How to get furniture for next to nothing

I once read that if you wait for long enough, whatever it is that you need will come your way.

I read this in a book written by a Dutch couple who made it their life mission to spend less and to aim for financial independence. (*Je geld of je leven, Hanneke Van Veen & Rob Van Eeden, 1996).

They state: “If you can muster the patience to not buy something, and if in the meantime, you spread the word about what you need, chances are you will receive it, or find it.[…] Remember that every item you need, has already been bought by someone else, and is waiting for you somewhere. It comes down to sending signals and being patient.” (p.125)

If you communicate about your needs, people close to you will often help you find the item; either by going through their personal things, or by telling their own friends and family. Soon enough, someone will dig up the item from the depths of their attic.

This approach to life means you virtually could get anything for free. 

Are you in desperate need of furniture, but you can’t afford it? Maybe you are a student living on the tiniest budget every month? Or maybe you are a single parent starting afresh? Whatever your situation is, it is not impossible to decorate your home when you don’t have a budget for it.

The internet: source of free stuff!

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Antwerp’s Cathedral

Thanks to social media, a whole bunch of Freecycle communities are now within reach and available to anyone willing to save money. Never has it been so easy to ask for something, and to get an instance response; never has it been so easy to give away some of your own things and help somebody else.

For instance, in my relatively small city of Antwerp, there are a dozen of freecycle Facebook groups, the largest one counting up to ca. 5000 members. And because we are becoming more and more aware of global warming and the effect of our consumerism, we are trying to waste less by giving away the things we no longer need, for free.

But not only the online community can help you out; if you tell your friends and family about the item(s) that you need, people will automatically think of you the next time someone in their own circle of friend is getting rid of such an item.

Besides the freecycle communities and your circle of family and friends, getting free furniture can also be achieved through online second-hand websites. You’d be surprised how often people actually put things up there for free. Just use the search term ‘free’ and you’ll see an endless list of things appear.

Linking back to the thought that if you wait for long enough, whatever it is that you need will come your way, I’d like to illustrate my point by listing all of the furniture we have gotten for free just by asking for it.

#1: Free wardrobe

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My colleague was getting rid of her wardrobe. Being a conscious person, she asked us if anyone wanted to have it. Yup! Free wardrobe – just 1-year-old. Perfect for our guest bedroom!

#2: Free bed

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This bed was sitting in the basement of my parents-in-law. When we moved to our current apartment, we needed an extra bed for the guest room. Tadaah! Free bed.

#3: Free mirror

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I found this beautiful vintage mirror  in the garage. It belonged to the previous tenant, who left it there. It’s a perfect fit for our own bedroom. Other free things in this picture: the scratch-a-map (birthday gift), the wooden tray, the plant on the left (graduation gift).

#4: Free designer table with a marble top

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(I’m not kidding). My boyfriend found this beauty in the house he purchased a while ago. When we started dating, he was in the process of selling the house again – but took the table with him 😉 The designer version of this table retails at thousands and thousands of euros.

#5: Free Christmas tree

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This one came through the Freecycle group on Facebook. I asked if anyone had an artificial Christmas tree they wanted to get rid off. I actually got two responses. This tree came from a wonderful lady who drove all the way to Antwerp just to hand me over the tree. It is truly amazing how kind people are!

It goes to show that nothing is impossible. It never hurts to ask, be it in a Freecycle group, be it in your circle of friends – often people are happy to dispose of an item they no longer need without having to put it in the trash. We have been brainwashed into buying everything new and shiny, and we have started a global warming in the process. This is completely unnecessary. Everything is available for free, through hand-me-downs.

Be grateful for what you receive

With the help of your friends and family, and the online community, could get many things for free and decorate your house on a tiny budget. It might not be completely to your taste, the size might not be right, the colours might not be pleasing, the furniture maybe looks worn out. But there is a easy solution for this: you can always DIY them a little bit so they will correspond more to what you are looking for. And in the meantime, just enjoy! You have saved yourself a great amount of money.

