Friday, March 21, 2008

Voluntary Simplicity

I spent the morning tallying up debt and paid the first of what is likely to be a long stream of medical bills. Taking time off work, a slower winter work season and doctor bills have put a serious crunch on our budget. Couple that with travel fantasies (how much would it cost for five people to go to New Zealand?) and it is not a good thing. So, I spent some time perusing frugal living blogs.

We are doing some things right. We pay ourselves first with automatic withdrawals to our retirement account. We’ve already gone down to a single pre-paid cell phone for emergency use. We have basic cable (but will have to upgrade to digital by 2009 if we elect to keep it). I’m drinking my coffee at home which is not helping my declining Starbuck’s stock (it should be decaf but after a failed attempt to quit I’m back to one cup a day). I sell things on Ebay for “mad” money but these funds may temporarily be needed to pay bills.

But, there are also areas for improvement. We need to eat out less and use coupons more. As the weather warms I am very seriously considering riding my bike to work. Gas prices are simply outrageous and I am amazed how much gas we use even living in a small town with minimal commutes. We could even consider selling one of our cars.

I want to travel, to fix up our house, to reduce our debt, increase our savings and retire early. Obviously this is easier said than done. At the same time I’d like to figure out how to be frugal and financially fit without being miserly and wretched. As such I’m very attracted to the idea of voluntary simplicity. Voluntary simplicity is defined by Duane Elgin as “Living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.” Now that sounds nice, doesn't it?


Yesterday I found a zip lock baggy full of sea glass from our last trip to the coast. These little treasures, discarded by the sea, cost absolutely nothing and I am reminded that some of the greatest pleasures in life are free.


jennifer said...

We are in the same boat! I heard of a family that elected to buy nothing new for, like, a year. (Except underwear... they bought those new!!) They bought things used and bartered. I don't know if I could do it!

Shelli said...

We are on a very tight budget too. I'm trying to use coupons more and find other ways to cut back, but we have cut back just about as much as we can. It's frustrating. Good luck to you!

Cherrye said...

Ugh. Thinking about budgets for me is like pulling out my fingernails with pliers. No, the fingernails will grow back.

Good points you are making. Eating out takes so much discretionary cash.

Lawyer Mama said...

I love the idea of living simply with a rich inner life!

Carrien said...

I like to think of it as voluntary simplicity as well. And darned hard work to get rid of all of this clutter.

Sometimes I just imagine I'm Amish. OKay, who am I kidding, I fantasize that if I were Amish I'd find this voluntary simplicity thing easier. :)