Unconventional ways to save money and keep a tight budget

I’ve never followed a budget until fairly recently. I never really knew how I spent my money. This year is very different, I track every expense!

This has taught me a lot of things and together with my depth year, it enabled me to pin pointed the things that have had the most impact on my budget, my unconventional ways to save money.

A Chinese Abacus by Miss Coco

I called them unconventional ways to save money, because these are not about finding coupons or deals, these are not about buying in bulk.

These unconventional ways to save money are mindset shift. These are a lot about changing perspective, on what you truly need.

Let me explain…

The first unconventional way to save money, I want to share is the ‘one in, one out’ rule. It may not seems like much, but when committed to it and in the long run, it works like a charm. let me explain…

One in, one out rule

To keep a clean space and not let my wardrobe or other areas of my house overflow, I adopted a long time ago a simple rule: When something new comes into the house, an old thing must leave.

In practise, if I bought new clothes, I would usually donate older ones. If I bought a new piece of equipment, I would sent the older one for recycle or try to sell it. That’s fairly easy.

I’ve always applied this ‘one in, one out’ rule with a twist because what mattered to me, at the time, wasn’t so much the spending. It’s easy to spend more on a new fancy item and throw away the previous one, after all. At the time, what mattered to me was volume!

Volume? Yes! I’ve moved quite a few times in my life and each move made me realize that I had accumulated way too many things. So I started this rule of “one in, one out… in volume“. And it worked. From there on, every move I did, the moving bill was lower than the previous one!

So for some items bought, the ones to go were sometimes completely unrelated.

How does this ‘one in, one out’ rule helps save money, you may wonder? Well, once imprinted in your brain, it makes shopping almost difficult and there are far less impulsive purchases. After a while, you will reach a point where, as you are looking at something in a store, you’ll be wondering what items you own will need to be sacrificed for it? If nothing comes to mind, then you will probably put it back on the shelf. And in doing so, you’ve decided what you truly need most!

And of course, not buying new things is the most eco-friendly and budget friendly act!

Note that this ‘one in, one out’ rule doesn’t work for everything. I still manage to buy pillar candles!! 😉

A depth year

Going on a depth year has had surprising effect for me, on many levels.

I know I’m talking about this depth year a lot but it’s because it’s been life changing and I think, everybody should try!

One of the effect and changes I did not expect concerns my spendings! I’m still on my depth year and I now expect to see even more fruitful results.

How does a depth year affect spendings? Well let me state that it was obvious from the core concept of a depth year actually, but I didn’t realize it until I was already a few months in! Silly me.

Conceptually, a depth year is a year where you dedicate yourself to mastering skills you already have or wish to have, with things you already own. You don’t follow the latest trend and instead stay focussed on cultivating your skills.

To do this, you therefore shouldn’t need to buy anything new.

If you take as an example my goal to learn how to sew, you’ll see it’s not 100% expense free. I had the sewing machine but the attachments I bought were more expensive than the machine. And I do buy fabric! It still is far cheaper than buying new clothes.

Vintage sewing machine - Singer 15K from 1923

If your depth year goal is to paint like Leonardo da Vinci, you’ll probably have to buy lots of new supplies during the year. If you’re intending to learn how to play guitar, maybe you’ll spend money on lessons.

However, overall, when you have such a focus, on one or two goals, you probably won’t have time or energy to go do other things and will save money in other areas of your life. If you do become the next Leonardo da Vinci, you may even earn money from your depth year!

Shifting priorities

If you are not ready to embarque in the adventures of a depth year, then maybe you can change just one or 2 of your priorities. Maybe you can tackle, once and for all, your most costly ones. Maybe you’ll want to start by an easy one. It’s up to you.

For me, going through a shift in priorities was not optional. Life dictated such change. After my mom’s passing, I had to take care of my dad. If I didn’t, I would have probably lost him too, too soon. That wasn’t an option.

