Want More From Life Simplify - picture of family's legs and feet lying in the grass

Want More from Life? Simplify.

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Is it me or is life more complicated these days? It seems like we’re doing everything backwards. Instead of living our best lives, we work our tails off, waste our money on a bunch of crap, get involved in everything under the sun, and try to create a life with what’s left over.

Our family used to do this exact thing. We constantly traded in cars, bought the giant cable TV package, and went out to eat almost every night. It was normal everyday life, and we weren’t the only people caught in the cycle.

The thing is, all that stuff meant nothing to us. We’ve never cared about the way things looked. We don’t need fancy cars or clothes to fit in. But, we kept going all the same. Unfortunately, our sloppy spending forced us to work harder so we could keep up with the ridiculous lifestyle we created.

So we worked…and we worked…and we worked some more. We put in crazy hours, dreaming every day about the day we could take our next vacation…and wondering if we’d ever have the money to take it. We were living to work instead of working to live.

We had filled our lives with stuff we didn’t want and didn’t need, but that’s not the worst part. We finally realized that all this junk was holding us back. It was standing in the way of our dreams. To live the life we wanted, we had to get out of our own way, ditch the stuff, and make things simple again.

Maybe you’re in a similar situation. Perhaps you’re wondering why you can’t ever seem to get ahead. Maybe you’d love save more, travel more, and retire earlier too. I’m here to tell you that you can.

Too often, the things we think we need are simply distractions from our true goals. Worse, they can cost us big bucks. Here are some ways simplifying our lives can put the cash we need back in our wallets.

Cars

Cars are the great American money flusher. Did you know the average auto loan now stands at an all-time high of over $30,000? Average monthly payments are also at an all-time high of $503 per month, with loans extending to an average of 68 months (5.6 years). Essentially, we’ve lengthened the terms of car loans to trick ourselves into thinking we can actually afford them. Newsflash: We can’t.

Now, think about the fact that 50% of American families have two or more cars. It’s no wonder we’re broke!

What if you simplified? What if you bought used instead of new? What if you paid cash instead of financing that car you think you need? What could you do with an extra $500+ every month? That’s an extra $6,000 a year back in your pocket! Seriously, six grand is a lot of money, and it can be yours when you simplify.

Houses

Look, I like having a nice house as much as the next person. Truth be told, I’m slightly addicted to real estate. But, owning a gigantic house can make life more complex and expensive than it needs to be.

Many of us think we should get the big house right away. Growing up in our parents’ starter castle makes anything less seem…well…small and inadequate. Unfortunately, we forget that our parents probably worked for decades to afford the house we grew up in. Additionally, utility bills cost more, property taxes are higher, and repairs in a big house are typically more expensive. Then there is the issue of furnishing and decorating more space. It all adds up.

Even when you can “afford” more, sticking with a smaller house gives you the freedom to spend money in other areas that those who are house poor can’t.

Athletics / Kids Activities

Are you constantly running your young children to sporting events and other activities? Saturday its soccer. Monday it’s basketball. Tuesday it’s karate. Wednesday it’s basketball again. Thursday it’s piano…It has to be dreadfully tiring, and it can be a huge drain on your pocketbook.

Look, we all want the best for our kids. But somewhere along the line, we decided it’s normal for a 6-year-old to have a full calendar every night. We’ve convinced ourselves they’ll never succeed if we “don’t start them now.” To make it happen, we complicate our lives, spend absurd amounts of money, and usually take the fun out of the process.

Remember, children’s activities are typically big money makers for the adults who promote them. Instead of chasing a “full-ride” athletic scholarship, consider putting that money into a college fund instead. You’ll almost certainly have more to show for it, and your life will be far less complex and more enjoyable if you do.

Television

Want to know how to simplify your life and save money doing it? Turn off the boob tube. Seriously, turn it off and cut the cord to cable. Here’s how we did it years ago, and now we couldn’t be happier.

Honestly, cutting the cord to cable was extremely liberating. It saved us tons of money, and we “found” hours a day that we were wasting by staring at a screen. In fact, we used that time to start this blog as a hobby. Now, it’s a full-time career.

These days, even sports lovers can cut the cord. Subscription services are available for most professional sports leagues, and Sling TV has several ESPN channels available live. (Get a free 7-day trial here.) So, if you’re worried you’ll miss your sports, don’t be. You can still watch sports and save.

Gadgets

Twenty years ago, we didn’t even have to worry about this. Now, gadgets drain our pocketbooks left and right.

It’s kind of silly when you think about it. We’ve made our lives so complex that we “need” toys like smartphones, iPads, and Kindles to help us navigate them. Then, we spend even more for data plans, software, and other gadgets to make the best use of the gadgets we just bought. It takes a ton of time (and money) to set this all this up… only to go and change gadgets when the next big thing comes along.

If you’re struggling with your spending, the first place to look is at your gadgets. While I’m realistic enough to know you’re not going to get rid of these things, at least shop for some low-cost options. For instance, I’ve used a discount cell phone company (Ting) for years. I still get to use my Samsung Galaxy, but I do it for like $30/month. It’s one of the easiest things you can change that could save you hundreds a year.

Final Thoughts

Getting ahead is about making choices. Simplifying your life can help you save on things that are unimportant so you’ll have more for the things you love. With just a few minor changes, you may be able to starting spending less and living more.

What have you done to simplify your life? How are your results? Let us know below!

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21 Comments

  1. That’s all very true! I know many people who have bought massive houses and they only sleep in them ’cause they’re working like crazy to pay for them! Can you see the logic here? I can’t!

