming from.  As you grow older, you'll care less about what others think.  If you're sure the way you're living is right for you, never be put off it.  There will be times when you question your choices, that's good!  Don't forget to have fun along the way and look for the beauty that each day holds - sometimes it's difficult to find but it's always there.  This way of life should be full of opportunities for relaxation, enjoyment and learning.  Grab them every time they crop up.  And don't forget:
  • Expect to make mistakes and learn from them when they happen.
  • Continue to be self reliant.
  • Continue to save for your retirement.
  • Keep learning new life skills.
  • Always support your family and your friends and be kind to yourself.
  • Read.
  • Get enough sleep.

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