Sometimes, I’ll admit, it does feel like a burden. I see pictures, on Instagram, of places I want to go to and realize I can’t for now. I can’t or I won’t allow myself to, same thing really in these circumstances.

But these negative feelings do not last and most of the time, I’m just really happy. Happy to be with him, happy to do things with him. Happy of my choices, my priorities. And thankful, so thankful, to have the means, the possibility and the opportunity to do so.

Going to see my dad every 3 weeks, renovating his motorcycle and the other related expenses represent 30% of my budget. Each trip cost me at least EUR 400 just in gas, tolls and car expenses. Overall, being with my dad represents a huge portion of my spendings.

As you can see, shifting priorities does not necessarily means saving money. But in the long run, it will. Why? Because you’ll learn to identify your true needs.

When you are focused on your priorities, the world stops spinning. Other things which seemed important in the past, loose their interest. I’m sure you’ve lost yourself before like this. Maybe in a book, maybe working on something you loved. During these times, you didn’t need to go shopping, it didn’t even matter if your hair were clean!

So go ahead and try. Find something you’ve always wanted to do and focus on it. Become so “obsessed” with it that some of the other things that were so important to you before, won’t matter so much anymore.

That’s were you’ll learn about your true needs. Once you know your true needs, cutting the spendings related to other things becomes easy.

PS1: Ideally your new priority shouldn’t be costly!!

spoiler alert on my latest drawing

PS2: Aquarelle is cheaper than oil painting!

Learning to repair things

Yeah yeah, we all know, but let me entertain you for a second or 2:

You’ve probably used a 5 dollars/ euros superglue tube to glue back the handle of a 3 dollars / euros mug before. First you thought you would be able to use the rest of the glue another time. Second, it was your favorite mug and didn’t want to throw it away and third, throwing away is bad so you’re doing your part. The glue dried up and you never used it again.

And then the handle broke again…

Everybody is telling you that we all need to stop throwing things away. We need to Refuse, Reduce, Reuse & Recycle but we should also Repair.

Unfortunately, things aren’t made to last anymore. In fact they are made to stop functioning after a certain period of time. You’re infuriated by programmed obsolescence of course.

Between bad experience and the whole society being against your wish to reduce waste and unnecessary purchase, you’ve probably given up on the superglue and other repair kits.

I understand! I’ve been there.

Between the renovation project of my dad’s Indian motorcycle and my 1923 Singer sewing machine, I’m faced with new challenges: I have no other option than to repair these 2 vintage machines! I guess I could buy a new motorcycle or a new sewing machine but that’s not the route I want to take. Instead I’m repairing what needs to be repaired.

And surprisingly to me, having to repair these 2 machines, has had a ripple effect! I’m now finding myself repairing everything, or at least trying to!

So why should you actually still try to repair everything?

Obviously because it can save money. Not always, but most times it does.

Most importantly, it is highly satisfying and it gives new meanings to the repaired object.

Lastly, because it will teach you useful skills, it will make your mind more agile and creative! Not even kidding here!

There is so much more than superglue repairs out there. In fact, what ever you need to repair, there is a 99% chance that there is a YouTube video on how to do it!

I am not joking, when you start looking, you’ll be amazed!

When you start repairing the things you buy, not only these will last longer and save you money but you will also learn to buy things of better quality.

You can only win!


If you’ve read up to here, you may have realized that most of these unconventional ways to save money aren’t quick. These relates to change of mindsets that produce effect in the long run. But as it turns out, shifting priorities, shifting mindsets and learning new skills will save you money over time.

Plus you’ll be proud of yourself and that is valuable!


Changes are hard, some even say that no one can really change who they are. It’s a sad statement for an evolved species like humans beings.

I believe changes are possible and actually constant!


Another PS: If you’ve read other articles on this corner of the web, I want to apologize for always talking about my dad, his Indian, my sewing machine, my depth year!… I’m sorry, truly! I can’t help it.

4 Unconventional ways to save money

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