How To Thrive While Living Like a Frugal Peasant
More money gives you freedom. But you don’t need tons of it to start improving your life today.
What do you value? What do you want to spend on? This is something to get clarity on first. It helps to decide what to dedicate your time and efforts towards. Start there.
Someone else’s opinion on what you want to do doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, you need to be happy with how you spend your time.
Even if that means lying on the couch in a pink peignoir sipping coffee while watching TV all day. That’s up to you. Don’t expect wonders to happen. Unless maybe you’re learning a language and watching TV on a foreign channel, hereby actively training your listening skills and writing along, taking notes for later reference. Then it would be called “deliberate practice”.
Disclaimer: I am not a financial planner. I am only sharing what is working for me.
Self-improvement activities that cost little to nothing
There are many routes to take. Getting overwhelmed and lost is so easy. It happens to me often enough. Life throws its curve balls and I am far from immune to them.
As my total earnings at this time are not something to brag about, I have learnt how to live off very little. I keep my expenses to a minimum, and do the things I want to do without feeling too financially limited. The trade offs are tiny because I take spending decisions with full intent.
I invest in myself, mostly via time spent on said activities:
- Meditation: to increase peace of mind. One could use YouTube for guided sessions, or an app such as Headspace. The latter has ten free sessions, which I’ve been using indefinitely for the past 55 hours of meditating.
- Writing: I improve this skill by practicing it as a habit. Writing here on Medium costs me nothing but my time and structural effort.
- Reading books and taking courses: There is a surplus of information available on blogs, here on Medium and on YouTube. If you know what you want to learn, you look for the leader in that space and follow their advice. Very often, their paid courses are a compilation of their best work that is already available online, for free, but repurposed for those who are willing to pay to get there faster.
Books cost some money, but what is $10–15 for one book filled with knowledge versus two takeaway meals with cappuccinos? One good book, or the right book could be enough to turn your life around 180 degrees.
- Taking care of my body. No money for a gym subscription or classes? Think about going to the local park or forest. Body weight exercises at home also cost you nothing. The highest investment I made for home exercise is my yoga mat.
As you read, the financial investments are minimal.
If you really want to enjoy life while living frugally, consider adhering to the following principles or guidelines:
1 — Have zero remorse in saying “NO” to events or activities you don’t want to pursue.
A weekly brunch outdoors? A house party? I will pass, thanks. If it has no meaning to you, you won’t enjoy spending your money on it.
2 — Lower your living costs.
I chose lower rent over a fancy apartment because I’d rather avoid the burden of high upcoming payments breathing down my neck all month. More square meters, a garden, a balcony, extra rooms and all that jazz, that would be great, but I’m not willing to pay the extra cost. This comes down to what you value most, of course.
3 — Remove unnecessary expenses.
List all your expenses. Do you need YouTube Premium, HBO, Netflix and Disney Plus all at once? Are you actually making use of your gym subscription, or have you not visited the place once in the last six months because you “forgot where you left your membership card”?
If so, cancel everything. The extra leg room in the budget will feel like a relief if money is tight. There are also plenty of free alternatives out there.
4 — Stop recklessly buying random stuff you don’t need.
A sixteenth pair of Nike sneakers? Who cares. Also, I don’t upgrade my tech every often. I invest once, and keep it until it breaks, which could be forever. I kept an iPhone 4S from 2012 throughout 2018 until it became unstable and most apps dropped support for such an ancient iOS. Renting tech is also an option these days.
Besides that, I noticed I have been largely wearing the same clothes for the past five years. If I keep pulling the same items out of my closet, I might as well stop buying new ones, since I won’t wear them anyway.
5 — Determine where most of your variable spending disappears, and put a budget on it.
If I’m not careful, I spend hundreds on food, despite being a single person household. Look out where you burn money, and consider slightly lowering it in order to spend it on that course that costs $30 a month, or a book you’ve had your eye on.
I used to fall into the trap of thinking “another” fixed expense of $30 per month would be something I couldn’t afford. If I look at the numbers, I can easily shift a part of my blind and reckless spending to a different area that gives me some ROI in future. There definitely is room for as little as $10–15 to allocate.
6 — Learn to have fun for free.
Not everything has to cost you. I don’t need to travel to the other side of the world to have a good time today. When you need a break from life, there are so many things to do in your area that cost nothing.
Prepare some sandwiches at home and pay the local park or lake a visit. Go to a neighbourhood you haven’t visited yet and admire the architecture.
Also, we have the internet. You already pay for your WiFi connection. Whether you want entertainment or education, or a brief escape from life, you don’t even need to leave your own living room.
7 — Train your self-discipline.
Want to buy something, but can’t afford it right now? Great! You’re now training your delayed-gratification muscle. You’re also forced to examine your spending. This is an opportunity to look for leakages and solutions to find out how you can afford to get the thing you want.
A core idea of the book “Own the Day, Own Your Life” by Aubrey Marcus is to optimise each individual part of your day. You can contemplate the bigger picture, and you should. But, the necessary actions to improve your life eventually occur on a day by day basis.
Looking at the non-exhaustive list above, for me it comes down to training my self-discipline and adjusting my mindset, to be content where I am now, and work from there to improve my skills, every day again.
I don’t see the current amount of money I have available as limiting. I see what I can do with it.