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Being a Spartan: How to Save Money and Live Happier with Less Through Minimalism

Updated on May 8, 2013

I Spartan: Save Money by Living Like a Minimalist.

Many people these days are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet and often end up asking themselves "How do I save money?" Well if your one of these people, I have a tried and true way to save money that is hard for some, but liberating for others.

You've all heard the term "living withing your means", well my advice doesn't only take this into account but advises you to live UNDER your means, to an extent, when it comes to luxuries and things you don't necessarily NEED to have a happy comfortable productive life. Living frugally is something many of us do that don't have millions laying about. The definition of frugality is subjective however, and buying a cheaper new sports car instead of an expensive new sports car, is still making a purchase you probably don't need, especially if you have to go in debt. I'll cover the form of frugality that works the best, but is not always the easiest to do: Minimalism.

I'm going to explain to you a story of how I, and others, go about life with less, and get more!

Graphic made by myself.

What it Means to be a Spartan.

No, not the Guys from "300"

The definition of "spartan" I'm using isn't referring to the elite group of men in ancient times, but it IS based on their lifestyles. Spartans were disciplined, minimalist, and fierce warriors, trained to fear nothing and be ready to die at any time. They trained from children and sought not riches, but self improvement, and glory.

Being a spartan today means utilizing that same self-discipline and courage but in a way guided by frugality, simplicity, and the avoidance of unneeded luxury. It doesn't mean doing without the yacht but getting the speedboat, it means doing without anything you don't need to survive or prosper. But I would add further in saying that some things are necessary for self improvement that would be considered luxuries, so in this case being spartan means avoiding spending money or time on things that provide no benefit other than entertainment, social competition, or short lived satisfaction, and do not keep you alive or self improving such as tools and education/training resources. Although a little entertainment and relaxation is understandable, there are plenty of ways to do it without wasting a LOT of time or money.

Common Luxuries We Can Do Without - I know it stinks, but you wanna be a spartan don't you??

Here are some things that we tend to spend money on in the West that we really don't need too. This is a list in no particular order. Some of these things are easier to give up than others. Everyone is different and some people just have more money to burn. Some people have kids as well, although a spartan lifestyle is, in my opinion, very conducive to learning and curiosity, from experience. I list some common luxuries and their costs, as well as alternatives. This will be kinda lengthy but informative! If not a little common sense :P Yet I'm not trying to be condescending. Many of these I learned the hard way about. Thousands of dollars in my life, a very large fraction, went to useless junk: snacks, movies, books I never read, restaurants. So I am self critical but learned from my mistakes and hope to help other avoid certain things.

  1. Television - Extremely distracting; tending to be mindless entertainment primarily existing to sell stuff, even the news is "infotainment". I'm just as guilty of wasting time on tv as anyone at one point in my life. I could have been using that time to study and improve myself.

    Cost: Varies. Typically $35-70 a month depending on your source or package.

    Alternative: Antenna locals are free and good for news, but you have to pay for the converter, tv, and electricity. Save hours on end doing something productive, familial, or brain stimulating. Watch select shows or Youtube videos online if you choose the internet luxury, mentioned further down.

  2. Snacks/Soda - Typically hazardous to your health and habit forming. I don't consider this food unless you consider a veggie or fruit a snack. Snacks: A treat for your tastebuds; artificially satiating hunger or thirst with carbs, salt, and sugar, but other than that they are useless. We all have been guilty of grabbing that impulse soda or candy bar. When you get into the habit of it and do it everyday it adds up. If you want snacks choose healthy alternatives like fruits, which are more food than luxury.

    Cost: Lets say you spend a conservative $5/day on snacks and soda. That adds up to $150 a month. $10/day? $300 a month. $20? $600, and so on. On snacks! That latte here, soda there, candy bar, chips, icecream all really add up. Your paying hundreds of dollars a month to harm your health, likely costing you MORE in the long run for medical bills. I now from experience. I got a good summer job once and magically found myself buying junk just because I could. I gained a few pound for it, and even though I saved a lot, my savings slowly whittled away during college.

