First Update - Living More with Less in 2015

On January 15, I declared that I was going to live a simpler and richer life by having and buying less stuff and doing more of what matters. I had outlined three main themes as part of my plan:

  1. Don’t buy anything unless it’s urgent - yes, it’s a flexible definition.
  2. Use (and enjoy) what I have.
  3. Focus on spending time with and giving to others.

Well, with January and February behind us I'm here to report back on my progress. Let's dive into each of the themes above and see how things are going.

1. Don’t buy anything unless it’s urgent.

So far, I haven't purchased anything that doesn't need to be replaced or that I had not already committed to. My purchases for the first two months of 2015 were the following:

  • Olympic lifting unitard and lifting shoes ($250): I had committed to competing in an Olympic Lifting competition back in 2014 as part of my bucket list. The competition, which took place February 7th, mandated the use of certain equipment. I focused on only purchasing what was needed to get the job done.
  • Taper candles on clearance ($4): To be used to repurpose wax from candles I don't like and haven't used (see next section). I want to note here that I resisted multiple urges to buy more scented jar candles, a weakness of mine, despite encountering many opportunities to purchase them out of clearance bins (post-Christmas & post-Valentine's Day).
  • Groceries ($1,480, 20% less per month than last year's trend): Purchases made were to supplement what we already have in the pantry, fridge and freezer. We are foodies and  we purchase a lot of fresh foods regularly but I was expecting a lower total bill for the past two months. One note: We were running out of food storage containers due to breakage and purchased 12 new Ziplock containers of different sizes.
  • Entertainment ($22): Netflix and a few movie rentals. We were fortunate to receive a couple of tickets to a hockey game and that was a wonderful experience. We hadn't been to a game in a few years.
  • Personal Growth and Relationships ($859): this includes fees and airfare for a conference I'm attending this fall, online learning and going out with friends and family (see section #3 for more on that last topic).

As you can see, I've stayed true to the purpose of this point, which was to minimize the acquisition of material goods. As mentioned in my original post, experiential purchases such as travel, education, health, leisure activities, getting together with friends over coffee, drinks, meals, are still fair game. I'm a bit surprised at how little spending there has been in these areas over two months, especially when a trip is included. My goal would be to keep that category as the top spending category because it most aligns with our values.

2. Use & enjoy what I have.

Use or Reuse What We Have

I will be using the tapers I mentioned above, along with empty jars I've been saving, to make new scented candles for our home by melting wax from old candles I no longer like or use instead of purchasing new ones. I experimented with repurposing once (pictured right) and it worked well enough for me to decide to take the plunge with more. My choice to buy tapers as opposed to wicks is that it was cheaper. Hey, call me opportunistic!

We've made quite a dent in our food stuffs. I've been pleased to see how we've managed to use what we had in our pantry, fridge and freezer (see before and after freezer picture below). The cleanup is also making us realize just how much we have in extras of various things. It's been an eye opener.

Give or Sell What We Don't Use or Need

We managed to give away a large box of clothing to a local shelter in mid-January (our clothing, along with contributions from friends and family). 

We also sold some redundant exercise equipment, netting us $460 and some nice square footage of space in the process:

Further, we managed to give away a fridge to family members who could use it, twice over. This was a fridge that we were unexpectedly offered a few months ago and we'd been wanting to find a home for. It was nice to be able to help out once temporarily and now as a needed replacement.

One thing I haven't done enough of is use our fireplace to burn the cord of wood we have in our backyard, though Mr. F2P has been more diligent. I'll be focus on using more of that over the next few months because it's silly to be paying a hefty heating bill when we have other means.

I haven't successfully attacked my personal book collection (what can I say, the pull of the library was strong) and I only made marginal headway in starting a cross-stitch project I've wanted to tackle but all in all, I would say the first two months have been a reasonable success in de-"stuffing" ourselves.

3. Focus on spending time with and giving to others.

Friends and Family

Since the beginning of the year, we've gotten together with family and friends many times:

  • Birthday/anniversary dinner out with god parents
  • Coffees/lunches with mom and dad
  • Walks with my mom (yes, despite the bitterly cold weather)
  • Visit to a museum with our god daughter
  • Potluck dinner with a group of friends
  • Multiple small coffee dates at home and out and about with a dozen friends 
  • Phone/FaceTime/Messaging exchanges with multiple friends around the globe 

I'm pleased with how outgoing we've been and I want to maintain this level of connection over the coming months. They have all been memorable exchanges that add to our quality of life. 

Charitable Giving (Time and Money)

So far, I sheepishly have to say that I haven't accumulated that many examples. I've helped out a few friends with expertise in a few areas that helped them out (preparing for a presentation and adapting to moving from a flip phone to a smartphone). I also have some volunteer public speaking and coaching lined up, though I'm not quite sure when that will take place yet. 

Other than that, we will at least give as much to organizations we supported financially last year, but I know we can do more. I’ve always enjoyed how fulfilling it is to give and intend to do more of it.

Overall score for the first 2 months? B-

I'll arbitrarily provide a score for my efforts over the last few months:

  • I give myself a "C" for not buying anything unless it's urgent. Not because of the competition attire but because I think I could have reduced our grocery bill further with little additional effort and we could have avoided purchasing the food containers. In retrospect, had we emptied more of the containers we still had in the freezer, the purchase would have been unnecessary.
  • I give myself a "B" for using what we have because we managed to purge quite a bit of what we don't use, despite not managing to make progress across all categories. I also could have waited before tackling the candle project by continuing to use some of my candle collection "as is". 
  • I give myself a "B" in the giving category. I think we've been giving of our time to family and friends, but I think we can do more to help registered charities sooner than later.

This makes my overall score a "B-". I know I can do a better job and this retrospective has been helpful in identifying the behaviours I should focus on either maintaining or correcting.