The Malta Independent 19 January 2020, Sunday

Guide to spending less and living more simply

Tuesday, 14 January 2020, 13:02 Last update: about 4 days ago

Psychotherapist Danjela Falzon works with clients suffering from anxiety and depression, relationship issues, sexuality, personality disorders, self-esteem issues and those wishing to work on self-development. She forms part of the team at TherapyWorks Clinic. For more information visit https://www.therapyworks.com.mt/

I can imagine that the idea of changing your lifestyle to one less focused on consuming could seem quite daunting, if not impossible. For most of us, however, very small changes could make a significant difference to our lives. In an attempt to help you with this, I have some suggestions to guide you towards living a life where you choose to spend less and live more simply.

 

Evaluate your spending patterns

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When you have a quiet moment, have a really good think about your spending patterns. Are you spending more than you earn? Is this causing you stress or impacting other aspects of your life? Preparing a monthly budget and a yearly plan may help with this, allowing you to see which expenses can be reduced, which are a necessity and where you tend to over-spend.

 

Think before you buy

We all love buying or receiving something new - a new pair of shoes or a nifty little coffee machine but, very often, the high of buying something new lasts only a few hours to a few days, at best. So, before you buy something, ask yourself - "Do I really need this?" If you're aware that you already have another four pairs of trainers or a perfectly good coffee machine at home, sleep on it. If you still desperately want it in the morning, go and get it. Chances are that the temptation will have subsided and you'll realise that you don't need a fifth pair of trainers and two coffee machines after all.

 

Be honest about your working habits

Yes, we all need to earn a living. However, is your work and the number of hours you work causing you stress, anxiety and unhappiness? Is there something you can do to combat this?

 

Choose experiences over possessions

A great deal of research has been conducted on the link between happiness and our choice to buy things or experiences. One such study, conducted over a 20-year period (Gilovich 2014), concluded that once our basic needs have been met, money only increases happiness to a certain point. It also found that experiences, as opposed to material possessions, provide a more long-lasting feeling of satisfaction.

 

Spend consciously

When tempted to make an impulsive buy, stop and think about what it is you're feeling which may be triggering your need to buy something. If you're scrolling through websites looking for something to buy, could it be that you're in need of company, for instance? Are you feeling alone? Rather than buying something which won't in fact curb your loneliness, try reaching out to a friend/sibling/parent. Even if in this moment you are unable to meet your emotional need, be very aware that buying something will only alleviate your discomfort temporarily.

 

Have an attitude of gratitude

A good way to try to make becoming grateful a habit is to make note of things we're grateful for every day. It could be the lady who helped you get through the door with your shopping bags or the lovely cappuccino you had during your lunchbreak or your colleague's kind words after seeing a report you compiled. If we don't take the time to acknowledge the small things, we risk missing them and the power these moments or things have to make us happy.

 

Avoid comparisons

Whether we make positive or negative comparisons, it's always coming from a place of insecurity or disbalance. If reducing comparisons means spending less time on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, then I suggest you try to make this change. Life isn't a competition. Nor is it a race to achieve and acquire as many things as possible. Accept that your journey is unique and not comparable to anyone else's and you'll find yourself feeling a lot less disappointed and sad.

 

Identify your unmet non-material needs

Make a list of the things you'd love to do if you had more time. Would freeing up time allow you to do that course you've always wanted to do, give you time to exercise, give you time to paint, write or draw, learn an instrument or socialise more? We miss out on so much when we don't give ourselves the time to explore our creativity or nurture our relationships. No amount of spending can compensate for neglecting our emotional needs.

I believe the choice to live more simply is one that needn't involve any sudden life changes. Ideally, this could be a gradual process based on careful thought and reflection and the conscious choice to escape an unhealthy system of over-consumption in favour of simplicity and more authentic living. Not only will your emotional well-being benefit but you may provide a positive, healthy example to those you love.


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