When spending less money becomes a need

Spending less can be a fun challenge and even a great lifestyle change. However, when spending less becomes a necessity instead of something you just do because you want to, it become a whole lot less fun to do.

When I started this blog my goal was to spend less money, to consume less stuff and to be happier this way. And for me it worked! I was able to kick my shopping addiction to the curb and even had some money on my savings account. I wanted to do this, so I could be happier. And that’s what I got: I got happier by spending and owning less stuff.

But now spending less is no longer something I just want, but it became something I need to do if I want to be able to pay my rent at the end of the month. And when something becomes a need instead of a want, it all of a sudden becomes a bit stressful and not so much fun anymore.

As some of you may or may not know, at the beginning of September I went back to college, for the first time in years. Before, there were an awful lot of reasons why I wasn’t able to study, but that’s a story for another time. So, I’m a college student now and as we all know, college is expensive. I’m okay with that, I study something I truly love and which will give me a better future. But that doesn’t take the fact away that there’s even less money left at the end of the month.

Somewhere around mid-September one of my cats, Tijger, got seriously ill and I had to take him to the vet. Luckily he’s okay now and I thank God for that, but can you say “ka-ching!”? He also needs to stay on a special diet for the rest of his life, which I’m more than happy to provide because I love my cats more than anything, but, once again, it leaves even less money at the end of the month than there already was (or wasn’t) before.

As you can see there are multiple cost that got bigger and bigger over the past few months. Cost I’m willing to pay because they are worth it. But because of these extra costs, me wanting to spend less money became me needing to spend less money. So how do you deal with that? Here are some tips to help you deal with money stress.

Appreciate what you already have

This might sounds like an obvious tip, but a lot of people don’t really see how lucky they already are. When money is tight, the thought about what you can’t buy can quickly become overwhelming. This is a very negative mindset. It might help you out if you start to think about what you already do own and to realise that that’s enough (here’s the minimalistic thought again). I don’t have a lot of money, in fact, at the end of my money there’s still some month left. But that’s okay. I can provide the basic needs (food and shelter), I can take care of my two cats and sometimes there’s even some money left for a new pair of jeans or whatever. Look inside you closet, look around you, and ask yourself: Do I really need that new dress or is it just something I want and why?

Of course, if you’re no longer able to provide the basic needs, you can appreciate all you want, but that appreciation won’t be able to give you food and shelter. If this is the case, please seek contact with your local authorities for help.

Regain control over your financial situation

Make sure you know exactly how much money you earn and spend each and every month. This way you won’t have to stress out when you’re buying groceries or whatever, because you know exactly how much you have to spend. Make a feasible budget and stick to it.

Try to stay out of debt

If you’re already in debt, seek the help of a professional to help you out. If you’re not in debt, do your best to stay that way! Debts bring stress with them and when money is already tight, debt-related stress is the last thing you’ll need. And yes, sometimes you have to maintain an extremely sober lifestyle in order to stay out of trouble, but so be it. When money is tight and there’s nothing more you can do to change that, you sometimes have to realise that for now you won’t be able to go to the cinema, to eat out or to go clubbing with your friends. This is not the end of the world. There are a lot of fun activities you can do at home, without it costing you a single penny. For instance, watch a movie at home with your friends, do yoga, go running, go to the local petting zoo, go on a hike through nature, write, take pictures etcetera.

Choose to build a wealthy future

Use your money to create a secure financial future instead of spending it on material possessions. This way you’ll get a feeling of freedom and peace, something spending money you don’t have on all the expensive toys in the world will never give you. The first step to a less materialistic future is realising that money won’t buy you happiness. And yes, that is a cliché, but clichés are clichés because they are true. Of course, you need money to provide the basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing. But when money, or rather spending money, start to take over your life, it’s time to take a real hard look at what’s really going on. Are you trying to fill a hole by buying stuff you don’t really need? Because that’s what I did. I felt so much sadness and I was really lonely, that I kept buying things just to feel a spark of happiness, even if it was for just a few seconds. Or maybe, there’s another reason why you’re so caught up in materialistic possessions. If you feel you can’t deal with the underlying issue by yourself, I highly recommend seeking the help of a professional, there’s not shame in that!

