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17 May 2008

We are cutting back ... again

We have come to the sad realisation that we are not makings ends meet. In the past month our fuel costs have risen from $120 a month to $150, and we are spending more on food. We have lived on our current budget for three years but in the past six months we have watched as prices rose, however, with a bit of juggling have been able to absorb those increases. But not any more. In the past, we spent less than our meager income and we had money left over at the end of most months. That money went to our emergency fund or our savings. We have been hoping for an increase in the pension but last week when our new Labor government handled down their first budget, that didn't happen. They increased the baby bonus to $5000, increased the day care allowance, gave tax cuts to families with young children, and taxed the rich, and for all those things I'm grateful, but we pensioners got nothing. We are a group who must live on a fixed income with ever rising prices.

Hanno and I will go through our budget tomorrow and work out how we can shuffle things around and what we can cut out. We're voluntarily living fairly close to the bone as it is. I guess I can now cut the "voluntarily" out of my simple living sentences. One thing is clear, we can't take anymore little trips out like our trip to the chook lady last week. We'll have to be more prudent with our car usage. I will also cut back on postage. I've budgeted $15 a month for that so when I get my current lot of postings in the mail, I might have to pull my head in for a while. We will need to concentrate more of producing food here, I will make sure we don't run short with our continuous planting and we'll be ever vigilant about what we can store for use later.

I'm going to set myself up again today for reading my electricity and water metres. I need to keep an eye on our usage and pull it back if possible. I'll read both metres this morning and check the metres every day - noting what we've done during that day like washing clothes and baking bread. I'll also have to cost out what we're spending on feed for our chooks, dogs and cat. There may be savings to be made there. There are a few things I can do in the kitchen to scale back our costs, I'll write about those in the coming weeks after I make sure all the changes actually work well.

I am so grateful to be debt-free and already living small. I am also grateful for our garden and that we have already reskilled ourselves for a situation like this. We will have to do without things we like, we'll not be able to go on the little driving holiday we planned for later in the year, but overall, unlike many others, we will be okay. We have some money in the bank and are definitely not about to be carted off to the poor house. My thoughts are with the many pensioners who are really struggling - paying rent or paying off a mortgage.

I'm going to see if I can earn some money from writing again. I did that for over 20 years so I hope I haven't lost my touch. If anyone has any contacts or ideas for me, I'd appreciate them.

Of course the real test in all of this is to cut back while still living life to its fullest. Now, more than ever, we'll find our joy with each other and in our home. There are many trials in life, and this is certainly not the most difficult one, so I don't want anyone feeling sorry for us. What I would like is your help with any new ideas about saving in these tough times. What have you done? Or what would you do if in a similar position?


  1. Hello Rhonda, It's not easy is it, costs are just spiralling upwards. MY immediate thoughts for you are selling surplus eggs, but I think you mentioned you planned to do that anyway, and writing a book. I think you also mentioned that you dismissed the e-book idea, but maybe it's worth investigating again. I know Rebecca at Irish Sallygardens has published some e-books. Would there also be the chance to grow veggis from seed and sell the seedlings on? That would be just doing extra of something you're already doing. I will have more of a think over the weekend. As so often happens, I suspect that suggestions will be helpful for all of us. Have a peaceful weekend. Hugs, Diana x

  2. Good luck with all that. Have you thought about opening an Etsy shop, to sell your adorable stitchery?

  3. Oh good luck Rhonda.My Parents live on the pension, they don't have any debts but they don't grow any food and where they live they are dependant on their car. I know they are having a tough time, now in their 80s. Life should be easier for them now. I can't believe the budget completely ignored the old age pension.

  4. Hi Rhonda,
    I have to agree w/pebbledash as it isn't easy, everything is up. Its sad when someone (you) is doing everything they can to continue to live as they want and are, but still can't make ends meet. I think they just lengthen the rope :)! I'm looking forward to reading all the comments, hopefully there will be alot of good ideas. Mean while keep up the good job and I'm sure you'll come up with some ideas for cutting back. Please let us all know what you do come up with. If I think of anything you could try, that you're not already doing, I'll let you know.

  5. I was just thinking about Myrnie twins comment about an etsy shop. Stitchery patterns would be far less work. Just a photo of your own work and photocopies of the pattern with a concise instruction sheet. Etsy shops are cheap, its only 20c to list and item and then they take a small fee when you sell something. The buyer pays the postage or you can sell downloadable patterns that the buyer then prints off them selves.

  6. I love your whole attitude about having to cut back - not a touch of bitterness which is wonderful. Reading your post - and knowing that you already live simply and provide much of your own food - I have to wonder how "normal" pensioners are managing without all the skills you and Hanno possess. Best of luck to you both - you are such an inspiration.


