Getting laid off is definitely a jolt as you find yourself without your job, important benefits such as health insurance, and–for many–an identity. Instead of getting bogged down in what you’ve lost, take this opportunity to embrace a more simplified life. You may discover that downsizing your life brings you surprising benefits including more personal time, more time for friends and family, and greater happiness. You will also be pleased to discover how much you can do for so little money without having to live like a monk. The following tips and suggestions provide plenty of opportunities for you to take advantage of a chance for finding fulfillment after a layoff.
Around the House
It’s easy to take your house for granted as a place of comfort and storage. Step back and take a second look at your living space with these tips and you may be surprised to learn so many ways to downsize your life and save money.
- Clear out the clutter. Use your extra time to go through the basement, garage, attic, and closets to clear out all the old stuff just sitting around.
- Garage sale. Sell that stuff you just cleared out of your house in a garage sale for some extra cash. You may be surprised how much all that old stuff can bring in.
- Consider a smaller house. If you have several unused rooms, consider going to a smaller house with a smaller payment and less upkeep.
- Stop subscriptions. You can get the information found in your newspaper and magazine subscriptions online, so cancel those expenses right away.
- Go to one phone. Do you really need two cell phones and a land line? Decide which one phone is most important and ditch all the rest.
- Use natural cleaning products. Most of your household cleaning can be done with vinegar, baking soda, and some essential oils. Don’t spend your money on expensive cleaners that are full of toxic chemicals when these inexpensive alternatives clean as well as and even better than those other products.
- Use less. Whether it’s shampoo, laundry detergent, or hand soap, you can usually get by with using less than the recommended amount and still get the same great results.
- Go cloth. Instead of investing in expensive paper towels and paper napkins, use old towels or worn-out clothing as clean-up rags that can be tossed in the laundry along with the rest of your clothes.
- Purchase quality over quantity. If you have the option to spend more on something for the house that will last longer, this is almost always the wiser way to spend your money.
- Xeriscape. Creating a yard that is as close to the natural landscape of your area will ensure that you spend less time and money on yard maintenance.
- Lower your electric bill. Follow tips like these to help reduce your electric bill.
- Hang out the laundry. Whether your dryer has gone kaput or you just want to help reduce the amount of energy used by the dryer, hang your clothes out to dry. This also preserves the life of your clothes and gives you an excuse to step outside for some fresh air.
- Compost.Send your compostable materials to a backyard compost pile. Not only will you be helping the environment, you’ll save tons of money on yard maintenance when the compost is ready.
Personal and Family Care
Getting caught up in personal, social, and financial obligations can make your life more complicated than it needs to be. Learn how to downsize these responsibilities and ease your time and money constraints with the tips below.
- Cancel expensive appointments. Take this time to reevaluate those pricey salon visits. If getting your hair done is a non-negotiable, then how about reexamining the manicures and pedicures and learn to do them at home.
- Cut clothing expenses. You don’t have to ditch your sense of fashion, instead, learn the ways of a recessionista.
- Ditch the dry cleaning. Get rid of any clothes that need to be dry cleaned, unless they are for a special occasion. Make sure any new clothes you purchase can be washed at home.
- Cut back on extra activities. While your son’s baseball or your daughter’s dance class is definitely a worthy endeavor, you may discover that giving those extra activities a break for a few months not only saves money, but reduces the stress of making sure homework and dinner gets taken care of on those nights and increases family time.
- Reduce social obligations. Take a look at which friends bring the most to you life and which ones drain you emotionally and financially. Make wise choices about which friends to keep in your life and learn how to compassionately let the others go.
- Buy second-hand. Many items can be purchased second-hand and are just as good as getting brand new–at a fraction of the cost. Consider buying items such as bicycles, furniture, and household goods from thrift stores or garage sales.
- Reuse. Before you throw anything away, stop and think about how you might be able to reuse it. This habit will save you money, help keep clutter at bay, and help the environment.
- Make gifts. Use one of those handy new hobbies listed below to create unique gifts for friends and family. A handmade gift means so much more to the receiver than one bought at a store and costs three times as much.
