Cutting back and looking for savings

19 January 2011
We have to tighten our belts.  Like many of you, Hanno and I live on a limited and usually fixed amount and with prices rising and new babies on the way, we're looking for ways to save.  We've already skimmed back to the bone on many things: we gave up cable TV, our second car, magazines and newspapers, eating out and buying clothes every year; we stockpile, cook from scratch and make do with what we have; now we're looking to fine tune our savings and make sure that what we have to spend still covers everything we need.

Generally, between the vegetable garden and the eggs our chooks lay, we save quite a bit on the grocery bill.  But we didn't plant any crops over summer and with the floods in this area wiping out many of our vegetable crops, fruit and vegie prices are skyrocketing.  Hanno said he saw tomatoes at $8.90 a kilo the other day!  We'll start planting our main vegetables soon a bit earlier than usual. We'll grow a lot of tomatoes, potatoes and vegetables to store in the cupboard and preserve just in case the prices don't go down again soon.  We'll buy frozen vegetables instead of fresh if the frozen are Australian and cheaper, and when we do buy fresh it will be at a little road side market stall that sells local avocados, pineapples and strawberries, along with other vegetables, not the supermarket.

Luckily we have a fair bit of fruit swelling to luscious ripeness out in the backyard.  At the moment we have lemons, oranges and madarines, a few pink grapefruit, paw paw|papaya, an over abundance of passionfruit, a few blueberries and if we're lucky, some grapes and bananas.  We might even get the first fruit from our avocado tree this year.

We're already baking bread, making soap and laundry liquid, we don't buy shampoo and we make our own dog food. We get by on very little but for the next few months, until our vegetable garden is in full swing again, we'll look for every other small saving we can make.  Don't feel sorry for us, this kind of auditing of our spending and making do is good for us and it helps us stay on track.  We still have a lot of pleasure in our lives and we wake up each day happy for the opportunity to work for what we need rather than buy it.  We have productive work to keep us engaged and to give a purpose to our days and we have ample time to rest and relax.  Life's good and it's getting better this year with two little people to meet and hold for the first time.  You cant get better than that.

But I'm interested to know how you cut back when you need to.  Do you have any good ideas because I think many of us are in this boat with us and it would good to sail into a safe harbour together.


  1. We really should/grow our own food. I DO show the perimeters of the grocery store and generally keep my eyes open for good sales on products that we use. Then I stock up. In the summer, we buy produce from Amish growers who have produce stands along the road. Our clothing needs are few; I mend and find creative ways to stretch their "life". Entertainment-wise, we enjoy table games (especially word games) and don't have cable TV. Wish I could add additional ways to save to those you mentioned. Mostly, learning to like what I have instead of having what I like serves us well here at Gatescroft.
    Oh--we use the public library frequently to catch up on magazine & newspaper reading. Try to keep our gas mileage down by combining errands, etc.

  2. Lovely, inspirational post, Rhonda!

    I guess cutting out non essetials purchases really helps(if you don't need it don't buy it and asking yourself 'do I really, really need that?).


  3. Like you we make due as well, but we have a younger family with still babes at home.One thing I do is to save every bit of clothing. Denim is a fabulous fabric for all sorts of things that need heavier weight to them, including patches. Husbands long sleeves shirts become short sleeved or no sleeved at some point. Older children's clothing not only become hand-me-down, but often fixer-uppers. Buttons are taken off items and zippers are reused. Towels, overedged and made smaller, but reused. Sheets..........well don't let me start! Even unravellings old sweaters and re-knitting.We don't have to buy clothes.

  4. I don't think I can teach you a new trick on how to save more money. You are such a big inspiration to many of us, I doubt if there is any person to give you new tips.
    But if there is one person who can... I also will give that new trick a try!

    Want to wish you the best finding new ways to save a little bit more money. Good luck!

  5. I'm working on setting up bartering transactions where I can. Avoiding the whole cash thing all together where possible. For example, I make soaps and my hairdresser was buying them off me to sell in her salon, now I just do a straight swap - soap for a cut and colour. Might be time to join back up with LETS (Local Energy Transfer System) too.

