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9 Ways to Need Less Money: Stress Less, Enjoy More

“The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.” ~Unknown

This year, I decided to need less money. This way I could work less, which likely meant I would earn less.

I know this may sound like a backwards goal. Conventionally, we resolve to earn more, not less. We aim to cut out activities that don’t maximize our earning potential, and allocate our time based on the monetary value it generates.

We outsource chores and mundane tasks when we’re able—we’re too busy making money to do menial things that don’t require brain power or creativity.

We sacrifice our balance in the endless chase for more—we deserve abundance, right?

We wear our busyness like a badge of honor—that’s what it means to be successful, after all.

There is nothing inherently wrong with these ideas. A lot of people consider this type of thinking smart. People who find novel ways to gain attention and earn big bucks frequently receive praise for their brilliance, as if the ultimate sign of genius is the ability to gain publicity and amass wealth.

I see things a little differently.

I want to do the everyday chores—the laundry, the dishes, the house-cleaning. They relax me and ground me in the present moment.

I want to be able to recognize and enjoy enough. Abundance can be suffocating, in the chasing, the having, and the maintaining.

And I don’t want to be that busy anymore. I want to say “no” to things I don’t want to do simply because I don’t want to do them; not because there are so many more pressing income-generating activities I’m trying to cram into my day.

I’ve been learning ways to minimize my spending so that I can make work-related decisions based on what I actually want to do. I still need to earn money to live, but I know I will never allow the pursuit of more to compromise my ability to enjoy enough.

If you’d also like to need less money, I recommend:

1. Identify what is truly enough for you.

If you are out of work, you may legitimately not have enough. This post will offer you some suggestions that will help get through this time until you have a little more cushion to live comfortably.

If you do have a job, but you overextend yourself to continually earn more, it’s entirely possible that you’re missing out on life in the pursuit of abundance when, in all reality, you could be happier and far less stressed by simply living on less.

I have found that enough for me is somewhere around $40,000 annually. That’s not to say I wouldn’t find lots of great things to do with the money if I earned more. It’s just that this is what I need to take care of my necessities, spend here and there on things I enjoy, and save money for the future.

If you have a family, your number may be higher. Take some time to ascertain what you really need to feel comfortable and fulfilled. This will serve as a barometer for all money-related decisions—spending and earning—going forward.

2. Identify expenses you don’t absolutely need.

I cut out cable, which cost me around $50 in the past. I joined my parents’ cell phone family plan, which brought my bill from $79 to $10. I also spend less on groceries by buying in bulk and using a club card to get discounts on almost everything I buy.

Related Resources:

3. Switch from a gym to outside exercise.

Gym memberships can be incredibly overpriced—up to $100/month or more. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a lot more fun hiking or bike-riding. A bike will likely cost at least $100, but it’s a one-time investment.

If you need to exercise in the evening when it’s too late to get outside, you could join a no-frills fitness center that will cost far less. You could also check on Craigslist or at second hand stores to find used fitness equipment so you can work out from the comfort of your own home.

Related Resources:

4. If you’re able, go carless.

This is the biggest expense I’ve cut this past year, and it’s made a huge difference since I don’t have to make car payments, or pay insurance or gas (and I also minimize my impact on the environment!) I walk a lot—even living in LA—and now that I have a bike, I’m going to start riding where I can.

Full disclosure: My boyfriend has a car, so I do have access to one. It is admittedly a little limiting to not have access to a car at all. I also work for myself from home, which limits my need for transportation.

An alternative is to look into a service like Zipcar for a low-cost driving option when you want to get out of town. If you have kids, it might be harder to go carless. The next best thing is to minimize your car-related expenses, perhaps by trading down or minimizing driving when possible to reduce gas costs.

Related Resources:

5. Become a social director.

I’ve found that one of the biggest challenges to spending less is that other people aren’t always on-board with the plan. If I wait for other people to invite me to things, I may find my week full of high-priced commitments, even though we would all likely enjoy simpler things if we planned to do them.

Now I take the initiative to suggest cheap, fun activities. I still splurge sometimes, but I aim to enjoy simple things as much as I possibly can.

Related Resources:

6. Minimize the exchange of money by bartering.

I used to volunteer behind the desk at a yoga studio for a few hours each week in exchange for free classes. Recently, I decided to offer barter advertising on this site—meaning I may soon feature companies who pay in trade, such as an organic produce delivery service. (If you’re interested in creating this kind of arrangement, contact me at email(AT)tinybuddha.com!)

You could also advertise your services on Craigslist and list things that you need in exchange—I.E.: you will cut and color someone’s hair in exchange for help with your website, or you will design someone’s business cards in exchange for handwork.

