Making our dreams a reality

I am definitely a dreamer. I dream of having an old cottage and a beautiful garden with fruit trees, animals running or chilling around, wildflowers swaying and birds chirping away while Ross and I work away at upkeeping our paradise. I dream of being able to give unwanted animals a home, having doggy cuddles readily available, Ross' bread baking in the background and building a little family together. I dream of the day that we can have our own place instead of renting, of being fully sustainable and zero waste, of going on little trips with friends in Victor the van.

Our present living situation looks nothing like this. We are currently renting a little house in the suburbs, which looks pretty much like all the other houses on the same road. We do have a garden, but it doesn't have any flowers (apart from one cute pot of lavender that we recently bought) because I don't want to plant stuff then have to leave it in case we move within the next year. We are pet-less and, quite honestly, not having a dog is killing me but I know it's not the right time for us yet. Ross does bake in our tiny kitchen, but it would be lovely to have a bit more room in the future. And unfortunately, we couldn't afford to insure Victor the van so she is having a chill out on my grandma's drive until we can get the money to use her again. We talked about whether to sell the van but she is Ross' baby and we aren't done having adventures in her yet. I am still really happy though because we are at the beginning of our journey towards making the dream happen.

We are desperately trying to save money, and my goodness it is *hard* when everything costs so much! I was a blissfully ignorant student for a long time and now I've been introduced to TAX and how a significant portion of your money disappears before you even see it. Rent is also a much bigger chunk of my salary than I had anticipated it being. Living in a van is wonderfully free of rent and bills (and council tax) so it has been a bit of shock to the system!

Living in the van did teach me a lot about money though, and how to save it. When I was a student, I was a throwaway spender. I bought soooo many clothes, and random bits that I bought on impulse, and I spent a ton on food. Ready meals and processed food are so much more expensive than buying raw ingredients and making things yourself. We also now buy stuff in bulk, like washing up liquid and rice and pasta - stuff that you will just always need and doesn't go off. Not only does it save you money, but it also has less packaging so it's better for the planet.

Our 'less waste' attempts have been progressing and I'm really proud of how much stuff we have managed to substitute, although we still have a looong way to go. The biggest amount of plastic coming in is through our food shop. But we are slowly cutting it down - I'm going to try to make my own veggie crisps next week and we've cut out most other snacks by making our own flapjack and cakes. Vegan substitutes are also annoyingly covered in plastic. I have Quorn slices in my sandwiches, and they come in horrible plastic packaging. Eventually, I might try to make something myself but I am annoyingly fussy when it comes to sandwiches! Our toiletries are increasingly plastic free though. I shall share an update soon as it's been quite easy to substitute them for zero-waste alternatives.

I've also managed to avoid fast fashion recently, which has been another challenge! Like I mentioned, I used to be a serial shopper and it's been tough avoiding the lure of the pretty shops in town, but I've only bought a few pieces and they've been from charity chops or Depop (the app for selling unwanted clothes). I bagged a super deal on some Birkenstocks which had never been worn for £20 less than if I'd bought them new. It's a win-win for avoiding fast fashion and saving money (and my feet).

I've been really lucky that Ross has been on the same page with me about these lifestyle choices. We try to make or do most stuff ourselves (and Ross is especially talented at this!), are cutting down our waste together and are both trying to be quite minimalist. We have a long way to go, but I'm glad that we are on this journey together.

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