  6. I, too, am looking for ways to cut back. Baby #1 is due in May and I go from working full time to (hopefully) very part time. Its a major cut in income for us. We have already cut back as far as we can currently imagine, but I will look for more things to do this summer when I'm not working full time.

  7. I am thinking every day of something new. It's not that easy.
    I buy vegetables and fruit from a farmer nearby (which cost a lot less then in supermarket ir in grocery shops), I only buy fresh fish for me and the kid if there's something cheap. I rarely buy meat for me (I can eat it at lunch, paid by the office). and I sell some things that I don't need anymore whenever I find a buyer for it. even a couple of euro are better than no euro at all.

    and then I quote Cosmic. I always ask myself 'do I really need this?' when I'm about to buy something

  8. One of the things I do is to turn off all lights in the room, unless someone is actually there. Also, I unplug any and all appliances that don't need to be plugged in when not in use. Of course, the refrigerator stays plugged in..but the television, no, when I'm not watching tv, it's unplugged from the wall. The main reason being, that it still uses energy, even if it's not turned "on"...about 40% is used compared to what it uses when the app liance is on. let me give you an year, my utility bill was $60 US for a month...I started unplugging the tv and the air conditioner...especially overnight, too..that's hu ge...and my bill went down to $40 US. So those little things do add up. It takes a little extra effort, but it's worth it to have those extra dollars to spend towards other things. There's lots of other tips I use too, but this is the first one that came to mind.

    Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  9. just an observation in general for all readers. Ive always washed in cold water, never hot. i dont have a dryer and understand not everyone has the climate to line dry but what i have noticed since 30 odd years ago is how much people wash clothes...once upon a time things were worn then hung to air, not washed once they had been worn for 1/2 a day. i think a lot of savings on energy and water can be made by taking better care of clothing rather than just chucking it all into the wash as a mater of course.

  10. After my eldest was diagnosed with leukemia just before she turned 4 all our saving plans and goals and ideas went out the door. I actually don't know how we managed to survive each month, but we somehow got through. Then in February 2009 we sat down and completely re-did our budget. And for the first time actually stuck to it. We had to, we simply had no choice. One of the the biggest tips I always give ppl is to to work out expenses you know will be coming up i.e. your car's annual license fee or the Warrant of Fitness on your car and you know at some point you'll have to replace tyres. So work out what it would cost you if today you have to service your car, replace tyres, do your Warrant and get a new registration fee and then divide that up over however many months until it happens i.e. divide over 12 if it is happening in a year. Then you put away that little monthly amount each month. In a different bank account and do it as soon as you get paid. It is far easier saving up little amounts each month than to suddenly have to face a huge bill at a time when you possibly don't have a lot to cover the big expenses.

    If you are a contractor and have to do provisional tax, make sure you put away your GST and provisional tax every month into a different account otherwise you will end up spending it and then you have a problem when the time comes to submit returns to the tax man.

    For us there is very little we can still cut and unfortunately we are not in a position where we can keep chickens or do major veggie garden, but certainly it helps to sit down and do your weekly meal plans and then to go through the pantry and deduct from your shopping list items you have in the pantry and then only buy what you need. I.e. if for this week I need 5 potatoes and I have 2 in the cupboard I will only need to buy 3.

    I think it is also a good idea to do a check to see how much it costs you to make each meal and then to focus on the cheaper meals to make. I.e. meals with chicken is more expensive, but the price of mince is much cheaper, so spaghetti bolognaise will be cheaper to make.

  11. I can't think of any suggestions which would help you save money as you are far ahead of me on this frugal living journey. Maybe you could sell things that you make online, like on etsy.

  12. For anyone who hasn't been able to make their own washing powder/liquid.... my brother gave me a thing called a 'Laundry Wash Ball' or 'Oko Ball' for Christmas. It is green ball (chemical free!) that you leave in the washing machine, it lasts for 1500 washes (or 4 years). Save lots of money buying washing powder...

  13. I've been staying away from the shops and supermarkets as much as possible. When I do shop, it is with a list( strictly adhered to)
    Like you, I have been going over my expenses and am looking for ways to cut back. Maa.

