Easy tips for saving money

At times we all wish we have more to spend than we actually have. We have moments where we have big expenses: we bought a house, a car or started a family. Whatever your reason is, these are a couple of short term fixes for saving some extra cash.

Know what you make and what you spend

To actually know that you save more money then you spend is to know what you make and what your expenses are. Check your bank account and see what transactions where made over the last month or so. Make up a balance and see what your position is on your spending habits grouping them in categories. Go through them individually and see what expenses you can cut and what you can bring down.

Cut unnecessary expenses

Take a hard look at yourself (and your bank account) and decide if you really use that gym membership. You wanted to learn how to play the piano and got yourself an online membership. Have you been practicing? No? Cut it! That magazine that comes in every month and makes its way from the mail box straight into the recycle bin? Cancel it. Can you save on the energy bill by switching to a different provider? Do it! In the Netherlands you get the chance to switch health insurance providers once a year. Before the end of the year, see what you need and make the change to a health provider that still fits your needs and asks less of your hard earned money.

Pay off your debt

Having debt will cost you money, so if you are in a position to pay off your debt, it is wise to do so. Make minimal payments on all your debt and put larger amounts towards your smallest debt. As soon as you payed off the smallest debt, move on to the next one. This is called the debt snowball method by Dave Ramsey (he had to be mentioned in a post like this).

It is a tedious task, but getting your books in order will give you the best overview of your finances

Save on utilities

There are some expenses you have to live with, like gas, water and electricity. Using them responsibly can save you a lot of money. Do you remember your mother yelling at you for showering too long? Or leaving the lights on? Well, she knew what all of that unnecessary use costs.

Electricity

Start by simply turn off the lights in a room you are not in. Swap the old light bulbs you have for LED light bulbs. They use way less energy. I have a hallway in my house that doesn’t have a window. There I use a Philips Hue LED light bulb with a movement sensor. It is a bit of an investment, but worth the money. I replaced the switch in the wall with a blind plate for the socket outlet. No more forgetting to turn off the lights. If you are in a position where you can afford solar panels and have the space to place them, it is something you might want to consider. It will save you money in the long run.

Water

Being smart with water usage will help you lowering your water bill. Don’t throw away old water from a coffee machine or water boiler, but give it to the plants. Take a 5 min shower in stead of one that takes 30 min. If you want to relax, don’t sit down underneath the shower, but fill up the tub. If you don’t have a bath tub, buy a hot water bottle and curl up underneath a cozy blanket. Don’t leave the water running while you brush your teeth and don’t wash the car or windows with a watering hose. Also don’t heat water for one cup of tea, but make a pot and keep it warm with a candle.

Heating

My house doesn’t have main gas, so I don’t have to worry about my gas bill and to be honest I don’t miss having gas. But I still need to be thoughtful about the heating. In the living room I have a smart thermostat by Tado. It turns off the heating when nobody is home and it gives me insight of what I’m spending on heating. Even if you do have main glass, think about how you use it. Close a window and put on a sweater before you turn op the heat.

Isolate your house

If you don’t have to pay for heating or air conditioning, you’ll end up saving money. Get better windows, isolate your walls, fix the hole in the roof. Finish the house and keep it in good condition. Close the doors to keep heat in. Do ventilate, but close the windows at night during the winter and during the day in summer.

Live on a budget

Whenever I was strapped for cash, I made myself live on a budget. I knew what I could and wanted to spend on groceries and what I wanted to save. So going to the super market turned into a game for me. Looking up deals, buying private labels in stead of the named-brand and trying to be out of the store as soon as possible. This made me try new things and have a more diverse diet. This also means buying less pre-cut and pre-washed greens. It made me look at the way I cooked and it turned out that having to cut my food myself made me better at handling a cooking knife. It also made me experiment with different dishes. Talking about added benefits!

Giving yourself an allowance will help you keep track of your expenses.

Start eating healthy

As I mentioned before I changed my diet to save money. No more pricy candy bars but apples and no more potato chips but leafy greens. I did get some funny looks when I started eating raw spinach. Eating health also means that you only buy what you actually need. Prepacked food is usually more than you need and you’ll eat it anyway because it’s a waste to throw it out or you trow it out anyway. Next to that, there is a lot of food that is healthy and easy to store, like rice, pasta and nuts. Meat is pretty expensive (as it should be) and cutting down on eating it saves a lot of money. There are so many vegetarian and vegan options that after a while, you wouldn’t even mis it. But your wallet will feel the difference.

