Money

Practicing simplicity is much more than just being frugal with money and consuming less – it is also a state of mind. Nevertheless, in a market economy, spending wisely plays a central role.

  • Vote with your money: It is often said that how we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world. This is an extremely important insight. Purchasing something sends a message to the marketplace, affirming the product, its ecological impact, its process of manufacture, etc. Money is power, and with this power comes responsibility. If we spend our money differently, we can change the world. Be conscientiousness about how you vote with your money.
  • Buy local, organic, fairtrade, green, etc. Voting with your money means supporting businesses that deserve support, and not supporting business that do not deserve support. Spending ethically is sometimes more expensive, which can be challenging. But it is important to do our very best. Beware, however, of ‘green washing,’ and remember that ‘Green consumerism’ is still consumerism.
  • Know your finances precisely: It is extremely important to have a very clear understanding of your income and expenses. It takes time to make money, so don’t waste it. Read Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.
  • The 30-day money experiment: Spend one month taking note of everything you purchase. At the end of the month, categorise your expenses into rent/mortgage, food, electricity, wine, coffees, lunches, etc. then multiply those categories by twelve to get a rough idea of the yearly cost of each of the categories. Small things add up to significant sums over a year. This means that small changes in spending habits can produce significant savings.
  • Budget: Set yourself financial goals. Start by trying to save a small amount each week. This is an important exercise in self-discipline. Enjoy the challenge.
  • Live beneath your means: It provides a sense of security to live on less than you earn. It also proves that you are not an insatiable consumer. Free yourself.
  • Save your raise: When most people get a pay rise they immediately raise their material standard of living and start spending more. But there is an alternative. When you get a raise, consider immediately putting that extra income into a savings account. Again, this proves your wants are not infinite.  
  • Avoid debt – beware of credit cards: Banks are generally very eager to offer us credit, because it is a good way to chain us to them. Beware of debt. A useful rule of thumb is: “If I don’t have the money, don’t buy it.”
  • Rethink your spending: Consider whether you are spending your money wisely. We all assume we are rational spenders, but we might be able to redirect our expenditure in ways that better fulfill our life goals. Perhaps by spending less or more carefully you will be able to work less? Spend less, live more.
  • Try to earn some money doing something you are passionate about: Be creative. Perhaps over time the line between ‘work’ and ‘free time’ will blur.

9 Comments

  1. I am interested in exploring the concept of wealth/money as a measure of controlled resources. It seems obvious that any money earned/saved has ultimately been sourced from either a renewable or non renewable resource and as such represents (to a large degree) a proportion of the worlds resource base that is effectively ‘locked up’, away from others. This means that the richer one person or country is, broadly speaking the poorer someone else must be. It is obvious, but in regard to ‘how we spend our money’ it doesn’t seem to rate a mention. Whilst it is clear that as consumers we should think carefully about how much we spend, where our money goes in regard to social and environmental outcomes, how we earn our money (ie the industry and any social/environmental issues raised by the work itself) but in addition should we not also be directly focussing on equitable wealth distribution? Without being political can a social model based on education be developed to work towards wealth equity? Is this too obvious or too dangerous or difficult to address? Or am I just completely missing something?

  2. Money is a control device which caused more problems than it solves & is now obsolete….If we desire to evolve as a species then we should NOT value money at all – Period.

    A move to a ‘Resource Based Economy’ is the way forward to a kinder more natural way of living. To gain a better understanding of this scenario, please visit http://www.thevenusproject.com Thanks.

