How are you this Friday? I’m gulping hard and opening my gas and electricity bill this month… carefully. I know I’m not the only one, because Cost of Living seems to be the words on every other person’s mouth this month. And the ones not talking about Cost of Living are talking about Ukraine, politics, green issues or problems in life in general. The world is on the brink of something, and I’m not sure we know yet what.
What I am sure of is that, for the foreseeable future at least, budgeting and managing on less disposable income than ever will be on the cards for most of us. I sat in a friend’s house last night sipping tea and chatting, and we both agreed we’d felt the hit already. She’s not my only friend to say that.
Now, it would be easy here to drop into Pollyanna mode: things will turn out fine, having no cash is only an issue if you haven’t enough to eat, money for rent and a little for fun, this is a great chance to develop community, support in the groups you belong to and more besides. Those facts are all true, but when you have no disposable income, that’s no comfort. What you need are fast, easy and useful solutions to your problems. If you are worrying that you will be in debt and that your life or health will suffer as a result, don’t ignore the issue. Get help: talk to people who can help you get sorted. Take any help offered, and accept any relief available. It’s no use being proud, if it means you lose out on help available.
And for the majority of us, finding ways to enjoy life for less will just have to be something we do as a matter of course. Living on a reasonably tight budget has always been a feature of my life, especially when I was a stay-at-home Mum, so dropping back into the frugality of those years, although slightly inconvenient, shouldn’t be that big of an issue. And, of course, the right books will always play a part in that.
Today’s book is a starting point. No-Spend Days caught my eye just before November last year, when I was beginning to think ahead for Christmas and Winter activities. I have quite a collection of low spend/no spend advice books collected over the years, and many simple living or minimalist books. I know, there’s an irony there, but I find reading about other people’s lives and choices irresistible, and finding out why they spend their money as they choose to spend it is interesting. Mine goes on books, but I have friends who live frugally all year to afford the biggest holidays they can. They’re like a real life Ewan McGregor in the Expedia advert: they will never regret the places they’ve been, and I will never regret listening to them without worrying that I’ve missed out on not going to Thailand, Mongolia, Las Vegas and India. Those aren’t the experiences I’m looking for.
With no/very little income set aside for world travelling, and not much inclination currently to do so, I think the ideas in No-Spend Days may work well as a springboard for inspiration as to what one can do for little/no cost. It’s a small book, 6 by 4 inches and hardback with thick paper and colour illustrations throughout.
I found the lack of organisation a bit irksome: there is no contents page, no index and the entries are random rather than grouped into any obvious links. It has no coherence from that aspect: you read a page on bike riding and the next suggestion is pickling vegetables. It’s not a guide that you could approach purposefully; say you were going to the city and wanted ideas to do, you’d have to flick through yourself but the randomness of the collection is, I think, part of the book’s purpose. It’s not prescriptive, it doesn’t tell you what to do and has no clear, precise instructions or definite advice. It’s inspirational, rather than exhortational. You dip into it or skim read it, you don’t study it for great wisdom.
The pages are set out simply: a heading and a short paragraph explaining what activity is suggested. Like I said, the paragraphs aren’t very detailed, so you may find you have to look online for instructions in eg tie dying or to find the location of your nearest Wild Swimming body of water.
Miranda Moore, the writer, obviously loves the outdoors, so a lot of the book is about rockpooling, raft building, camping, hiking. I’m not sure, unless you live at the edge of a National Park, that these are actually no-spend activities, and there’s a few of the ideas that can’t really be passed off as costing nothing unless you have access to the equipment needed or live nearby to suitable locations, but I think all low-cost, frugal books reveal the flaws in the writer’s plans. It’s possibly why the books function best as inspiration, not finished lists and why there is no substitute for being prepared to think things through yourself and compile your own, completely personalised list.
There are little practical pages or tables to fill in, such as the weekly spending page or the chart for filling in needs, wants and unexpected spending but this isn’t a book to make you an expert in cutting costs, building budgets or help you assign amounts. The practical advice is almost incidental, and the book could function quite well without it, possibly by signposting more comprehensive budgeting books, or by having a practical chapter or appendix where the nuts and bolts of frugality could be dealt with all at once.
At 156 pages, the book isn’t a long read and I’m glad I used a gift certificate to purchase it, as it’s possibly a little overpriced for what you get. The pictures are beautiful, but stock photos for the most part, and the ideas aren’t rocket science. It’s one to borrow, or to buy and pass on around your friendship group, rather than a beauty to hoard and inspect often. That said, it had ideas enough to get the juices flowing, and I have started a Frugal Hedonism page in my planner, with lists of free/low cost activities to do that suit my family and my lifestyle.
And I think that really is the way to move forward on cost-cutting of leisure activities. You need to look at what you like doing, look at the local resources available to you and the equipment you own or have access to already and plan accordingly. It’s no use planning to camp, hike and wild swim when to do so would mean investing in tent, sleeping bag and a journey cross-country to the nearest location. Likewise, investigating the free resources in your area may throw up an activity that you wanted to try but didn’t know about. Start with the library first. Use Amazon well to identify the books you want to read, then ask your library to find them. Use it or lose it, that’s the secret.
Frugal hygge (thankfully a lot of hygge is low cost/free) will be a big thing this year. I think I can sense a post or a couple of posts coming on….
As usual, I’ll leave you with a flipthrough of the book. Short, but sweet.
And now for a word from our sponsors….
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. Lent is a season of rituals and resets. The book has small and easy ways to make your life flow with grace and happiness, which lead to more hygge.
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. And it’s always the little things.
Planning ahead, early, is How to Hygge Your Summer. It has ideas for taking your hygge with you out of winter and to any place you go in the summer… the beach, the park, your holidays. Hygge is an all-year feeling, so start preparing and let’s hygge the heck out of summer this year!
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.
The regular photo I’m currently using between text and my book promotions is a photo by Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash. It’s sunflowers, in honour of Ukraine, since war is crazy and horrible and about as uhygge as you can get. If you’d like to donate to help the refugees fleeing, please give to the emergency appeal in your country. In the UK I’m giving to the DEC Ukrainian appeal. And my header is a picture of the book on my desk, as per usual. I couldn’t resist popping in the teabag from today’s relaxing cuppa. Pukka Joy tea is an uplifting blend of lemony berbs with a twist of orange, according to the back of the bag. It’s a gentle brew, and one I’ve enjoyed switching over to now it’s spring.