Live a beautiful, creative life – frugally…
We often think of the ideal creative process as unstructured, open-ended, and limitless. Yet research suggests creative individuals can actually benefit from self-imposed or externally-imposed constraints.
Words like ‘budget’ make many of us cringe. Just like ‘diet’, ‘budget’ conjures up images of deprivation, meager portions, and boredom. Yet my experience of frugality has been the opposite – freeing rather than tightening. Yes, you can live a beautiful, creative life– frugally.
Finding inspiration in financial constraints
Some of the most beautiful creative works are born of constraints. Consider haiku poetry, with its rigid patterns, or religious art and its countless variations on a theme. While living in Japan, I completed a certificate in the art of ikebana – flower arrangement according to a triangle symbolising heaven, earth, and humanity. Recently, I’ve been reading and experimenting with ‘constrained writing’. (Check out the free-to-read classic Gadsby as an example of this literary technique).
Psychological research has shown we’re more creative when we have some constraints. According to the author of Creativity from Constraints, Patricia Stokes, too much freedom can hinder creativity. Where we have no constraints for solving a problem or creating something, we tend to focus on what has worked well in the past – coming up with uncreative, derivative works.
How my decade-long experiment with frugality freed me:
Thinking outside the box
If you live in a developed country with a moderate income, chances are, you have few constraints when it comes to deciding what to cook. In the past, seasonal fruits weren’t available year-round, and before frozen foods, you couldn’t have peas every night. You had to be creative with what you cooked. Now, it’s possible to eat the same thing every day if you want. This is often what we tend to do – fall back on what has worked well in the past.
Before my husband and I got frugal with shopping, our grocery list didn’t change much week-to-week. We’d cook our regular favourites every night, out of well-bookmarked recipe books. Starting to shop seasonally, and according to what is on special motivated us to be more creative. Looking at whatever fruits, vegetables and meats are cheapest per kilo, we find new ingredients to add to our repertoire. It’s so easy to find how to cook pretty much anything online.
Discovering my surrounds
Walking rather than driving isn’t just cheaper and healthier, it has lots of added benefits. One is the ability to discover places you’d never find otherwise. In Kilmarnock, Scotland, walking around town brought us to the delightfully narrow ‘No Name Lane‘, which opens onto incredible street art. There’s no way we could have taken this route in a car!
It’s not just sightseeing – walking around your hometown can reveal some delightful hidden gems. My husband came across a shop that sold kilo buckets of nuts for just $5. That store kept us in work-desk snacks for years!
Enjoy active hobbies
When my focus was on work, my free time was spent much more passively – watching TV, going to the cinema, reading.
Since looking for hobbies that cost little or nothing, I’ve found more creative ways to spend my time: learning to play a musical instrument (a one-off purchase, then I found lots of great online tutorials and communities), writing a novel (an essentially free activity, using excellent books from the library for inspiration and joining Nanowrimo), starting a blog, learning new languages via Duolingo, and making photos and videos.
While I still enjoy passive down-time now and then, I’ve learned throwing money at your free time doesn’t make it rewarding – the thrill of creation is much more exciting!
‘a true creator is necessity, which is the mother of our invention’ – Plato, Republic (369)
If you’re stuck in a rut, why not take on a financially-inspired creative challenge?
- Food: Complete a $21 Challenge. Pick a new ingredient next time you shop and find some recipes.
- Fashion: Shop from your own racks at home, or put together a capsule wardrobe.
- Travel: Check out what quirky free attractions are available in your hometown on TripAdvisor.
- Home: Redecorate using items you already have in your home or find DIY ideas on Pinterest.
After achieving financial independence at the age of 30, Sarah resigned from her position as a lecturer in Japanese sociolinguistics to travel the world with her husband. Her blog, Enrichmentality, is dedicated to helping people learn the language of money and enrich their futures. Sarah believes that the best way to achieve a more socially, environmentally and economically sustainable and equitable society is for more people to become empowered, and that enrichment is not just about money, but about living a rich life more generally. You can find out more about Sarah, including how she paid off her mortgage in just over 4 years and gained financial independence at https://www.enrichmentality.com/about-me/
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