Saving money in tough times

19 April 2008

It’s getting a bit scary with prices rises lately. It’s not just the price of fuel, which increases almost every week, it’s also grocery, meat, fish, fruit and vegetable prices. It seems everything is affected by the price of fuel; when that goes up, everything else follows. I thought by now more people would have realised that simple living could address many of the problems associated with these soaring prices, but it seems the blinkers are still on and credit card debt continues to rise. There are a lot of people being evicted from their homes because they can’t pay the mortgage, or from flats because they can’t afford the sharply increased rent. It’s pretty grim.

If you are still trapped in the have-now-pay-later mentality, think about your situation for a while. Petrol prices will continue to increase, so will food, clothing, appliances and everything made or delivered using fuel. If you are struggling now, it’s not going to get better if you don’t change.

It’s time to take stock of what we can do to help us through these tough times and to move to a gentler way of living. I’m pleased to report many of the things you’ll do in your simple life are environmentally friendly and cost less. But you already knew that, didn’t you? Less get on with it then. Let’s compare what you will pay for cleaning products if you are shopping at our largest grocery chain this week – Woolworths. I went online and checked these prices this morning. Let’s say we’re buying the general products used for cleaning in the home: laundry detergent, spray and wipe, floor cleaner, bathroom scrubber cream, dishwasher (machine) detergent, in sink dishwashing detergent, oxygen bleach, liquid bleach and toilet cleaner. Buying all that would cost you $51.91, most of it is environmentally unsound and you’ll have a lot of packaging and waste products to deal with, adding to the environmental expense. You do NOT need a different product for each cleaning job. That is a lie told to us so often by advertisers that we came to believe it. You can clean everything in your home using these five products: borax - $3.44, washing soda $3.22, laundry soap - $1.49, 2 litres white vinegar - $1.21, 5kgs bicarb soda - $6.95. They will cost you $16.31 (today’s prices) and they’ll last you a lot longer than a week or two. Cut up worn out towels for cleaning cloths.

Just on those cleaning products alone, you’ll save yourself $35.60, you’ll save your local streams from the harsh chemicals, you’ll save your rubbish tip from all that plastic waste, you’ll save time shopping less and you’ll add to your life skills by being about to make your own cleansers.

As well as changing what is bought, you could also start stockpiling so that you buy most of your needs on sale, then shop from your cupboard each week. I have written about stockpiling here and here.

There are many other things to be done in ordinary homes as well as saving on grocery prices. Get rid of pay TV, mobile (cell) phones and use public transport instead of driving everywhere. Mend your clothes, learn to sew and make a few simple things, knit. Grow vegetables and fruit, keep chickens, learn to cook from scratch – all these things will save you money. I know everyone can’t do everything suggested here, but everyone can do some of them.

Involve your children in your changes. Today’s children are much more aware than they’re given credit for. Ask one child to monitor your electricity meter and to devise a scheme where you can save electricity – turning off lights not being used, turning off appliances at the wall, buying compact fluro globes etc. Ask another child to monitor your water meter and to come us with a water saving policy for the family – using grey water on the garden, four minute showers, less toilet flushing and do a trial on how to save water on washing up. Is you dishwasher or washing by hand best in your home? There are many ways to get the children involved. Reward them with a family outing when you start seeing the results of their changes, and praise them for their thoughtfulness and their help.

I could go on and on about this but this post is getting too long already, so I'll stop. But I do want to state clearly, you are not helpless in these difficult times. There are things you can do to save money, get rid of debt and regain your independence from large retailers. The choice is yours. If you do decide to change and work towards a simpler life, once one domino falls, they will continue to fall and a new life will open up for you. The first step is yours for the taking.

I will continue on this theme tomorrow.


  1. Rhonda,

    Hello! I am still trying to learn to stockpile. Do you go to the grocery every week? If so do you buy just a few things or one thing for your stock pile. I am sure I am making this more difficult then it is. At first I thought you bought a load of stuff and that was your stockpile. Please help:)

    Is it possiable to see your grocery list and see the things you added to your stockpile?

    Great Post! Still working on the chicken coop:)



  2. Hi Rhonda,
    I started a Meme with this same purpose, I would love for you to join!
    here is the link

  3. Rhonda,

    I have been living this way for years, it is so refreshing to find someone on the other side of the world who thinks like me.

    I do not have a dishwasher, OH is very good at washing up and it keeps his hands soft after grubbing around at the allotment.

    I have always had a store cupboard, we lived in rural Scotland and it was invaluable. I could live for at least 2 weeks without having to go to the shops, we were often snowed in during the winter.

    I search for bargains on things like flour....use a cheap wsahing powder mixed with washing soda, half a cup full to a full load of washing, never use fabric softner, but I do use a few drops of essential oil in water when ironing, gives sheets etc a nice smell.

    I read your posts every day, so much good sense..........

