6 March 2008

Cut back and make do, and tell us how you do it

I’m really pleased we have no debt. Rising interest rates, high fuel prices and skyrocketing food prices are quite common world-wide now and I know many ordinary folk are feeling the pinch. I thought it might be timely to share some information about how to cut back and make do, hoping to help those of you who are starting to worry about your finances.

Rents are rising, and so is the cost of child care, clothes and shoes, electricity, water and gas. Caltex Australia announced yesterday that petrol prices will double in the next decade. Imagine that, petrol at $3 a litre! That will further increase the price of food, transport, houses … well, almost everything will be effected. It’s not fair, but it’s our reality now. I believe you have to live to your reality, not your expectations or your dreams. If I were starting out now, I would run a mile to get away from someone trying to sell me a McMansion, I would cut my cloth according to my needs and start off small.

The average mortgage price in Australia now is around $300,000. That is incredible to me. It’s too much for first home owners to pay. My sons couldn’t afford to pay a mortgage like that and they both have good jobs. I don’t know what to do about it, if there is anything, but I’d only buy a house I could afford. I would not be tricked into buying a house that looked good but didn’t allow me to have a decent and fulfilling life.

Why does everything have to be so big now? It doesn’t make sense to me. Big houses, big cars, big boats, big TVs, even big breasts! I don’t understand the hypnotic effect of BIG. Don’t good things come in small packages? Why not buy a smaller house and build a good life as your family grows. Marriage is hard enough without the stress associated with paying off a mortgage you can’t afford. If you have to put all your money into your mortgage, or rent, how do you manage to buy the other necessities of life? Are you robbing Peter and to pay Paul?

There is another way. It’s not glamorous and you won’t live in a new house, but buying a smaller home, where sons and daughters share bedrooms and families rooms, are better for children than giving them their own room, TV, phone and internet. Kids learn to socialise in their own home. Isolating them, isolates them! They need their parents and siblings around to interact with, to learn from and grow with. Starting off small, all bunked in together with mum and dad in their room and the kids sharing bedrooms, allows you to develop relationships with your spouse and children, you go through the hard times together, and that makes your family a stronger unit.

I don’t want this to sound like a lecture because that’s the last thing anyone needs. I am concerned that many people are living beyond their means, and they are doing it because they think it’s expected of them, or they want to match what their friends have. Change your expectations, start small, cut back and make do. You won’t live the most glamorous life but you’ll be happy and you'll have a better chance to build a good marriage with loving and sensible children. You’re not doing your children a favour giving them everything they want. Children learn by living a safe and secure life with loving parents. When children are given everything they want, and when there are fights over money, kids suffer.

When Hanno and I were paying off our mortgage, we paid fortnightly payments instead of monthly and we had a jar where all spare cash went. When we had enough in the jar for an extra mortgage payment, we paid it. Doing that, we paid off our mortgage in eight years. I’m sure there are other tricks to reducing your mortgage debt, hopefully our wonderful readers will give us the benefit of their own experience and tell us what they do.

Let's assume you’re paying off your home, and maybe a car as well; food will also be a large regular expense. Doing up a family budget will help you a lot. It’s not a restriction, it’s more a guide to how you spend your money. A budget will help stop money leaking out. If you have no budget, do one this weekend with your spouse. I’m sure it will help you. I resisted a budget for the longest time. When I finally did one up, I realised it wasn’t an added burden but rather a great help in understanding how much money we had, what it had to be spent on and how we got the best value for the money we had.

If you can save money on food, you’ll save quite a bit. I cut our food budget in half, then in half again. It wasn’t easy but now, when I look back, I cringe when I think of how much I wasted. Stockpiling helped me stay out of the supermarket, allowed me to buy food when it was on special and gave us a little supermarket at home where we could shop 24/7. But stockpiling isn’t the only thing that will help. Menu planning is also a good way to help you reduce the amount of food you waste, it helps organise you, especially on those evenings when everything goes wrong, you’re running late and you trip over the dog. Your menu plan will at least help you get a nutritious meal on the table for the family to eat.

Cooking from scratch is a big help in reducing food costs. The convenience you buy with some food – it might be pre-washed, already cut, or even cooked - that all costs you money. Making everything you eat from scratch, or even a good portion of your family’s food, will save you money, will give you healthier food and will cut down on all those preservatives, colourings and flavour enhancers present in convenience foods.

