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Living on less, by choice

Jun 14, 2010 | | Comments (5)

I just broke one of my cardinal rules as a columnist—“Never read un-moderated comments”—to check out the reaction to my latest MSN offering, “Living on $18,000 a year—by choice.”

A lot of people got it. And some really, really didn’t.  Voluntary simplicity not only baffles these folks—it pisses them off. They insist it can’t be done where they live, or in their life situation, or because they have kids. (One of these “the children make me spend!” folks posted right after another parent wrote that he or she was raising two kids on $10,000 a year.)

In reality, there are people practicing voluntary simplicity in every life situation, in every state and city. They may not live on quite as little as the three I interviewed, but they’re certainly living on less than the mainstream—and happily so.

It’s the happiness that always blows me away. I’ve been interviewing adherents of this movement since the mid-1990s, and I always walk away with a huge smile on my face because their enthusiasm is so infectious.

When you “get it,” voluntary simplicity doesn’t piss you off. You don’t have to be a full-blown practitioner (I’m not) to understand that life is all about choice, and making the right choices with your money can make you happy.

You can read more of their stories in the book Carol Holst edited, “Get Satisfied,” in the seminal book on the topic, “Your Money or Your Life,” or in Jeff Yeager’s wonderful new book, “The Cheapskate Next Door.”

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Categories : Liz's Blog



My husband recently changed jobs and has a slight increase in pay. I’ve found that now that we are making a little more, we tend to spend less. I’m not sure what the reason is, I think we realize now we have an opportunity and don’t want to miss it. Also, I feel when I am in control of my finances, I am in control of other parts of my life, my weight for example. I’m sure it’s all psychological, but it works for me.


I LOVED that piece and agree 100%! I don’t get the anger, but as Tim Ferris wisely says, “It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do.”

We’ve always enjoyed simplicity and living well under our means, but today we love it even more as we’ve learned just how fun it can be as we’ve travel the world as a family on just 23 dollars a day per person for the last 4 years.

I want to raise my child as a global citizen and to know that time and love are the only real “riches” in life.

Kudos to you for spreading the word about voluntary simplicity!


How exciting! Enjoy your travels.


It’s a darn sight better than using credit cards to keep up with the Jones! In our family the layoffs began early so we always had money in the bank so we could sleep at night. And we did “free” stuff, too. And we kept it as simple as possible without feeling deprived. And I didn’t feel deprived. My husband might have but he is a New England thrifty type person. Living beneath our means is the only way we were able to send to children to college and have a retirement, too. What would the anger be all about?


I feel sad when I hear about parents who blame their children for things over which these children have no control… “the children make me spend”. Parents are role models. Stay healthy, Liz, so you can still be writing sound advice when those children become adults.