FREEDOM WAY – LIVING WELL ON VERY LITTLE MONEY

I’m 64 years old and I haven’t worked for a salary since I was 51. From the age of 51 until last year I worked full time without pay at the social justice non-profit that I founded. That was a rare and amazingly rewarding experience. I have no plans to look for paid work in the future. I expect to live to at least 100 years old and I anticipate that my life will continue to be active, comfortable, full and very rewarding all the way to the end.

When people hear about how I live, there is sometimes a lot of curiosity and almost always there are a lot of incorrect assumptions made. The only things I usually need money for are: taxes, insurance, gas, utilities, vehicle maintenance, medical deductible for my annual checkup and teeth cleaning, some supplements, some home maintenance supplies and an occasional other “something” every now and then. Mostly everything else I get for free.

No, I’ve never been independently wealthy and I’ve never lived in poverty. Instead, I enjoy being a part of what I call the universe’s flow of abundance. If it sounds like I live in “woo-woo land”; well, that’s not accurate either. Let me explain.

Although it never came to fruition, at one point I really wanted to set up a program within the non-profit that I founded that would teach people how to live within this flow of abundance so that they could also use their life energy for purposeful and satisfying work instead of always struggling to make ends meet. The name of this program was to be FREEDOM WAY.

FREEDOM WAY

I like that name. It still makes me smile to think of the possibility of providing information and encouragement to others so that they too can experience the FREEDOM that comes from living this lifestyle.

But, to make it work, there’s a lot more involved than just knowing where and how to get “free stuff.”  Although, that is an important part of it.

I’m going to start with describing it in terms of the big picture and then work my way to the nitty-gritty details of assembling the pieces.

First, there are some issues that need to be processed in order to build your version of this lifestyle.

  1. The greatest benefit for living this way is that you will feel very good about yourself because your day to day life choices will directly support your values. Imagine yourself being your 100 year old self looking back on your life. How magnificent it will be to be satisfied with how you spent your life’s energy. To get there, it helps to have done some thinking about your life purpose. This can be hard to pin down but it’s good to at least get a clear sense of what is truly important to you. To live this way requires that you have done a certain level of self-evaluation and values clarification. Here are some of the conclusions that have directed my choices in life.
    1. I won’t write my whole purpose statement here but it has a lot to do with living my values and contributing to the greater good.
    2. I value treating all people with respect and dignity.
    3. I value the earth along with all our relatives, the plants and animals.
    4. Making good use of resources is very important to me because I feel that the future of the planet depends on us living with an awareness that there isn’t an unlimited supply of basic resources.
    5. Independent thinking has always been very important to me.
    6. I love learning and exploring creativity.
    7. I like to think optimistically and big. And, I like to take actions on those thoughts!

    Here’s a nice blog post on values. Maybe you’ll find it helpful.

  2. Make sure you do the personal work needed to examine and possibly redefine your relationship with money and things.

    MONEY

    The book Your Money or Your Life is a great tool to help with that work. Here is my summary of that book. If you don’t want to work this relationship with money and things, then don’t even bother to read the rest of this post because none of it will work if you don’t do this. Here’s a video with someone’s view of their life priorities. I see money only as the vehicle needed to get to FREEDOM. Preparing your financial foundation is essential. But, don’t let money confuse you about what is important or valuable. The less you spend, the less money you need, and the less time you will spend chasing after more money. Be prepared to save your money for a period of time. This savings creates more money while being that foundation needed to support your FREEDOM.

    THINGS

    When trying to determine how important a certain thing is to you, consider this thought process. Let’s say a sweater costs $80. And, let’s say your job pays you $10 per hour take home pay. Is that sweater worth 20% or your total weekly work effort? Your life energy can be spent on accumulating things. Or it can be spent on your purposeful work. I don’t feel the need to buy the latest gizmo just because it exists. I don’t feel that my uncool response to the latest and greatest has limited me in any way. Another thing to do is to learn about the products that you use regularly. For example, did you know that the chemicals in skin lotions and moisturizers are toxic? Since chemicals are absorbed into the body through the skin, their use creates more harm (and potential medical expenses in the long run) than good. Consider using castor oil instead of those lotions. Castor oil is dirt cheap and very healthful. Once you start looking and rethinking what you need and why you do or don’t need it, you will be surprised about how little you actually need.

3.  Since actively choosing to eliminate or at the very least seriously attempting to eliminate wastefulness is central to this lifestyle, you will automatically be using less and spending less while also caring for the earth by reducing waste. While there is always room for making better and better environmental choices, you’re going to be on the right track. But, choosing to live with a consciousness about wastefulness is not as simple as it may seem. It requires you to question everything. Then, once you identify waste, it’s not always easy to change your habits to implement the change. It’s even more challenging to encourage others in your household to change their habits but it sure is worth trying. Don’t think that these small changes don’t really make a difference because they absolutely do!