Grow some of your own food. If you can grow enough vegetables for your own use, you'll save a packet. It's also fun and healthy and a great activity for children. Get some chooks for eggs. Barter with neighbours. Learn how to preserve the excess harvest for later in the year. When you bite into your first home grown tomato, I bet you'll want to grow them every year.

I wrote about books a couple of days ago and I know it’s a big one for many people. We love our books. I can honestly tell you that although I have been a lifelong reader, write every day and have a literature major, I found it easy to go from buying books to reading library books. Sure, there are some books I covet and want to have on my bookshelf for easy reference, but that is one of the sacrifices I make to live the life I have. We can’t have it all. There are sacrifices we all must make.

Sewing and mending will help reduce the amount of money you spend on clothing, soft furnishings and household items. Many things that you once might have thrown out because they had a rip or a missing button can be repaired, often quite easily and simply. Don’t throw out a sheet just because it has a rip or a hole, mend it. I do this all the time now and giving a sheet another one or two years service because I took the time to repair it will gives me a feeling of pride in a job well done, and I know I’m using resources to their full extent. Doing these small things really does make a difference.

If you're thinking you might get a second job to cope with the financial pressure you're under, do your sums first. If you have young children and you have to pay for child care, you may not make enough money to make your job worthwhile. If you're working at home, make it your job to be the best custodian of your household expenses that you can be. Work at saving money, specialise in making do and cutting back. All those simple money-saving things you can do if you're at home might be the difference between make or break for you.

I’m sure there are readers here who are suffering with the rising prices. I want to encourage you to stop buying the little things that don’t cost much – bottles of drink, cups of coffee, fat quarters, bits and pieces you don’t need but want; whatever it is, stop. Use all that money to pay off your debt. There are hard times ahead, prepare for them now and you won’t panic later. I hope everyone will share their thoughts on how to cut back. I know there are many wonderful readers with some excellent thoughts on this. I want to build a post of valuable money saving ideas that have really worked; the tried and true methods that have helped you cut your debt. Later today I’ll start building another post with the great ideas I know we’ll get in the comments section. Please help if you can, join in and help your blog neighbours in these hard times.

All graphics from allposters.com


  1. I totally agree with you. We have the smallest house at the moment and although we are starting to build a house soon even then it will be smaller it will be easy to clean and the kids will continue to share a room. We are a family and we don't need to be separated from our kids and each other. With grocery shopping the best thing I've found to keep on budget is take cash, every sunday night I put my weekly budget amount in a bag and I carry it with me daily, all food/grocery expenses must come out of that envelope. We make it a challenge to have left over money at the end of the week that we can put into our change money box.

  2. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    Another great post and boy does it hit the nail on the head. First let me say that gas in my area is over $3 a gallon, not sure how that and a litre compare, but it's ALOT of $$. I find it's not so much what I do but more what I don't do. Like, I don't go to the mall, fabric store or grocery store, that way I don't spend money on silly things. I do go to the stores w/a list and try, very hard, to follow that list. I make a general menu for the month so that I don't stop on the way home and do take out for dinner. I don't buy my lunch at work but bring it from home. You get the idea.
    Thanks again for all your inspiring words and thoughts!!!


  3. I love your post, you are very sensible and clear in your writing. I stopped buying newspapers and magazines (especially quilting one's). Books also dropped off the shopping list. As I gave up more 'stuff' it became easier to do. I then started to prune the grocery shopping to only buy exactly what was needed for the week, no more 'I may use this'. I stockpile dry goods and tins when on special. I have surprised myself by slowly making progress on reducing expenditure and our debt. If I can do it then anyone can, goodness knows I spent a fortune in the past with nothing to show for it. If your serious about being debt free and living an authentic simple life, start small and STOP spending.
    Thanks for your encouraging words

  4. Here in the UK we are already paying the equivalent of A$2.40 per litre for the diesel we need...with no sign of it dropping back to the price it was 6 months ago, when it increased by 10%-ish.

    Making economies is a constant exercise; a challenge, but I relish it like you do.