On my side of the spectrum, I have also given away many of my belongings that I no longer needed. My youngest brother recently started studying and he moved into his own college room. We went trough our stuff and gifted things we no longer used and that could be precious to him: my Dolce Gusto espresso machine, wine glasses, mugs, a decanter. Giving away our stuff was a win-win-win: 1. He got stuff for free; 2. We decluttered; 3. We reduced the amount of trash going into a landfill.

Lifegoals

One more free thing in life: gorgeous sunsets!

So don’t worry! If you are patient enough, you will get anything you need for free. Just spread the word about it, and don’t be too picky –  be thankful for the items you receive and think about the money you have saved yourself!

How about you? Have you received any furniture for free? How do you stay on budget?

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The 25-minute cookie recipe!

I don’t know if you feel the same way as I do, but prior to the fulltime work life, I really loved baking, and I would whip up a cake or some homemade goodies on a regular basis. But ever since I started working 40 hours a week, it seems like there’s never enough time for these fun baking sessions.

But then I found a ridiculously easy and fast 25-minute cookie recipe! What’s even better is: it only costs around 1€ to make these delicious babies.

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Just a few weeks ago, I was looking for a thumb print cookies recipe, because I had some jars of homemade jam left from last Christmas. And I was in luck: I found a terrific recipe that saves you time, is super cheap, and honestly, a lot of fun to make!

Big up to the website where I found the recipe – all credits go to Solo. Please give this recipe a go, you’ll be amazed!

Ingredients for 15 to 20 cookies:

  • 200g of self-raising flour (0.26€)
  • 100g of white sugar (0.15€)
  • 100g of butter at room temperature (0.32€)
  • 1 egg (0.26€)
  • Jam (+/- 0.10€)

Total:1.09 € for 15 to 20 freshly baked cookies. Can’t do much better than that!!

Here’s how to make them:

  1. Start by preheating you oven at 180° Celsius
  2. Mix the self-raising flour with the sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces and mix with the dry ingredients. Knead everything together.

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3. Finally, add the egg and mix everything well.

4. You’ll now have an elastic dough. Roll the dough onto a surface that you’ve powdered with flour until the sheet is 0.5 cm thick – using a rolling-pin

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5. Use your cookie cutters to cut out the cookies

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6. Transfer your cookies onto a lined baking sheet. If you’d like to make thumb print cookies, press your thumb into the center of each cookie to create a small indentation, and add a little bit of jam into each indentation (don’t overdo it, you won’t need much)

7. Bake the cookies for 10 to 15 minutes

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This cookie dough is ridiculously easy to make, and offers a great variety of options for decorating. Chocolate, frosting, jam… Just have a quick search on Pinterest and be marvelled by all of the magnificent cookie ideas out there!

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I must confess that sometimes, on the weekends, I whip up a batch of these cookies, make myself a delicious cup of coffee and I settle down to write my blog. It is just an awesome way of spending my time.

How about you? Do you like to bake? How do you enjoy spending your weekends?

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How I save money on my daily coffee routine

I’m in love with coffee. And if this article sparked your attention, my guess is you are too 😉 . If I can’t have at least one decent cup of coffee in the morning, let me tell you, I’m not going to feel like myself.

Coffee is delicious. But it’s also expensive. And since I’m quite determined to buckle up and to save a whole bunch of money this year, I needed to find a solution for those 4€ Latte’s that I’m so fond of (Starbucks, I’m looking at you!). And fear not! I have found the PERFECT solution for my expensive coffee addiction!

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Coffee date with my man ❤

Just for the sake of this blog post, I’m willing to share a few and embarrassing personal stories to demonstrate exactly how fond I am of delicious cups of coffee – and by this I mean, to what extent I’m willing to go just to get my morning shot – and after you’ve all had your fun, I’ll explain the solutions I’ve implemented to get a hold of myself and my coffee finances. Woohoo!

#1 That time I took a 30-minutes detour on my way to work

Every morning, I wake up, take a shower, have breakfast, and…. I walk to my workplace. It’s a 30 minute walk. This routine has a threefold benefit: I work out (for free), I don’t pay for the bus/train/a car, and in third place, I have some extra time to wake up and think about the day ahead.

