The news isn't all bad. I know that thousands, if not millions, of families are taking advantage of the downturn to reboot their values and their plans for their futures. This is a huge plus. We've lost money but we've found a sense of priority in our lives. We are more aware of the difference between needs versus wants and entitlements. We are increasingly conscious of our environment, and no longer have to drive the heftiest SUV on the road. We don't care for another 2,000 square feet of living space if we can live comfortably with what we have and pay our mortgage on time. We are more apt (more out of necessity than anything else) to tell our children that they won't be getting x, y, or z these holidays. And I sense that there is a growing awareness that less really can be more. That being thrifty, when done right, can be surprisingly liberating, pleasurable, and rewarding all the way down to our happiness centers. When I ask people which words describe how they want to live now, I don't hear words like "big" and "large"; I hear the words "simply," "peacefully," "modestly," "with less stress," and "with more real connection to loved ones." Happiness doesn't come with a hugely expensive price tag, a maxed-out credit card, a crushing mortgage, or keeping up with five thousand "friends" on Facebook! I'm going to show you how thrift allows you to evaluate the world anew. Frugality is not about deprivation at all. Much to the contrary, it's about examining life's possibilities, then homing in on the ones that make you happiest.
That said, our good intentions and renewed values can be undone easily by our ingrained habits and past decisions. Many of us may want to live on less but don't know how, having grown so accustomed to the pre-Recession world, and having attached our whole identities to what we own. We still cling to who we were or how much we had to spend before facing (or ignoring) today's realities, and we can't stop equating being happy with having more. We may secretly fight to keep up appearances while continuing to delude ourselves and let our relationships with loved ones erode because we can't talk to them about money and limitations. So how do we rectify this? How do we heal the great divide in our families and come together as a team to fulfill each other's dreams no matter what the economy throws at us? If you're feeling paralyzed by fear, overwhelmed by your money woes, and paying (figuratively, emotionally, and literally) for your past mistakes, how do you move forward and embrace this new world while you're still carrying all the baggage from the old world? Put simply, How do you live a life of abundance on less? What does that mean? How is this possible—without pretending or feeling that you're being forced to against your will? Can you reclaim a financial life—and be happy—with significantly less?