“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 50 Ways to Show You Care Without Spending a Dime
- 8 Ideas for Stress-Free, Meaningful Gift Giving (for the holidays, but relevant for gift-giving in general)
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