DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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27 June 2016

Being self-reliant in a connected community

I've been wanting to review our financial situation for a while now and when the Brexit referendum came up with a surprise "leave" result last week, I knew I had to start.  Of course no one knows yet what sort of changes this vote will bring. The only certainty is that there will be change. I hope for the sake of all my UK and European friends that the changes won't be too drastic or drawn out.  Whenever there is uncertainty in the world and it looks like there may be hard times ahead, the first thing I do it make sure my own house is in order. If I know I'm doing all I can do, if our budget is solid and we're prepared for anything, I know we have a good chance of getting through it.



Over the weekend I spent time looking at our financial situation. I went through all our contracts and accounts so I know exactly where we stand and if there is any way we can improve what we're doing. Wasting money at any time is unwise, to do it now is stupid. I also looked at our stockpile and garden and worked out how we could cut back if we need to.  One thing is for sure, the less we rely of others to live the life we want to live, the better. Being self-reliant in a connected community is the best way to move forward and provide for yourself. That is true all the time, not just in times of crisis and change.


Above are two elderberry bushes I propagated to give away along with an edible cranberry hibiscus and a Grumichama cherry that Morag gave me.

I've been wanting to look at my food shopping for a long time. I think we're doing okay but I can't be certain until I check. So I'm in the process of making up a price book which is something I did very early on in my simple life. I expect that price book will help me as much now as it did back then.  I've kept my shopping dockets from the past month so I know the current prices of all the groceries we buy regularly. There are apps you can use on your phone to do this too, but I can't be bothered keying in all the info and for me, paper works best for this. In the coming weeks, I'll be using that price book when I menu plan and make up my shopping list and I'll take it with me when I shop.  It should help me not to over pay for anything on my list.


I'll add a few more cheap and easy meat-free meals to my rotation. Dropping meat from the menu is an easy way to save money; we usually eat too much meat anyway. The protein we eat doesn't have to be animal protein, it can easily be plant-based protein so finding new recipes will add variety to what I serve in the coming months. I'll continue to shop for what is in season because it's usually at it peak flavour and cheaper.  23 meals to cook when you're broke

I often cook from our garden so I've also taken the time to look at how that will function. We have a productive vegetable garden now but I want that to continue right through to the end of the year so we increase the amount of vegetables we eat but don't buy as many. There are a couple of things I want to add to the garden but mainly we have to successfully follow up the greens, beans, herbs and salad vegetables that we're currently growing so there are no gaps in the supply. Succession planting has always been a hit and miss affair for me but I'll focus on it now and plan more carefully.


We don't have any financial problems right now. We've been systematically replacing appliances with good quality energy saving models for the past few years.   That has set us up well for the future and has helped reduce our electricity costs significantly. Our home maintenance is very good, we have a near new car, we don't need new clothes or shoes at the moment.  I do need to work on gifts, make soap and continue to cook from scratch, make our cleaning products, mend clothes and sew household linens when we need them instead of buying them. I'll continue to compost and recycle and we'll try to cut back on our consumption of electricity, gas and water, not just because it's expensive to waste those resources but because it's something we should all be doing.


And what if all this is for naught? What if nothing dire happens in the UK and Europe and we sale into the future with no ripples to tip our boats over? Well, then all this will be for our own peace of mind and to address the increasingly desperate problem of our environment. That's something we all need to do, starting yesterday. I wonder what your immediate plans are and if they've been influenced by the vote. I'd love to know what you will do, maybe I'll pick up a few things that will help us here.

39 comments:

  1. Hi Rhonda, I have been looking at ways to reduce our expenditure the last couple of weeks. I have started with grocery shopping and making my dollar stretch more there. The Brexit vote has not changed my immediate plans but it does have me "sitting up" and paying attention.

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  2. While I live in the US, my retirement, partially, is tied up in the stock market. I realize that I need to just wait that part out, but there are other things, such as my recent laxity in controlling my budget quite as well as I should. With the stock market diving so much, I realize that I need to cut back and become a bit more aggressive with debt so my retirement will be adequate regardless of the stock return portion.... Good thing a pretty day and a good laugh are free! :) How's the bathroom??

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    1. I think most of us tend to relax a bit too much with our budgets but with periodic checks and adjustments, things spring back into place. It's important to do it regularly. The bathroom is progressing slowly. Wall tiles are going up today. :- )

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  3. Rhonda, your link for 23 meals does not follow through.

