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Today’s post comes from Samantha at Sweet Potatoes and Social Change.

My first year of marriage turned my life upside down. I was 22-years-old, newly married, living in a brand new place away from my family, my support system and everything I knew.

A Journey to Simplicity and Sustainability (+ 4 Tips for Creating a Simpler Life) Follow Me on Pinterest
My new husband was trying to balance going to graduate school (pursuing his calling of going into ministry full-time) plus work, both of which were a long drive. I was working a lot of jobs, due to my health restrictions, which made full-tine employment difficult. And we were trying to make ends meet on two part-time salaries.

Not exactly Hollywood newlywed bliss.

During the first few months of our marriage my husband’s career plan was uprooted when almost everyone on the staff where he worked left, taking with them the hope of our financial security.

To top it all off, I was faced with the reality of dealing with what it meant to have a chronic disease, as I had been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a serious autoimmune disease, not long before we decided to get married.

Needless to say, it was a stressful year.

However, relying on our faith and our commitment to each other we made it through, not knowing how these stressors would end up shaping our lives for the better.

The catalyst

Having to live on two part-time salaries was the primary catalyst for our desire to find ways to live more simply.

After getting married I began to wrestle with what it meant for me to be a modern wife. I am a fairly liberal person and have always been a feminist at heart, but I also found myself enjoying and embracing the traditional female gender roles of being a wife and homemaker.

This led me to read a book called Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes.

Hayes shares many inspiring stories of women who are homemakers for a purpose, using their skills to help the environment, their communities, and their families and to have the lives they want free from the restrictions of 9-to-5 jobs, financial insecurity, and the never-ending rat race.

In it, she made one particular point, which really resonated with me; it’s not about how much money you make, as much as how much money you don’t have to spend.

I felt like one of those cartoons with a light bulb going off over my head – maybe we didn’t have to stress day in and day out about full-time jobs or part-time jobs – maybe we could shift our focus to better using the money we did have.

Creating change

After that, I went into full research mode looking for any and every way that we could save money and what I found was in almost every instance the thing that saved the most money was also the thing that was best for our health and for the environment.

We stopped eating out except for the occasional date night, we started transitioning our disposable products to reusable products, we limited our consumption of resources like electricity and paper products, and little by little we started saving money.

Before we knew it, we were not only making ends meet and saving money, but also paying off debt and taking big steps towards future financial freedom.

Many of our choices have also been in line with creating healthier lifestyles for ourselves and have furthered my attempts at taking a natural approach to getting my ulcerative colitis into remission.

We have not achieved our goals alone; we have had wonderful support from our family and friends. And we still have a lot of goals left to achieve.

But looking back over the past few years I am really proud of the life that we have created for ourselves and it gives me confidence that we will be able to live out our lives in a way that demonstrates our values, fulfills our desire to enjoy our lives, and makes the most of our time and relationships without being dictated by money and stress.

It is truly amazing what happens when we strip away all of the things our culture tells us we “need” and just listen to what our bodies are telling us we actually need.

4 Tips for Creating a Simpler Life

Here are a few of the first steps we took in creating a more simplified life:

1. Cut Out Unnecessary Expenses

This will vary from person to person, but for us this meant no cable TV, less eating out and impulsive snacks or sodas, less buying new clothes, etc.

2. Cut Costs on Necessary Expenses

By cutting power at our circuit breaker to things that were not in use and by weatherizing our apartment we were able to cut down our electric bill substantially, and by creating a grocery price binder I was able to get our weekly grocery bill down to about $50-$75 per week while still eating a nourishing real food diet. You can see more ways to cut costs here.

3. Transition From Disposable Products to Reusable Products

We transitioned from paper napkins to cloth napkins, paper towels to rags, and I even stopped using tampons and switched to a Diva Cup!

4. Make What You Can

Over time, we started making things we had previously bought like cleaning products, shampoo, body wash. This saved a lot of money and allowed us to use natural alternatives without paying whole food store prices.

What tips can you share about creating a simpler life?

About Samantha

Samantha is the author of the blog Sweet Potatoes and Social Change. She writes about apartment homesteading, simple living and healing her autoimmune condition through diet and lifestyle. Outside of writing she is also a wife and a childbirth doula.