The Art Of Living The Good Life By Spending Less And Living Well

This post was inspired and contains my reflections and notes from the book, ” Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup.”

1. The Good Life Is Not What We Think It Is: Do not equate possessions with happiness. More stuff will not make you happy. A life consumed by always wanting more will not bring contentment and peace. Overconsumption and unchecked indulgence in anything will destroy us. We must learn to control our love for money or it will control us. Do not define the value of your life by what you have or what you wish you had. Value yourself instead by who you are. Remember that serving the Divine is a key component of the Good Life.

2. Contentment Is A Choice: Know what matters most-asking yourself what you would be remembered for, if you died tomorrow, is a good starting point. The other important thing is not to compare yourself with anyone; you are unique and you should walk your own path to the best of your ability. Be grateful for what you have, even the small and ordinary things we all take for granted. Focus on how you can serve others, rather than how others can serve you. Actively avoid the things that tempt you the most and do not buy them or fulfill them- doing so will fuel your desires than calm them down.

3. We All Have A Sweet Spot: Our sweet spot is where our greatest passions and our talents and abilities intersect. But is not enough to just find them- you need to act, step by step, from where you are right now. Make the most of your present situation. Learn. Grow. Develop who and what you are. You have identify your gifts, have confidence in them, be willing to let go of your current path if it is not your sweet spot and have the courage to do what you really love.

4. Written Goals Can Change Your Life: Identify the big rocks in your life. Write them down. Break them down into small manageable parts and have a deadline for achieving them. Make yourself accountable.

5. We All Get The Same 24 Hours: We have the same amount of time as everybody else. We cannot get everything done. We have to choose what is important to us and convert those to habits. We have to eliminate the unessential so that we have time for what matters most.

6. Less Stuff Equals More Joy: Clearing excess clutter in your home will give you space so that quality important things are what is there and you have time to really enjoy and do things.

7. We Need To Spend Less Than We Think We Do: Admit that overspending is a problem. Do not shop without purpose. Even if you have a lot of money, you need to spend it carefully; as you are a steward of the money that comes to you. Have a month of zero spending, apart from what is really essential. This means no new clothes, gadgets, home improvements, craft projects, and especially no eating at restaurants. It means staying home instead of going out. It means buying as few perishable grocery items as possible, and instead eating the long-forgotten items in your pantry and freezer. You will then realize that stuff does not create happiness. Instead buying more breeds nothing but discontentment.

8. Saving Is A State of Mind: Financial freedom(where you are financially free and do not need to work for money) and financial peace( where you are satisfied and contented with your financial status, even if you are not financially free) are both important. The first comes from hard work and discipline while the second comes from above, grace of the Divine. You need to create and stick to a realistic budget: income, expenses( fixed and variable). Expenses can also be divided into what we really need and what is optional. You have to aim to save in both categories. Housing, transportation and insurance costs can be reduced in some cases. You can also cut on utilities, gas and food costs. In case of variable and extraneous expenses, delayed gratification is probably the single best wat to save on them. When you do these you will have more money which you can use to establish your emergency fund and fund for retirement.

9. How To Cut Your Grocery Bill In Half: Extreme grocery savings do not come from coupons. If you want to save big on your groceries, you have to shop the store’s sales. This means:

  • Compare which stores have the best sales.
  • Always buy food when it is at its lowest possible price(usually 30-50% off the everyday normal price)
  • To do this, you need to keep an ongoing rock-bottom price list and notice the patterns that appear.
  • Once you find a rock-bottom price, you have to buy enough to last you till the rock- bottom prices come again.
  • You may to buy in bulk, buy what is in season, buy local or buy frozen to cut on costs.
  • After you do these things, use coupons.
  • Plan your meals around your stock-piled items.

10. A Clean House Is A Happy House: Keep your house clean with simple and cheap things like white vinegar, baking soda, lemons, salt, olive oil, ivory bar soap, liquid dishwashing soap, borax, etc. Or buy the cheapest items available for cleaning.

11. The Best Things In Life Are Free: Nurture your friendships- make a list of people you want to spend time with, pray for them, block out time for them and forgive them. Practice hospitality- anticipate their needs, plan ahead, make conversation, smile and avoid awkward moments. Cultivate creativity- read more, reflect, ask questions, pay attention, play, brainstorm, rest and enjoy the creativity of others.

12. We Get More When We Give: Be less greedy and give more- of your time, money, everything else. Give your time and talents to your church or community. Serve the people closest to you.

What We Regret When We Are Dying

This post contains my personal take-aways from the book,  The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying by Bronnie Ware.

1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

When people realise that their life is almost over and look back on the life they have lived, they find many dreams were not honoured or fulfilled. Most of the time the reason is the choices people make or not make. Try to honor at least some of your dreams along the way. Don’t wait until your health fails before living the life you want to live. Once you lose your health, it is too late. The freedom of health is something very few of us realise, until we actually fall ill.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

There is not much point in spending our lives on the treadmill of a work existence. The companionship of your spouse and sharing your children’s youth is much more important. If we can simplify our lifestyle and make conscious choices, we can often live with a lower income. When we create more space and time in our lives by not working so hard, we create opportunities to fill that space and time with the things that we love and that are in tune with our deepest values.

3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.

We have to express what we really feel. We often suppress our feelings to keep the peace. But then, this is not real peace and there will be bitterness and resentment in our hearts. It is better to be honest with our feelings with no guilt. Yes, you may not like the reactions from others, but in the long run, it improves the relationships or the relationship gradually fades away like a flower dropping from the plant. Either way, it may be the best thing that happens.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

We become so caught in our own lives that we let golden friendships slip by. We usually will regret it when we die. Because we will realize that in the last weeks all that matters is love and relationships.