  3. Tobacco/Alcohol - Like snacks these are also hazardous luxuries. Deleterious to your health and your wallet. They form dependencies that surpass even sugar, salt, or caffeine. I've never smoked but I have seen the effects on those around me. However I have drank, and can remember a few nights when just getting a light buzz cost $20, thankfully I don't drink much anymore. I've only been legal a couple years and already burnt out haha.

    Cost: A medium to low cost pack of cancer sticks costs about $4. A pack a day is $120 a month. Two packs a day or two smokers in the house? $220 a month, or almost $3000 out of your yearly income, and so on. Alcohol? Depends on your tastes, but a strong habit of drinking can put you back hundreds each month.---->Health Bills.<----

    Alternative: If you can't break the habit I would recommend you make your own alcohol or grow your own tobacco without the chemicals!

  4. Movies - While movies are fun, more and more many are becoming mindless dribble like television.

    Cost: $10 or more a piece for tickets, $20-30 for a disk. Buy 5 new dvds? $100 Even older movies are expensive. If they are cheaper we tend to buy more and spend more than we would pay for one! I know from experience the strength of the sales pitch to buy one get one free. I spend probably a couple THOUSAND dollars over the years on buying movies I only watch once. I mostly bought for my parents. Renting can also add up. We would spend about $8 a week in some periods of the winter and that adds up.

    Alternatives: You can find ways to watch movies for free, like at a friends house. Watching online is also cheaper, if you decide to have internet. If your on a date trade days to pay with the other person.

  5. Clothing/Fashion - Don't get me wrong, we don't all want to be running around in rags or stark naked! I mention clothes pertaining to overpriced brands and unneeded accessories like jewelry. Just because it has some fancy logos or a name on it, you don't need to pay 5 prices for a piece of junk made by sweatshop workers in China. Trying to look cool or hip shouldn't even be a concern, your already cool! I rarely buy clothes. I get mine from thrift stores or for free from family that find them here and there. If I want my jeans to have holes in them and look worn I just work in them haha!

    Cost: Oh come on $60 bucks for a pair of jeans with holes in them? Please, haha. Those $80 sunglasses look nice, what kind of plastic are they made out of? -__-

    Alternative: You can get many decent clothes at second hand stores such as salvation Army. I've often been able to find a bunch of name brand fancy shirts and pants for pennies on the dollar. Yardsales are another good place to find cheap clothes. Also, if you know how, or learn, you can make your own. Materials costs but it's cheaper in the long run, and fun!

  6. New cars - Having a car is pretty much a necessity if you have a commute but going far into debt for a car that loses much of it's value when you roll it off the lot is not smart. Bells and whistles or no, your wasting money if you buy a new car, because in a few years it will be remarkably cheaper. I've managed to do without driving as much as humanly possible. I'm not the cool kid on the block, and it always caused problems with women and social life, but hey I saved a grande a year in insurance and another grand or two in gas and upkeep! Obviously this isn't practical for most people, but you CAN make it without. It's just not very cool, if you care about such things as "coolness"

    Alternative: I prefer to buy really old cars, before computers were big. They are easier to fix and have better materials. Most of the new ones you have to take to a specialist mechanic with a computer checker. The old ones you use a little elbow grease and replace a part here and there. Saves hundreds of dollars in upkeep. Not always as cheap on gas though, that's where driving less comes in handy. Restoring an old car piece by piece is fun and rewarding as well as cheaper than buying a new car, especially when you can sell your hotrod for twice what you put into it!

    Cost: Thousands and thousands in new car price markups, interest, and mechanic upkeep.

