Due to the weakening economy, many people are faced with having to downsize their lifestyles and find more cost-efficient ways of getting by. One would be surprised by how few material things one really needs and how we have been led to believe our stuff can make us happy. Most people naturally equate material possessions with happiness largely because marketing culture has been successful at getting you to be unsatisfied with what you have and how you look, leaving you wanting something you don’t have, in the hopes that keeping up with the Joneses with buy you peace of mind.
Breaking free from an economic system that relies on constant consumption to sustain itself can be easier than you think. It all begins with you, defining the things that are essential to you. Strip away the details, cruft and needless things.
Frugal Living – Back to Basics:
Get rid of your clutter and the things you seldom use on a regular basis. Anything of value can be converted into cash by selling it on Ebay, Craigslist or Kijiji. You will be surprised at the sense of freedom getting rid of lots of your stuff can give you. If you really want to go hardcore, consider living out of a suitcase. The good thing about having downsized your possessions to the point of a few suitcases, you can literally pack up and move, anywhere, anytime. You can even move crosstown by taxi!
Find the right town or city where you can live on the cheap. Research the average rents and vacancy rates from government statistics. Read the forums on sites like city-data.com. Some cities that have lots of industry and colleges or universities tend to have lower vacancy rates and thus higher rents. Also do some research on the amenities, healthcare, crime, demographics. getting an idea of the demographic breakdown can be useful, depending on what your skills are. If you work in some service that deals with elderly people, pick a suitable community. Pick a culture you can see yourself fitting into both socially and vocationally. Use Google StreetView to look at potential new neighborhoods.
Get a small, cheap apartment that’s within walking distance of most of the places you need to go. Take note of your daily routine over the course of several typical weeks of your life and all the places you need to get to, regularly. Find a place that accommodates that. I found its ideal if you can find the top floor of a house to rent. Many of them have bachelor apartments, which are best suitable to a frugal, minimalist lifestyle. if you don’t mind living in a basement apartment, these are also good options. In most cases you can find a suitable bachelor for around $500-700 in smaller cities and towns. If the utilities are included, all you really have to worry about then is feeding yourself. This is the way to go for those looking to work less and free up some more time for doing things you love – or learning a new trade or hobby that can make you money.
You cut back or better yet, quit driving. Selling your car and getting a bicycle is a great move in many ways, and is doable for most people, if you pick the right community to live in. For example, I live in the downtown core of a city with 100k people and can walk to 4 grocery stores, post office, 5 banks, 2 libraries, 3 gyms, shopping mall, hospital, medical center, liquor store and many small shops and restaurants. I don’t miss driving in the least! Plus, the city where I live has an extensive network of bicycle trails which allow me to get anywhere within minutes faster than by car.
You shop thrift and consignment shops for clothing, let your wardrobe dwindle, and only buy versatile, classic items that are made to last. It is better to have a few good quality items in your wardrobe than lots of cheap, made-in-China junk. Good stuff usually isn’t cheap, but cheap stuff usually isn’t good.
Learn to cook. For starters, pick a type or several types of food you like which are fairly low cost. For example, Indian, Mediterranean, Creole and Middle Eastern cuisine are fairly inexpensive and there is no shortage of online cookbooks and recipe sites Eating things like curries and rice dishes are the way to go for healthy low cost eating. If ethnic cuisine really isn’t your thing, study more classic homestyle American cooking.
You eat a frugal diet with lots of in-season fruits and vegetable and cut back on meat meat. In the winter eat more things like cabbages, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, apples and oranges – and in the summer leafy greens, berries and other in-season fruits.
One doesn’t have to live on Ramen to eat cheap! I find it easy to live off of oatmeal, grits, cream of wheat, rice, lentils/beans, yams, cheap cuts of meat, good quality fresh or frozen vegetables. I have even lived for extended periods when travelling where I didn’t have a refrigerator, off of raw vegetables, fruit, cheese, beef jerky, nut butter etc. Supplementing your diet with no-name whey protein is the most cost-efficient way of meeting your daily protein requirements. I am doing this now as I am moving away from eating meat and the result is, there is much more room on my plate for vegetables!
I also find supplementing my diet with whey protein and cutting back on meat and processed foods, has has lowered my grocery bill. Cut back or eliminate eating takeaway food. Keeping some bottled water, nuts or fruit or beef jerky on hand in case you get hungry on the road will often save you from having to buy a fast food meal. Also, if you are a coffee drinker invest in coffee press and thermos. You can buy good quality dark roast coffee from most grocers these days and have the same quality coffee to go as you would from any Starbucks – and save money too.
You forgo new gadgets and toys, and you seek out cheap entertainment such as free concerts, museums, and libraries. Cut you cable bill and watch what you want online. Learn how to stream media from your notebook to your flatscreen TV with either an HDMI cable or an s-video cable. Imagine the money you will save over the course of one year, by cutting cable TV. You can borrow DVD’s of movies, documentaries etc from most local libraries. All you really need are some basic, small electronics: notebook, iPod, external hard drive, small flatscreen TV, mobile phone and digital camera.