Once upon a time a busy mum opened up the pantry to find 7 jars of pasta sauce but no pasta. She got into the shower to wash her hair to find no shampoo but four bottles of different hair conditioners lurking at her feet.
Today in the Simple Money Project, I want to share something very simple: Use it up and wear it out.
It may sound obvious but try making an actual list before you venture into the supermarket. I resisted this for years and preferred to shop ‘freestyle,’ but it has been revolutionary and has benefited both our finances and our health.
If it isn’t on the list it doesn’t make it into the shopping trolley. Even if there is a buy one get one free special or a deal that sounds too good to miss, if it isn’t on my list I don’t buy it. I plan meals for the week or month depending on our schedule and then after taking a quick inventory of what we already have, I make a list of the ingredients needed to make each of the meals in the plan. This helps to prevent the pasta sauce scenario above which used to be very familiar in our home: a cupboard full of food but ‘nothing’ to eat. I also regularly empty out the freezer and put together ‘interesting’ meals made up of assorted leftovers to try and avoid food waste and I have to say that my family probably prefer these ad hoc leftover meals to almost anything else I concoct and serve.
Aside from groceries, we have also made a conscious decision to reduce our consumption of clothing. Once upon a time, we had wardrobes that were overflowing with stuff, but now we only buy more for ourselves and the children when there is an actual need. My husband and children wear uniforms for work and school and I was inspired by that to simplify my own wardrobe. I developed something of a work and weekend uniform that has reduced the need to make decisions everyday about what I am going to wear – my choice is reduced and so is my decision-fatigue. I rotate around the same outfits and while it sounds boring, it has actually been incredibly liberating. After going through the process of donating or selling excess clothes, everything in my wardrobe pretty much matches everything else and I only look to buy something new if there is something that I really need.
Walking around the shopping mall, it is easy to be seduced into thinking that now is the time to replace your phone, television or watch. There is so much stuff available to us at any one time wherever we are and we are bombarded with messages from advertisements almost constantly through media channels, promotional materials and old fashioned billboards telling us what we need and what we should get. Today, I want to encourage you to perhaps view things differently.
Use up what you already have before you buy more. Only get a new phone when your old one completely dies. Only buy more clothes when your existing ones can no longer be worn or there is a genuine, real need for something new. Only buy more food when you have eaten your surplus (including those random leftovers as the back of the freezer). Spend your money consciously and your bank account will surely grow in the right direction.
Despite our conscious move towards the adoption of a simpler life, we still have so much stuff and I often think about how obscenely luxurious what I perceive as a simpler lifestyle would appear to someone with a very different life to my own. It is sobering to remember that just one quarter of all wasted food could feed the 795 million undernourished people around the world who suffer from hunger and to read shocking statistics around the amount of textile waste discarded into landfill in various countries around the world. As we slowly become more conscious of the impact that our choices are having on the environment, it is a stark reminder that the idea of using up and wearing out what we have before we buy more, makes sense beyond the money saving benefits that can be accrued. If we would be happy with what we already have, there would be so many benefits to ourselves and our global neighbourhood.
I am inspired by the following words attributed to the Chinese Philosopher Lao Zhu:
He who is contented is rich.