  7. Toys - Adult and child toys are often luxuries that tend to break or become less fun overtime. this category is so broad you can think of many yourself. Videogames are a big one nowadays for all ages, and while I love videogames, I had to quite buying them. At $60 a pop for a new hit game it's a little ridiculous. I wouldn't recommend them unless you have a decent income and enough time to allow for other things in your life such as family and self improvement. My vice was always videogames, I spent the $50-$60 bucks a pop when I had money and played a lot. I realized I was literally turning down social activity and relationships to play videogames that I got bored of pretty quick. I realized that I'm wasting hundreds or thousands of hours a year doing something that has absolutely no benefit or gain for me. I might play some one day, but very selectively, and likely wait till it's cheaper to buy the game I want.

    Cost: Varies. Electronics go into the hundreds or thousands. Games can cost you a few hundred a year if your not careful. toys also vary, with brand names being quite a bit. I'm a fan of legos but they are so expensive. Be prepared to spend a fortune if you're into the name brand or novelty stuff.

    Alternatives: Reading, exploring, playing outside, sports, art, writing, learning skills. You can make your own toys, I often had more fun playing with rocks outside than I did toys. Except when my sister would throw rocks at me. I made dams on creeks and forts and treehouses! THAT's fun! Get second hand toys or hand-me-downs if it's necessary. I might invest in some crayons if I had kids, a cheap treat that creates hours of fun. Creativity builds the mind! Just don't let them melt them and get them in their hair like I used to.

  8. Cell phones - Cells are remarkably useful in this day and age and yet I've managed to do without for most of my life. Although I don't have much of a social life to require the constant use of one, I save a lot of money. While you can get cheaper ones, or can get one free with a plan if you have good credit, trying to keep up with the Jones' fancy smartphones is unnecessary and expensive. If you need one for work see if they offer one, or if you can get a tax write off.

    Cost: I know couples that spend $300 a month or better in cell phone bills. An Iphone costs a few hundred bucks without credit, plus a plan that typically runs around $70 bucks a month, don't quote me on that, but it's a lot regardless.

    Alternatives: You can get a cheap, prepaid phone for about $20 bucks and get a package that fits your usage best. You can take the sim card out and put it in a fancier phone sometimes. You can find those in pawnshops or from friends. I did this with an Iphone a friend of mine gave me when he got a newer one. So, even though your not encouraged to, I have a Gophone Iphone! Also! If you jailbreak your smartphone you can get Google Voice on it, which is free calling and texting. It is a little glitchy but it works. You need internet connection for it to work though, so if you are around wifi you can get free cell service through Google Voice or Talkatone.

  9. Internet - While I'm listing this here as a luxury, I can recommend it in place of many other luxuries. Per month it's much cheaper than spending money on other things such as tv, movies, books, magazines, videogames, etc. You can get cheaper movies, free information, cheaper e-books, cheaper anything really. If you need a tool that costs $100 at the store, you can often find a version for a fraction for the price online, even with shipping costs. If there was one luxury I recommended it would be the internet. I learn a lot and I'm able to do things like write Squidoo lenses and do graphic design through the web. You can sift through different sides to news stories to get better information and can have access to learning just about any skill you ever wanted to learn for free. So, as a tool for a spartan the internet is a place to learn, save money, and a recommended luxury for self improvement. For use of the internet you need a computer, which is also an exception as long as it's used for self improvement or other practical uses. Remember, these are just tools to train with, like a spear to a Spartan!
  10. Eating out - Same as snacks except more expensive and unhealthy! I once spent a few hundred dollars on just eating out during a semester of college. That plus snacks and movies added up to over $1000 wasted.

Want Some More Tips on How to Save Money and be a Minimalist?

If your looking for more help on specifics and a deeper selection of tools on saving and living within your means, these can help you out in your learning!

How I Save Money and Self Improve by Doing Without

A personal account of doing without.

