14 April 2010

Simple living in your 30s

Hopefully you've landed in your thirties with only a few debts and a passion for living simply.  If you have, you're in the driver's seat.  If you do have some debt, there is still quite a lot you can do to untangle yourself before it strangles you.  The important part of this stage is that if you can set yourself up properly here, if you budget and pay off debt instead of add to it, you'll be fine.

It has been my experience that if young people aren't already attached in their the late twenties, now is the time they start settling down.  There is something about the thirties decade that compels us to find a mate and start having babies.  Even if the babies question doesn't come into the equation, many people seem to choose their thirties to slow down, find a partner, take stock of their lives and mature.

Before you dive into marriage or parenthood, sit a while and talk to your partner about what that will be between the two of you.  Some people don't want children, some want many. Some people have an unquestioned assumption that there will be one parent at home raising the children. Others believe that the children can be looked after in day care or by an accommodating grandparent while the parents work to pay off the home and make the most of two incomes.  Don't think you know what your partner is thinking - this is an important part of your life and you need to talk about it, don't just let it happen.  No matter what your choice, you should work out your strategy early, not when the children are toddlers and things aren't working out how you want them to.  I am not judging anyone here, the choice is entirely yours.  If I knew you personally, I would support whatever decision you made.  I believe we must support and encourage each other in our important life decisions, not criticise or mumble when backs are turned.  No matter what you choose to do, either stay at home to raise your children, work from home, or go out to work, this decade will be one that is dotted with times you'll feel overwhelmed and tired.  It goes with the territory, but it makes you stronger.

So, you've finally reached your thirties.  It's not as bad as they said.  Right?  What you do now could set you up for life.  If you have the means to buy a house, do so.  It's still the number one best way to grow your personal wealth (oh how I hate that word. Please excuse its use.)  If you're not already in your own home, start making plans to save for a house deposit.  Even if it puts you back a few years, it's better in the long run to save a hefty deposit rather than a meager one - or, and I hope you don't do this - borrow the entire amount for the home.  Step up and save for it.  It will result in you paying less interest in the long run.

There are so many things you can do now. If you're married or living with a partner, discuss how you'll save.  If both of you are working, try to live on one wage and use the other one to save a house deposit or pay the mortgage.  This is a time of sacrifice, my friends.  You'll work hard, get tired, go without, regret decisions made, wish you'd done things sooner, or never, but in the long run, you'll come out the end of this decade stronger, more self assured and convinced that you can attain your goals.  One thing I know to be true, working together as a team, especially when times are tough, bonds you to your partner like nothing else.  Hardship makes you tougher and more resilient.

And here is one thing that I want you to remember - being thrifty and not wasting your money on flim flammery is not being cheap or miserly.  It's a mindset that will help you achieve your goal of living well, being content and happy. 

Here are some tools to help you save money and pay off debt:
  • Learn how to stockpile groceries.  It will save you time and money and both will be in short supply during your thirties.
  • Plan your menus.  This will help you organise yourself  so there is less confusion around what to cook for dinner, you'll know in advance what you need to prepare the meals, and there will be less food waste.
  • Plan your grocery shopping. Find the best supermarket close to you and don't be tempted by things you want but don't need.
  • Pack lunches for work and school.  Buying lunch every day is an unnecessary expense.
  • Learn how to make your own green cleaners.
  • Shop at thrift shops for children's clothes or swap clothes with friends.
  • Look on Freecycle or Craig's List when you need something.
  • Stop using disposable products unless you absolutely have to.
  • Don't use disposable nappies/diapers.  Modern cloth nappies/diapers are comfortable for baby, can be reused for all your babies and don't add to land fill.
  • Dry your laundry outside whenever possible.  If you don't have a washing line in the backyard, string one up.  How to build your own clothes line.
  • Learn how to read your electricity and water meters.  That skill will help you save a significant amount of money and natural resources over the years.  Click on the country  to find details for water meters -  Australia,    United Kingdom,    Canada    USA.  Click on the country to find details for electricity meters:  AustraliaUnited Kingdom,    Canada,   USA.  Saving Electricity.
  • Don't get into a habit of giving your children expensive gifts and clothes.  You children only want you to feel safe and secure.  They want to spend time with you and to feel loved - that is the most precious gift available, and it can be given every day.
  • Look for entertainment that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.  Frugal Family Fun.
  • Do an audit on your own assets - do you need a second phone, cable TV, a second car?  Get rid of everything you don't need that is adding to your cost of living.  Try to cut back on your phone and internet bills.