  3. I have practised minimal spending now for about 3 years and in so many ways what I get gives me much more pleasure than before. Getting out of the habit of just spending can seem like an enormous effort, but in the end, like giving up smoking, it gets easier and easier. One trick is to do the same as smoking, delay action by 5 minutes, then 1 hour, then one day. So if you think you need to buy something, even food, try to wait to the day after. It doesn’t always make sense but it is good to practise. Also, try buying only one thing not lots. Or if it is food so it is more than one thing have fun buying within a very limited budget, half what you normally spend.
    Make up your own tricks to get round spending, then what you do buy you value much more.
    The one bar of chocolate I buy a month tastes like heaven,and if I succumb and buy two the next one tastes of nothing.
    And whatever, have fun, no point otherwise

  4. Whenever possible, buy time and do something useful with it.

  5. “The Move Your Money project is a nonprofit campaign that encourages individuals and institutions to divest from the nation’s largest Wall Street banks and move to local financial institutions. Little has changed to prevent another financial crisis or to end ‘Too Big To Fail,’ and with Congress unwilling to act, we are encouraging individuals to take power into their own hands by voting with their dollars and no longer contributing to a financial system that has led our country astray. We are a campaign that gives people real, concrete actions they can take to create a more sane, stable and localized banking system.”

    For more info: http://moveyourmoneyproject.org/ (undoubtedly similar projects in other nations too beyond the US)

    The idea here is to bank with a CREDIT UNION or some form of community owned local bank. An important way to ‘vote with your money.” Same goes for superannuation or any investment. Know what you are supporting!

  6. Imagine if you knew where your money was being used when you invest it. Or better if your spare money went to help your friends and family. Put your money in a big bank, and you have lost any say as to what it is used for. It is YOUR money and possibly being used for purposes that you resent. Easiest way to counter htis if you don’t want to spend a lot of time and learn the ins and outs of the global finance system is to put your money in a local community credit union. Most of the money then remains in your local community, plus they are non profit and noone gets dividends.

  7. re: “Know your finances precisely” & “The 30-day money experiment”

    i agree with these in general, however i have a few small quibbles.

    first, “precisely” brings to mind the saying “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” 30 yrs ago when i graduated college and and began tracking my expenses, i usually had several hundred dollars a month that was cash spent that i didn’t know exactly where it went, but i knew most of it went to buying lunch at work, and the occasional beer & pizza with friends. even today, i sometimes still have a little bit of money i’m not sure exactly where it went, but i simply don’t worry about it any more. (yes, i sometimes have perfectionist tendencies, so not knowing “precisely” used to bug me.) but i do know where the majority of my money goes, which is the important thing.

    second, starting to track your money over the next month implies that you need to wait 30 days before you have enough info to do anything, which to me implies some people will abandon the effort part way thru.

    for many people, they can get a pretty good idea by looking backwards right now today. start with big expenses like rent, insurance, that you know. look thru your checkbook register, thru credit card statements or receipts, total up your ATM withdrawals from your bank account. more than likely, you won’t know precisely where all the cash went. however, you probably have a rough idea what proportion was spent on what type of activities. as in my example above, i knew most of my cash spending was lunch at work, and over time i worked to track more accurately.

    tracking your spending going forward is still necessary and useful, both to make you think about purchases before you make them (always a good idea), and also to get more accurate info.

    lastly, the real value to me was looking at the spending data and seeing if/how it lined up with my values. did i get $x amount of value from all those lunches? is there something else i’d rather have for that amount of money?

    –sgl

  8. I read Your Money or Your Life about 20 years ago and it changed the way I thought about and managed our money. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in becoming financially independent. I still record every cent we spend even after 20 years and find I still learn new ways of not wasting money. Because of YMOYL I stopped wasting money on ‘stuff’ and made a goal of paying our mortgage off by age 40. We missed our goal by 9 months but I was still pretty chuffed with our effort. Now 10 years later I still get a quiet satisfaction from knowing the banks can’t take our house away.

  9. Investing ethically is a challenging subject. I’ve worked pretty hard my whole life and am now in a position where mortgage is low and I have some ‘spare’ cash flow. But where to invest it – or whether to invest it at all – is a question that I struggle with. Obviously, the motivation should be to invest in companies that will contribute to the common good and which are not environmentally damaging. But that itself can be a difficult assessment.

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