DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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6 April 2016

A self-contained, productive life

When we were on the book tour, one question kept coming up in every town - it was about couples living on one income. Some people wanted to tell me how excited they were to be doing it and how enriched they felt by their change, some suffered the ignorance of family and friends who said it couldn't (and shouldn't) be done, and some wanted to take the plunge into a single income life but were unsure about the viability of it and their own capabilities. With every town we passed through, I became more convinced I had to address the issue when I came back. If couples can make this work, it's a great way to live. Even when I was working for a living and miserable because of it, I knew that life wasn't meant to be about working to earn the money to buy whatever I wanted. I also knew I didn't want to work until I dropped dead. There has to be a time when we stop selling our life hours for money, when we are rewarded for our toil, when we own our days and when we have control of our own lives.


I believe that work is one of the most important parts of life. It shapes our character and skills us for life. When we finish the work of school, we embark on the work that will give us the life we want to live, and that can be in the commercial workforce or work at home. The person who works at home has a career as a homemaker. That position may not have a wage attached to it but there are plenty of ways a homemaker can contribute significantly to the financial well-being and emotional growth of the family.

So let me get the unpleasant side of this out of the way right now - if someone makes a lifestyle choice they believe is good for them, then it's no one else's business. I know it's difficult for some people to see their friends break away from what is considered "normal" but everyone has the right to live as they choose. It's not the way life is generally lived now but it's not unfamiliar to me or many of the older readers, it's the way most people used to live. Although back then it wasn't really a choice, it was the way society was set up - it was "normal" then for couples to live on one income. It's also unnecessary for homemakers to criticise people who go out to work. Let's all stop the criticism and freely offer acceptance and kindness to the people we know.


If you make that choice for yourself, don't listen to any criticism; walk away. If you're sure your life is better with you or your partner working at home, then keep the faith and don't let anyone tell you it's wrong. And if you're the one doing the criticising, think about what you're doing. If the shoe was on the other foot, if you were being criticised for living the way you thought was right for you - how would you feel? This is not laziness, far from it, it's an attempt to live a self-contained, productive life in which work is the main component.


And to all those who are thinking of doing this, make sure you learn what you need to learn to make your transition easier. Make up a realistic budget, get rid of the excess you no longer need, look at everything you commonly buy and see if it's better done at home. That will cut your costs and probably give you better quality as well. Menu plan, don't waste any food, shop for grocery bargains, cook from scratch, make everything you can, mend, repair and recycle. By working side-by-side with your partner, one working for an income and one managing that income while focused on reducing the cost of living and raising the children, you will create a life built on your own values with family at the core.

Look at your home and start modifying it to better suit how you work. Organised cupboards that hold the items you need, in the places you need them, will support your work everyday. Start thinking about making up a routines chart so you get all your work done without missing essentials. Eventually, you won't need the chart, your days will run to their own sweet rhythm and you won't be wondering "what's next?". Pay your bills on time, get rid of the services you no longer need or want, and start paying off your debt. Life is easier when the mortgage is paid off so work towards that goal by sticking to your budget and not acquiring all the trappings that can add years to working life. It doesn't matter that you don't have the latest furniture or appliances but I encourage you to buy the best quality you can afford whenever you do purchase expensive items. It's much more economical to have something last for years, even if it costs more, that having to replace it frequently. A home can be made beautiful by using older furniture and painting it, and by making soft furnishings.


Simplify your mind as well as your home. Start making your own cleaners, learn how to sew and make bread. Grow a garden if you can, add chickens and bees if you have the opportunity to, expand your interests and incorporate those interests in your home. Be a role model for your children, help your friends and neighbours when you can, become the person you always wanted to be. Simplifying your life and doing the work you need in your home will change you more than anything else can. And despite what you might hear, it's an investment in yourself and your family, not a step backwards.


At the end of the day you'll feel content and satisfied that you used your time wisely that day. It's not an easy way to live, especially when you first start and you're not fully organised, but your days will be full of purpose and promise and you'll be living true to what you value. Life is never a one size fits all proposition. It's much more complex than that. So don't try to fit into a mould you know won't suit you, plan your transition and live the life you want for yourself. It will not be easy but if you do the work you need to do life will open up in many beautiful ways you never expected. 