Starting your family will be like a minefield of conflicting messages and influences.  But if you stay close, if you live true to your values, your thirties will set your family into a firm and supportive unit.  Be a role model for your children.  That is the most important thing you can give them - it's more valuable than any toy or fancy bit of electrical computery.  Give of yourself to your chidlren and you'll get the best back from them.  Aiming for the best for them will remake you too.  Your children will see you when the outside world doesn't, they see you behind closed door when you aren't on your best behaviour and trying to impress.  Even in those times, you must be a role model for them because they'll become what you show them.

Amanda and Steve at the  Soulemama blog provide a loving and confident example of what life can be like at this stage.  If you've never visited that blog, go there soon and soak it all up.  It's inspiring and gentle and full of happy children, home loveliness and contented parents.   At Down in the Meadow the children are a bit older and a delightful example of family life.  And finally, an Australian family I have only just discovered via Little Jenny Wren - Hugo and Elsa  I love their stylish home, put together after trips to thrift shops and junk yards.  It clearly shows just what is possible.  If you are in your thirties and have a blog that illustrates the ideals I'm talking about here, please add a comment so that other readers can find you.

This decade is all about consolidation.  It's about bonding as a family, establishing boundaries, working towards common goals, becoming the person you want to be, being the kind of person you want your children to be and, again, being very careful with debt.  There is always some money trap waiting to spring - be careful, know your limits and stay strong.  Refusing to join the teeming masses is good for the soul as well as the bank balance.  By staying true to your values at this time you can become self confident, and feel a sense of enrichment that will carry you through those times when your friends can't quite work out where you're coming from.  As you grow older, you'll care less about what others think.  If you're sure the way you're living is right for you, never be put off it.  There will be times when you question your choices, that's good!  Don't forget to have fun along the way and look for the beauty that each day holds - sometimes it's difficult to find but it's always there.  This way of life should be full of opportunities for relaxation, enjoyment and learning.  Grab them every time they crop up.  And don't forget:
  • Expect to make mistakes and learn from them when they happen.
  • Continue to be self reliant.
  • Continue to save for your retirement.
  • Keep learning new life skills.
  • Always support your family and your friends and be kind to yourself.
  • Read.
  • Get enough sleep.



  1. In other words, listen and learn from the mistakes and experiences of others. It will save you a lot of time in the long run.It is hard to do what someone else is telling you because they want to save you the heartache of finding it out first hand, but wisdom comes with age, and if you can bring yourself to use the wisdom of your elders, you will have more time to enjoy so much more of your own life.

  2. What an interesting post. I found it really helpful. I could relate to lots of your views!!

  3. Good Morning, Rhonda Jean!
    This was such pleasurable reading! There's hope for me after all! I'm in my thirties and in the middle of that busy-home-building-get-tire-alot stage. We have a mortgage on our place, but it's relatively small compared to what other families our age have to pay off, but it's still a struggle to make ends meet. I especially find it hard with all the money that flies out the door to pay for the children's activities. It's not cheap! Nearly $300 a term for two children to learn the piano. $200 a term (generally 10 weeks) for two children to play a sport. And then there are uniforms and books on top of that. We've tried to cut down these fees, but it still is rather hefty, and I expect will get worse as they grow older and develop their interests more.
    We have thought about selling up and getting rid of the mortgage (we could do it), but this place just suits us so well. But there's always that option.
    I enjoyed reading the start of this age series yesterday. I loved reading through Jessica Watson's blog. So amazing. Thank you for the link.
    Hope you have a lovely day.
    Rachel L from NZ

  4. Hi Rhonda, it feels like you wrote this post just for me. We're taking exactly the journey you describe, with limited money and definitely limited time. Talking about thrift and op shopping for clothes - my husband has a friend with 2 boys. His wife buys many of their clothes at op shops. They are slightly oder, so every now and then I get a large bag of second hand clothes. These clothes get worn by my son, and when outgrown and still good, I throw them into a top cupboard. When the pile threatens to fall out on my head I bundle them all up and post or drop them to my friend in Brisbane, with two younger boys. Her brother has an even smaller boy so some clothes have gone through at least 5 families.
    Thanks for your blog Rhonda, it helps to keep me sane.

