It is interesting to me that we can overfill our lives with stuff and not even realize it, and it wasn't until life gave us yet another opportunity to re-think our priorities that all of this became clear to me. My husband and I have faced some financial changes in the last few years together. The intuitive part of me knows we will always be provided, but the logical part of my mind does not want to take any chances. The funny thing is that my need to control my circumstances is often what makes the process seem hard, when in fact, it is not.
Today we are once again called to reduce our spending and boost our savings, so my initial instinct is to sit down and look at our finances closely, face the numbers and plan for the uncertainties. We don't have any credit card debt, we don't buy things on credit anymore, student loans are paid off and we started to let go of expensive habits. Our main expenses consist of our home, which we built together about 7 years ago, one car payment, lots of real fresh foods (a real priority for us) and wellness treatments and products (select supplements, CPTG essential oils, etc), as I believe preventive care is the best form of healthcare. The things we used to spend the most money on were books and entertainment, with books being close to essential to us.
Years ago (close to 9 years now!) I created a family spreadsheet, very colourful, of course! At any given time, we knew exactly how much money was being allocated to what and how much we spent on food, medical care, gas, etc. As we entered our expenses, it automatically subtracted from the budget and it showed how much we had left each month - hiding behind the numbers was not an option! We relied greatly on this process during our first ups and downs, until recently.
I believe a lot is happening to money these days and it is undeniable that money is a lot less physical than ever before. From simply tapping a card to internet money, we no longer need to carry coins in our pockets (unless you take the subway in Toronto, as I recently discovered!). Our currency is more clearly just energy, and not as physical as we believed it to be before when we used to keep money under the mattress! Further, many are understanding that how we manifest what we "want", with money being a big want for most people, has a lot more to do with how we feel than with how hard we work. It is not to say that effort is not a virtue, but effort is no longer the path simply because getting what we desire does not need to be hard (great news, right?!)
We are getting "lighter" and "stuff" is dense and this density is getting in the way of our happiness. I also believe money can come and go from so many more ways than we can possibly anticipate, so the concept of financial security is no longer a goal of mine (especially since I now believe it to be a mindset, rather than something material like a pile of money). All I want is to be comfortable to be able to take risks, pay my bills and live a life of joy.
So with this clear goal, I looked at my 9-year old, still colourful financial tracker and realized when things got tighter that my process was only causing me anxiety. I would make a monthly savings plan, we would spend most of our allowances in the first 2 weeks of the month (what I refer to as the freedom weeks) and then live in a state of emotional scarcity for the last two weeks until the next month rolled out (what I now call the scarcity phase), EVERY single month. I hated the feeling, it was like I was tracking scarcity! The purpose of the plan was no longer fulfilling our family needs, so something had to change.
One night, I sat down with it again and started to cut things out. I cut most of it out, bringing our basic expenses down by a further 30%, and that is when I realized how much money went into stuff we didn't really need (I am including things here from great new findings at health food stores to tempting items from Costco... lol, a cold drink at Starbucks or a quick visit to a local brewery to play board games, super fun to have/do but not essential). My husband and I are not shoppers, so if we could cut down our expenses so easily, I can just imagine how much some people have available to them without realizing it.
The scientist in me decided to run an experiment, can we live this way, but further, can we enjoy living this way? Lastly, can we find a way to live a prosperous life, where abundance does not mean to splurge, and where to 'not spend' does not feel like deprivation or scarcity? And after the first month went by, we realized that YES we could. What we first observed with this process was how easily we used to say yes to getting what we wanted and how easy it was to spend money without giving it much thought. It quickly became clear that we were now on the abundant path, even though all we had more of was happiness and contentment.
I also looked around me and realized that we have all we could possibly need already, so we chose to take our minimalism passion to the next level (click here to read my other post on Minimalism and my closet!!) and made meaningful (emotional and physical) changes in our lives.
We decided to call it the Abundant Minimalism Experiment. The project comprises of finding solutions for the things we love that are either free or very inexpensive; offering to trade things/services with others for things they have that we need; no longer tracking how much we spend each week since all we have allocated for variables is groceries (one trip, one budget, with the exception of a couple of Costco trips a month to buy items in bulk), using and re-using what we have instead of buying new; and for things that we need to spend on, say car oil changes or water filters, we discuss, agree it is needed and spend with gratitude.
