A simple life

28 September 2016
I think Hanno and I have been pretty succesful in changing our lives from one of stress, expense and disorder, to a life of relaxed contentment, getting value for money, routines and organisation. It wasn't easy at the start, mainly because I didn't know then what I was looking for, but now it's just how we are. A lot of people ask me about how we settled into this way of life, how we paid off our debt and how we maintain a lifestyle that gives us so much. The hardest thing is changing how you think about success and what you believe you're entitled to. If you continue to believe you should have everything your friends have, if you always reward yourself for doing the hard yards or if you can't get your spending under control, you'll struggle to live simply. On a more general level it's got a bit to do with self-control, moderation, prudence and cutting back where you can. You work to use less of everything - less electricity and water, fewer products, less waste and packaging. I'd also add less travelling and only essential flying, although very few people seem to agree with me on that. For me, it's in my top ten.

Recycle furniture
 If you have the time, grow some of your own food.
If you can't grow a lot of food, grow herbs and fruit. They don't take a lot of time and they'll save you money.

Giving up buying everything you want is difficult because not only do you give it up today, you're giving it up over and over again for years. You're always cutting back and looking for ways to use less. You will get used to that but it's tough when you start. We've lived this way for many years and now cutting back is more about getting value for money instead of buying the cheapest of everything. I look at my budget as a whole instead of individual prices and if I can buy everything I need with my budget, I'm happy. That might mean a bit of juggling some weeks - I might not buy something so I can afford fish or a better cut of meat, or it could mean living off the stockpile for a couple of weeks so we have the food money for something else. We know what we can afford and stick to our budget, but when it's needed, a bit of juggling helps us to always stay within budget while having all we need.  And that is a choice for us.

Here are a few reminders of what we can do to help simplify and live within our means:
  • Spend less than you earn. Not just today and this week, but all the time.
  • Look for value for money instead of penny pinching.
  • Make up a workable and realistic budget and stick to it.
  • Start a food stockpile.
  • If you don't have enough to pay your monthly bills, cut out unnecessary expenses like mobile phone, cable TV, magazines, coffee at the cafe, bottled water and drinks etc.
  • Cook from scratch.
  • Never waste food, eat your leftovers and have a couple of meatless meals every week.
  • Take lunch and a drink to work and school.
  • Recycle, reuse and repair.
  • Monitor your electricity, water and gas use. Learn how to read your meters.
  • Turn off lights and TV when you leave the room. 
  • Turn off stand-by appliances when you're not using them and when you go to bed.
  • Stop buying cleaning products and make your own using soap, bicarb, vinegar, washing soda and borax.
  • If you haven't already done it, think about putting in a vegetable garden. If you've already got one, think about adding fruit and herbs.
  • If you have no space to grow vegetables, buy your fruit, vegetables, eggs and honey at a local market. The prices will probably be cheaper than the supermarket.
  • Check out your local butcher shop. The prices will probably be lower than the supermarkets and the quality of meat better. 
  • Try bulk buying with a friend to see if it works for you.
  • Teach yourself to knit and sew. There are many sites on the internet with very good instructions, tutorials and sometimes, videos. 
  • Make your home the kind of place you want to spend time in. Invite friends around instead of going out for coffee or drinks.
  • Be content with what you have. If you're tempted to buy something you can't afford, think about how you'll worry when you can't pay your bills and how that stress will affect you.
If you've already got a garden, think about adding a few chickens.
Plant fruit trees.
Make do with what you've already got. Repurpose and recycle.

Focusing on budgets, buying and growing food, cooking, baking, cleaning, all contribute to how you feel each day. Setting targets for yourself and reaching those targets gives you a feeling of control and achievement. It may not be how other people live, it may require juggling, but you'll slow down, live how you want to live and regain some balance in your life. At the beginning, not every day will be good but the certainty of your chosen path will keep you going until things improve. Take small steps towards your new life, be proud of each achievement and you'll slowly create a different sort of life. It won't be the same as the way I live, it will be your unique work in progress, a life that you've pieced together knowing what you need to thrive so you can live the way you choose.