  14. I'm giving roasting coffee a try at home. The organic beans I buy just went up to $11.99 a pound for Colombian beans that are roasted locally. The organic beans I bought cost $5.99 a pound including shipping. Here's a link to a friend of mine that roasts them in a cast iron skillet at home .. she swears they are the best .. She's not fussy about organic .. but does buy sustainable 'green' coffee beans and pays under $4 a pound when they come up for sale at that price .. including shipping. Since organic is better healthwise from what I've been reading as far as coffee beans .. I'm getting my first shipment today .. will post about it. When even this price gets too much, coffee will be axed from the budget.

    coffee roasting link here:

  15. Honestly, I am pretty bad at cutting back on things I have grown accustomed to. I've been lucky in my life that, even in my "lean" stretches, I have had enough to keep myself reasonably comfortable. The biggest way I save money is by not getting myself accustomed to an expensive lifestyle in the first place. It can be very hard to whittle away a few dollars here and there, off the grocery bills, the utilities, and at the end of the day, you still have the big bills: rent/mortgage, car, utilities, and so forth. Instead, I try to cut out "upgrades" and save that money instead. I'd love to have a more powerful chainsaw, but I'd love to have $500 in my pocket more, so I keep chugging along on the saw I currently own. There are a million items I can think of that I'd like to buy, and given modern attitudes towards spending, NOT buying them counts as saving, in a way, almost as much as cutting back does.

  16. Hi Rhonda,
    You are the queen of selfsufficency and I have certainly learned from you, in practicality and mindset. My little contribution to this discussion is that for me I find if I shop for our evening meal everyday, having a clear idea of what I'm cooking, saves me a lot of wastage. Previously, I'd buy things on special and intend to cook around that but it just was'nt working and the food would be wasted. I find it frees my time too as I plan early every morning and after dropping the girls at University I pop into the local and it's all done in a very short time. I also use the I need it? As well, I never use the drier, clothes are hung in the garage on a clothes horse and dry overnight, things like movies, dinning out and holidays are out but this is easily borne as the end result will be a much brighter future for our daughters on the employment scene.

  17. We are cutting back and looking for savings in a different way than $$. It's time we are short of at present, and energy.
    As far as budgeting goes, the best thing I ever did was start putting away regular amounts on bills and in my son's account. Mum recently asked me if I needed any help with back to school and honestly I don't as his account will more than cover it all. It's only $20 a week but because it transfers automatically, I can't forget about it. I pay bills on a fortnightly basis too. this really helps with the big stuff like rates - I usually get the $200 discount because I have pre-paid most of it by the time the bill comes up. Now to deal with the rego on our cars....

  18. I will be reading your posts with interest. We are cutting back so we can pay off the mortgage. The "will" is there from both my husband and I. Keep posting on things you do!

  19. I have stopped coloring my hair dont make soap from scratch as it is not cost effective for me. I buy Dr. Bronner bar soap from Trader Joes and about once a year a bottle of Dr. Bronner liquid soap. i dont use deodorant have nt done so for 10 years. Dont use makeup except lipstick which I get free with coupon.
    i dont salt for the driveway in the winter I just shovel and watch where I step. I only buy basic food and the for two of us spend about $45 a week. I buy two organic chickens from Trader Joes every two weeks and at Aldi s today I got tomatoes a bag of oranges bananas two avocado (wonderful and only 49c each and a box of eggs for $6.20 Everything comes up from Mexico this time of year so it does nt do to pay over the odds.
    The library and the internet are far and away the most money saving parts of my life. I almost never buy a book and when I do I use a promotion
    No magazine or newspapers. Separating wants from needs is hard sometimes. I micro-mile very carefully and use less than one tank of gas a month.
    Cook everything from scratch and take care of my clothes even the old ones polish my shoes and do all my own chores and gardening.
    At the moment I am making up little parcels for my grandchildren for Valentines - a month early but then the earlier you start these things the less money you spend.
    I am going to try your ginger beer and I am also interested in roasting my own coffee but I have heard it is a very dirty smelly job. I just use less of everything, coffee, tea.
    Planning ahead is essential.
    I get most of my grandchildrens clothes shoes books and toys at garage sales - baby stuff is incredible at these sales. I got a snow-suit for my 6 year old grandson for $1 - LLBean !!

