Frugal Minimalism: Things I stopped buying that save me money
When I blog about the things I do buy, it can be really easy to overlook the things I don't buy. I promote vegan beauty and ethical fashion and buy things when I need them. But my social media followers never get to see all the things I don't spend money on.
Here's a quick summary of things I've stopped buying or spending money on.
All subscriptions at once
Bless the age of digital subscriptions, with the ability to immediately unsubscribe. The subscriptions I like to use are Audible, Netflix, Stan, Spotify and YouTube Red. But for around $12 each per month, I don't have them all going at the same time. I'm not using all five of these services a day. I like to choose one or two that I'm using the most that month to spend $12-$24 each month, rather than $60 per month which is $720 a year. For people on the minimum wage, that's a week of your life you've worked just to pay for subscriptions when you're not using them. For example, while on a road trip I'm most likely to use Audible and Spotify in the car and not the video subscriptions to save data. When at home with a full physical bookshelf and a good wifi connection, I'm more likely to use Netflix and YouTube Red than listen to an audiobook. Think ahead, stay aware of your spending, and hit that unsubscribe button any time you want. Resubscribing is immediate without any extra fees for all these services.
Bonus tip: Spotify and Netflix have plans to split the cost with your partner (or even just some friends).
Getting off a phone plan was one of the first great financial decisions I made. I simply never had a deal as good as the deals I've got on Amaysim's mobile plans. As long as you're buying a phone you can afford to buy outright - which is one of the reasons I'd recommend shopping secondhand. (Read more here.) Almost every month I change the amount of data I want to match my plans for that month. If I'm at home and the wifi is working, I downgrade to a lower plan. If I'm travelling and I'm going to be outside of wifi, I upgrade to the highest plan. This means if I ever go broke, want to leave the country or find a better plan offer, I can cut off my subscription at any time and switch over with no penalty. I'm currently paying $50 for 20GB and unlimited calls and texts.
How many hours a week do you work to pay for your drinking habit? If you work a job that pays $25/hr and put down $150 on a simple night out, was that really worth nearly a full work day just to afford a few hours at a club? In Australia we have the third most expensive beer in the world. We each spend $1000-$4000 per year on alcohol. Almost half of Australians drink weekly, and 80% of us identify as casual or part-time drinkers. And it's not just the alcohol to consider, but the associated costs that come with the partying lifestyle. We devote a majority of our spending money to nights out and attend events purely for the sake of consuming alcohol. Taxis, nightclub entries, boozy dinners, hotel rooms, and the cost of keeping up our appearance for these events with new clothes, makeup and spray tans. (See: Fast fashion below!) Quitting alcohol saves hundreds of dollars per month, drastically improves your health and physical appearance, and opens up your nights and weekends for innumerable more productive activities that better benefit your life. Like for example, a side hustle that earns you more money!
Spontaneous takeaway or drinks
I sometimes buy plastic packaged drinks. You know this, because I document them because it's a special occasion when I see a new vegan product in a supermarket and want to support the consumer shift away from dairy products. However, I generally avoid buying any takeaway food or drinks that are not carefully considered, or that I don't record in my budget. I have no problem with eating out from time to time, but it's the mindless moments where you reach for something just because you can that add up to seriously blowing the budget. Packing lunches, keeping snacks on you, and grocery shopping after you've eaten so you're not hungry are all ways of limiting the amount of money you waste on impulse food shopping.
Cinemas are extremely overpriced and a total money drain. I don't even hire movies. I wait until they're able to be streamed on Netflix to be encompassed in the one fee, or can be found somewhere else online. Save yourself the $20 and invest in something more important, like fresh organic produce or higher quality ethical clothing.
I used to get my hair cut and dyed every six weeks. When I was blonde, that was up to $2000 per year I was spending a year on maintaining my hair. (On minimum wage, that's three weeks of full-time work!) Now, I've had one haircut in the past year, and because it was just a simple cut it cost me $35 which was the cheapest salon visit of my life. I'm going to take this one step further and learn to cut my own hair with a pair of $6 hairdressing scissors. We need to cut our hair to keep it manageable, but there's no reason a life essential like a haircut needs to cause financial stress.
