View from our balcony
Living in the city of Antwerp has many advantages, but also disadvantages when it comes to living the frugal life. First of all, there are many free activities offered by the city, a large freecycle community and my family and friends close by. Additionally, there is a lot of creative capital present in this bubbly city (from museum exhibitions to jewelry, fashion and interior designers, to musicians and fabulous trendy chefs). Be that as it may, this has also given shape to quite a consumerist culture disguised as a ‘hipster way of life‘.
Delicious coffee break on the weekend
I used to be massively influenced by this lifestyle. I would have breakfast on the weekends in a fancy-pants-brunch-bistro, followed by a stroll through town with yet another take-away coffee in my right hand, floating in and out of shops just to buy butterflies in a frame, beautiful porcelain candle holders, bath bombs, or something for my crafting projects.
At first glance, this sounds like a wonderful lifestyle. However, when I started saving money to pursue my life goals, I realised that a lot of money was going towards those seemingly small and insignificant purchases. And while there is nothing wrong with buying the occasional coffee, or beautiful gift, it is more problematic when you spend too much money to sustain this lifestyle.
After realising that I wanted a life with more financial comfort, I started analysing all of my spending habits. I discovered that this “hipster way of life” was compensatory for the long workdays spent in the office, answering calls and replying to urgent e-mails. It was a way to decompress.
But (and I can’t stress this enough): by spending all of my income, I was making sure that I remained stuck in my job.
Spending less means appreciating more.
Appreciating our summer at home
Since my goal is to have more financial and mental freedom, I’ve been trying to save as much as I possibly can by analysing my spending habits. I was able to recognise bad habits right away (such as: spending money when I felt bad about my life). I’ve already discussed the solution I’ve implemented for those expensive take-away coffees that I’m so fond of.
From finding myself in a situation where I was spending more than I earned, I can now save 40% of my income (after 5 months of trying).
And when all of the spending stopped, guess what? I was able to appreciate the things I already own a lot more.
I started looking for free ways to decompress and to have fun in life. Instead of going out to shop, I try to entertain myself with free things. Here’s a detailed list of the alternatives I’ve found, which bring me heaps of joy.
- Free books
I love to read books. And my library pass costs about 10€ per year. Although this is not expensive (less than 1€/month!), the library didn’t really work for me, which is why I didn’t renew my pass this year. I didn’t work for me for the simple reason that I have to return my books within three weeks, and that I never can manage to return them on time. I’ve paid quite a few fines for this already (not frugal). I realised lending library books caused some amount of stress, because there is a deadline to respect, and the opening hours of the library don’t correspond with my working hours.
But I’ve found a great solution! I borrow books from my parents-in-law, who happen to possess a great library themselves. I ‘shop’ for books on their bookshelves and return them when I’m done. It’s fab!
2. Free movies
Since Netflix has appeared, lot’s of people have disconnected from their regular cable. I believe this is why television stations are currently broadcasting really high quality movies, as a competitive game plan. When watching television, I try to go through the television programme and record good movies. It is a quite ironic that the movies that are broadcasted on tv, are movies I actually paid for to see in the movie theater. Lesson learned! I’ll just be patient until they broadcast the movie on tv.
Movies I’ve been able to record: Gone Girl (oscar winning movie), Friends with Benefits, No strings attached, Magic Mike, Valentine’s Day, Django Unchained, The longest Ride, Last Night and lot’s more.
3. Free baking sessions
Okay, *almost free*, since you have to buy the ingredients. But check out the cookies I made for a mere 1.09€! Baking isn’t really expensive in itself. For me, baking is a way to decompress: I find it really relaxing to make something from scratch. And of course, it’s great to have homemade treats with homemade your coffee!
Below: a picture of some delicious homemade Rocky road, recipe here.
4. Free Yoga
I do realise that not everybody is into yoga. However, I’d like to point out that I started practising yoga regularly when I was feeling really stressed out, and it made a tremendous difference. I’m naturally a stressful person, and it can be exhausting to deal with all of the stressy thoughts that exist in my mind. Practising yoga allows me to calm down and to sleep at night.
I read about a yoga website that offers free tutorials for all levels (beginners, advanced, experts) and so I checked it out. I found some great tutorials, and I’ve been recommending this website to all of my friends ever since, because it offers great step-by-step quality tutorials with lots of explanation about the postures.
The other bonus (besides FREE yoga): I don’t have to rush to a yoga class after work; I can do it in the comfort of my own home whenever I feel like it.
5. Free cuddle time with our cats
We live with two dorky cats who are absolutely adorable and kind (and a little bit dumb). It’s great fun to play with them, to read a book with a cat on your lap or to tease them.
6. Free walks through town
As I discussed in my post about spending your vacation time at home, there are a lot of free activities offered by the city. Check out your city website to see if any activity can spark your interest. For example, there is a policy in Belgium that Museums are free on the first Wednesday of the month. Additionally, you could take a walk through town and discover new things. There might be a free concert, or fireworks, or you could discover the beautiful architecture of your town.
Free: Tall Ship Race Antwerp
7. Family time
And last but not least, I like to spend time with my partner, my friends and my family. Here’s a list of free (or almost free) activities for you and your family:
- Board games
- House renovations
- Breakfast in bed
- Inviting each other for dinner or brunch
- Visiting a museum
So here you go! The best things in life come free to us. It is not at all impossible to live a good life on a budget, there are so many things available to us!
How about you? How do you entertain yourself on a budget?