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  4. And how do you fix all of that Kale? So far we've just been using ours in salads. I tried 'Kale Chips' and did not care for them.

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    1. Joy, kale is just green cabbage. Use it however you'd use plain cabbage. You can fry it with onions, add cooked kale to mashed potato, or blanched and used as a cabbage roll. Hanno has it boiled with smoked pork and that uses a lot of it and we share it with Sunny.

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    2. My sister-in-law makes the best ever Portuguese kale soup!

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  5. Hi Rhonda,
    I had to go and buy a new washing machine the other day. I hate spending money like that but I made sure the new one had a great star rating for electricity and water. I did get 12 years out of our other front loader but I still thought it should of lasted longer. The salesman told me that was a great run for a washing machine!

    We are still working on our veggie garden and orchard. It's a bit expensive setting up but it will be worth it in the end. We are finally starting to eat from the veggie garden which is wonderful as we had missed this for so long.
    My fruit trees have been ordered and I'm planning the orchard. We had a discussion last night as I was adamant I wanted it all to be espaliered but the cost was just too expensive to set up so many trees this way. I've decided to espalier the apples and grow the stone fruit as normal trees. We just have to be able to set up something to net them properly.

    Not sure if this referendum will affect superannuation or not but last time there was an upheaval in the markets we decided to move my husbands super from aggressive to something more stable as he had lost a fair amount in the past. I really have nothing to show for in my super for all the years I worked so I don't know what will happen later on down the track. I guess by saving now and getting our food growing will help our situation in the future. I might need to have a veggie stand out the front of our place.
    Hope you have a lovely day:)
    Mel

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    1. I love espaliered fruit trees and I think you're wise to have them in your garden. They're so beautiful. Fruit is a long term investment but it pays off. I had very little superannuation. My age group started off with only voluntary super and it was the 90s before it became a part of the work landscape, much too late to be of much use to me. Good luck with the garden.

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  6. Thank you for the reminder to becaware on all levels of our expenditures.
    Just a few tips for the budget, always renegotiate your insurance premium, a saving of $300 over 2 policies is not unusual.
    Our local IGA has 5 kilos of potatoes for $5 this week. ....cheaper than the local markets ! so a price book pays off regularly.

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    1. My local IGA here in Adelaide has 5 kilo of Potatoes for $2.95!

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  7. I am wondering about my future as my superannuation, the little there is, is in the Qld government super scheme. I don't like the government's idea of using some of the fund for other purposes. I watched my father lose a lot in super and am distrustful.

    Anyway back to topic I am trying to reduce our spending. Our fairly new hot water system was a dream until it died. We have been waiting four months for a replacement. Meanwhile our family has the use of a tiny, on demand, system. I don't think there is too much to be done about the next electricity bill. So I am cutting back and eating down the pantry for now.

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  8. Great post, all good points we should all be thinking about, especially now.
    I'm wondering if you could do a post about dishwashers? I remember you sold your dishwasher years ago and swore by hand washing then recently I saw you had a new dishwasher? I'd love to know what changed your mind.

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    1. Andy, technology improved and it's most cost effective and saves more water to wash with my new dishwasher. I can't say that's the case for all dishwashers, in fact the older machines use a lot of water. But I've happily worked with this machine for 12 months now and I can honestly tell you we have never had a bad wash or a plate or spoon that had to be washed a second time. I wrote about the new dishwasher here: http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com.au/2015/07/a-new-dishwasher.html

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    2. Hi Rhonda and Andy, I'm not sure how this would work with your dishwasher, but I actually cut my Aldi dishwasher tablets in half and it cleans just as well. I do give the dishes a rinse before they are placed in the dishwasher. So now a box of tablets goes twice as far. I will also be starting a price book as I think that's a really good way to watch those pennies.
      Blessings Gail.

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    3. I do the same since years and it works perfectly :)

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  9. I think there are a lot of people angry that the Brexit referendum went through. I'm just not sure what it means to us globally. I'm not sure how it effects small people like me at all. I live a simple life with simple needs. The only problem I see is if I don't have refrigeration. Any thing else I can deal with. (Even though I don't want to.)

