Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Resolution: Ways To Save Money This New Year

The holidays are over and now all of the bills are due. Was it worth it? Maybe. Maybe not.

For many, the thrill of spending doesn't last, but the cost does.

Most people have two choices in life- spend more and work more or work less and spend less. Which is better?

Society and the media have led us to believe that earning a big income, having a power career and buying expensive things is the key not only to your happiness, but to the happiness of the whole world.

However, research does not back up this idea. In his book "The Pursuit of Happiness", David Myers shows how an increasing affluence in this country has not brought more happiness. Our buying power has doubled since the 1950s, but certainly not our happiness quotient.

According to the book, "The Circle of Simplicity- Return to The Good Life" by Cecile Andrews wealth harms society. The rich steal from the poor by underpaying and taking advantage of poor workers and by enabling consumers to go into debt. She argues that gaps in wealth can undermine democracy, the desire for extreme wealth can produce crime, gaps in wealth can cause violence, wealth has caused wars, wealth wastes money, wealth increases consumption, wealth doesn't guarantee happiness, wealth can decrease creativity, wealth can undermine integrity, wealth can destroy trust, wealth can cut you off from real life, and wealth can make you sick (rich people are more likely to have diseases like cancer and heart problems; diseases caused by stress and eating a diet rich in sugar and animal fats).

Of course I am not advocating extreme poverty, which also has its many ills, but instead I am advocating a type of voluntary simplicity- paying for what enriches you and letting go of what is hurting.

Unfortunately (because of society brainwashing) others may not look up to you if you say you are working less or if you are being frugal. You aren't seen as powerful and prestigious, instead people may even feel sorry for you. The truth is that if you are proud of your life choices you can make anything seem cool to others. Those who choose simple living should feel sorry for everyone else because they have found the key to joyful living.

Simple living means that you can spend time doing the things you want to do, rather than doing the things others want you to do. It means you can slow down and savor simple pleasures. It means less stress. The more things you own, the more things you have to take care of- clean, organize, manage, etc.

Happiness is about getting your life back- working when you want to, and for as long as you want to. The key is figuring out how much you need to live on, what luxuries you really want, what donations you want to make and how much you might need to save for an emergency. Once you know this number you can figure out exactly how much you would need to work in order to get that number- keeping meticulous records is important. It might be a good idea to start tracking your spending now- just to see where your money is really going.

People don't realize how much money they waste on things that really don't matter. I can think of many examples in my own life. Do I really need to go to the hair salon every month or can I do my hair at home or maybe at a beauty school? Do I really need any more jewelry? What about the food I buy at the grocery? I know I could cut down quite a bit by serving simpler meals. It is also a lot less expensive to make a cake from a box or from scratch then buying a pre-made one. Is it really that hard to make a cake from a cake mix box?

The holidays can be reigned in by deciding on a budget beforehand and making sure your kids have an idea of what this is going to mean also. Make Christmas special through traditions and other activities. Thrift stores are great resources for inexpensive items and cool finds. Sometimes a bit of creativity is all you need to salvage something old into something new.  Thrifty can be more fun.

Spending less is not about doing without the things you value. We go out to dinner every week and it is a family activity that I value and so I think it is worth the extra money. By paying attention to where your money goes you ensure it is not being wasted unnecessarily and is being used towards what you value. As a general rule of fun money is better spent on experiences than objects. What you want to avoid is the... "I'm bored...lets go to the mall" scenario.

Instead of the mall suggest one of the following: play board games, visit, discuss/debate, play outdoor games or indoor party games, take a nap, sing, dance, laugh, have dinner with friends, read, heal, run, swing, play ball, have a potluck, garden, take a class, volunteer, write, borrow, share, teach, art, walk, join a club or group, do chores, clean, make your own cleaning solutions, reuse dish towels, make a vegetarian meal, hike, wade, think about your feelings and your day, study, pray, exercise. Spend less time watching T.V. and more time being the star of your own life.

When you listen to your inner guide and let go of what other people think you can find the true path to happiness.


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