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Why complicate our lives when living simple is so much easier? Some simple living tips to get you started!
By Arundhati Venkatesh
A couple of months into my marriage, I found a diary in which I had written down my expenses (or should I say my excesses?) during singledom. Soon enough, responsibility caught up with me. I maintained some semblance of accounts for a while, roughly tracked expenditure data, plotted pie-charts and analyzed finances to understand how much went where.
Living simple became a way of life over the years, and I no longer need to watch myself. My work at an NGO serves as a constant reminder – a couple of thousand rupees is all it takes to feed a child for an entire year. Having little free time on my hands deters excessive spending. Of course, I still have my weaknesses and do indulge myself – a couple of times a year – planned, budgeted indulgences.
Here are some simple living ideas that I’ve learnt along the way:
– Having seen my in-laws deal with stuff accumulated over decades in their old age – the lofts were full and there was as much dust as there was stuff – we decided we wouldn’t have any lofts. By limiting storage space, we are forced to limit what we own. It has worked, so far.
– In the West, it is fashionably called ‘annual de-clutter’, or spring-cleaning. In India, people traditionally clean and clear up before Diwali. Doesn’t matter what you call it, just do it. When I carry out this exercise, I realize how much I already have and don’t use. Makes me think twice before I buy anything more!
By limiting storage space, we are forced to limit what we own.
– Resist the latest fads. Tell yourself this too shall pass – after all, non-stick is now thought to cause health issues and people are going back to traditional ware.
– Reuse, recycle, re-purpose and upcycle. My grandmother used Nescafe jars to store her spices long before these terms were coined.
– A friend says she learnt a rule of thumb from her mother-in-law – when she buys something new, she has to give away something old.
– Never just walk in to a store, always step in armed with a list.
– Devise a way to budget the time spent shopping – even if it is the weekly trip to the supermarket – it automatically makes you spend less and buy only what you need.
– Reduce the number of shopping trips for non-essentials. I do an annual expedition to buy clothes for the kiddo, like the old days when we went to the shops only for birthdays and Diwali, never in between.
– We have a ‘no birthday gift’ policy. That way, we have a say in what the kid has, and avoid accumulating.
– Check price tags, pause, think. Ask yourself if you really need it, where will you put it? If you are not sure, go around and come back later to see if you still feel you want it.
– Look out for sales for good deals and fairs where you get discounts.
– Every city has its own flea markets. Yes, in India too. Find out about them.
– Shopping for pre-loved books is a pleasure for all the senses, and as a bonus it is lighter on the pocket.
– A library membership may work out well too.
– If you are living in rented accommodation, it might be wise to buy pre-owned furniture off portals – people having to move are looking to find a new home for some very lovely furniture that would cost twice as much in stores.
– Don’t fall into the deal trap and buy more! If you do, make sure you gift it to someone.
If you are living in rented accommodation, it might be wise to buy pre-owned furniture off portals…
– Someone rightly said, “The best things in life aren’t things.” You don’t have to pay through your nose to have a great day. Days out that cost next to nothing – museums, the planetarium or art gallery, parks.
– Find out what’s on in your city – handicraft exhibitions, book fairs, theatre, film festivals.
– Eating out doesn’t have to cost a bomb either. Every city has some great eat-out options at affordable prices that you can replace some of those fine dining experiences with.
– Water, electricity, fuel, paper and food – all cost money. Yet another reason not to be wasteful.
– At present rates, petrol *is* liquid gold. Walk. Car-pool. Use public transport where possible. Club visits and errands.
– Go natural. Try having a banana and a glass of milk or a handful of nuts as a mid-morning snack, instead of processed food, fried snacks or biscuits. Why spend good money and fill your body up with toxins?
– Seasonal fruit and vegetables are cheaper and good for you too.
– Local produce is always less expensive, plus you reduce your carbon footprint and the local farmer benefits.
– If you are not a heavy mobile user, switching to a prepaid connection is economical.
– Gym membership versus a walk in the fresh air
– Fed up of mindless TV programming, we decided to live without cable television. A year later, we opted for a digital TV connection where we could custom-build a package with a few select channels for as little as Rs. 150 a month. The pay-as-you-use option also lets us go without TV for long spells. There is comfort in the thought that we can always activate it when we want to – like when it is Olympics time!
– Having lost one mobile phone and damaging another irreparably in the washing machine, I was guilt-ridden and looking for cheap instruments. I came across this comment which summed it up for me – “This Rs. 1000 phone has given me something my earlier 30K Galaxy could not give me – peace of mind!”
If that isn’t incentive enough, reward yourself by spending a small percentage of what you save on the things that really matter to you. Happy simple living!
*Photo credit: Mizrak (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
Arundhati Venkatesh is a children's writer. Her books have won several awards, including the
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