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How to live on less and make your money go further

Learning to live a more minimalist lifestyle may help you save money, be more organised and even feel happier. Here’s how.

Key takeaways from this article:

  • Living on less is about making the most of what you already have, and avoiding new things that don't serve a clear purpose. Some people call it minimalism.

  • Some ways to save money and avoid clutter include swapping items with your friends, borrowing books from the local library and enjoying free activities like nature walks.

  • Visualising a bigger goal or dream – like a holiday or your first car – can motivate you to stay on track.

  • You can also boost your savings with fun side hustles like pet sitting, selling old items or vlogging.

So, what does "living on less" actually mean?

Scrolling through TikTok or Instagram, you probably come across loads of shiny new things: the latest skin care, the trendiest shoes, or the hottest new gadget you didn’t even know existed.

You may not intend to buy all or even any of these things, but they can become distracting and take up space in your mind (and maybe eventually your cupboard).

Living on less is a mindset. It’s about making the most of what you have and removing as much clutter as possible.

Living on less doesn’t mean living on nothing. It’s OK to have things that make us happy. But if you have some spare money to treat yourself, don’t duplicate something you already have – buy something that serves a purpose instead.

Some people call this approach minimalism.

Why live like a minimalist?

Save more. If you keep a close eye on what you buy and why, you may start to notice your savings grow.

Be more organised. Less stuff equals less to tidy up and take care of.

Feel better. Having less stuff around you can also free up your mind, make you feel less stressed and give you more free time.

For example, imagine if your school lunch menu had 50 sandwich options. Apart from feeling overwhelmed, you probably wouldn't even be finished reading before class starts again! Sometimes less is definitely more.

How you can live on less – and have fun while doing it

Start with a clean-up

Teenage boy folding his clothes while cleaning bedroom at home

Go through all of the things in your room and put them in piles: keep, donate, sell, throw away or recycle. As you look at each item, think about its purpose and how it makes you feel. If it really doesn't do anything helpful or unique and doesn't give you any strong positive emotions, then it’s probably time to say goodbye.

Don't worry if you can't do this all in one day – but do make a timeline so you stay on track and get it done. Even if it means a few hours each weekend over the course of a month.

Keep your sentimental items together

Are things like your favourite printed photos, tickets from your first concert, or gifts from your friends all in one place? If they are scattered around your room, it's time to put these things together.

Maybe you can designate some shelf space, frame some of your prized items and store some in a special box (that you can decorate). Taking good care of sentimental items helps you appreciate them even more.

Visualise your goals and dreams

Is there something big that you want or need in the future? Maybe you’re keen to travel before starting university, or you’re saving for your first car.

Research shows that images you see regularly help prime your brain to grasp these big opportunities. So, set targets and use photos or a vision board to keep you motivated and on track.

Cutting out inspiring pictures that represent your goals and dreams and pasting them to a board that you see every day is also fun to do with family and friends and more likely to help you reach these goals sooner.

Enjoy free activities

Browse local markets, visit free art galleries and museums, spend time at the beach, go on a nature walk or hang out listening to your favourite albums or watching old movies. You can even make a goal to listen to all of the albums from a certain artist, or all of the movies from a certain actor or director that are already available on your streaming services.

Swap and borrow

Young women choose things at flea market. Casual clothes, shoes, hats, bags, jewellery. Idea of exchange your old wardrobe for new. Eco friendly cloth concept. Zero waste shopping, reduce and reuse

Before you go out and get a new outfit, piece of sporting equipment, or book – see what your friends have.

You can even hold a swap party and have fun trying on each others’ clothes. When you're swapping or borrowing, just make sure you all agree on the timeline, when the items are returned and also consider what happens if something is lost or broken.

Give and get experiences as gifts

When you're getting or giving presents, think about gifting experiences you can share rather than items. Some experiences can be very cost-effective, or even free – like going on a picnic, attending a reading by a local author, or exploring a nearby park.

Discover the best discounts

Always search for the best prices and offers. Many businesses and companies offer discounts for students, so ask or check online before you buy.

ISIC is a widely recognised student identity card you can purchase that comes with loads of discounts and offers.

There are also discount shopping sites like Depop where you can buy new and used brand name items at much lower prices.

Make your food at home when you can

Money spent eating out can really add up. If you regularly get a takeaway coffee or smoothie, make this at home and bring it in instead of buying it at the canteen.

And, rather than going out to a café or for fast food, invite your friends over to make a fun brunch or pizza dinner together.

Fun side hustles to help you earn a bit extra

While you're in minimalism mode, if you have a savings goal you can get to it even quicker by doing some extra activities on the side.

Just make sure to always speak with your parents or caregivers – especially when going out and working at other peoples' homes or buying and selling anything online.

Become a dog walker or pet-sitter

If you’re an animal lover, getting friendly with your local pet population can be very rewarding. Sometimes people need someone to feed their cat while they’re away, or exercise their dog every afternoon, or just keep their ‘fur babies’ company while they’re at work or working late.

Start by speaking with friends and neighbours and checking online on local buy/swap/sell groups to see if anyone is looking for help.

Sell your old stuff

Selling items that you no longer need helps you declutter and earn money.

Choose established marketplaces, like eBay, Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace as well as local online Buy/Swap/Sell online groups.

If you have a true passion for fashion and have some designer brands or vintage pieces to sell, check out online consignment stores like Poshmark and SwapUp.

Whenever you are selling items online, detailed descriptions and high-quality photos get noticed by more shoppers.

Always be aware of scammers and avoid agreeing to meet buyers at your home. Always keep your parents or caregivers up to speed with who you’re talking to online.

Make crafts to sell

Have a creative hobby like painting, drawing or crochet? You could make items and then try to sell them online on marketplaces like the ones above or Etsy or a local craft market or fair.

Just make sure to follow the same guidelines about scammers and keep your parents or caregivers in the loop.

Try blogging or vlogging

Blogging or making videos for social channels about cooking, dancing, make-up, fashion, gaming ,or anything else you’re passionate about can be a fun way to express yourself – and even make a bit of extra cash.

Start by watching what some of the more popular online creators are doing, and then think of how you can make it your own.

When you are creating content online – never share your address or any personal details. Your parents or caregivers will need to be across what you are posting and may even need to manage your account for you depending on the age requirements of the platform.

If you build a large enough audience, you may eventually make a bit of money through advertising or brands reaching out to you to be featured.

Some platforms like Instagram and Facebook have tools for creators to make money through subscriptions. TikTok has a creator fund you can apply to join when you reach a certain number of followers.

Track your savings

It's important to keep track of the money you are saving, spending and earning.

Not only does this help you stay organised, it also allows you to understand your spending habits, make sure you haven't had any suspicious or incorrect transactions, and spot any unnecessary purchases you could cut back on.

If you have a bank account with Westpac, you can use the Westpac App’s Budget Tools to track your spending and saving. The app also has a Savings Goals feature that allows you to create a personalised goal and set up an automatic transfer.

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Things you should know
This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.