  5. Thanks for your post Rhonda. As I have mentioned before in a comment, I have only just started cutting back. Right now, to see what I have left over at the end of the month, I have stopped 'waiting' to pay bills at the last minute. The last few weeks I have been paying bills right as they came in the post. Oh that is an eye opener. Even if it takes most of mine or Andrews pay at one time, it is helping me to budget better. I have no choice this way. Even today I had the urge to just go shopping after work. I drove straight home and it was like going through an addiction withdrawl. Reading your post helps to realise why I am doing this. So thank you!

  6. Thank you for all this info. We also do not have any debt. Thank the Lord. Thank you for visiting my granddaughters blog. You made her day by leaving a comment.

  7. On the subject of books, we do use the library extensively. We not only borrow from them, we buy too! Once a year our library hosts a used book fair as a fundraiser. Patrons donate books for the fair all year long. The fair runs three days. On the first day an admission is charged. Also, books are priced higher on the first two days, although still far cheaper than new. It is on the third day we really see the savings - that is fill a bag for $4 day. I have found wonderful books there even on day three. Some of the books are older, but many are brand new. Also, many of the books I am looking for which relate to simple living, are not the books most sought out by others. We usually set a budget and then go and have fun, bringing home enough to last us for the year and some change as well. I am sure other libraries do similar fairs. It pays to check.

  8. My local library also stocks cds and dvds. It's certainly worth a look before hiring a movie commercially or buying a cd.

    Colleen you get more than three litres in a gallon, so US fuel prices are still very cheap compared to the rest of the world. There's a reason Europeans have designed all those small fuel efficient cars!

    As for saving money, turn things off. All those electrical things on standby add up for no return. It really annoys me that they're designed that way.

  9. What I have found helps with our budget is to pre-pay our bills as much as possible. I have estimated what we spend each week on electricity, telephone, car rego, insurance etc and I pay that amount directly into the accounts over the internet (no postage, no cheque fees etc) then we know what we have left is realy ours to spend (or save!). Books are the one thing I do miss buying... the library has only so many and I often have had to request them to buy certain books which I have found they will do but you wait and wait... Great blog Rhonda.. take care...LOVE the swaps!

  10. Thank you once again for a great post! My husband and I live with our 6 children in a 3 bedroom manufactured home in a park with other similar homes. We were planning on moving soon, but as we have been working on the house, God has been working on my heart to be content where I am. I also want to honor my husband, by not getting a larger mortgage! He works fulltime and has a handyman service he runs in the evenings after work. (Weekends off, yay!)I have been the one desiring a little more space for the family, and a yard to plant a BIG garden, while my husband has been quite content here. Over the years we have also had family members in with us at different times: a grandpa (invalid), a grandma (nursed her back to being on her own), and a sister moving back to the area after a divorce. So, needless to say, our home felt even smaller, and I ended up with a not so great attitude! Well, I can now gladly say that my heart is changing, for the better. It's helped so much reading your blog, you are just such an encouragement to me to do better! I got the book Square Foot Gardening, and the kids and I are planning our small area garden as part of our school work. We have 3 chickens who are faithful at laying eggs for us. We also got the Dave Ramsey book and workbook (used, for a great deal!) and are on our way to paying off the rest of our small debt, and hopefully having our humble little home paid off within two years! A little long-winded, but I just had to write! Thanks so much again!!

  11. More great words of wisdom Rhonda Jean!

    When DH and I married 32 years ago we lived with his parents for four years so we could save to buy a home. When all our friends were going out and spending money, we saved. We bought an old house that needed renovating and furnished with mostly second hand give aways, until we could afford to upgrade (always as cheaply as possible). We saved like mad to do the renovations (both of us worked) but the temptation to pay off the mortgage instead was too great to resist.Then when the children arrived we ended up spending money on their education, and having no loans meant I could be a stay at home mum (just my personal choice.)

    If you have children you can be run off your feet working outside the home or in it. My girls were only allowed one extra curricular activity each so we didn't spend our lives frantically driving everywhere. They had time to play, inventing their own games. They didn't suffer as far as I can see. I felt my decisions led me to have the best life I could have had.

    I have a friend who spent her earlier years travelling the world. She started her married life with nothing monetary behind her and struggled terribly at times financially. She envied me at times but I reminded her that she's seen and done things I never will. In the end it doesn't matter what position you're in, it only matters that that you decide to make the right choices for yourself here and now and don't live with regrets.