- Say no. Agreeing to take on more than you can afford or more than you have time to complete will only stress yourself, your wallet, and your family.
- Family time. Learn to prioritize your time so that you can spend time with your family every day. Have dinner together, play games, exercise, or just sit down and talk.
Physical and Mental Health
Staying healthy both mentally and physically is important during times of stress. Find ways to reduce the unhealthy parts of your life and build up the healthy ones with these suggestions.
- Exercise at home. Cancel your gym membership and create an inexpensive home gym with just a few simple tools.
- Eat healthy. Eating natural food that is not processed or packaged is not only less expensive, it is better for your health, too. Processed and packaged foods are typically higher in fats, full of artificial colorings and flavoring, and may even contain harmful additives.
- Cut back on alcohol. Alcohol can be an expensive habit. Cut expenses by not ordering alcohol in restaurants or bars and by reducing the amount you drink altogether.
- Quit smoking. Not only will you save substantially by not needing to purchase cigarettes, but you will also be improving your health–an important goal if you don’t have health insurance.
- Eat less meat. Meat is expensive and vegetarian diets can be very healthy, so try reducing the amount of meat in your diet to help with both finances and health.
- Don’t stress about your financial situation. Chronic stress is harmful to your health, so check out this article for ways to reduce stress and address your financial situation.
- Let go of perfection. Spending too much time and energy to make things perfect is a waste. Give yourself a break and learn to accept when things can be less than perfect.
- Control portion size. Most Americans eat portion sizes much larger than necessary for good health. Learn about appropriate portion sizes to help your waistline and save money.
- Less fast food. Reducing the saturated fats and poor quality of fast food with homemade food is a smart idea for your health.
- Give yourself some quiet time every day. Choose a quiet activity you enjoy such as reading a book, taking a walk, or meditating to recharge your batteries and provide a positive focus for the day. You may be surprised how this time replaces any need to spend for personal fulfillment.
- Forgive. Learn to let go of anger and grudges that can easily build when you are faced with adversity and focus on the positive aspects of your life.
- Think positively. Positive thinking puts you in the right frame of mind to help you appreciate what you have, accomplish your goals, and keep you happy and healthy.
Helpful Hobbies to Learn
Hobbies can provide a great outlet for many people. Learn new hobbies or expand upon old ones that can help you reduce expenses at home or even help bring in a little extra income.
- Learn to cook or learn a new style of cooking. Replace the frequent meals out with much less expensive meals in that you have learned to prepare for yourself.
- Learn to knit. Learn to knit, then hit the thrift stores for old sweaters that you can unravel for yarn. Reknit your yarn into scarves, mittens, hats, or virtually anything else you can imagine.
- Woodworking. Not only will this skill help with the maintenance around the house, you may discover that you are pretty good at building furniture, bookshelves, or cabinetry that you can use for yourself or as a source of income.
- Gardening. Learn to grow your own food and you may find the benefits include better tasting food, less expenses at the grocery store, and a very therapeutic time in your garden.
- Soap-making. Many people enjoy learning how to make their own soap, which you can customize with your own natural products and even barter your finished product with others.
- Learn to Sew. Whether you want to make the family’s clothing or want a fun skill you can also use to bring extra income to the family, sewing is an art that will serve you well in both areas.
- Computer building and repair. Tinkerers will not only be able to build their own computer much cheaper than buying one, but will have a valuable skill for earning extra money as well.
- Surfing the Internet. As crazy as it may sound, if you love surfing the Internet, you can discover plenty of ways to save money for yourself and your family–and maybe a few ways to make money as well–from sites like this or blogs like this.
- Crafting. No matter what type of craft you want to learn or expand your knowledge of, you can probably sell it online at places like Etsy.
Follow this advice for ways to make positive financial changes in the right direction during this time in your life when your finances may need some help.
- Collect coins. Make a game out of finding as many coins as you can. Look in furniture, on dressers, in the car, and even as you walk through parking lots and the grocery store. Roll these coins, take them to the bank, and watch your pennies grow.