Do what works for you

Try to find a way of spending less that works for you in the long run. Maybe that’s by quitting materialism cold turkey or maybe by bringing your budget for clothing down just a little bit. Try to make your changes last, to create new habits that will help you and feel good to you even years from now. For me that was seeking the help of a professional to help me with my psychological issues, to create a healthier lifestyle for myself and to realise how blessed I already am, and that that has nothing to do with stuff.

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Going into lock-down …

The truth is: Right now, more money goes out than comes in. If I continue with this spending pattern, I’ll get into trouble in a few months.

I used to be a big spender. I bought everything I wanted and more. I came a long way since then, but although my spending got a lot less, I still spent too much.

The first step I took on my way to a spending lock-down was to write down how much money is coming in every month and how much money is going out on fixed charges (in my case: rent, health insurance and some other insurances).

To clarify how I made my plan; here is a fictional plan (other amounts of money, but the same system):

So, as you can see, there’s € 200,00 left to buy groceries, benzine and other stuff (like clothing, pre-paid cards for my mobile phone, gifts and savings).

The reason I included savings, is because I’m a strong believer of saving money. It happened to me a lot of times when I suddenly got a big expense to pay for. Luckily, I always had my savings to pay those bills with. So even when you don’t have a lot of money, try to see if you can save any, even when it’s just € 10,00).

As you can see, I don’t spend much on benzine. I don’t own a car, I can’t afford one, but because I live in the middle of nowhere, I do own a scooter. I also don’t spend that much on groceries. I only have to buy groceries for myself and for my two cats. I don’t have an expensive phone subscription and I would highly recommend to save as much on phone costs as you possibly can. For those people wondering what ‘Health allowence’ means: When you live in the Netherlands, you get money from the government to pay some of you health insurance with. How much money you get depends on how much money you make.

One of the best tips I can give might be: Use what you have.

I have a ton of beauty products lying around the house, not to mention all the unread books that are collecting dust on the shelves. I have a lot of candles and incense, but I keep buying new ones. My drawer just barely closes, because of the amount of clothes housed in there, but still I come home with new tops and jeans.

To save money, make a commitment to yourself not to buy stuff you already have for a certain amount of time (in my case; untill I run out). In my case those things would be:

  • Beauty products (make-up, crèmes, body lotion, douche gel etc.)
  • Books (oh, the agony …)
  • Candles and incense
  • Clothing (I save up money for clothing for when I really NEED something, so not for when I WANT something)

So start with making a list of what comes in and what goes out. Set certain amounts of money for things like groceries, phone costs, clothing etc. Try to see if you can save some money on some things. For instance, I’ve contacted my insurance company to see if I can get another kind of insurance on my scooter, which will save me some money.

And remember: True happiness is free.

You can’t put a price on this

Happiness is only real when shared

Money … I love it and I hate it. It’s a nice thing to have, but it sucks that you always want more of it and always feel like you don’t have enough (even if you do …). Of course, why should I complain about money? There are people living on the streets, parents who don’t have a dime in their pockets to feed their children, there are people starving because there’s no food of water, young ladies sell themselves because it’s the only way to survive, children are working 10 hours a day just to help out their parents. And these are just some of the few examples and then I haven’t even started to talk about all the animals that get beaten, left alone to die, that have to do the most embarrassing things to entertain humans etcetera.

So maybe instead of spending that money of yours (and mine) on stuff you do not actually need, you could use it to help others out. Of course, I’m not saying you should give it all away and there’s no need to suffer because you don’t have a penny left. You should think about yourself as well. Maybe you can write down how much money you have coming in every month, how much you need to spend on necessary things (like rent, insurance, clothing and food) and how much you would like to spend on non-necessities (like going to the movies and stuff). Then you might want to check if there’s still some money left to put aside for savings. And maybe, if you want to, you could use some of those savings, even when it’s only a dollar, to help someone else.

