Practicing simplicity is much more than just being frugal with money and consuming less – as we have just seen, it is also a State of mind.
Nevertheless, in a market economy, spending wisely plays a central role.
1. Vote with your money
It is often said that how we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world. This is an extremely important insight. Purchasing something sends a message to the marketplace, affirming the product, its ecological impact, its process of manufacture, etc. Money is power, and with this power comes responsibility. If we spend our money differently, we can change the world. Be conscientious about how you vote with your money.
2. Buy local, organic, fair-trade, green, etc.
Voting with your money means supporting businesses that deserve support, and not supporting business that do not deserve support. Spending ethically is sometimes more expensive, which can be challenging. But it is important to do our very best. Beware, however, of ‘green washing,’ and remember that ‘Green consumerism’ is still consumerism.
3. Know your finances precisely
It is extremely important to have a very clear understanding of your income and expenses. It takes time to make money, so don’t waste it. Read Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.
4. The 30-day money experiment
Spend one month taking note of everything you purchase. At the end of the month, categorise your expenses into rent/mortgage, food, electricity, wine, coffees, lunches, etc. then multiply those categories by twelve to get a rough idea of the yearly cost of each of the categories. Small things add up to significant sums over a year. This means that small changes in spending habits can produce significant savings.
Set yourself financial goals. Start by trying to save a small amount each week. This is an important exercise in self-discipline. Enjoy the challenge.
6. Live beneath your means
It provides a sense of security to live on less than you earn. It also proves that you are not an insatiable consumer. Free yourself.
7. Save your raise
When most people get a pay rise they immediately raise their material standard of living and start spending more. But there is an alternative. When you get a raise, consider immediately putting that extra income into a savings account. Again, this proves your wants are not infinite.
8. Avoid debt
Beware of credit cards: Banks are generally very eager to offer us credit, because it is a good way to chain us to them. Beware of debt. A useful rule of thumb is: “If I don’t have the money, don’t buy it.”
9. Rethink your spending
Consider whether you are spending your money wisely. We all assume we are rational spenders, but we might be able to redirect our expenditure in ways that better fulfil our life goals. Perhaps by spending less or more carefully you will be able to work less?
Work and Time
Rethinking attitudes toward work and working hours is central to the
Simpler Way. Most of the things we consume have to be purchased, and this
means that the more we consume, the more time we have to spend working
to pay for our lifestyles.
10. Consider reducing working hours
Everybody’s situation is different, so reducing working hours may not be feasible. But if you and your household find ways to significantly reduce your overall consumption expenditure, you may find that you don’t have to work so many hours a week in paid employment. This will free up more time to pursue your private passions and engage with your community in meaningful and fulfilling ways. This may reduce your material wealth, but it is likely to increase your quality of life.
11. But how?
If you think it may be feasible to fund a simpler lifestyle by working less, the question is how to make this a reality. There are two main paths to reduced working hours: One option is to find a new job that offers part-time work. The second option is to approach your current employer and ask whether it would be possible to work fewer hours per week on pro rata reduced wages / salary. Your employer might be more open to it than you think. After all, it means reduced costs for them. It may also increase your own productivity.
12. What to do with a pay rise?
There will probably come a time in your working life when you are offered a pay rise. One option, as noted above, is to save your raise. But there is another option, too. Rather than accepting the extra money and spending more, ask whether you can stay on the same wages / salary but work less. For example, you might ask for one afternoon off per week. Again, your employer might be quite happy to accept such an arrangement.
13. Work from home one day per week
Another way to rethink your work life is to consider whether it would be possible to work one or more days from home. This will not be possible for all jobs, but it will be for some. This may a nice way to spend one of your working days. It will also reduce the amount of travelling you do to and from work, and that means less oil-dependency.
14. See if you can telecommute instead of traveling
Many jobs today require travel in between suburbs, cities, or even countries. Using video-conferencing technology can greatly reduce the need to travel for work. Look into it. Your employer might be happy for you to do this too, as it will reduce their costs (and it will also significantly reduce carbon emissions).
15. If you need less, you have less pressure to work for dodgy businesses
Sometimes people find themselves pressured or seduced for financial reasons to work for businesses that don’t really contribute to the common good. If you don’t need much money, however, you may find that you can choose work that pays less but which might be more fulfilling and socially worthwhile.
16. Vote with your time
On the previous page it was noted that how we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world. The same goes for how we spend our time. Time is life – don’t waste it. We have only this moment.