50 comments:

  1. What a great blog piece! I have just discovered this site while searching for a Chilli Jam recipe (which I found here). Very impressed and happy to have found such an inspiring site. Well done :)

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  2. A wonderful post. Such thoughtful and meaningful advice. I do wish that others wouldn't criticise those of us that have chosen an 'alternative' route. I do wonder though if they are wishing they could do the same and have not felt confident to take the plunge.

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  3. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. Full of sensible clearly thought out information. Hope it inspire young couples with families to think about a different way of living.

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  4. Thank you !! I really needed this today. I am facing unemployment by the end of the month and my husband and I are talking about me coming home. I have done it before and then went to work part time which became more like full time. I think he really misses me being home.

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  5. Life is all about choice. While I don't criticise mothers who choose to work outside the home, I do feel that there's a lot to be gained from having a parent stay at home with children and the old ways of doing things have much value. But as I said it is a choice, it is entirely possible to live on one income and it does erk me somewhat when people explain their choice to work outside the home as something they HAVE to do. My husband it a teacher, we have 5 children and we live on one income fairly comfortably. We choose to cook our meals at home from scratch, to work a garden, to have one family holiday a year and to live in the country where housing is more affordable. To me working as a homemaker is something that seems entirely normal and rewarding to me. I feel that I am following in the footsteps of generations of women before me and frankly it doesn't bother me one bit what others say. Both my sister and I have university degrees. I chose to work at home and she chose to have a 2 income family. However, she is constantly complaining about how tired/busy/poor she is. I am happy with my choice , I hope others are too.

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  6. THANK YOU! What a beautiful post. I gave up full-time work 10 years ago and we definitely had to make a financial adjustment, however eventually we found that we were saving at least as much as my income was by only having one of us "out in the world" and we've never looked back. Now I work part-time more for enjoyment than anything else, but we still live frugally "from scratch" and it's paid dividends in both saved money as well as peace of mind and having a home-centered life. That's one reason why I love reading your blog -- you remind me of all the good reasons why we live like we do. Thank you again!

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  7. I am out of state watching my daughters children. They have different breaks. My daughter is a counselor at a different school. I was thinking how families need two incomes now. When my kids were babies I didn't work. We gave up a lot. I see how rushed parents are now. We made the decision when ours were young that they needed one flexible parent. We shouldn't j

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  8. I worked for a little while outside the home but when I was 6 months pregnant with my first child I quit my job to stay home. It was our choice as a couple and I never looked back. But, for those who think "stay at home" means "not working" I can assure you that is one, huge misconception. I always worked much harder at home than I ever did behind a desk. But, I wouldn't have changed our decision for anything in the world -- those years with my children were important -- the most important thing to me.

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  9. I've never worked so hard after I left paid work for homemaking! But I've never been more satisfied either :) That judgment that working from home is "lazy" is particularly troublesome. I think it's so important to find the place where you're satisfied with your own work/self - I've endured that criticism you mention, and most of the time now it just rolls right off me because I'm content with my choices. That's a confidence born of time, and luckily it gets stronger with each skill acquired or job well-done.

    Thanks for your writings and the encouragement you bring!
    -Jaime

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  10. I suppose many workers would think of homemaking as just doing the things they do around work, but with much more time. They wouldn't necessarily recognise that many of those tasks could change and grow, if there was more time to do them in (e.g. cooking from scratch, making rather than buying, growing veg etc). It is an enormous mindshift, so quite understandable that people don't always 'get it'. A bit similar to parenting, perhaps -- you don't know what it really entails until you are in the middle of it :)

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  11. Oh Rhonda, you delight us with your wise words, as ever. Every day it grates that society has de-valued the value of work at home so much. The only value is in bringing in more and more money. If it doesn't pay, it doesn't have value, right? It never ceases to amaze me that while it's valid and recognised work to work in childcare/cleaning/catering/etc, if you do it in the home, unpaid, somehow it holds no value!

    I recognise that we're all encouraged to go out and earn so that the economy moves forward, but did it not move forward anyway, before everyone became so focussed on earning more to buy more? Maybe the thoughtful economy is the way forward.