Related Resources:

7. Take some time to identify your self-soothing spending habits.

Several years back, I spent a ton of time on eBay, feeling a thrill when I found an item for far less than it should cost in stores. I eventually recognized that I was shopping to fill a void in myself. (Luckily I did this with discount items. A friend racked up $5,000 in debt buying jewelry—a far more expensive habit!)

Recognize which things you’re buying simply to avoid dealing with feelings. It may be a sense of loneliness, or purposelessness, or discontent. In the long run, it’s far more productive to identify what you really feel and want than it is to work yourself to the bone so you can buy stuff to avoid it.

Related Resources:

8. Stop showing your love with money.

Maybe you think you need to spend a lot of money to show people you care or impress them; or perhaps you think you have to spend a lot of money on them because they’re frequently generous with you. I know I’ve been there.

You can be generous without having to overextend yourself financially. In fact, more often than not, thoughtful gestures make a much larger impact. That doesn’t mean you can’t grab coffee or the bar tab every now and then. It just means you don’t need to measure the value of what you give by the number on the receipt.

Related Resources:

9. Stop comparing.

It’s all too tempting to determine what things you need based on what other people have. One thing that helps me is to ask myself, before I buy something, “What would I choose if there was no frame of reference?”

In other words, if no one had a luxury apartment, would I be satisfied living in a space that’s more charming than sprawling? If no one bought designer clothes, would I really care about a label? When you take comparisons out of the equation, it’s a lot easier to ascertain what’s truly enough—and we’re right back where we started.

Do you have any tips to add to the list?

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook series (which includes one free eBook) & co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you get unstuck & change your life. She's now seeking stories to include in her next book, 365 Tiny Love Challenges by Tiny Buddha. Click here to share your story! For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • Jennifer

    Thank you very much for this article.  Financial stress is probably the biggest thing in my life right now (I make $26,500 annually but only really take home about $13,000 of it).  The thing of it is, I work in a really nice office so I often feel like I should keep up with the image when I know I can’t. Or I’ll get sad because I can’t afford to take my kids to the zoo.  I will definately reread this article over the next fews days and try to determine a better way to feel about my finances.  I think stopping comparisons will go a long way.

  • http://profiles.google.com/barryshaw32 Barry Shaw

    Most definitely, this article is on point, great advice!

  • Patti

    I really enjoyed your blog.  For several years I have said to my husband, friends, family the universe, all we really need is enough.  My life is more simple now as I sit here, not easier.  But I feel more free.  I still have to remind myself when I occasionally become fearful of not having enough money that I just have to take a deep breath and trust the universe’s power and know that there will be enough.   

  • Marla

    My tip: use the library. 

  • Jennifer

    Great tip!  I love the library!  I am taking my kids there this weekend.

  • Joy

    this article is spot-on and exactly what I needed right now. I keep trying to convince others of this viewpoint, but no one seems to listen…
    but then again, I need a reality check often – as soon as I get a deposit notification from my freelance work, I’m thinking of how I can go to Michael’s or Marshall’s or Dollar General … to spruce up my house cheaply. which, yeah, the house *could* use stuff, but most def doesn’t NEED any more..
    I’m off to check out some of the links in this post.
    I always love this blog, but I adore days like today when I run across something timely in relation to my life and changes I need to make.
    Mostof all, I’m glad I saw this before my Friday deposit comes in … I can pay some bills and have some peace of mind – rather than a piece of…well, not junk, per se, but something that won’t change anything inside me or any party of my life other than the all-too-quick rush of finding and buying..

  • Marla

    Books, music, movies, magazines, books on tape (well CDs), free classes, story time for the kids, even art work for your walls and so much more.  And if your library doesn’t have what you want try inter-library loans.  This has saved me so much money as well as space in my house as I find it difficult to get rid of books (but I now donate them to the library). 

  • Amanda Lockrow

    So glad I read this article today. I quit my full time job 8 months ago to focus on my own business. I took a huge pay cut but I feel so much more balanced in my everyday life. I have done a lot of the same things as you.
    What to do about my car has been the hardest decision to make, I drive it once a week now compared to everyday before. I ride my bike to do most of my everyday errands. I can’t believe how much stress that takes away since I too live in LA, it’s so much nicer to be on a bike rather than stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on the freeway.
    I don’t barter enough because I feel like I’ll insult people because I don’t want to pay in cash. I only barter when someone else asks. Hopefully soon I will get more comfortable with asking.
    It’s funny how before I moved to LA $40,000 seemed like a wealthy persons salary but it’s far from that now.