    But living beyond your means means that others are making your decisions for you. Something inside your head is telling you to have this or do that. Why? It's interesting to ask ourselves why we let advertising or keeping up with "the Joneses'" influence us. What is the personal pay off for buying stuff? Being "spread too thin" timewise can easily lead to buying ready made expensive things. Is it really all worth it?

    Slowing down and discarding a lot of superfluous things that society kept insisting I needed (to be happy or successful!) is the most wonderfully freeing feeling. If you put restrictions on spending because you NEED to you're sure to feel deprived. Looking at why you do something and deciding to make a good decision for yourself is always more empowering, even if you have to "swim against the tide" of those around you to do it.

    Regards, Marilyn

  12. Your post is so timely for everyone! We are facing major problems with the worldwide economy and we all must be prepared and willing to make changes in order to survive! You are absolutely right in saying everyone needs to get their debt paid off as soon as possible. Do whatever you can to get it paid off! We are farmers and have been hit so hard by the fuel prices and costs of fertilizers that we are making drastic changes. First, we got rid of the "Everything" package on our satellite television. We now only get the network channels and about 20 others. This saved us $70/month. We could have got rid of it altogether but being out in the boonies we can't get local tv and we do like watching the news and weather and educational shows. Secondly, we have gone to just cell phones and got rid of our landline phone. This has saved us about $80/month. I cook only from scratch according to what we have on hand in our pantry and freezer. We are trying to limit the amount of time and money spent in the grocery store. I had so much food stocked in our freezer and pantry I didn't even know I had some of that food in there! I cleaned them out and organized them and that has helped tremendously -- knowing what I have on hand! Organization around the home with your menus, bills, clothing, chores, etc. is absolutely 100% necessary. You have to know where you stand with everything and keep thinking of ways to make it better. We are applying every spare dime to pay down our debts which are many unfortunately. Medical expenses cannot be helped when treatment is needed. But we are working hard and our 2 children are great sports with these changes we've made. We plan to grow a huge garden this summer and preserve/freeze/store as much as we possible can. Thank you, Rhonda, for your timely post and your encouragement. I feel like all of us that check in to your blog are a big extended family of people who wish each other well in these hard times and in our journey of providing for ourselves.


  13. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your regular posts and agree with you that living simply can be rewarding in many ways. Here are some of the key ways we've saved money:
    1. With a young baby, I am always doing washing, and making my own washing powder (to your recipe) has saved me quite a lot.
    2. I particularly enjoy reading craft books and here in Birmingham UK, we can reserve books online for free, have them delivered to our local library and even get sent a free text message to tell us when it is ready for collection. Doing this I get the pick of all the books, even ones that are recently published!
    3. I always have a list of everything in my freezer and cupboards - from these I create a weekly menu plan and shopping list.
    4. If you are like us you will need small change regularly (for car parking, bus etc). We keep a jar of small change which we can dip into instead of going to a cash machine, having to buy something we don't need in order to get change and then flitting away the rest. It sounds obvious but it has really stopped us wasting money on nothing much.
    I look forward to hearing more ideas from future posts and comments.


  14. I so agree with you about this post. I am so happy in my little house..my little PAID off house!

    I can't believe how much money I saved when I cut out the junk. Sodas, chips..it was amazing. I now cook 99% of our meals from scratch. My food budget by myself used to be $400, now it is $160 for the 2 of us. We eat a lot of good stuff too, like roast and seafood but nothing is wasted and it's all REAL food you know?

  15. We do many things to cut back and save money. But, I think the one that helps me the most is keeping a cheerful attitude about it. I am more than happy to tell anyone how little I spent on something if they ask, and many people at home and at work have come to know me as a frugal shopper. Many now ask for tips, which I think is a lot of fun. It's like my own small anti-consumerist movement. :)

    Otherwise, we do things like: buy furniture used, careful meal planning & use up all food, resell items on ebay that were purchased for cheap, and give ourselves some financial wiggle room every so often. We do not have a strict budget - my spending is pretty much a habit at this point, and I don't chastise myself if we go over budget here or there because overall we are putting away money every month.

  16. My dh and I are presently living on $1,700 K (U.S.) per month. It has not been easy, but it has been possible, and with God's help, we are making it. My husband lost about $1K in income within the last few months. That in itself was hard, as we were paying down our debts as quickly as possible. Since we've lost any extra, we basically removed everything unnecessary from the budget.

    It was a real help that we were not living like the "Joneses" to begin with. I think that mindset of trying to keep up with others only hurts people.