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  12. Your post is thoughtful and perfect. Working at home as a stay at home mom or wife (or dad!) or going to an office every day is a personal choice. There are times I wish I was back in an office and able to just focus on a task, but then I would miss the craziness that is my 4 year old child. Soon enough he will be in full time school and I will miss that craziness so I do my best to enjoy it now.

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  13. I agree with living on one income and one spouse at lease holding down the "fort" unfortunately some of us learned the hard way how our first spouse was consumeristic in nature, even through his or her own poverty. If we have the right attitude in the middle of it all, that cures many ailiments and failures.

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  14. I read a quote once that said "Some people work hard to pay the bills while some work hard at not creating the bills in the first place" I think it fit's nicely with todays blog. I too, have heard and felt the criticism that "stay at home" means "not working" (I am still working on not letting it get to me though) I can also say that I work harder at home than I did in my 60 hour/week job that I had before. I now bake, sew, grow most of our fruit and vegetables, cook from scratch, look after my home and family and volunteer at the kids school a couple of times a week. I love the time that I have been able to spend with the kids by not going out to work and it's nice to know that there are like minded people that have made the same decisions as our family has.

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    1. "Some people work hard to pay the bills while some work hard at not creating the bills in the first place"

      I love that - thanks for sharing.

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  15. There is advantage and disadvantage of living on one income.
    Coffee is on

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  16. This post is gold. Thank you. An additional topic that flows on from this is the many men who are 'stuck' as being providers all their life as this is how society still seems to be largely geared.

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  17. Beautifully and honestly said. I chose not to work when my children were young and was criticized by some family members and cast as unmotivated. But my husband and I raised three wonderful children who are now wonderful parents and I believe that happened because I chose to be a full time mom. I worked for many years and now hubby and I are retired and living on a much smaller income, but we've got this... after all, we've done this before!

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  18. Thank you for this post. It is exactly what I needed.

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  19. I must comment to encourage anyone out there wanting to stay home. Many years ago I got a big college education and had big dreams of what I would have and get. Then I got married and the first baby came. I never went to work again. Four more babies came and I was home. My husband worked as a mechanic and we went without everything, but love. I've been driving my van for 13 years and sacrificed all the usual things but now that I'm on the other side of baby and toddlerhood I can tell you I had all the best things right by me all along. Hope you all have the same blessings in your lives.
    -Beth

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  20. How fitting that you should have this on your blog today, Rhonda. I saw an advert today for a teacher in a setting I'd love to work in and so, for a few brief moments, I considered whether I would want to do that. I know I would love the school, the staff, the children and the extra money would be handy but I would miss my freedom so much. Not freedom from work, cause there is plenty, but freedom as in planning how I use my time for work in my own home. Such a wonderful post that reinforced why I heard a resounding "No!" coming from my inner self!

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  21. wonderful blog Rhonda! just what i needed ...
    thanx for sharing

    selina from kilkivan qld

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  22. The old saying I gave up my job but didn't give up work...being a stay at home parent is a big job however society doesn't value it the way it used to. The government don't even value it after all they are wanting 24/7 childcare. Goodness me, why go out and earn $25 an hour to pay someone $25 an hour to mind your kids. It doesn't make sense. I agree that some mothers want to be stay at home mums and some mothers don't like it....each to their own. I'm hoping your book will arrive in the next couple of days so I have something lovely to read this weekend.

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  23. Thank you for these wise and wonderful words. You give us "younger" ones the courage to stray from the norm. There is great value in someone in the family being the homemaker, if the choice is there. Society is catching on... slowly.

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  24. My husband and I are struggling on one income - simply because that income is his State Pension and I am not entitled to my State Pension for another six years, because the UK Government has moved the goalposts. We have cut expenses to the bone and I am used to making do or doing without but there is no money for any kind of emergency. I have been desperately looking for work, but at my age, no-one seems to want me. This is not a desire to earn money for exotic holidays and expensive clothes - it is the requirement to have sufficient to pay the Council Tax, Income Tax (yes, my husband's State Pension of £250/wk means he had to pay £625 tax in January), vehicle tax. petrol, vehicle MOT maintenance and insurance (we are rural, no local buses and we cannot do without a car), home insurance, water bills,
    telephone/internet bill, heating oil bills, electricity bills and food. We grow as much food as we can, I sew and I knit and believe me, we do enjoy our life, but at the back of my mind is the constant fear of something happening to my husband, because I have no income other than his.

