How to live a simple life with little money? This question came up a lot when Patricia and I were discussing our plan to move to Spain to live a simpler, cheaper and more fulfilling life. But choosing a simpler life doesn’t mean you have to cut back on everything or that you need to choose between living your life or saving up money. In this blog post I will go over 5 simple ways we have used to save money but that are also fun (and healthy!) in its own right:
1. Growing our own fruit, vegetables and flowers
We really enjoy gardening and part of the attraction of living an alternative life without a traditional 9-to-5 job is that it will allow us to grow much of our own fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Even before moving to Finca Bravo, for weeks I was researching what vegetables, herbs, fruit and other edibles to grow. Meanwhile Patricia made her flower selection as she wants to grow a cut flower garden. Then we ordered over 100 different types of seeds and brought them all with us to Finca Bravo. Three days after moving to the finca, I couldn’t help myself any longer and started planting out the first seeds. Since then, I have dug 4 raised beds and planted many more seeds. I’ve also started a food forest for which I have planted over 20 different types of fruit trees (quince, apples, pears, mandarins, almonds, nectarines, apricot etc).
Being able to tell exactly where our food comes from and whether or not chemicals have been used is just a really positive feeling, only to be outdone by pulling your own vegetables out of the garden and knowing you grew that from a little seed. That makes all the hard work worth it. And on top of all this, it will save us a lot of money every year which means we’ll have to work less to earn it, leaving more time to grow more of our own food, turning into a big virtuous cycle.
2. Traveling locally
Patricia and I love traveling and we have been to very nice places together, some destinations close to home others more exotic. Before moving to Spain, we would spend at least €10,000 EUR per year on traveling. This might sound like a lot (and it probably is) but we always tried to be sensible with our money and never stayed in 4 or 5 star hotels or ate out in expensive restaurants. Between the annual trips to Patricia’s family (in Puerto Rico) and mine (in Belgium) and a few additional shorter trips this is just what it cost.
When deciding on living a simpler life in Spain, we actually talked a lot about how important traveling is to us (conclusion: very). But, if it means being tied to an office job for the rest of the year then those few weeks just didn’t feel worth it. Therefore, we agreed that we would only take domestic holidays in Spain for the next few years. Ok that’s a lie, we will definitely include Portugal in our travels as it’s just around the corner. Restricting our travels this way is hardly a punishment as the area around Finca Bravo is beautiful, and the entire Iberian Peninsula is waiting to be discovered.
3. Shopping around online for the best deals
We buy 90% of anything that isn’t grocery shopping online. When moving to Spain we were wondering if this would continue but our initial experiences ordering online have been mostly positive. Ordered items arrive at the Finca quickly and apart from the odd phone call here or there to provide directions, all of our packages have been successful delivered.
The big advantage of shopping online is that it allows us to look around for the best deals. For us, this usually starts by doing research into the product we want to buy and deciding whether this is a product we will use a lot (worth spending a bit more – I am a big fan of /r/buyitforlife) or we likely will use only a few times (the cheaper the better). Reading review websites and customer reviews then quickly point us to the actual product we want to buy. The next step is to shop around to find the cheapest place that sells the chosen item. Finally, I will look for voucher codes or other discounts available to this website. Those last two steps have saved us a ton of money with very little extra work or hassle.
4. Cooking our own meals
We enjoy going out to restaurants as much as the next person (and there are some fantastic options to eat out around here) but paying someone else to cook for you (and then clean up after you) is a very expensive treat. Most days, we’ll try to cook meals from scratch with as many fresh ingredients as possible. On top of that, Patricia makes delicious homemade bread, cakes, marmalade, jams, and chutneys. Not only good for you but also for your wallet! Here is her recipe for a delicious Strawberry and Pimm’s jam.
5. DIY – We do it ourselves whenever we can
This has really become a life’s philosophy over the last few years. Whenever something needs to be done or bought, we will take a moment to consider whether it’s worth doing or making it ourselves. Since we both like to try new things and we definitely like the idea of saving money, the answer is usually: ‘yes let’s give it a go’. From installing our own bathroom, baking our own bread, making cheese, beer, soap, candles, clothes we have tried it all – with mixed success. You will soon learn which things are better left to others (in our case soap and candles) and which you enjoy making ourselves (bread, jams, beer, clothes and DIY around the house).