I live in arguably one of the most expensive places in the world, Aspen, Colorado. And no; we’re not rich. 

My family and I feel absolutely abundant every day of the year – and believe it or not, we hardly spend any money! How might surprise you, and may inspire a shift in your relationship with your stuff and your own approach to how you spend your own hard-earned cash.

Just beyond the shadow of Aspen’s rich and famous, all our needs are met – and then some. We own a beautiful home in a quiet, unpretentious hamlet about 30 minutes from Aspen Mountain. We eat nutritious, locally grown, organic food. We live quite comfortably with all the typical toys required for an active, outdoorsy family living in Colorado’s High Rockies.

My wife and I are both self-employed and we take home c-o-n-s-i-d-e-r-a-b-l-y less than the average income of Aspen’s most affluent residents. Perhaps surprisingly, we get along just fine. But how?

We’ve mastered the art of shopping without spending money.

No, we’re not caretakers. No, we’re not independently wealthy. No, there’s no trust fund or fat inheritance.

I’m a professional organizer. My wife is a massage therapist. Our work is personally rewarding to us and meaningful to those we serve. The luxury of entrepreneurialism affords us the flexibility to set our own hours, volunteer, travel when we want, and plan a robust lifest‌yle according to how much bacon we’re able to bring home each month, which varies.

Honestly, there’s no magic formula to our household budget. We live simply. We grow organic veggies in the backyard. We don’t buy stupid stuff we don’t need. We’ve refinanced our home three times, which has made a big difference in our bottom line. We set aside small amounts of money every month for our tax-free Roth IRA, our daughter’s 529 college fund, our health savings account (HSA), and (when we can) a modest vacation fund.

So, what’s the catch?

As a professional organizer, I’ve seen how Americans spend their money. For generations, we’ve bought into a well-crafted, finely tuned corporate narrative promising happiness on the other side of our next purchase. My friends, I’m here to tell you – it’s a lie.

Once you embrace this reality, your world, your budget, your sense of abundance, your relationship with your stuff and the people you love most – will absolutely evolve, and you will experience a bliss unlike anything money can buy. Financial freedom and an unlimited inventory of meaningful things and experiences are available to us, everywhere we go, as soon as we cozy up to one simple premise: Less stuff plus more love equals a better life.

My wife and I are prolific participants in our local second-hand economies. And I believe, that is the one simple solution to universal abundance. Abundance, that feeling of gratitude for having that which is needed, when it is needed, and not a single thing more.

Every week, we scour our home for items we can live without – and those items go into one of two bins, thrift or consign. The Aspen Valley boasts a wide variety of second-hand shops, but not more so than most metropolitan and suburban areas of the United States. Tapping into our local second-hand venues gives us a year-round mechanism for shedding the stuff we no longer need while supporting our local community. More to the point, it gives us the ability to strategically amass large amounts of credit with our favorite consignors.    

Due to the large volume of stuff we purge every month, my wife, my seven-year old daughter and I can walk into multiple stores within walking distance of our home and purchase just about anything – without spending a single dime. Imagine being able to upgrade your wardrobe, your bicycle, your camping gear, your ski equipment, your electronics – whenever you want – with phenomenal quality and the name brands that otherwise would be cost prohibitive. That is the reality of tapping into your local second-hand economy.

We’re hacking a broken system designed to rob us. We relentlessly repair our favorite things and philanthropically donate the stuff we no longer need, passing items along to those in our community who can’t (or choose not to) purchase items full retail. We consign the stuff of higher value for in-store credit, with the option to cash-out at any time. How we manage our things represents an easier way to conserve, reduce our carbon footprint, save money, support local business owners, as well as our friends and neighbors in need.

We can dramatically bolster our household budgets just by shifting to a radical approach to what we buy, where we buy, how we buy, and why. Start with needing less, share the love with your community, and save your money for life-enriching experiences that bring you closer to your family.