The Simple Life
Equally shared parenting usually appeals to couples who want to slow down the pace of life, enjoy their children to the fullest, and are not motivated to climb much further up their career ladders (at least not now).
In this context, equal parents are trading the possibility of a physically rich and powerful life someday for the reality of an emotionally rich and peaceful life in the present. Will this come back to haunt them when they are trying to pay for two children's college tuitions? Will there be enough money left for retirement?
Equally sharing parents can increase the likelihood of a financially sound future by living simply while their children are young. We think this also teaches our kids a nice lesson about priorities and not needing all the 'stuff' we're hawked. Parents who equally share come to the table with a wide range of earnings and savings. Some are barely scraping by, but have chosen this lifestyle nevertheless. Other couples are lucky to have enough money to both choose part time jobs and still enjoy substantial vacation trips.
Whatever your situation, however, here are some ideas that might help you cut back on unneeded expenses so that you can relax about your balanced and nurturing pace of life:
- Get rid of cable TV.
- Downsize to one car. Make it an economical one to feed and maintain.
- Take public transportation or ride a bike to work.
- Shop at resale clothing stores.
- Cook at home rather than eat out. Cook and shop with your kids.
- Create an annual budget together with as many categories as you can manage. Then track your spending throughout the year. This allows you to compare your expenses over time and set goals for reducing spending in specific categories.
- Visit your local library a lot. Check out books instead of buying them from a bookstore. Check out music CDs, movies, even discount passes to local museums and theme parks.
- Visit local parks rather than buy a swing set for your backyard. Park equipment is likely to be sturdier and when your kids outgrow it, you aren't stuck with it.
- Buy off of Craigslist.org or other outlets for used items.
- Accept hand-me-downs. Pass on your own hand-me-downs to others.
- Let your kids get bored and then find creative things to do together with what you already own.
- Go hiking, camping, canoeing, or bicycling for family outings.
- Take care of a pet.
- Create special family traditions that don't involve money.
- Grow your own herbs and vegetables/fruits and tend the garden with your kids. Or join a farm-share so that you are all eating locally grown fresh produce as your main food staple.
- Do household projects rather than hiring someone else to do them or buying them premade. You will learn new skills and feel connected to your physical home.
- Grow old gracefully, and don't be afraid to admit your age. No need for expensive cosmetics or procedures to pretend you are still young and foolish.
- Make friends right in your neighborhood and hang out with them often.
- Go for neighborhood walks. Walk as often as you can. It is amazing how different the same street looks when you walk down it instead of drive.
- Live within, and ideally well below, your means. Earn everything you buy unless it is an emergency purchase or a house (and get a mortgage that you can pay with only one income, should one of you be laid off).
The list can go on and on, and each couple's own situation can bring creative new ideas for simplifying. Perhaps one or two of the above ideas appeals to you already. For more inspiration, visit the New American Dream. Regardless, don't let your life be driven by future financial worries. Prepare for them instead, but don't neglect the spiritual and intimacy-building power of simplifying.