Geek Downshifting Idea List

OK money-where-my-mouth-is time.  I talked why we geeks should look into downshifting – and here’s a list of things I’ve tried, looked into, or heard about.  Might be a good start.

As for how geeky this is, well it comes from a geek and involves use of planning, tech, strategy, and hacking our tools and ourselves.  So it fits – well, I think it fits.

Cooking: Cooking Hacks for Downshifting are good for health, good for education, but also just for slowing down and making actual food.  Also for we geeks cooking lets you combine art, science, and health!

  • Go Vegan or Vegetarian. Cooking gets a lot easier and healthier when you’re dealing with less animal products and their assorted handling, expiration dates, and health issues. You might save money – and it’s fun to find ways to “hack” meat tastes (hint – soy sauce, cocoa powder, and red wine help).
  • Cook for yourself using the freshest, least-processed ingredients possible. It’s healthier, lets you show down, and lets you make food you like. Also if you get them at, say, a farmer’s market, you can use the time to be social.
  • Cook ahead and freeze – I cook ahead for two weeks, then do an ‘experiment’ once a week. This saves time, cleaning, and lets you grab-and-go.
    Make common stuff like Peanut Butter, pickles, salad dressing, etc. It saves money, lets you be less dependent on store trips, lets you eat healthier, and teaches you a lot about cooking.
  • You can also hack recipes for health – I use low-salt refrigerator pickles and they’re both a healthy snack and side dish, and often turn dishes with meat into meatless dishes.
  • Take snacks or even entire meals with you on errands instead of eating or snacking out. It’s a healthy money saver, and you don’t have to take time to detour and grab something.
  • Learn how to make quick meals when needed so you’re not tempted to eat out. I find I can go pretty far with chickpea flour cakes or tofu, and keeping frozen containers of sauces makes it easier.
  • Only buy cookbooks if you have to – you can find 80% of what you need on the Internet. Once you’ve gotten what you can out of a cookbook, donate it or sell it to save space.
  • For cookbooks unless you have a specific need, go to used book stores for a wealth of cheap books.
  • Keep your own cookbook document, print it out and back it up regularly. It lets you repeat and share recipes and more efficiently shares.  For fun, you can self-publishing.

Location: Location Hacks for Downshifting are ways to save money and time, rely less on cars and hectic scheduling, and become part of your location and community.  Location is something people rarely think about – and good research can reveal many savings and opportunities.

  • Move to a walkable area – one that has the basics nearby – grocery, barber, etc. This saves time, lets you get exercise, minimizes car expenses, and makes last-minute errands easier. It takes research, but it pays off.
  • Apartment prices can fluctuate a lot with the time of year. Learn the trends and grab one at the right time – and renew at the right time.
  • Try and relocate near enough to public transport to use it or have the option.  Even if it’s a bit of a walk, at least it’s an option.
  • If possible, have a nearby technology store of some kind that’ll let you get your IT basics, even if its a long walk (I can walk to two tech stores . . . if I want to hoof it for an hour).
  • Find areas that have community events and resources that you can get to, from libraries to farmers market. This gives great social opportunities and chances to get involved.
  • Consider how to arrange your living space as a social space so you can have people over. Even a studio, with the right furniture, can work out.
  • Get your math geek going and use spreadsheets to compare prices, drives, walkability, and so on.  It’s very helpful.

Transport: Transportation Hacks for Downshifting are about saving money and the environment, and maximizing location usefulness.  If you’re strategy-minded, you can really maximize time and money with good transport trends.

  • Know your public transport system and use it when possible. It saves gas and wear on cars. Even if using it isn’t convenient, you have an option. Some public transport systems have apps, webpages, and other useful tech to help you out.
  • Know your Wireless: Some public transport options have wireless. Enough said.
  • Know Dine-ability: Some public transport allows for food on board – some doesn’t. Those that do just made your life easier as you can eat only your way to the destination and save time.
  • Buy a car and keep it going – good maintenance can save you having to buy a car up to a point. There’s also plenty of online ways to find good deal, maintenance tips, and good used cars.
  • By the way, buying a new car isn’t always necessary.
  • In addition, ask if you need a car.  By my estimates, not having a car saves you $3000-$5000 a year.

Tech: Tech Downshifting hacks means getting things you need, with a plan, and minimizing the e-waste (and financial waste) in our lives. It also means less to maintain.  Of course this is big for we geeks – we love tech – we just have to avoid buying too much of it.

  • Double-up. I’ll cover more of this below, but devices are often multifunction. A game box can be a media box, laptop can be a media center you just unplug to take on trips, and more.
  • Before getting a Streaming box or building a media box, a good laptop can be a fine media player. I used my travel laptop as a media and gaming box for a year. Needless to say if you have a game console you don’t need a media device.
  • Consider ditching the game console. Most any computer can be both a media device and a game device. If you don’t need to play the latest high-power AAA titles on best resolution, you have many more options.  If you’re heavily Indie, enough said.
  • Repurpose old tech when possible. An old box can be a server or a media box, a new OS can give a device new life for training, etc.
  • Do use cases for your technology purchases – what will you really get out of them? The reason I don’t have a tablet is my phone and my laptop do the job for me.
  • Learn the basics of computer maintenance – makes life a lot easier and keeps you from paying unneeded repair bills. I found the best way is to build a system yourself, if expenses are important.
  • Learn how to donate unused tech. E-waste is a problem and there are charities and so on that’ll take e-waste.

Media: Media Downshifting Hacks are about changing our media consumption to be more conscious, cheaper, and effective.

  • If you live alone, there’s almost no reason to own cable between the various streaming services and device possibilities. In fact, cable makes the TV “always there” which may be too tempting.
  • Streaming services are your friends, but also consider ones like Netflix that still mail CDs.  It gives you more options.
  • Your physical media collection probably takes a lot of space – consider stripping it down to what you truly want, need, and care about.  I think of it as building a library for the future.
  • Ask why you consume media to see where you may waste time and money.
  • Fandoms are endless sources of fun, socialization – and often free. Fanfic doesn’t cost anything!
  • Indie games offer a lot of diversity and at less cost – and don’t forget some of the great free to plays like TF2 (though buy some hats).
  • Used bookstores usually have selections of DVDs, often entire collections, that are surprisingly cheap.

Social: Social Downshifting Hacks are about ways to get more connected to people.  If you followed the above hacks, you may also have more time to enjoy the company of other people.

  • is a fantastic way to get out and meet people – often for free. If you’re trying to get social, simply go to meet ups regularly until you find something. Or start your own.
  • Local newspapers often list events that let you find places to go and things to do.
  • Museums, hackerspaces, makerspaces, and so on provide many social opportunities.
  • Help out at a convention. It’s good socially, good professionally, and you get in for free.
  • Game face-to-face. There’s nothing like a video game group that goes back to the “folks on a couch” days. It helps you slow down, deal with people face-to-face, and make real connections.
  • Find places to let you just “get out” and do your thing. A library or coffeeshop with wi-fi lets you get out of your apartment and potentially meet people, even if you just end up working on a laptop.  It keeps you social and engaged.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at