    For us, prayer, hard work & determination has been key. Learning to live simply and with gratefulness for all we have is so beneficial. We also try to make do as much as possible with what we already have.

    Even with such budget cuts, we plan to be out of debt soon and will be able to put more towards savings and other goals.

    It is not always easy, but I do believe it is possible for some out there as well.

    Tips: Live in a smaller, inexpensive home if possible. Less to clean, take care of & maintain, as well as heat/cool. (I live in a mobile home.)

    Spend money on necessities as much as possible, but do keep a small allowance for you & your spouse. It helps keep the sanity. :)

    Stay away from stores - this will literally save you more than you can imagine. If you don't need anything, don't go shopping.

    Become a blackbelt frugal person - knowledge is power!

  17. I just discovered your blog and am thrilled I have! Wonderful site with wonderful posts!

  18. If only they taught these kinds of things in schools today!!!

    We learned the value of living simply and frugally when my dh started his own business. We had 3 months wages in the bank and stretched it out to 6 months. The fact that our Family Tax Benefit payments went up was a big help in making that happen.

    We never lived a lavish lifestyle, but we made changes that meant we lived an incredibly simple life:
    * use cash only. Take out only what you have planned & budgeted for and when it's gone you say no.
    * make a menu plan and a shopping list. If it's not on the list don't buy it.
    * only shop once a week.
    * cook everything you can from scratch.
    * learn to enjoy some vegetarian meals. Just 2 meat-free dinners a week saves us substantially. To start off with we did 50/50. We've now developed quite a collection of meals we really love.

    Some of our changes are also in our thinking. We no longer buy now and think about how to pay off the CC later. There is a lot to be said for the feeling of satisfaction of saving up FIRST! We now really enjoy a night in the company of friends over a simple home cooked meal. If we are the visitors I truly and completely enjoy the meal and the fact that I didn't have to cook it. And in return I never ask my guests to bring something with them unless it's truly a spur of the last moment kind of thing (like 5pm and I've already started cooking & discover dh has invited someone over!!!!).

    With a bit of planning it's amazing how much one can avoid spending!

  19. What a timely comment Rhonda and what marvellous contributions from everyone. There are a basic lessons to be learned from reading all these - having realistic and achievable goals and learning where your priorities lie.

    We have no debt - Like everyone else, we went through that period of conspicuous consumption and we paid through the nose for it with the interest we paid. Once you are rid of that debt you are in command of your life.

    Home for us when we started out was a small 2 bedroom home which we added to in later years as needs demanded. 46 years later we are back to having a smallish 2 bedroom home - with no additions envisaged!

    We shop fortnightly and stockpile and we find this suits our country lifestyle beautifully. Another thing we have found worthwhile is to use EFTPOS when we shop. Not only does it mean we are not carrying large amounts of money, it also means we are withdrawing only what we need to cover our purchases - with no excess...and it is amazing how much money you can waste if you think it is left over. The big BUT with this is, you must stick religiously to your shopping list -with no impulse buying.

    Love reading your blog Rhonda - a friendly helping hand to all wise enough to appreciate it!

    Best wishes,


  20. Well I posted earlier about the need to keep housing costs low, but I'm not sure what happened to that comment . . . at any rate, sorry if I end up posting twice.

    I have just recently realized, after years of both unsuccessful dieting AND unsuccessful budgeting, that the two are very, very closely related. In the past, I've often wondered why I haven't lost weight when I've been "so good," and yet I've failed to take into account the handful of chips here and the chocolate bar there. It's often been the same with money - I've wondered why we have incurred so much debt when we are living relatively frugally, certainly far more simply than our neighbors - but I still stop in for a latte when I feel like it or buy a new book from Amazon or whatever. Now I am losing weight AND actually sticking to a budget for the first time in literally years of trying - mostly because I am taking stock of EVERYTHING that goes into my mouth or out of my wallet. I know some people can make huge changes slowly, in moderation, but for me, the cold turkey, 100% committed approach seems to work better. For right now, I need to be a little obsessive - complacency just seems to set me back. I'm glad I've discovered the connection between these two areas of life that have eluded me - it feels so good to be disciplined - much better than a brand new book or a chocolate bar would!

    Fun topic! Thanks for all the great tips.

