I’d like to think I might be an expert in this category, but I’m not sure what gives anyone expert status on these things. I mean, I’m not a financial or money expert of any sort. In reality, I don’t like to talk about money— so this really is not a post on how to get rich in money, but how we live our good (great) life. We’re a middle-class family with two incomes. We’re not rich. We have tighter weeks and really easy weeks and have great adventures in both. BUT I do know that I’ve been living this way my whole life— so maybe that qualifies me as someone in the know. In our family, we truly believe that less IS more. Each day we grow. We choose to have a great life and we are happy with it. These are some of the most basic rules we live by. Maybe some will be helpful to you.
How To Have A Great Life Without Spending A Lot Of Money + Saving Some Too
Don’t buy disposable products.
Pretty simple right? Disposable stuff not only costs money, but you use it once and throw it away. Then you have to go back to the store and buy more of it. And again. And again. We have three cloth piles in our kitchen. One for cloth napkins. One for kitchen towels. One for kitchen rags. Eventually (years later) the kitchen towels get old, and they become kitchen rags. Sure, there is an initial cost for buying cloth, but it’s a one time fee that you won’t have to address again until years and years later. And as a bonus, you can find beautiful cloth pieces that will brighten your home. This rule applies to all disposable products— plastic bags, paper towels, paper napkins, paper straws and plates, plastic silverware, paper or plastic cups, diapers(!)– oh jeez, especially diapers, nursing breast pads even— everything. Except for toilet paper– buy that. (You can find a ton of beautiful cloth pieces while thrifting. All our napkins we’re either bought on sale or you can find cloth ones here. Some snack bags/ Similar sandwich wraps here. We used THESE cloth diapers.)
Don’t buy cheap crap.
Yes, crap. All the random cute junk or plastic toys or whatever else that you see that will only be used for a short amount of time until you get sick of it or it breaks. Have a hard time not filling up your cart at superstores? Easy, don’t go to them. Sure, maybe you’ll miss out on that new dress and sandal design that just came out that everyone seems to have and love, but guess what? You probably don’t need them. Trendy pieces don’t last long— after a few washes or use the items wear and you’re left wanting something new.
Invest in expensive things (sometimes).
Okay, this won’t always work, because sometimes expensive doesn’t always translate into long-lasting and high-quality. BUT investing in high quality and timeless pieces is a good idea. So you’ve been saving money from not buying crap, right? Maybe not a lot, but a little bit— and each little bit adds up. Buying one well-made pair of shoes or one really well made timeless shirt— even if it’s double or triple the price of your cheaply made trendy items will save you money in the long run. Like your reusable household cloth items, invest a little— save a lot. Alex and I have beautiful things in our home— most of it is old. Some of it is handed down (major win!) and some are pieces I’ve collected over time.
You don’t need to buy transitional pieces because you’re in a transitional stage (unless your planning on selling everything, picking up, and leaving with no return back). Sure, I’ve bought my fair share of IKEA pieces along the way– it’s cute, it can be cheap, and it’s user-friendly, but I’ve also saved and purchased for items in this life journey that have traveled up and down and far and wide with me. Buy versatile pieces you love that will last. You will be able to treasure and use these items forever. (At 200 something dollars that swinging chair was a save and invest piece for me.) We’ve slowly bought new, good quality, long lasting pieces over time. And we’re excited to have them for years and years to come. You can see our updated living room tour HERE.
Invest in classic things (always)
I have four, six, and eight+ year old pairs of shoes that still look good— and not because they’ve been sitting in a closet–because believe me they’ve been danced in, ran in, partied in, played in, etc. They’ve lasted that long because they were well-made shoes. Same for clothing. Yes, maybe I wouldn’t wear all the clothing I wore 10 years ago— but most of it, I will. And yes, maybe my friends and family will make comments like “omg you STILL wear those shoes?!” but, hell yeah I do! And Alex too (but let’s be clear, he wears his shoes and clothes— not mine). Easy and timeless staple pieces that I can wear forever and hand down are where it’s at. Even though kids grow fast— there are ways to make their pieces last longer too. We love dresses (you may have noticed) they are the perfect transitional item, not only are they (mostly) timeless, but they are GREAT for layering in hot and cold weather (they last through seasons) AND many last triples the time because once your kiddo grows, the dress becomes a shirt.
Buy some things second hand.