    I was working my butt off for the last couple of years – more promotions, more money but I was getting less and less happy. All materialistic things made me happy only for a short period of time and after that I was always coming back to my usual unhappy self. Spending more time with my family and friends and helping people (doing something that’s really rewarding) make me the happiest – I’ve discovered that!

    After saving enough money, I decided to quit my stable and well-paid sales job and go back to teaching English 🙂 Couldn’t be happier.

    Wish you all the best!
    Mxo

    1. Awesome! Congratulations Marta. I’m glad to hear you’ve found something you love. In the end, simplifying your life gives you more choices. To us, that’s what sound money management is all about!

  2. My biggest thing that we have to work on is just getting rid of ‘Stuff’ that we once needed, but keep around for some reason. I walk through my basement and look and it blows my mind how much stuff is there. It’s overwhelming to the mind and soul.

    1. Oh man, stuff can really overwhelm me too. We actually just went through a bunch of our junk and donated it. Honestly, it felt really good just to get rid of it.

  3. Thanks for the specific ways to simplify our lives. 🙂 I think the rapid availability of information makes it easier to complicate your life. We set up all of these expectations instead of doing what’s best for ourselves.

    Ironically, your life simplifies automatically if you try to eliminate/decrease bills to get out of debt. We got rid of a car payment, switched to Google Fi for cheaper (and simpler) phone bills, and cooked at home.

    1. You’re exactly right. With fewer bills and less debt, you spend less, need less, and have way more options.

  4. Learning to tell other “no” and decluttering around our house have helped us simplify our life. Having a three kids is busy enough but when you have a full calendar and a ton of crap to organize, clean, find, etc it can be exhausting.

    1. That’s a great point. I’m a natural “people pleaser” and an “overachiever,” so I really had to work on learning how to say no. It’s really helped me keep things under control.

  5. The kids activities one is so true. I always thought people were a bit nuts to take on so many activities that they have no downtime together as a family. Every evening after work is go-go-go, and weekends are taken up too. My older two boys are in boy scouts, and my middle son also does his schools drama club (which is free). They also both take a free fitness class at the YMCA a few times a week. This keeps them both plenty busy, but without huge expenses and with plenty of time to watch movies together on the weekend.

    1. Yeah, I think there is a fine line there. Personally, I want my kids to be involved and I want them to learn the values of hard work, teamwork, etc. But, they’re only 5 and 7. They don’t need to be practicing like their on the varsity team at this age. I’d like them to enjoy what they are doing and still have time to be a kid. I don’t want all their childhood memories to be in a gym. At least, that’s how I feel about it.

    2. Yeah, I think there is a fine line there. Personally, I want my kids to be involved and I want them to learn the values of hard work, teamwork, etc. But, they’re only 5 and 7. They don’t need to be practicing like their on the varsity team at this age. I’d like them to enjoy what they are doing and still have time to be a kid. I don’t want all their childhood memories to be in a gym. At least, that’s how I feel about it.

  6. We wondered if it was risky to go down to one car, with a family of 5. We are 3 years into it and it’s fine so far. Where it gets most tricky is if the kids have conflicting game times and it just means dropping one parent off early at one game which ends up creating some bonding time. The simplicity of one car, and the ease on the pocketbook, has been the greatest reward. Also it forces us to say no to more things because we can’t pull it off with one car. Saying no to something means saying yes to more family time or down time at home. Most of my kids’ classmates don’t seem to get much of that anymore and I can see it in the kids.

    1. Hey Kelly, thanks so much for your comments! We’ve actually just become a one-car family ourselves, so I’m glad to hear that it still works as the kids get older. I love your point about how you are “forced” to say no more often. I never even thought about that when we made the switch, but I like your style 😉

      1. Another side benefit is that at times it creates a bit of sense of adventure…you have to figure out how you will solve the problem of getting everyone where they need to be. Sometimes it might involves bikes, bus, walking and you must plan ahead. You don’t take transportation for granted as much as you used to. I’ve never regretted a single time that we’ve had to creatively stretch to make it work, and I also enjoy having to problem-solve it with my spouse, it becomes something to bond over. Sounds so silly but as you progress in life you start to appreciate the simple things more and accomplishing the task successfully can give you a huge sense of satisfaction (for free!)

      2. Another side benefit is that at times it creates a bit of sense of adventure…you have to figure out how you will solve the problem of getting everyone where they need to be. Sometimes it might involves bikes, bus, walking and you must plan ahead. You don\’t take transportation for granted as much as you used to. I\’ve never regretted a single time that we\’ve had to creatively stretch to make it work, and I also enjoy having to problem-solve it with my spouse, it becomes something to bond over. Sounds so silly but as you progress in life you start to appreciate the simple things more and accomplishing the task successfully can give you a huge sense of satisfaction (for free!)

  7. Greg, I don’t have TV cable for years, and it’s one of the wisest decisions I have ever made. Not only did I manage to save money but also I’ve had more time for family and side hustles. The only time I catch up with my favorite shows is when I’m in the train, going to work, and whenever I have spare time for current events.

  8. The best part of living simply is that you never seem to be as stressed. Everything else around you can stay the same (kids, job, etc) but because you have less clutter, less stuff, and smaller spaces, it seems to not be as big of a deal! I love living simply!

  9. Willie Trotter says:

    Thanks for the post Greg! I’am making an evaluation after reading your post how I’ve set things up in my own thinking. I noticed that after buying some high ticket items in the past how I felt afterwards. Many times it didn’t feel right and I just disregarded my feelings without thinking. I see now how their needs to be a shift regarding what I value. Thanks for pointing it out!

    1. Thanks so much Willie! Glad to hear you enjoyed the piece and that it’s motivating you to take positives steps 🙂

  10. Diane taber says:

    Hi we really want to get out of debt.and then and only then we can start building wealth.

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