When I talk about minimalism I don't mean becoming a hobo, or living in a tent, but I do mean doing without many of the extra luxuries and toys we don't need, or finding alternatives to paying the high prices of today's goods. I believe in a practical form of minimalism that fits whatever goals you may have that don't involve accumulating unnecessary stuff or bills, unless it's saving for something you need like a homestead or business investment. A lot of people around the world are forced to do without, some more than others, I'm one of them but I've been much more lucky than many. Living simply is something I've gotten pretty good at, without giving up EVERYTHING. I've always been a lone wolf and can stay sane not having a huge social obligation, this has saved me from feeling obligated to spend money on many things other people do, like nights out, fancy new clothes, or gadgets. Depending on the circumstances I've gone without cell phones, hot water, unnecessary healthcare, tv, a vehicle, social activity, etc. I'm not saying you have to give up these things at all, this is just an example of what I've managed to live with at different times. I've been spending weeks at a time alone, using minimal electricity, water, and still eating ok. I don't spend my time watching tv or playing videogames. I send my time improving myself, being productive, gardening, reading, and working online. The internet has proven to be very useful to self improvement so even though it's considered a luxury, I save more money than I spend on it. I can tell you that simply spending time away from it all and not worrying about what other people think about my "status" has made me ten times more focused. The work I do around the farm has built up my muscles. I've learned new skills as well. While I don't expect this to be right for everyone, you can still benefit and save money by not buying that soda, or doing without the tv.

This is not SPARTAAA! But You Can Still be a Spartan

Using minimalism to work for you, in more ways than saving money.

Like I said, being a spartan doesn't mean giving up everything, even though some people choose to, or are forced to. What it really means, to me, is just staying away from things you don't need. Pretty common sense, but some people need different things than others. For example many people need a cellphone for work or contact, I don't at the moment. Many people need a big house for children, others don't. It's about tailoring your lifestyle based around what you need to survive comfortably and doing without the time wasting, wallet shrinking, or health destroying luxuries that are considered necessities by many people. When I'm going to buy something I think about how this will benefit me and if it will lead to or from self improvement. "Will this provide nutrients"; "Will that make me more efficient"; "Will I be a better person if I do this"; or "Will it benefit others if I do this." I actually picture a Native American, or a Pioneer and ask myself if they can do it why can't I? Humans used to not be so spoiled, now we NEED things that are really sold to us through smart advertising. Although, being minimal can sometimes make life hard on relationships and social life, which I have also experienced, and is an understood sacrifice in some ways. So there are pros and cons to minimalism, but I would recommend being minimalistic only in a way that saves you money and time and increases productivity and self improvement. There is no condescension here, everyone is different. Clipping coupons and buying second hand is small step to saving more money that many people are doing nowadays, especially college kids, I know from experience. Some people don't mind going further and cutting off the cable and growing their food. If you have enough money to meet all your needs and have plenty left over for goodies then by all means go for it. This lens can still work for those with bundles of dough that still want to be more productive but can help people that occasionally struggle with bills know that they can do without certain luxuries and get away with more cash, more time, more health, and just get more done.

Interested in ACTUAL Spartans?

Here are some books and movies on the ancient Spartans to help you understand what it meant to be a spartan back then. They were courageous, disciplined warriors, but also ruthless. The definition of spartan I use is only loosely based on their focus on living to better yourself through self discipline. Some of the spartan stories are down right revolting, and something they don't show on tv! I added some "Spartan" workouts in case you're in the mood for physical self improvement!

What do you think about the minimalist spartan lifestyle?

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    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Agree with you regarding minimalism - most of us have too much "stuff"! Note to self: clear out cupboards and donate stuff to thrift shop. Eating out is a weekly treat though - good to do if you can afford it.

    • ThreeQuarters2Day profile image

      Dawn Romine 3 years ago from Nebraska

      I have done most of what you talk about above, mainly out of necessity and budget. I have never had cable, I get designer clothes from thrift stores, my books there too, cheap cheap 10 for $1.00 on paperbacks. Cook from scratch, can, have a garden. Buy a used car, carpool to work with my husband, get up at the absurd hour of 3:30 am. The internet and my smart phone is my luxury, but I also work on it, and it's my entertainment, so it pays for itself.