I written about shopping secondhand quite a few times before. Secondhand is pretty straight forward. Maybe you don’t want to go thrifting for clothes, fine, I get it (maybe try to do it online?). But you can find beautiful furniture, housewares, and neat vintage toys while thrifting. You know what is amazing to buy secondhand? Children’s clothing. My most loved baby clothing items on Marlowe, I purchased second hand. Kids grow fast— sometimes so fast that they only get to wear something once, so why not buy it second hand? Or you can try things like THIS or see if your town has freecycle— even cheaper than thrifting! Or of course, barter with friends and family. Maybe they need a bed and you need a table, etc. (Everything in the picture above is second hand, except the vase.)
Buy a house.
I’m hesitant to put this category up here— because I totally understand that south Florida living is much different than other parts of the country and the world. For instance, I know I could not in any way have bought a house on the west coast or in New England, but here and other places, it’s possible. Paying rent takes money out of your pocket that you will never see again. Paying a mortgage is an investment that you will see and if needed, have returned. The cost of my house makes most peoples mouths drop— double digits over here for this short sale house. My mortgage is half of what my rent was— even when I was living in a 350 sq space apartment. So if you can, invest in a house.
You don’t need a big one (a house that is).
Big houses cost more money. They require more upkeep. You need to buy more things to fill them. Your utility bills increase as your house size increases. Consider down-sizing, and know that a smaller house does not mean less. Edit: as of 2019 we’ve downsized and LOVE it.
If you don’t have money, don’t spend it.
Credit cards are good to build your credit score. Credit cards are not free money, you do have to pay them back AND pay interest. This counts for all things on loan. Save your money, when you can afford something, buy it. Yes, this wont always work, but save as much as you can first to buy something. Don’t spend invisible money. I have two accounts: One for spending. And the second for saving— college for Marlowe! travel for our family! and emergencies. I do not touch my savings unless I absolutely need to. And going out for dinner or even a two buck cup of coffee does not count as a “need to”.
So I’m pretty sure there are two types of people… those who think “why would I do it myself when I can pay someone else to do it?” and those who think “why would I pay someone else, when I can do it myself?” Do it yourself. Sure, there’s a lot of things you should leave to the professionals— lighting, plumbing, roofing, but what about other things— like landscape? Or painting? Or cleaning? Or painting your nails? Why not try to do it yourself? Or what about artwork? Or other fun pieces for your home? Games for kids? A garden. Making things, making art, and doing things yourself cannot only save you money, but will be rewarding, add character, bring personality to your home, and is an activity for your family or yourself to enjoy! Not crafty? Who cares. Art is art. It doesn’t have to be serious, have fun and let it make you happy! Make food! Making your meals from scratch will end up being cheaper than processed foods (see below) and it’s a fun activity that doesn’t cost anything (besides the cost of food—- which you profit off by eating, duh). Skip the coffee to go and make coffee at home. Learn how to make bread, pizza dough, pasta sauce, elderberry syrup, deodorant, and whatever other convenience products you might buy. You can check out my DIY section: HERE.
Eat leftovers + meal plan.
Wasting food sucks for so many reasons. Have fun with leftovers and meal plan accordingly. Meal planning can be a pain in the butt– and to be honest, I don’t do it enough, but even a little meal planning goes a long way to not wasting food and not wasting money. Interested in cooking for yourself and your family more at home? What about this.amazing, super-duper, awesome and user-friendly cookbook
Don’t buy processed foods.
Processed foods are not only terribly bad for you, but they always are SO MUCH more expensive than unpackaged, fresh ingredients. Bonus points if the food you buy is in season and local— you save on expensive out-of-season farming practices and save money on transportation costs. It’s also good for the environment (less transport, less gas, less truck, plane, boat emissions) and the food tastes better. The packaging is expensive and bad for the environment. Last I heard, (this was 10 years ago in a sustainability class, so don’t quote me on this) 97% of the worlds trash is packaging. And chances are if it’s packaged, you’re paying an extra bit for the companies advertising.
Buy fresh, unpackaged foods (as often as you can) and make big meals to last you throughout the week. Also, processed foods are packed with chemicals, sugar, and salt, so you’ll save on medical expenses too 😉 Speaking of the environment, meat is expensive, buy less of it. (Mock meat too. Pass.)
It’s free. Other drinks are not.
*We invested in a home water filter this year. We love it so much. The water is as clean as can be and the filters only need to be changed once a year. Life changing. We drink it and cook with it too!
Love your home.
If you own it or if you don’t — if you live alone or with others—- no matter how big, small, cramped, empty your space is: love it. And spend your time there. Grow there. Cook there. Eat there. Entertain there. Watch movies there. Read there. Connect with others there— online and not. Find inspiration and inspire others. Activate your brain there. Spend a lot of time there— in your home. Outings, dinner, bars, while they might be fun, are not free. Your home is free. Spend your time enjoying simple activities in your home and enjoy each moment– even the stuff that can feel like (or actually are) chores. Make it your happy place and spend your time there.