  7. Certainly the gasoline cost has impacted me. Food doesn't seem to have gone up as much in our area as I have heard people saying, but I think I'll stock up on cooking oil a little. My son, an electrical engineering grad student, has something called a killwatt (I think) and uses it to see how much wattage individual things actually cost. We use mostly florescent bulbs. He just bought four solar panels for our roof which he will use to power some things he uses. Could you sell any surplus you have? I don't know what laws deal with this in Australia. About a half an hour away from us is a small farm from which they are selling eggs, baked goods, honey, morel mushrooms, herbs, and plants. It's set up to be self serve and I think no one is cheating them because they are still doing this without having to be at the stand all day. I do think your stitchery would sell well, but I don't know whether you want to do this....You do so much volunteer work. It's too bad you cannot get paid something for this. I am lucky to have a good pension from my husband's work as a university professor. If I had to depend on social security it would be crazy.....Can you grow potatoes? I've seen people do this with stacked tired, so as to use little ground space....I hope the increase in costs will stop, but I filled up my car today and it was almost double what it used to be.

  8. Thinking about your driving trip....Could you share this expense by finding another couple who would like to make the same trip?

  9. Oops. The farm I mentioned in my first post is half a MILE away, not half an hour away!

  10. We have also been sitting down with our budget. Ends do not meet anymore and we are trying to prune.
    Good luck with your cutting back and do have a good day.


  11. Hi Rhonda
    Please dont say never when talking about the 'chook trips'. These things may be rarer and therefore more special but dont give up something you really love.

    We have LPG for running the car. It is cheaper and also cleaner for the enviroment.

    Could you not have links on your website thapay a % of sales, like Amazon. You only need to link to ethical sites of whom you approve.

    Dont worry, we can travel this journey all together. Thats the beauty of our little community.

    Love from

  12. Hello Rhoda,
    I have the feeling with today's blog read.
    They ask for ideas, to save or to have additional income.
    I believe the sale of surplus products and it can help a vinous.
    eggs, marmelade, soucen in glasses, but also its beautiful soaps and loufa their apron, bags, servietten ...
    I myself do not have a car, with us there are many public transportation.
    I use a steam cooker that reduces energy consumption during cooking.
    in winter, I have to the windows and doors to the pillows and cover tightly.
    Energy-saving lamps everywhere.
    if the weather is dry, I laundering only at low speed, which saves electricity.
    I use towels from cotton to the nose.
    I do not natural textiles away, but they try to other dingen again.
    example: laken that are no longer to use, it will towels for the kitchen or servietten.
    I knit my socks, jackets, sweater.
    I have also begun to sew clothes, although I am still not easy.

    this should only small disclaimer, please do not misunderstand.

    Greeting Marion

  13. Hi Rhonda, a familiar story for all of us at the moment.

    I hope you will think about doing some ebooks. Although I've copied and pasted some things from your blog I would like to have things in a format ready to print. And the stitchery patterns too would sell well I'm sure. Would you be able to sell your soap too? Is there any sort of local market where you might be able to sell any surplus soap, pickles etc, you have (not sure what the legislation is in Aus though)

    You have a lot of talents so I'm sure you will come up with something. :)

  14. I loved your attitude too - positive, pro-active and resilient. I too have thought about needing to revise my budget even though I am also living very close to the bone. In the near future I will revise how much I spend on telephone and internet, its the area that I have always felt is excessive! I have even contemplated having no or very limited internet, or using library facilities.

  15. Just had another thougt (or two)
    A goat- could graze on the plant life down by youe creek and supply all of your dairy needs.

    An Aussie verion of the tightwad gazette, but better. You would be perfect for this!


  16. I think Jenny and myrnie twin have a great idea-you are quite an artist, as well as a writer, so selling your stichery patterns as downloads would be a great way to earn a bit of extra money-and they would be loved by all your readers.

  17. hi Rhonda,
    I had an idea when looking over a few recent posts. Why not sell copies of stitchery patterns. you can create patterns and sell them as e versions that can be downloaded.try etsy for this. also sell excess produce and eggs.wishing you the very best.

  18. I too think that e-books might be a good way for you to re-enter earning from your writing Rhonda. Do you think that mainstream magazines and papers will increase the content of their money management and budget advice in the future too? Your blog writing is the kind of thing that I would find very helpful in the local paper - perhaps there may be opportunities there?

    Some of our situation is similar to yours, in that we live on a fixed income from savings, and have no debt. But I have just reviewed the past 2yrs spending records, and found that our expenses are beginning to exceed our income. I'm sole parenting as a SAHM, with no govt pension, but it is by choice that I am at home.

    I will stay at home this year and be returning to some kind of work out of home when my youngest starts school next year. In the meantime, this year is valuable time to continue preparing for the future years for our family - studying permaculture, building our food garden, organising resources and references, and making our house more energy efficient.

