The Mindset of Doing More With Less

by Katy on March 5, 2013 · 27 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

less than

Last Sunday’s Parade Magazine featured an article titled, “How The Economic Crisis Changed Us.” I was expecting a narrative piece, but it was mostly a series of very interesting statistics, such as:

“Many Americans have made significant financial adjustments in their daily lives. Eighty percent say that they’ve been “forced to do more with less,” 73% have had to make unexpected changes, and 19% have sought some form of government assistance. Necessity has led 27% of respondents to pursue extra work. “

I find the idea that 80% are “forced to do more with less” to be a very interesting oxymoron. It’s not doing less with less, but doing more. Which in theory should be a positive. But not if it’s forced.

I am fully aware how easy it is for me to find satisfaction and joy in crafting a life with less, but it’s mostly because that decision is my own. It’s an entirely different state of mind to “do more with less” when it’s forced upon you because of events and circumstances that are out of your control. (Job loss, divorce, medical bills, etc.)

A prime example of this dichotomy can be found in our dinner from last night. I cooked a wonderfully satisfying meal of lentil soup with biscuits which did not engender any feelings of deprivation. However, if I had chosen to prepare this meal because the money wasn’t there for our normal meal or even a dinner out, that satisfaction would have been replaced by resentment and other negative emotions.

want to do more with less, therefore that action is satisfying and empowering. I am in control of the circumstances of my family’s life. We don’t have muchspare money floating around after the bills are paid, but that doesn’t affect our quality of life.

  • When I’m raking my yard, I’m not upset that I can’t afford a landscaping service. I happy that I have a yard to rake.
  • When I’m preparing dinner, I’m not resentful that we can’t eat in restaurants all the time. I’m happy that my family will eat simple healthy meals.
  • When I browsing the racks at Goodwill, I’m not wishing I were at Nordstrom.
  • When I get together with my friends, I’m not sad about the lack of a fancy girls’ nights out. I perfectly satisfied with a walk through the neighborhood and an occasional cup of coffee in a local cafe.
  • When I spend all day cleaning my house I’m not annoyed that friends have cleaning services while I spend countless mind-numbing hours keeping my house in order. Oh wait a minute — I do wish the cleaning service fairy would sprinkle her pixie dust on my house. Seriously though, I could never spend the money hiring this job out when that money could be so much better spent, or better yet not even earned.

This issue of doing more with less is not a simple mindset to change. Two people can have the exact same income in the exact same situation and one person can feel deprived while the other feels rich. There is no easy solution to help people appreciate what they have, rather than what they don’t. Culture, family background and individual personality all play a role.

Do you work hard to appreciate what you have, or does it come naturally? Please share your thoughts inthe comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Zanda March 5, 2013 at 11:29 am

Thank you for the re-post, I probably wouldn’t have read it otherwise. I am happy that I have now!
Doing more with less is the mindset that I am trying to achieve rather than could be proud of yet. Not because I feel deprived in my life (apart from that I would wish to travel and see more concerts or theaters), but because I am still working my way around the limited income. I’m still finding ways not to spend and to do more with less in very practical terms. If we, however, talk about the emotional side, then I think I am on the right path, since I’ve always been able to be happy about what life brings, be happy about what I can do and continue to strive to do better.
I think there are just those two groups of people. One who will always struggle and feel pressured, “not yet really happy”. The other who is able to smile about everything whether it’s sunshine or rain.


Daisy March 5, 2013 at 11:47 am

For the most part I am exceptionally happy with where I am in life. I pride myself on what I manage to find and supply the needs of my family with my frugality. I’d rather raise my own children than pay someone else an obnoxious amount just so we could afford unnecessary things. Do I wish we could travel more? Yes but we are working on that we just bought our first hybrid travel trailer. We will travel and do mountain camping. We don’t need a $5K vacation. Do I wish we could afford to buy a different house so my children wouldn’t have to share a room? They are 4 so I think we have a bit of time and by then the teenager may move out freeing up more room elsewhere. We will stay where we are until we can buy our 40 acre plot to raise our own food on. Only then will be really be happy.


Rebecca March 5, 2013 at 8:26 pm

People who work outside the home and use paid childcare ARE in fact raising their children.


Frances March 5, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Nor are we working “just so we can afford unnecessary things”. Some of us are keeping body and soul together; some of us are keeping our sanity; some of us have decided that we are being good role models for our children when we engage in interesting, fulfilling and, yes, paid work.