    Kate in NY

  21. Cash seems to be a lot harder for me to part with than using my debit or credit cards, so I allot myself a specific amount of cash per week to spend on miscellaneous things and once it is gone it's gone. I find I horde it because it is makes spending more tangible.

    I honestly think that a lot of the reason Americans are falling father and farther into debt is because spending is just swiping a card - the money no longer has any tangible value and there haven't been any tangible negative consequences for racking up debt.

    We live in a large house, more space than we need and I struggle with that. But I am proud to say that we do not have any debt on credit cards, no car payments, etc. and we live well within our means. I know I can cut back more and become more resourceful. My biggest waste is food and I struggle with meal planning. I have a young toddler and a one month old baby and at the end of the day sometimes I am happy to just throw together peanut butter toast and a simple salad. I know I can get a better system in place and I'm working on it.

  22. Rhonda,

    Loved reading the post and all the comments and ideas. I try to live simply and unlike some lucky people am just starting out in the world of home ownership, currently have an offer on a house and praying it will be accepted.

    I do not buy novels, I don't even really like to be given them, as I find it had to read any but the most interesting more than once as I remember the storylines too well. I borrow from the library and only buy a book if it is a reference book I envisage using multiple times.

    I don't do a weekly shop. As I only feed myself and cook a large meal twice or three times a week, saving leftovers, I find that if I go to the shops I buy things, even when I have a list. So, I avoid the shops and only go when I actually need something.

    I buy most of my clothes from op shops, and try and make some of my clothes (hoping to do this more and more)

    I try and not carry cash, as I will go to the op shop. If I find something I want I have to want it enough to go to the atm and get money out.

    I don't eat out or get coffee unless I am doing it with someone else. Take lunch to work, and make espresso coffee on a small machine in the office.

    By doing this I have been able to save even when I was studying full time and living on youth allowance (student support from the govt in Australia) When I finished uni and began working I made the decision to not increase my expenditure by any significant amount, and on average, would live on approximately 30-40% of my income which is not significantly large and this includes my giving to church and sponsor children.

  23. This may sound silly, but I have learned that I cook way too much food at any one time. For example, cutting back on using two cans of beans for one recipe and instead only using one has helped our budget a bit.... we don't notice a difference and we toss less....

    1. why toss leftovers? eat them or freeze them for another night! :) i actually deliberately cook more than i need each time i cook so i have enough for about 3 nights... we eat it for 2 nights and then we freeze the 3rd for another time... saves me loads of time and energy and money! when we are feeling lazy and want a takeout meal, i take it out of the freezer and defrost!

  24. Wonderful advice everyone!

    When my DH and I were married 34 years ago, we both worked full time. We lived off of his income and saved all of mine. That way, when it was time to buy our first home and start a family, we had a sizeable downpayment accummulated and were accustomed to living on one income.

    I have been able to be a SAHM ever since and homeschool our three boys (now all grown men!).

    I have never regretted our thrifty ways!

  25. Hi Rhonda,
    Just the best post from your marvellous site yet!!! I think I am goig to copy it and also the comments, print them out and plaster them around the house as a daily inspiration.
    Now both my littlies are at school i am free to do things that really save money until a part time job comes along. I believe children should be at home with their Mamas and I managed to do this although i was a terrible budgeter.I look back now and think how did we manage ...the waste!!! One thing i am doing and I have and will be blogging about is sewing my childrens clothing. It saves heaps although people are so negative. Cheaper from the Warehouse.They say(Wrong!!) Who has the time. (I do!!). Im NOT a good sewer but even I have managed. I also sew Sanitary pads (Dont say yuk just go to Hillybilly housewife for the pattern) Napkins instead of paper towels, quilts from scraps and remnants, aprons, gifts, curtains etc etc. My children feel really great wearing their original clothing, I feel proud and my pocket smiles at me. Yes there are dozens of others things but I just wanted to put some input in for this lost art.
    Cheery Cherry

  26. The best advice I have is to really think about how YOU want to live YOUR life and then make your priority list from that.

    We wanted a home of our home with a decent size garden and close to family if possible. This meant we had to move interstate and choose quite a modest house. We have a 2 1/2 bedroom house on 1/3 acre for our family of 5.

    We wanted our children to be brought up by their parents and have a close relationship with their extended family. So whether we have both worked part time or one worked fulltime and the other stayed home our children have been with their parents and at times had their grandmother step in when necessary.