Quit smoking and other bad habits

Yes, this is the point where a non smoker tells you it will save you money if you quit smoking. I bet it is nothing new, same as it is something that is undeniably true and we all know it. If you are a smoker, all you have to do is see what it will save you if you didn’t smoke for a year and then consider if you think it is worth the try. I’ll stop there.

Buy in bulk

To know if it is really cheaper to buy in bulk, you’ll have to consider two things: will it expire before I use it? And is it really cheaper? Buying the larger packages are usually cheaper and for things like toilet paper you can’t really go wrong. Another thing you should buy in bulk is soap, whether it is for washing yourself, the dishes or to make laundry detergent with. It will save you a lot of money. Another thing is dried pasta, beans, rice and nuts. As I mentioned before, they are easy to store in pretty glass containers and it is relatively cheap food.

Glass containers for storing your products is durable and looks nice

Automate savings

If you make it a regular habit to put some money in you savings account you’ll end up with more money without breaking a sweat. Every month, when your salary comes in, write an amount you can live without into this savings account. Let’s say you save 10€ each month, by the end of the year you’ll have an 120€ saved. Easy money. If you can make it 100€ a month, you’ll have 1.200€ extra saved. Easy does it.

Sell what you don’t use

We tend to gather stuff, but there is a lot amongst it that we just don’t use. You could throw it away, but you could just as easily try to sell some of it. You’ll be surprised how much you can make with selling stuff you don’t need. You’ll free up some closet space and you’ll have some extra money in the bank.

Swap stuff (books, games, clothes)

How many times do you read the same book or play the same video games over again? And that shirt that you hardly ever wear because you lost interest in it? Ask your friend if they have stuff they feel the same about. Not only will you end up with new second hand stuff, you also get rid of stuff you don’t use or need anymore. Consume less, share more!

Repair before you buy

A shopping addiction is a big reality for a lot of people and if you are out of money you really need to fight the urge to go online and satisfy the need to buy stuff. A good thing to do is to go through your closet and see what you still have. Do you have clothes you don’t wear because they are damaged? Repair them! It doesn’t take long to repair a stitch line or patch up a hole. And you can do the same with a lot of other things! If your chair is wobbly you can adjust some screws or place felt pad underneath the legs. There is so much you can do with string, glue, nails, oil and duct tape.

Walk or travel by bike when you can

You can take the car to every where you go, but why have a gym membership if you have the possibility to cycle to work and get that extra exercise? Two birds, one stone! And if there is commute you regularly take, see if there is a subscription plan that can save you some money, in stead of buying individual tickets.

Conclusion

There is still a lot to consider when making these changes, like time, environment and if it is worth the effort to put your energy into saving in stead of making more money. It doesn’t make sense to save and spend money on something you hardly ever use just because it is cheap. But having a good basis will help you be more conscious about your spending.

Effective ways to deal with stress

It is not a secret that modern days come with a lot more stress. A lot of our jobs went digital and as a result we got stuck behind a desk for the bigger part of the day. In todays daily routine social media subjects us to the opinion of so many more people than just friends, family and neighbours. We started eating unhealthy because we feel like we don’t have enough time and ordering food or throwing it in the microwave is so much easier. But come on, enough is enough.

Get enough sleep

Sounds easy enough, but is one of the hardest things to tackle. How many times have you promised yourself to go to bed early and ended up turning off the light way later than you set out to do? But that alarm goes off the same time every morning. Not many of us have the luxury to sleep in when they had a bad night of sleep. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep. Not everybody needs this amount of sleep, but it is a very good ball park and especially when you are dealing with stress, it is a good goal to set. You can buy a lot of good sleep trackers to give you insight in your sleep. I use the Fitbit Charge 3. It will remind me to go get ready for bed and will show me how I slept, so I can adjust accordingly.

