A sustainable route to FI

I’ve always hated waste. Wasting money, wasting food, wasting time. For me, the logical route to making the most of my life and enjoying more freedom, is to cut out waste and focus on decisions and actions that maximise value.

I realised quite early on in my own financial journey that I would not be able to achieve an above average savings rate on an average household income unless I made a few lifestyle changes.

These are the same types of lifestyle changes that people also make if they are looking to limit their carbon impact so these two passions of sustainability and financial independence are – most of the time – very compatible.

Being intentional with spending

Firstly, I am now more intentional with my spending. That means that if I do buy something, it’s an item I will really value and keep for a long time. It may be more expensive, but that is because it will last longer and might keep its value better if it is resold.

Our saucepans are a great example of this. They are such good quality that every time they’ve been badly burnt we can always restore them to their former glory. I know that with cheaper pans we would have ended up needing to throw them away each time. Because they are good quality, even if you were to buy them secondhand they would still be in good condition. That’s something I love about buying good quality – it’s not necessarily an excuse to buy new – often it’s a reason for getting even better value secondhand.

This is also true of prams. If I had my time (as a new mum) again, I would have bought a really good quality used buggy – perhaps replaced the wheels, and after the second kid sold again for probably a similar price. Instead I bought a cheap new buggy which is now so broken and worn down that I would struggle to give it away for free.

Making the most of what I have

Secondly, I committed to making the most of what I have. This could mean finishing the food we have before buying more. Or, using up every last bit of something (for example, saving a chicken’s bones for stock, or replanting the end of spring onions to grow new ones) – my favourite gardening hack!

Spring onions re-grown from the ends!

This isn’t just a practical point – it also links to really appreciating and being content with what we have. Sometimes working towards a goal can be driven by a feeling of wanting more. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless it includes a sense that what you have isn’t enough. It’s a difficult balance to find. Personally, I find such a sense of peace and wellbeing when I am more appreciative of everything I already have. Sure, the part of me who colours in squares when I make mortgage overpayments wants to be on the fast track to paying it off. But when I remind myself to be content I feel a lot more relaxed about the journey.

Ways that I practice contentment are to take better care of my things. Cleaning, tidying and decluttering are all wonderful ways to appreciate (and rediscover!) what you have. If I have things that I know I should get rid of, for example if I don’t use them, then I imagine someone else being really happy and excited to find that thing while scrolling through Gumtree or in a charity shop. Often that gives me the push I need to list or donate it. I never regret it when I have less clutter (and the money).

Being self-sufficient

Lastly, I’ve found creative ways to be self-sufficient. When I was on a very tight budget on maternity leave we wanted to do some landscaping in our new home. The old me would have hired gardeners and bought the tools, but I ended up doing the work myself and borrowing all the tools I needed from friends or our local tool library. I saved over £500 and felt much more satisfaction than I would have done if I had outsourced it. Trying to do things myself is my default now and I love picking up the new skills that go along with that.

As well as doing things myself, I try to make them myself too.

Growing our own vegetables, baking bread, making pizza from scratch not only save money and reduce waste. They also offer opportunities for learning, mindfulness, even connection if they are things you are doing with somebody else. You become a creator, not a consumer.

People pay for convenience, to save time. But sometimes the time it takes to do something and the experience of doing it is more rewarding than whatever else you would have done in your free time. Don’t get me wrong – I like to relax and veg out as much as the next lady! I work a full time job and have two children. I really value my time and often feel I don’t have much of it. But I have learnt that investing a bit of extra time into doing something the slower and more sustainable way can be very rewarding. At the very least – it’s worth trying. I made my own face masks this year with old fabric I bought on holiday instead of buying them new. By doing that I brushed up on my sewing skills, saved money and was even able to make extras for friends. I discovered the pleasure of sewing, drinking tea and listening to podcasts.

Homemade face masks

A mindset shift that for me combines all of the principles above is making your new default to not spend anything. That’s why I enjoy challenges like “No Spend Months”. The longer that not spending becomes your normality, the more intentional you are about any purchases you do make or services you pay for. For me, that means I question if I really do need to buy something, I research my options, I see what I have that I could repurpose, I try to borrow or buy secondhand.

Living more sustainably and more minimally is a good route to financial independence. By embracing those concepts you will inevitably save money too. For me, one of my main motivations to building wealth is being able to make financial choices in line with my values. More importantly though taking this route makes me enjoy the journey more. I’m working towards a better life for my family and trying to look after the planet they will be living in when I’m gone.

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