Whether you’ve debts to pay or a big savings goal to reach, being on a strict budget means making sacrifices. But that’s hard when it seems like all your friends are going out without you and splashing the cash. Meanwhile, you’re turning down invitations and opportunities because your budget just won’t stretch that far. You can’t even remember the last time you treated yourself to something nice. But before you go throwing in the towel and splurging what little you have left to try cheer yourself up (and then ending up feeling worse), there is a way to live a full life on an empty wallet.
How To Live A Full Life On An Empty Wallet
You can be on a tight budget and not feel like you’re depriving yourself. Your quality of life is not defined by how much money you have, nor does it need to diminish when your bank balance dips a little. Use the tips below to help you live a rich life while still working steadily towards your financial goals.
1. Complete unfinished tasks
There is a huge amount of satisfaction to be had in ticking a long-standing task off your list, so make a commitment to tie up all those loose ends. Finish reading that book, hang those curtains, digitise the photos, sew that button back on… Challenge yourself to get your shit together, and then bask in the warm glow of a job well done.
2. Improve Your Physical Environment
You don’t have to feng shui your home if that’s not your bag (it’s not mine), but get your surroundings looking ship shape. Your home has a big impact on your mood, so if it’s dirty and cluttered, it’ll make you feel anxious and overwhelmed. It’s supposed to be your fortress, your palace, so freshen it up with a no-money makeover. Move your bed to the opposite wall, turn the couch, clear the clutter, dust behind the TV… And there’s very little that slipping between some fresh, clean sheets won’t fix.
3. Take advantage of free events & services
Don’t feel your hobbies have to take a back seat if the finances are tight. Life is at its richest when you’re engaged in something you love so, if there’s something that sets your soul on fire, chances are there’s a way to enjoy it for free. Do you love to read books, magazines and newspapers, listen to music, or watch movies? Head to your local library, check the Kindle app for free eBooks, download the free version of Spotify, or get yourself over to YouTube. Want a new hair cut, or even just a trim? Keep an eye out for local salons looking for hair models.
Check forums, fliers, local newspapers and the aforementioned library for interesting upcoming events or festivals: family fun days, kite-flying, open days at local attractions, workshops at local craft stores… If you know where to look, the list of free activities is endless.
4. Learn a new skill
As with events and activities, there are an abundance of free courses out there. Speak to your local authority about classes you could take, look some up online, or head back to the library to check their noticeboard. (Seriously, libraries are severely under-rated and -appreciated.) Research and learn a new skill you’ve always been curious about trying. Join a group or, if there are none, start one! If you can’t find free classes in your local community, YouTube is an amazing resource of free demos and how-to’s. After that, get Googling.
5. Get out in nature
Hiking trails, public parks, the beach, a quiet spot by a canal, a walk through the woods… The world is your oyster as far as your two feet can carry you, so get out there and explore it. Do what you did as a child — lie on the grass, climb a tree, roll down a hill, splash in shallow water… Imagine you’re the first person to discover this new place and you’ve been tasked with reporting back on the lay of the land and all there is to see and do. There are things waiting to be discovered around every corner; all you have to do is open your eyes.
And here’s a top tip: look up. Towns can look bland and boring from street level, but buildings have a totally different character above the shop signs.
6. Try something new
Being on a budget can feel a lot like being stuck in a rut. You start to feel like you need money to do new and exciting things, but that’s simply not true. You don’t need to do something outrageous or extravagant for your brain to feel stimulated. Even the smallest of changes can give you a new lease of life. Take a different route to work, try an alternative brand of coffee, style an outfit a new way, test a different form of exercise, sleep in a different room, practice writing with your non-dominant hand, do something in the morning that you’d normally do in the evening (and vice versa), part your hair a different way…
Always be iterating.
7. Make time for people
Being unable to spend money doesn’t mean you suddenly have to be unsociable. Instead of inviting a friend out for dinner and drinks, invite them for a jog around the park, or over to your house to watch a movie. Pop in to your parents for a cup of tea and a catch-up. Go stay with a sibling for a night or two and reminisce on childhood memories. You could even just chat to people online, sending an email or private message to someone you haven’t spoken to for a while, or finding a forum or group with like-minded people and making a few new friends.
Life doesn’t seem quite so “poor” when compared to those less well off. Do some good, contribute to your community, and count your blessings. You may not have a lot of money, but I can guarantee that you’re rich in ways other people can only dream of.
9. Make a ceremony of everything
Don’t just mindlessly eat lunch — set the table as if you were in a restaurant, light a candle, arrange your food in a way that pleases you on your plate, or just pack it all up and go have a picnic. Put on your pyjamas and build a pillow fort. Wear your best outfits outside the house. Snuggle up under your favourite throw blanket while reading a book. Taking a bath? Make it as much of a spa experience as you can. Can’t afford cucumbers? Stick some cotton pads in cold water and use those instead.
The point is to take time to really savour everything. Look at the things you do every day and think of ways to enhance them, or to inject a bit of fun and frivolity. How can you make something a little bit more luxurious with all the things you currently have on hand?
So you see, it takes very little to live a full life on an empty wallet. You certainly don’t have to deprive yourself. Just look back at your happiest memories — they’re filled with lazy days, simple pleasures, and friendships forged. As the saying goes, they’re the things money can’t buy. It was never about the ice-cream cone; it was about the feeling of the sun on your back and the sense of freedom.
A bit of frugality can help you discover and appreciate the finer things in life, and every second and spare cent will be worth it the day you’re debt-free or you pay the deposit for your new home. Use any or all of the above tips to enhance your everyday experiences and sample some of the many wonderful things life has to offer, while still working towards your financial goals. Because yes, you can have the best of both worlds.
Remember, a rich life isn’t measured in currency, but if you invest in it, it will pay dividends well into the future. All you have to do is commit to leading a life of quality. And there’s room in EVERY budget for that.
What's a simple pleasure you enjoy?