What Is Downshifting?

Downshifting is reducing one's standard of living for an improved quality of life. Downshifting assumes a trade-off between standard of living, such as level of wealth, and quality of life, which relates to well-being.

Key Takeaways:

  • Downshifting is a choice that individuals take to change their personal lifestyle.
  • Often, downshifters reduce their standard of living to have a better quality of life; for example, they may move to a smaller house to reduce monthly expenditures.
  • The changes from downshifting could result in more spare time, a reduced workload, or a lower stress level.

Understanding Downshifting

People who downshift seek to improve their personal lives. These changes could take the form of more spare time, a reduced workload, or a lower stress level. To achieve these goals, an individual must be willing to reduce their standard of living and its associated costs. For example, an individual may attempt to downshift by reducing monthly expenses, moving to a smaller house, or selling unnecessary possessions.

Meet the New Downshifters

Downshifting has become a preoccupation for millions of people who have devoted countless books, websites, and journals to the endeavor. But the idea has been around since the start of the industrial revolution.

Thorstein Veblen, an economist and sociologist, is best known for coining the term “conspicuous consumption” in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class, published in 1899. In this book, he described the lives of people focused on getting more and better things. This notion reemerged in the Depression of the 1930s, only to come back in full force in the 1960s era of turn on, tune in, drop out.

Today's downshifting adherent is more likely to opt for the smaller car or no car, a tiny house, and more time devoted to self-actualizing pursuits than making more and more money at a job. The 1996 book, The Millionaire Next Door, enshrined the frugal lifestyle of buying used cars, shopping at second-hand stores, and otherwise living well below your means.

Typical of the latest generation of downshifters is Thrifty Frugal Mom, who fills her blog with advice on how to keep it simple, cheap, and good. You'll find articles such as a recipe for easy vegetable beef soup, eight tips to shop kid’s consignment sales like a pro, a $225/month menu plan for our family of 6, and 20 cheap date night ideas you’ll love.

"Honestly, I about can’t keep myself from living frugally and I usually enjoy the challenge of seeing how far I can stretch the resources that God has blessed us with. I’m thankful that most of the time I enjoy it, because we are once again being forced to live on a rather tight budget as my husband returns to college to get his Master's degree,"  Lydia, the blogger behind Thrifty Frugal Mom, writes.