Here are some ways you can help someone out (if you don’t have money, maybe you have some time):

  • Buy groceries for someone you know who could use it (maybe because they don’t have money, are sick, broke a leg or maybe because someone is just going through some hard times)
  • Donate money to charity (yes, even if it’s just a dollar)
  • Take in an animal from a shelter (or if you can’t, maybe you can volunteer at a shelter)
  • Give some money to a homeless person
  • Volunteer helping out in a nursing home (you would be horrified if you knew how much elderly people are sitting there, lonely, waiting for life to end)
  • Smile at someone who looks sad (and if you want to, ask what’s going on and if you can help).
  • Just smile in generally to someone.
  • When your grocery store if offering a two for one deal, take your free item to a local shelter.
  • Give someone a compliment.
  • Host a movie night for charity. Invite as many people you like, provide the popcorn and drinks and ask them all to donate an x-amount of money and donate all that money to a charity you’ve all agreed on.
  • Babysit someone’s children for free.
  • When doing your groceries, pick up a large bag of cat or dog food and bring it to a local animal shelter.
  • If you have a well-raised dog, call your local nursing home and ask if it would be OK if you and your dog would come and visit. Most people’s spirits really get raised when a loving dog is coming along to get some cuddles.
  • Volunteer to take in young, abandoned animals who still need care but can’t get it from their mother anymore. Caring for such young animals is usually for a short amount of time.
  • Pick up the trash in your neighborhood (nature will appreciate your efforts)
  • Invite someone over for dinner (maybe someone who’s a bit lonely or is just going through some hard times)
  • Get some flowers and bring them to people in the hospital (yes, even when you don’t know them).
  • Maybe you have children who have a lot of toys. Go sit with them and sort out the toys in 3 piles: broken, keep, give away. Bring all the broken toys to an assigned place in your area. Take all the toys that can be given away to a hospital for other kids to play with them (explain to your children where their toys go, because most children aren’t to happy about giving away toys, even when they never play with them).
  • Hold the door for the people behind you.
  • Take care of a neighbors/friends/family members pet when they go away on a short holiday.
  • Donate blood.
  • When you see someone struggling with their bags, ask if you could help bringing them to their car.
  • Drive someone who could really use the ride to the doctors, church or whatever.
  • When sweeping your driveway, it really isn’t that much of an effort to sweep your neighbors driveway as well. Same for putting your trash bin at the curb. Do it for your neighbors as well.
  • Bring your old magazines to the hospital waiting room for others to read them.
  • Take a CPR class. Yes, it might not do something for someone right away, but you never know when you could be the one saving someone’s life.

And yes, I do think you still should do some fun stuff. But I also do think you can feel like a million bucks without spending a penny:

  • Drink out of a wineglass. I don’t drink alcohol, but o boy, do I feel like a lady when sitting on my cheap ass couch, drinking my cheap ass lemonade from my cheap ass Ikea wineglass.
  • Go hiking! Believe me, it’s fun. Go online, find some nice hiking trails near your house and just go. Look around you, there are wonderful things to see!
  • Watch a movie. You can borrow it from a friend or family member, at the library or find some other ways to watch a movie for free. You can even organize a movie night (maybe alone or with friends or family) if you like.
  • Watch a documentary that sparks your interest. You can find a lot of documentaries online or just watch the Discovery channel or something. You will feel smart and motivated after watching it. Or at least you most likely learned something new about the subject.
  • Check out your local agenda and see if there are some free concerts or other fun stuff.
  • Look at the stars. Stargazing can be very relaxing and the moon and stars are wonderful things to look at. And it’s free.
  • Look at the sunrise and the sunset. Yes, it sounds like a cliché, but really, it’s beautiful! Nature is holding such magical things to look at, really, just give it a try.
  • Swap your clothes with a friend. Feel like shopping? STOP! Just call a friend (or more than one) and suggest a clothing swap party. It’s free, it’s fun and you get to see your friends while you’re getting yourself a new wardrobe as well.
  • Read a book. Get a book from the library, borrow one from a friend of family member, get a free e-book online, whatever you like. And just read. Get yourself a nice cup of tea, relax and enjoy.
  • Host a potluck! It’s free, it’s fun and it’s a great way to get to know people.
  • Borrow a plant identification guide from the library and go on a search for some of the plants in the book. Take your camera with you so you can photograph your treasures (or if you like sketching, take your sketchbook and draw the plants you’ve found).
  • Write. Write a postcard, a letter, start a journal, start writing a book, write a poem, just write whatever you like.
  • Get active! Go running, biking or whatever kind of sport you like. Maybe you can try yoga, invite a friend for a nice walk, go apple picking, walk your neighbors dog, take your children (or someone elses children (ask the parents first of course!) to a park or playground, do some push ups, just do whatever you like to do.
  • Play a game. Maybe online or an actual board game. Invite some friends or family members over to play along.
  • Cuddle your pet (if they want to of course).

