How to simplify life (and thereby minimise expenses)

Photo Credit: Louis Llerena

When we came back from two years of travelling and unpacked our stored belongings in our new home we were struck by how much we still owned. Even though we had decluttered before we left. By living out of a backpack for two years our perception of possessions changed quite a bit.

I was ready to discard everything I felt I did no longer need. I wanted to reduce, declutter and simplify life. But we weren’t quite that radical. We didn’t throw away anything – that would have been waste – but we gave away some and let other things stored in the boxes. If we won’t bring it out in some months we can feel positive about getting rid of it, I’m sure.

Learning how to spend and save money

Another impact travelling had on us was to learn how to live money-consciously. Some might call it parsimonious, others economical, we just call it more frugal, being happy with less. And even though I now have a regular income, why should I change back into a lifestyle I no longer value?

 Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like. – Will Rogers

While travelling, every saved Swiss Franc meant that we could travel a little while longer. So the incentive was high and the opportunity costs were usually low – after all, we were still travelling. Mostly, our goal to save money would cost us more time, though. Because we spent more time researching for a hotel with the best value for money or comparing prices in supermarkets and because we often chose the cheaper but slower means of travel.

However, travelling on a budget also opened up a whole new world that we otherwise would not have seen. We started hitchhiking, wild camping, couchsurfing, working for food and accommodation, asking for discounts or getting expired foods from supermarkets. We met most interesting people, experienced incredible hospitality, got out of our comfort zones and learned to appreciate and value.

It is not a question of what we can afford but of what we choose to spend our money on. – E.F. Schumacher

Raising awareness

We became much more aware of what and how much we consume and how simplifying did not only make our life easier and richer, but also helped us save money. Furthermore, we learned to value single items and to define personal values for products and services that we consumed. We realised how saying no to consumerism usually meant that it was not worth the money for us personally or that the downsides of consuming (money, environmental damage, owning more) would not outweigh the benefits of having this particular item. So while you might enjoy a cup of coffee to take away on your way to the train station, for us this small convenience would just not be worth it. The personal value would be lower than the actual costs and impacts, which is a great indicator for products and services you buy not because you see value in them internally but because you feel the need to buy it because of external influences.



So once we mentally prepared ourselves for our return to Switzerland we both knew that we would want to preserve simplicity and money-conscious living as important parts of our life. Not only for our wallet’s worth, but also to reduce our footprint as well as making room for things that grew more important to us.

We began thinking about how we could apply what we have learnt in everyday life. What we needed to do was to actively design the lifestyle that reflected our values and ideas, enable development and change and nurture independence.

How to simplify life

(and thereby minimise expenses)

Before I give you a list of tips on how to simplify life and thereby minimise expenses, let me just outline some of the benefits of simplifying:

  • Saving money
  • Helping to protect the environment
  • Helping you to master today’s complexity and fast pace
  • Needing less physical space
  • Requiring less time for maintenance
  • Needing less cleaning and washing
  • Having more time for precious moments
  • Creating more space in your head to think and to be creative
  • Leaving you more energy to spend on more enjoyable tasks
  • Learning to value

So why don’t you start right now? Broken down from these thoughts, here are my tips on how to simplify life and thereby minimise expenses:

  • Reduce decisions
    Your brain only has a finite capacity to make decisions during any one day. So in order to have enough energy for important decisions, we constantly try to reduce small decisions. For example, we eat the same breakfast every day, I lay out clothes the evening before, plan ahead, set times for meeting people etc.
  • Say No
    Pause and listen to yourself before you say Yes to every request or idea. Would it help you getting closer to your goal? Would it delight you? Or would it just cost you time and energy but give you nothing in return?
  • Plan ahead
    Plan your weekly menu and go grocery shopping with a list. This way you reduce the decisions to make in the store, don’t buy unnecessary (often unhealthy) items, minimise the time you spend on shopping and reduce food waste.
  • Be wary of consumerism and shop wisely
    Ask yourself: do I really need this or do I just want it? Is it a genuine need or one out of cultural or social pressure? What else could I do with this money? How much value will I give this item once I own it?
    Oftentimes sleeping on it will also proof that the “want” isn’t that big after all.
  • Declutter
    This goes not only for your home and possessions but also for your life in general. Think about tasks you could omit, social responsibilities that draw more energy from your life than they give, etc. Decluttering trains you in conscious simplicity, which enables you to avoid needless distractions and busyness.
  • Write a budget and track your expenses
    This is a simple but hugely effective way to realise how much money you spend and how much you could save.
  • Pack lunches for work and school
    You’ll see the effects in your expenses. Also, it will probably result in a much healthier diet.
  • Evaluate your subscriptions and memberships
    Check your mobile and Internet plans, your gym membership, magazine subscriptions etc. Do you make use of it? Would there be any cheaper, more suitable plans?
  • Save water, electricity, gas
    Help the environment and safe money. Win-win 🙂
  • Entertain at home
    Entertain yourself and friends and home instead of in a bar or restaurant. Again, you’ll see the results in your expenses quite quickly.
  • Be proactive instead of reactive
    Oftentimes reactive solutions to problems are more stressful and more expensive than proactive approaches. Think ahead.
  • Keep learning and growing into the life you want
    Get inspired by people and lifestyles, have the courage to change your live.
  • Dont say you cant change

Our culture provides the soil – either moist and fertile or dry and barren – within which we grow. However, the ultimate responsibility for growth, irrespective of cultural setting, remains with the individual. – Duane Elgin


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