Marcy March 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm

I wish there were a like button for this comment.


Katy March 5, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I sure hope that working mothers count as raising their kids, as I went back to work six weeks after my first son was born! 😉



L March 6, 2013 at 8:33 am

But wanting to do all of the child raising is okay too.


Katy March 6, 2013 at 4:25 pm

And please don’t think that working parents are not raising their children. We are.



Meredith in SA March 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I am still working hard at being happy with what I have in my life – even though I have a LOT. In fact, we have too much, and I can feel it weighing me down. I am the working parent in a one-income family; my husband is a grad student and stay-at-home-dad to our 2yo twins. I would love to work less, and to have time to really make more out of what we already have, but at this point in our lives, almost NONE of my time is my own. I have recently started asking friends to watch my kids for a few hours on Saturday (DH is usually at the library studying all weekend), so I can take time get my house cleaned out room by room, sell a few things, and re-purpose others. I’ve already made $100 in the past two weeks! And it makes me incredibly happy that my spaces are becoming mine again.


Jennifer March 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Great post! I completely agree. I am happy to do more with less, and that’s probably because I choose to. In fact, I love doing it. The one thing I struggle with, however, is how it affects my kids. On one hand, I’m happy to set that example for them. On the other hand, I’m afraid that forcing fruality upon them is giving them a negative view of it. I don’t want them to grow up to be spendthrifts because they felt deprived. Any thoughts?


Elaine in Ark March 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I grew up in a large family and I *hated* hearing the words “we can’t afford that”. When I started working, I bought whatever I wanted to. Growing up, I never had more than 2 pairs of shoes, or more than 2 jackets/coats. I bought more shoes than I needed, and I lovedlovedloved having an assortment of coats and jackets. And books! I had several hundred books – I would say that I won’t buy any more because I had no place to put them, then I’d buy a bookcase and fill it up. I never went into debt, though, and I enjoyed the things I had. Now that I’m older (much, much older), I’m downsizing and lovin’ it! Not that I had all that much, but I had more than I needed. I buy clothing at the thrift or consignment shops, and I’m not ashamed to tell people where I got this-or-that. Thanks to Katy and Kristen (The Frugal Girl), I found other ways to reduce my spending and be happy about it.

Don’t worry too much about your children. The lessons we learn “at mother’s knee” stay with us, even if we veer off track once in a while.


Tina March 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Great post Katy. Your frame of mind makes such a *huge* difference :}


Kailey March 5, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I’ve always had a natural appreciation for my things, trips and general state of being. I had one purse I would carry until it fell off me because I LOVED it so much I never saw a need for a second, even if I could afford it. I appreciated the hell out of my things and loathed the day I would have to look for another. If I saw someone in new clothes with their hair done and the latest purse I never was jealous because those things weren’t for me. I wasn’t that person. The idea of getting my hair done never flitted through my mind because I wasn’t the person who got their hair done. Not because I couldn’t afford it but bc I guess I appreciated my hair as it was.
Nowadays it’s a little different. We’re dual income with no kids. I have the potential to be that person. I don’t have to scrimp and save if I need something, (more like ‘wants’ now) and it’s starting to impact how I feel about things. I’m proud to say I still only have one purse, I don’t get my hair done and I get an insane amount of pleasure from turning left-overs into a new meal but I find I have to remind myself more and more to appreciate what I have. It’s not so natural now (for some things anyway). Mo’money mo’ problems?
It’s under control but I don’t like having to ‘control’ something when it came so naturally before. Reading your blog keeps me focused on what I have and inspires me to stay off the mindless consumer hamster wheel. So thank you for that.


Krystal March 5, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Forced is such a harsh word isn’t it? And generally isn’t true, I have come to realize.

I haven’t been forced to change due to the economic crisis, and if I was, I’m not sure who would have “forced” me. I know there are extreme cases of those who have lost so much, and I am thankful I have not.

To be honest, I am doing better every year financially, even after losing my job last year. I’m also spending less than many people (the exception being travel!) I have found a new job, but most importantly, my outlook has changed. Nobody forced me to get out of debt, save, budget, change my buying habits, live with less, plan, swap, make-do. I realized that to be financially comfortable and meet my other goals, this was the best course for me. And I’m so much happier because of it.