  5. I love this Simple Living Series!

    I feel more like I'm aiming for the goals described in this post than the one for people in their thirties, maybe because my husband is a couple of decades ahead? Thanks for writing this tutorial.

  6. Thanks for this post Rhonda. I'm at the start of my thirties and have been living a frugal life for the last 8 years and a simple life for the last 3 years (since my son was born).

    We made some good decisions in our late twenties (scrimping and saving for deposit, bought house, paid as much off as we could). We have now upgraded our house and because of these good choices, we have a slighter bigger and more usable house but a much smaller mortgage.

    Our goals for our 30's are to build our skills in living simply, and to be mortgage free before 40.

  7. Good Morning Rhonda,

    Thankyou for this series - I have found them to be very interesting and informative. I look forward to reading the rest, to see what sorts of things I am headed towards.

    We are in our 30's - although we began this part of our life journey in our 20's, as we married young and had our babies in the 20's. We lived on one very small income, and lived simiply and frugally out of necessity, rather than choice. Looking back now, I am glad we did things this way, because it has helped set us up. We managed to buy our first house in that time, and developed good habits in our family and our finances. The only thing I wish I had done, is taken things like cooking from scratch, sewing, gardening (those old homemaking arts) etc more seriously. But - there is still time to learn, right?

    My own blog is about our homeschooling journey with our children - this has ended up being the best way for us to raise our children. I personally found our frugal manner of living difficult in a school situation - simply because of the daily comparisons I faced with other, less frugal families. I have found it to be a great way to really focus on developing our family relationships, to work together as a family in our home and to raise our children in a slightly more frugal manner.

  8. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Rhonda. After reading your 20's post I was eagerly awaiting this one for my age group.
    My husband gets a bum rap all the time from well meaning relatives and friends who call him "miserly", but we are just living frugally, sensibly, and certainly not uncomfortably.
    Your advice is fantastic, and I will be back after the school run, morning chores and activities to read it again and click on some of the links provided!
    I would like to leave a link too, for my blog for anyone interested, it's great to "meet" like minded people and pool ideas, experiences, recipes and knowledge. I'm a mother of 4, growing kids, vegies and traditions: Home Grown www.jellyfishfingers.blogspot.com

  9. My husband and I are in our mid 30's and a lot of what you say is true. Especially the tired and overworked part, LOL.

    It seems to be the decade you really jump into living your dreams, and there's nothing to prepare you for the transition between fantasy and reality. There's always a lot more work and funding involved than you think, LOL.

    But it's also the decade where you realise what's most important. There's always a consistent theme playing in the background, and no matter what dreams you were chasing in your teens, 20's and now 30's; something always sticks out as consistent.

    I'm heartened by the fact, you said after the decade passes, people tend to know what they want. I'm in the middle phase. Some things are sticking out and some things are falling away. I hope by our 40's we'll have a clear path of what we really want.

    My biggest recommendation by the time you reach your mid 30's, is to stop borrowing money. If you have a house and a reliable car, stop borrowing - don't look for that one more thing that will make your life complete.

    Chances are it won't, because you're still learning what's most important to you. Stick with the basics, a house and reliable car, and work at paying them off. You can't really do that if you're still borrowing for more things. :)

  10. Good morning Rhonda. This is inspired and inspiring.

  11. thanks so much for this post, rhonda! i just turned 30 in november, and i'm still single. but slowly ... moving toward a more self-sustainable way of living. I do hope to be a wife and mama sometime in this decade!! it's hard to wait but overall i know it's for good reason!