    • FantasticVoyages profile image

      Fantastic Voyages 3 years ago from Texas

      I try to live this way as much as possible. I don't buy name-brand clothing; I rarely watch television (preferring books &amp; the outdoors), and cook at home. Most people have much more than they possibly need, and waste money trying to "keep up with the Joneses". I think it'd be great if the Internet went down for a few months, so everyone would find other types of entertainment!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 3 years ago

      Minimalist is for me, with one or two tiny "non-necessities" like my dogs and their associated expenses. But it's a rare event for me to eat out or go to the cinema, for example. Learning to cook (and to enjoy cooking) at home is one of the very best ways to save money, and reading is the best-possible frugal source of both entertainment and education.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      It's really good advice. I can't count the number of hours I've wasted gaming.

    • ethermetic profile image
      Author

      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @scrapperkare: Thanks I hope so haha! I watched an episode once ad enjoyed it. I try to limit my getting sucked in to tv as much as possible though. No time with all my work and projects.

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @jericho911 lm: Sounds like me! but I live so far out in the country, its usually just me.

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @mstcourtjester: No I haven't but now I must! Always wanted to write one like that actually.

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @Gypzeerose: Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Lots of great ideas here. We haven't had TV for years and don't miss it one bit. Even my kids are happier without it.

    • scrapperkare profile image

      scrapperkare 4 years ago

      Love your lens! Great information . . . You would love watching ALASKA WILD FRONTIER on discovery . com -- about the Kitchener families whose grandfather came to America years ago and learned to live a self-sufficient life there. Fascinating! You can watch episodes online (I'll include the URL, but not sure if Squidoo will filter it out). Thanks for your lenses -- and welcome to Squidoo! Hope your creation of many lenses will also put some $$ into your pocket! Alaska Wild Frontier videos: http://dsc.discovery.com/search.htm?terms=alaska+w...

    • jericho911 lm profile image

      jericho911 lm 4 years ago

      I love the lens. Honestly, i'm very practical and thrifty so I follow a lot of your recommendations. I use internet as my cable tv as you can find most anything for free online if you know where to look. I haven't had cable in probably 10 years. I use a prepaid phone that runs me around 30 a month. My friends have cable, so i can go there if i REALLY want to watch something, such as ufc fights. Plus, you can watch most events at your local wings restaurant and grab water and an appetizer for 5 bucks !

      Oh..and 90% of my clothing is from the thrift store !! :)

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      Pinned to my board "thrifty living," well written.

    • profile image

      mstcourtjester 4 years ago

      I think it is great! Have you read "The Prosperity Bible"? I think you would really like it! Great lens, keep up the good work :)

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @joanhall: I definitely did that, but I always got in trouble haha. Kids learn by being kids. I had more fun diggin' holes, damming the creek, and building forts in the woods than anything.

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Regarding #7, back in older days kids often played with their parents' stuff. When Mom was working in the kitchen, the child would play with some of the other bowls and spoons, mimicking (and learning) what Mom was doing. When Dad worked with his tools, the child would fiddle around with some of the safer tools that Dad had laying around.

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @serenity4me lm: Thanks! Even if I get rich I'll still probably live like a spartan. It's not about being cheap, it's about being wise, healthy, and productive!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Personally, we don't have/spend money on many of the things on your list, but we still have a lot of stuff and certainly we're not lacking in the comfort area. Since we lost our house in a fire, we've been careful about what we buy. We still probably have more than we need, but far less than many people - and very little clutter, which is a blessing. Great food for thought here!

    • serenity4me lm profile image

      serenity4me lm 4 years ago

      Great idea for a lens, excellent lens. Everyone should read this. Have a great night, Margaret

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      We are trying to eliminate some of the superfluous things in our daily living.

