Here's one way to ease money worries: Buy fewer things.

I discovered what this means in a very personal way. When I first launched myself as a self-employed writer, I wasn't at all sure I would succeed. As the sole support of a household that included three children and a dog, I knew I had to be frugal.

So I began asking a simple question before I purchased anything: Is this necessary for life or death?

Try it next time you go to the store — even to the grocery store where impulse items like candy and magazines lie in wait at checkout.

Here's the wondrous thing I learned: Although my buying habits changed, and I did, indeed, become more frugal, my family's standard of living didn't really change.

We had enough to eat.

Household bills got paid.

There was gas in my car.

I rediscovered the library. And thrift stores. And home cooking instead of eating out. It became almost like a game to see how little I "needed" once I asked that question.

Maybe the belt-tightening in the wake of the 2008 financial turmoil will be an ultimate good for our nation. We've had a lot of fun giving into our desires for instant gratification: paying with plastic and using lines of credit on our homes.

But there's something even more gratifying when you learn that you can live a perfectly happy life and be less extravagant. "Freedom from want" takes on a whole new meaning.

Barbara Bartocci in Grace on the Go