When I lost my job last summer, I had changed my habits to the point where I wasn’t alarmed. We paid our mortgage, we didn’t eat out, we didn’t buy new clothes, we pushed back vacations, we focused on finishing projects we had started because we didn’t have the disposable income to start new ones. I didn’t feel forced into any of these things.

I like what you said about mindset. People in similar situations can totally feel that they are struggling or thriving. I have friends to make much more and friends who make much less, with higher and lower net worth. It doesn’t make a difference to me because it’s our situation and our lifestyle. Comparing to others doesn’t serve you in any way. I feel empowered by my choices, so I’m not concerned about how other’s choices affect me (turns out–they don’t!)


Vivian Evans March 5, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Yes being happy doing more with less is really about having a choice. I chose to give up a part time job when my son was 4. Until then I really did not understand how $300 less every 2 weeks was going to change our family life. We as a family are still struggling from time to time being happy about this change, however the lessons I have learned about doing more with less and the money saved when we decided not to spend on frivilous itesm has enriched our lives. I can’t begin to express the joy I have experienced from unexpected savings, finding treasures at the Sally Ann and those special memories that have come from not spending.

Then there is the true generousity of paying it forward to others and the unexpected gifts from others like our trampoline and new to us boat. Life has been enriched. I know my life has been blessed by learning from other like mined individuals like Katy and the crew on the NCA fb page and those in our non facebook life who we have learned from. Lastly there is the old adage my mother shared with me when I first had my son; “Never pay for something when you can do it yourself.” Those words have been a gift.


tna March 5, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I don’t know about doing more with less. I think I try to do what I need to do with the minimum needed to do it. Sort of like a recipe….if you add to much or too little of some ingredients it just isn’t what it should be…but some ingredients can be totally left out without anything negative resulting. I’m thinking about chili, as in chili cheese fries, and now I’m hungry.


Lou Rodriguez March 5, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I think some of your message may have been lost in translation Katy and forgive me if this comment comes across the wrong way. I understand when you say you want to do more with less, therefore that action is satisfying and empowering and that you are in control of the circumstances of your family’s life.

What I’m not sure about is when you say that you do things like raking your yard, that you’re not upset you can’t afford a landscaping service or when you’re preparing dinner, your not resentful that you can’t eat in restaurants all the time. Are you saying that those who were forced to be frugal because of their circumstances, like I was, are resentful we have to live that way?

I would respectfully say that in fact, I have definitely done more with less, but have gotten more than I ever thought I could out of it! I was forced into frugality but because I have gotten so much out of it, it has been both satisfying and empowering and it has allowed me to be in control of the circumstances of my family’s life as well; regardless of the route I have taken to get there. 🙂


Elaine in Ark March 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm

“What I’m not sure about is when you say that you do things like raking your yard, that you’re not upset you can’t afford a landscaping service or when you’re preparing dinner, your not resentful that you can’t eat in restaurants all the time. Are you saying that those who were forced to be frugal because of their circumstances, like I was, are resentful we have to live that way?”

Lou, I think Katy is saying that some people are resentful that they can’t have everything, and some aren’t. I would love to have someone mow my yard and do the trimming, but I can’t afford that, so I do it myself (and I don’t like it). But I choose to not spend a lot of time being unhappy about it. When it’s finished, I sit on the porch and admire how pretty it looks.

Some people embrace living the frual life, and some fight it.


Lou Rodriguez March 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I appreciate your reply Elaine but it’s hard to reconcile your viewpoint. Katy says in the post “in theory should be a positive. But not if it’s forced” and then “how easy it is for me to find satisfaction and joy in crafting a life with less, but it’s mostly because that decision is my own”

She also writes “It’s an entirely different state of mind to “do more with less” when it’s forced upon you. To which I would reply – based on what? Personal experience, surveys, studies? The only answer that can be drawn comes when she writes ” if I had chosen to prepare this meal because the money wasn’t there for our normal meal or even a dinner out, that satisfaction would have been replaced by resentment and other negative emotions.”

In that statement, she is talking about how she would feel, not how a person who was forced into frugality would feel. What I took from the post was that SHE would feel resentful had she been forced into frugality but in fact, her frugality is her choice, which I most definitely applaud and admire. Wish I had her mindset before my turn of events.

