How to Live Well For Less: Enjoying Life on a Budget
Live well for less is my motto for 2019. I’m all about budget life since paying off debt and reducing my working hours.
In my household, we aim to save between £500 and £600 per month which requires living on a budget to hit those big numbers.
Before paying off debt, our monthly household expenses were nearly £3,000. We barely broke even every month, and from time to time we spent more than this and got further into debt. It was a cycle of working hard to buy things, and buying things to compensate for working hard. But honestly, we never “lived well”. I didn’t enjoy my life, which taught me that living well has little to do with material things.
With our debt paid off and our budget on point, our total monthly spend is between £1,500 and £1,900 per month. I can honestly say I’m living my best life now.
So despite the cost of living almost halving for us, our quality of life has soared.
Society vs Reality
As a society, we tend to think that the more you spend, the better your life is. But that simply isn’t true. Your standard of living isn’t dictated by how much you spend, but rather, what you choose to allocate your resources to.
The truth is that marketing would have us believe that we want a nicer car, a bigger house, that phone, those shoes. It promotes living well as having the best of “things”.
But what do you really want under those layers and distractions? It’s only when you address those needs, you start feeling good and living your best life.
When Budget Life Becomes Your Best Life
The beauty of life on a budget is that it frees up a lot of your time. It helps to stop you getting distracted by the consumption of shopping, eating out and going out.
Now, what you choose to do with that time is up to you. You can still spend time passively scrolling through shopping sites and pining for the things marketing tells you to want. You may choose to see budget life as an exercise in deprivation, and hate every minute of it.
But what if you decided to change your mindset and embrace the new lifestyle you could have, along with all this free time you now have? What if you decided to live well for less?
For me, to live well for less means having lots of time to fulfill my most basic needs. I embrace the free time that budget life imposes, and fill my time doing activities that make me feel good, fit, rested and happy.
So here are just a few of those live well for less opportunities that budget life provides.
Live Well For Less: Budgeting Makes Time For Exercise
I could barely get the bus without getting a backache two years ago. I had just turned 30, but felt 50. When I wasn’t working, I spent my downtime renovating our home, scouring Instagram for home decor ideas and pining for the next thing to buy.
We embargoed all home spending when we started paying off debt. What happened next was life-changing. Without the funds to fuel my desire to make my house ‘better’, I stopped caring. And I actually started using my gym membership. There were two reasons for this:
- I didn’t want to cancel it so I forced myself to use it to justify the cost
- I stopped shopping and renovating our home and had nowhere else to be.
Budget life cuts out all of those time-and-money-sucking activities like online browsing, scrolling through an influencer-heavy social media feed and mulling around the shops on Saturdays. You free up all that time and energy and need to fill it.
Adapting to budget life means time for a new routine, so why not incorporate exercise into it?
Here are my exercise activities that don’t cost a thing:
- Yoga: I highly recommend checking out Yoga with Adriene on Youtube, which is how I started. And forget about expensive yoga equipment and gear. It doesn’t have to cost a thing, and it’s so good for your body and mind.
- Park Run: Park Run is a free Saturday morning community 5k (check here to find your nearest one). The great thing about Park Run is that it’s a good way to get to know local people. The atmosphere is really upbeat and you’ll never find a more positive bunch than a group of runners. For those who would rather walk, there are many people at my local park run who meet up and walk the course and enjoy a good chat with friends.
- Walk: I swapped getting the bus for walking home from work two years ago and haven’t looked back. This is my time to catch up on podcasts (Dave Ramsey and The Minimalists are my faves), listen to a fire playlist or just clear my head. If you commute via train or bus, why not get off a few stops earlier and take a walk?
To live well for less, you need to feel good inside and out. Exercise is a great starting point.
Live Well For Less: Budgeting Gives You More Time For Sleep
As I’d previously mentioned, budget life cuts out a lot of life’s noise. Your routine changes and new habits are made.
