I’m drawn to the minimalistic lifestyle. We never made an intentional choice to live minimally, but our semi-nomadic lifestyle (and income level) has shaped how many possessions we currently have. I am also very aware of becoming like my mother and storing every piece of paper from my children’s school years in boxes in the basement, as well as every stuffed animal they ever owned, and tubs and tubs of Christmas decorations that could not possibly all be used at one time without the house looking like a Hobby Lobby in November.
When we left Asia in the beginning of 2015, we shipped about 6 boxes back to the US and sold or gave the rest of our stuff away. Once we settled into a little townhouse, we hit up Craigslist to furnish our place.
Our monthly income rests on the donations of individuals who believe in the non-profit missions work we do and who support us financially. We continue to live simply so that we can pursue work that we feel called to do and that we think is important.
We are not heroes. We are very normal people. I suppose in one sense, we have chosen to live like this because we both have college degrees and could certainly make more money than we do now, but in another way, it doesn’t feel like a choice. It just feels like this is the way we should live our lives. So we do.
Somedays, it would be nice to have the means to buys lots of new clothes and go out to eat whenever we wanted (or hire a personal chef), but on those particular days, I remind myself of why we do what we do, of how little some people have (people we have befriended around the world and some in our own country), so those thoughts generally do not last long.
In fact, most of the time, I really enjoy living a simple life. Life feels less cluttered this way. And we are still happy (most of the time). But we don’t live minimalistically for minimalism’s sake. We live this way so that others can hear about God and to help better their lives here on earth.Living minimally for an eternal impact. #minimalism #missions Click To Tweet
I think that when we actually sit down and look at what we spend every month, we realize just how much money we waste on what does not really matter and certainly does not have any real eternal impact. I’m not against a good pedicure or a night out, but if my spending is only on what makes me or my family happy, then I need to reconsider Jesus’ words that where my treasure is, so is my heart.
This is by no means an exhaustive list or a list of what you should do. I’m sure there’s ways that you save that we do not and vice versa, but I hope it sparks some new ideas on ways that you can save so that you can give more.
1. We shop sales
This is obvious, but really, I shop sales. First of all, I don’t buy clothes that often. We try to wear them out until there’s a reason to buy more. Living in China helped me to see that you can actually repair old shoes and mend old clothes (more on this later).
But when I do see something on sale that I know the kids or I will wear in the future, I get it, and save it until we need it. (I also do this when I see items that can be used as gifts at the next birthday party or shower!)
I also just tried out second-hand online clothes shop, ThredUp. And I was really impressed! It’s like shopping at a posh consignment shop with really great prices and from the comfort of your own home. I got 3 sweaters and a shirt for around $30. They have a lot of quality brand names as well. They are currently running a promo on their Express clothes, so if you want to check them out, use this code EXPRESS50 (FYI- I was so impressed with ThredUp, I asked them if I could collaborate, so in exchange for store credit, I’m reviewing them here on my blog!)
I also have gotten more into shopping sales at the grocery store. I used to just toss out ads from grocery stores that I didn’t usually go to, but I now I take a look. In the past month, I’ve saved over $50 with BOGO sales and deep discounts when they were overstocked. This can really add up!
2. We rarely eat out.
We probably eat out once every couple of months. Frankly, this is not that big of a sacrifice when you have little ones because eating out is often more stressful than eating in. By not eating out, we save a chunk of money that can be used for other things.
And when we do eat out? It feels really special.
3. We canceled our trash service.
This seems crazy, right? Honestly, when we were looking at how to cut back spending, I didn’t even know this was an option. But it is.
Every week, my husband was taking our papers and plastics to the recycling center anyway, so why not add in our trash and save an extra $20 a month? I didn’t even know there was a place to put trash at our recycling center, but there is. You could also try your local dump. They do trash. 🙂
4. We don’t do Starbucks
Okay, I shouldn’t say NEVER, but I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been in the last year. If I’m really craving a specialized coffee, I make myself and iced on or a flavored one at home.
5. We make our kids work for their toys
If the kids want a new toy, we don’t usually go out and buy it for them. They either do chores around the house or they try to sell some of their old toys on one of the Facebook marketplace sites. This not only helps us to save money, but also teaches them that different toys have different value and that money doesn’t grow on trees. If they want something, they have to work for it. There is no shame in this.
Our kids are not worse off because they don’t have the latest everything. We remind them that many children don’t have anything. We use some of the money that they earn to give to kids around the world who don’t have clean water or access to education. This helps them see that they are in fact, extremely wealthy, even without the newest Lego Angry Birds set.
6. We use Christmas/birthday money for things we really need or want
We have many beautiful family members and friends who give our children money for special holidays and birthdays. We love their generosity. We try to use it on things that the kids will really want (even if they sometimes don’t yet know that they really want it.)