And then one day, when I had just started at my current firm, I didn’t feel very excited about the day ahead. And so I decided to treat myself to an expensive coffee on my way to work. I thought to myself: “Where could I possibly go to to fix my coffee craving?”. And so my genius brain thought it would be a great idea to take a detour on my way to work – walking 30 minutes in the opposite direction just to get a Starbucks 4€ Latte – and then walking another 30 minutes back to work. My cup of coffee had -of course- already cooled off on my walk, and of course I didn’t savour it very much as I was rushing through Antwerp to be on time.

Lesson learned: 4€ and 30 minutes waisted.

How to save money on your coffee

This picture was taken during the summer of 2016, which we spent at home.

#2 That time I spilled my take-away coffee all over myself

Me spilling coffee all over myself didn’t happen recently or anything. Like at all.

I mean, wouldn’t it be perfectly ridiculous that a women in the second half of her twenties can’t phone her friend from the train station to tell the train is running late, and drink coffee simultaneously? That would be absolutely ridiculous. That did not happen to me, I did not get so distracted by the train and the phone and the schedule and the people on the platform that I accidentally poured my fresh latte all over my new, blue, soft scarf.

Lesson learned: 2.50€ waisted and headed home to wash said scarf before it got stained permanently!

And this one is complimentary:

#3 I tried to make soap with ground coffee (*such a delicious shower scrub*) and it smelled HOR-RIB-BLE.

The wonderful Tale of our Coffee Maker (a.k.a. How to save Money on your Coffee)

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Bodum Coffee Maker and a book: the perfect start to a Saturday morning!

Enters my Bodum Coffee Maker. *BADUM TSSS!*

I believe my family is aware of my coffee addiction, because last Christmas, my grandmother gifted me the Bodum coffee maker in the picture above. What she did not know, was that I had bought myself the cheap version of this type of coffee maker in a regular store, but because the thing being cheap, it did not have the metal holder like the coffee maker from Bodum. And so, being my clumsy self, I knocked the glass pot on our countertop and – of course it broke.

My grandmother fixed two problems for me: first a new coffee maker (woop woop) and second: cheap coffee! Aha! “She’s finally getting to her point!”

Why is this coffee the perfect solution for me?

  • This coffee maker requires three to four spoons of ground coffee
  • One spoon = 7 grams = one big cup of coffee
  • 7 grams = 0.067 euros.
  • 4 x 0.067 = 0.27 euros.

Hang on! Did I just make FOUR CUPS OF COFFEE for 0.27 EUROS?! Oh boy, yes I did. By using this type of coffee. It’s almost fifteen times cheaper than one single Latte at Starbucks.

So how about this as an alternative to your expensive coffee?

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Yes, I know it’s getting ridiculous. I’m trying to quit my addiction!

“But I have no time/I’m too lazy/I do not possess any coffee-making skills to fix my cravings in the morning!”

You know what? I LOOOOOOVE my morning routine of getting up, putting on the kettle, preparing the coffee maker in the quiet hours of the early day. I pop my fresh batch of coffee in my thermos (which by the way, was gifted by my younger brother – another free item!) and I’m good to go. No more spilling coffee on my clothes.

You might argue that a Bodum Coffee Maker is expensive, and therefore, your coffee is expensive. I would agree. Except that this one was gifted to us, so I didn’t pay anything for it. That doesn’t help you because my grandmother is not your grandmother, and so you won’t be getting one for next Christmas.

But you could always ask 😉

And if that’s not a possibility, have you tried to source for a second-hand one? There are many websites purely dedicated to second-hand items, and even second-hand Facebook groups, where you could enquire.

“But I won’t have the delicious pleasure of having a tasty Latte made especially for me!”

And you know what else #2? Apart from rejoicing in my morning routine, I think this coffee is delicious. I’m an independent woman, I can make my own coffee. It’s much tastier to make coffee with this type of coffee maker than any  other machine I’ve encountered (and I’ve seen and tasted them all!).

How about you? Are you as much of a coffee addict as myself? Do you think you could change to a different system to save yourself some money?

How to spend (survive) Valentine’s Day

Chocolate covered strawberry

When I was single, I used to hate Valentine’s Day. I was afraid that everyone would feel sorry for me, or that I would look like a loser because I was single yet again, just like last year, and all of my friends had gotten hitched in the meantime.