There are so many fun things you can do for free. Just be creative and think of some things you would like to do and if there’s a way to make them free.

Cheapskate tips

I spend a lot of money on all kind of things. Do I like it? Not really … For most of the time I buy things I do not really enjoy, so that’s actually just a waste of money. So I’ve decided to find some ways to save a bit of money in a way I like. I’m not a cheapskate, but I do like more money left on the bank at the end of the month.

So here are some saving tips and tricks I like:

  • The sun will dry your clothes for free, the dryer won’t. Just hang your wet clothes outside to dry when the sun is shining. I don’t even own a dryer and just hang my clothes inside when it’s raining or really cold. Yes, it takes longer to dry, but it also saves a lot of money.
  • Don’t use as much detergent. Really, there’s no need for it, your clothes will get clean with less detergent.
  • Wash on a lower temperature. I only was underwear on a higher temperature, everything else gets washed on 40 Celsius degree. My washing machine doesn’t have a 30 Celsius degree option, but if yours does, you can use that one and still get nice and clean clothes.
  • I’m a cat owner and I love my cats so much, I would give my life for them. What I do not love so much however is the smell of the litter box. To help reduce the smell I just sprinkle used, dried tea leaves in the litter box.
  • Carpet can get a bit of a nasty smell sometimes, so what I like to do is to sprinkle some dried tea leaves on them, crush them a bit and let sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum. This will refresh the carpet and deodorize your vacuum cleaner and bag (especially useful if you have pets like I do).
  • Sometimes there are a bit of unpleasant smells in the fridge. I like to place dried, used green tea bags or leaves in a small open bowl in my refrigerator to help absorb odors.
  • I’m not a big fan of toxic cleaning products, but I am a big fan of a clean and fresh house. So when I’m done with squeezing a lemon, I use the rest of the lemon for cleaning the kitchen. Just sprinkle the area your would like to clean with salt or baking soda (to act as an abrasive) and then rub with the lemon halves (be careful using lemon on sensitive surfaces such as marble).
  • I drink a lot of tea and after a while mineral deposit build up in the kettle. So after I’m done using the lemon left overs to clean, I fill the kettle with water and a handful of lemon peels and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let sit for an hour, drain, and rinse well.
  • I don’t eat a lot of potatoes, but when I do I like to use the peels to make some potato crisps. Mix the potato peels with enough lemon juice and olive oil to evenly coat them. Spread the peels in a layer on a baking sheet and cook at 200 Celsius degrees, stirring once, until golden brown (about 10 minutes). Season to taste if you like.
  • To save money, I like to set myself the challenge of not spending any money for a week every once in a while. By not spending money you’ll have to take a good look into all your cabinets to see what kind of food there’s left. You will make some creative meals and also get rid of all the food that was still in your house.
  • If you have some food left but don’t know what to make with it, just go only to find a recipe in which some, or all, of the food is used.
  • Take your own bags when you go grocery shopping. Not only is it better for the environment when you don’t use the plastic or paper bags at the store, but if your supermarket is like mine and while charge you for the bags, you also will save some money.
  • I use re-usable lunch bags to take my lunch with me. It’s better for the environment and for my wallet.
  • Don’t use a credit card. I don’t own a credit card and yes, I can survive without. By using a credit card you most likely will spend more money than you think. Just pay with a debit card or pay cash.
  • I put all my change in a jar to save it for when I want to go do something fun.