Thanks to the “new economy”, more of us than ever are having to live simply. Many families are doing things they never thought they’d do – cutting coupons, getting rid of cable television, trading down cars or houses, and even living with relatives. Many of us are used to nicer lifestyles where we could afford a few indulgences or luxuries, so this step down might be a bit of a culture shock. The question is: How can we become content with a simple life?
We’re going through some of these same changes in our own family and we’ve had our own ups and downs with accepting our new economic reality, so I wanted to share some of the tips we’ve found to be helpful as we adjust to a simpler way of living.
Personally, I do great at following our budget when I’m busy. When I’m bored, I tend to seek out activities that cost money such as shopping or eating out regularly. The more engaged I am with our family, though, the more content I am with a simple family dinner or an afternoon at the park.
Re-establish what’s important.
Refocusing on the things that are most important to us is a big help when we’re trying to cultivate contentment. For our family, these priorities are our worship, our time as a family, and our commitment to homeschooling. When we weigh up any leisure activities or luxuries against these three priorities, it’s pretty easy to know which to choose.
Save, don’t skimp.
This last tip may seem like a bit of a contradiction, but I think there’s a fine line to walk here. Our goal is to save money, not to skimp on necessities or occasional wants. For example, we have four children, so we have to spend a considerable amount of money on groceries. At first, I tried to pare our grocery budget down to the absolute minimum in an attempt to save as much money as possible. Guess what happened? We ended up eating out more than ever because everybody was hungry. Now I know that it’s more important to save money by buying less expensive items than to skimp on the amount of food we actually need to eat.
Choose your associates wisely.
Even if you’re sticking to the above three tips faithfully, they may not be enough to help you cope with another kind of temptation: the temptation to become jealous of the life others are living. If you’re spending time with friends and family members who regularly spend money on activities you can’t afford, it can be difficult not to feel envious of their supposed “freedom.” We try to seek out friends who are living simply as well so that we aren’t invited to do things that are outside of our budget. We also explain our financial goals to others if we know we can’t afford an activity – without feeling embarrassed or frustrated. Rather than dwelling on what others are doing, we try to search out things that we know we can do together, which counteracts any of the resentment we could feel.
Selena is a former tax accountant-turned-homeschooling mom of four. She and her husband, Jay, have committed themselves to homeschooling their children in an effort to give them the very best education possible and to strengthen their bond as a family. Selena shares her family’s homeschooling adventures every weekday at Look! We’re Learning! Readers can keep up with the family by subscribing via email or by following Look! We’re Learning! on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.