  • Maren

    I go garage saleing all summer. I love new clothes and at $.50 a piece, I can buy 20 items for the price of one Wal-Mart shirt. Last week I found a genuine lambskin coat for $10, something I’ve wanted but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on. I love being able to repurpose items. It’s better for the environment and my wallet.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    It sounds like we’re living pretty similar lives! I drive once a week, as well. My boyfriend works on the weekends, so I often drop him off and his take his car to go a little further then I would on bike or foot. Since I’m now focusing on my own projects from home, life’s a lot simpler than it’s been in the past, and I love that. It’s just so much easier to feel balanced when you’re not overextending yourself!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I know exactly what you mean! I used to have a bit of a Marshall’s addiction, which was similar to my affinity for eBay. I’ve always gotten a real kick out of getting things for cheap, whether they were items of clothing or little knick knacks for my place. These days, I’ve become more of a minimalist. Since I live in a two-room apartment, I find myself de-cluttering quite a bit. Stuff can get pretty suffocating when you’re in a small space!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Jennifer. I don’t have kids yet, but I know it must be a lot more challenging to have children to take care of. I think a lot of people are in the same boat these days (with finances). That’s one thing that helps–lots of people are earning less and finding ways to thrive on less. It opens the door for these conversations that people may not have been open to having before.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Yes I love garage sales, too! And thrift stores. Clothes have so much more character when they have history.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I love the library, too! Although, admittedly, I haven’t been to the one here in LA since I moved here. Thanks for reminding me to check that out!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I know what you mean. I get fearful sometimes, as well, especially since I know what it’s like to struggle. Ultimately I think the peace of mind I feel right now is worth the possibility of struggle down the line. If it happens, I trust I can find a way through it.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Barry! I’m glad you found it helpful!

  • Akelly158

    Awesome article!  My income was reduced by half this time last year.  The first month or two was an adjustment, but I have been surprised and happy to find out that I don’t need to make a huge amount of money to sustain myself.  I just got more mindful (although that said I was already careful, so my adjustments weren’t huge) about my spending. Many of my friends slave away at work, then complain they can’t afford to do things.  Meanwhile, I have more free time, and seem to be more statisfied with my life.  I espeacailly like the barter idea.  I have been trading work for a place to keep my horse for years.  Its the only way I can afford him, and its work I enjoy.  Works out well for everyone.

  • http://twitter.com/BennettSher Bennett Sher

     I posted on my community’s craigslist that I want to volunteer to help teach others yoga and meditation. Great, motivational article! Thank you.

    http://columbiamo.craigslist.org/vol/2392927330.html

  • http://twitter.com/mizbankrupt chrome molly #4130

     Hands down: my most favorite article on Tiny Buddha to date. I am biased, since I’m self-employed and I don’t even have a driver’s license. Everyone sees my life as limited on the surface, but I’ve traveled the US playing music and riding my bicycle, changed careers with just a little stress, and I’ve always managed to make or find exactly what I need. I also love having a life where I can enjoy the everyday chores, as you put it. Nothing beats having the time to cook an amazing meal for me and my loved ones, and then having the time to eat and savor not only the meal but the company. Thank you Lori!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome! I’m glad this one resonated with you. I think that we’re likely unconventional in the same way. I also traveled around the US (except I toured with promotional campaigns). I feel that I’ve done a lot of unique things, and I know I’ll do many more. This makes the daily simplicity feel fulfilling, not limiting. Enjoying the simple things doesn’t change that there are many more adventures to be had. =)

  • http://robgoingfree.blogspot.com/ Robert

    What a fantastic piece!
    I recently cut back how many hours I work (for my own sanity and to spend more time with my 6 month old), much to the bewilderment of many friends and family.
    We’re in the process of downsizing our house (and mortgage) so we can spend more on what we really enjoy.
    I hadn’t really explored bartering, but will do so now!
    In a world where we’re made to feel bad if we’re not consistently trying to earn more, have more and be more, it’s great to know that all that we are and need is within us and not what we have.
    I’ll certainly be forwarding this email on!!!!

  • Qin Tang

     Great post. I especially like the idea of bartering. It not only saves money, but also connects and brings people together.

  • Djhus

    Not to criticize but you simply are stating the obvious. When something is obiously wrong there is a reason for it. We are Americans, especailly white Americans. We are overwhelmed by our self-importance. We are busy, busy people are important, therefore we are important. It starts very young in life and we live our lives this way. It has given us the highest standard of living in the world according to the measures used to calculate such things. I travel in many other countries where their values are much different than ours. Friends there constantly remind me I am being too American. My friends here consider all these other people lazy and I cannot for the life of me explain to them how different we really are from even Germans. Americans work more hours, take less vacation and have less holidays than any country in the world and we actually believe we are the most important. It is all about sense of self. Hard to over come it. See, you have now become less important. Feels good doesn’t it! 

