This mouse-wheel looks pretty cute but when you feel like you are on one it isn’t cute! Most families I know are exhausted right now at the end of the year. They have been running and rushing all year through a litany of events and pressures. From work, family life, school events, extra curricular activities, house maintenance, etc. Does life have to be this non-stop tiring marathon?! It actually diesn’t! But it does take some changes, some cutting back. Cutting back on work a little or some activities and comittments. January is the best time to sit and plan a new approach to life. Here I continue my article about ways to slow down, to cut costs, to simplify. Even a 10-20% simplification of your life can bring a measure of calm. Here come more slowing down strategies. Seven ideas that will help you live slower and simpler. Ideas that can bring peace into your schedule and your budget. 1. Embrace minimalism and cut costs by staying away from the shops. The biggest pressure for most of us is work. In order to consider reducing work hours even a little, we need to cut back on costs. The first place to do that is cut back shopping. Remember that every dollar you spend at the shops has already been taxed. Every $100 you spend at the shops is $120 or $13o you had to earn. If you then put that on your credit card add more cost – interest! And all those items we bring in to the home add to our busy-ness. They have to be tidied and maintained. I am usually pretty careful with money but lately I have been brutal so I can go visit our daughters in Sweden. To do this trip I had to find money despite a tight budget. I decided to impose a no-shops ban on myself (For many months I only went to the supermarket for food and avoided all other shops). Since I love minimalism I don’t usually buy much anyway so I was surprised to see that a shop ban still made a noticeable difference to the budget! For the couple of times I truly HAD to go to a large store I had my 3 pronged strategy. I had a list, and I kept my eyes to my list, and I kept reminding myself : ‘We already have more than we need’. It may sound ridiculous but repeating that sentence to myself in stores has prevented me from buying hundreds of things over the years. We are weakest in the impulse moment. Serious marketing expertise has been used in every aspect of every store to seduce us into impulse buying. So we do need a strategy! So if you truly want to slow down and would like to consider reducing your hours at work, start by giving consumerism a kick in the butt. And when you absolutely MUST go to a store; have a list, keep your eyes on it, and repeat your no-need-stuff mantra. 2. Think outside the box about your 5 day week. Do you dream of working less? Maybe cutting back to 4 days a week? We know a few breadwinners who have cut back to 4 days a week. And my brother did it for years while his kids were small so he could have time at home with the kids on Friday’s. His wife worked on Friday’s. My husband is about to cut back to 4 days a week. This will drop the pressure out if his schedule. He has worked very long hours the last years and would like more time for family and exercise. Despite being married to me who is really into living slower and simpler he has had to come to his own conclusion on slowing down. Feeling exhausted to the point of feeling quite ill sometimes has been a wakeup call. We have done the maths. And done them again. We have realised that if you cut the top 10% to 20% off your work week and pay, you will be losing the top tier of your pay which is taxed at the highest rate. So the impact on net income is not as bad as you think. Of course it will still be hard at times, but my daughters and I are willing to give up whatever it takes for him to have a more balanced life. We live quite simply, in a small house and have second hand cars. We may think we can’t possibly be wasting money anywhere but there are always things we haven’t thought of yet! To help you find ways to simplify, cut costs and slow down here are some great ideas. 3. Simpler cheaper phone plans. When your phone contract / plan is finished don;t upgrade. Change to a bring your own phone plan. Our phone plans including handsets have been around $80 per month. As each contract ends we are not upgrading but changing to $10 monthly plans for bring your own (BYO) handset. Big savings! 4. Clean more simply. Fill up some spray bottles with 80% white vinegar, some water and a dash of dishwashing detergent cut costs and chemicals when cleaning. You can use this vinegar spray on windows, bathroom, stains on clothes, walls and floors, and as an all purpose spray. Thousands of families use this vinegar spray. Zero harmful chemicals and almost no cost. It feels really good to clean your home with simple ingredients. 5. Put the kids extra curricular activities on a diet. If you do want a calmer family home then limit after-school activities. It is could be one per child. This will reduce stress and cost more than you can imagine. If you are unsure try it out for a year. Kids need calm happy families more than learning three new instrument/sports/dance styles each year. You could: – have siblings do the same sport. – take a holiday from activities for one school term per year. We did this before Christmas each year. Bliss. – delay the start into activities. Maybe 8 or 9 instead of 5. Think back. Do you really benefit from all the ballet lessons you had at age six? Or would it have been better to have had more time to be creative with your family and pets? 6. Drive a cheaper, less recent car model. Then you can skip the burden of car loan payments. For $5000 I got a 15 year old Toyota Rav4 in beautiful condition. It is still going great after some years. 7. A fortnight is a gentler rhythm. Space out some weekly activities to become fortnightly. For example, do a big food shop (with a list) once a fortnight and only pick up a few items in-between. Treasure your family time and your family home. Our awesome kids grow up so quickly and when they fly the nest they may go quite far! I know loads of parents with kids living in other countries! This time is too short so s l o w right down and make home a peaceful place for doing deep relationship. Everyone around us is doing life at breakneck speed but we don’t have to be like everyone else. Home can be our oasis of peace. You can do it. One little change at a time. If you want to read Slowing Down in a Fast World Part 1 go here.