The world has changed a lot in recent decades. Ways of saving and investing are radically different now and, while we cannot take our parents' example literally, previous generations’ consumption habits were much more sustainable.
The inspiration for this article and for a more frugal and minimalist lifestyle is my grandmother. She was in charge of saving the allowances grandpa gave us so we wouldn't spend them on knick-knacks. We never saw that money again and it was probably spent on groceries.
These basic tips can be applied today from a time when fewer things were needed and it was necessary to be creative to find solutions.
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My grandmother used to make clothes for the whole family. If you’re not skilled enough for that, a good alternative can be cooking at home. Yes, your time is limited and sometimes you feel lazy about having to clean the kitchen. Sometimes there is also no coconut milk left to cook that chicken curry you do so well. But we all know that by preparing food for the week, you not only save what you’d spend on lunch but also cut down on packaging.
Spend some time thinking about what you are going to eat in the next few days and the ingredients you’ll need. It will make you more aware of your resources. This brings us to the next point:
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Something as simple as a shopping list helps you stick to what you really need and avoid filling your cart with whims.
When I was a child it was common for supermarkets to offer weekly leaflets with the prices of items that people could take home. From these, many families would work out how much the week's groceries were going to cost them. Nowadays the internet makes it much easier.
This preliminary calculation is unnecessarily time-consuming if you go to the shop, but a good system for controlling expenses is to limit the money you want to spend on each purpose.
You can start by checking how much you are currently paying for food, transport, utilities, leisure, etc. in the Vivid app. A simple graph shows you the monthly amounts you spend in different categories –go to Timeline > Analytics. Easy!
The next step is to organise your budget and stick to the limits you've set for yourself. The best way? Divide it into specific Pockets. Again, the Vivid app is here to help with up to 15 different sub-accounts, each with its own IBAN. You can even link them to your physical or digital cards. How much do you want to spend on online shopping? And on entertainment?
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When it comes to non-perishable products, cheap is expensive. Fast fashion is a clear example: products at very low prices that deteriorate quickly. Maybe your goal is to change your wardrobe every season, but we know that this is not very environmentally responsible.
Buying things you use in your everyday life with better quality will save you money in the long run. For example, good shoes can be worn for years, but cheap shoes wear out quickly and need to be replaced.
Keep also in mind that spending a lot of money does not necessarily mean more quality. Sometimes you’re just paying extra for the brand.
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Learning how to do small home repairs, sewing or fixing a bike can save you money and be very rewarding on a personal level. Youtube is full of tutorials that teach you how to develop skills. A simple tool kit such as a tape measure, hammer, glue or sewing kit can make your life easier and save you from having to run out and buy something new.
I find there is a certain additional beauty in objects that have been repaired, that tell a story, like those Japanese reconstructed vases that use gold in the glue that binds the pieces together –Kintsugi. I'm not saying it's necessary to walk around with socks full of patched holes, but it makes me slightly sad to see how professions such as shoemakers and appliance repair shops have all but disappeared from the streets.
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The Internet has brought a new boost to the second-hand market. It is very easy to find clothes, furniture, technology, even plants or cosmetics for free or at a good price and in good condition.
In the past, it was common that clothes passed from one sibling to another or were given away between cousins, friends or other relatives. Same with furniture: in the pre-IKEA era, it was handed down from one generation to the next.
Additionally, you can give a new life to your belongings: cut up trousers to create a summer outfit, put plants in glass jars, make rags out of old clothes for cleaning or leave that old blanket for the dog.
Don't buy something immediately. Ask yourself first: do I really need it, and do I have something similar at home that serves the same purpose? It's the typical comment from the mom meme, but it can be a great initial step.
Do you use everything you have at home? How many pairs of shoes do you have? Do you need them all? A good house cleaning can help you rediscover things you've completely forgotten about, and putting them up for sale online or in a flea market can be a good source of income. Your old mobile phone or the books gathering dust on your bookshelf can be of use to someone else, and so can that kitchen gadget you thought would come in handy but have hardly used.
No need to strictly comply with Marie Kondo's advice to keep only 10 books at home. But it is much more efficient to use objects that can be used in many ways rather than one gadget for each specific task.