  4. This is a great post (but then all of them really are)and as usual I am in total agreement with you. I have been living life this way since I can remember. Well, except for the period where I was reaching for the American Dream by being a slave to my job. But then I came to my senses. :) Anyhow, you are always an inspiration.

  5. Hi Rhonda Jean! Long time reader - first time poster! I am a Mum of two little boys, my partner and I don't have a credit card, we op shop for clothing (and everything else!), we are vegetarian, we have our chooks, fruit tress and a veggie patch!! I love this life and cannot imagine it any other way!

  6. I too have lived this way for some time, and now I have my own home...just two months here...I can do so much more than I could in a rented unit...using grey water etc. My water tank will be delivered next, the veggie garden is slowly filling up,and the best of all, I now have chooks!!

    A good friend built the run..mostly from recycled bits and pieces, and he gifted me some of his own young girls...amazing such a small thing has me so excited, I just had to share.

    Only discovered your blog recently, but wouldn't miss my daily dose now...thanks :)

  7. So true, Rhonda, and yes more folks will probably HAVE to begin looking to save, reduce, and be thoughtful about consumption from now on. There's a lot of digging out necessary to extricate ourselves from the convenience and debt of things such as credit cards...when did it become passee' to simply NOT grab for everything we think we want? We learned that being content with the essentials is very very satisfying, especially as we get nearer our goal of being completely out of debt. It feels so nice having freedom rather than things that tie us to more years of working just to pay them off.

  8. Rhonda,

    thanks for stopping by :) I plan to put my payraise into my rainy day fund. My current rate of pay is more than enough to live off of comfortably.


  9. We must be on a similar bent today Rhonda. I've just posted about feeding the family frugally on my blog! It's not so difficult to live simpler and cheaper ~ it just takes a little planning and a little work. Neither of which are negative things!

  10. Looking forward to tomorrow's post, Rhonda Jean! Whenever I need a little inspiration I come here & read through the archives. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, knowledge & advice. :)

  11. Renee, we do a big shop for groceries once a month at Aldi. On the other weeks I buy fresh things like milk, cream and cheese at the local IGA. We buy things that are on sale for the stockpile, when there is something at a good price, we buy as much as we can afford and put it in the stockpile. If it's not on sale, we just get what we need.

    For instance, I might have the following on my grocery list:
    vinegar, tins of salmon and tuna, sugar, toothpaste, baked beans, butter, salt, rice, bread flour, yeast, powdered milk, vegemite, canned tomatoes and rolled oats.
    I'd divide my list up into a list for Aldi - vinegar, salmon and tuna, sugar, baked beans, butter, powdered milk, and canned tomatoes. I know I would get the best prices on those things at Aldi, even if they were on special at another store. I would stock up on as many of each of them as I could afford.

    I would buy these from the bulk food store: salt, rice, bread flour, yeast and rolled oats. buying in bulk makes things cheaper and you can take along your own containers - so it saves on packaging too. all these things would go in the stockpile.

    Both of those shops are close together so I would do that shopping on one day. On another day, when I'm near my local shop (when I'm working) I'd check out the price of vegemite, if it was on special, I'd buy as many as I could afford and would use fairly soon - probably 2 or 3. We'd use one in the pantry, the others would go in the stockpile. If it's not on special, I'd only buy one.

    You have to be prepared to shop at a few different places, but you plan your shopping so you do the shops close together on one day and you don't go back and forth. Do up your shopping list, if you have an Aldi nearby you'll probably find they have the best prices, but they won't have everything you need. Then you would check your flyers to see where you'd get the best price for what you want. When you go shopping, you look around for good prices and if you can afford what you see, you know you will use it and it will keep well in the stockpile, you buy as many as you can afford.

    Your stockpile should be the groceries you bought on special that you have stored at home. And the advantage of that is that you can "shop" from your own cupboard, your food is generally cheaper than the normal retail price, and you won't have to go to the shops as often.

  12. Great post Rhonda, its worrying seeing the price hikes at the moment. I'm on my own so fairly easy to change to cheaper dishes and stockpile etc., but I really feel for people with families to feed. I'm moving soon hope to have at least some veggies in pots for the summer. I also found a big big pot and planning to buy a fruit tree of some sort, a self setter. I'm renting and the garden is all lawn, and very steep but I may snatch a few square feet next year for vegetables.
    look forward to tomorrows follow on post. :)

  13. Rhonda,
    I stumbled onto your blog trying to find ways to save money!

    I enjoyed looking and reading all your advice!

    Have a great day!

  14. Rhonda,
    I stumbled onto your blog trying to find ways to save money!

    I enjoyed looking and reading all your advice!

    Have a great day!

  15. Rhonda,
    I have a question. I loved the idea of cutting out the extra cleanser and am moving toward and have figured out frugal/environmental alternatives to most everything except dishwash liquid (hand washing) what do you suggest?
    I love you blog and read it all the time, it is a true encouragement on my journey to a simpler/healthier life.



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