    This means we have lived on a minimal income for most of our married life but we have always been well fed, we enjoy a close relationship with our children and we are without debt.

    We have sacrificed material wealth, job advancement and myriad possessions but really that's no sacrifice at all.

    When you see something that you think you must have, think about the consequences to your family and to the planet and then it's a lot easier to make a proper decision rather than just react.

    When we were first married, buying a home and having our first child Australia was having the "recession we had to have" and interest rates were going through the roof. Our mortgage payment took half our monthly income and to stick to our priorities we had to learn how to make our own washing detergent, budget our money, and make presents rather than buy etc.It was a great adventure and taught me so much. I have always cooked from scratch, made my own clothes and knitted and mended and so on. Our house is purposely close to shops and public transport and my husband has always preferred to ride his bike and these habits have kept our expenses reasonably low. We own and use a car but we also walk a lot and use buses and bikes.
    During the brief time when I worked part time and my husband worked full time ( three years) we did our best to save my wage so that we didn't get used to two incomes and so I think we avoided the trap that would have eventually made us materially wealthy but time poor.

    I really believe you have to have a philosophy to live by that feels right for your family, that gives you a solid foundation for every decision you make and then you don't have to agonise over a thousand different things, you just know what is right for you and the community and planet and you certainly don't need some advertising agency to help you live your life.

  27. Rhonda, thank you for this post. I used to be obsessed with "getting ahead," having the big house and cars, and such. But I woke up one day and realized such thinking was making me perpetually dissatisfied and miserable. I learned to be grateful with what I had, and strangely enough, the debts started getting paid off and I actually was and felt richer. Now we have no debts as the house is paid off, have a lot saved for our retirement and emergencies, and continue our thrifty ways.

    1. For holidays, we go caravanning in a caravan we inherited from my DH's parents. We've been to Scotland, Ireland, and all over the continent. Being willing to camp out in the caravan and cook our own food on holiday has meant we can vacation a month a year, plus weekend trips without breaking the budget.

    2. Menu plans are very important, and we waste very little food.

    3. We grow our own veg and have two good bearing apple trees. We also go blackberrying in the nearby walking paths. If we see an apple tree in someone's garden where the apples are rotting on the ground, we ask if we can have the fruit. I make apple butter with them, and usually the owner says we can have as many apples as we'd like (often they remark what a nuisance having a fruit tree is!) We've also found several fruit trees on land on the side of the motorway, so we park in a layby, and go pick it.

    4. Our house is heated with a wood stove and back boiler. The wood comes from our land, and surrounding farms (the farmers are glad to get rid of waste wood when they fell trees).

    5. I work at home most of the time, use public transport the rest of the time, so we only need one car. We bought an efficient diesel.

    6. Energy efficient bulbs are a great idea to save money and help the planet.

    7. When we buy clothes, we buy very good quality. They last better, are more easily mended, and we both can look nice for work. Consignment shops are often good for stylish work clothes at bargain prices.

    8. I tried making my own laundry detergent a few months ago (thanks to your instructions), and wow, it does make a big difference in savings. DH also likes the fact it isn't so perfumed as the commercial brands.

    9. If you have time, making your own bread and pizza dough saves loads. I do it the lazy way...I have a bread machine or make quick breads, but still get the homemade taste and the savings.

    Since I've started living this way, I'm so much happier. The worry about debts, getting ahead, etc, has just melted away, and there is a deep sense of peace which is priceless. My next goals are to learn how to sew, and to can more food.

    Thanks again for your great blog!


    Anna Marie

  28. Hi Rhonda Jean,

    Another great post that reinforces the way I am trying to live!

    One point to make about buying v borrowing books is that every library gets a budget to buy new books so if there is a book you would like to read that your library doesn't have you can request that they get it in. I found that in our local city library it took about 2-3 weeks from lodging the request to getting the book! I am yet to visit the local library in our new town and find out if this is true here too but I will get there soon....no time to read at the moment..

    Thank you!


  29. Another great and timely post from you Rhonda. I have been reading your blog for a month or so and find you are a very wise woman.

