Living a Simple Life

When Thanksgiving draws near, it's time to take stock. Have you been sucked into the "more is better" message of the media? Or have you discovered the delight of living a simple life? I'd like to show you several ways to jump off the bandwagon of commercialism and take the path to a life of simple joy.

Some families save from necessity and others are natural dollar stretchers. Still others scrimp in some areas in order to enjoy the finer things in life. Regardless of the reason, thrift doesn't mean deprivation. It's a matter of looking at your glass as half full and of wanting what you have. Practical by nature, super savers are optimists at heart.

Our homes are shelter and refuge from harsh realities. We all need a roof over our heads and a place to bond with our family. A home can be a one-room apartment or a seventy-room mansion. If you choose a house within your means, your life will ultimately be easier. When buying a house, consider all the financial factors: the monthly payments, the closing costs and any current or future add-ons to the payments like street improvements or additional stoplights. If it will be a struggle to pay the bill each month, look for a lower priced home.

What if you already have a house that's bigger than your budget? Look into refinancing. You may save thousands. However, you will have to repay the closing costs and additional fees, which are usually figured into a lower payment. The bottom line is know your finances and buy accordingly.

Transportation is a necessity. Owning one or more vehicles is another large portion of the budget. It is more savvy to own a five-year-old or even ten-year-old car if it runs reliably than signing your life away for a shiny new 2004 Mercedes. By the time it is paid for, it will be a few years old anyways.

A quick look in your closets will reveal your spending habits. Are there an abundance of designer labels, expensive items that must be drycleaned or pieces you paid full price for? Clothing doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. You can find great-fitting clothes for the whole family on clearance, pick up basics at discount stores and shop thrift stores for one-of-a-kind designer clothing. I found a brand-new leather jacket for $5 with the $300 price tag still attached. It was missing a button, but I hardly think one button was worth $295.

If a weekly trip to the grocery store is a nightmare of overspending, rethink your supermarket strategy. Watch for sales, clip and use coupons and stock up when you spot a bargain. Even a family of four or more can eat well on a limited budget.

Eating out often is becoming a luxury. A trip to a fast-food restaurant can easily add up to $20 for a family of four. One way to save is to only buy sandwiches and provide your own drinks and sides at home. Or you could go in for just desserts. Limiting your trips through drive-thrus has an unexpected bonus: everyone appreciates it more when you do go out for a meal or a treat.

Entertainment consumes a large portion of most budgets, but it doesn't have to. Forget going to the theater and rent a DVD for a family movie night. Or see a show at the discount theatre for a great night out for under $10, popcorn included.

Family fun can be had for free. An evening picnic under the stars on a warm summer night is more memorable to your children than 10 DVDs or hours playing video games.

You don't have to earn six figures to be happy. Learn to appreciate the things you have instead of always wanting something bigger or more expensive and you will truly be thankful for less.

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