    I'm sorry if this comes across as a 'pity party'; I don't want to upset anyone but I would very strongly urge any of you youngsters to ensure that you save sufficient money in an 'emergency fund' and a safe pension scheme before you get to my age. My occupational pension scheme sadly failed, so there will be no income from the years that I worked and paid into it. All of our savings went when my husband became seriously ill, couldn't work and we were desperately trying to pay a mortgage, unable to sell because we were in negative equity. What little help we received from the Government meant that we were able to keep the house until conditions changed - there was just sufficient after the sale, repaying the mortgage and all the fees to enable us to buy our tiny cottage.

    I totally support the desire to stay home and raise a family, but while it is lovely to be at home, life can be extremely uncertain. My advice would be to plan for emergencies, for the unexpected and believe me when I say that I wish you all joy.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story so we can learn from it. Wishing you peace and a life free from emergencies! Hope you can hang in there until your pension starts. xo
      -Jaime

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    2. This is definitely something to think about re getting older -- having no income since you didn't work and get a pension or Social Security, and losing your spouse who was the major earner.

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  25. I think I have found an excellent balance and one that works well for our family - part time work. I have a wonderful part time job in a library and it's perfect. I earn an income (which helps with the mortgage a lot) and really enjoy my work outside home but can spend quality time with the kids and at home to do the things I love. As you say Rhonda, it's all about finding what works best for you and your family. Love your blog and books. Love Rachael

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  26. Thank you for this post today. I left the workforce 8 years ago when my youngest graduated from college. I am the only woman I know who doesn't work outside the home and it is nice get a little affirmation because despite the fact that we do fine on my husbands income and that I am quite busy and fulfilled with home and garden and helping our parents, those niggling little doubts tend to creep in.

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  27. Hi Rhonda,
    I was so happy to see this post. A few months ago, in our college whatsapp group, a few of my old friends came down heavily on me for having chosen homemaking over a career. They all felt that I have been wasting my life and my education especially because I had been first in our class. A few of my other friends did try to support me, but I felt bad. Then, one of my working friends let out an unwitting comment about how "even working moms like us give our kids nutritious food" and it was as though a light bulb suddenly went on. These ladies were themselves feeling insecure about their choice to work! I guess, with the plethora of choices we can make these days, it is difficult to know whether we have made the right one for ourselves. It is absolutely of no use criticizing others for the choices they make...

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  28. Out of 29 yrs of marriage I've been a homemaker for 23. It was actually easier in some ways when I was young. Now that our son is married I considered going back to work because even with my gardens & crafts I do become lonely with all those hours spent working at home by myself. All of my friends my age are working...literally, so I spend a lot of time with women my mother's age even though I'm 49. I do love my friends, no matter their age but I would enjoy doing a few more active things than they're able to do.

    Still, when it comes right down to going back to work I talk myself out of it...my husband does as well! He sets his own hours & he always reminds me that if I were working we would have to live on my work schedule. Now we have freedom to do whatever we want whenever we want.

    So I bribe my friends to visit with home-cooked meals, do a lot of volunteer work & really enjoy my garden.

    For the commenter who is older & struggling on one income...I so understand where she is coming from. Her situation is similar to my mother's which taught me to be prepared. We paid off our mortgage when I was 32 yrs old & have lived on less than we earned since then. Her story is another reason I feel the pull to go back to work while I'm able though we have saved ahead & still are, as much as we're able.

    It's also another reason to be sure we teach this lifestyle to our children. I remember teaching my son about 'selling our life hours for money'. When he was very small & would want some new toy or gadget I sat him down & explained how many hours daddy had to work to buy the toy for him. We looked at how many hours/days he worked to pay for us to live in our house, then to buy our food, then to buy our gasoline, ect...just the simple things of course....AFTER that, we had so much left to do with whatever we wanted. He quickly learned that the less we spent, the more time we had with dad & he usually chose that. So very early, he learned that earning money really is selling your life.

