how i live a thrifty, debt-free lifestyle

how i live a thrifty, debt free lifestyle

I’m sensible with money and I like to think I live a relatively thrifty lifestyle. This hasn’t always been the case; indeed, its my battles with debt that forced me into a thrifty lifestyle in the first place, although I’m grateful now to have cleared my debts which means its now a lifestyle choice rather than a necessity.

Now, I don’t look flash by any means, but I also don’t think I come across as overly thrifty. I have nice stuff. I go on holidays. I own a relatively new car.I get salon hair cuts. I eat out.

But to me, the point is this – it isn’t about going without. Yes, I went without when I had debts to clear, but now I want a nice life and I want to enjoy it, both by having nice things/doing fun things and by knowing I have the finances there to pay for them. I’m lucky in that I currently have a secure job with a decent wage and I’m debt free except for a small mortgage. I’ve worked hard to get here and I know clearing debt is not easy, so I never want to be there again. I’ve stuck to the principles I learned when I was on my debt-free journey, and I think they’re helpful to anyone regardless of whether you’re in debt or if you simply want to live a more thrifty lifestyle.

Budget, Budget, Budget
Every penny I spend is accounted for. I have a spreadsheet where I enter my monthly pay and divide it up accordingly. I pay bills and savings accounts first, then sent myself weekly budgets with the rest. And I stick to them. I meal plan weekly, which helps keep my grocery spending under control. Every item I buy is entered into a relevant column so that the end of the year I can see where my money is gone and set targets for the following year.

Sticking to budget takes a while to get used to. But anyone can do it, its simply a mental muscle that needs to be exercised.

Only buy what you can afford
I bought a car in March, 10 reg plate, paid in full by cash. I’m not saying this to show off – it took me six years of saving to get to this stage (plus a small part exchange for my old car). As soon as I bought my last car, I stared saving for the next one, and I’m now doing the same again. But if I couldn’t afford it, I wouldn’t have bought it. Same with holidays – I have a separate ‘holiday’ account, and only when it has enough money, do I allow myself to book a holiday. The only item I own that isn’t paid for outright is my house. If I don’t have the cash for something, I shouldn’t be buying it.

This isn’t practical for everyone. I get it. Sometimes, needs must – I’ve been there. But there’s a big difference between what you ‘need’ and what you ‘want’. Something in the latter category should never be on credit – that in itself is a good rule to determine what you buy and how you pay for it.

Have an ’emergencies’ account
It took me years to get this account properly up and running but now I have it, at least I know its there. I wouldn’t worry about setting this up if you’re in debt though – get the debts cleared first – but its definitely something all debt-free folk should have. It was an absolute Godsend when Adam was in hospital and I needed to pay for my accommodation etc in Aberdeen, and also when my boiler broke and I had an excess to pay.

Buy quality
Especially when it comes to new items. I shop second hand a lot, but if I’m buying something new, I want quality because I want it to last. Pans that won’t burn my hands when I touch the handles. Winter boots that will see me through a good few winters. T shirts that won’t go out of shape on the first wash. A vacuum cleaner that picks up everything. More expensive in the short term? Probably. Cheaper in the long run? Definitely.

Shop around
I must admit, I hate shopping around. I want to buy something when I see it, not faff about, so I do need to force myself with this one. I always check a couple of stores/sites for purchases, and also whether it would work out cheaper to get it through a cashback website.

Be as eco-friendly as possible
Not always easy but being eco-friendly is a huge deal to me, so I do try and spend my money in the most ethical manner I can. This mostly involves avoiding stores that are known to have non-ethical work practices, and also using eco-friendly products. I also try to avoid anything tested on animals. It can be hard because often the cheapest stuff is the least eco-friendly, but making your own cleaning products can be ridiculously cheap and very easy – I managed this when I was in debt so its definitely doable. There’s so much politics involved in this that its hard to know the right thing to do, but I try to do what I feel is right.

Make or grow if possible
As above, I make my own cleaning spray with water, washing up liquid and vinegar. I make my own compotes, granola, oatcakes, dips, salad dressings, biscuits, stock, soup and smoothies. I grow my own lettuce and herbs. I knit and crochet, mostly with second hand/on sale yarn. You don’t have to do a whole host of things yourself – just a couple will be enough to save a bit of cash and boost your well being. There are so many more things I want to learn to do – making your own stuff, regardless of what it is, is very satisfying.

I believe that being tight with your money goes against what thriftiness is about. I believe money is an energy not a commodity, and if you let it flow, you’ll have more confidence that more will flow back to you, so inevitably this is what happens. Where gifts are concerned, I try to buy people something they’ll definitely want/use, even if it means spending a bit more. As for charities, I’ll sponsor anyone that asks, but I recommend picking one that means something to you, and focusing on donating to it –  I donate regularly to Hillside Animal Sanctuary. That’s not to say I don’t give to others, but if I ever get a windfall, this charity receives a small portion, and I always respond to their appeals. I also free up some of my savings by lending through Kiva.

Avoid waste
Hence why I prefer to give people gifts they’ll actually want, and why I buy quality items. We live in such a wasteful society, and working in the waste industry, I’m acutely aware of the type and volume of things that are thrown away every day. Its not just about being thrifty with money, its about being thrifty with resources and our planet aswell. Its about reusing what we can and look for inventive ways of creating new from old.

Do you see yourself as thrifty? What does thriftiness mean to you? Any tips to add?

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