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  10. I have no idea yet how or if the decision in the UK will affect us (we're in the US), but my husband's health makes paying off all debt a priority (he's doing OK right now, but it is very likely he will be on a transplant list down the road...hopefully years down the road, but there's no knowing), so we pay extra on our house each month and also put away what we can in savings. Currently we are working on eating down our freezer--we bought a lot of meat on sale, and also froze a and canned a good deal of produce from our neighbor's farm and from our garden, so right now I am making an effort to only buy dairy and a few veggies/fruits that we like to eat fresh. That's helping to keep costs down right now. I need to start looking ahead to birthdays (our family's are all in the fall) and holidays so there is time to make gifts, but haven't mustered the energy yet.

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  11. thewarmfireplaceJune 27, 2016 5:18 pm

    It is a sad time here in the UK with friend against friend, neighbour against neighbour. Your post is a timely reminder to me to get my house in order, thankfully we have no debt, but I shall be looking to my veg plot and store cupboard well stocked. I am sure all will be well eventually if everyone would work together.
    Sue

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  12. As you say Rhonda, it is always wise to recheck our spending habits ...even just a reminder to be wise and careful.
    Thank you for your well written words.

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  13. I think much the same way and our family is in a good position for whatever happens.
    As I'm off againwith the children from September I'm looking at more and more ways I can make an extra income from home, possibly even selling more of the produce I grow.
    My worry is for the poorest in society as it always affects them the worst.

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  14. Tackling the last of the debt it right up the top of the list - The race is on.

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  15. I'm in what currently constitutes the UK, though that might change in the coming two years as we negotiate our 'Brexit'. We are in for a very bumpy ride. I've stocked up the pantry, the pound is already falling. We are going over our budgets and deciding how to allocate our funds. We made most of the major purchases we needed to in the past few weeks. I'm also going to start donating to the local food bank. I'm taking my health much more seriously too.

    I'm sure everything will settle to a new normal in the end, but we have several years of uncertainty and financial pain ahead and it will impact the wider world. Everyone should batten down the hatches.

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    1. We're doing the same as you - reviewing outgoings, considering switching to a fixed rate mortgage, and generally getting ready to hold on to our hats.

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  16. Hi Rhonda,

    thanks for the reminder about the price book, I'm sure I will be shocked if I compare the prices I recorded a few years ago with the receipts for food I've saved recently. Every time I go shopping I realise how important it is to grow more food and not waste any.

    I'm also upcycling a few things I already have, for example turning a damaged bedspread into two heavy curtains to block the hall doorways and keep the heat in the part of the house we are using.

    I don't have central heating, and live in a small house with a very small couch - and boy do I feel lucky when I'm squeezed between my two teenagers on the couch in front of the fire - small means together :-)

    Madeleine.x

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  17. For me the biggest thing is to not give in to fear. The media is so good at propagating fear when they have no more grip on the outcome than anyone else. We carry on as we always have since we are always prepared for what may come.

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    1. Wise words indeed. Xx

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  18. We were doing really well with budgeting, cutting costs, etc. and then my mother in law moved in. She is of the mindset that she had to hang up clothes in the cold when she was younger and is not about to hang up clothes now. Our bills have gone up all the way around. I am struggling with how to change that mindset; use cloth napkins instead of paper towels, make our own detergent (your recipe, btw) and not buy gain, etc. Any suggestions?

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  19. Thank you for this post. It is, of course, very timely. I have been trying to move my retirement fund from the agency who carries it to my bank close to where I live. I tried this a year ago and the old agency then gave me problems with moving it. (I'm sure they wanted to keep their income from it) Now there is a new agency and I had not been able to get ahold of them, and now this thing with Bexit! I am sure I have lost funds, and I was counting on that money. I supposed for now I will just let it sit and see what happens. I don't want to throw money away!