Start your day off right

The way you start your day is at least as important as the way you finish it. Most of us wake up with an alarm and hardly make it out the door in time. We skip breakfast, barely hit the shower and rush off to work. But whether you work in an office or from home, we know that skipping the most important meal of the day is a bad habit. Starting the day stressed will flood your body with stress hormones. So try to get out of bed with enough time to do a bit of stretching or yoga, give yourself time to shower and get yourself a descent meal you can sit down for.

Stop multitasking

We can concentrate less on the task at hand when we divide our concentration over multiple tasks. It will also cost you more energy to do things simultaneously. So to give your mind some peace and focus on one thing at a time. Really think about what you are doing and finish before you move on to the next thing. It can still happen that you start doing multiple things at once again, but bring it back to one thing as soon as you realize it.

Be comfortable

This can be as easy as wearing something more comfortable or making sure your chair at the office is adjusted the right way. Sit up straight, have a glass of water at your desk and step away from your screen every once in a while. I also like to have a plant at my desk. It sounds silly, but it makes a big difference to me. Not only do plants produce oxygen, they are nice to look at and bring a bit of color to your desk. Do choose a plant that is easy to take care of, because a dying plant is everything but positive and can bring stress instead of reducing it.

Exercise

Let’s say that humans were meant to catch their food or to roam around looking for it. In today’s daily life we sit at a desk or on a couch and stare in the same direction all day. We don’t have to look for food or run to catch it and we hardly get our hearts pumping. Starting your day with some stretching exercises can help you be ready for your day. It will release to right hormones and endorphins and will get your blood flow going. Where we used to talk about yoga as a thing for hippies, we now know the health benefits and the fact that it reduces stress. And if you go to the gym to get your cardio on you’ll soon realize that you will be more comfortable in your own skin. That is before even talking about loosing weight.

I caught a fish once, it was this big

Walk after lunch

It is tempting to go straight back to your desk after lunch. But a little walk outside after lunch goes a long way. Getting away from it al, even if it is a short period of time gives you room to think, clear your head and stretch your legs. Breathing in some clean air will prevent you from getting headaches and since walking boosts endorphins, it reduces stress hormones. Walking with a friend or colleague can reduce your stress levels even further. It gives you the time to vent a little and talk about something other than work.

Meditate

When we take time to reflect we can process our emotions and take care of our mental health. Meditation is one way to do it. Just sit down quietly and reflect on your daily life. I like to do guided meditation, but that is not a necessity. Guided meditation helps you by guiding you through your thoughts and brings you back when you start to wonder. You can find free guided meditation on YouTube or Spotify, but I use the app Headspace. This way I get daily reminders to slow down.

Be organised and declutter

Looking for your keys, your favourite shirt or important papers. It is easy to make a mess, but the more stuff you have laying around, the more impulses it gives you. So tidy up a bit. Clean up your closet, throw away stuff you don’t need and have a fixed place for stuff you use regularly. If there is stuff in your house that needs to be fixed, fix it or get it fixed. Same goes for stuff at your desk. Throw out papers you don’t need anymore and don’t keep food plates at your desk and don’t keep food wrappers laying around. It is a good excuse for a little walk to the canteen or kitchen and get yourself a drink.

Eat and drink healthy

A good body health is linked to a good mental health, so it is crucial to take good care of your body. Processed Sugar is highly addictive and not only bad for your teeth, but bad for your entire body. They are what is causing those nasty food cravings. It is a good start to stop buying sweets and buy fruits and greens as a replacement. I’m not saying you immediately have to start eating kale (although it’s not a bad idea), but you can simply start by replacing chocolate with the dark chocolate, chips with apple slices and dip some cucumber in hummus if you have cravings between meals.

When it comes to drinks it is a good idea to skip soda. There is so much processed sugar in cola and other soda pops, that replacing it with water or tea will make a big difference in a short amount of time. If you don’t like to drink regular water you can infuse it with strawberry, mint and many other fruits and herbs. I’m sorry to say that alcohol is bad when you are trying to reduce stress. Not that an occasional drink should be forbidden, but the body has to work hard to get the alcohol toxins out of your system. And if it has to fight alcohol, it will have less energy to fight other toxins.

