Nov 04

Sally Lever sent in her latest newsletter some interesting ideas, on how to discipline yourself further to live more with less – without torturing yourself. In the end it always comes out to money matters, right? I.e.

1. How much money do I need in order to downshift?

You would need to have an income of some form that is higher than your living costs. If your downshifting plans involve quitting your job and having some time out, either between jobs or in order to start your own business, then it would be wise to reduce your living costs and have some money put aside in savings to cover for that while your income is reduced. Money experts tend to recommend a sum equivalent to 6 months’ income.

2. Can anyone downshift?

Most people can. Downshifting by definition means trading a high standard of living and low (often highly stressful) quality of life for a higher quality of life. A downshifted life is a simpler life and often richer in time rather than in money. So, in order to downshift, one needs to have some money to spare at first. This might not necessarily be a lump sum in the bank. It might be equity tied up in your home or other possessions that you could sell. Downshifting might then involve moving to a smaller home or a similar home in a less expensive area or selling some of your possessions.

3. What if I am in debt?

If you are in debt then this is an issue you will probably want to tackle as a matter of urgency. Living frugally and downshifting your lifestyle may well form part of your plans for lifting yourself out of debt. It can be a very satisfying way to decrease your living costs without feeling that you are depriving yourself.

4. How does anyone manage to live on less?

There are many pressures on us in Western Society to consume. Whilst we continually expose ourselves to this through television, newspapers and magazines, we can easily form the opinion that we have to keep acquiring more and succeeding more in order to be accepted. Here are a few simple things to try for one week to demonstrate to yourself that you can reduce your costs and change your money spending activities:

– Have a week that is media-free i.e. no television, radio, newspapers or magazines and notice how you are less tempted to spend money on what you feel you “ought to have.”

– Stay away from supermarkets. Buy your food only from local independent retailers or farms. Notice how much less you spend on food now that you have to work a little harder to get it and that you are less tempted to impulse buy.

– No eating out or takeaways. If you feel like having a food treat, make yourself a special candle-lit dinner.

– Put your credit cards away and only buy what you can afford in your current account. Better still, take an amount of cash out of the bank that is your budget for the whole week and only spend that. Notice how much more aware you are of how you are spending your money.

If you don’t think you can manage all of those at one time, then try each of them in turn for a week.

5. Does downshifting always involve living on less?

It usually does to begin with. Ironically, in the longer term some downshifters earn more money, or have a higher level of disposable income, having reduced their costs and found a way of earning money that is more aligned with their values.

6. Isn’t it selfish?

It isn’t selfish to want to be the best you can be. Ultimately others will benefit when you live in a way that is in alignment with your values and passions. There are diplomatic and considerate ways to express your wishes to your nearest and dearest

7. Won’t I be plunged into poverty?

There is an important difference between poverty and frugal simplicity. Poverty is involuntary and disabling whereas frugal simplicity is voluntary and empowering. In my personal experience, the key to finding the right way for you is to stay assertive, focussed and informed in everything you do on the downshifting path.

8. Is it a one-way ticket?

This will depend on your confidence in your ability to:

– earn money when necessary
– stay flexible and learn from your mistakes
– continue learning new skills

Keep in mind that there are many possibilities for how you can live you life in simplicity and in alignment with your true nature. And, you’re allowed to try out as many of those possibilities as you like.

Have fun exploring the potentialities. :o)

Suggested Further Reading:

Your Money or Your Life – Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez:

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written by Chris

16 Responses to “How to downshift – learn to live more with less”

  1. dfsaNo Gravatar NEW ZEALAND Says:

    find a different word, downshifting is a driving term

  2. MikeNo Gravatar not found Says:

    I’ve been on sabbatical for over five years now with (at best) sporadic (but mostly no) income. Only NOW am I truly gaining the power of becoming unhooked from the money economy! BTW – debt is the killer. If you have debt, forget it, or forget about whatever backs the debt.

  3. Thoughts and Things, from a Scholar and a Gentleman. » How to downshift - learn to live more with less UNITED STATES Says:

    […] Link […]

  4. JoshNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I’ve often considered (or dreamed of) doing this myself, but my wife won’t hear anything of it. :) This really isn’t an option for those of us with families who demand a high standard of living.

  5. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    It’s true that things get more difficult, if you have a family or kids.

    Maybe this can offer some help:

    “How to tell your other half you’re leaving the rat race:”

  6. AliNo Gravatar THAILAND Says:

    Well I guess I’ve slightly downshifted and life is great. I’m still working – I LOVE my job – but moved countries to do it. I’m a teacher and the school here in Thailand is far less stressful than in the UK. Yes less money – but it goes sooooo much further here. I have a fantastic quality of life – and of course I have plenty of time to travel. Highly recommended – Go on – give it a go – Live a little!!!!

  7. ChristinaNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I disagree about family keeping you from a simpler life. We have two children and have been totally debt free for five years. Nine months ago, my husband quit his “safe” corporate job and we moved to our dream town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and are living on savings while pursuing our dream of self-employment. We are making some money on different internet ventures, but hope to start selling our artwork soon also.

    I truly think this is only possible if you change your entire mindset and get totally debt free. It is much easier to make a living doing something you love if your monthly expenses are under $2000, as opposed to $4000 or more. The thought of it is less scary, too.

  8. SheilaNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I enjoyed this post on downshifting. I recently did this myself transitioning from a stressful corporate position to a part-time posistion at a not for profit. Having no debt and some savings built up helped in the transition.

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    […] Over at Brave New Traveler, which always has great, original and inspiring write-ups about travel in the 21st century, Jenn DiPiazza wrote a great article about the ‘gatherers instinct’, which is still somehow in most of us. The thing is that we collect more and more ’stuff’ during our life, which makes us more ‘im-mobile’ and fixed to a certain location. You amass a lot of useless things, waste plenty of money and end up needing more and more space for it. She learned an important lesson in life when living for a while with Navajo Indian Americans in the middle of the desert. After that she started to prioritize and to live more with less. That’s how she gained flexibility and the freedom of mind to move on to new shores and to explore the world around her. These are the first steps if you are really planning to travel more or even travel permanently, to get rid of all the ballast in your life, downshift or do and purchase only, what really counts in your life and for your self-development. Who knows, maybe you can even retire early, maybe already in your 30s? […]

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  13. RaffaeleNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Finally!!! I was starting to feel like a Martian, but today I found you guys and you all are tuned on my frequency!!! You guys probably understand how I feel right now…
    It was almost an overnight thing for me. At first I thought I was going crazy, but I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t go back anymore… for my wife it took a little longer but the rest of the relatives wanted to send me to a shrink…How long have you guys been here!!!??? I love you all!!!

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  15. NatalieNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    All about the downshift!!! Love it!

    My husband (Justin) and I are taking off on September 30th to backpack to various countries around the world for a year or so.

    Feel free to subscribe to our feed and follow us. It sounds like we could benefit from your advice, encouragement, ideas, etc.

    Natalie =D> =D> =D> =D>

  16. Vicky PenaNo Gravatar UNITED KINGDOM Says:

    Money is a big concern at the present time. You must spend money in buying important things that you need. Prioritization is the most important thing.

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