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What does does it mean? Living below our means? We all know what living above our means means 😉 Most of us do just that, or right on the line at minimum, cheque to cheque.
What if we shifted our expectations, our ideas on what we ‘need’ and decided to live a bit smaller, a bit cheaper, conserve energy, be willing to do a bit more work for our heating, generally plan to live on less than what we make at our jobs?
Its a crazy idea in this day and age to be sure. Do we need 2700 square feet of a house? 90% of our time is spend in probably less than 50% of the space in the house. Sure its nice to be able to say we have all this space and have lots of plans for it but what does it amount to?
It amounts to a pile of space we don’t use right now, and if we were to use it, in our case we would need to spend a bunch more money to get it up to usable space (basement I’m referring to now). So to sum up, we’ve spent a bunch of money on a bunch of space that requires more money to get ready for using or at minimum requires more money to furnish if indeed it is ready to be lived in (ie finished basement). Do we really need two sets of couches? Do we really need extra bedrooms dedicated as guest rooms that for 11 months out of the year stand empty?
Those rooms we have to heat, furnish all for the 1 month total time that its actually being used, generally during the summer months for visitors.
No doubt, its nice to have, and something we wouldn’t give up. And by giving up I mean we wouldn’t give up the ability to host a few extra people each summer, but does it require lots of dedicated space just for that purpose? I think not.
Living not just within our means but comfortably below it is really the goal. If we were to live in a house that had the amount of space that we use in our house 90% of the time, ie that 50% (ballpark guess) of our current house, logically we would probably go through 50% of the wood required to burn to heat our house.
We burn 8 cords of wood right now, which amounts to about 1200. If we living below our means in a smaller house, we would save half on that, $600 bucks. Thats just our wood. We would use half the oil as well which amounts to about another 1200 a year. So we just saved 1200.
Moving to a smaller house would not only mean a lower mortgage and therefore monthly payment, it would mean 1200 a year back into our pockets or back into whatever we wish. The savings don’t stop there, we would likely use only 2/3rds of the electricity we use not just because there are half as many lights and likely we would have new more energy efficient appliances.
On top of that, we would have less maintenance on the house which means less time and money spent fixing stuff. The advantages compound really. You end up having potentially lots more disposable income or money with which you could save, or pay off other debts or go on family vacations or money you could be more generous with (gasp…) .
We are conditioned to think we need to be in a house of a certain size. Reality is that kids can be two to a room in bunk beds, most bedrooms are much bigger than they need to be as is. I mean, you’re just sleeping in there. You don’t really need room in there for a couch or even a recliner which you never use.
Larger houses mean we collect more too, just largely because we feel we need to populate rooms. You can’t have an empty room sitting there right? Something needs to go in it… A smaller house forces you to really limit and think about what items you DO want to keep. It limits spending on lots of expensive desks, cabinets, couches just cause you actually don’t have space to put it all in.
Most live so close to the edge, what if you lost your job and were out of a job for a year. Would you be able to pay your mortgage? Would you even be able to pay it with a parttime or minimum wage job? The safety of owning a place where you could do that is incredibly freeing. Thats one place we’re really not free right now.
Lowering all our monthly bills is really the goal. What is the minimum we can live with? And I’m not even talking doing without ipads, computers, TV, dishwashers. The dream includes all of these but all of these with thought and consideration and energy conservation.
I would love to take a part time job and have days off in the week to tinker around the property or spend time with the family, or raise more livestock. If we can move to a much more affordable existence, those things are possible and really thats a much more enjoyable life as well, ie getting to more of the things you want to do which are otherwise eclipsed by working 9 to 5, 5 days a week. And many people work more hours than that!
Something to think about.
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