    Have you considered working with other like-minded people to run small workshops on simple-living skills, like breadmaking, preserving, gardening? (as an income source, rather than a voluntary thing)

  19. Hi Rhonda - I wish I had idea's for you but I don't. It is very hard for some people - my parents were fortunate to have planned for their retirement in terms of they are self funded and had super going before it was compulsory but for others who didn't realise - it is tough for them now. Some of my friends parents have had to sell up in Sydney and move to Qld because they had no $$ to live on.

    Your blog is very popular and I realise that you probably want and "ad free" blog but ads may be an option for you if you could choose who was put on. Also, not sure if you are a part of Simple Savings the website but maybe you could propose something to them (they have a lady doing a blog who is around my age and maybe you could do something similar for the retirees??). Maybe chat with with them...

    All the best Rhonda, you're very inspirational :-)

  20. BOOO to aussie government - pensioners have paid tax all their life!!! NZ Labour will have to buy the election with good tax breaks to win the election.

    Here in NZ we have WEA community classes & adult community classes run at colleges in the evening for adults. Their are also womens groups who hold classes during the day.Their tutors are paid by the the organizations - all hire of venue, advertising is not the tutors problem. Maybe approach some local organizations like this - refer them to your blog.

    I'd look into E BOOKs again too. Must be a doable option some how.

    We are feeling the cost of things going up, but thankfully we pulled in our horns 3 years ago so not such an issue with cutting back for us.
    Love Leanne NZ

  21. I think everyone is having to cut back. We are in a similar boat because we are self employed. When we run out of work we can't get the unemployment benefit and so we have to cut back dramatically.
    We have a small garden out back, though it is too small and got seriously culled (by accident) when we had the weeds sprayed a few months ago. It is just starting to come right again and only 5 plants survived the spraying :(
    Some ways we cut back on things was we would fill up empty bottles with water at night when it is cold in the pipes (our pipes get really hot during the day). Recycle your water to your garden (not just laundry water but anything you can catch in a bucket). If you collect seeds, sell them on eBay, that is my hunting ground for seeds and I find the seeds are better there. You could have an etsy shop and sell things you make, like soap. Or you could just advertise on your blog and get yourself a PayPal account. PayPal can deposit the funds you get in there into your account.
    Best of luck with working out what to cut back on, it isn't an easy thing to do.
    BTW if you want some rosella seeds, just let me know (we have heaps atm and not enough garden)

  22. I have just reviewed my insurances - car, house. By changing my carrier I have saved $500 a year( my house insurance was going up and up) The goat idea is great - would never have thought of that. Pay all your bills on line - that saves me about $40 per year. Can you write some of your volunteer work expenses off on your taxes - gas etc. Wash your clothes less - eat more lentils, beans. Try seed exhanges - they are free. It is very hard when you pared everything down to the bone. Cable tv ? I never never eat out and never stop anywhere for coffee etc. We take food everywhere with us unless we have planned otherwise.
    I would sell your beautiful soap - I think that is better than perishables - the soaps etc you buy in the stores have so many chemicals in them its not funny - maybe have an etsy shop. Maybe a local farmers market. Good luck - dont get downhearted.
    Lizzie in Chicago

  23. Hey Rhonda,
    Not sure what I could contribute for ideas...will have to put my thinking cap for that one...
    I can sure relate though...we are not making the budget here either...cost of fuel is so is going up every turn someone is putting up their prices..
    How I know I can tackle this is by growing and preserving more foods and yard sale shop for things like clothing we will need in the fall and next winter...My hubby and I also have to sit down and look at where we can cut more...we have also decided to using or vehicle for places we can walk...the fresh air will do us good too...

  24. We're experiencing the same thing. My hubby had to take an early retirement due to illness, he is on Social Security Disability for a couple more years until it switches over to his actual retirement benefit.

    We've had to sit down and see what must go next.

  25. We are a long way from living off pension or rather living off our own retirement savings thankfully. For awhile we both had great (in terms of pay) full times jobs and we didn't worry about money at all. In order to stay in the same location my fiance had to give up his job and move with me. We have been living on my income for over six months. Now I'm leaving my job and it is terrifying. We will end up having to move again and then we will hopefully be able to work. I had a month of vacation time at my current job and I would have loved to just have a month off (paid) before our wedding but in order to get the new job I won't be able to have any time off. It's stressful... We started biking instead of driving, we don't go on roadtrips anymore, we cook, we bake our bread, we buy bulk/local/sale, we leave the lights off unless we absolute need them and we rarely use the AC or heat instead we just layer. It's enabled us before now to live and save but now we can't save anymore...