    So how have we been cutting back? I work part time and OH works full time. We try to save nearly all of my income (apart from that needed to get to work) and live from OH's. We are also able to save from his income because: I challenge myself every week to spend less at the supermarket, we always menu plan and make a shopping list, stock up on dry goods, soaps etc when they are on offer. We have a loyalty card and find a great way to use it is to spend £100 or so worth of "points" on essentials such as great bottles of olive oil, washing powder, loo rolls etc. This means that we get them free and then don't have to add their cost to our weekly shop.

    We have also downgraded some of our purchases ie the own-brand range. What is the point in paying more for potatoes, peppers or yoghurt just because it is in nicer packaging?

    We take a pack lunch to work every day which saves a lot of money and also make a conscious effort to not just buy "things" when we are out and about - a coffee here, a magazine there all add up over a month. We started a £2 coin pot and saved up enough over eight months to pay for our holiday cottage - all from change we would have frittered away and have nothing to show for it.
    We are lucky that the two of us have never been inclined to keepup with our friends and buy the latest gadgets; it is so important to be happy with what you've got - and Rhonda we have so much, don't we?

    Miss P

  30. My feelings are mixed: some parts of simple living seem simple, but I don't think they are simple for everyone. I decided to blog about this at http://chookiesbackyard.blogspot.com. Perhaps you'd like to comment?

  31. i love coming to your blog and feel encouraged each time i do, to keep going and trying to live simpily,and slow down and enjoy life.. i am very thankful to the people who add comments as i always learn something from the advice i often read... happy days margie

  32. I have practiced what you are talking about for years. We have just moved into a 1 bed apartment, there are just the two of us, I lost my sewing room, but have a little corner in our bedroom with a table, I have my machine on there.

    Fuel oil here is £5 a gallon, we are seriously thinking of giving up our car. It will mean that we have to give up visiting one of my daughters who lives 30 miles from us, our allotment where we grow much of our veg and fruit may have to go as well, and no holidays in France.

    I draw mt housekeeping money at the end of each month and we do a months shop for evrything but fruit and veg. I buy that from the local market and shop every 2nd week for fruit etc. Any spare money at the end of the month goes into our holiday fund.

    I can clean the apartment in a couple of hours. We visit the library most weeks.....we both rad a lot and are able to order book on line from the library they e mail us when they are in and we then go and collect them. I have 8 out at the moment and 6 on reservation

    I am enjoying reading your blog.

  33. Csarina,
    I'm not sure where you now live if you are able, but if you have to give up your garden allotment, can you do a small garden in containers on your balcony or porch area? It would help a little bit.

    I think your downsized life sounds lovely. I am sure it would be hard though to not see your daughter as much. Is there an alternate way of travel like a bus or train that you could take to go see her on occasion?

    I live in a very small home and rather enjoy not having to care for so much - it is more than enough for me to handle. Sometimes I would like a larger kitchen area - it is considered a walkway (we call it a 1-behind kitchen since only 1 person can be in it at a time) :). However, I am very happy and wouldn't trade to live somewhere larger.

    I hope you can find some happy alternatives if you have to sell your vehicle.

  34. Just wanted to thank Kate for the litre and gallon comparison.


  35. Hello everyone, thank you so much for your thoughts and ideas. I appreciate them and I'm sure everyone who reads here does as well.

  36. Lyn...We live in the UK on the outskirts of a large City. We do not have a balcony, so if the allootment has to go it will be herbs on the window sill.

    There are buses to my daughters, but we would get there in time to come home......just now we are fighting to keep the car, it is a luxury, but we are just managing to keep our heads above water.

    I had a bit of a boost last week, someone had seen photographs of my work and has asked me to take a stall at a very smart craft fair at the end of August. I invested £30 in fabric and have started making 'green' bags, again I posted a piccy and a lady contacted me to make her one.....what she paid covered the cost of the fabric to make 1 large and 3 smaller bags.......I also got pillow covers to embroider, I have cut out cushion covers for hand quilting and will be making some cards as well.

    The weather here is awful just now, snow, rain and very cold winds, so glad we are warm and dry.

    We had a water meter fitted l my water bill has gone down from almost £300 a year to £96.....some saving!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  37. on paper, it looked like we could afford this property. We didn't count on my husband losing his job - twice. We are incredibly busy cutting every corner we can, and looking for ways to earn extra income. For example, we have two horses, and must feed them hay (no pasture in the southwest of the US). I started giving riding lessons, it's paying for their feed.
    Can't wait to read more on this blog, very happy to have found you!


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