We started on a “simple living” adventure in 2007 and have learned a few things along the way.
One is the difference between our wants and our needs– and we began to shop accordingly. We saved an incredible amount of money, paid off our car and college loans and have the freedom to take risks that others can’t comprehend (like leave our jobs and move across the country to start a church on no salary but a lot of faith).
I promise you— you can do it! And it is so worth it and freeing for the entire family. Are you ready?
Stop buying and start saving
1. Set a goal. Set a tangible goal of not buying anything for a week and see how it goes (food and essentials are excluded from this). If you are able to learn through that and want to try something more challenging, up it to 3 months. Or if you are strong-willed and overly disciplined like me- just go for the year (you can read more about that here).
And realize you will mess up and it’s okay. There were a few times when I would buy something (almost subconsciously) and get home and just stare at my Target bags. I eventually decreased my Target trips because the temptation was too big. But I also learned how to deal with it and within a few months I could go through Target with the kids like it was a toilet supply store.
2. Make a list, and stick to it. Write down things you need to buy, not want to buy (and stick to it). Anyone going to Target needs a list, and you need to check it 12 times during the trip. I still find myself at the checkout with items that aren’t on my list. And that’s when you apologize to the checkout lady and tell her you don’t really want the summer pink nail polish.
3. Don’t go near shops unless you have to. When Ryan and I made our pact to not buy anything new for a year, the only time I would take the kids to the mall was before opening hours. We would go around 8:30 and use the play area. Workers would be there setting up and cleaning before the day and my kids would have a field day at the play area.
4. Who cares what the Jones’ are doing? Yes, there are lots of families who have incredible cars and go out to dinner all the time. And yes—some people can easily afford that. Not me. And maybe not you. But we sometimes like to act like we can. And we pay for it in other ways— like working long hours and not getting home until the kids are asleep. That is not why Ryan and I had kids. We had kids because we wanted to be a part of their lives and spend it with them. Not spend it on them. When I remind myself of that, I really don’t care what the Jones’ are doing. I just want to make sure I am doing all I can to live out my dream of a family.
5. Borrow and barter. If a family member, friend or neighbor has a table saw, weedwacker, shovel, serving dish, cake stand, etc that you just need for one event— ask if you can borrow it! No need to buy something that you will probably only use once. And make it an open door policy and I can guarantee there will be a time when they come and borrow something from you.
6. Spend time at the library. There are great books, movies and even craft/storytime for kids. Libraries are awesome!
7. Craigslist. If there are some larger items that you need (like a lawnmower, bike, furniture) buy it on Craigslist. It may take a month to find the right one at the right price, but be persistent and you will totally score. For example, we have wanted a good bike and a bike trailer. I knew what brand I wanted and for both items it would cost over $1200 brand new. I have spent the past three months checking Craigslist and finally have what I wanted. And we only spent $435 for it all (and the bike and trailer were both practically brand new!) Read my Craigslist 101 article here to get started.
8. Garage sales. You can get some awesome clothes (especially for kids) and definitely score on some books, toys and home decor. I recommend being out the door by 6:45am, pick up a friend, drive through Starbucks and then start hitting the sales. Early bird does get the worm!
9. Start a personal allowance. Ryan and I each get $20 a week to spend on whatever we want. I spend some of it on Starbucks trips and Ryan spends some on eating a meal out. By having a set amount of personal money a week, it helps us budget and prioritize our personal spending and not get on each other for what we buy.
10. If something is broken, fix it. Don’t throw it away and buy a new one if you can fix it yourself. It may take a little but of time, but you will save money and gain confidence in your handyman abilities.