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And what if it is not up for negotiation? What if the school district is the best or all the bedrooms are filled with children?

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"If you are already living beyond your means, you have no choice: You have to increase your means," he says.

In fact, getting more money in may be easier than letting less money flow out. So, he suggests, get a second job, freelance some work or use a skill to do a service for friends or neighbors. "At one point I had three jobs to support four kids," he says.

"That is how you get past the frustration of 'I can't do anymore,'" he says. "I say, 'Are you sure you have done everything?'"

Financial planning is not a magic pill, Filangeri warns. Many times, the problems for which people seek out a financial planner are much larger than dollars and cents. "People who are happier tend to live within their means," he says.

That is what King tries to impart with voluntary simplicity. "More fun, less stuff," he says.

Changing every part of life
Incorporating the choice to live simply extends to every part of life.

Biking to work isn't going to be an option if you live 30 miles away, and heating a 3,000-square-foot house is always going to be expensive.

"Design your life so you don't have to spend a lot of money," King says.

The effects often go far beyond finances. Cutting a commute will provide more family time, and biking to work can improve your health, plus it's better for the environment.

King, a 51-year-old engineer and one-time company executive, started a few voluntary simplicity practices almost 20 years ago. He had five cars when he started to eliminate driving. He added growing some food, along with some diet changes, such as eating those backyard veggies.

He found his health improved, and so did his finances.

King still lives in the Silicon Valley of California and has a vacation home in the mountains. He has a cell phone and other trappings of an average life, but he says all of the additions to his life are carefully considered.

Most importantly, in his opinion, there is more time for family when there is less time spent on acquiring things.

"You actually live a richer life when you cut back and get rid of some of the clutter," he says.

These two exercises may help curb consumption. They come from King's voluntary simplicity circle:

  • Figure out what your true hourly wage is by including the amount you really work, including travel time, and subtracting expenses such as fuel. Then you can weigh all purchases against the energy expended, says King. You can ask yourself, "Was that really worth three hours of work?"
  • Consider one of the happiest times in your life. Think about what made it great. King says that for many people, it is time spent with friends and family. "It's usually not 'when I bought an SUV,'" he says. The idea is to understand what makes things special.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Aug. 31, 2006
 
 
More stories by Gretchen Macchiarella
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