Friday, October 21, 2011

8 Tips on Living Simply

For the past five years, I've run our household on a student budget.

Though I've griped about pinching pennies, and yearned for a better tomorrow, I believe God has used these years to teach me that simple living is an attitude not a circumstance. You may dwell in a shack, but live cluttered and discontent; or you may reside in a palace and understand simplicity.

Regardless of external dwelling, simple living is a heart issue that develops with an attitude of gratitude {see this post}.

30 Days of gratitude- Day  14
photo credit: Louise Docker {flicker Creative Commons}

And over the past five years, I've undergone a heart transplant, and I've gleaned these 8 valuable tips and lessons on living simply:

1. Count your blessings {Grandma was right and so was little Marcy}
- Simple living begins with an attitude. A prayer of change. Ask God to help you see all the blessings He's given you. {I keep a gratitude journal. I recommend Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts}. When I realize just how much I already possess {by God's grace}, my appetite for stuff wanes. I'm learning that contentment doesn't stem from things or status, it stems from a heart of gratitude.

2. Spouses Unite!- Communicate with your spouse about money goals and create a budget together. For a few years, my husband and I were on different wavelengths regarding money, but now that we're united, we keep each other accountable and spur each other on.

3.Avoid Debt- Debt is a ball & chain. Our family has chosen to live within our means {spend less than we make}. We make a budget and stick to it {of course I fail at times, like when I hear mint chip ice cream calling my name}.

I recommend Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover for an awesome method of attacking debt & making a budget.

4. Save then Buy {in that order}- It's something we did as kids, right? We held out our coins and the cashier told us what we could purchase, and viola, we actually went home with some extra coins.

I've noticed that in saving for something, I've have time to really think about whether it's really a need or want. I take time to research and end up with quality items, avoiding impulsive buys. After making the purchase, I feel like I've made a good decision, and I haven't wasted money by paying interest.

5. Avoid purchases that breed oppression of others- This is a difficult and sensitive issue, but I'm coming to see how God loves justice. He longs for us to treat others with respect, to help the poor and the marginalized. For that reason, my husband and I have rejected credit cards. It's a system that oppresses the poor and uneducated. It's a system that shows no mercy.

When purchasing things keep Micah 6:8 in mind, "He has showed you o man what is good and what the Lord requires of you. To do justice. To love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

Does our desire for more stuff mean poverty for others? Ask yourself who and what am I really supporting?

When you make less, good quality, just purchases, you'll have a uncluttered house and mind.

6. Buy Whole Foods- Buy flour and make a cake as opposed to opening a package. The packaged stuff is more expensive and unhealthy anyway. We've noticed a significant difference in our grocery bill by shopping the perimeter of the store.

7. Learn to enjoy the "free" things--Who said entertainment always has to cost? Why not take a walk as a family and learn about fall leaves, or borrow books and DVDs from the library? Remember that the most valuable possession you have is time with loved ones.

8. Get Creative- I've found having boundaries makes me creative {isn't that how it always works?}. I now make my own household cleaners and facial cleansers, and my son loves to help! It's been a delight to tap into my creativity. One of the greatest things that has come out of five years of boundaries is fiction writing. For me, writing stories toward justice is far more exhilarating than purchasing a new pair of jeans. I love the thought of leaving these stories for my sons.

My husband and I won't be in this student phase forever, but I pray that regardless of our economic situation, our family will continue to embrace simplicity.

Let's talk: What other tips do you have on living simply? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Melanie N. Brasher is a full time mama of two boys and wife to an incredible husband who understands her bicultural upbringing. She moonlights as a fiction and freelance writer, crafting stories and articles toward justice and change, and dreams of becoming a voice for the unheard. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a contributing blogger for Hoosier Ink and Ungrind. Though she’s an aspiring author, she’ll never quit her day job.


  1. Excellent list, Joy. It's hard when the "rest of the world" makes fun of you for doing these things, but it's worth it. And though I do well in these areas, I can still improve in each one.

  2. Thanks Joy, a timely message for me to read!

  3. Thanks for sharing, Joy. We try to live by many of those same principles, and it's amazing what some deem "necessities" that we happily live without. For example, we often get ribbed for eschewing cable, satellite, dish, etc., TV and opting for free with rabbit ears. Oh, and we keep our thermostat set on 66 during the winter days and 63 at night; in the summer, I usually don't turn on the air conditioning until it's good and hot, say 82--and that's only if it reaches that temp before noon (we do have a whole house fan that wonderfully cools the entire house by running it at night for a fraction of the cost of air conditioning). Living below your means IS possible, if you're willing to keep your eyes on your family and not worry about the neighbors and friends:).

  4. Dave Ramsey, that's all I need to hear. My husband and I have done this and taught this class. Its life changing! We are months away from being debt free other than our home. Yippee!