Dear all,

I sometimes get asked why I don’t buy new shoes or why I don’t spoil myself a little bit during these tough times by purchasing something nice. It’s not that I absolutely never buy anything nice for myself or that I don’t have the money. It’s just that I don’t really want to for several reasons.

Our main aim is to save some money so that we, and especially Davide (since I’m not working that much anyway right now) can retire early. If you really want to save money to retire early without depending on the state or retirement funds (they are not that trustworthy), you have to prioritise saving money. Not everybody will appreciate or understand this. Arguments such as money needs to flow, because it’s good for the economy, or, what a waste to keep all your money on your account, before you know it you’ll have no time to enjoy it anymore, are amongst the ones most frequently heard when you decide to save a lot of money.

The first argument I could counter by saying that I don’t feel obligated at all to support a system that is far from sustainable and creates massive amounts of inequality. As for the second, well, that would imply that I’m happiest when I buy stuff. This is simply not true. It doesn’t give me a thrill to buy something new and probably unnecessary, certainly not on the long term. The thrill of having bought something wears off after a couple of days (this is not just me, but most people) and then you’ll have to buy something new again, if that’s the only thing that makes you happy. As if there’s no other way to treat yourself except for throwing money around.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s absolutely nice to be able to pay your bills and not have to stress whether or not you’ll get by this month. But if you have the luxury of not having to worry about that, you should really ask yourself why do I desperately need to go out to dinner every week, why do I desperately need to fly to Ibiza and why do I desperately need to buy the newest smartphone or that amazing pair of boots that are only in fashion this winter. What’s missing in my life? Maybe the answer is: nothing, I just like it like this. But then perhaps, consider the idea that there are also people who don’t like it and who are simply less materialistic, instead of assuming they’re throwing their life away.

There are a lot of things that cost me little money, or nothing at all, that make me quite happy. I like learning something new. There are hundreds of free online courses. If you just want to develop a new skill, you don’t have to pay anything to actually make that happen. I like reading, so besides just buying new books, I check out cheaper second hand options and I have a library subscription (thousands of books for free!). I like listening to music. Well, here come YouTube and Spotify. Massive amounts of music available for free. I like eating good food. There are thousands of recipes (and recipe videos) that can teach you how to prepare something new. There’s truly no need to go to a restaurant every week if you can learn how to prepare most of it yourself.

This doesn’t mean that if you do like to go to a restaurant from time to time and you do like to get yourself a new purse, there’s something wrong with you. Besides often being pressured into mindless consumption by our society, there’s also a lack of time to understand what really makes you happy. It’s a change of mindset. Do I really need all that I’m buying, or is it just society telling me that I need this and did I take enough time to find the best option available to me?

Currently, I don’t feel like I’m living a less fulfilled life now that I’m trying to save money and be very much aware of what I consume. It actually makes me feel liberated to not have to run along with the rest of society and decorate my home like all the insta influencers are doing and go to the newest and hottest places in town, so that I’ll have something to talk about. I’d rather talk about something I’ve just read, a new music artist I’ve discovered and the newest herbal tea I’ve invented. These things seem very mundane, but besides them being far more sustainable for the planet, they’re also much more sustainable for me.

What do we pay attention to when we’re considering money?
-How we use our heating for example. The heating is on now, because it’s cold and I’m by no means going to suffer, but the temperature stays at 20 degrees C. or lower, never over it.
-When to charge our phones. We do this either at night or at work.
-The oven. We try to be as efficient as possible when it comes to using the oven. We plan our meals well, so when I want to bake bread, I’ll also roast some chestnuts that we can have for dinner.
-No unnecessary lights on and turning off the washing machine entirely (basically plugging it out) are also ways to consume less energy.
-Whatever we can prepare ourselves when it comes to food, we’ll prepare ourselves. Baking our own cakes, bread and pizza for example, doing the gnocchi ourselves (in principle we, or Davide and his father, also do the wine themselves, but that’s not something that everybody can easily do).
-Drastically reducing the times that we go to restaurants (Davide can cook better anyway) and bars. We know a bar where you can get a nice coffee and cornetto for pratically no money, but we go there only a couple of times a year. We can do nice coffee ourselves. And we can invite friends over (not right now due to covid) to enjoy dinner at our place instead of a restaurant.
-No takeaway meals, or at least only twice a year.
-Cutting unnecessary insurances.
-Buying the clothes/shoes etc. that we need, not the ones we must have, and repair the ones that can be mended before buying a replacement.
-Reuse anything that can possibly be reused.
-Very rarely do we buy each other gifts. We prefer other gestures. A nicely cooked meal, a freshly baked cake, a sweet message or simply some quality time together.
-And many many other things that I can’t come up with right now.

In short, don’t be afraid of doing something in a different way than our society is currently doing. Our society isn’t really all that amazing after all.

From Italy with love,

Merel