5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

Happiness is a choice. We get stuck in old patterns and habits. We spend our lives doing things that do not make us happy because that is what your parents or family or the world wants you to do. Since you fear the reactions they may have, you are content to just plod on and on. When you are going to die, what others think of you is long away from your mind. Life is a choice. It is your choice. Choose consciously, wisely and honestly. Choose happiness.

12 Guideposts To Help You Declutter

1. You have everything you need except time and space, and that by decluttering you will gain both.

2. Charity now begins at the local charity shop. Your possessions are going to those who need it even more than anyone you know.

3. Your friends come to visit you, not your best china or towels.

4. Buy things that you actually need. If you can buy them when they are on sale, then good. But blindly buying things that are on sale can lead to clutter. You have enough money to but the things you need when you really need them.

5. Don’t try to be perfect. Good enough is perfect. You are a perfectly good person even if you have a messy house.

6. Remember that “ no product” will change your life or buy your way to happiness. Remember that your house is a home and not a magazine photo.

7. By not buying it you are getting a bargain on decluttering.

8. Between the internet and the yellow pages you will always be able to find an item again if you change your mind about needing it.

9. When you are tempted to take some curb-side treasure or some other rescued item, remember that you will be able to find one, either on the verge, via freecycle, through a friend, or in a shop.

10. When you say, “ I might need that again”, remember, that mostly you won’t find yourself in this situation, and if you do, it is ok to go out and buy it again.

11. You are being environmentally responsible by parting with the things you don’t need responsibly.

12. To declutter means to get rid of possessions, not just to store them more cleverly. Storing clutter only postpones the problem for another day.

A Fulfillment Plan Rather Than A Retirement Plan

There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your résumé. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age? – Warren Buffett

There is this concept that you earn and save up  “X” amount of money and then you can retire from work. The problem is that this “X” amount of money is so huge that it will take you most of your productive life to earn and then you have all the money for the sunset years. What use is this concept? You have spent all your life working often in a job you do not like to earn money that you will spend in the sunset years.

Is this what we want? I am not advocating a spendthrift attitude towards money. What I am trying to say is that we should not think of retirement but fulfillment. If you can keep your expenses low and save a lot, then you can retire from working for money in a short period of time.

You can work to earn money for a period of time if you want but you should not do it all your life. This is because the past is a cancelled check you can do nothing about and the future is a promissory note filled with doubt and mystery. Your present life that you are living today is cash. Spend it wisely. If you do not enjoy your life, your career, your leisure time and every other aspect of your existence, you need to change. As they save, if you love your job you do not have to work a day in your life. There is no point in trading quiet desperation today for a fairytale existence somewhere in the vague future.

Yes, money is important but your life is also equally important. As Mark Twain says:

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one you did do.

So rather than thinking of a retirement plan, think of a fulfillment plan. Yes, financially comfortable future is an important part of that, but there are other things too: Living life in the present moment, doing what you really want to do, spending time with your family and so on. It is important not to measure everything as everything that is worthy cannot be measured. There is no need to hoard as well to be a spendthrift. There has to be balance and this balance is personal.

Ultimately it is about love. Love is what we are. We need to love ourselves, those around us and also what we do daily. Then it does not matter whether you are successful in a worldly sense, have endless possessions, success in work or have everything the world can give. Because with love, you are rich, you are wealthy. This is probably the essence of what The Tao Of Wealth is all about.

The Land Of Enough

To draw a distinction between the possessions we have and those possessions that have us
To seek the internal goal called enough and not the impossible goal called more
To judge yourself based on who you are and not what you have
To be someone special and not accumulate things
To give and not take
To save money and not borrow money and be financially free.
To be grateful for what we have and not hanker for more.
And to understand that being a human being is more important than to be a human having.
These will guide us to the land of Enough.

The Beginning, The Journey And The End

The journey always has a beginning, the journey itself and the end. It is true of all journeys whether it is a single day, cooking, your finances, your studies or your whole life.

If we do not know what the end is, we will not know where we are going. We may wander aimlessly or we may meet great things. But when we start it is always good to have something to aim for, an end. Once we become masters of ourselves, the end probably does not figure in your mind as you are now seeking and exploring new vistas and it becomes a journey of excitement and discovery. So, at least for most of us, when we start out, we need to know what our end is, at least in a broad sense.

Then comes the journey itself. We have to have a reason for our journey. Why we want to do it? Why we want to do it and not do something else? Very often, we keep the end as money or wealth or status and that is not what truly drives our soul and being. The things that drive your soul or being are the things the being wants to evolve itself. Therefore the journey has to make sense and give us a sense of meaning and joy and not be some mundane thing we are going through just to get something.

This is similar to the ladder leaning against the right wall. We want to climb it because it is the right ladder and we should also enjoy the climbing and not just want to get at the top of the ladder. We need to begin with the end in mind but the journey is important. The journey makes up most of the moments. The end and beginning are just two moments. They give direction and that is important. The journey is no less important.

But at some point, we need to get rid of the ladder, the beginning of climbing and the end and just be. Like the flower that blooms, demonstrates its genius and then fades away. It can do that because it has realised oneness with its being. But we are all not like that now. We need structure and help, like the young sapling trying to grow. For now, our journey may be long or short, but it must start at the very spot one finds oneself.

Begin with the end in mind and enjoy the path in between.
Then live with no beginning, no path and no end.
Just living what Is.
Being and non-being. Doing and non-doing.
All the same. Ice. Water.Mist. Vapour.
The Divine.