Mindful living, being content, paying off debt

10 July 2012
Over the years I've been asked many times what is the key to a simple life. I've thought long and hard about it and I reckon there are three main keys and a thousand smaller ones. Of the three main keys, the first one is to think about your life and what you want get out of it - your life is unique and it doesn't have to be like anyone else's. If you define your own path, and have realistic and satisfying goals, you're less likely to  listen to people telling you you HAVE to have certain things. You'll be less likely to be swayed by advertising. If you really KNOW yourself and where you're heading, you're more likely to stay focused. 


The second key is the ability to be content with what you have. Many people don't have that ability and never will. Sad but true. I think there is a way to develop contentment - you consciously think of what you're grateful for. All of us - the folk who have computers, cars and homes to live in are extremely lucky. Most of the people in the world do not have what we have. Don't take anything for granted. Work hard to get what you want out of life and be thankful for it when you have it. Share. Develop a kind and generous attitude. Don't buy things to show off, buy with purpose and function in mind. Buy good quality and instead of frequent upgrading, keep everything going for as long as you can. And at the end of the day, be grateful that you're in a warm and comfortable home with those you love around you. Hopefully, that will bring contentment to you.


The third is to pay off all your debt. If you do that, the rest of it is relatively easy, with a bit of on going hard work of course. The thousand smaller keys are different for all of us, depending on age, income level, ability, ambition and goals.

Mindful living, being content, paying off debt.


When you don't have to pay either a mortgage or high rent you free yourself up enormously - you can choose how many hours you want to work, or if you want to work at all. But how do you get to that position as quickly as possible? You need to have a plan and a budget and if you're married or partnered you need to both work together towards your agreed goals. The real trick here is to keep enjoying life while you're paying off debt because most large debts, such as a mortgage, will take years to pay back. If I were paying off a mortgage right now, I'd want my mortgage to be 25 percent of my disposable income, not 33 percent that many people go for now. I think 25 percent gives you a good pay back plan while not applying too much pressure. I'd pay that mortgage fortnightly instead of monthly. Also, I would work hard to save a little on the side to pay extra payments when I had the spare money. These extra payments make a big difference. When you set up your mortgage payments, make sure you have the option to make extra payments.


Go to the Down to Earth forum to get a lot of ideas about how to save money consistently. You can also ask questions there about saving money and a lot of other simple life topics. You have to make a plan to pay off your debt. If you think about it, just about every product at the supermarket has several brands that range in price from low to high. Consciously choose the lowest price, regardless of brand, that fits your values.  I won't buy any food that comes from China and very little food from Asia in general. I try to buy Australian and I try to buy as close to where I live as possible. That means I shop at farmers markets if I have to buy fruit and vegetables, I buy meat from a local butcher - I do not buy those things from the supermarket. I am rethinking my stance on generics at the moment. I used to buy them but now that most are from China, I buy Australian brands. I never buy the very cheap milk from the supermarket because I believe the way they're marketing milk is going to break the dairy industry. But apart from all that, everything else I buy, is from Aldi or IGA, mostly Australian, and it's the cheapest I can find. If you can stockpile your groceries, it will probably make even more savings, in time and money. So think about your likes and dislikes, your food values and devise a shopping strategy that gives you what you want at the lowest price. Grocery shopping isn't as straight forward as it once was. It's a  jungle out there.


Get involved in your life. Really involved. Stop working on automatic pilot, stop multi-tasking, focus on your work and do it to the best of your abilities - either in your paid job or at home, or both. Both are equally important and you want to give your best to both. Know how much money you're spending, and on what; know what's in the food you're eating - either by growing it yourself or finding a market selling produce you know a bit about; know your family - if they're young or old, never lose touch with them, stay involved in their lives and keep loving them.


There comes a time when there is a sort of automatic switch from being interested in simple life, and carrying out a few simple projects, to feeling like you're actually living the life. I think that switch generally happens when you're really focused on what you're doing - in both your debt reduction and your daily activities. We all do it differently, we all select different combinations of the thousand keys,  but when that swtich happens it's easier to stay on track and you don't have to push yourself to keep at it. It becomes natural and it's just how things are. Simple.