How to Spend Less, Save More, and Reclaim Your Joy
Cait Flanders radically simplified her life in the space of 12 months and recounts the process in her recently released memoir, The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered that Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buyin a Store.
By living on an average of 51% of her income, Flanders saved $17,000 and used another $10,000 for personal travel during the year. She also purged 70% of her belongings. Impressive, don't you think?
But The Year of Less is about so much more than simple living. It's about facing yourself and your demons, and in so doing finding the courage to create a healthier and happier life.
During her self-imposed shopping ban, which allowed her to buy consumables and replacements only, Flanders came face-to-face with her addictions, especially during periods when her life suddenly turned upside down.
During intense times, Flanders indulged in binge eating, binge t.v.watching, and felt tempted to take a drink after many months of sobriety. Life events triggered anxiety and depression that took her to bed for weeks at a time.
If any of these habits or challenges sound familiar to you, feel encouraged because, with time and insight, Flanders found the strength to say “no” to these self-harming habits and create life-affirming ones in their place.
What You Can Learn from The Year of Less
Are you stuck in a cycle of always wanting more, but never feel fully satisfied? Do you spend more than you bring in, digging yourself further and further into debt? Are you trying to find happiness through material possessions, but find the joy you experience little more than fleeting? Are you wanting to save for retirement but never have a cent left over at the end of the month? Would you like to have funds available for personal travel or to explore new endeavors, but find there isn’t a penny in your savings account?
If so, The Year of Less can help you learn to relate to money, possessions, and consumerism in a completely new and liberating way.
This is what Flander’s learned from her 12-month shopping ban:
In challenging myself not to shop for an entire year, I was setting myself up either for failure or for the most prosperous year of my life, and I’m happy to say it was the letter. Throughout the entire journey, I was forced to slow down, discover my triggers to spend and to over consume, and face and change my bad habits. I gave up the things that marketers try to convince us we should want in life: the newest and greatest of everything, anything that can fix our problems, and whatever is in style. I exchanged it all for the basic necessities and, after a year of not being able to buy anything new, realized that was all I needed. That was all anybody needed. I had always been stuck in the cycle of wanting more, buying more and then needing more money. The ban uncovered the truth, which was that when you decide to want less, you can buy less and, ultimately, need less money.
Flander’s shopping ban was such a complete success that the very next day after its completion, she announced she would carry on and do it for another year. At the end of the second year, she decided not to repeat the experiment because mindful consumerism had become a way of life.
What You Can Learn from Decluttering
This is what Flanders learned from purging 70% of her belongs:
Decluttering and purging 70% of my belongings came with different lessons. I realized I had spent the first 29 years of my life doing and buying whatever I could to be someone I thought I should be. I kept so many things, and consumed the wrong things, all because I never felt like I was good enough. I wasn’t smart enough or professional enough or talented enough or creative enough. I didn’t trust that who I was or what I brought to the table in any situation was already unique, so I bought things that could make me better. Then I spent a year sorting through the mess and figuring out who I was. A writer and a reader. Hiker and traveler. Dog owner and animal lover. Sister, daughter, and friend. It turned out I had never been someone who valued material objects. I valued the people in my life and the experiences we shared together. None of that could be found in the belongings in my home. It had always been in my heart.
How would feel if you purged 25% of your belongings? How about 50%? If you see and feel the benefits, let it inspired you to get started.
Inside the Year of Less
In her memoir, Flander takes you through each month of her year of less, sharing the personal obstacles and challenges she encountered as well as her successes in an intimate and sometimes heart-wrenching way. She also shares glimpses of her history and the insights that helped her detach from unhealthy habits and create positive ones.
You’ll also find the 10-step “Your Guide to Less” instructions at the end of the book, which you can put into play if you choose to follow in Flander’s footsteps.
Create Your Own Experiment in Less
If you feel all charged up and ready to take on a year of less, good for you.
But if you feel a full-on shopping ban like Flander’s is too radical, too big, too overwhelming for you, you can start with whatever feels comfortable to you.
Create your own experiment. Cut out takeout coffee (or any other item) for a defined period and see how much that alone saves you. Or try a decluttering experiment. You can design your own shopping ban and decluttering program in whatever ways make sense to you.
Dominating my financial reality has been on my radar since the beginning of year. Inspired by Flanders, this is what I'll do for the next month:
- Consistently track all my expenses in Mint.
- Track my cash expenses in a small notebook so I can allocate them correctly.
- Refrain from buying anything new for 30 days, except consumables and replacements (only if absolutely needed). Decide if I want to continue at the end of 30 days.
- Embark on a 7-day streaming ban, meaning no Netflix or Amazon video. I'm on day four. This past month, I've watch some fantastic programs on Netflix including Alias Grace and Wild Wild Country. But I find it easy to become addicted to lower quality programs that have little redeeming value. Instead, in the evening, I'm listening to teachings from Sri Prem Baba's 2018 India season, which edify and uplift me. There are 39+hours of teachings on topics like love, boredom, and ethics. You can listen for free. The talks are in Brazilian with simultaneous translation into English.
What would you like to commit to? Be sure to reflect on your "why." Knowing your why will help you make it through whatever time period you allocate for your experiment in less. If you would like more inspiration, read How I Simplified My Life and You Can Too.
Through her simple living experiment, Flanders discovered her true self and what matters most in her life. The same could happen for you. Because that's the power of simple living, it makes you look within, it makes you think.
The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered That Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders, Hay House, Inc,. 216 pgs.
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