  20. I receive assistance with my groceries here in the states, but with food prices rising here too (coffee in just a few months has gone from $5/can to $8), I use coupons when I can. My assistance only covers food, so I really try to find sales and/or coupons for things that I have to buy outright with cash, like toiletries.
    We also cut back on trips out. I have to go out each day to take my daughter to college, but we try to make our errands fit into one of those trips so we do go out more. We also cook more from scratch than we ever have.

  21. Here's a few ideas that come to mind that are second nature to me now: I re-use tinfoil and plastic sandwich bags many times by washing and air drying. Only use cloth napkins/serviettes for every meal and for guests too. In the past, used a babysitting club where parents swapped time instead of money to 'sit' for one another including some dads. Use a "Secret Santa" system to only buy for 1 adult in a large family at holidays. Send all parcels by surface mail 2 or more months ahead of overseas birthdays or special holidays eg graduation or Christmas gifts. Re-use wrapping paper & bows. Haven't bought pens for years as use the free ones husband brings home from conferences & overseas hotels after work trips. Use Skype to make calls or message-to-message texting. Cloth bags for grocery shopping--keep in car or near door to grab on way out of house to avoid having to pay for plastic bags at store. Line dry or on wooden racks inside or on hangers near an open window. Rent DVDs (even long after movie goes off circuit) or tape TV movies to our hard-drive to avoid exhorbitant movie prices. Give children & adults water instead of juice for packed school/work lunches. Do free exercise like walking & running & jumping/skipping rope. In the past, used to re-use tea bags twice--haven't done that in awhile so maybe I'll start again. Ditto with making 'sun tea' as well by putting a number of tea bags in a large glass closed bottle with water and put in the sun outside to 'steep'. Then, add ice and sugar/lemon and voila--iced tea, nature's way.

  22. Rhonda we are on the same boat saving every cent, i started a boge of my own this year to keep me on track & only put up a link to your blog on monday as i've been getting idears from you, but we divert our gray water to the back lawn to save water & the water bill,i'm looking at recipes that use cheep ingredients last nights dinner cost $5 (im harf way through that post)or 4-5 ingredients so i can see how long i can go without shopping. A new rule no call's to mobil phones.
    Each day id diffrent if you can go without using soming one day you've made that item last a little longer.
    good luck were on bored.

  23. I've noticed how high gas is now an how food prices are creeping up again as well. My income hasn't changed, so like you, I adjust in other ways. I haven't had my hair cut or purchased clothing in months. My from scratch meals are simple, yet nutritious. I grow herbs and will try some veggies in pots this summer. I look at it all as a challenge I can meet.

    Thanks, Rhonda for keep us inspired.

  24. Rhonda We have always had to watch our budget. We have never had cable TV, or a phone that does everything. I like my rotary phone. I buy locally when I can, We eat a lot of soup but we like soup so that is OK.
    We do grown a garden most years this year we did not for reasons to long to say, I noticed a big difference in our food bill. I will be back to gardening come May.
    You are so lucky to have the fruit you have, we have apples and our pear trees are starting to come they are still small. I can, and freeze and love the simple life.
    We live quite a way from a town so our gasoline bill can be high but I make one trip for all we need most times.
    I would not like to give up my only luxury; the internet. It keeps me sane.
    I think your blog helps people enormously and am glad I found it. Thank you.

  25. Reading comments made me think of something I do to save money -- I cut my own hair. Actually, I grow it out till I can cut off about 8 inches and send that to the pantene wig making charity ( Then I trim it up and start letting it grow out again. Saves me $30 to $70 for each cut and I generally wear my hair only in a pony tail anyways.

    Additionally, I don't wear make up (that at least $10 a month or so), which has let my skin clear up wonderfully.

    I should blog on this!

  26. The only possible ideas I have for you (because you are certainly an Expert with a capital E) is to perhaps save and start some seeds from your garden, so that you could have instant replacements if those torrential downpours do come, and- much more difficult- try to resist buying all the super-cute baby things that will probably become almost impossible to resist! Good luck. You are definitely an inspiration to me.