We used some of our daughter’s birthday money on dance lessons and some of our family’s Christmas money on a ski trip. This way, we don’t have 10 talking Elmo dolls sitting around in 3 months that no one wants to play with, but the kids have experiences that they will remember.
We also use the money on aforementioned clothes. And of course, we do buy toys with some of it!Looking at where we spend our $ helps us to see where our hearts really are. #minimalism #missions Click To Tweet
7. We cut back on dairy and meat
This sounds drastic, like we are living through the Great Depression, but actually in Asia, we got used to living on little meat and VERY little dairy, as they just don’t have a lot of it there.
Most people around the world can’t afford to eat meat at every meal, so we don’t either (don’t tell my Iowan grandparents!) Most meals we do have meat, but I find that most of my recipes are just as good with half the amount called for.
We also limited our kids from drinking copious amounts of milk, because they were. I mean, drinking only milk and not water. Drinking water will not hurt them. Actually, it’s probably better for them.
8. We use things until they break
Like I mentioned before, we wear our clothes until they have holes or until I look like a frumpy old lady (and honestly, often past that point!)
I patch my son’s jeans because young boys seem to wear the knees out in about 11 days after purchase. I sew on buttons that have fallen off. I stitch up holes. I hot glue flimsy shoes! I have even darned a sock or two.
Again, living in Asia made me realize that things can be repaired. We are saving money that can go towards helping others, and we are also reducing our carbon footprint.
9. We use nature as our entertainment
We rarely go to the movies or bounce houses or play places that cost money. We go outside on hikes. We go to lakes and rivers. We enjoy the parks in our city. Personally, I find myself a lot less stressed when I’m outside vs going to an indoor
mad play-house. Not that I have anything against them. They can be fun, but we prefer the outdoors and so does our bank account.
10. We reuse and repurpose
I save boxes and cover boxes to be used as containers. I keep some of the plastics that our food comes in to be used as Tupperware.
I shop for furniture at used sites and then repaint or dress them up a little. We hit up garage sales and go to the library to read new books.
I am a member of many secondhand-items-for-sale-Facebook-groups. I receive notices from Craigslist if something I’m looking for is going for free. (Did you know they have a “Free Stuff” section?
11. We DIY (Do-It-Yourself)
We wash our cars by hand. We clean our own house. We would mow our own yard, but we don’t have one!! We even cut our own hair (well, most of the time, at least. I cut my husband’s and my daughter’s, and my husband cuts our son’s, and our son DEFINITELY DOES NOT cut our daughter’s!) I trim my own bangs and try to stretch going to get my haircut. Just one little way that we can save.
We bake our own birthday cakes, have our birthday parties at our house, and make our own birthday cards to send to people. We also have people over for dinner vs taking them out.
12. I use natural beauty products
This is a new one for me! I used to use a brand name face cream (my mother would send it to me from the US whenever I needed it for the last 10 years in Asia!! She was amazing!) But those lotions really add up.
I just started using olive oil + castor oil to wash my face, baking soda to scrub it, and vinegar + water as a toner. This is a real thing. And it’s been going okay, actually! I was pretty skeptical at first, but I thought I’d give it a try. I have been tempted to try it on my hair, but I’m still too afraid.
13. We don’t have cell phone plans
I’m still trying to see if there’s a cheaper way to do this, but so far this has worked for us: we pay month to month for our cell phone service. We use SmartTalk (through Walmart). It’s pretty unlimited (I don’t remember all the specs, but I’ve never found myself needing more texts or minutes or internet.) It’s $45 a month per phone. If you know something better, let me know!
14. We workout at home
(Not that I really workout all that much!) But when I do, I use videos that I either own or are on Youtube. We also have the advantage of living in an apartment complex so that we can use their little gym. This option is not for everyone, but it saves us money every month and time as well.
15. We live in a small house
We are not a part of the Tiny House Nation, but we are cozy! We have realized over the years that we don’t need a lot of space, especially because we currently live in a warmer climate, so we can be outside more.
We don’t have a garage. The kids don’t have their own rooms. And a section of the living room is their playroom. It works! This way we can’t fill up rooms with more stuff because we just literally do not have the space! It also forces me to keep the place tidy(ish) because if we don’t clean up, we can’t get to the sofa.
16. We snowflake
This is a term used in the financial world that basically means whenever I save money on something that I would have spent it on, I put the extra money towards savings. We can do this for giving to missions as well.
For instance, if dinner out was supposed to cost $40, but we happened to go on a Kids Eat Free night, so it was only $30, then I put the $10 that we saved towards translating Bibles for an unreached people group. (I realize that this sounds like a mathematical word problem, but the idea is fairly simple.) Whatever you were planning on spending but for some reason, didn’t have to, you put towards savings. (And it helps to be more intentional and not just blow it on something else that you don’t really need.)
So there’s a few ideas. Maybe I will add more as I remember them. I’d love to hear some ways that you save monthly! Feel free to leave a tip or two in the comments!
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