Plant a garden.
Sure, we may not all have the space to plant large gardens to sustain of vegetable needs, but even a small terrace/balcony or sunny window can provide a bit of food and/or at least herbs. The startup is usually inexpensive, seeds are dirt cheap (see what I did there?), and not only does it provide you with food, but planting a garden is fun! And can be good exercise… or at least therapeutic! And it’s time-consuming, in a good way. There’s nothing more satisfying or beautiful than vegetables, fruits, and flowers, grown in your very own home. We built our own garden beds— they were super cheap and have held up rain, tropical storms, and humid sun for years now. Learn how to build your own garden beds here. And learn more gardening tips here.
Explore your community.
So, I’m not saying to become a recluse and prison yourself only to your house and yard— that’s not fun and you won’t be feeling well rounded or like you have a great life by never getting out and interacting. DO get out too. But when you do go out, explore your (free or cheap) options! Farms, gardens, community events, and festivals, strolls around town, the park, the beach (if you have that), find fun activities that don’t cost a lot of money or any money at all. There are family-friendly activities that can be found that are cheap to free— just look and ask around and you will find them! Also, look into memberships! Found a place you love to visit that isn’t free? Look into a membership, some are absolutely worth it. Our local zoo is 18.95$ for adults and 12.95$ for kids each visit. That brings us to 31.90$ per visit for Marlowe and I. (1,658$ a year for a once a week visit). But a yearly membership is 85$… so say we go to our local zoo once per week (which we do), that means each visit is only 1.60$ for the both of us together… plus two quarters for the birds. 1.60$ a week is still money spent, but for us, this seems worth it.
Open a window or put on a sweater.
We all live in a place where we can adjust our external temperature almost without a second thought. We turn up our ac or heat at the touch of a button. It’s a nice luxury, yah? It also costs a lot of money and burns a lot of energy— it’s bad for our wallets and for our earth. I spent the first 7 months or so in this house without AC. That’s pretty much unheard of in South Florida. I just told myself I was sweating out toxins, haha. We keep this home warmer than most people in south Florida, yes sometimes it’s not the perfect temperature inside this house, but you know what? That’s okay. We absolutely don’t feel like we’re lacking anything just because the house isn’t 72 degrees year round. We’re happy. Not in south Florida? Layer up in the winter and cuddle more.
Don’t spend money.
If you do have money, don’t spend it, or try not to spend it. (I know, crazy, right?) Spending, no matter what kind of deal might be advertised, is still not saving. Figure out what you really need instead of what you really want. I’m not saying to never buy things you want and don’t need, but make each purchase a well-thought-out decision. Do you need to go to a salon? Or do you want to? Do you need to go out to dinner instead of having a romantic night in? What else could you use that dinner money on? To save for a house? Pay off your bills? Save for a vacation? How happy will that new purchase make you feel now? In a month? In a year? Will this new product even be around in a year? Will you tire of it? Will it break? Will it benefit your life? Your health? Your family? Will it benefit and grow your business? Or will it just be another thing.
Invest in everything… especially things that help you grow.
This kind of rounds up a lot of points I already mentioned. Everything should be looked at as an investment. Clothing, furniture, art, books, food, and experiences. If you can learn from it, grow from it, expand on it, live healthier by it, and create from it, it might be a good idea. Consider those thoughts when making each purchase. Will this purchase help me grow or not? If not, save your money.
Don’t rush. Buy less. Do more.
Self-explanatory. Enjoy the little moments. Set your table. Enjoy the process. Cook together. Enjoy the process. Sit together. Eat together. Talk together. Enjoy the process. Clean together. Enjoy the process.
Be happy with less. Be happy within your means. Do happy things. Be nice. Be happy now.
At times it can be hard to know that what you have is enough. Really—who cares what others are spending their money on. Comparison doesn’t bring joy. Be happy with what you have, not unhappy with what others have. Did you know our previous town was on the top 100 list for most dangerous/crime filled cities in the U.S.? Our neighborhood now isn’t that much better— while just a few miles away is one of the richest (the richest??) cities in the country. We’ve created a beautiful place within our space and within our means. We might sweat a little more and our days might be filled with more work, but we find fulfillment in those things. Doing happy things makes people happy (go figure) and doesn’t have to cost any money. Being nice is free, and it makes you feel great! The small details are happy and so are we.
Like I said, these are just rules we live by. These won’t work for everyone. But chances are if you’re sitting in the comfort of your home or office, reading this post, you might be able to benefit from a few of them 🙂
Have more tips? Leave them in the comments! I’d love to see them and learn from them, as I’m sure others would too!
Have a great week, friends!