What can you do if you have lost your job, had your hours cut, missed out on getting work or unable to work?
How can we adapt and build a new lifestyle?
Many people talk about their work as a major part of their life and their identity. Our work consumes most of our day-time thoughts (and sometimes nightmares). To have a high paid job may mean you are locked into a lifestyle some people call “golden handcuffs”. Your whole life can be regulated by how much you earn. Yet some of the richest people in the world have only the same consumption as the average person.
We have two choices when we are faced with a major pay cut, we can go into debt further and hope that all will come good. This is what many people are doing. Borrowing on the hope of future earnings is a form of gambling and can risk your health and well being. The safest move is to downsize.
How You Can Downsize:
- If you have a car, get rid of it, or at least leave it at home and lock the keys away from easy access. If the family has more than one car, get rid of all of them but one car: either sell it or lend them to someone else. By removing the car you automatically stop buying petrol and parking fees and start investing in public transport which means you are investing in your community’s future. By selling the car you cut registration, insurance and interest on repayments.
- Look for cheaper housing. If you are no longer working consider moving to a small country town that is connected by public transport. Many country towns are in desperate need of work-age residents and will welcome you. Some people work all their lives to be able to move out of the city when they retire, now could be your opportunity. If you want or need to stay in your home you can take on boarders to help pay. These people might be friends, relatives or students. It will make life more interesting and you can easily go back to living alone later.
- Start cooking more. Share meals with friends instead of meeting them at restaurants. When you cook from basics you will have many of these basic items left over to make another meal. Don’t waste money on pre-made or expensive additives but search for fresh local produce. It is harder to use processed leftovers, they cost a lot more and they are often less nutritious. The risk for people on low-incomes is malnutrition. More often this is the result of poor food choices not a lack of food.Many people in the so-called developed world are feeling worried, overweight, sickly and lacking energy. Look after your health by eating healthy foods, walking to the shops, to work, or to public transport.
- Support live local entertainment ideas in your neighborhood. Start a garden-club, a book-club, a small singing group, a drumming group (you can make your own drums). Have local parties outside with a fire in a drum (unless you are in the inner city and living with fire bans).
- Sell items you haven’t used for years but be careful not to sell items that could be used to earn money.
- Produce more at home. Get out your hobbies and do them, make items that you can trade and put up a sign out the front to sell these items. You might be good at fixing bikes or machines, sewing, growing plants, cooking items for sale. Most residential areas allow you to sell to the public once in a while (like once a month) if it is called a ‘garage sale’. Otherwise, services can be advertised year round: these include home-cleaning, painting, pet grooming and walking, tutoring kids, cooking, baby sitting, massage, organising and promoting events, sports coaching etc. Trade and swap locally. Join LETs or simply trade with friends. The only way to oppose a consumer driven society is to become a producer.
- Grow food, it is very easy to grow tomatoes (simply save the seed from those you buy to eat). Start composting and don’t throw away so much food.
- Cut your energy use. Cut your hot water heating hours, e.g. move to off peak, or if you have solar power hot water with a booster, turn the booster off and shower when the water is warmest. Reduce heating and cooling in the house by actively stopping excessive sun entering the house in summer (use shade covers) and preventing warmth from leaving the house in winter (use heavy curtains). Use less rooms and put up dividers (large heavy curtains can be made with blankets or secondhand curtains) in open spaces. Make sure you have all drafts and windows sealed and covered.
- Reduce consumption of items such as new clothes (buy recycled), haircuts (grow it long), beauty products, gadgets, and have just the occassional treat. E.g. if you walk to town, you can buy something special that would have cost the amount of the petrol for the car.
- Give more. The more we all give, the more costs will stay low and the more we will value each other. Some people have their houses full of items so it would be physically difficult to downsize. Become active in Freecycle. What is the true cost of keeping your items? Most houses have only a few people but lots of stuff. Be free of your posessions, not driven by a requirement to house them.