Well, let me tell you something: it doesn’t matter if you’re single on Valentine’s Day, and it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a date. Because guess what? Everyone is too busy thinking about only themselves on Valentine’s Day anyway. And you know what else? I have been in a relationship for 4 years now and Valentine’s Day is just like any other day: waking up at 7 a.m., taking a shower, getting dressed, rushing to the office, answering phone calls all day and then realising at about 16:30 in the afternoon that “Oh! It’s Valentine’s Day! :s.” You get my point.

We have never even celebrated Valentine’s Day as a couple.

*GASP*

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This is a very unhappy couple after four years of no Valentine’s Day.

And from what I hear, most couples don’t do it either. Because there is no fun in forced romance in a crowded restaurant after a long day in the office. There is also no appreciation in a gift that was bought just for the sake of Valentine’s Day.

Now, if you’re single, I can understand you are dreading the 14th of February, just as I did for many years. I realise I’m very, very lucky to have met my partner and I’m trying not to sound judgmental when I say you shouldn’t worry about being single on Valentine’s Day.

But I believe you can survive Valentine’s Day graciously by treating yourself the way you should be treated: get yourself a book/movie/glass of wine,  and settle in at home with some candles and great music. Pamper yourself. Because right now, there is only one person of importance in your life, and that is you. Instead of spending negative energy on fearing what other people might be thinking of you, focus your energy on  yourself. Yes, you are a wonderful person. So yes, you are going to spoil yourself. Yes, you deserve a good partner, and so no, you aren’t going to settle for someone who isn’t a good fit for you. (I mean it!)

Keep in mind that Valentine’s Day really isn’t that big a deal!

Now, if you are in a relationship, and you are keen on celebrating Valentine’s Day, but you don’t really know what to do, I would recommend to just spend time together. But try to really spend time together. And by this I mean, perhaps it’s a better idea to stay at home and cook dinner together, than to go to the movies or to a noisy restaurant. Try to be present in the moment, take the time to really talk to each other and to recalibrate. For example, last summer, we didn’t travel abroad for lack of money, so we tried to spend time together by doing fun things in our city. And it was great! Hands down one of our best summers together – just because we were present in the moment.

Be there for your partner. It is much more valuable to celebrate Valentine’s Day by just being together, than to spend money because you feel like you have to.

Pink cupcakes

Oh hey! Here’s a super cute recipe for pink cupcakes – ideal for Valentine’s Day! 😉 (solo or duo)

 

 

There is no shame in being single on Valentine’s Day, and there is no shame in not celebrating V-Day as a couple. It does not determine who you are. You are all wonderful people and you deserve only the most beautiful kind of love.

I wish you all a lovely Valentine’s Day! Hugs and kisses from Christiaan & me.

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How to reach your life goals through careful saving

My wildest dream involves travelling around the world with merely one backpack and a pair of sunglasses, being amazed by all of Nature’s wonders and floating freely in the air. In this dream, I’ve been liberated from the nine-to-five work schedule, and I work independently from home so I never have to report to someone again.

Does it sound familiar to you? My guess is that you actually do not jump out of bed every morning, all excited to be stuck in traffic for 30 minutes (maybe more) on your way to work! But even if you love your job (which by the way, I certainly do), there are other dreams worth pursuing, like having more time and energy for your kids and family, your hobby, or the freedom to learn new skills.

So how do we tackle this issue?

How can you shoot for the stars and reach your lifelong dreams in order to live a more fulfilling life? How can you achieve more freedom?

The answer lies in a very simple realisation: the more money we spend on things that are superfluous, the more we burden ourselves with things that aren’t relevant and that are keeping us from achieving exactly what we want: more freedom.

I want more freedom, both mentally and financially, so I don’t have to wake up to an alarm clock every morning, and still be tired.

Why I’m grateful for my burn-out

This blog started out as a remediation against my burn-out. During the year of 2016, I had the misfortune of getting burnt out by an overwhelmingly stressful job. You can read the full story in my blog post Reflections on 2016.

