People have set out to more remote places of the world, built homes of their own, and lived off the land. They’ve followed the sun—up at dawn, sleep at dark.
Our ancestors lived simply, by default.
Nowadays, however, it’s more difficult to live this way in a time of great technological advancement. People are looking for a more simplified life, but without wholly removing themselves from the world around them—their friends, family, workplaces, and devices.
Amidst material abundance and availability, our lives can sometimes look quite foreign from the homesteaders of the past.
Today, intentional living is even more necessary. And in a world of increasing complexity, it is becoming more and more desired.
Here are Five Truths You Can Use to Save Money and Live Simply:
1. You can’t take it with you.
You’ve probably heard the truism “you can’t take it with you” or, perhaps you’ve heard it as “you never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.” These phrases suggest that you should spend your money with an eye on the inevitably of death—because you could be gone tomorrow.
Let’s consider how we can use these statements to live simply.
If we cannot take something with us, should we lust after it? Should we go into debt to buy it? Should we spend countless hours maintaining it?
To live simply, we should adopt a rental philosophy for the goods we purchase. From this standpoint, we are temporary holders to the many material possessions we store. And not a thing we own will be ours after we pass. So, what’s important given this truth?
2. The most frugal or greenest product is the one you didn’t buy.
Over the last decade, people have been quick to embrace “green” products such as LED lightbulbs and hybrid vehicles. Some of these advancements really do cut down on energy bills and emissions.
But many businesses have responded by using “greenwashed” marketing to confuse and appeal to more consumers. A shocking number of products are now “environmentally friendly” without any certifying body to confirm or standardize what that even means.
“Going green” has been coopted by corporations.
The kindest decision for your wallet or the environment usually isn’t marketed in magazines or on product packaging. Whether you’re looking to save money, live simply, or be greener, there’s a simple rule you should follow: the cheapest or most environmentally friendly product is the one you didn’t buy.
3. No individual product can make you a minimalist.
These headlines should frighten you: “Get This Unique Minimalist Watch While You Still Can” or “The Best Gifts For the Minimalist In You.” I’ve even seen “minimalist mattresses,” “minimalist clothing,” and “minimalist luggage” for sale. Some articles promising the latest and greatest ideas in minimalist living are laced with affiliate links and goods that could occupy more space in your life and further empty your bank account.
What the writers are actually saying is, “Here’s another item that looks cool and you can spend money on. And because you are interested in minimalism, I will use that to market specifically to you.”
Similarly, stores that sell containers and organizational tools cannot make you a minimalist. They can help you spend money, hide clutter, and manipulate the appearance of your home. But the products contained therein require consistent maintenance, care, and careful organizational efforts.
The problem remains when we buy more to become simpler. Organization can help, but minimalism always comes from less stuff, not more. It is better to de-own, than merely reorganize.
4. The best gifts don’t take up room in your home.
As a father, I recognize my children sometimes want gifts. And when holidays and birthdays come around, I cherish opportunities to make them smile.
I also recognize my inner values.
I want to be kind, receptive, and understanding to my family, and I want to give the gift of my attention to them. When my family started letting go of extraneous possessions ten years ago, I was better able to be there for them. I was a better listener, and could spend more time focused on what they really need as they grow.
And this extends beyond children. My friends know the best gift they could ever give me is their friendship. That never costs a dime or gets old.
5. Material possessions never provide lasting happiness.
Endless research has found that material goods and purchases rarely provide lasting happiness. Buy the Corvette today, and you’ll get used to it. The shine and sheen will wear off. Then, the insurance payments, gas, maintenance/repair prices, and other burdens come into focus.
Wellness comes from purchases that lead to stories, experiences, and help for others.
My family is taking a one-week vacation this Spring. While we’ve tried to save money, it’ll still cost money to do so. Similarly, I’ve poured sweat and time into creating The Hope Effect, which is a non-profit organization changing how the world cares for orphans.
Every dollar spent in these areas are deeply meaningful for me. I carry these moments and experiences, not things.
We live in a time of always-on Internet, 24/7 business hours, and credit cards that can allow for purchases despite our budgets. The consequences are readily evident: the average American has over $16,000 in debt.
Living simply can be our way out. By realizing these five truths, we can begin to focus again on what’s more important.