    My blog is www.karenszen.blogspot.com

  12. Reading this is my quick break in a busy day. I am in my late 30's with two littles and one on the way. About two years ago we totally changed our lives. Totally.
    This week is the next step. We are selling our lovely home to buy something cheaper to be out of debt sooner and save up for the land we want.

    I have learned so much and try to share what I am learning about living on purpose. Simple living is not easy living. But it is so much better.

    Even in the midst of a heart-breaking move, I am taking the time to make our foods, cleaners, and toiletries from scratch. Trying to live in each moment of this season while planning for the next is not easy. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

  13. Thank you for this post - I'm really enjoying the series! My husband and I are in our 30s and are learning to live on less (even with two incomes) and add additional income streams in order to pay off our mortgage early. We don't know many people who choose to live as we do, so your words are very encouraging.

    I blog at The Working Home Keeper


    and write from the perspective of a wife, mother of three and home keeper also employed outside of the home. Lots of musings about my favorite things - faith, my family, local foods, cooking from scratch, enjoying the simple pleasures of life, thrifting and creating beauty in the home for less.

    Mary Ellen

  14. Thank you for a great post.

    I am in my early thirties and am loving it! I am finding that this is a time where I am realising how important it is to look after myself. If I want to be the best mother and wife, I need to be ok first.

    I write my blog as a way to express my creativity, which I never did until last year. I am really slowing down and enjoying each moment I have with my children as I know that it will be gone very soon.

    All the best.


  15. I am 34 years old, living in Tasmania, married with a toddler and am building a life of simplicity and connection to old ways whilst balancing a modern life in an inner city suburb. We have a large block of land 10 minutes from the centre of the city, an old home that we love and are creating a little inner city farm and are experimenting with how far we can take living a sustainable self sufficient life so close to town. Follow our story at http://greenappledesignstas.blogspot.com/
    down to earth and soulemama are my primary inspirations - thank you

  16. Ooh, this is my age! I'm 36.

    We own our house outright, and it does make like a lot easier, for sure. We still have some debt, but for a long time, we've only been paying it off, and not adding to it, so I know if we keep going in this way, we'll be fine.

    We have three beautiful children and are firm believers in being role models. No one can ever be perfect, but we are aware that they are always watching and behave accordingly.

    We're thinking a lot about preparing for retirement, and leaving inheritances for our children, etc. Also, setting up the house with a water tank, waterless toilet, solar panelling etc are the types of things we want to do after we've done initial repairs around the house.

  17. what a lovely post - Im nearing the end of my thrities, and its only over the past few years I have really begun to appreciate my lot in life, and try to simplify the way we live. Its baby steps all the way, but Im really loving the journey.

    I blog at nicolewood.blogspot.com

    Im looking forward to reading blogs of others in a similar stage of life.

    Nic xxx

  18. Hi Rhonda,
    Thanks for the reminder on simple living. I'm enjoying this series and was looking forward to today's post (and wasn't disappointed :) ).

    We are in our early 30's and with a mortgage and new bub. Most of what you have written, we do and we enjoy it. At the moment we are learning to supplement our cloth nappies with 'natural infant hygiene' and after only doing it for a few days, at 5 weeks old, bub gets upset if we don't offer him the potty (and it's less nappies to wash :) ).

    I would add that now (or earlier) is a good time to think about retirement. I doubt that I'll get the pension when I reach that age, and super will probably not be enough either (esp. as a SAHM). I understand wealth can be a dirty word, but I don't think it has to be, esp. if it means 'investing' in future, debt-free security.

  19. Thanks Rhonda - very fitting words for me right now! With them in mind, I now head off to make some playdough with my daughter and enjoy a very rare day with just the two of us at home together.

  20. Thank you for this post. So very helpful and encouraging as usual, Rhonda. I am finding that, in my 30's, I have just begun to embrace a more intentional lifestyle, and truly focusing on the important aspects, gradually leaving further and further behind the "trappings" of consumerism. Thank you for all of your advice.