For example, years ago I had a revelation about waste while washing my hair in the shower. I mindlessly squeezed a big wad of shampoo into my palm and as I washed my hair with it, I noticed that most of it ended up just going down the drain. I saw that I worked to earn the money to buy the shampoo and then I let it go down the drain.What a waste!  It seems like no big deal but it is. Consider the savings, in terms of money and resources needed if I only really need a fourth of the shampoo that I usually used. That means that for the rest of my life, I’d only need to buy one bottle of shampoo for every four bottles I used to buy. I figured that out about 30 years ago and I plan to live at least 40 more years. So, that’s a lot of shampoo that’s just really not needed! When you use the same care observing and analyzing your use of other products, the money and resources saved are HUGE!

Decide which products you REALLY don’t need at all. Look at the big picture. Look at the investment of advertisers. Are you SURE you need these things? Question everything.

Eliminate your use of any and all use-once-and-throw-away products. Instead of paper towels use rags. Instead of paper napkins, use dish towels or cloth napkins.

When I was quite young, I felt some shame that people from the United States used so much more of their share of the earth’s resources than people in other countries. I felt shame about the fact that some people live struggling to get access to clean water and electricity while we are totally oblivious to our wasteful ways. This realization really hurt my heart and I vowed to not waste water or electricity. That means thinking very seriously about what needs really exist. Again, it involves questioning yourself about the details of the daily habits as you consume water and electricity. And, it means taking actions. I do little things like never let the water run while brushing my teeth. I learned that germs are killed by water that is 160 degrees. Since regular tap water isn’t that hot, I don’t use much hot water for germ killing. Once I got accustomed to using cold water, I don’t really miss the warm water for washing hands. Of course, I don’t waste electricity when it’s not being used. It can be difficult for some people to challenge their own habits but the benefits of not wasting make it well worth it! I haven’t yet implemented alternative sources of energy but that’s on my list.

FREEDOM comes after consistently making the small choices that will build your financial foundation and those that will prevent to constant draining of your resources. It builds

These are some of the benefits of this lifestyle:

  1. Obviously, you need less money. That is FREEDOM!
  2. Your life energy can be directed towards actions which allow you to accomplish your life goals. Maybe you care about social justice issues or environmental issues. You might want to teach or learn valuable skills. Caring for those in your community might be what feeds your soul. Maybe you love to create music or art. Some people feel nourished when working with children. This lifestyle frees your time to do these most important things. That’s another kind of FREEDOM.
  3. By choosing to reject a lot of the options that cause people to get into financial stress, the level of daily stress you experience can potentially be low. This isn’t true if you don’t learn self-care and balance but it certainly is more likely to be possible than if you embraced the more traditional dog-eat-dog and get more and more and still want more consumer lifestyle. FREEDOM to have the time and energy cultivate happiness and serenity is a gift.
  4. While I almost never go to stores, one of my greatest joys is when I find myself in a store and I can walk up and down each aisle and say to myself; I don’t need that. I don’t want that. I don’t need that or that or that. Now that is real FREEDOM!

Here are some things that this lifestyle is NOT:

  1. It’s NOT about being deprived and it’s not about getting rich. It’s not even about money in the traditional since. It’s about creating and maintaining a stable financial foundation upon which your FREEDOM can rest. It’s about living independent of traditional thinking and conventional ways.
  2. It is NOT a quick fix to anything. It is definitely something that is created over time. You can’t just make a couple of different choices and expect much of anything to change. This only really works if it truly is a lifestyle.
  3. It is NOT about never wanting to spend money. In fact, when the situation is right for spending, it is easy and rewarding to spend! That is another facet of the FREEDOM.
  4. This is NOT a formula for being a perfect human being.   But, with that said, you do have time to devote to self-development and spiritual growth. Isn’t that the greatest gift of FREEDOM – having the time to develop into your best self?

Disclaimer(s): I’ve only been able to really understand how to create this lifestyle in retrospect. When I was younger, I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing. I never had some magnificent vision. So, I am left feeling humble and grateful for the blind but consistently good choices that I made along the way. Also, I acknowledge that I’ve never had any major illnesses or injuries. So, I’ve never experienced the devastating financial consequences of those unfortunate life events. I also acknowledge that there are many other life events that create financial crises that I never had to face. Still, I believe that there is still value for everyone in what I offer here.

There are lots of ways to reduce dependence on money and to reduce waste that I haven’t identified yet. If you have some good ideas, please feel free to share!

SETTING EVERYTHING UP

  1. If possible, never ever purchase anything that you don’t have the money for right now. The only thing I have purchased over time was my house.
  2. The first 2 or 3 decades of your adult life are best used to create the financial foundation that you need. That means that it’s important to find a way to purchase a home and work like crazy to pay it off as soon as you can. Once you own your house outright, taxes, utilities, maintenance and insurance are your only home-related expenses. You’ll need to pick an affordable place to live and an affordable house.
  3. Do your best to take good care of the things that you own. That seems obvious but the obvious is often overlooked! If you have to spend money to replace items damaged due to neglect, that’s another way of wasting your life’s energy.
  4. I’ve never purchased a new car. Although people don’t seem to believe me when I tell them, but my vehicles are only needed for transportation. I care nothing about the social implications of owning this or that car. Instead, I take pride in how much use I get out of a vehicle. Would it be ok with you reader if I bragged a bit (my version of bragging may be different from others… ) ? My 1988 Toyota 4 Runner currently has 325,500 miles on it and it is still running strong! Anyway, paying interest for ANYTHING increases the actual price significantly! Don’t be fooled!  The money you pay for interest is real money!
  5. Arrange your storage spaces well. When I get free access to something that I know I’ll need in the future, I get it and put it in storage. This applies to things like small kitchen appliances and office supplies.
  6. Rather than assuming that you need money to get your basic needs met, learn how to seek the items you need from the many sources of free things. It really does work but you have to get connected to the flow of that abundance. It won’t come to you. You have to find it and go to it! Once you are connected, you will also have the opportunity to be very generous and to share with others regularly. That really feels good!