- Keep only one credit card. Reduce the debt and eliminate all the other cards, then make sure you don’t carry a balance on the one card you keep. Freeing yourself from credit card debt will reduce an amazing amount of stress.
- Create a simple savings. Make it a habit to put even just a little bit each month towards a savings account. You’ll be surprised how much you save in the long term.
- Record all your spending. This may seem like an arduous task, but it won’t take long before you begin seeing spending trends that will alert you to ways you can successfully cut back on frivolous spending.
- Make shopping lists. Create a shopping list every time you go to the store and stick to it. Reducing impulse buying will improve your finances.
- Find balance. If you are an avid camper and having good-quality equipment is important to you, don’t forego these expenses, just find other ways to cut back such as reusing items you would normally throw away after one use or shopping at second-hand stores.
- Reduce advertising. Marketing is meant to persuade you to spend. Learn to turn off or ignore advertising to eliminate this unnecessary pull on your pocketbook.
- Use free online budget help. Online tools such as Wesabe or Mint can easily help you get a handle on spending and budgeting.
- Understand the difference between “need” and “want”. Learn to look at each purchase and decide if it is something you truly need (a replacement refrigerator when yours dies) or is something you want (a replacement refrigerator because the new one will have more room and looks nicer).
- Don’t go shopping for entertainment. Killing time at a shopping mall is an open invitation to spend. If you are trying to curb spending, don’t hang out at places that want you to spend your money.
- Create a “hold” list for large purchases. When you want to purchase an item over a set price (choose an amount that’s right for your budget–say $50 or $300) and put any item higher than that amount on a hold list. Give yourself 30 days to think about the purchase and determine if it is a wise way to spend your money.
- Build in rewards. Reward yourself for good financial habits by building special treats into your budget.
Your expensive nights out with dinner, drinks, and dancing may be over for a while, but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo any fun. The following suggestions offer plenty of opportunities for entertainment that doesn’t cost much money.
- Host a girls’ or guys’ night in. Choose a theme such as board games, TV show marathon, knitting or other needlework, sports night, spa night, or whatever you enjoy doing. Have everyone bring some food or drink to defray the cost from any one person.
- Discover community theater. There’s no need to spend lots of money on a night at the theater. Community theaters and university theaters often provide innovative and well-done productions of everything from the classics to modern drama.
- Stream movies and TV. Cancel your DVD subscriptions and memberships after you discover how many free movies and TV shows are available online.
- Think about alternatives to cable TV. By some estimates, you will spend about $840 a year for cable. Learn how to get the same benefits with tools such as an HD antenna here.
- Enjoy a “staycation”. You don’t have to leave home to have a vacation. Set the scene for a relaxing vacation at home. Also, feel free to explore museums, public gardens, art galleries, sports, parks, and more right in your home town for very little money.
- Rediscover the library. Not only does your local library have plenty of books for you to choose from, you can also discover a world of free movies, free music, free Internet access, have access to expensive software programs like Microsoft Office, look for a job, and even play games.
- Learn photography. If you already have a digital camera, go online or to your library to get free photography tips, then head out the front door to practice your new skills.
- Enjoy nature. No matter where you live, you can find an inexpensive way to enjoy nature with activities such as enjoying a park, taking a dip in a creek, or exploring a nature trail.
- Do nothing. Learn how to slow yourself down and appreciate doing nothing for a while. It costs absolutely no money and provides huge personal benefits.
- Find free days. Many museums, zoos, and other venues offer free days each week or month. Discover when these happen and plan your visits during that time.
- Entertainment at the park. Many parks offer free music, plays, or other performances. Check your local city directory to find out what’s happening around you.
- Create your own day at the park. Pack a picnic lunch or dinner (whatever you were planning to eat anyway), bring a frisbee or ball, and go enjoy the park.
- Join a community sports team. Usually these types of teams are very inexpensive or free to join and give you a chance to get exercise and socialize.