  26. Hi, wish I could offer advice, but you're way ahead of me in the frugality/self-sufficiency game, so instead I will offer ((hugs)) and, also, congratulations for inspiring so many to be more thoughtful of the choices they make. I do think the etsy shop selling patterns, or maybe kits, is a very good idea, tho :)

    I liked this post and linked to it on my blog, hope you don't mind, JLMK if you do!

  27. Rhonda,

    We moved. We came to the same realization you have, just a couple months ago: we weren't able to make ends meet. While moving is clearly not the answer for most people, we found it to be the right answer for us.

    In the short term, it was expensive to move. But in the long term, as fuel costs continue to rise, we will be able to make more money here - and thus begin to cut into our debts rather than contribute to them. It was a tough decision to make, but we did it and we're very glad to have made it.

  28. Hi Rhonda, there are some fantastic suggestions here, by the time I read through the comments already posted my ideas had been mentioned. I think the ebook idea is great, and also etsy - it would be a great place to sell your sewing items including your knitted dishcloths, shopping bags, your soap etc. The last time I looked on there, there weren't alot of sellers from Australia.

    I was also going to suggest running some workshops with Hanno on self-suffciency, gardening, food preserving, keeping chickens etc - whatever would be valuable to people in your area.

    Are there others in your community who you could buy bulk products with? Such as grain products, meat and the like?

    Is there a farmers market in your area that you could sell extra vegies, soap etc at? If not, could you start one?

    Do you have an open garden scheme in your area? - you could have an open garden, and have some of your goods for sale as well.

    Could you also approach some of the "green" magazines, like G Mag or Organic Gardening Aus. and try to get some articles published?

    I hope you get some suggestions that you are able to use. I am a SAHM (our choice) and so we are only living of my husbands income, and paying off our first home - I would love to be able to grow our own food, but we live in regional Victoria and are in the midst of a major drought (we are on level 4 water restrictions), so aren't allowed to water outside, and we dont have the finances to buy watertanks. Each week has been getting harder for us too.

    Best of luck.

  29. Hi Rhonda,

    I heard that fixed incomes got a really rough deal in the budget.

    You might want to think about a book aimed at children, ie mid to upper primary, tailored for your climate zone.

    I have a niece up your way who was getting into gardening over Christmas and I couldn't find any information that I felt was appropriate for her age and climate.

    There would have to be some type of market out there with all the kitchen garden schemes starting up in Aussie schools. Basically all the information designed for the scheme would be pretty inappropriate for QLD as most of these schemes were started in southern Australia.

    It might also be time to consider adding at least a nominal fee to your budgeting etc classes to at least cover petrol for the instructor. It may not be totally necessary right now but the petrol problem is only going to get worse and I am guessing that you are in an area where PT is basically nonexistent.

    Maybe try and set up a car poolers within the center and try and line up rosters so that as much as possible people are coming from the same general areas on a specific day to allow you to help each other out with driving.

    Anyway hope there is something of use in this ramble.

    Kind Regards

  30. I'm sorry to hear of your budget struggles, though love your calm attitude about it all. I agree with others that you should consider an Etsy shop for your crafts and soaps. But I will dissent when it comes to you putting ads on your blog. I've read a couple of posts you've written about being determined not to do that. I hope I'm not speaking out of turn when I say that it seems to me that would be crossing a line for you? But it shouldn't matter because I think you could do very well with an Etsy store....

  31. If you can find a second hand bike around the place you might be able to cut out some of the short car trips. Often people have bikes cluttering up their sheds and are happy to get rid of them.

    I'd second the local newspaper idea: articles about what you're doing at the neighbourhood house, how you're making ends meet etc. You may be able to convince them to give you a regular column. You could probably re-publish a fair bit of the stuff you've already written here, so it wouldn't take too much time away from all your other work.

    I'd also do some maths on the soap and dishcloth selling. Obviously getting all your wares to farmers markets or posting them will take time and money, but the soaps at least are something that scale. You're making soap anyway, making more of it doesn't require much extra time (whereas each dishcloth requires the same amount of time).

    I'd stay away from selling cooked/packaged food, there's a lot of regulation (quite rightly!) about food safety, and if you're not working fulltime on it and setting up a professional kitchen, it's probably not worth it. Excess fruit and veg or eggs are another matter though.

  32. Good Luck with your budget but it is getting harder to make ends meet. My Husband is on a disability pension and I am his carer, but I do cleaning for 3 hours early in the morning to try and help make ends meet and have a little extra but have less and less left over. We also pay rent which doesn't help.
    Not that I am complaining we just have to work harder at supplying more of our needs.
    Let everyone know what you come up with, we all will benefit.