  27. We to have made so many cut backs. I always cut my hubby's hair and now I keep mine trimmed myself. We drive older automobiles that we have had for years.
    Our daughter and her family did a special thing last year to save money and to pay off a $10,000 debt. They did it and made their last payment this month. You can read all about it on her Blog at

  28. Hi Rhonda.
    This is a very timely reminder post. As you have so wisely said in past posts, the most important feature of simple frugal living is the psychological adjustment to a different way of life. Losing the sense of entitlement, so heavily promoted by popular media & advertising, learning to differentiate between needs and wants, and increasing our insight regarding what gives us real and lasting satisfaction.

    By the way, Rhonda, what do you do with your chickens when they have stopped laying? Do you keep them as pets or eat them? If you do the former, then is your chicken population for ever expending? What is their average lifespan?

  29. In NZ petrol is now $2 a litre so I am going to do my grocery shopping now after church as we live 20 mins from our nearest shopping centre.
    I waste nothing in the food area and eat mostly from our garden and hens. I have long hair and I get my daughter to trim it and she also does my eyebrows.
    Clothing - you can only wear 1 set of clothes at a time so why have 10 sets in the wardrobe. I brought floral fabric - pure cotton $5 a metre and this will make dresses that will last for years. I also brought leather shoes lst year that will last me the rest of my days. Don't be caught up in wearing the latest fashions. Buy classic.
    I have a petticoat that is 30 years old and most of my skirts are at least 5 and still look nice.
    Shop around for supplies. WE go to bulk bin shops for dried fruit/spices etc and we buy the fruit we want for jams/preserving on line and have them delivered to the door at a cost less than our petrol. I brought Black Doris Plums for $2.50 a kilo. One place in our nearest city had raspberries for $10 kilo - I got them locally for $5 a kilo. Best advice - stay home as much as you can each week if you are able. Be content with what you have and seek advice from otheres who have gone before you.
    Karen- NZ

  30. I can’t tell you enough, how you have inspired me. I retired last July after working 30 of the last 36 years as a nurse. Transitioning from a fast paced, stressful life to a sweet, slower pace, is transforming my life. I’m truly slowing down and taking time to smell the roses. Don’t get me wrong. I loved nursing, but it can be a stressful job and I did a lot of overtime. But it was time to leave it all to the younger nurses. I’m 60 now and don’t quite have the energy and stamina I used to. But now that I have the time, I plan on sewing more, and starting a vegetable garden in March. Already ordered my blueberry bushes, and have bought all my seeds. I’m trying to be more frugal now, living on a retirement income, and I enjoy all the stories, suggestions, recipes, and information, gleaned from this site. When I look back, I see where I wasted so much. It was this last Christmas, 2010 that I saved the turkey carcass for the first time in my life and made soup. I love reading your blog about simple living and ways to save and visit this site often. Hope you keep this site going for many years to come. I have a lot to learn.

  31. Oh the floods really are going to have far reaching consequences here in Australia...
    Down here where I live in the Adelaide Hills we grow some of our own food and have our own eggs (thankyou chookies!). At the moment we have zuccinies, lettuce, silverbeet, rhubarb, capcicum, cucumbers, peaches, apricots and a few other vegies. My approach now is to use what we have rather than buy. I plan from what I have available here rather than plan menus based on recipe books. I adapt recipes to fit :).
    Rice goes a long way. We eat a lot less meat than we used to which is probably a good thing health wise. One or two chicken breast fillets can go a whole meal for my family of four, including two tall teenaged boys.
    I buy meat only based on price. Sometimes I buy freerange chicken, which we all prefer. Organic is out of our reach pricewise. I try to think I bought a large frozen turkey the week after Christmas. Reduced from $45 to $10. Once defrosted we've had to work quickly! Made snitzel (two meals), mornay, soup, curry and kebabs from that one turkey!

    When we need to buy fruit or vegies we purchase at markets. We like to support local growers and find the fruit and vegies both fresher but also tastier.
    I rebel against the two dominating'll know who I'm talking about :).

    What else do we do? We buy op shop clothes, even shoes if they are good. Rarely buy clothes from shops, although the younger son, 14, does like his clothes new and that's fine.
    Over the years of raising kids, mortgage, both being employed with regular income or just my thing I have realised is that it is very possible to reduce your costs and live differently to the ratrace. The faster time flies as you live a super busy life racing around both employed, kids etc the more money flows through your fingers, kind of justified to make you feel better. Takeaway food, treats, extras at the shops....
    slowing down life can really help as it gives a chance to concentrate on the little things including where your money goes and what is important and/or necessary. Watching the sunset doesn't cost anything! Growing a fruit tree and eating the fruit costs a little and takes patience waiting for it to grow...but, like you know, there is nothing quite as enjoyable as picking a juicy peach off your tree, smelling it and enjoying eating it!

