If you’re plodding along on your journey towards financial independence by saving as much as you can from what you make, squirrelling away that money into investments, and adopting minimalist habits to create momentum for your efforts – congratulations to you. Intentional living really is the secret sauce to the FIRE movement, which includes understanding what you won’t spend on as much as what you will. Here are the things we don’t spend on ourselves to help us achieve our own FIRE goal faster.
Generally for me, any outfit that I can only wear a few times isn’t a good idea from a financial perspective, let alone an environmental one. It takes significant energy, water and labour resources to create textiles in the first place – so to only wear something once in light of that just seems like a terrible waste.
I also think the quality of fast fashion is lacking. Poorly made items disintegrate faster, are laden with harsh chemicals – like bonds and glues – and are not colour fast by design. Plus, the sizing of many fast fashion houses varies greatly, which makes buying clothing and shoes pretty confusing for me – I’m a 10 in some shops, 12 in most, 14 in the rest, and if something doesn’t fit, I’ve got to go through the hassle of a return.
All in all, I’d much rather buy staple pieces that I can wear for many years, or vintage thrift finds. I maintain a capsule wardrobe made up of 30 items across dresses, pants, shorts, shirts, tees, kaftans, pyjamas, and then seasonal things like swimmers and an Oodie. It works for me and I follow a one-in, one-out system when I buy something new so I don’t have to sit on too many items at once.
Things I could upcycle from what I already have.
I love the idea of a second life for my items, and upcycling is a great way to keep costs down for things you’d have to buy otherwise. For example, if I buy pickles or olives, or a sauce comes from a jar – I keep the jar.
This is then used as a drinking glass, a vase for vines and ivy (our home is crawling with it) or condiment containers, like at Christmas when I make fudge, cookies, jam and lemon curd for gifting.
I’ve used old boots as flower pots, seashells as homemade soap containers and earring holders, hangers as jewellery holders hung on the back of my wardrobe door, an old toilet roll painted as a phone stand, old clothes cut up as kitchen rags… I’m sure you get my point.
It’s easy to go nuts with this so I think the key is being mindful about what you bring into your space in the first place, but my general rule of thumb is not to buy something if it’s feasible enough for me to make it myself from what I already have. This list is actually super cute if you’re looking for some inspiration.
Anything available through a loan service.
Libraries are one of our most underrated services in developed countries, and historically responsible for enormous levels of literacy and comprehension. Most of my books come through my local library, and I’ve thoroughly relished being able to bring my son in on this joy.
I’ll only read books through my local library (I did have Audible for a while during babyhood because reading paperbacks sent me to sleep – good old chronic sleep deprivation). Given I read between 10-20 books a year, this is a sound investment.
I also created a baby toy swap system with friends. We regularly swap toys to keep things fresh for our kids and reduce the need to fill our home with clutter, and I also researched a local toy library in my area which we pay a small yearly membership fee for to bring out toys on loan for a month at a time. It’s awesome.
Things designed for single-use.
In our home and car, you won’t find single-use items like paper towels, napkins, paper plates, Chux, disposable razors, dryer sheets or plastic straws or bags. That’s not to say we’ve never used these things, though. In the early months of parenting, we were exhausted and dumbstruck, and a lot of conveniences slipped in out of necessity.
I think this is actually a really important point to focus on for a moment. I’m not in any way demonising the use of single-use products if your life necessitates it. At various points in raising a child (newborn stage, while toilet training, when he has been sick) we have had to. I expect the same would go for looking after someone ill, or caring for a person with special needs. Sometimes convenience to preserve your mental health and wellbeing is important.
If you don’t need to, though, I think single-use items do come with a hefty price tag – and it’s one I’d rather not pay if other options are available. A lot of the cost of single-use plastics are built into the cost of the product or commodity itself, so it’s hard to separate out. But if you weigh up the cost of the one-time purchase of something that’s built to reuse, versus the multiple purchases of something only designed to be used once, it will quickly add up in the latter.
We look for the reusable version of many products, and you best believe we use ‘em to death, honey.
Hype products or gimmicks.
The amount of strength it takes to abstain from purchasing the latest wangle dangle for hair, beauty, skin, lifestyle, fitness, transport… It’s a lot. I like a shiny new thing. But, in my 31 rotations of the sun (and having worked in marketing for many years now), I can smell spin a mile off.
So, I don’t buy hype products, and I especially don’t buy them as soon as they’re released – mostly, because companies are using urgency marketing and trying to feed a fear of FOMO, and that’s gross.
I’m a diehard beauty fiend and could spend all day browsing the aisles of MECCA. Still, I have one of each beauty product I use and I will never purchase another until the one I’m using is finished. When I do purchase a big ticket item, I make sure I’m really, really, really sure first. My TM6 (Thermomix) took months of deliberation. My Dyson Airwrap was similar (which I actually returned due to it not working for me). Our Mazda we bought secondhand after shopping around for weeks, and negotiating.
The same goes for gimmicky toys. No shade on those who used those self-rocking bassinets… but like, over $1,000 for a baby bed?! Almost all of the toys we ever bought were secondhand, or loaned from a toy library. Our son doesn’t know the difference – and when he does, he’s been involved in the buying process, which can be a great financial lesson to teach a child early.
I saw on a fridge at someone’s house once that they were asking for $5 instead of birthday presents for their childs’ 5th birthday. It was going to go to his spending fund, so he could buy a big-ticket item he really wanted. It’s unconventional but I absolutely love this idea. It’s affordable for attendees, it reduces gift clutter and it allows the child to actively save and spend their money. I think that understanding this process for kids (and starting them early on it) is invaluable.
When you’re budgeting for your own baby, here are some things you might consider too.
Things I spend on (but in a considered way):
There are some things I do think it’s worth spending well on, like:
- Homewares. Everything in my home is alive and mostly from thrift shops – including throws, pillow covers, artwork and glassware. I would describe our home as jungle-chic. It’s eclectic, with lots of natural timber and lively greens, then pastels and pops of colour like bright yellow, orange and blue throughout.
- Scents. I use high-quality, organic essential oils through diffusers instead of scented candles. These are expensive but worth it as we’re big proponents of aromatherapy. (No, I don’t push MLM products).
- Good quality nail polish. I always have my nails freshly manicured, but they’re usually the same colour – pastel pink or white.
- Mattresses and bedding. We use flaxseed linen bed sheets and our mattresses and pillows are from Koala and Ecosa. Sleep is important to all of us and hygiene is good both in the way we sleep and what we sleep on.
- Whole house water filtration. What we put on our skin and hair and into our bodies matters to me, and I also get hydra-facials every few months.
- Fresh flowers, because I love them. They are such a treat.
- The Thermomix as I said earlier. Partly because it made sense for us with a young babe who was starting solids, and secondly because we use it in the place of other separate appliances (rice cooker, steamer, peeler, chopper etc).
- Travel. It’s a necessity, however there are ways you can keep costs down, like in the case for a honeymoon.