  33. Hi Rhonda. Sorry to hear about your budget problems. All the comments so far have a lot of good suggestions. I wonder if you've considered increasing efficiency of your fridge/freezer and hot water system. You could install cheap insulation (eg. bubble wrap lined with mylar) between the fridge/freezer and the heat exchange coil on the back. Make sure the seals are all in good nick. Cover the hot water pipes and the cistern with insulation to reduce heat loss. Turn down the thermostat of the hot water and turn the temp up a bit in the fridge. Set up a solar oven to boil water for your tea/coffee and store the boiled water in a thermos so you don't have to boil the jug each time. You could use it for other slow-cooking things as well (casseroles, roasts, quiches, some cakes). You can also 'cook' some things like porridge and dried beans/peas in the thermos as well after heating it all up in the solar oven. Hope some of these suggestions are useful for you.

    Best of luck.

  34. Interesting problem Rhonda. I'm glad you see it as a challenge to solve. I often used to ponder how to make money without going to work each day when my kids were small.
    The ultimate solution of course is passive income - a lump invested that returns an income.
    I could never see selling handwork as a solution - the hourly rate you get is pathetic.
    Our grandparents would have taken in a boarder - is there some way you could rent out a room and get your main asset working for you? A friend of mine hosts foreign students for short periods through a Homestay scheme. Her spare room returns a little income, her family meets interesting people, the student gets to practice speaking English, and all she does is provide meals.
    I also heard this on the radio the other day:
    Also, how long is it since you talked to a financial adviser? - there might be strategies for boosting your income using your current resources that you are unaware of. In my experience talking to people who know about money can be very helpful. Just rearranging things can sometimes make a huge difference.
    Writing down a clear goal, $100 a week extra income, for example, will make you focus and you will achieve it somewhow.

  35. Being disabled I really do live on a fixed income with ever rising prices, just as you said. Unfortunately I can only afford an apartment so there is no way to cut some expenses like having a garden for food. It's not easy but you can do it. Reading your blog often I can say I don't think you have lost your touch for writing. You have a good sense of connecting to others in your writing and also for educating and empathizing when needed. One thing I did think of is that you make a lot of your own food. I've seen recipes on line for making your own pet foods. Have you considered that as an option? I know commercial pet food can be a little pricey here. Maybe it would help you a little since you have a Braden and there are vegetarian like pet food recipes you could supplement or change to all together. Anyway I hope that helps a bit. Good luck

  36. I should also mention that in winter time I use a crock pot/slow cooker for a lot of meals because it uses a lot less electric than an oven/stove. I forgot that you are heading into winter now that we are going toward summer. I know it seems like a small thing but to me all those small things add up so any little cut i can make to my electric bill helps. Also you can use a crock pot/slow cooker for more than just soup and stew. You can cook in it and bake in it. You just need to look up some good recipes on line or maybe look for some books in a used book store when you do go out. ojptizy

  37. Ouch! Not fair that pensioners didn't get any further assistance in the recent budget...

    I have also been combing over our family budget, tightening the belt a little more and thinking of ways to earn more money to supplement our family income...

    I think almost everyone is facing the same hurdle right now.

    Hugs to you. xx

  38. Years ago with our chooks, we didn't know if the food was too expensive for the eggs, we were getting. Thinking of having chooks again, so will be interested in your chicken costings.

    I noticed with the budget recipes, you can go a step further than budget recipes. They are still very nice. For example mince is budget, but we don't have even it regularly. We are getting a better collection of pumpkin recipes for example. I emailed a noodle/lentil dish, it sounds terrible, but my cheapest recipe at the time around 2003, actually from the Cookery the Australian Way. Dried beans would have to be the cheapest way to eat.

    New light bulbs, you are probably using them already.

    I can relate to the mailing, I liked to do that too.

    We were discussing the pension at lunchtime.

    Ebay? Maybe for some occasional necessary purchases? Occasionally disappointing though.

  39. One idea that you may not have thought of or know about:
    I had a friend that had a timer on her hot water heater. It was set to heat water in the early morning (7-8am)for husband's shower and making breakfast. It shut itself off until about 5pm and stayed on until about 9pm so the rest of the family could bathe, do dishes, etc.

    My friend had 6 small kids and she was able to only have the water heater heating water for about 4-5 hrs a day, and that was not continuously heating of the water.

    The evening time allowed for dishes, baths and white clothes washed. They soon learned to not turn on the hot water tap during the day so that it didn't run out the hot water. She got to where she had some hot water in the tank all day.

    You can do the same thing even more cheaply than buying a timer. Just turn off the heater at the circuit box (fuse box) and leave it off until about 20 mins or so before you actually need hot water.

    Of course, cutting it off at the circuit breaker only works if you don't have other things you need on the same circuit. Usually, the heater is on it's own circuit.

    Things are getting crazy here too. So I also feel your pain. At least we have that frugal mindset and see this as just another challenge and not the end of the world. I feel for people who have no idea how to cut back or who's self-image is bound up in owning the newest "thing".