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Robert! It must feel amazing to have that time with your baby. That’s one of those things you just can’t get back. I know when I have children, I will be thinking along those same lines. Congrats on making these positive changes. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi there,

    No worries–I don’t feel criticized. I understand your point of view since you have traveled and seen over and over again how people do things differently elsewhere. I have found that what may seem obvious to me is not always obvious to other people. We all learn and understand things within our own time. The conclusions we form have a lot to do with our experiences. It seems as though you and I have had some similar ones. Here’s to our mutual, blissful lack of importance =)

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Absolutely! I love feeling a sense of genuine connection to other people. Especially with city living, that can start to feel rare.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s great, Bennett! Thank you for sharing your link =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s awesome you’re able to barter for a place to keep your horse–and awesome that you have a horse! It’s a big goal of mine right now to spend more time around animals because I love them so much. I just signed up to volunteer at the LA zoo, and I can’t wait! I love that I am doing this solely because I want to–not because I have to. That’s what I think it all comes down to.

  • Ppelayo

     Loved reading !!  great ideas.  I’ve incorporated living with less for some time now.  I live with less stress, somehow not having too many things around the house, seemed to lessen my stress.  I don’t buy clothes as often as I used to, I wear my shoes longer, use the same purse longer.  I try to make it without “shopping” for stuff as often as I used to.  Living with less is the best thing I’ve ever done  :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s great Ppelayo! It’s so freeing to feel less tied down by stuff. I used to tour the US with marketing companies for work. That’s when I first realized how suffocating stuff could be, because I started off bringing way too much on the road. Over time I realized that, quite literally, the less I had with me, the more free I felt.

  • Mcturra2000

    I have to admit, I am attached to money in a big way. Last year, though, I whittled down my hours so that I only work 2 days a week. I find I enjoy myself more that way. Extra money doesn’t buy happiness.

    I still need a car for work, unfortunately.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Wow that’s fantastic! I think most people would be a lot happier with a 2-on/5-off schedule, as opposed to vice versa.

  • http://www.rebuildyourlifecoach.com Harriet Cabelly

    Great piece. 
    My tips:  1. Less is more.  2. Focus and appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t have.   3.  To add to your point #9 – from the poem Desiderata, written in the 1920′s  
    “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”
     

  • Peter Fernando

    Wonderful to hear you wise perspective Lori. Beautifully written. Blessings! 

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Peter!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I haven’t read that poem before. Beautiful =)

  • http://profiles.google.com/celinen196 Celine Noel

    Ahhh! what a nice piece! It made me so happy to see i wasn’t crazy when i quit my well-paid job last year to go freelance and left Los Angeles. I hit the point when i wasn’t “feeling it” anymore and i got a few comments from people who were shocked, because in their mind i was on my way to the top…
    Their idea of success and mine were obviously different.
    I’m really enjoying the everyday chores too actually. They allow me to snap out of my “work mode” for a bit.I have to have a car unfortunately at this point but since i have to move in 2 months, i’m planning on getting closer to the city and maybe get a roommate. I’ve trained myself to do the “green thing”: turn the lights off when i don’t use them, changed faucet aerators, CFL lightbulbs, unplug anything i don’t use, dressing in layers so the heater/AC bill isn’t too bad, etc…I love the bartering and family cell plans ideas, looking forward to try that. I realize that having less not only allows me to move faster (i just don’t like the idea of being anchored in one place forever), but de-cluttering relieved some stress, and the clearer space gave me this feeling of potential. I’m still struggling with some credit cards bills so i still need more money that i would need without these bills, but overall these little things really made for a simpler and happier life.Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    It’s so nice to connect with other people who have come to the same conclusions! I’ve become pretty conscious of the “green things,” as well, but I haven’t switched to CFL light bulbs or changed faucet aerators (in fact, I had to look that word up.) Great ideas! I also don’t like the idea of being in one place forever. I feel happiest when I know I can move around and explore. Thanks for reading and commenting. =)

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  • msdecember

    wow. i’m so blessed to have found this site. i’m a rough space right now and i’m guilty of stressing over not having enough money (or the amount that i would prefer to have), comparing my life to others (has really affected me in terms of feeling i need to keep up–even in becoming a mom), etc.

    this article has made me think of underlying reasons and dealing with them at the core. because in the end, it’s just not worth it (and its immensely draining) to constantly try to keep up and be on this lifelong quest for more, more, and more.

    thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. =) I know that drained feeling all too well. I’m so glad my post was able to bring you a little peace.