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  29. Absolutely! My heart has longed to be home for so many years, but I felt trapped into working, because I felt like I was supposed to do so. (I am a nurse) My husband and I have finally decided it's time to be home and I am in my forth week at home and LOVING it! Love this post!

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  30. My name is Beatriz, I live in Madrid Spain. Always I have lived with a salary and have managed to pay the mortgage and that my two daughters went to the university.
    Main street, stew, I clean my house, am happy

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  31. Hi Rhonda: I am currently reading your book, "Down to Earth" and follow your blog. All the things you have written about in your book, my husband and I have implemented since we were married. It does work and it can be done. When I made the decision after my third child to stay home full time, I heard many comments from people, some from family members, about how nice it must be to stay at home. Of course, the way we lived helped us to get there, but people don't want to know about the work you put into being able to stay home and raise your children. You are so right, that the choices you make should be your own and nobody should tell you how to live. The benefits of our early decisions have come to provide us with kids that had at least one parent around all the time and a comfortable home life. I wouldn't change how my husband and I ran things for the world. I'm enjoying your book and look forward to your blog posts. Keep up the good work.

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  32. I love this blog Rhonda. Just so plain speaking - to the hear of the matter, without judgement or criticism, and with much acceptance and love. My husband and I have decided to both work part time in flexible work situations so we can both be with our three lovely young children most of the time as they grow up, and share the homeschooling and home keeping. We also get to spend more time together too - we are best friends. I love this simple life in an ecovillage, where we have built our house without a mortgage. It goes to show, there are definitely other ways to live, ones that nourish our hearts, minds and family relationships - ways that bring a great sense of freedom and happiness, and ease. Thanks Rhonda!

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  33. I stayed home and raised the children while my husband was the "bread winner" in the family. I took my role as serious as he did and always did my best to find the best bargains, not waste anything, and buy second hand 90 percent of the time. Now we are retired and living comfortably. We both feel our life together was successful and continues to be so.

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  34. Another great post -- thank you! One thing I struggle with is this type of diy, homestead living and travel. Are the two exclusive of each other? Homesteading seems to mean you must always or nearly always be home. Would love your thoughts on this...mabe a future blog post?

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  35. I would have LOVED to be able to stay home with my kids (at least while the were little) but since I earned more than my husband (slightly) and had all the expat advantages here in Switzerland I had to go back to work. I was so jealous of those stay-at-home moms - that was what I wanted to be. Fast forward and after 26 years of an abusive, spendthrift husband, he left me for another woman. I had to buy him out of the home and assume a TON of bills that HE had run up in order to get my divorce. And when I say I earned more than him I only mean a little. Cue a new mortgage at age 53 while he rides of into the sunset with his tart (and for that I will be forever grateful to the tart). So I would reiterate what the previous poster said about "being prepared", even though, as I said, I would have stayed home in a heartbeat. I would have been in such big trouble if I had not kept my job all these years. Please, please be prepared and be sure you know your other half in case you get "hung out to dry" (and believe me, I know of many cases). That being said, I have never been happier. Anna

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  36. Another great topic today...Thank You.
    I would love to leave the work force now at age 55 but neither myself or my husband who is 60 can leave the work force anytime soon. We could never afford the medical insurance we are required to have in the U.S. This is not the life we envisioned. We thought by now we would have more free time perhaps working part time and enjoying grandchildren, gardening and time at the beach but life is what it is and we try to maintain a good balance of work and doing things we enjoy. I think balance is the key- our jobs are just something we do during the day and then the rest of the time we use to do all the things others on this blog do. We live below our means and try to save so when health problems come we can pay the bills. I think it is possible to do both- to earn an income outside the home and still do all the at home stuff like from scratch cooking, growing our own food, heating our home with wood we harvest ourselves, forging and all the other activities. The key is to keep the television and other distractions away.

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    1. I agree! We live in the US too and health insurance will keep us in the workforce many more years.. Sigh.....

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  37. Hi Rhonda,

    Thank you for this piece! Myself, husband Mark and baby Edith were one of the small families that asked you about living on a single income when you came to visit Sydney.

