How to Save a Million Dollars With a Sustainable Lifestyle

| 12/21/2011 3:42:33 PM

Black FridaySome federal agencies refer to U.S. households as “consumer units,” an insult that should incite acts of consumer disobedience rather than bargain-day stampedes. Yet, sadly, the term is all too appropriate. Most American homes are codependent with a lifestyle-support-system of roads, wires, pipes, lines of credit, satellites, and a collective identity determined by the supply side. Yet just about any household budget offers continuing opportunities for creating a healthier, less expensive lifestyle that’s also easier on the environment.  Because changing circumstances will demand it, we have to re-think the values that shape our decisions and rearrange our priorities to match those values. In other words, reach a new agreement about what constitutes a life well lived. We can imagine a symbolic “flag” flying over millions of homes, signifying that people are assertively changing the patterns of their lives, not just the pieces.

Rather than consumer units, our homes can be units of creativity and productivity that provide a higher percentage of what we need. For example, we can produce rather than consume entertainment, with house concerts or poker games in our own living rooms and backyards.  We can be as bold as the current First Family, replacing a chunk of lawn with miniature fruit trees and rows of vegetables. The food we eat can supply both vitality and monetary savings from avoided drugs and expensive medical treatments.  (Forty percent of the most prevalent diseases are related to diet, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, allergies, and depression). Some of our transportation needs can be fueled by carbohydrates from the garden rather than by hydrocarbons from Middle East oil wells.  By making a few well-researched choices about energy and water efficiency, we can cut our utility bills by a third. With this new, more sensible way of thinking, we can easily imagine avoiding a million dollars of expenses per household over the course of a lifetime, and enjoying many more hours of leisure.

How a Sustainable Lifestyle Generates More Than a Million Dollars of Value

* Thousands of dollars a year avoided for purchases, maintenance costs, and loan interest payments for new cars, gadgets, and clothes you no longer covet because you’ve found other values to be passionate about;

* Thousands avoided in interest payments because you have very little debt;

*  Energy, water, and resource bills cut in half because your car is more efficient; you live in a more compact, resource-efficient house; and the things you need are close by;

* Expensive, resort-style vacations you don’t need because you’ve learned it’s cheaper to create your own, culturally rich vacations; and also because you’re more content being home than you were before you changed your life;

1/8/2012 12:11:46 PM

I didn't say we don't need a social security system, I said our Social Security System is extremely inefficient and suggest that it needs to be dismanted and a new, smart one put in its place. Right now, it takes five workers contributing to support one beneficiary. According to my suggestion, one worker could support five. Something's rotten in DC and it could be the voters who don't look at the problems or solutions very deeply.

1/7/2012 10:26:07 PM

These are great, experience-based comments. Thanks! The heart of what I wanted to say in The New Normal (from which this piece is excerpted) is that with prevention, precision, and participation, we can AVOID the need to spend 100,000 hours per lifetime at jobs that don't inspire us. The way we come out ahead is not needing the $1 million, and instead harvesting health, time affluence, and connection with things that are real. Yes, it's true that the economy of the future will be radically different, and that's a good thing. If we need less money collectively, let the *##*@@$ GDP shrink! My favorite mantra is Let's move away from deadlines and dying species, toward lifelines and living wealth.

1/4/2012 11:23:30 AM

We have been living this life for the past ten years, and have found that we can now live on one income rather than two. Ten years ago this was totally out of the question. The only downside of this lifestyle is that we are the only ones in our area living it, and we really would like to be able to share this with other people. People sharing this lifestyle is key.

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