Downshifting requires you to continue to have some sort of income. If your plans involve quitting your job now or in the future then you need to work at reducing your money out with money in by reducing your living costs. If you are going to take time out, or start a business you may wish to save up 6 months worth of living expenses to give you enough money to live on while your plans take fruition.
Anyone can downshift but it is a voluntary act. It means trading a high standard of living with high stress to a higher quality of life. A downshifted life is often richer in time than in money. This is contrary to what we have been told and brought up in, in that our standard of living needs to be high and success is measured based on our monetary successes and gains. If however, our success were measured in terms of the quality of our wellbeing, relationships and communities, we could argue that the downshifters life is richer. To downshift you may want some savings to make the transition easier, you could sell some of your possessions, declutter. After that you may wish to move to a smaller home, in a less expensive area or search where exactly you can envisage living and making the best out of the resources you have been given.Matt and AJ from Downshiftme.com, moved from the Uk to Nova Scotia because that made downshifting for them easier than here in the UK.
What about debts?
Debt has become a way of life since the eighties when the boom or bust culture took hold in the UK. Previously to that, a generation who had been brought up by parents from the depression era and having lived through the second world war, were in general terms much more frugal and self sufficient. If you are in debt you may wish to look at how much you are paying for the lifestyle you are living and work a plan to reduce that debt. It can be very satisfying to see your debt levels decrease and your quality of life increase without feeling some depravation in the process. It has taken us 3 years so far to declutter and reduce our living expenses and it is an ongoing process. I am about to have another purge of knitting magazines that are collecting dust on the bookshelf and that could be sold via ebay to avid collectors. Our tastes do change on the downshifting path.
How realistic is to live on less?
The media continue to tempt us to buy into the feelings and consume. We also consume to fill holes in our life. We go for that holiday because we are stressed out at work, we need a massage, take away meals because working has stressed us out and we have no time to cook. etc etc.You can turn that around by booking yourself a week at home as a holiday and try the following :
- a week without TV, radio, newspapers and magazines and monitor how you are less tempted to spend money on what you think you ought to have in your life.
- stay away from supermarkets that week. Plan your menu and source local producers, visit them and get to know what is available locally. You will need to work hard in a different way but notice how much money you save and how you engage with your food.
- Do not eat take aways. If you feel the need, take time to get the best china out and prepare a meal for yourself or partner as if you were in charge of the best restaurant in town. Check out what atmosphere you like when you eat a meal together. Candles, best cutlery and china make it special.
- Set yourself a budget for the week, in cash and only spend what you need and what is in your pocket. Forget credit cards for the week and get in touch with physically counting coins and notes when you pay for your purchases. Engage with real currency instead of virtual money.
Will it make me poor and plunge me into poverty?
Check out now what your mental picture of poverty means. Check out the reality of poverty in the world and check your standard of living again. Against consumer society’s standards you may well be considered poor, again because the measure of being on the breadline is determined by the amount of money you receive against the average considered necessary to live in the world as it is. It is possible to live on a lot less. There is a difference between poverty ( i.e. not having food, shelter and warmth on a daily basis) and frugal simplicity. Poverty is not a voluntary act, it is disabling as where downshifting and living a simpler, frugal life is empowering and enriching. In my experience, relapses into consuming and feeling deprived are normal initial responses to downshifting. It requires focus to stay informed and make choices that lead to a richer inner life. A journal to see how you have progressed is worth checking out from time to time to see how you are adapting and how downshifting is working out for you. You may lose friends.....you will gain others.
To downshift you need a certain confidence to earn money when necessary, to stay flexible, learn new skills and keep in mind that what you are working towards is a harmonious life, living using available resources without depleting the earth. It is not an easy choice as you are in fact rowing against the tide of consuming the earth, but instead of flowing towards the edge caught in the torrent of the stream, you are learning to check out the sites, admire the wildlife and find nice resting places along the way. Yes you need to keep alert, focussed and check reality.
Most importantly, network with others who walk like you do and learn from eachother.