  21. My husband and I are in our 30's. We are in the process of buying a house, and getting ready to start a family. My journey of what I call "conscious and conscience living" isn't spurred by finances since until we replaced my husbands truck with a family-friendly vehicle I didn't have any debt for years and had put together some halfway decent savings. My journey is spurred more by a desire to be centered and to live a socially and environmentally friendly life. My blog is: loveknowledgezeal.wordpress.com

  22. We're in our 40s living a simple debt free life, have a young son and another baby on the way. We're very happy although I sometimes wish we'd got here sooner! Your post is spot on.

  23. I'm going to print this whole series out - it's so good, thank you. Also, the links! Hugo and Elsa, that is one wonderful blog.

    I think the 30's are also a time when some of the biggest mistakes can be made. I see people I know who are more settled than in their 20's, and suddenly have a little money, acting crazy and buying way beyond their means on large items - cars, houses etc.

    I'm really enjoying my 30's, though I do feel a bit envious of the slow down quiet time that is so obviously NOT going to be part of this decade. Good things about this decade: paying off the house, watching the children grow up, settling into simplifying, and looking forward to even more self reliance!

  24. I so wish I had been at this place when I started my thirties! I had just married and started having children, but we hadn't really sat down and talked expectations, and we also accumulated quite a bit of debt when we first got married, and once we started having children, it was hard to make a dent in the debt. It wasn't until my late 30s (I'm 43 now) that I really started to do all of those things. They've still been helpful, but things would have been MUCH better if I had started my 30s on better financial footing.


  25. A blog of a 30-something in India that I love to read is http://themadmomma.wordpress.com/

  26. Thanks for these posts Rhonda, and to everyone who's commented!

    I'll be 30 in less than 2 weeks, so it's all change... (although of course that day won't be any different to the day before!). I feel like I spent the early part of my 20s working out what my ideals where, and the last few years I've been slowly settling and putting some of them into practice.

    It's a time of change for me anyway, with the end of a PhD (so no more studying - after 10 years of it), the start of new work (part time!), and several other things. I'm looking forward to the decade.

    Although I'm sure you have far more wisdom in these matters than me, I might question the necessity of house ownership. I understand you get more freedom in some ways, of being able to use land in the way you want etc, but it also seems to saddle people with debt and responsibility. And seeing 'homes' as 'investment opportunities' has caused an awful lot of trouble for everyone in the UK at least. Perhaps that's different in different countries though? And perhaps if people were only allowed to invest in the homes they actually lived in it would be different?

    Sorry, back to topic, your posts are inspirational as always, I look forward to reading about later years!


  27. Rhonda ... a rich treasure trove of great principles and advice. I'm sending my daughters to your sight .. they're both in their early/mid twenties. Hugs & Thank you for putting this down in a blog form.

  28. I am 31, and my husband is 33. We have 3 children. We made some bad decisions in our 20s, and accrued a lot of debt--but now we are trying to turn our life around, live more simply and meaningfully, and eventually save up for a house in the country.

    My blog is http://gettingthere.typepad.com

  29. I am 29 and have 5 children... yes, five!!! The oldest is a special needs foster son, he is 9 years old. We have our home full of boys running around as the four oldest are boys. I stared cutting back only a few months ago as I am feeling the weight of debt . A year ago we had no debt and our business was doing well. Since then we've gone through our savings to keep both personal and business afloat, and now have taken on debt. It's such a burden. We've been in our home for 4 years now and love it here. We've learned to re-use and to stop consuming and with all the turmoil of the economy, I have never been happier with how I'm living.
    It will take us a while do undo what we've done, but I feel like it's opened our eyes, and in that sense, it's been worth it.
    Thanks for your posts. I really appreciate the inspiration.


  30. Hi Rhonda Jean, Í'm in my late thirty's and my husband turned forty last year, our boys are three and two. Your post is the stage we are at in our lives at the moment. We have been working hard toward paying down our mortgage and we don't carry any other debt.

    I have just started a blog to record this stage of our lives. We are starting to improve our backyard, by starting to grow organic vegies, and I am decluttering the house.

    Your blog is an inspiration and I thank you so much for sharing your way of living and experiences. Your openess and caring are a guiding light in my journey to a frugal, slower way of living.

