Tips for Living on Less

Since being home from the World Race, not having a full-time job has caused new and often difficult challenges to present themselves before me—one of the more obvious ones is money. Beside the facts that 1. I don't own a car, and 2. I'm back and forth between Knoxville and Baton Rouge to see Tony, I know "the 8 to 5" isn't where God wants me right now.

I know I'm supposed to be spending time with my family and friends and preparing to move to another continent and get married. But for someone who doesn't earn a steady income, endless coffee dates, plane tickets, moving costs and wedding bills can get pretty expensive pretty quick.

Recently, a few friends have asked me how I manage to survive without working full-time, so I figured I'd share some tips I've learned along the way. (Disclaimer: Please don't think I'm hating on people who spend money. If you have a disposable income, by all means, feed the economy! These tips are written for people looking for ways to cut costs.)

Accept help from your loved ones.

1. The initial struggle: Depending on others (and trusting God).

2. What to do: Learn to graciously say "yes" when your loved ones offer their assistance.

3. The result: Coming to terms with the fact that you can't always do everything on your own.

4. The danger: Taking advantage of your loved one's help by "standing idly by."

5. What this looks like for me: I currently live with my grandparents and drive one of their cars when I need to go somewhere, like to yoga class or coffee with a gal pal. But I continue pursuing God's purpose for my life by reading, studying, journaling, processing, investing in my community, working on starting a business, preparing to move to Africa, and planning a wedding.

Simplify your life without depriving your body and soul.

1. The initial struggle: Wanting to "keep up" with our often excessive and indulgent culture.

2. What to do: Clear out your clutter and cut back on some non-necessities. Ask yourself, "How do I want to live? What are my priorities? What do I really need? What can I give up?" 

3. The result: Leading a happier, healthier, more content, less bogged-down kind of lifestyle.

4. The danger: Depriving your body and soul of the things they need to be healthy.

5. What this looks like for me: When I returned home after 11 months of living out of a backpack, I walked into my closet and panicked. Immediately, I tossed half of my wardrobe into some bags and delivered them to the YWCA. I do without things like cable and Netflix but understand some people enjoy TV as much as I enjoy almond milk.

Get creative.

1. The initial struggle: Thinking outside the box.

2. What to do: Try to view what you already have with a fresh perspective. Rearrange, remake, recreate and recycle!

3. The result: You'll build confidence in your ability to find beauty in almost any situation. You'll jazz up your day-to-day and perhaps put a little extra pep in your step.

4. The danger: Turning your husband's favorite shirt into a pillow case.

5. What this looks like for me: I used to shop all the time. But in the last four months, I've purchased one piece of clothing (minus my wedding attire)—purple yoga pants. They were on sale for $12, and I used a gift card. If I want something "new," I may tie a knot in the bottom of an old shirt or cut slits in a baggy tee to wear over my yoga tanks (see image below). I also just found out that MAC has a recycling program. You can trade in empty eye shadow, blush and powder compacts (six of them) for a free lipstick! How cool is that?

Use rewards points (if possible).

1. The initial struggle: Spending time researching how to do this well.

2. What to do: If you have account with any major airlines, hotels and/or car rental companies, check your balances, then consolidate your points as best as you can. Consider using a rewards credit card, but only if you're diligent about paying off your balance every month.

3. The result: Earning free gift cards, airline tickets, rental cars and "cash back."

4. The danger: Spending money you don't have in order to earn points. Obviously, you only want to spend money with rewards providers if it makes sense.

5. What this looks like for me: I spent an entire day in February figuring out what points I had with who. Turns out, I had 24,000 Marriott points from travel I did in 2008-2010. I called Marriott and asked if I could transfer my points to my United Airlines account. They said yes, and all of a sudden, I had 10,000 extra points on the airline I'll use to travel to South Africa. My credit card allows me to earn free gifts cards to major retailers and restaurants, like GAP, Lowe's, Ruth's Chris and Bed, Bath & Beyond, that I use for birthday and wedding gifts.

Put your skills to work.

1. The initial struggle: Having the confidence that your skills are worth something.

2. What to do: Understand that you are equipped with certain gifts and abilities, then come up with a way to market yourself. Are you administrative? Creative? Business-minded? Good with children? Consider offering your services as a photographer, graphic designer, nannie, repairman, girl Friday, dog sitter, home organizer, freelance writer, business consultant or whatever.

3. The result: Earn some extra cash doing something you love. 

4. The danger: Not believing in yourself then floundering. Getting too busy then not being dependable. Failing a few times then giving up. I imagine there are all kinds of potential dangers. Remember these things: 1. you can do it, 2. treat your clients the way you want to be treated, and 3. failing is an education.

5. What this looks like for me: I'm working on a handmade jewelry business (see image below) called Waterbird Designs. Eventually, I'd like to be the owner of a company that's community-focused and supports global missions.

I hope these tips help you cut some of your spending too. It's not an easy world out there, and we can become anxiety ridden by worrying about how we'll pay for our future. If you take away only one point from this blog, let it be this—have faith and hope in our God. Trust His provision, and now go read Philippians 4:6-7.

Peace,
Julie

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