    Well, I've raved on here, hope you don't mind my comment is so long!

  32. The only thing I can think to add to what has already been said (and I'm sure you already know this, but maybe it would help readers)--remember that you don't have to follow a recipe exactly. If it calls for a special ingredient you don't keep around, then see if you can substitute something you do have. I rarely use recipes anymore anyway, because I end up buying more food when I do. Our grocery bills are lower if I just stick to cooking with what I have, along with what's available at the produce stand or on sale at the store. Soup and marinara sauce are both very forgiving and can be made with endless variations.

  33. Rhonda,

    I sincerely hope that this suggestion won't be taken in the wrong way... it is certainly not made with that intention. But from experience when I became a step-grandmother... it was very easy to get caught up in the excitement of a first or in your case, two grandchildren and to overspend on them. Whenever I saw something and thought... oh that's adorable... or oh, that's something they'll need, I tried to take a step back and remember that the parents would be wanting to buy or make those things for themselves. Also... I've read about you wanting to barter for or make diapers... again... is this something that you daughters-in-law would welcome or would they rather choose that themselves? And is it perhaps an expense that is their responsibility as new parents? As much as we want to help our children... it's their turn now... we've raised our babies.

    Again, I hope this won't be taken in the wrong way.

  34. we have 6 children so we do all the usual stuff like handme downs /repairing etc but i save alot because I plan out our menus.. i make a list of the meals we will eat (the kids throw there 2 cents in) and we write up a list and only buy whats on it nought else

  35. There are so many excellent pieces of advice already posted, I can't imagine what I would add, really. I just know it CAN be done. Having a happy and fulfilling life is not only possible, but in my opinion, more probable on a strict budget. Just don't buy anything (other than food and absolute necessities) unless you have to. My husband lost his job in 2009. But we had several months' notice, so I really stopped buying food just for us to eat day to day. Instead I concentrated on stocking up. I am still doing it that way. Of course, it is only the 2 of us now, but I only shop once every two months. I just refill our supplies. We are able to garden and have milk goats, and that helps as not only do we have the vegetables, but I can make cheese, kefir, and trade for eggs. I know many are not in a position to do that. But even if you can grow just a little food, in pots, it's worth it. If you can stock up a bit ahead, then you can watch for sales, and save food costs that way. Try to gradually build up a 3 month supply of the items you usually use. Rotate them carefully so they won't be wasted. Keep track of what is used so you can replenish when possible. Concentrate on buying staples (i.e. flour/wheat, potatoes, onions, dried beans, sugar/honey, good cooking fat, baking soda and powder, and that sort of thing.) We are able to get things in bulk through a small food co-op we belong to. I don't know if such things are available where you live, but you might consider researching and going together with other families to start one. Best of luck to you!

  36. As hard as I try, I'm still learning and still stumbling. Lately I've being stumbling out the frontdoor without grabbing a couple pieces of fruit to snack on until I get home for lunch, which leads me to buying snacks... er oops.

    Sewing is something I also proscinate on. I have three things in need of sewing. One is the valet on my bed, the curtain is pulling loose along one edge, another is a pair of jeans I've being meaning to take the hem up on for a couple weeks now (cough, has it being a month yet since I've bought them?), then there are the old jeans I tore up and have being meaning to re-use. I've already decided on a new cushion cover and a pencil case and possibly even a purse depending on fabric but I somehow find other things to do. Lets not meantion the unfinished dishcloth I started to crochet a couple months ago huh?

  37. Supermom, I'm happy to report that both sets of parents are happy to accept this help so they can keep their costs down. I also have the unique opportunity to promote a sahm's home business and I'm pleased to do it.

  38. Given you are so far ahead of the game already and psychologically adjusted to frugality, I can only suggest: making things to sell from things you already have, selling to a wider audience, foraging and, as someone else said, bartering. Even getting neighbours to save scraps/weeds/ bugs for chooks is a small saving. Good luck, am very envious of you getting grand babies!