Now this last part is important! There are things outside of food and oil changes that we will need from time to time, especially if you have kids, so it is important to not feel stingy as this energy is not prosperous. I believe there is plenty for everyone so even if you are also going through a hard phase, feeling generous and giving with gratitude for services you need is an important part of the equation.
Here are some of the modifications we've made:
* Buying books and more books - I know this will sound simple, but we started going to the library again!! I have noticed that even new releases were available, so a great alternative to all the money we used to spend every month buying new copies (we have way over 1,000 books in our collection already!)
* Eating out - we just don't anymore. I know it is hard, but aside from special occasions (within the budget) we home-cook everything. If you are pressed for time, there are options such as online recipe kit deliveries, but you still need to cook it. Eating out for me often resulted in an upset stomach anyways, so I am saving money and investing in my health. Also, one trip to a good restaurant is usually the equivalent of what we spend for an entire week on organic real food ingredients, so the math becomes quite simple. If you need help planning your meals, click here as I offer this as part of my services.
* Entertainment - this is a tricky one because it depends on what you like to do, so these tips are things my husband and I enjoy doing. We LOVE to walk in nature and have been amazed at the beautiful parks around us (free!). We also love movies and have discovered weekends before noon prices (and we eat at home before going so we don't feel tempted by the overpriced unhealthy concessions!), we visit art galleries and museums (usually inexpensive, a favorite of mine), and we play puzzles and board games - the old school way. We love puzzles that require pen and paper and we play a lot of Scrabble together. There are lots of ways to have fun that don't need to cost hundreds of dollars, all you need is some creativity and maybe the help of Google :)
* Splurging with little pleasures - If you love things such as Kombucha (click here for my article on how to make your own!), fermented dairy-free cheeses, healthy gourmet ice creams (lots of options, so search for ice creams in my blog if you need recipes) and all the novelties in the holistic world (like fermented seaweed spread, so fun!), they can quickly add up. Instead, if you are open to being adventurous, you can make a lot of that stuff at home for a fraction of the cost. For example, for kmbucha you can invest about $20 on some SCOBY and can now make about 3 litres of Kombucha every couple of weeks (plus, many of the ones in the market are loaded with sugar and not so healthy for you!). I love to ferment my own cheese in 2 days and I can make ice cream in 30 min or so and eat them for the entire week. I use mostly local ingredients, love making the recipes from scratch as I know what goes into them and the cost of getting supplies is far less than buying pre-packaged options. The best part... I share my delicious recipes in my blog, Naturally Re-invented and in my Instagram account, so make sure to check it out!
What I discovered with the experiment...
Here is the good part, what I have discovered from having decided to essentially not buy anything considered non-essential (thank goodness for essential oils being called essential...lol), is that we freed up a lot of room in our lives. And what I mean by that is we had to stop and think before making rushed decisions, we became more careful to not waste things (probably the biggest gain in my opinion), we looked for ways to share things rather than buy new, we stopped cluttering our home with "stuff", and most importantly, we looked at the richness of what we have today instead of wanting more and more every time. We started to shift our values and our priorities and I am very blessed for this.
No matter how healthy our bank accounts look, my husband and I decided that we love this way of living so much that we hope to continue living by these principles and use the “money” to simply expand the reach of our service to the world. We feel the Abundant Minimalist way of living has captured our hearts and we will continue to honour it and grow with it. There is so much more to life than stuff and as we become lighter (energetically speaking), I feel this lifestyle will continue to serve us.
So with that I leave you with one last thought. Never look at your situation as an impossible problem, look at it with curiosity and as an opportunity. Take what life gives you and give some in return, let the energy circulate. Anything we hoard (should it be stuff, knowledge or even money) only makes us stuck and now it is time to flow. So give with gratitude and take with gratitude because at the end, we are always given what we need.
If you feel ready to explore the experiment in more detail, I welcome you to join me in The Release Project, a FREE program delivered via Facebook if you feel ready to let go of what is holding you back. Click HERE to join.
With much Light