  • http://www.wiseatwork.net Susie Amundson

    Hi Lori.

    I am so pleased that you stepped over this threshold to share with the tinybuddha readers how you decreased your desires in order to increase your time for activities that ground you. It’s a risky area because we are all so attached to so many conveniences, comforts, and luxuries — me included!

    I am blessed because I really dislike everything about shopping — online or in a store — such a vortex. However, at times I do need to go shopping but before I bring anything into my home — it could be a pair of shoes or a kitchen knife — I ask myself “do you really want to be long-term friends with this item?” It just helps me be more selective and readily say “no.” Clutter in my life just requires more energy and time commitment.

    Thanks for a great post.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks for reading and commenting! I am also attached to certain conveniences–I just prefer the ones that cost less money because I am also attached to my free time. =)

    I love your approach to shopping. I often find myself drawn to certain things that I feel will make my space more peaceful. It generally helps me to remember that I often throw things away to minimize clutter–meaning that a zen looking incense holder will likely find it’s way to the trash, or at the very least, a drawer.

    It’s so tempting to make certain impulse buys, particularly when items are inexpensive. However, I’m with you–I far prefer to avoid putting my time and energy into managing clutter.

  • Shing_ying

    Such a wonderful article. I have contemplated taking a big pay cut just because I want to live my life. I shall keep this article in mind because, someday I will want to take a step back.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

     I’m glad you found it useful!

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  • http://the100percentyou.com/ John Sherry

    Great message Lori, stellar in fact. Too many chase money as the asset to have rather than simply having enough to enjoy life. Money is nothing people are everything; what amount can ever replace loved ones? Add to that good health, peace of mind, and love and life is priceless. You can never ever buy that!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Well said, John! I know that when I feel healthy, connected, and peaceful, there is little else I need.

  • Sharon @ lifewithlessmoney

    I decided 3 years ago not to be so busy. I became a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to be able to talk with my children without mentally putting them on a time schedule.  I was so busy as a teacher that I barely had time to look at my children’s work or their life.  So, I made up my mind that I would live my life with less of the money but more of other quality stuff….like my family.  It is not always easy to jump out of one lifestyle and into another lifestyle, but I work on it daily and I enjoy the really important things in my life.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s wonderful, Sharon! I plan to take some time off when I have children, too. I worked at an after-school program in high school and college, and I witnessed a lot of beautiful moments that the parents missed while they were working. Many of them were single parents and therefore had to work–but I remember telling myself that I’d do it differently if that was doable when the time came.

  • Keropi

    $40.000 is enough for you? Hahahaha. Another website for rich people to feel good about themselves.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Keropi,

    That is the amount of money I can comfortably live on, allowing me to pay my bills, save a little for retirement, and enjoy a few luxuries. I could survive on less, and I have the mean to make more, but that is my “enough” point. It’s different for everyone. What’s yours?

    Lori

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Simon.J.Benn Simon J Benn

    Great
    article Lori

    It got me
    thinking…What causes stress?

    Many
    small business owners are frustrated because their profits aren’t as high as
    they’d like.

    They lose
    sleep worrying about their businesses.

    They
    wouldn’t choose to be like that would they? So what’s determining how they
    feel?

    And what
    should you do when you’re feeling stressed or any other negative feeling?

    Tap into your heart is the center of your
    emotions and a hugely powerful tool.

    Label
    your feeling – e.g. anger at not being able to complete a task or fear that
    something’s going to go wrong.

    Identify
    a feeling that you’d choose to feel right now… if you could choose…

    Drop into
    your heart, put your hand on your heart to focus. Breathe in and focus on the
    breath as it enters your lungs then comes out of your mouth. Whilst you do
    this, keep thinking about the feeling you picked in step 2. Keep this up until
    you feel the feeling you want.

    To find
    out why you get stressed so you can stress less.
    @simonjbenn:disqus 

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks for sharing this Simon. I’ll try this next time I’m feeling stressed!

  • Jessyka

    After doing quite a bit of research and staring at my finances, I’m happy to have stumbled upon this blog. I graduated from university last year and started a new full-time job, and with student loans and an apartment to pay for and car payments, your article has shed some light onto the fact that I have no reason to freak out. I’m one of those people that would like to have huge amounts of money saved up, and even though I am saving every month, it never seems like enough. Thank you for reminding me to breathe.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome, Jessyka. I’m glad this was helpful to you. I know the temptation to have more–but it’s much more freeing to need less!

  • Analin Valdez

    Sir / Madam,

    Are you facing an emergency cash and do not know where to turn? I do not know if you should trust to lenders in the short term? Applying for a term loan tranche

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