Ever since I started my journey to be debt-free, I've cut out a lot of things from my budget. So much so that when I look back at the person I used to be, I wondered why in the world I bought all that stuff. They certainly didn't make me happy!
Personal finance is really easy. It comes down to this: Just don't spend more than you earn. Really.
And what's one way to ensure that you don't spend more money than you earn?
You cut out unnecessary expenditure.
I firmly believe that money management is about mindset more than anything.
These days, I don't think of cutting things from my budget as deprivation. Instead, I think of it as an opportunity to be a responsible steward of my money and a way to being kind to Mother Earth by not funnelling stuff into landfills.
In no order, here are the things I've cut out from my budget:
1. "Event" clothes
Dumped clothes are now clogging up landfills. The throwaway clothing culture is having serious envrionmental impact. According to CBC Canada, "85 per cent of unwanted textiles in North America end up in landfills — which amounts to more than 11 billion kilograms a year." So, I'm very, very careful when it comes to buying clothes these days. I don't want my impulsive buys to end up polluting the Earth. I no longer buy that trendy blouse or sexy dress just for that one special event. Instead, most of my clothes are basics that I can mix and match to make several outfits. I'm a great believer of the "work uniform" and wear the same combination of outfits most of the time. This approach has saved me from a lot of impulsive spending.
2. "Dead-tree" or physical books
I love books. I adore reading them. But there's no denying that books in Malaysia are prohibitively expensive. A new bestseller can be priced as high as RM80 sometimes. The most heart-breaking thing about buying books in Malaysia is that even if you manage to sell them, you'd probably lose 90% of the money you "invested" in the book in the first place. Also, not feeling so great about trees being cut down so that I can read. These days, I rent most of my books through rental places such as Lovely Ever After books and Kedai Buku, the rent-a-bookstore run by two lovely uncles at Central Market. If I truly like a book, I'll buy an ebook version of it.
3. Holidays abroad
I've been to places like Tokyo, Beijing, New York City and on and on. It used to be that I would travel three or four times abroad. Fortunately, my journalism job enabled me to travel a lot in my twenties and thirties. But these days, my appetite has waned. For one, I don't travel well (I get airsick, seasick, roadsick, you name it). Also, I find local destinations more fascinating. I also enjoy the advantages of staycations. Like many things, travel is a state of mind. You can easily have a super enjoyable holiday in your backyard. You don't have to travel thousands of miles away to get an experience.
4. Real Estate
The days of making a healthy profit flipping a house is waning. And I don't believe in buying property to get rental income. Unless you buy the house outright, the rental income you get may not even cover your loan payment. Plus, dealing with tenants is a major chore.
I practice intermittent fasting, so I don't eat breakfast as I'm usually not hungry until noon. Intermittent fasting has a lots of health benefits. But another benefit is that I have saved money because of this! For example, let's say I spend around RM5 for breakfast every day. I could save RM155 a month!
6. Fancy coffee
Ah, the days of grabbing RM10 java just to unwind with a slice of cake (add RM15!) ... is kinda over. I now rely on the office coffee machine or my home-brewed coffee. I have an admission though: I have a bubble tea habit I'm trying to break! I'm trying to reduce my 3 times a week habit to just once a week. Trying.
7. Home decor / Travel souvenirs
Unless they serve a purpose, I'm not taking them home. Now, my home decor is mostly plants. Usually edible. I no longer buy travel souvenirs or fripperies. The only memories I need are in my photographs and the travelogue in my bullet journal. I don't need an object to remind me of a place or to decorate my living space.
8. Food containers
As weird as it is, I used to buy a lot of food containers ... I had to throw / give away more than a few dozen containers at one time. And I don't even cook that much to warrant such usage! Now I have solid glassware to keep my food. A grand total of four. (Ironically, now people keep giving me containers!)
Yup, I used to be a bag lady. Now I just have an everyday backpack that I take to work or when I go out and a special-functions bag for formal events. That's it. I try to buy second hand bags if I can.
10. Gym memberships
I used to believe that if I signed up with a gym I'll immediately be obliged to go there and exercise. Eh, no. Part of the reason is because I'm not a huge gym person. Walking in the great outdoors is more my thing, so these days I incorporate exercise in my daily routine. I make sure that I make 10,000 steps a day. Also, I swim in my apartment pool about twice a month or more. And if I feel so inclined (which is hardly ever) I will use my condo's gym.