Transportation is usually a large expense for most families. Follow these suggestions for ways to reduce your dependency on expensive transportation methods.
- Become a one-vehicle family. If you have two or more cars, sell the extras, learn how easy it is to live with one car, and enjoy the extra money from gas, car payments, insurance, taxes, and maintenance.
- Use public transportation. Not only will you save money and the environment, but you will become more connected to your community as well.
- Live close to school and work. Cut out any commute worries by living close to the places you need to go every day. You’ll save on both money and stress.
- Ride your bike. This healthy transportation solution is faster than walking and allows you to reduce transportation expenses to the cost of a bike and a good quality lock.
- Try car sharing. If you drive less than 12,000 miles a year and don’t need a car every day, car sharing may be a smart alternative to ownership.
- Use less gas. When you are driving a car, follow these tips to use less gas.
- Walk. If you live less than a mile or two from any given spot, you can easily walk rather than using a car.
- Use Google Transit. Google Transit allows you to find any transit options in US cities. Get schedules, station information, and more for any available mass transit options.
Part of downsizing your life is making sure you are using your available time in the most efficient way. Use these tips and tools for ways to reduce the stress and wasted time in your life.
- Keep an organizer. There are plenty of free calendars and to-do lists on the Internet. Choose one to keep your tasks and appointments organized.
- Follow the FAT system. Use the FAT system with any paper that comes across your desk: File it, Act on it, or Toss it in the recycle bin.
- Limit media time. If you find yourself getting on the computer or watching TV and it’s suddenly three or four hours later and you’ve accomplished nothing, then you may need to learn to limit your media time so that you can still enjoy these tasks, but they don’t rob valuable time from you.
- Stop multi-tasking. Learn to slow down and do one thing at a time to reduce your stress and increase your productivity.
- Write goals. Thinking about both long and short term goals each day keeps them in focus and keeps you on track to achieve them.
- Stop procrastinating. Putting things off until the last minute raises stress levels and reduces quality. Go ahead and do the least likable task first and have it completed ahead of time.
- Prioritize. Prioritize your day so that you can focus on more important projects first and ensure they get completed.
- Discipline. Boost your self-discipline so you can accomplish what you need to and have plenty of time left to do the things you want to do.
- Just do it. Get in the habit of acting rather than spending wasted time thinking or worrying about doing what needs to be done.
- Get rid of unnecessary tasks. Not only should you cross things off your to-do list that don’t absolutely need to be accomplished, you should also learn not to take on any new tasks that are unnecessary.
- Use auto pay. Sign up for auto pay for your bills and you will free up your time spent paying bills and will never be late again.
- Identify important values. Make a list of what is really important to you and decide what aspects of you life should require the most attention and which areas you should start giving less attention.
Blogs to Help You Simplify Your Life
While the above tips are definitely a great start to downsizing your life after a layoff, be sure to check out these blogs that offer ongoing advice on ways to simplify your life for free.
- Zen Habits. The wise advice here ranges from practical advice for saving money to spiritual advice to help you learn to make the most of your life.
- Slow Family Living. Follow this blog to find ways you and your family can slow down, simplify, and enjoy your life together.
- Unclutterer. Get great tips for ways to unclutter you living space and keep it that way with the posts on this blog.
- Dumb Little Man. Save money and increase productivity with the suggestions found on this blog.
- Lifehacker. From free and cheap DIY projects to money-saving suggestions to better methods for computing, this blog will inspire you to save money and time.
- Remodelista. Learn how to design and maintain a simple, uncluttered living space with this blog that offers suggestions as well as places to purchase items.
- The Happiness Project. Find your happiness and improve how you work and live with the posts on this popular blog by Gretchen Rubin.
- My Bad Habits. This blog helps you find ways to change bad habits to good habits and stick with that change.
- Think Simple Now. Read about ways to simplify your life and achieve happiness with the tips at this blog.
- Stepcase Lifehack. Get suggestions to help you with your money, technology, work, and life here.
- My Adventures in Simple Living. Learn from this family how they live simply, frugally, and environmentally conscious.