Something all of us can agree on is that we’d like more sleep.
Life on a budget provides that opportunity. With less distractions, a quieter and more peaceful existence awaits you. With budget life, you naturally find yourself at home more as you start to limit your spending. So why not nap?
Sleep can only become a priority when you make it one, though. You can fill your budget life and make it frantic, just as you may have previously done in your debt days.
But why not embrace some time tucked up in bed with a good book and an early night?
To live well for less, you need to feel rested and energised. You need sleep!
Living Well For Less: Budgeting Provides An Opportunity For Genuine Self-Care
I can genuinely say that being on a budget was the reason I finally mastered the art of self-care (although this is an ongoing commitment!).
We are taught that self-care can be achieved through holidays, spa breaks and expensive health treatments. Marketing would have us believe that self-care is just a face mask and a bath bomb away.
Being so open about my own struggles with anxiety, I am fortunate to meet many people who share their mental health struggles with me. And none of us are finding solutions in a massage or by jetting off on holiday. In fact, if you use debt to fund these “fixes”, they can actually be detrimental to your mental health.
Self-care is internal, and it’s pretty basic. It’s about feeling relaxed, content, peaceful and calm.
Don’t seek out expensive products and experiences that promise to “fix” you, because you don’t need to be fixed by things. Spoiler alert: you are perfect just as you are, boo.
Self-care comes in many forms, such as keeping a journal, meditation, mindfulness, rest or exercise. In all cases, you don’t need to spend any money to take care of yourself.
When you embrace life on a budget, replace an old bad habit with a new self-care habit. For example, swap ten minutes of online scrolling when you wake up for ten minutes of meditation.
To live well for less, budgeting provides an opportunity to remove distractions and find calmness in your life. Be sure to focus on creating new habits that are going to enhance the quality of your life rather than the quantity of your things.
Living Well For Less: Budgeting Provides a Creative Outlet
Having a creative outlet is something many of us neglect, and yet we need it to lower stress and maintain a healthy mind.
Budget life creates an opportunity to get your creative juices flowing. You have to come up with creative ways to reduce your expenses, increase your income, fill your time or even just keep the kids entertained with low-cost activities. There are so many ways to embrace your creative streak through budgeting.
Since I started budgeting, I wrote an eBook, How to Get Out of Debt, built this blog, started yoga and also paid off £16,000 in debt. If I hadn’t embraced budget life, I’d still be broke, passively scrolling through social media and buying things to cheer myself up. Having these creative outlets helps me to get things done and feel content.
So budget life could be the perfect excuse to start drawing, baking, or creating that idea that you’ve been putting off.
To live your best life, you need a creative outlet to feel happy and fulfilled.
Living Well For Less: Budgeting Encourages You to Cook More
Budget life has encouraged a deep love of cooking in my house. Previously, in addition to our weekly grocery shop, we’d constantly eat out, buy takeaways, and grab lunches on-the-go.
Budget life called for an overhaul in this area, and we’ve more than halved our spending.
I won’t lie and say that we don’t put in work here; we do. My partner and I make fakeaways, we bulk prep and meal plan. But honestly, I feel like I’m living my best life when we spend an hour in the kitchen listening to music, catching up and making homemade pizzas. Or when I cook for friends or family and we enjoy a meal together.
The key to live well for less with cooking is to try to find a way to enjoy it. Budget life gives you time, and it’s up to you how to fill that time with things you enjoy.
To live well for less, you need fuel. So use budgeting as an excuse to start cooking food you enjoy and bringing everyone together over a meal.
Now more than ever we are living in a world that is trying to extract as much money from you as possible. One you start living life on a budget, you get the opportunity to embrace a new way of life. Make it count.
That’s why I think budget life is so wonderful. It cuts out all of the bullshit and underneath, you can find a life that is authentically you. Embrace it and enjoy it. Stop spending so much, and focus on how you can live well for less.