One thing that I’m learning from our (not that) low spend year is that this level of spending and saving works for us. I know that although we could cut it further, it would probably cause stress and tension. At the same time, we have not been desperate to spend more.
So, our focus this year is on keeping up the same savings rate, but really improving our quality of life at the same time.
The question I am asking myself is: How can we really make the most of all the resources and assets we are fortunate to have?
It’s easy to think that you need to spend more to have a better quality of life, when so much advertising is selling that idea. Home renovations, luxury holidays, newer cars all promote the idea that they will help you enjoy your daily life more, or promise greater wellbeing.
My themes for this year are gratitude and consistency. Cultivating these two qualities is central to how I plan to boost my quality of life significantly on a budget.
I’m sharing what I’m doing personally, but hopefully some of the ideas or resources here will help you if you are on a similar path. Here are the main areas I am focussing on:
Table of Contents
Prioritising health and wellbeing
I’ve been exercising on and off for the last year, doing various dance and yoga classes and the occasional gym session with my partner. This year I will be simplifying what I am doing by focussing on weight training and also walking 10,000 steps a day, as often as I can. I don’t do it every day, but I also don’t let the fact that I don’t have a perfect record stop me from starting each day with the same goal.
Having this step goal has pushed me to go for walks in the evening after the kids are in bed. Although I sometimes don’t feel like it, it’s lovely to have some fresh air and a chance to clear my head, or listen to a podcast before climbing into bed. It also motivates me to take breaks during the day to increase my steps – using my down time for this rather than something like scrolling Instagram.
I also bought two sizes of dumbbells (5kg and 8kg (affiliate link) to do exercises at home, following routines from free apps like Gymshark and FitOn.
Recently I’ve been listening to the Mindful Fire Podcast and am really curious about the impact that having a consistent mindfulness practice can have on the rest of my life. I’m fortunate enough to have a free Headspace account through my work, so I’m making the most of that.
Lastly, I’m being more consistent with my early bedtimes (around 9.30pm a night). This makes it easier for me to wake up early and do things that enrich and inspire me.
Making our living environment nicer
My vision for our home is that it’s somewhere where it’s easy to relax and to play. It doesn’t have to be pristine and minimal, but I also don’t want it to be chaotic and overwhelming.
I hate always feeling like I should be tidying up when my son is saying “can you play with me?”.
One of the biggest stressors that we have right now is keeping “on top” of the house. Although I sold a lot of our baby items last year, we still have a lot of stuff at home that we don’t use and makes it feel cluttered. My plan is to sell or donate these items this year, with any proceeds going to our mortgage overpayment fund.
We have a lot of Lego so I’m also working on a big organisation project to make it much easier for the kids to play with the Lego (and for us to clear it away). This is one of the main things they do together after school, so as a couple who both work from home, having an absorbing activity for them is a good investment.
I’m tackling the housework by putting systems in place to do little and often, consistently. Laundry is our nemesis and is at its worst when I skip a day or two.. I need to put a wash on most days to keep on top of it – so getting into the habit of putting it on in the morning and hanging it up at night is crucial.
There are also some inexpensive things we could do to make it feel more homely, like putting pictures and shelving up.
Focus on more family experiences
Tracking our spending closely in our low spend year showed me that our spending on family experiences is naturally very low actually, if we exclude the occasional meal out.
We don’t go on holiday often and we spend a lot of time playing Lego at home and going for walks.
This year I’d like to have more varied experiences together. We went to the Aquarium this week for my son’s birthday and saved more than £20 by paying £1 for a month’s KidsPass membership (referral link). They have lots of other offers so I’m planning to use this over the next month and then see whether it’s worth keeping.
Investing in making my career more fulfilling
Again I am fortunate enough to be able to pursue some of my passions and interests through my day job.
Last year I set the foundations for building skills that I can apply in my work right now, but that could also help me in the future if I ever went freelance or became work optional, such as delivery of a certain type of workshop. My aim is to build on this to become more practised and confident. Again – consistency is key here as I need to regularly practise and develop these skills, which means reaching out to people and volunteering to run the workshop so that I’m getting regular practice throughout the year and becoming more skilled.
Some of the career and personal development resources that I come back to over and over again and would recommend are:
The Squiggly Careers Podcast – For very useful advice on dealing with common challenges and opportunities in careers
The How To Own The Room Podcast – For tactics and inspiration on the topic of self confidence and public speaking
The Mindful Fire Podcast – I mentioned this before in the context of health but it has a lot of work related content. I appreciate that the host focuses on using mindfulness and financial independence as tools for creating the life you want, right now.
Spending extra time walking has been fantastic for catching up on these and feeling inspired.
Learning to let go and to prioritise
In the days running up to the New Year I was thinking a lot about resolutions. There’s so much that I want to do but I realised that I needed to let go of a lot of very “noble” projects to have the bandwidth to do the things that were the most important to me.
A second blog has gone on the back burner… A language exam that I’ve been wanting to do for years will need to wait another year…
Instead I’m focussing on doing a smaller number of things better and more consistently. I’ve chosen the habits and activities that I believe will have the biggest positive impact on my and my family’s life.
One commitment I’ve made is to blog every week and I’ve noticed that having a more regular schedule really boosts my creativity.
Final thoughts on quality of life
At the end of last year my yoga teacher shared a quote by the movement teacher Feldenkrais that struck a chord with me:
“Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself.”
I’m focussing on doing some key activities regularly and well, prioritising consistency over intensity.
I’d love to hear how you are improving your quality of life – whether it’s on a budget or not.
Also, if you’ve got similar goals in terms of decluttering, you can get a free copy of the decluttering tracker I created when you subscribe to my email list, and I’ll also send an email whenever I publish a new blog post.