Simplify Your Life To Get Ahead

by golbguru on May 30, 2007

This is a guest post by Leo @ Zen Habits. More information about Leo and his blog is available towards the end of this post.

Life has a tendency to get complicated. We have more to do, more to keep track of, more possessions, more places to go, more paperwork, more incoming information, more to remember. Over a number of years, all of that can get overwhelming — and expensive.

For myself, simplifying my life in various ways has allowed me to reduce my expenses and increase my savings. With math like that, it won’t be long before simplifying will lead to prosperity.

Now, simplifying doesn’t just apply to finances — although it definitely can do a lot for your finances. But it can be applied to all areas of your life, and by doing so, in most cases, I’ve reduced my spending and increased my happiness and overall wealth.

Before we get into the details, imagine a simplified life for a minute. For me, it has meant reducing the clutter in my home, leaving my house free of visual distractions, free of messes (for the most part), and more visually appealing. It has reduced my stress and made me more calm. But a simplified life is more than just reducing clutter — it is reducing your commitments, so you are not so busy. It’s simplifying your work life, your finances, your routines and systems. Imagine a life where you have less to do during the day, time to spend on yourself and your loved ones, time to focus on what’s really important instead of distractions, to focus on the work that’s truly essential.

This is the type of life I’ve been striving for, and it has reduced my stress, increased my productivity, and improved my overall happiness. But let’s take a look at one of the best side effects of simplifying: how it has improved my finances.

Here are just 10 ways:

  • Less maintenance. By reducing your possessions, you reduce the amount of maintenance you need to do on those possessions, saving you both time and money. And if you have a drastically reduced number of possessions, you could simplify even further by moving to a smaller home, as you no longer need all that storage space. A smaller home means lower maintenance costs as well.
  • Less wasted time. In your work life, you often have way too much to do. But if you focus on what’s really essential in your professional life — those tasks that really make you money in the long run — you can eliminate much of the non-essential stuff, and use your time more wisely. You can now do more of these money-making tasks (and thus increase your income), or work less. You can apply this principle to the rest of your time as well. Less waste can lead to increased income — it has for me.
  • Fewer fees. You can simplify your financial life by reducing the number of bank accounts and credit cards you have, thus reducing the number of fees you potentially have to pay. You can also simplify your bill paying by doing them online, by making them automatic, or by paying your bills as soon as they come in — any of these methods can reduce your late fees as well, if you’ve been having trouble paying bills on time.
  • Sell your crap. I save money on books (one of my biggest expenses in the past) by selling my used books or getting credit to buy more used books. Many people make a good side income by selling their stuff on eBay.
  • Lower transportation costs. If you simplify the things you need to do — reduce your commitments — and thus reduce the number of places you need to go, you have less driving to do. That’s less gas. In fact, simplify enough, and you can get rid of your car! I haven’t done this yet (though many people have), but I have reduced my transportation costs by commuting in to work from time to time (I’m trying to increase the number of times I do this to 4-5 per week). Or simplify even more, and work from home! Another way to simplify transportation is to have one errands day, instead of doing them throughout the week, and plan out the most efficient route so that you minimize driving.
  • Less impulse spending. One thing I’ve found is that as I reduce my possessions (and it’s an ongoing process), I also reduce my needs. I know what’s important to me (and again, this too is a learning process), and I know that much of the junk I used to want to buy is actually junk. I still get the urge to buy on impulse, but that’s reduced. A great way to do that is to monitor your urges, and to keep a 30-day list — whenever you want to buy something, put it on your list, and don’t allow yourself to buy it until 30 days have lapsed. Most times you don’t want to buy it after 30 days.
  • Less eating out. I used to eat out a lot. Every day. Spent a ton. Now, by cooking at home, and reducing my need to eat out, I’ve simplified my life and drastically reduced one of my biggest expenses. Cha-ching.
  • Cheaper fun. Another big expense was going to the movies (twice a week), going to the mall to hang out (inevitable money drain), or spending on other types of “fun” stuff. Now, I have even more fun, with simplified entertainment. The family and I go to the park, to the beach, play sports outside, play boardgames at home, make up a million fun things to do that don’t cost a ton.
  • Keeping up with the Joneses - nixed. This is one of the biggest wastes of money, but so many people do it. They want to have a car as nice as their co-workers, or an outfit just as cool, or a computer just as new, or a television with just as many inches. By simplifying, I’ve gotten over that little game, and now I can make things last longer simply because I don’t upgrade every time something new and cool comes out, or every time there’s a new trend. Forget having a luxury car — they’re a huge waste of money and gas guzzlers. The Joneses are idiots anyway (Well, some of them).
  • Simple fitness. I used to waste hundreds of dollars a year on a gym, and buy lots of fancy workout gear. Now, I run and bike on the road (who needs exercise machines?) and enjoy nature, for free. I do pushups and crunches at home, and lift a barbell. I also used to spend money on diet food, like Slim Fast or Weight Watchers or Atkins products. Now, I just eat vegetarian, and save a lot of money on meat products as well.

