Thursday, January 31, 2013

Simple Living or Simply Living

One of our Mission Interns, Katie Davis, posed some questions to the missionary community about simple living for a project she's doing.  I thought, hey, what a great topic to write a little bit about.  It's something I think of often, and surprisingly is one of the attributes that attracted me to being a missionary (that's not a typo).

I've always been fond of simple living, and I think my parents taught it to me at a young age.  I never thought we had less or not enough, but we didn't really splurge on anything (except maybe trips to Frontier City).  So what is simple living?  Is it something we should all strive for?  Or does all the hype boil down to simply living?

My work as a CASA volunteer has taught me more than a few things, but in training, we learned the difference between a minimum level of care and a higher level of care.  For children, you want them to have the world, but the state only requires that parents provide a minimum level of care.  Simple living, in my previous opinion, was like the minimum level of care.  Your diet, recreation, and travel is limited by your financial resources.  You are able to provide for basic needs, like eating healthy, going to the doctor, and maybe seeing a matinee now and then.  The finer things in life, like formal dining, vacations, and new clothes are out of the question unless there's a special occasion.

Simple living for me, now, doesn't really look that simple.  I've realized that you don't have to give up on recreation, or fine dining, or that cute pair of shoes.  Simple living, for me, is learning when to give and when to take.  Maybe I want to see a movie this weekend and go have dinner; then I guess I'll cook breakfast instead of picking something up from the deli or getting Starbucks on my way to work.  Personally, I made the decision that my physical and emotional well-being demanded more exercise.  I was unsatisfied with my lack of options due to living in an "unsafe" neighborhood.  The gym membership looked really expensive, until I realized that my monthly membership was the same as a new outfit (on sale).  For me, that was a good trade-off.  I would be happier with that than with a new outfit every month.

Keeping track of your spending is the best way to figure out where all your money is going.  Then, it's easy to organize and prioritize.  The hard part is sticking to the budget you create.  Simple living isn't always about sacrifice.  When we frame it as sacrifice, it seems difficult and daunting.  The truth is simple living is about prioritization and financial responsibility.  You may realize that once all that stuff you thought you needed is gone, you are free to simply live. 

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