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Voluntary simplicity, also known as simple living, is a way of living deliberately and cutting out non-essential items and new purchases from one's life. With regards to finance, voluntary simplicity means reducing the amount of money spent per month as much as possible on bills, as well as cutting back on non-essential purchases like going out to eat at a restaurant or purchasing new items for oneself or one's home. This style of living often goes hand in hand with a minimalist life style, but not all people who practice simplicity voluntarily are also minimalists.
The idea behind voluntary simplicity is to simplify finances and to become comfortable living with less. This does not mean living in poverty, though many people who practice a simple lifestyle find that they can get by with a significantly reduced income. This may allow them to change careers or follow a new career path that they might not have undertaken before, because they will now have more free time and the ability to live with less. Of course, voluntary simplicity can take many forms; some people only make small changes, while others will attempt to rework their whole financial lives.
Many people begin trying to follow a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity by first analyzing the monthly budget. With a little effort, areas where money can be saved are often fairly apparent; for instance, it is not necessary to eat at a restaurant a few times per week, go out for coffee every day, purchase new clothes all the time, or buy decorations for the home. Next, it may be a good idea to analyze other bills, and see if any cutbacks can be made; for instance, some people choose to cancel cable television, replace a home phone with a cell phone, reducing other bills as possible, and then purchasing only what is necessary to live.
Of course, each person's area where he or she wants to cut back may be different, based on each individual's needs and desires for the future. Some people choose to focus on ecological sustainability, and will only purchase natural, sustainably manufactured items; others will focus more on their own personal desires and will try to develop a minimalist home and lifestyle. Voluntary simplicity can work differently for each person, but it is the rare person who cannot benefit from making more deliberate, informed choices with personal finance or consumer purchasing.