SOME SOURCES OF FREE THINGS

Note: This list shows you some of the things you can get for free and some of the places you can look for them. You’ll have to do your own searches to find similar offerings in your area. Good luck!

  • Evergreen Food and Goods Rescue – http://efgr.org/Gleaning or Food Recovery is the collection of wholesome food for distribution to those who are helping themselves and others. Gleaning follows a basic humanitarian ethic that has been a part of society for centuries. We know that “gleaning” or gathering after the harvest, goes back at least as far as written history. Today, however, the term gleaning covers a variety of different efforts. Some of the most common are:
    • Field Gleaning: Collection of crops from farmer’s fields, and people’s back yards.
    • Perishable Food Rescue or Salvage: Perishable produce and goods from wholesale and retail sources.
    • Food Rescue: The collection of prepared foods from the food service industry.
    • Non-perishable Food Collection: The collection of processed food with long shelf lives.
    • Nonfood Items: Anything useable that was headed to the landfills from wholesale, retail, and many other businesses.

    I’ve been a gleaner for decades and this has been a very important part of my life. Even if you don’t live near enough to join this group, you could always create your own group in your community. This one was created by some women based on a conversation they had in the kitchen years ago.

  • The free items listed here are offered by individuals at www.freecycle.org . I found a woman offering free lumber on Freecycle. She has a business building custom moving crates and needs to get rid of the used lumber every few weeks. I’ve been getting her lumber, cutting it up and heating my house with it for decades. It’s one of my major sources of free heat with a side of a free good workout! Other things I’ve gotten from Freecycle are small appliances, a vacuum cleaner, a barbeque grill and lots of other things.
  • You can list items that you’d like to give away on www.listia.com . When someone gets your items, you receive points. Then, after accumulating the needed number of points, you can use the points to get items listed by others.
  • Facebook has many different seed and plant exchanges. Some are The Great American Seed Swap Project https://www.facebook.com/groups/gassp/ and the USA Flowers Seed and Bulb Swap https://www.facebook.com/groups/usaflowersveggiesandbulbswap/ . If you search on Facebook you can find many more seed and plant exchange groups.
  • There are many free university online classes at www.coursera.org .
  • There are free things listed on craigslist at http://seattle.craigslist.org/zip/
  • Free paint detergent cleaners (hazardous waste) is available at http://earth911.com/news/2010/11/11/where-to-find-free-paint-detergent-cleaner-and-more/
  • Oil based paint, paint thinners, varnish and more is available at the Snohomish County Household Hazardous Waste Facility – 3434 McDougall Ave. Everett, WA 98201 425-388-6050 open W – Sat 7:30am -4pm Google www.Earth911.com to find a recycling center in your area.
  • Find people who have skills you need who might be willing to barter with you.
  • Free things to do in Seattle can be found at http://www.mrfreestuff.com/free-things-to-do-in-seattle/
  • Ideas for looking for free building supplies http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Free-Building-Materials
  • Free household samples are available through http://www.amazingfreebies.com/free-household-samples.php
  • http://www.lhwmp.org/home/imex/index.aspx is an industrial materials exchange. So, most are not of interest to households. But, they do also have some interesting and useful things. For example, at the time of this writing they have paint thinner, small plastic buckets, wood stains, household bleach and cleaning products, PVC piping, stationary bike saddle seats, gallon glass jugs, 5 gallon plastic tubs. It’s good just to look every now and then.
  • If you qualify, you can get a free cell phone from www.assurancewireless.com
  • You can watch free television on www.hulu.com
  • Here are variety of ideas on how to get free internet access: http://www.wikihow.com/Get-a-Free-Internet-Connection
  • Some students will qualify for a free laptop. http://www.freecollegelaptops.com/
  • There are lots of home exchange sites that could be used to arrange free lodging for your vacation. Here’s one: http://stay4free.com/
  • Still have things you need but haven’t found a free source yet? Consider having a neighborhood or a church swap! Create a list of things people could bring. Invite lots of people and trade with each other. You’d be amazed how much good stuff people have that they don’t need or want.

 SOME SOURCES OF LOWER COST THINGS

  • Try this place for low cost eyeglass frames: http://www.zennioptical.com/
  • Habitat for Humanity stores offer low cost building supplies. www.habitatsnohomish.org
  • Electric companies offers discounts to certain people. If you qualify, go for it!
  • Some places offer discounts on real estate taxes for certain people. If you qualify, go for it!
  • And there are many, many more!

A parting thought…

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” ~Jim Carrey

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