Be realistic

We tend to see only the things we want to have and forget the things we already have. So when we fail to achieve something we stress ourselves out way more than we initially should. But come on. Just because you don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model when you wake up or can’t play the piano like John Legend the first time you touch it doesn’t make you a worthless person. If there is a goal you would like to achieve, make a realistic planning for it. Just don’t expect to suddenly be as successful as Oprah become a billionaire overnight. Achieving something takes time. And don’t forget to adjust your planning every once in a while if things don’t go as planned. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend.

Go to the spa

The spa is one of those places where you literally have to do nothing but sit. You can get a nice massage or sit down in the sauna and relax. The heat of the sauna relaxes the muscles and stimulates the release of endorphins, our little stress reducers. The sauna also helps you to flush toxins through sweat and helps you to detox your body. That is where that healthy after sauna glow comes from.

Detox

By giving our bodies the time to heal itself it will build a better immune system and you’ll start to sleep better. Smoothies are a go-to for a lot of people, but everything in a smoothy has been chopped up to bits. It will release energy faster, but not gradually, because the body doesn’t have to break it down first. That is why you might experience an energy dip when you are detoxing on smoothies. You will get in all the healthy ingredients, but you will spike blood sugar levels. The best way to detox is to start eating unprocessed food. The shorter the ingredient list, the better. You don’t have to entirely avoid sugar, fat and salt, but be conscious of your intake.

Go offline

We stare at a screen for the bigger part of the day. That can be a computer screen, a telephone screen or a tv screen. If that describes your entire day, it might be good to go offline. We are so used to all the impulses we get from social media and advertisements that we don’t even realize it until we stop. My eyes where physically hurting the last time I did a digital detox. It is good to turn off the screen and not being told what to look like or what to buy. No matter how good or bad the intentions of the sender.

Do something positive

For every task you have to do that brings you stress, do something that gives you energy. That can be different for everyone. For one person it is reading a book, for the next it is taking care of plants. But give yourself the space to enjoy something you like. Try a new hobby, call a friend or visit a museum. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it balances out the stress. Help yourself by making a list of things that you know will give you positive energy. Then do one thing every day. Enjoy!

Going healthy with Tree of Tea and MyMuesli

We all know it: when you want to be healthy, you need to eat healthy. But with all the choices you have at the grocery store, it can be very difficult to eat right. It is way easier to just warm something up or eat a snack that is loaded with sugar than actively prepare your food in a healthy way or read all the labels before you buy something. We don’t have time for that, right?

For the biggest part, that’s true. But I have come to learn it is just a matter of habit and learning how to cook. That is the reason why I want to add another segment here on this website. There are a lot of cool products that can help you live (and eat) better. I know I’m not the first one to realize this or to write about it, but it seems like a lot of fun, so why not? Let’s give it a go, shall we?

Recently I ordered a some of products from MyMuesli. This Germany based company specializing sells muesli and granola next to dairy free milk and tea. They also sell a couple of accessories to go with these products.

For the last couple of weeks I have been looking for a good way to bring my granola and yoghurt to work. But we all know that when you throw the ingredients together, the granola will become mushy. I travel for 45 minutes to work each day, so by the time I get to work, my granola is ruined.

MyMuesli 2Go cup

There are a lot of container products available, but the cup I got from MyMuesli is just better than the rest. The cup is divided into two containers: one for your yoghurt and one for your granola. They both have their own separate twisting lid and the top container is transparent, so you can see which granola you brought with you. They are available in three different colors: magenta, white and black. And best of all: they are dishwasher safe!

The second product I got is the 2go bottle from Tree of Tea. This glass bottle has a little container in the top, where you can put your tea in. Basically genius, because your tea will be mixed from the top and there is no need to stir it. If you prefer fresh-from-the-garden tea, you can always put some leafs in the bottom of the bottle. Just place your container on top of it and your bottle is sealed off. The bottle is double walled, to keep your tea warm. If you are anything like me, you have a habit of making tea, forgetting about it and drink cold tea as a result. I haven’t managed to do that yet with this bottle! 

The Tree of Tea 2Go bottle

I use both my cup and my bottle on a daily basis at work. And even some of my colleagues got the 2go cup to make a habit of not skipping out on breakfast. If you want to order yours, go to mymuesli.com. They regularly have great freebees that come with your order.