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 environment 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, student loans are paid off and we don't have expensive habits (at least not ones we plan on keeping...lol). Our lives consist of our home, which we built together just short of 6 years ago, our two cars, and lots of real, fresh organic foods (a real priority for us). We also spend some money on wellness treatments and essential oils - my two forms of natural health care (click here to learn more!). 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 8 years now!) I created a family spreadsheet, colourful (of course!), and simple to use. 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 financial ups and downs, until recently.
I believe a lot is happening on our planet, which includes a lot of changes to how we manifest what we "want" and money is one of those things that will continue to behave a little differently than before. I feel 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 lots of money in a savings account or under your mattress). I just want to be comfortable to be able to take risks and live a life of joy.
So with that clear goal, I looked at my 8-year old, still colourful, financial tracker and realized when things got tighter that my process was only causing 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 called 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 good 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 30%, 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 equate to depravation and 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 right path.
I also looked around me and realized that we have all we could possibly need, aside from fresh groceries each week, 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 make meaningful (emotional and physical) changes in our lives.
We are calling it the Abundant Minimalism plan, which 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 to buy items in bulk), and a small miscellaneous budget, so no need to "track it" per se; using and re-using what we have instead of buying new; and for things that we need to spend on, say 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, essential oils (of course!) and oil changes that we will need from time to time, so it is important to not feel stingy as this energy is not very 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, send me a message 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 - I 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!). All these little treats range from $5 to $15 where we live, so they quickly add up. So I decided to make my own. I invested about $20 on some SCOBY and can now product about 3 litres of Kombucha every couple of weeks, I ferment my own cheese in 2 days and I can make my ice creams 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, so make sure to come back!
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.
Even as our financial situation improves, which I am sure it will, I don't think we will want to change how we live. I 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 a 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.
With much Light