  40. Maybe someone who watches these can say if River Cottage or This Little Farmer Went To Market are relevant to your situation. You may be able to download some River Cottage DVDs.

  41. Good luck Rhonda, I hope with all the ideas here, you can make ends meet.
    Eating vegetarian is mostly cheaper and healthier so two savings. One on your foodbill and one for healthcare.
    But not only for you, it can also work for pets. In this cookbook 'The cookbook for people who love animals' ISBN 0-929274-18-0 are vegan recipes for (mostly cheap) people and for cats and dogs. Perhaps you find it in your local library.


  42. I mean cheap recipes, not cheap people. English writing is a bit difficult for me,

  43. Hello Rhonda,
    There has been a lot of coverage in our local paper about how hard it is for pensioners. The stories were like a lot of newspaper stories, headlines designed to sell papers. The people featured did not have your wonderful attitude and proactive approach towards the situation. That is what will help you through.
    The e book or stitchery pattern ideas sound good.
    In Mt Annan,NSW there is a sustainable living centre which holds workshops in cheesemaking, soapmaking etc perhaps there is something like that near you or maybe even an adult education centre where you could be paid a small amount for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.

  44. Maybe you should re-consider the advertisers who wanted to put a banner on your blog. It's money for nothing and no one would think less of you. Pride is nothing in times of need Rhonda.

    That was my thought for you. Also, try the book again. You can have Amazon publish it and sell it for you on their site.

  45. The price rises are hitting everywhere and with oil reaching yet another high everything will just keep rising in price, fuel, energy and food.

    I have 5 hectares down to cereals and am putting a small area to vegetable growing for sale but the cost of running the tractor is making me wonder if I will actually make any money at the end of the day.

    I'm not sure what to suggest as extra income generators since if everyone is beginning to feel the pinch cash wise they will all be curtailing their spending.

    Like you, the only way I can see is to become more self-sufficient and plan better - fewer trips to the shops, oven used to produce more than one meal at a time and recycle and repair and re-use. So maybe the e-books of what you have done would sell as there will be very many people needing to change their lifestyles

    So that does bring me to an idea; a set of e-books outlining areas where life can be simplified plus a number of magazine articles that will allow you to promote the e-books.

    Wishing you all the best,

  46. It's interesting coming back again and reading all the comments. Have to say I agree with rural aspirations... don't advertise on your blog, though I get the feeling that wouldn't be the path you'd take. The ads encourage us to consume and spend, and surely we are looking to conserve and stay away from materialism? Just my own thoughts, but I do find blogs with ads a turn off. On the subject of dogs, I think you already home-cook your dogs' food, so are already saving there (is so much better for the dogs' health, too, I do the same for mine) but you may be able to slightly reduce the meat content, only a small saving, but all these little things add up. Still got my thinking cap on! With love, Diana x

  47. There are a lot of great suggestions in these comments.

    Are you a member of LETS? - it looks like there is a group near you. It's a 'non-money trading system' like bartering. It won't allow you to earn income as such, but there may be things you need that you can trade for.

    Good luck.

  48. I'm sorry things aren't going so well for you. Apparently there is a review of pensions going on atm so we'll have to see what happens there. When I last did a budget, food accounted for about 3% of the total. Hobbies (including gardening) came to 8%, but fixed costs like mortgage and insurance came in at 40%! Checking where the $$ goes is a great first step and invariably surprising... I didn't know I had hobbies until I had to put 'gardening' somewhere!

  49. I agree with the ebook suggestions. A great way to get back into writing for money. I hope you find a workable solution without having to totally give up your day trips.

  50. Like you I'm grateful to be debt free and living small. I do have a part time job, but health problems limit the number of hours I can work, so I earn just enough to pay the rent and utlities. My husband's centrelink allowance pays for our groceries. We do without as much as we can, it's not going to be easy tightening the belt a bit further, Guess I'll give up the chocolate next. We don't have any money in the bank, but we are managing well enough, we don't go hungry, we have clothes and our utilities are not too high. Quite low in fact.I don't have any helpful hints for you though, sorry.

  51. Thanks Rhonda to you and everyone who comments on your blog, it's comforting to know that everywhere we are having the same sorts of struggles, not that I would wish any of them on any of you. I work in an almost minimum wage job and my husband is on dissability, so when our government decided that they needed to raise the minimum wege it caused the price of most neccesities to rise milk, bread eggs and the like have skyrocketed. Hubby is less eager than I to cut back but he is trying some new things. I very much appriciate the creative ideas that I have seen here, and will try to impliment some of them. I know that whatever you end up doing you will be successful, with your skills and attitude you couldn't help but be

  52. Hi Rhonda, isn't it amazing how one bill presented on a Tuesday in May, can have such wide reaching effects. I missed reading your blog for 5 days....and look how busy you've been! Congratulations on the anniversary posting - how marvellous to think of the influence your blogging has on lives across the world...or closer to home - like mine. I'm having a little free virtual raffle over at my place if you'd like to enter. Lisa, Andrew, Thomas, Sebastian & Max xxx

  53. Not much more to add from what's already been said. Just reassurance from me that you are a wonderful writer and I think plenty of publications would love to have you on board. ((hugs)) and all the best.

