Spoiler: The answer is nothing.
When I first started writing about hygge and happiness five years ago this week the newspapers were filled with articles on hygge and how to hygge, very often listing items that you needed to buy to achieve the full hygge lifestyle. I wrote about how that wasn’t necessary in my post, How to hygge when there’s too much month left and not enough pay check. In that, I figured out that ignoring the top-of-the-range recommendations they made and going for homemade or home-found items would save you £500. Meik Wiking himself said “Hygge is about an atmosphere rather than things. Luxury is not hygge. Togetherness, gratitude, simplicity is.“
In fact, of course, even the £50 I pointed out that you could spend to further your hygge isn’t necessary. Hygge really is free, to a person with the right mindset in the right position and we can all be that person.
Let me say first of all that if you are living in complete peril from paycheck to paycheck and at risk of losing your home, doing without food or being unable to pay your bills then hygge will be a very hard thing to achieve. Not impossible, but difficult. It’s going to take a great deal of imagination, resilience and the ability for a few minutes at a time at least to be able to find that sweet spot where the outside world does not exist and this moment, with your favourite people or drink or view of nature, is all you need. Real life has a habit of interfering, and poverty and illness are the most soul-destroying things I have ever known. If you’re facing either or both of those (and they often go together) then I send you love and wishes for your superpower of determination to be released.
For many people, though, life is just bobbling along: we’re neither rich nor absolutely poor, not fabulously healthy or moments away from death. We’re just living a very human existence, with flows of cash, happiness, health and mental wellbeing that vary from excellent to extra careful. Hygge, with its emphasis on gratitude, thankfulness for what we do have and for living in the moment, is absolutely possible. It’s a very good way of achieving clarity, distilling life down from wants and desires to needs and nice bits. And it’s free/very cheap for the price of being open and accepting of what we have already.
How to Practise Frugal Hygge:
- Don’t read the lifestyle sites or social media without having your mind tuned in to the fact that many of them are designed to sell you something. Very often the writer/newspaper hasn’t paid for the product they’re promoting, they’ve been sent it or are being paid to promote it. I hate adverts popping up all over the place, from the side or as overlays. I don’t monetise my blog as a result and my products that I promote are paid for by myself. (The only ads on my blog are the few paragraphs at the end about my books: I want to make a little bit of money, but I won’t do it by selling out the concept of hygge)
- Don’t put your own life down. I used to be very good as a teenager at looking at other people’s lives and thinking they were happier/wealthier/living better than I was. Once I grew a little older, and got a little more discernment, I realised that the external story a person presents does not always tell the truth. The person with the biggest house/fastest car/most handsome boyfriend is not necessarily the happiest. What I have is what I have and it suits me fine.
- Always have a list in your head/planner/on the wall at home of free things that you can do that are conducive to hygge. A friend over for tea, a carpet picnic with the kids, a walk in the park, events in town that don’t charge an entry fee. Finding ways to spend time with the people you love is an investment of your self, not your money. I’m planning a whole article on free hygge activities later this month: keep an eye out.
- Keep your self-care free: the most important element of self-care is taking time to yourself. That’s done as easily by walking in nature (woods are great for restoring the soul at any time) as visiting an expensive spa or pamper palace. Whether you take your time at home to enjoy a bath, read or do a craft or you take yourself out to a coffee shop, library or park bench, the important gift to yourself is to put yourself first and take time to be you.
- Find a way to record the good times of life. Take photographs, write a journal, collect a small rock or feather from each happy day. I like the gratitude jar idea, where you keep a stack of small slips of paper and write down a short note about a lovely day you’ve had. The slips can live in the jar and are there for you to pick out and reminisce over anytime.
Hygge doesn’t cost anything, because it’s never been about the things. It’s about the people, the atmosphere, the created community that your group has or that you on your own can feel. It can’t be bought from a store, or created by styling a house. It relies on an inner sense of enough and abundance, security, comfort and cosiness, trust and peace that we aren’t supposed to feel 24/7, or to want to feel 24/7. Hygge is our break from reality, not reality itself. We may work to bring hygge into the situations we’re in, but that isn’t always possible. Not every office has a sofa, lets you light candles or encourages cakes on a Friday. Not every family is talking to each other, not every person is able to open up and trust any one other than themselves.
If you’re feeling the need for hygge, don’t ever start with a shopping expedition. Start with you. Find your favourite mug, your preferred tea or coffee flavour, a book you read when you were small. Bring a notebook.
Find a cosy spot, even just your bed or a corner of the sofa. Curl up, read, sip and breathe. Let yourself relax, and then let your mind wander. Collect your thoughts on what makes a great day for you, collect all your thoughts, free, cheap or expensive, and then adapt them. Make them fit your budget, rather than chasing an experience at the cost of your budget. And release the ones you can’t afford or will never achieve. Embrace what you have, and find the peace and comfort of being at home with yourself.
The header today is a photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash. I chose it because the picture summed up hygge to me: a cosy spot, a lazy pet, the promise of marshmallows on the log burner later. It’s just life, just as it is, and just hygge.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. August is like a pause before real life begins again in September, so it’s a second chance to set up rituals and rhythms that boost happiness and work for you.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
On the principle that it’s never too early to start thinking ahead, really, and that Christmas is always on us before we know, how about Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas? Christmas is about the small things in life, much as hygge is, and establishing what you want from Christmas and then being able to say no to the excess is important. The book has hints and tips that hopefully will help you enjoy what is, too often, a frantic season.
Available as just an ebook, and a short, sharp read, is Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas: Easy Ways to keep the Joy of Christmas, and your Sanity, intact. It’s an easy read, with ideas and hints to keep you sane through the season. The self-care advent calendar is one I’ve followed for a few years now, and it really is a small daily dose of calm in a manic month.
And on the basis that we may well find ourselves in Lockdowns or unable to enjoy an absolutely normal Christmas under Covid regulations if numbers spike, why not read and plan alternatives? Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was written in response to the pandemic last year, and will need updating soon, but it is about celebrating whatever the situation, and does have good advice on stocking up an emergency cupboard, celebrating when travelling to relatives is impossible and putting the heart of Christmas back into the heart of the celebrations.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well, and read the other posts in the series, too.