Our life looks pretty amazing through the eyes of Instagram these days. Weekends spent sailing in the Stockholm Archipelago and finding hidden saunas in the woods, always cooking up a delicious feast, living in an amazing little apartment in a trendy Stockholm neighbourhood. But like everything, our lifestyle definitely comes with trade-offs. The reality at the moment is that we live off of one salary and we are certainly not rolling in cash. Moving to Sweden and developing my own business means a lot of financial uncertainty for the foreseeable future.
So how do we do it? These are our tips & tricks, and realities, that allow us to continue living a fantastic life without a ton of cash:
1. Get rid of debt. Make this your priority if you want to create more freedom in your life. This is a huge part of being able to live minimalistically. After being back in Canada last year studying, I found myself having racked up a bit of debt. Getting rid of this was my priority before making the move to Sweden.
2. Embrace cooking instead of eating out. Most evenings you will find me cooking away at home because eating & drinking out, especially in Stockholm, is a huge expense. Make your time in the kitchen enjoyable. Dinners with friends are often based around a BBQ or potluck at home rather than out on the town.
3. Vegetarian cooking is more affordable. We don’t fall under the strict vegetarian label, but we do eat a lot of plant-based meals. Lentils, beans, rice, eggs and tofu are all more affordable sources of protein than buying good quality meat. In Sweden, nuts and seeds are not the cheapest, so we are cautious not to go overboard snacking on them (except on the rare occasion that I buy a jar of peanut butter and eat half of it in one go with a spoon). Hint: buy tahini, it is one of the more affordable nut/seed butters and it’s not nearly as tempting to eat with a spoon! Tahini is sesame seed butter making it a great source of healthy fat and full of calcium. Put a scoop in your smoothie or use it as a base for a lemony dressing.
4. Take a filling salad to work for lunch. Matt almost always makes his own lunch and is a pro at whipping up a super simple but hearty salad. He’ll use couscous or chickpeas as the base and then just adds whatever veggies are around plus lots of flavour from fresh herbs, red chilies and lemon juice. He’ll always make a few portions to see him through most of the week.
5. Ditch subscriptions to keep monthly costs low. We don’t have a TV or a Netflix subscription (although this may change come the long, dark Swedish winter). This just means more time for leisurely dinners, learning Swedish and lots of reading.
6. Walk or ride your bike. Matt will ride his bike anywhere and everywhere, where as I’m happy taking a long walk to run errands. We take public transportation as well, but it is pretty expensive here in Stockholm. We don’t own a car, but that does mean it takes us one hour with a metro ride and 2 buses to get to our boat!
7. Brew your own beer. We almost never buy beers these days because Matt constantly has a new brew on the go. Some are definitely better than others, but you only learn with practice!
8. Grow your food. We have a plot at a community garden which can be a great way to get an abundance of organic produce. Our garden is still new so I can’t yet say that it’s been fruitful enough to offset any food costs, but this will come as we continue to build it up.
9. Get comfortable with second hand stuff. We do very little shopping at the moment, but I have had some luck at second hand stores. We've also managed to pick up some decent furniture on a free goods website. Plus we've spread the word that we love second hand stuff, and recently lucked out on a fantastic set of pots & pans.
10. We rent on a short term lease and we have to be okay with potentially moving sooner rather than later. This is not ideal, but we wouldn't be able to afford to live in the area we do if we were buying. So we enjoy it while we can and just have to deal with changes as they come.
11. Tuck some savings away and don’t touch it. We have a small nest egg, which we’ve invested and do not allow ourselves access to. Although it is not going to drastically change our lives by any means, knowing that we have this definitely eases my financial worries.
12. We bought a sailing boat instead of getting engaged. I may not have been informed of this before it happened, but I do love what this boat has brought into our lives. It is our little “summer home”, a place for weekend getaways and we’re learning to sail, something we both really wanted to do. I’m really thankful that Matt lived off of lentil soup for the past year, saved some money and did all the searching to find this gem.
13. Sailing is a cheap mode of transportation and entertainment. Yes, we did have to actually buy the boat and we know there will definitely be many, many costs associated with it. But rather than spending money around town on the weekends, we are often hanging out on the boat, discovering a new island, cooking hearty meals and drinking Matty’s delicious homebrew.
14. Be supportive of each others ventures. When Matt & I met, I was working in financial advising. Our combined salaries allowed us to enjoy a wonderful lifestyle dining out, going to theatre and festival shows, spending weekends away and not having to worry about how much I’d just spent at the grocery store. Being a supportive partner can be challenging when the changes affect the quality of your own lifestyle. Having Matt believe in me, while carrying the financial burden, is absolutely monumental.
15. Learn to be happy with where you’re at and keep an eye on the future by working towards the goals that are important to you. This is really what living your life is all about. It is so easy to compare yourself to others and wish you had more, which is part of being human and at times can be tough to shake. But life really is just what you make of it and what you prioritise. So just focus on being the best version of yourself.
Do you have any tips for enjoying minimalistic living? Please share in the comments below!
Shan x x