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @Northerntrials: I haven't but I read "Walden II", which was based on it, but written by a psychologist I think. It started off good, then it got creepy. I only think it was loosely inspired by the original though. I've heard good quotes from Thoreau, I know I'll enjoy his work.

    • Northerntrials profile image

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      Have you read the book "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau. He describes exactly what you are doing ... but it is set in 1845. I love that book and it is free online. A bit of history.

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Amen to that! Same here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      For me this sort of came naturally. I was always a bookish person, I simply never really wanted much except to study. With a book in my hand, sitting on the deck in the sunshine...for me it always seemed worth more then a lot of wants which people had.

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @stephen downing: Yeah I need to get me a good mountain bike. I live so far out of town though trying to take a bicycle to town would be an all day thing. Then again, I might try it anyway! Stinging nettles torture me sometimes but they are a surprisingly healthy food, tastes like spinach. They also are used for a ton of ailments like urinary stuff and I think pain remedy for arthritis and other aches.

    • stephen downing profile image

      stephen downing 4 years ago

      Bicycles are useful, and study up on stinging nettles. I think you might find it interesting!

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @anonymous: I really like doing things with my hands and on my own. My family will tell me not to do this or that by myself, like building a shed or something, but I'll do it anyway. I was very close with my great-grandmother who was my age during the depression, back then you HAD to do things without luxuries, so she rubbed off on me. And she was influenced primarily by HER grandmother from the civil war era, only lightly influenced by the gifts of the 20th century. I literally have the mind of a 19th century pioneer, mixed with the technological skill set of a millennial haha!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      A biggie during my lifetime was moving closer to my job location. If I had thought of choosing living arrangements in close proximity to work everything would have been much better for me over my lifetime. I'm over 60 and it could be comforting to know that what is called minimalism today is how people use to live after the depression; it brought families together as they looked for creative ways to share in saving costs: canning, gardening, doing part time work for neighbors, sewing their own clothes, crafts, arts. I think what you're doing makes good sense.

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @ixodoi: Yeah I also have to use the internet as well, that's why I recommended it for self improvement and saving/making money, it's really more of a necessity at that point. I did mention that the snacks cause health costs but other than the costs running up to the thousands, I don't know an exact number. My family tend to drink lots of coke and eat junk. They pay the price for it with heart disease, having multiple heart attacks, bypasses, and surgeries each! I'm genetically disadvantaged for it, so I have to keep on my guard. I'd say hundreds of thousands of dollars each in medical cost for eating unhealthy!

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @MelanieKaren: That shop does sound pretty up my alley actually! I always go into stores like that and often get artistically inspired. I have a few swords myself, and stuff like fossils, crystals, bows, and native american artifacts. Love that stuff!

    • ixodoi profile image

      ixodoi 4 years ago

      I agree that people should spend less &amp; I personally don't spend a lot. I Also don't hold a TV (I simply have no use for it). However, I can't agree about Internet - for me it is a tool of work and I must have it. Other than that - in snacks' cost you should also add the health cost from eating them into the calculation,, so avoiding them can actually save much more than you listed.

    • MelanieKaren profile image

      Melanie Wilcox 4 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I think your choice to live as a Spartan is commendable. We have become such a wasteful thow-out society. It's refreshing to see someone go against that grain! (You would have liked the shop I managed for a couple of years. It went by two name, "Against the Grain," and "Medieval Gallery." I say this because of your Spartan analogy. You would have liked the group of employees and would have probably fit in perfectly. We sold everything from swords and shields to elegant pieces of jewelry. Unfortunately, after 15 years, the shop closed.)

    • ethermetic profile image
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      ethermetic 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks! It's hard at first, wasn't easy for me in some cases, but when you go without some of the unnecessities, overtime you sometimes get into that feeling that if you aint had it, you don't miss it. haha

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I admire your discipline to live a Spartan lifestyle. I would love to be more disciplined in my spending habits.