Cotton buds, eyeshadow, fake eyelashes, fake tan, hairspray, bobby pins, nail polish and disposable razors are examples of products I stopped buying. Many of these things used to seem essential, but if you simply don't buy them, you tend to find life goes on. I still buy beauty products, I talk about them all the time. But I only buy what I need after its absence has been bothering me, and not what is frivolous or wasteful. Not one person has noticed or commented on the fact I've cut down on products like these.
Pads and tampons
A menstrual cup costs up to $60 in Australia. However, they're intended to last you a full decade. Even if you only shop for a bargain like a 20pk of Stayfree pads from Woolworths for $5 every month, within 12 months of saving on pads you'll have paid off the original upfront investment and the next nine years of period management will be free, saving you $540 over time. $540 alone isn't much, but when you apply this principle of investing in good quality reusables upfront across your entire life, you'll notice the savings adding up.
Paper towels and napkins, cling wrap, bin bags, etc. Those excessive single-use products that you don't need but still buy because they're more convenient. You can save hundreds of dollars a year just by washing things. Spilt something? Use a washable cloth. Want to dry your hands? Use a washable cloth. Want to cover some food? Use washable Tupperware or cover with a washable cloth to avoid flies. Using a kitchen bin? Skip the plastic, rinse the bin. It's amazing how little effort it actually takes to do just a few more minutes of work, and save tons of money on quick trash.
I'm done with the trend of buying a new outfit for every event. Take a scroll through my Instagram account and see I am proud to re-wear my clothing. I buy only what I like, so I'm happy to be seen in it. A few years ago, I felt bad for outfit repeating. Even for a regular Thursday night out at a bar. In university, I'd go out up to four nights per week and felt like I had to keep changing up the outfits to keep the look fresh every time. Today I'm more interested in buying good quality basics that can be worn on multiple occasions. I'd rather spend $200 on a beautiful piece of clothing I'll want to pull out again and again then spend $30 on a piece of fast fashion junk that I forget I own after two wears. Frugal minimalism encourages me to carefully consider each purchase, make smart investments, and make sure each piece fits into my wardrobe and can be worn with a variety of items I already own so I need to buy less overall.
I used to spend a bunch of money on jewellery, shoes, bags, headscarves, and anything else they sell. (Hello $30 headchain I never wore.) I would buy something new every week because shopping was a hobby. But really, there's no reason to continuously purchase new, varied pieces of jewellery or accessories just in case one day I may have one outfit I wish I had a necklace of a certain length or style to pair it with. I no longer buy jewellery just because it’s pretty or cheap. My last jewellery purchases were silver rings from a Melbourne market in 2016 to replace previous silver rings I'd lost, and that purchase took months of deliberation and ended up costing only $45 for three handmade rings I loved by a local artist. I now have one small black vegan leather shoulder bag where in the past I would have had three or four options. I have two scarves in different colours so I can wash one and wear the other, and four pairs of plain black shoes (flats, sneakers, heels, boots). Having good quality basics is all a person needs, and even cheap accessories add up to a huge loss when you buy one hundred of them.
I still love buying things like beautiful bedding and kitchenware, but instead of buying cheap household goods and then cluttering the rest of the house with knick-knacks and useless items, I just invest my money straight into the items I need to make sure they're beautiful. Have you seen my dish rack? It's beautiful by itself, and all the decor a kitchen needs. If I have nice bedding, a nice bedside table and a nice lamp, all things I'd have to have anyway, I don't need to throw any money at other clutter to give my bedroom personality. Trying to limit things I buy like candles, artwork, rugs, holiday decorations etc. has made a pretty significant difference in my budget.
So this list is just a summary of the kind of unnecessary things I don't buy to afford to live a more conscious, sustainable, minimalist lifestyle. What don't you spend money on that everybody else does, or perhaps you used to but now don't?