On Consuming Less

Zürich is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Nick and I have been thinking about our options for the future, and as some of them might involve significantly lower income, we also began to think about our expenses and lifestyle. I am quite bad at keeping track of my spending, or even at watching it. But I realised that the more I spend on crap, the more money I need to earn… and the more I need to work.

The biggest expense one has when living in a major city is housing. Should we move out from our sunny 3 room apartment close to the center, the lake and the Uetliberg for a smaller, darker, older… and yes, much cheaper flat? Our answer is a straightforward “no”. If we end up in a place we don’t like that much, we would go more often on holidays and weekends to escape, we would also probably want to eat out at restaurants more, hence spending the money we would save.

Next, there is going out. Entertainment, good food and wine, coffee, tea, lunches and drinks, all end up weighing a ton on the budget, especially in Zürich. Here are a few ideas to reduce this weight:

  1. Invite  friends over for brunch, dinner, coffee… Once in a while, it can feel cosier than going to a café or restaurant and it gives a good motivation to  cook or bake something special. Friends might then invite back, and everybody ends up saving money.
  2. Carry a little thermos. I am a big coffee and tea consumer, so with that cup, I only have to find a boiler– not a complicated thing to convince your boss to invest in–or even better a coffee machine, to avoid going to Starbucks twice a day.
  3. Carry little snacks (fruits, cereal bars, chocolate). That reduces little everyday expenses and weight gain.
  4. Make a lunchbox at home. Seriously, having lunch out everyday is not possible for me. I am quite lazy though, so I never prepare my food in advance. I will certainly not do it everyday, but once or twice a week is probably a good way to start.
  5. Borrow/rent movies and watch them at home, it could be a good occasion to have friends over. Borrow books and magazines as well. Your friends may like cool books that you’ve never heard about; otherwise, the library is a cool place to hang out! The Pestalozzi Bibliothek in Zürich offers a large selection of books, dvds and CDs in German, French and even English for a ridiculously small annual fee.
  6. Avoid the shops when you don’t need anything. Here again, I am probably the worst example, but I realised recently that most of what I buy on impulse doesn’t make such a difference in my life, more importantly, it never makes me happier.
  7. Learn how to sew in order to design and make your own clothes. Ok, I’ll admit, this one is not the easiest. I just started learning sewing with a few friends, and I am far from making anything, but it is quite fun and relaxing.
  8. Indulge into free activities; in Zürich, for example, you can visit the Kunsthaus every Wednesday for free. There are also heaps of free concerts all the time. Sunbathing in a park or going for a walk won’t cost you a rappen (the Swiss cent), and will benefit your soul.

As I think about it, most of the time, buying something is just the easy- lazy option. It often comes out of boredom as well– why  spend so much time shopping if there is something more interesting to do?

Consuming less is not only about saving money, it is also about finding creative ways to keep entertained– alone or with friends.

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