These are just a few ways, but simplifying can reduce your expenses and increase your income — thus fattening your pocketbook — in so many ways. And you don’t need to do it the way I’ve done it — simplifying is an intensely personal thing, and is achieved at different levels and in different areas for every person. But for me, it has not only increased my financial position, but increased my satisfaction with life overall.

About the author: Leo is a father of six kids, a husband, a worker, and a free-lance writer. He currently writes about simple productivity (and related topics) @ Zen Habits. Check out his inspirational post titled “How I Save Money“. To subscribe to Zen Habits, click here.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 FMF 05.31.07 at 6:36 am

I recently listed all the activites I’m involved in and have started eliminating several of them in an effort to make my life more relaxed. We’ll see how it goes, but I’ve already dropped a couple of them and I’m feeling good. ;-)

2 golbguru 05.31.07 at 10:33 am

This is indeed a zen-like approach to getting *rich* ~ something which I have not been able to pursue yet. But I hope to…someday.

At times, the complicated lifestyle seems to keep me on my toes, so I am not sure what I will do with the empty space once I reduce some clutter in my life. :) It’s obvious that I haven’t really understood the term “productivity” ~ got to work towards it.

3 Maria Palma 06.01.07 at 9:35 pm

Just recently I started living a more simple life. I went from eating out every day to eating out twice a month. I no longer have a car and take the bus wherever I need to go, which saves me hundreds of dollars in gas - not to mention saving money on insurance and car maintenance…

Now my life is literally stress-free and I’m enjoying every minute of it!

Great tips ;)

4 Super Saver 06.02.07 at 6:49 pm


Nice post. Less can be best. I miss the days when we lived in Japan, didn’t own a car, and used the train every day.

5 MoneyNing 06.02.07 at 9:36 pm

Less is more! Everything we do takes time and money. Simplifying also helps you keep track of everything. Great post!

6 sJ 06.04.07 at 1:30 pm

Nice post. However as always easier said than done. How about just trying to earn more ?

7 db 06.04.07 at 3:19 pm

@sJ: At some point “earning more” doesn’t really answer your big life issues. Besides, there is only a finite amount of time to devote to earning more, particularly in juxtaposition to living it up.

I’m pretty gung ho about the idea of simplifying life. To me that means editing out the stuff that interferes. For example, I’m getting rid of a lot of books that I know I’ll never read or don’t reflect my current interests (or what I anticipate my future interests to be). I love reading — but I don’t want to be tied down with the weight of hundreds and thousands of books.

The same is true financially. The more I simplify, the more I can more clearly see what is important and where to put my energy. It pushes me to let go of things that are time, money and/or energy sinks.


8 Julie 09.16.08 at 10:24 am

I really like your tip about reducing fees and consolidating accounts. I work with ShoreBank, I’m trying to get the word out about their online savings account. It has a great rate - 3.5% interest, no monthly fees, and a $1 minimum. For more visit here: It’s a good place to keep your money as ShoreBank invests in green projects.

9 Max G 07.30.12 at 7:26 pm

Interesting article. I will try to follow the advice described in couple of the steps.

10 Camera warehouse 07.31.12 at 9:52 am

its a great list, all of us knows the theory, but the implementation is hard.

11 How to get rid of a sore throat? 08.10.12 at 3:47 am

great post for saving, i like fitness tip, i am also spend tons of dollars on my gym and the gym accessories

12 Free Binaural Beats 08.15.12 at 1:43 am

wonderful tips! i love it!

13 Hårtransplantation 08.21.12 at 2:07 am

Many good thoughts and ideas that I both like and think they are a little too hard to follow. But we all have different financial goals.

14 Online Mastering 10.02.12 at 9:36 pm

how in the world does this site maintain a PR3?? do people even link to this site anymore?

15 Corporate Gifting 10.08.12 at 1:49 am

I think that the tenth point is the conclusion of the whole article…just let life become easier.

16 Au Pair Australia 12.04.12 at 10:57 pm

Recently i started to earn money for my life and wife.

This is nice post and this is very useful to do preplanned of my life.

Thank you for Great Article.

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Everything should be in limit and there is always need of changes of activity in life to remain interesting and active.If similar task is continue than one can be a fed up from life.

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Everything we do needs money. Simplifying also helps you keep track of everything. Great post!

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