  54. Oh Rhonda Jean, I'm sure you're not alone there. I am sooooo glad we decided to get serious and pay off our debt. These past 12 months would have been so much worse if we'd had to do that. We've sort of been living in a similar way to you - on a fixed government income. Only ours is a drought relief payment (which is basically the job search allowance without my DH having to search for a job because he already has more than a full-time job, it just hasn't been earning an income for a while).

    Simple Living is a great way to reduce the impact of rising cost of living. But it still has to bite at some point doesn't it?

    You've already been given so many wonderful suggestions. I'm going to need to come back later to read them all for I'm sure there are many pearls of wisdom there.

    Have you considered ways you could earn money through your blogging? For instance, setting up some simple ad spots on the side of your blog. If you sell them privately (rather than through a company) you could specify your own criteria for advertisers (that fit with your own simple living ethics).

  55. You can self-publish books at - there's a good guide as to what it would cost with no of pages and choice of binding etc. Worth checking out! xx Diana

  56. Rhonda,

    I am sorry to read your news.I too know what its ike to live on a fixed income, we are pensioners in the UK.

    We are not quite debt free, will be within the next 2 years, but at the rate fuel is rising we may well be chanelling all our cash into gas and electricity!!!

    We live in a sheltered community, the heat is supplied by a district heating system for which we pay a monhtly sum. We have just had word to say that it is NOT going up this year. I am waiting to hear about the electricity and also our rent.

    We solved the 'no garden' problem, as you know by getting an allotment.

    We have just come back from our budget trip to France. Diesel is cheaper there and we came home with a full tank to find that it had risen to £1.19 a litre......I budget £25 a month, so when its gone, its gone. We are lucky to live on a bus route both into the city and also to our local shopping centre.

    Even in France because of the rise of the euro against the pound this are not as cheap there as they were, but I have to say, even in the supermarkets the quaility is excellent and the markets are unbelievable and its all produce in season, there was loads of asparagus around it and was inexpensive........soft fruit was also coming in and that was reasonable prices too.

    I had to increase our food budget this year for the first time for a number of years, I have always cooked from scratch and made my own bread, we do not eat meat everyday and if I buy a chicken it does for 3 meals and makes stock for soup. We eat soup in the summer as well as during the winter. It is hard to see sometimes where to cut back.

    I did consider giving the car up, but we would loose so much social contact if we did, it is staying for the time being, its the only way we get a holiday too......we try not to fly and public transport is the pits. Train fares are horrendous.

    I really hope you find a way to make some extra cash, as you know I sell at craft fairs, its not always easy to make money that way. Often prices only just cover the cost especially of quilted items which take time to make especially if they are done by hand.

    Would it be possible for you to create a niche market with your soaps? something I would like to have a go at making too.

    I look forward to reading about how you are going to tackle the problem, I know you will find a way.

  57. Hello Rhonda

    Everyone has lots of ideas for you and everyone else in this situation. Have you thought of getting some sort of sponsorship for your blog eg; you say you buy your cheese locally would they be interested in some promotion on your blog. What about the chook lady as well. Does your area have a swapmeet where you could have a stall. Perhaps you could grow some extra seedlings plants and put an add at your centre where you work. You could stipulate what day they were available to suit you.
    Best wishes to you both.
    Bev C

  58. Hi
    Thank you, Rhonda, for posting so honestly and with such a positive outlook on your situation. I find your post and everybody's comments very comforting because we are all assured that we are not alone but have the support of each other. Everybody's individual situation is different and we come from different countries but there is a common strand running through. Our strength lies in working together to pool our knowledge and there are many good ideas in this huge list of comments here.

    When I have pruned down the large expenses from our budget as much as I can, then I look to the little savings. A few pence saved here and there can sometimes make all the difference. We have a saying here in Britain: " Look after the pennies and the pounds (£) will look after themselves".

    Somebody mentioned here to keep a thermos flask by the kettle and pour any leftover water into it when you have boiled the kettle. I do try to boil only as much water as is needed but even a couple of tablespoonfuls of hot water added to the flask each time the kettle is boiled, will provide a small bowlful of water to wash a few dishes after dinner. On that line, I am always careful to use as few plates and cups and pans as possible. I was given some money as a present at Christmas and I spent it on a saucepan that has two steamers on top so that I could cook several things on one gas ring on the cooker.

