How to Upgrade Your Life by Downsizing Your Lifestyle

By downsizing your lifestyle financially, you can upgrade your well-being.

Spending money can buy you more of all sorts of things — including stress. Ironically, while advertisers send the message that buying more will lead to more satisfaction in your life, the opposite is often true. The stress of paying for and maintaining too much stuff can decrease your well-being significantly. By downsizing your lifestyle financially, you can upgrade your well-being.

Cutting back on your spending can leave you feeling deprived if you view it in a negative light. But focusing on the peace you can gain in the process will shift your perspective. Our family has found that downsizing our lifestyle has led to a richer life than we ever could have experienced if we’d spent lots of money. It’s ironic, but it’s true: some of the greatest blessings come not just in spite of — but because of — sacrifice. Here are some ways you can downsize your lifestyle to upgrade your life:

Move to a less expensive home. My husband Russ and I are grateful that we decided years ago to buy a smaller and older house than we could afford. Freedom from the pressures of a large mortgage payment is priceless. We can use the money we don’t have to spend on housing costs to travel together internationally. Since we don’t have to spend all of our available time trying to earn money to pay big housing bills, we’re free to do enjoyable volunteer work we couldn’t otherwise pursue.

Even the lack of space in our home — which we had previously seen as a burden — has helped us grow into more generous people. Regularly, I clear out any stuff I can from our house and donate it to The Salvation Army or give it to friends. It has turned out to be a blessing in disguise that we don’t have a basement or garage to use for storage. The joy I get from giving others items they can use is much better than the stress I’d get from just watching clutter pile up in our house.

A small home also means less space to have to clean, lower utility bills and property taxes, and fewer repairs to handle. How many of your resources are tied up in your house? Are your housing demands preventing you from pursuing activities you sense God calling you to pursue? If your current home is costing you more than it’s worth, it may be time to move. A small home filled with peace is better than a mansion full of stress.

SEE ALSO: The Cost of Clutter

Give up an extra vehicle. A family in our neighborhood sold their car so they could continue to afford having the mom stay home with their three kids. On weekdays when the father, Andras, uses their van to drive to work, Szilvia walks with their kids to and from our local elementary school. If Szilvia happens to need the van on a particular day, Andras simply rides a bus to work.

Szilvia says that the time she spends talking with her kids on their daily walks is among the best time she spends with them. The whole family has also grown closer through learning to negotiate who gets the van when and working together to meet each other’s needs. Auto expenses (car payments, insurance premiums, repair costs, inspection fees, taxes, etc.) can add up to a significant amount in your budget. If your family doesn’t absolutely need more than one vehicle, consider selling whatever other ones you own. Extra time together (and extra exercise) is worth far more than extra vehicles sitting in your driveway.

Eat out less. We usually save restaurant visits for special occasions because a restaurant meal costs much more than one prepared at home. But the benefits of eating at home aren’t just financial. When you make your own meals, you can control what ingredients go into them and prepare food in healthier ways than you’d typically find at restaurants. Our decision to eat out less often forced me to learn to cook better, and I’m glad I did, because I discovered how creative the process can be. Now our family enjoys cooking together on weekends.

If restaurant meals are breaking your budget, try eating all your meals at home for a certain period of time and see how much your family comes to enjoy it. A creative, healthy meal that you all cook and eat together can be a richer experience than eating out in any restaurant.

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Take a “staycation.” The adventures you can have on trips help you grow in ways you couldn’t otherwise. But you don’t have to travel far to find new adventures with a “staycation” (a vacation you can enjoy without having to leave your local area). When you don’t buy expensive airplane tickets, stay in hotels, or incur any other expenses related to traveling to places far away, you can save a lot of money. Beyond that, though, you can discover exciting places in your region that you may have overlooked before.

We live in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. For just the price of a subway ticket, we can see everything from America’s largest museum (the Smithsonian) to famous national landmarks. But we’d miss out if we viewed those attractions only as tourist sites for out-of-town visitors. Although we do love to travel around the world when we can afford it, we also enjoy exploring our local area on staycations.

No matter where you live, you’ll find a lot to explore nearby if you do a bit of research. Check out the parks, art galleries, museums, theaters, sports venues, and other places close enough to visit on day trips.

When you have an attitude of constantly seeking new adventures close to home, you’re more likely to notice the wonder of what God is doing in your ordinary life. Great travel experiences can happen anywhere — not just in a glamorous, faraway place like on a safari in Kenya or in a bistro in France. Some of the most enriching experiences you’ll have will be close to home.

Eliminate extras. Unnecessary indulgences like manicures, fancy coffee shop drinks, and high tech gadgets that do what you can do yourself can waste a lot of your hard-earned money. When you let go of them, you learn how to separate what you truly need from what you merely want. That will do a lot to help you see your life from a more healthy perspective.

Like most families, your schedule may be full of lots of good activities. But just because they’re all good doesn’t mean that you should keep doing all of them. You can save time as well as money when you cut back on your family’s unnecessary activities, such as weekend golf games. Letting go of activities that are good but not the best for your family right now will free you all from the stress of constant busyness and give you more downtime with each other. That can only strengthen your relationships, even as you strengthen your bank account by spending less.

SEE ALSO: Reduce Stress in Your Life

Take a hard look at your current schedule to figure out what activities you can drop to give your family something even more valuable: downtime together. It’s often during that free, unscheduled time that the best conversations can happen between you. Downtime also gives you each a chance to rest and recharge, so you’ll be more likely to enjoy the activities you do decide to keep in your schedule. Eliminating extras leaves room in your life to notice the blessings you already have — ones that go beyond what money can buy.

Whitney Hopler works as Communications Director at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being and has written for many media organizations, from to the Washington Post. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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