How to Enjoy Life on a Lower Income

Somehow, being forced to rethink our lifestyle grates on us.  In the American Dream, we are constantly striving to move onward and upward financially, and when faced with downsizing from that goal, we feel as if we have failed.  When that downsizing includes our family, we have failed doubly.

But have we?

As admirable as it is to strive for a “better” life for ourselves and our family, we tend to lose sight of the fact that better does not necessarily  mean collecting more money.  It does not necessarily mean collecting more things, either, or being able to travel or show our kids the world.  How do we enjoy life without these things?

When our income becomes more limited, we are forced to rethink what we enjoy.  Our minds are enclosed in what we know.  We have to alter and branch out.  We have to face our economic biases. 

If you can’t go on vacation this year, maybe a week at home won’t be so bad.  Research the day-trips around the area.  Use your home as your base and take the kids to some places you have been meaning to get to.  Have a picnic, put up the tent and go camping in the back yard.  Take one child at a time out for a special day-trip just for them. 

Instead of throwing the usual party that everybody expects you to throw, use the time to begin to establish some social consciousness in your kids. Take them to work with you at the neighborhood soup kitchen or do a walk for cancer.  When we can show our kids what it means to really “need”, they will begin to rethink what it is they really need, too.

When you do have a get together, make it a potluck, bring your best dish affair.  You may drop some friends from your guest list that way, but then again, you may be surprised at the people who come.

If you have to have the satellite turned off, you will be surprised to find that the world goes on outside your window just the same.  A walk in the evening eases your blood pressure better than sitting in front of your favorite news pundant.  Reading a book in a quiet house helps you sleep better than American Idol. 

If you have to shop the thrift stores, you may be shocked to learn that it is actually very chic to do so.  There are a lot of closet thrift store shoppers out there these days.  The buys you can get will astound you.  Sometimes, you can hit $2 a bag day, when you can get as much as you can stuff into a shopping bag for two dollars.  That’s worth putting your pride aside.

Look at this time in your life as a challenge.  Ask yourself if buying everything for your kids is actually preparing them for life, or if letting them walk through this period with you is really a blessing.  Explain to them about the finances, let them share their ideas for spending-free family time, let them help budget meals.  They will surprise you with their resilience.

Remember, the  title of this article is how to enjoy life.   You can enjoy the life you have, here and now, not so much by scrambling to keep the toys you have, or by longing for what you can’t have, but by adjusting your idea of enjoyment to include what you may have been missing.