Your money and your life - changing your attitude

5 February 2018

February, week 1 in The Simple Home

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.  
Winston Churchill

Hanno and I made the transition from a frenzied working life to a more simple and beautiful one almost 20 years ago. Now we save what we can, care for what we own and we mend, recycle, reuse and repurpose. Using these principles, we've gone from being thoughtless spenders who bought everything we wanted, to mindful, self-reliant people living on a fraction of what we once did. We are also much happier.

We live on a low income so it's vital that we spend our money wisely, but it's equally important for those who have more than enough to cut back when they can. Mindless consumption has become the norm and if we continue to surround ourselves with products we think of as disposable, we will hand our grandchildren a planet that is not worth living on.

We still hear from politicians and business leaders about unlimited economic growth. I don't think there is such a thing. Our government tells us that our spending supports the economy, and, conversely, that we should be saving more.  I agree, we should save more by cutting back on spending. Our support for the economy is evident when we buy and rent our homes, buy cars, furniture and groceries, and by working for a living. Supporting the economy by buying things we don't need is wasteful and focuses on one aspect of the nation's viability at the expense of others. Of course we need a healthy economy but strong nations are built on people. I think it's better to work hard when you're young to buy a home and pay it off quickly, then, when you've paid off your mortgage, step into a more frugal lifestyle and focus on family and living. That is when you get to enjoy what you've worked so hard for.

It's easy for Hanno and I to live as we do now but when we made our changes, it was much more difficult.  We had to cut back on what we bought, adjust to a new way of life and we had to become used to a different sense of what was enough for us.  Once our attitude changed to living with less, it became easier. Much easier. We understood and accepted that what we do with our money makes a huge difference to how our life is. Now that our needs are more prudent, we don't go out shopping for the fashionable products that once sucked up all the spare cash we had. Now our spending supports our values - we have enough and we know it.

This first part of February will be difficult for some of you.  There are no tasks to carry out, no organising to do, this week is about thinking and understanding. I want you to think about your money and how you spend it. Work out if you need to change your attitude towards money and what you think you're entitled to.  If you're still at the stage of blowing your pay on clothes and handbags every week, you have a long way to go. Maybe you're trying to cut back but finding it difficult. If you're in either of those categories, start thinking about your life hours, how much you sell them for and what you usually do with that money. Think of your money, not in terms of how much you can buy with it, but how many life hours it takes to earn that money.  Here is a post I wrote a few years ago about life hours.

This adjustment is not only about spending money, it's also about putting yourself in a position of not having to buy endless products. It's looking after what you already have, mending, recycling, house maintenance - outside and in, making decisions about food and where you shop, if you can grow some at home, knowing how to store the food you buy so you don't waste it, and a lot more.

But this week we're not making the changes, we're thinking about them and developing a deeper understanding of our relationship with money. We're working out what we want, how we get what we want, we're thinking about working hard to make a good home and when that's done, how we'll change again to enjoy what we've worked for. And all of that will be much easier if you change your attitude to possessions and keeping up with the Jones's. This week is about changing your attitude, looking at the financial part of your life in a different way and strengthening your resolve to live the life you dream for yourself.  This old post about living life might help too.

There is work ahead and it will be hard work.  If you haven't yet changed your attitude towards spending and materialism, you'll have to think about your life and convince yourself that changing how you deal with money is important and achievable.  If you're half-way there, you'll need to have a deeper understanding about what you want your life to be, then make a plan to start living that life. If, like me, you're happy with what you have, you've pared back, made continuous savings on your living costs and working actively to maintain, mend and recycle what you have and have good savings in the bank, then I hope you share your ideas and methods here and help others who are working toward it.

Next week we'll talk about the various life stages you'll go through and how your spending changes in each of those stages. The following week we'll discuss the basics of budgeting and the last week of February we'll look at organising your money.