Live a Good Life in a Bad Economy - The Simple Life
Article by Jeannette Samanen Ph. D
Jackie enjoyed great success in sales until the economy tanked, and she watched her commissions shrink. Jackie drove a fancy car, ate at expensive restaurants and spent heavily on entertainment. She enjoyed looking good and liked buying the latest fashions. She saw no way to maintain her lifestyle, however, on a fraction of her normal income.
Jackie felt upset and depressed about her shrinking means, until she came to view the situation as a challenge. When she stepped back to consider where she could economize, Jackie identified a number of ways to cut back. As she began to live more simply, Jackie learned to do without many of the things she had long considered necessities. Though Jackie's financial situation remained tight, living simply relieved a lot of the pressure and totally changed her experience of the situation.
You Can't Control the Economy, but You'll Reduce Its Impact if You Simplify Your Life.
We're living in hard economic times. You may have little or no control over shrinking income or the declining value of your investment portfolio. You do, however, have control over how you deal with these realities. The way you handle reduced financial circumstances will significantly impact your situation. Learning to live simply will help relieve the pressure.
Our culture tells us that the key to happiness is that expensive new car, a big house or the latest greatest electronic device. However, research shows that obtaining something new makes you happy only briefly. You soon habituate to whatever you just bought, leaving you no happier than you were before. Before long you are looking for the next great thing, which will ultimately disappoint you, as well. When you recognize that the things you buy do not create happiness you take the first step toward living simply.
Learn to know the difference between what you want and what you need.
We all have basic needs: the fundamental needs of food, clothing and shelter, the need for transportation, the need for entertainment. In our affluent society, it's easy to get confused between what you want and what you need. Learn to ask yourself, "Do I really need this, or is it just something I want?"
For example, you need a car to get around, but a smaller car with better gas mileage will do the job and be better for the environment than the flashy model of your dreams. You may want a new outfit, but do you really need it? If your answer to this question is "Yes!" then learn to enjoy the treasure hunt that shopping at consignment stores provides. You can even consign some of your own clothes that you no longer need.
Jackie had never had much interest in cooking. She ate out so much, she didn't need to bother. Once she started eating - and entertaining - at home she found she actually enjoyed creating dishes for herself and her friends.
By disconnecting her cable service, Jackie saved the monthly fees which added up over the year. It was hard to imagine living without multiple TV channels until she joined a book club and discovered the pleasure of reading books. The books cost her nothing, since she got them from the library, and she enjoyed the lively discussions with her book club friends, also free of charge.
The Best Things in Life are Free
In addition to the needs mentioned above, we have other basic needs: the need for love and companionship, the need to feel a sense of accomplishment, and the spiritual need for connection to a source greater than ourselves. Here is the great news: satisfying these needs takes no money at all.
When you simplify your life, you free time and attention that can be devoted to the things that give true satisfaction. Spending more time with your family and friends, walking in nature, spending time in prayer, meditation, or religious fellowship will enhance your life more than material possessions ever can.
Less involved with entertaining for business, Jackie spent more time with her family and friends. She also found time to run in the evenings after work. As her arms and legs pumped in rhythm to her breathing, she learned to release the stresses of the day. Though her sales figures remained low, her speed and distance improved steadily, providing her with a sense of accomplishment.
Jackie took the old guitar she had from her college days out of the closet where it had been gathering dust. On some evenings when discouragement threatened to overtake her, playing her guitar seemed to help. Strumming the familiar chords didn't improve her financial situation, but it distracted her from her worries relaxed her and somehow put things in perspective. The satisfaction Jackie gained from steady progress with her music offset her unhappiness about the bad economy and its impact on her life.
Jackie has come to value living simply. She doesn't miss many of the things she once assumed were a necessary part of her life. In many ways, she finds her life richer than when she had greater financial security.
No one knows when the economy is going to improve. By learning to live simply, you can get more enjoyment from your life while you are waiting.