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  20. I agree with Lana - the media have done their usual job of instilling fear and hatred into people. As a Brit living in France for the last 27 years, Brexit means that my son and I will finally get around to taking French citizenship, which wasn't an issue before. Folks are in for a very bumpy ride, not just in the UK. I just thank God I am out of my marriage to my spendthrift ex and my own financial house is in order. I would be terrified if I was still hitched to him and all the debt he ran up. Anna

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  21. While I agree that the media is responsible for whipping up the tide of fear and hatred, I feel that the racism and xenophobia that we are now witnessing here and in other parts of Europe has been there for many years - Brexit has just given this element a mandate to come out into the open.
    As for the effect of Brexit, I agree with Treaders - we are in for a bumpy ride. We live on my husband's State Pension at the moment - fortunately the house is ours - but as soon as I graduate next year, I hope to be able to earn some money tutoring in English Literature and offering Creative Writing courses. I have looked for work, but the situation in Devon is even more dire than it was in Surrey and I keep coming up against the age barrier - I'll be 60 in July.

    I think the uncertainty is the worst thing - so it's a case of expect the best and prepare for the worst; at least it isn't as if I haven't had to economise before (had seven years of it since Kevin's cancer, our redundancy and so on).

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  22. Rhonda,

    I was inspired by you to create a Grocery Price Book a few weeks ago. Paper doesn't seem to work for me so I found an excel spreadsheet free that I've adapted (a very little bit). Here it is http://canadianbudgetbinder.com/2014/12/08/beginners-guide-grocery-price-book-free-template-included/ .

    I'm also using as many coupons as possible now. My grocery store offers an app with digital coupons and printable ones, plus special offers by email. I'm adding those into the price book so I know which products commonly have coupons and I'm stockpiling as much as possible.

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    1. Denise, thanks for sharing this link, it is really helpful. Beth in MN

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    2. Thanks for sharing the link to the price book Rhonda! I also have our free budget if anyone is interested and tonnes of grocery shopping ways we save money on food every month!! Come join the grocery game challenge too... 5 years going strong with prizes to win.. open to US and Canada only though. :) Great post as well here with valid points. The grocery budget is a huge expense next to housing and transportation and one category in our budget that we have been challenging for years now. We are now mortgage free after 5 years of budgeting and 10 years of frugal living using coupons and many other ways to earn extra money and save. It's been well worth the ride which we document on the blog. As you mention most people get too relaxed with their budget when this is one of the biggest financial mistakes. Good luck everyone and hope to chat to some of you. Mr.CBB :)

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  23. Every week I look at the food sales flyers and try to buy a few staples on sale. We eat what is in season. We send our son to school with a packed lunch. We cook bigger batches of food and freeze portions for later so we are not tempted to go out! We do bring my son out for pizza about 2x a month. Personally, I like used clothes - they come pre-shrunk! I shop sales for my husband and ever-growing son's clothes. It seems like every few months we need something new though...This month it was our TV...just a few months out of warranty. Sigh. And our car completely died this winter...my husband found a good, used one on the Internet that we could pay for...insurance is less on used cars.

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  24. Love your observations and dedication toward being frugal. Inspiring, always.

    Lana

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  25. Aaaaah Succession Planting, also my nemisis. It is pretty haphazard, but found this last week on interval days between planting, thought you would like to read. Jotting in my planner the days I need to do it for which veg.
    http://www.johnnyseeds.com/t-succession_planting_interval_chart_vegetables.aspx


    And the very bottom of this page a handy Temp. Range per crop Table.

    Reminding is knowing is doing. Now I am off to make toilet roll seed boxes, folding them to a square.

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  26. Hi Rhonda, I am new to your website. Thank you for your kind words; the calm, common sense, wisdom they contain. Our homestead is located in the semi-arid portion of the northwest US. To address the instability we have observed in the last few years (and now certainly the Brexit bears watching), we have done the unthinkable: pulled some of the money from the 401k and have paid off the house and purchased tangibles like 1600 gallon water catchment tanks. Three of the 21 acres have been converted to food, fuel, medicinal, wildlife beneficial plantings so far.
    We built an 800 sq ft earth berm green house for less than $800 and it's working beautifully. Without the distractionary 'stuff' of TV's, Radio or mindless shopping we now have the space to design new creative ways to produce more and consume less. I am very thankful to have found your site.
    cheers, sheila

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  27. Rhonda I look at what food I can harvest from my tiny allotment and I work out my meals from that point on. Not just food from my own allotment, but fresh organic produce that I have gifted from other allotment holders as we barter between ourselves. Then I reach out for the cook books or use my old tried and tested recipes.

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Thank you for your comment today. I love reading your opinions and thoughts. We have built up a wonderfully diverse community here that I'm very proud to be a part of.

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