2017, Our Year of Living Minimally, has come and gone and it’s time for some reflection on how the decision to buy (almost) nothing for a year has impacted our family. We are not the people we were at this time last year as this experiment has affected us in almost every way imaginable. So here I share our five biggest benefits and takeaways from this project as well an as answer to the question for this year: What now?
- Perhaps the most tangible benefit to this undertaking is simply the amount of money we saved, or in our case, the amount of debt we were able to pay off. We are teachers; we don’t make a lot of money, and for the past year and a half we’ve been living off 1.5 salaries (and just one the year before that). I used to get really discouraged when thinking about how long it was taking us to pay off our school debt (Wheaton grad school loans are no joke, people); I felt like we would be stuck on Dave Ramsey’s baby step #2 FOREVER. However, this year has cleared up a lot of that discouragement haze and allowed us to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
- Maybe the most surprising benefit is how our decision has affected our health. David has always been fairly thin and fit, but this year he’s gained more muscle and speed than ever before. He’s getting closer and closer to achieving his audacious goal of a sub-5 minute mile. I, on the other hand, will be happy to get back into sub-10 minute mile shape, and I’m not that far off. 🙂 By making the one decision to limit our eating out to approximately once a month, we are both so much healthier. From January 1 to January 1, I am down 32 pounds, and it honestly wasn’t that hard. By preparing our food at home, we are able to control both the content and amount we consume. And if I’ve gone to the trouble of cooking, you can bet that we try to stretch that meal out into leftovers. Rarely do we go back for seconds but rather eat a piece of fruit or nuts if we’re still hungry … cost efficient and healthy.
- By outlining guidelines at the beginning of the year, we avoided decision fatigue and the often resulting poor spending choices. By eliminating many options ahead of time (clothes shopping, buying gifts for each other, eating out, etc.), we simplified our lives and freed up mental energy for other pursuits. I have spent my time this year reading, teaching, cooking, working out, playing with my daughter, and relaxing with my husband, all of which I argue are infinitely superior to going shopping!
- The biggest takeaway I would say is our change in mindset. Honestly, that first month of eating out only for book dates hurt a little. I was in withdrawal, and Friday nights hurt the worst. However, now it’s the new normal, and I don’t even really think about it. Or if I do (on the rare occasions we do eat out), I think about how much money we’re spending and how much I could have bought at the grocery store with that amount! Eating out has become a treat, something to be thoroughly enjoyed, savored even, not taken for granted. The same goes with any purchase. If something is a true need and we’re going to depart with our hard earned money to buy it, I want to ensure that it will last, that it’s actually worth the cost. If it is, then we work to take care of it. We are learning to be faithful stewards of what’s been entrusted to us whether that’s time, energy, money, or possessions.
- The most surprising takeaway would be an increased confidence in our ability to do hard things. The only thing I’ve ever given up for a year was soda, and it wasn’t that hard. However, as I was hearing stories of people’s journeys and experiments with shopping bans over the course of a full year, I was incredibly inspired. All these people were doing this really hard thing! We could surely do it too, couldn’t we? Yes, we could and we did. We didn’t do it perfectly, but when I look back at my life years and years from now, I am certain I will consider 2017 a catalyst for the achievement of many audacious goals.
So, what now? Are we done? Do we now get to buy all the things? Nope. We’re signing up for another year … or 50. We’ve discussed our needs for the upcoming year and have settled on some guidelines to see us through 2018. Our eating out plan is still in place as is our clothes buying ban excepting some athletic wear we’re both in need of. I don’t think I’ll churn out a post a month (considering I didn’t even meet that goal this year), but I do plan to keep writing about our experiences in frugality and minimalism mostly for selfish purposes in that it keeps me accountable to the guidelines we set.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018!