  31. Thanks so much for this post. I turned 30 last August, and have been unemployed since the beginning of last September. Wow, talk about taking stock! I have what I would could consider a large credit card debt, though it seems meager in comparison to the national average (which is insanely high, by the bye). So, even in our current state of broke-ness, I'm trying to pay down those debts. And I'm learning the value of our money, which is something I definitely didn't learn as a child. Hopefully, I'm doing better with that aspect, with our 11 year old.

  32. I always appreciate your wise words Rhonda, but these ones struck a particular chord!

    We left the city at the start of this year and now live a more simple life on the south coast of WA.

    We always had the chooks and veggie patch in the inner city, but here I feel so at home and surrounded by more like minded people.

    Such a relief to escape the consumer mentality of the city. I never did get the appeal of trawling the shopping malls and the "must have" flat screen TV.

    Our city friends regard us as "mung beans" but to us it's just living life in a way that's more sensible, simple and wholesome.

  33. I'm a bit late on the scene, but my blog at http://gardenforautism.blogspot.com/ is as a disabled woman with a disabled child. I will never own a home, probably never get off benefits. For many people, this is a doom sentence, but there ARE ways to cope. I'm turning 39 this year and I think even with a lack of what people would call "success" in business or finance, I'm happier than I've been in a while.

  34. We here do live frugally and try to save money. We are in our 30's. We aren't in much debt now. I do things that I can here instead of spending much money on things such as make my own bread, make my own laundry detergent and all purpose cleaners, etc. I also shop pretty well and get good deals and stock up when I can on good deals. We also save money in lots of other ways. We do not own a TV so we have no satelite bill, we only have one car. I could go on but you get the idea. We have learned to live frugally and simple. I am still learning more about living simple and frugal as well. I try to learn as much as I can. I get a lot of information from other people's blog such as yours. Thanks for all the ideas and such good posts.

  35. Hi Rhonda,
    This was a really interesting article, thankyou for posting it. However my concern is that it has such a strong focus on being married/in a long term relationships. I'm nearly 32, single, and after finally graduating from uni at 26 (I followed a lifelong dream to become a vet) life has been a struggle. At 26 I was living a normal adult life for the first time (ie. not consumed by study and exams - veterinary science becomes a way of life, not just a job/career) but doing so with great difficulty as vets earn such a low wage (35K on graduation, after 5 years in practice I still hadn't cracked 50K). The constant financial worries have been prohibitive for personal growth - always stressing about money doesn't do much to allow a healthy relationship to develop. So I guess my question is what advice would you offer to a single 31 (nearly 32) year old, with 10K credit card debt and no savings, who is living as simply as I can (my budget is down to the dollar) but just can't get on top of things? Part of the debt arose as I had to have some major surgery that cost me several thousand dollars, so should hopefully be a one off. I would really appreciate your thoughts.

  36. Dear Rhonda, I enjoy reading your blog every now and then. However, let me disagree with you just a little. It is wonderful to live simply , but we also have to remember that we do not live in our houses- we live in society. Eeverything we do will impact others, whether we want it or not. If I sack my cleaning lady and start doing housework myself, she will have trouble paying her bills. If I stop buying my weekly coffee from small coffee shop run by local family they might have to close it. If I stop travelling by air, how do I learn about other people's lives and how do I see the rest of the world? Your blog is wonderful and certainly there are a lot of people who NEED to read it to stop spending money on silly things, but as in everything else, there has to be a balance. All the best.

  37. "One thing I know to be true, working together as a team, especially when times are tough, bonds you to your partner like nothing else."---Although I'm not 30 {we married young at 19 and chose not use birth control so children came quickly and now at 26 we have 4}, I have found this to be very true. The first 5 years of our marriage were the HARDEST and unpleasant at times with adjusting to each other and having three children ages 2 and under..but it does pass quickly and now with the addition of another child and the other children getting older and doing more for themselves, life has calmed down some and we've found a rhythm to our day. I would encourage young people to not wait until they are 30. I bought a house at 18 and by the time I am 35 it should be paid for. Determine what you want from life as a youth and set goals to achieve it. Then when you are 30 you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your children and spouse.



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