    I wish you all the best, Rhonda and look forward to learning much about finetuning our budget from you and all the other people here as we all work together.

  59. I've never commented before, but I found your blog about a month ago and have been very much enjoying reading. I find your posts both helpful and inspiring.

    I work as an editor, so if you'd like a professional opinion, I think you're quite a good writer and could definitely write articles or a book if you wanted to do so. I vote for an e-book, as then readers who live in the U.S. like I do could get it without having to pay expensive international shipping. :)


  60. Rhonda
    I have read some of the posts and will keep reading. Thank you for sharing your life along with the ups and downs. I consider you my friend. I teach first grade and I feel lazy today. Beautiful weather and so much to do and yet...... 3 of the people I work with are retiring makes me sad.
    As I read your writings I realize there is much to do and I will feel better if I do it. Will pot 2 petunias and grade papers today. Thanks again for the motivation.
    Oh yes and for sharing about "cutting back" as we are doing the same and does not feel as good as it does at times.

  61. Rhonda,

    You seem to be able to express your simplicity in a very heart touching way through your stitching patterns.

    Have you thought selling your embroidery patterns. If you combined each pattern with a recipe for a special dish or tidbits of your writing...something more than just a stitching pattern...perhaps that would bring you in some
    "pin money" You may even be able to find a way to be able to sell the patterns as a download using paypal as an option.

    Count me as your first sale!

  62. Hi Rhonda
    Your post once again came at an appropriate time. I had just logged onto internet banking to check how much market money i had only to find i had none. A cheque i had written months ago when i was in paid employment suddenly appeared and gobbled up my market money. i am currently resisting the urge to cry in frustration! The recent federal budget hasnt really done us any favours either- we have children but dont use daycare so dont get any of the childcare handouts etc. My hubby is self employed and already owes a tax debt so i cant see us gaining there either. We are lucky in so many other ways but sometimes a bit of cash is what we need. Hubby is giving up smoking because he has finally realised how much money it wastes and we have cut back a great deal. My vege patch is going well and we are planning renovations to the chook pen today because we have a fox in our area. We are cutting back because we are trying to get by without me going to work. The kids love it now that im home for them and there are so many other non monetary benefits from that.
    on another note- i have started knitting dishcloths after you mentined it in your blog- i got the cotton/bamboo and it is lovely to knit with. Good luck with your cutting down- i think a lot of people are doing the same thing these days.

  63. Looks like tough economic times everywhere. I have no ideas as I am so impressed by how much you already do!! I just wanted to add that while this may be a set back ~ you are just so incredibly willing to just do what you have to do with such a positive attitude. No negativity or "poor me" just forge ahead and that is what I so admire about you Rhonda!!
    Thank you again for sharing your journey w/ us and letting us learn along the way.

    Central Illinois

  64. Hi Rhonda. I am glad you are where you are at while this is happening to you. You have empowered yourselves for change! I have seen on some very cheap & quite clever, solar ovens that can be made at home. They seem to bake cookies well so maybe bread too? Maybe a few meals a week this way will bring the electric down. I really think that this blog should be turned into a book somehow...the info hear is priceless! Aloha, ~Ahya

  65. Rhonda, I would invest another $1.50 of your postage budget (or use email) to send the description of how you live and decisions you are faced with to the Prime Minister and Nicola Roxon and Jan McLucas. It addresses two important issues - pensioners living on a fixed income and volunteering, and the impact that 1) can have on 2).
    Another thought I had, since petrol is your big issue - have you thought of purchasing one of those motorised bicycles for getting around - they cost a little bit to buy, but one would pay for itself in a year at $50 a week, and a 15km ride in the open breeze could be quite pleasant up your way. See

  66. I would look into teaching writing or simple living part-time at a nearby community college or university. It is a relatively pain-free way to make some extra money, and you'll have fun too.

    The e-book idea is also a good one.

    If you are going to freelance write, the website for Writer's Weekly has great articles on current formats for contracts, as well as listings for writing assignments, etc.


    Anna Marie

  67. Rhonda, I think you would be great at sitting down with people who want to simplify and/or cut bills to look at their lifestyle and see what they want to adjust. If you decide to take on this or any of the other ideas, don't short yourself on what you charge. You're a valuable lady with a lot of wisdom and skills. :)

  68. With gas prices continuing to rise (along with grocery prices), I need to sit down and go over our budget again. It's now so hot here that our a/c is on so our electric bill will be rising as well. I relied too heavily on the extra bit of money we had during the winter and spring from not having to run the heat or a/c. Our natural foods market that was our main source for groceries also closed. We have other shopping options, but they are higher priced as they don't offer the sales we had come to rely upon. Time for me to make a price book again as well.........


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