    Although we are already putting a lot of what you have said into practice, because we are such a young couple (in our early 20s) the idea of owning a home on a single seems like it is only a dream. Instead we are stuck in the renting sector for at least another 10 years (and longer with every child extra we might be blessed to have) before we can even hope to save up for a deposit. I feel that there is a value in owning a home, not just for ourselves, but also for the security of our children. Many people don't have the privilege to live that simply because the idea of packing up and moving every 1-2 years (because in Sydney at the moment finding an affordable renting place usually means staying in a place that is likely to be demolished, sold or renovated in order to keep up with the market). We are planning to move to Perth soon because we can't hope for security in Sydney. Nonetheless, the renting market is where we'll have to be for a while (which also often limits the amount of simple living things you can do, like having chickens and growing your own vegetables, due to the fact that many landlords don't like animals on there property, and also because all the hard work you put into gardening might not be yours for much longer). It would be wonderful if you could give us young one's some advice on how to live simply while on the go and moving around so often.

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    1. Hello Monica, I remember you and your family at Kogarah. We talked about the soils in the west. I think you mentioned you'd like to live in the Margaret River area rather than Perth. Meeting you and a few of the others who I spoke to after the talk was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I think our future is in the hands of all our younger people and the more living simply, the better. If I can help, I will, so I'll think about the topic and see what I come up with. :- )

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    2. Hi,

      I wonder if you've seen the blog spurtopia where a young couple have been living self-sufficiently in a flat in Brisbane? This included growing all their veggies in containers as well as keeping chooks and bees. They run workshops and I'm sure the information on the blog would be inspiring for you.

      Good luck!

      Madeleine

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    3. Although it is possible to live on one income, these days the cost of housing will put that option out of reach for many. I chose to live in a country town so that living would be affordable. Even so, the cost of my current home purchased 8 years ago was more than double that of my first home purchased 16 years ago - and the first house was a better house! This leaves me with a bigger mortgage and the worry of when I am going to save enough for retirement as a single parent.

      In my area land rates are also amongst the highest in the state. As we've all noticed the cost of food, insurances etc.. is steadily rising. I manage all of this on one income, but I have to say it is tight and it is stressful. For couples considering taking the plunge I would suggest living on one income for a year to see if you can do it. Make sure you are able to save an emergency fund too, because life always brings the unexpected.

      I don't want to be discouraging, just wanting to point out that incomes have not risen at the same rate as the cost of living, so unless the working partner has a good income it might not be realistic. Another option could be for one parent to work part time, or from home whilst minding the children.

      Madeleine.x

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  38. Is there any single women over the age of 50 who have finished up work and are living off their superannuation? I'd be interested to know what they are doing to keep all the finances in order.
    Claire

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  39. What a fabulous post, I am going to retire in Aug this year when I'm 60, I will not get my state pension until I am 66 (UK Law)even though I have paid for my state pension for over 33 years.. but I am going to retire on my work pension, I can't wait to cook, sew, and have more time to grow veg, My husband retired 7 years ago so it will be lovely to have some time together..I love your blog and I have your books on my kindle
    which I refer to all the time...Thank you for the great inspiration, Hugs May x

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  40. Rhonda, other than your books, this is the best thing I've read in forever!!! Thank you xxoo

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  41. Ah, I am sorry for your worries and you have my sympathy. I will face a similar future, I think. We do what we think is best at the time, but life has a way of derailing things sometimes...did you find somewhere to live in a different part of the UK? We may have to as the south coast is expensive!

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  42. I work 5 days a fortnight in paid employment and when I mention I don't have children people are rude enough to ask 'what do you do with all that time' having already been told that I have 12 acres of land. Next they ask and what does your partner do? They are usually pretty shocked when I say 'well right now he's full time working on our property! Which is usually the case. Right now he is doing a few weeks of work in Australia where he worked off and on while we lived there, probably the last opportunity for him to do this work for quite a long time! Eventually he wants to make furniture for an income but we are realistic that it will never be a large income! I have been thinking about starting a blog but don't really know how to get started. It seems like a lot to learn!

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