smart spending

4 steps to a simpler (and more frugal) life

He made the decision to simplify his life and align his work and spending with a goal he found satisfying. And he now works to help others do the same.

"As a financial adviser, I can sit down with people and understand what their goals are and coach them on achieving their goals. It all ties in together. When we meet with clients, we don't talk about retirement. We talk about financial independence," he says.

By uncovering goals and dreams for life, anyone can make spending decisions that either support those goals or are a detour from them.

Chart assets and liabilities

Evaluating your financial situation honestly will give you a clear-eyed view of where you are on the road toward achieving your goals.

Lickteig says that opportunities for simplifying present themselves when analyzing household assets and liabilities.

"Do you need three vehicles? Could you sell one to pay the other two off? Could you use the additional 'found money' to pay down other debt or put toward savings? It is probing questions like these which engage the client to begin thinking about the direct benefits of a simple lifestyle," he says.

After accounting for your assets and liabilities, construct a budget. It doesn't have to be called a budget, but whether it's a spending plan or a cash-flow plan, you should know the exact amount of money coming in and going out, where it's going and why -- and how you can change it.

"A lot of my clients think that the only way to work through this capitalist system is to work until they're 60 or 65," says Zaifman.

"What I like to do is show people one of the ways that 'voluntary simplicity' works: What if we sold your home, took that money and bought a smaller home and put the rest in the bank? Then you work part time until age 65. Or you can stay in your high-stress job and keep your more expensive home, but you have to work full-time," he says.

Make a choice

Everything you spend money on is a choice. When every dollar has a purpose, purchases become much more meaningful.

On a larger scale, people are not only misspending their money, but time as well, says Duane Elgin, author of "Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich."

"People are trading off time and opportunity: Let's say, traditional advancement for more time with the family, more time with the community, more creative time and so on," he says.

With respect to finances, simple living often means consuming less: Breaking the habit of shopping simply for the sake of an afternoon activity; buying a smaller house; living closer to work, and even eating fewer processed foods and more vegetables.

Yeager says he tries to buy only foods that cost less than $1 per pound -- and he's not a vegetarian.

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