Living Below Our Means, Part 2.

In previous installment, I shared with you practical things to start curbing spending, maybe even start thinking about what it means to live below your means. Today, I invite you for a change of pace, to cozy up with your favorite drink and blanket, as I share with your some philosophical thoughts of living below the means that I've gleaned over the years. I have quite a few ideas on this topic so I will spread this out into a few posts.

from wikimedia commons

Intention v.s. willpower
Willpower alone can never get me far. Budgeting, sales shopping, coupon clippings, or even no-buy etc. work only so far for me without a true intention. How many of us have caved into BOGOF, GWP, goodie bags? (yep) online discounts/free shipping/buy that extra item that we don't need just to qualify for free shipping? (me) events? (moi) Or go on no-buy period only to binge after or justify other purchases? (yes) Or use coupons only to buy things you don't really need (just so the coupons work)? (oui, oui!).

Intention comes from a different plane of awareness. It is where a deliberate choice in our lifestyle are made, those which reflect our values. In our family, one of them is to be a good steward of the Earth, to respect all beings and things. Whoa.. sounds deep? Not necessarily. Certainly we don't take care of forrest animals and I wouldn't think twice of swatting a spider if it ever gets near me. But we open the doors for someone behind us (respect of human beings), we have house plants and take care of them (respect for other beings), we take care of our belongings by cleaning/washing/repairing, etc (respect for things). Bigger gestures would encompass recycling, using non-toxic gardening potions since it may drain to the salmon stream, composting, etc. By doing these little things, we slowly feel a sense of ownership of the community and the space where we live.

Many times, I read discussions about how a purchase creates an endless buying and returning cycle. In fact, for those of you who live outside the U.S., it is unheard of that one can return something that has been bought. Isn't this just a reflection that blind consumption creates more agony rather than not having it in the first place? And I do wonder where do these returned/discarded goods go. Perhaps that very item I put in the trash sit for as long as hundreds of years in a landfill somewhere, intact. (For more enlightening take on this subject, I suggest The Story of Stuff)

My half-used items could very well end up here, in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (image from empressofdirt.com)

One way I consciously break the cycle of buying/selling/returning is by donating used items. The very gesture of donation reminds me that there are many good things in life that have come my way and I am here as a temporary steward; I am passing it on to the next person who may need it. If I feel I can "recoup" the monetary value of the item by re-selling it, I take the "monetary value" as the price to learn my lesson of ownership of that item.

Donation gives a finite ending to an item, at least from my part. Just like breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend, donation gives me closure so I can move on. I am making room for more things to come in my life, more good things, whatever those may be. If I keep hanging on to the stuffs that become clutters, how am I going to receive the abundance that this universe has in store for me?

Back to intention: one way to find/clarify one's intention/value in life is to start noticing the small, uneasy feelings related to possession/purchases. My dear fellow blogger Bellyhead here so candidly share hers, which I'm sure all of us can relate. Start noticing those feelings, jot them down somewhere, and then start asking questions, particularly "why?" The answer may not come to you instantaneously and the answer may be different from person to person, or even day to day. When you start there, you start to be more mindful of your actions and you may even start noticing a pattern.

Unfortunately, there is no short cut to this one, but the work done will improve other areas of your life as well.

Scandinavian-style Hot Tub. Ahh.... (from wikimedia commons)

Take care of yourself first
Another reason to fill that void feeling with consumption is the feeling of not enough. Often I found myself spending/consuming because I didn't take care of myself. Spending is a substitute, sort of, for "nourishment" to ward off that deprivation feeling. Sounds familiar?

The antidote to feeling of not enough is to realize that my life is already abundant as it is (thanks, Eckhart Tolle!). I keep a daily gratitude journal in my phone and I'd "flip" through it when I need a dose of reality (sometimes I share them with you on my Thankful Tuesday posts). Soon, I saw a trend that gratitude is not about money or possessions; I am thankful that I have enough money not to worry about X, yes, but there are so many other things that money can't buy: friendship and love of family and friends, my child laughing, beautiful weather outside, people that I meet, a job that I still have, my health, time, silence, space. Most of all, I am thankful that I can experience all these in my life -- I'm thankful to be alive.

Doing little things that fuels you is part of taking care of yourself. Yes, it would be nice if all of us can spend a week in a great vacation but let's be real. Whether it be engaging in hobby/something you like doing, acknowledging gratitude, praying (if you are religious), laughing, connecting with loved ones, eating a nourishing meals, or even a mental break, these little morsels of real fuel will keep you going through the drudgery of daily tasks. Maybe I'm just really spent that week and need PapaLorp to take the Tod outdoor for the weekend. Maybe I just need to work out and get a nice good soak afterwards. Maybe I just need a bit of extra sleep. I found the sooner I restore the balance within, the better I can deal with the other things without.

I hope these strategies provoke thoughts and considerations rather than proselytize. If you care to share any that resonates with you, I warmly invite you to do so on the comment section below.

P.S. For my readers who are makeup fans, some creative ideas of places that receive used-makeup donation: local women's shelter, high school/local drama/theatre production, even preschools/art schools/alternative schools (yes! Toddler's preschool accept makeup donation that they'll use for art project: melt lipsticks for making waxed-paper "stained glass," break shadows pigments for finger paintings, etc.). Most importantly, check with the school/institution that you plan to donate your items, many have certain rules/regulations.


  1. Thank you for your honest and insightful words Claire, the message from your post and Belly's ones are ringing more louder to my inner self than ever. I've never delved deep into the reason why I consume/addict to beauty stuff but keeping a self-reflection jounral surely will help!!

    Is there a Part 3 to this series? I love Part 1 and this! :D

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Jenni! I'm glad that I've helped someone out there. Yes, I plan for part 3 of the posts, but I'll just have to mull things over a bit.