And so no one misunderstands, including Katy, I’m a fan. Otherwise I wouldn’t be participating in these discussions or liked her Facebook page. But as someone who was forced into frugality, I harbor no resentment of the resources I no longer have and as I said in my comments “I have definitely done more with less, but have gotten more than I ever thought I could out of it! I can only go by my personal experiences and they say different. I believe this may be an issue that would purely depend on the kind of person you were before you were forced into frugality as well as your resolve.

With Katy’s permission, you can find out what being forced into frugality has done for me on a post I wrote many months back and in it, I clearly mention Katy and this blog as an added resource in helping me personally navigate the frugal life!


Laure March 5, 2013 at 5:17 pm

I guess this economy — and my own personal resulting economic downturn — has forced me to make due with less. Although there have been many days where fear due to lack of $ got the best of me, I do appreciate the freeing feeling of looking at empy closet shelves (clothes wore out; no money to replace them). I am also enjoying some ways of “making due with less” e.g. I’m not a great seamstress, but I took apart a few old, baggy shirts (from the 90s) and used the material to make them over into well-fitting (or at least acceptable) shirts. All-in-all, I think you’re right — it’s a lot easier to be happy when frugality is chosen (but you know there’s money in the bank) than when forced. Generally, I’m pretty happy with what I have. It’s mostly when I hear others who make so much more than I do — e.g. workers in my city on strike, their salaries are public and posted — complaining that they “deserve” more, that I”m pushed to tears. So many of us make WAY less and are just trying to hang on. Maybe that shows what a great influence we all have on each other and that we can all make each other feel happier or more unhappy about making due with less!


Koliti March 5, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I am an optimist – I look for the bright side, I look for the lessons I can learn, I like finding new ways that work for me. When life happens and changes need to be made – I like to think of it as an oportunity to take stock in myself and find a new balance.

I quit my full-time job over 2 1/2 years ago because I no longer wanted to do what I was doing. I did not have another job lined up – I was thankful that I could make the change because I’ve always been “a good saver” and I could cover my expenses.

Nine months later I found my ideal job – it’s a perfect fit for me. Initially the less than part-time status seemed daunting – only a third of the hours of my previous job. Bright side – being able to breathe and take a step back from the “rat race” – PRICELESS.

I am truly more creative and resourceful with less. I am more mindful of purchases. Going through my “stuff” and letting go of things that do not reflect who I am now, has been very liberating. Less is more because I know what I have and I have what I love and use.


Mary March 6, 2013 at 7:02 am

I don’t do more with less – I just do as much as I can with less, mostly because my raises have not kept up with insurance costs. I enjoy living a simple life but I do resent the 1% keeping almost all the money in this country. If we all had adequate healthcare and childcare and decent living wages then we could all enjoy our lives alot more! Thanks for another thoughtful post and discussion.


Katy March 6, 2013 at 7:08 am




Michèle March 6, 2013 at 8:13 am

Je suis OK avec vos idées que je pratique chez moi en France depuis plusieurs années. Bravo c’est juste et bien.


tonya March 6, 2013 at 11:08 am

Good post, Katy.


Hannah March 7, 2013 at 7:45 am

I enjoy the freedom frugality has given my family. Amy D. was my heroine during the early family years (she still is) I learned so much from her books. I branched from frugality to simplicity as time went by realizing the many similarities that I wanted to embrace such as green living and sustainability. Because we lived frugally we were able to pay down our mortgage much more quickly– some months were tight, but as of 3/1/13 we are officially mortgage-free!!

I do enjoy working in the yard, gardening, bread-making etc. but realize it’s not for everyone. However, I do realize each thing we do ourselves, or teach our children to do 🙂 is one less thing we have to pay for and that much more towards the principal. Now that the house is paid off I’m going go Ninja on the car loan. I love my CR-V and plan to drive it til it drops or I do.

I’ve been a stay at home mom and a working full time mom. In each I’ve been a fully commited parent. I hate that working parents get such flack.


Betty Winslow March 13, 2013 at 8:56 am

When I think of how many people in the world are food insecure, homeless, living in war zones, under dictatorships, and in other unpleasant situations, I can’t help but be grateful for what I have: a nice home, a working car, a kitchen with running water, a functional stove, and lots of food, a government that lets me gather freely with my friends to worship and pray and read God’s word… I am blessed beyond measure. No, I don’t have the newest, latest best whatever…. but I am nonetheless blessed.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: