Many of us experience a society that objectifies happiness; making it a commodity that can be purchased. Our focus here is to discuss spending habits, lifestyle choices, conservation, and sustainable happiness.
There are a lot of people out there that have the mindset that paying for goods and services saves them more time and money than if they were to attempt to solve the problems themselves. In today’s world, machines have made people lazier and less creative problem-solvers. It is important to realize that the more independent you become, the more money and time you save. Here are a few ways that we have started becoming more self-sufficient:
In short, don’t be afraid to be a Renaissance man. Use the resources around you to learn and develop your own skills. Don’t just rely on machines and other people to solve all of your problems because self-sufficiency produces a pride that is unique and all its own. Please feel free to share with us ways that you have become more self-sufficient!
We have moved recently and we’ve decided to leave the living room in our apartment empty. Sure, we have a rocking chair, our bikes, and 2 paintings in there, but our friends and family still think that the room looks rather pathetic. You see, we have chosen to forego owning a couch and we did not want cable television, so there is no t.v. or big entertainment stand. First of all, although we could find an affordably-priced used couch, it just wasn’t an expense that we wanted to dish out for. Also, we were not going to pay for television. At the end of the day, television is a really dangerous distraction. People pay money on cable packages so they can come home from work and veg-out. Sure, educational programs have the potential to be beneficial , but we never seem to retain what we saw. It is interesting that a lot of people seem to think of television as a necessity to life. Our friends have spoken to us like we were depriving ourselves of some great, life-altering experience. The way we look at it, instead of watching other people do things on a screen, we can save the money that we collect by not tuning-in and go actually do some things in the future. By not following t.v. series and getting caught up in random marathons, the two of us find that we spend more time together in the evenings exploring hobbies that help us develop a skill of some kind. We hear people say all of the time that they would love to do (x) if only they had more time or more money. News flash!!! That block of time that you spend every evening on the couch could be better utilized and could potentially lead you to doing something exciting, perhaps even television worthy. We threw a party our first week in the new apartment and invited both of our families. At first, they were obviously unsure about what to do in the empty living room. By the end of the evening though we had all played board games together, and we even taught some of them how to dance because we had the space. Those moments are the ones that are worth remembering because that was a time where all of us were engaged with one another and not distracted. That quality time is just one more reason that justifies our decision. Always remember, you are not depriving yourself if you decide to cut out some of the luxuries of everyday life that people depend upon, no matter how much their pity may make it seem.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s always nice knowing that someone took time out of their busy lives to think about you. Although we consider ourselves to be minimalists, we still indulge in some surprises every now and then. Most of the time, our surprises though are free, but they are still meaningful because they allow us to focus more on our partner’s needs and show that we have made a genuine effort to make the other person happy. For instance, one of us will plan a spontaneous picnic in a beautiful location or offer to provide a relaxing spa night full of pampering. It’s important to show people that they mean a lot to you, but that does not necessarily mean that you need to open your wallet to do so. It’s easy to go buy something but it takes more effort to make an honest gesture for someone else. Everyone, at some point or another, just needs someone to listen to them. If a relationship is rich with love and emotional fulfillment then the need for expensive material possessions as signs of affection fall away.
Going further, we don’t recommend buying people’s love, especially children. Sure, it’s waaayyy easier to go and buy something neat and expensive for someone, but those bonds are only temporary. Eventually the magic of that new item will wear off and you will be setting out to make another desperate purchase very soon. If a relationship is worth having, then it is worth working on actively. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings, have moments of vulnerability, tell them if something that they do is upsetting, and be there as a stable support system. The two of us have just recently decided to work harder on our relationships with friends and family because love and support is one of the best things in life. They sure were not kidding when they said that the best things in life are free.
The two of us are getting ready for a big move, and as a result, we are trying to downsize more of our unnecessary items. I found myself at the bookcase with a gross feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t want to get rid of any of my books, but I knew I had way too many that I didn’t reference or plan to reread again anytime soon. What about these books was I struggling with? What strange power had I given them over me? After many conversations and self-reflection sessions, I came to the conclusion that I liked having a lot of books because having them around made me feel smart. In my head I imagined people coming to visit, seeing all of my books, and assuming that I was super intelligent. You see, if I were to get rid of most of them, I feared that I would lose that part of my identity. It sounds super dumb now, but at the time, the emotional toll as real. In truth, I relied on an inanimate object to portray who I was. *shame *shame
I bet everyone has an idea of what their future self is like. The vision I have of myself is a smart and friendly individual that has dabbled in a lot of things. I want to be easy-going and confident in social settings. I also want to live unconventionally and just do what makes me happy. If I look to the future, I don’t see myself having a lot of stuff because I plan on being mobile. If that is the future me that I am striving for, then I need to start following their path. I need to give up these false ideas that I have surrounding my belongings, and do what future me would do. Future me is already smart and confident with herself, therefore she doesn’t keep books around that she doesn’t read to impress others. After having this realization, I stripped my bookcase to bare bones and only kept the books that I needed and donated the rest to local libraries. If I want to learn something, I can go to the library and utilize their books without having to make space in my home for them. The person who actually reads is smarter than the person who displays books for faulty acknowledgment. Hopefully this helps anyone else who has had a similar experience. Start working at being “future-you” right now. That is the only way that you’ll ever get there.
It’s easy to stroll into a store and find an inexpensive piece of clothing that you like. You drop a few bucks on it, take it home, and store it in your closet for its big debut down the road. After a few wears you start to notice the threads fraying, the beads falling off, and the material getting thinner and thinner; possibly even sporting unattractive holes. You just bought this and it was new! What the heck is going on!? Feeling hopeless, you throw the item in a donation bin and skip back to the original store to replace what you have just gotten rid of. This is the never ending cycle of the fast fashion consumer. Clothing stores produce new styles with cheap price tags in an attempt to entice sales. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. The clothes are not made to last, thus encouraging you to regularly go out and buy more often.
It’s clear to see the negative effects that fast fashion can have on your wallet, but the environmental issues related with this practice seem to be less talked about. We all like to think that the garments that we donate will go to good use, but sadly, that usually is not the case. “According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded (NPR).” Another way that we deal with unwanted textiles is by sending them to developing countries. One major problem though is that they still have to manage the large amounts of textiles that do not sell. Much of that remainder of unwanted clothing ends up in landfills or is burned in large piles. The dyes have the potential to pollute waterways, water is wasted producing the clothing, workers are underpaid, energy is burned transporting the products, and people lose their money. A lot of these fast fashion textiles are not produced with sustainable fibers, and therefore cannot be recycled easily due to the mixture of materials. We need to stop supporting companies that are pushing out cheap clothing items to meet fashion trends and make a profit off of blind consumers
It is all about quality over quantity. Buy from companies that have honest practices and that have a concern for the natural environment. If you buy an item that is more expensive, use it longer. We should all try and make it a goal to buy products that will serve us longer so that we can cut down on our waste, and eventually, on our overall spending. Another idea is to buy clothing second-hand. Go to your local thrift store and give those items a new purpose, but only if you need them. We should make it a goal to worry less about trends and try harder to find contentment with what we already have.
One thing that we have noticed about ourselves and others is that an awful lot of money is spent on entertainment (movies, concerts, ect.). Thus we have begun to come up with ways to amuse ourselves that are free or require minimum costs. A fast favorite is the library. Not only does this offer the obvious, books, but they also have movies, cds, computer use, and free public wifi. Now that we use this resource we’ve begun reading more without having to buy books, having occasional movie nights, and have even considered not having home wifi. With our overall plan being to escape the grind of the daily 9-5 as soon as possible, free services and minimal cost entertainment is extremely useful resources. We would encourage everyone to check out their local library and feel free to comment and let us know of any free activities or hobbies that you have and enjoy, maybe we’ll give them a try too!
The two of us noticed that our friends and family were commenting often to us about the cost of groceries. In fact, USA Today said in an article from 2017 that, on average, Americans spend about 6% of their annual budget on groceries, and 5% on eating out. The two of us, with practice, have managed to get our food bill down to $50 a week. That $50 includes all of our food, hygiene, and cleaning products. We have learned that you pay for packaging and brands. While shopping, the two of us aren’t afraid to go for the off-brands, and we are not distracted by marketing pitfalls. You pay more for pre-cut and pre-made items, so just plan on doing the work yourself. It’s worth it to us to cut our onions and fruits up at home, rather than dish out a few extra dollars so that it could be done for us. In the end, a little effort goes a long way. One really great thing about refusing to buy pre-made food is that you learn to cook, which is a really great skill to have in life.
Before we even hit the store we take time to go through the food that we still have so that we can plan accordingly. Typically we list everything that we need to buy for our meals, and then we’ll each pick out a few luxury items we would like to eat that week such as ingredients for muffins, chips, yogurt, and juice. It’s really important not to think of such treats as being necessities. We are not entitled to those things, therefore, if the budget is tight one week, we do not feel the need to go over budget for them. Usually when planning meals, we will try to buy base ingredients in bulk. Rice, beans, noodles, and potatoes are our favorites. We also try to use most of our food throughout the week in multiple meals so that it doesn’t go to waste. For example, if we have potatoes then we will make hash browns one day, add them to our soup the next, and make baked potatoes on the third day. By making the foods in a variety of ways, we don’t get tired of them, and less gets thrown away. Food waste is a serious issue and we try very hard to be conscious of what we are able to use up in a week, fruits and vegetables being the most important to plan for. Lastly, we are able to grocery shop on this type of budget because we eat simple, but filling meals. Both of us enjoy cooking together eat evening, and we feel lucky to be able to do it. Our ingredients are kept simple, but we have managed to use those simple things to make tasty dishes. The key here is to be thankful for a hot meal. You don’t have to eat super complex dishes in order to be full and happy.
“The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, ‘If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.’
“Said Diogenes, ‘Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.’ -Anthony de Mello