There’s a popular TV show that comes on the WE network called Downsize about a blended family of 9, the Bruces, who have to reconsider and alter their lifestyle after being hit with some economic hardships. The family has two homes in foreclosure, a declining small construction business, a mom on a teacher’s salary with an expensive coffee habit, and children (teens) who have activities that cost money. The show documents how they try to make ends meet as best as they can. The show was met with a lot of criticism, as there were some things they were not willing to sacrifice, and while their income had been what some consider quite large, their expenses were even larger. Some expenses people would consider luxuries, the family would attempt to justify, and it made some viewers upset.

Downsizing has been a reality to millions with unemployment rising and the housing market crashing. The Bruces have truly become the face of a whole group of people who have allowed lifestyle inflation to get the best of them, and have to make some sacrifices in order to stay above the poverty line. They have cut out some extra curricular activities, dumpster dived, and clipped coupons to make sure they have enough money to pay their bills. So how do you downsize? What can you do?

  • Analyze your budget: If you don’t have one, the first thing you’ll want to do is make one. List out every bill you have and how much it cost. List out every income source and make sure your income can cover your expenses. The type of budget is up to you, as is the layout. You can decide on a monthly budget or a biweekly budget based on your pay periods. There are many budget templates available online.
  • Cut out the luxuries: When you’re faced with tough decisions and experiences like possibly losing your home, something’s got to give. Let’s say you regularly go to the movies. Maybe you can find a cheaper alternative. What you think is a $20 savings a month is an actual savings of $240 a year. Cutting out luxuries like entertainment will help you apply that money towards things like debt.
  • Increase your income: Yes, downsizing typically means reducing and decreasing, but an important aspect is trying to increase your income. Some say it’s a lot easier to make more money than to cut down your expenses. You can only cut so much, but you can make more money by doing things like selling unwanted items, finding a part time job, or even considering a different career. Having more than one income stream will be able to keep you afloat in the event you lose one.
  • Look into alternate transportation: One huge expense for a lot of families is their car. Paying for a car note and insurance can add up tremendously, but you have to get from point A to point B. Depending on where you live, see if public transportation would work for you. Buses and trains could be a way to get to work, and of course biking and walking are great for the environment, and your health.
  • Look for smaller living space: Where a lot of Americans messed up, they bought a house that they couldn’t afford. They had a lot of living space that they weren’t using, but were still paying for the square footage. Obviously for a family of 9 it’s a lot more difficult, but if you can, look into just enough space for your family to live and function comfortably.
Downsizing is not an easy task, and becoming a minimalist isn’t the lifestyle for everyone, but when the time comes when it’s absolutely necessary to do so, these are great first steps to follow.

Briana Myricks is a 20 something freelance writer and blogger. Striving for financial independence as a newlywed, she blogs about young married life at 20 and Engaged.