Life is for living, but that doesn’t necessitate being in possession of an abundance of cash: Many people, for one reason or another, find themselves in restricted circumstances, for limited or indefinite periods of time, but does this mean they should put their lives on hold until fresh income makes life enjoyable once again?
Live Life, and to the Full
We know we only get one life, but even for those of the reincarnation persuasion, this life still has its own precious value and should be appreciated to the full, and can be; financial circumstances notwithstanding. It takes some creativity and extra work, but being forced to think twice before purchasing, is not necessarily a negative.
A priority reshuffle which generates savings might mean a vacation, or avoiding debt, or it may mean a breadwinner could make career decisions based on different priorities than income. We should consider our culture of acquisition pervading western society, and whether our purchases deliver the satisfaction we anticipate, or if accumulation is really more of a habit than a necessity. Of course, this question becomes especially relevant on a reduced income.
Don’t just Survive – Thrive
Realistically, unless we take drastic measures to live “off the grid”, we do need some level of income to put food on our tables and keep a roof over our heads, but necessities aside, can we not just survive, but thrive, on less?
Totally Free Activities
Besides basic food, shelter, and clothes; most of the important things in life are free. Time with family never has to cost a bean; walking the dog, or the baby, taking the kids to the beach or park, and even couple’s time; whether you like board games or feeding birds, there are endless free bonding activities that don’t involve expense.
Put Your Hands Where I can See Them and Step Away from the Mall!
On a daily basis, depending on financial necessity and commitment to lifestyle change, there are more or less things that can be done to spend less; staying away from malls might be the biggest income saver of all. Unless you have nerves of steel, or consumer paralysis; window shopping usually doesn’t remain free, when cups of coffee, or lunch to keep the strength up, or falling in love with a “must-have” item is counted.
Food Savings: Planning
Supermarket shopping and meal planning, while requiring some organisational skills, are other areas where significant savings can be made over time. Work out some staple recipes with core common ingredients, mix them up for variety, and buy in bulk, or on special offer when available. Try to plan menus around in-season vegetables, since these will be cheaper. Decide in advance what the necessities are and buy only what is on the list while shopping. Doing more food preparation at home, rather than buying ready-made, is both healthier and generally cheaper, and you can involve children in the preparation of meals, which is always great for bonding and developing self-sufficiency.
Go one step further, and save both money and teeth by avoiding softdrinks or juice; tap water is virtually free, and in some places actually tastes decent. Yes, the kids will bellyache, but they will get used to it.
Grow Your Own
If you are really keen, you can grow the more expensive of the fruit and vegetables which constitute your core ingredients; but bear in mind that it may be a good idea to concentrate on high-harvest, low-area crops; potatoes, for example, can be a good choice, since they can be grown successfully vertically and produce well, whereas onions and carrots are usually cheap to buy, while to grow they need a lot of space for the harvest that could make the effort worthwhile.
Home Savings: Treasure and Tat
Now for some saving tips for the home decorator: while home magazines sing their siren song, tempting us with all-new kitchens and trendy bathrooms; unless the place is really falling to bits, existing fixtures generally will suffice for years to come. Perhaps instead of craving to rip the lot out and start over, we can take a leaf from the book of rental chic, as demonstrated in the glossless but still inspiring internet pages of Apartment Therapy, renters are creating beautiful and homely spaces, while by necessity retaining sometimes less than beautiful existing features. These inspiring people demonstrate the eco- and pocket-friendly possibilities, and benefits of effective recycling. By avoiding soulless, store-bought tat, their abodes reflect personality and originality, elevating previously scorned fixtures to integral parts of their decor.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Secondhand stores, often supporting charities, also contain troves of treasures; from clothing to furniture to household items, many full of the character of decades past, which often means solid and made to last. Clothing, among other things, can also be upcycled for reuse in an original way. Secondhand children’s clothing seems harder to come by, probably due to the high wear-and-tear demands on the clothing of the small versions of the human species. However, when items are still intact but outgrown, it is possible to upcycle these as well. Here again, a rummage through the internet will turn up sites with ideas for upcycled clothing design. Furthermore, if you have similarly thrifty friends, consider swapping or bartering useful items.
Priceless (Free) Gifts
Many of us find gifts a certain drain on the budget, but depending on skills and interests, friends and relatives can just as well be recipients of handmade gifts. Made with recycled materials, these can be free to make, and priceless to the receiver: From jewellery to hand cream, to a cover for his motorcycle, the Internet holds a trove of ideas for the willing.
The essential point is that these measures need not be a source of gloom, but of pride in achievement, and in overcoming a challenge, and in encounters with simple pleasures. Being forced to work together on money-saving projects can be a bonding experience for a family or couple, and a mental renovation may be the catalyst for realigning priorities towards accumulating a hoard of emotional wealth.