But I’m also truly, deeply grateful for having had to go through it. “WHY?!“, you might ask. Because of two reasons:

  • It happened fairly early in my career (I was 25 à 26 years old). And so I had plenty of time and room to adjust and to look for a job that was a better fit for me.
  • I realised I had almost no back-up, no financial reserve, and thus, no room for error. And I felt like I never wanted to be back in that situation again.

When you get burnt out, you should take a few weeks or a few months off and rest, heal. However, I couldn’t do that, because I resigned from my job and therefore I couldn’t take advantage of the health insurance linked to it. I also did not have enough cash reserve to cover for a few months of time-out and so I took on a job as a customer service employee.

The lesson that I learned was that you should always, always keep enough cash aside to cover for these kind of incidents. If you live from paycheck to paycheck, there is very little room for making mistakes, and ultimately, it’s more stressful to work in a job where you can’t afford to resign, or where you can’t afford to get fired – which I truly hope never happens to you.

Living frugally will not only free you from this kind of stress, it will also help you to live your life to the fullest. And that’s the first step towards freedom.

Lifegoals

Sunset in Antwerp

How saving money can liberate you from your job

Saving a good portion of your income will enable you to pursue your passions. If you have enough money in the bank to cover, let’s say, a year of monthly expenses, you could take the time off to reinvent yourself and to think about what you really want out of life. Perhaps you would like to start your own bakery, but you’ve always thought it wouldn’t work out, that it would involve too many new things to learn and so you keep your current job thinking ‘It’s not going to work for me, I’ll never achieve my goal‘. But if you had the time to really think things through, wouldn’t that be awesome?

Maybe you don’t even know what your life goal is. Right now, I don’t know what my life goal is. Should I pursue a goldsmithing career? Should I try to become a researcher in Art History? Should I live off my blog? I don’t know. But, I do have this overwhelming feeling that if I save month after month, year after year, I can take some time off in the nearby future and figure out what it is that I want to do with my life. And that is  empowering.

Making the right choices for yourself.

Since I started saving money in service of this goal (having the opportunity to figure out what I want in life), everything has become less stressful. I prefer not buying take-out sushi for 40 euros a meal, or an expensive Latte, or new clothes, or new jewelry, or the latest trendy home accessory. Honestly, it is such a relief to see my savings grow every month, instead of buying more junk and filling the house with crap that will be out of style in three years anyways.

My boyfriend and I even cleaned out the basement and some closets in the apartment and we threw out a whole bunch of things that we hadn’t used in ages. I felt like I could breathe again.

So I want to encourage you to achieve your life goals through careful saving. You deserve a fulfilling, meaningful life where you can rejoice in your own talents and pursue your dreams.

How to take control over your finances

These are a few steps you could take to get a better grasp on your current lifestyle:

  1. Start by thinking about your own situation: what dream would you like to pursue? What is it that you are passionate about? How can you achieve it?
  2. Next, take a look at your finances. How much is your monthly income and what are your monthly expenses? Make a detailed report of everything that is coming in, and of everything that is going out. There is no point in trying to save money if you don’t know what is happening with your bank account.
  3. Once you’ve got this down, you can start thinking about places to save some cash on a regular basis. Are there any areas where you could cut back and save more money?
  4. If you are carrying any debt, examine how quickly you could pay it of to free yourself from this burden
  5. All in all, it’s quite simple: track what you earn, track what you spend. Try to save as much as possible by spending as little as possible. Once you know just how much you could save every month, try to stick to it.

Basil is happy to investigate your finances with you

If you get overwhelmed by all of this, fear not, it’s going to be ok! Even if at first, you can only save 50€ a month, that is still better than not saving any money at all. I started off in a situation where I was spending more money than I earned, and now I can easily safe 40% of my income every month.

You deserve a life that is not super stressful, where everything is related to your job, and where there’s no room for error. As you train yourself in saving more and more money, and getting more efficient with your finances, you’ll see everything clearer, and it will become easier to save more and spend less.

This blog investigates the possibilities of pursuing your life goals by strategic personal finance. In that same purpose, DIY-projects will be posted as a way to embellish your home without breaking the bank. I have one purpose: to live frugally and creatively!

How about you? What are your dreams? What do you hope to achieve? Do you think you can cut back and invest in yourself?

I sure think you can!

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