DEFINITION of 'Downshifting'

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

BREAKING DOWN 'Downshifting'

People who downshift are looking 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, the person must be willing to reduce his or her standard of living and its associated costs. For example, someone may attempt to downshift by reducing monthly expenses, moving to a smaller house or selling unnecessary possessions.

Meet the New Downshifters

Downshifting has become an occupation 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 Veblin, an economist and sociologist who lived from 1857 to 1929, is best known for coining the term “conspicuous consumption” in his book “The Theory of the Leisure Class” (1899). In this book, he described 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 at all, 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 way 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, 8 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 Masters degree,"  Lydia, the blogger behind Thrifty Frugal Mom, writes.

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