  39. I shop online (Coles or Safeway) and that way I only buy the things that I need on my shopping list and there is no temptation to stray. It costs me $11-$15 per delivery, but saves me spending an extra $50 on naughty things like chocolate and icecream!

  40. I do some of the things that you have suggested, like making my own clothes liquid/gloop, recycle old worn out towels for cleaning rags (they are heaps better than chux type ones), I also knit my own dishcloths and make my own appliqued calico shopping bags. Having moved in the past year, and now being in the wet season, my vegetable garden isn't overly productive right now, but we'll get there eventually.

    The two biggest money savers I've found are the ability to say NO to my children (and hold fast to their whining), and to shop online - no impulse purchases and I buy only what I need. But, I do go to the supermarket at certain times to stock up on the marked down fresh stuff like bread.

  41. I'm currently in a position with almost no income (by choice) and I'm loving it more than when I had a good steady income. It really has made me think hard about what is necessary and has brought out my creative skills. Little things like seed saving instead of buying plants, trading produce, making things stretch further than I ever did before have made a huge difference. I've also taken to clearing out and selling things online - it's amazing what people buy! Perhaps the most important thing you can do for the little ones in your life is spend time with them rather than buy them things. After all babies don't actually need a huge amount of stuff but is amazes me what parents think is absolutely essential - and it's usually plastic that will end up in landfill.

  42. You are so very talented that I'm sure you could do well selling your handmade items. I also believe that when your book is released it will do wonderfully and that should help out a lot.

  43. Rhonda
    In times such as this I would look to gaining more money in as most of your purchases are down to the minimum.

  44. Oh Rhonda your posts are always so timely and spot on!

    One thing I have started to do is plan my meals on monthly basis - this is a great way of using what I have/using leftovers etc as I can see the "bigger picture" instead of working on a week to week basis.

    As for those new babies - do you have freecycle in Australia? This is a great way to get toys/bedding/clothes etc for babies and children.

    I also find ebay invaluable and managed to get my daughter's winter coat (for NEXT winter) for £4.50. Full price it would have cost about £25.

    thank you, Lisa (UK)

  45. Hi Rhonda--
    I can't give you any tips because I get a lot of tips FROM you already!

    I know that we could live "on the high end" but I never want my kids to think that everything comes without a cost. I want them to work hard and sometimes go without because it will help them as they begin their adult lives.

    We rarely go out to eat unless someone gives us a gift card because they have to appreciate our time spent preparing good food from our garden in our kitchen. That mindset has already been learned and they so much more prefer being home for meals. It's a time of contentment when they see my husband and me in the kitchen preparing the meal and talking about our day. I pray that is something they consider valuable for their spouses. We love creating new meal ideas with homemade breads and such.

    The children always do the laundry in the summer including hanging it on the clothesline. They are pretty careful how they hang them already so that the dry in the best condition possible. They know clothes need to be taken care of.

    We eat frozen peaches preseved from summer and you should hear the oohs and aahs! Spaghetti sauce from our own tomatoes. Carrots from grandpa's garden and cabbage is a real winner when that gets put on the table.

    I guess in summary part of the process is teaching the family the value of home, garden preservation, and the care for what you have because without that you become careless and unappreciative.


  46. I had to come back to read all of the suggestions .. there are some good ones here.

  47. a couple more things - I am (touch wood) in good health and have never taken vitamins. With your excellent food choices there is really no need. People seem to treat vitamins as magic potions - my mother never took them and as war babies we were given cod liver oil and concentrated orange juice. That was when food was rationed (1egg per week) I think the whole vitamin industry is a rip - the richest source of Vit D is middle class pee !
    Also if I were younger I would use a diva cup. The saving over ten years is substantial and its a lot healthier than tampons. I guess it takes three cycles to get used to it. Also look very carefully at your insurances - sometimes they can creep up and its time to change - I re-did mine last month and am now saving $1,000 a year.
    I open a college savings account for each of my grandchildren as they come along. A small amount each month is much better than buying them a lot of crap I figure that the amount saved with pay for at least one year at college for them.

  48. We do spend money on things that are important to us – this isn’t budgeting to the extreme. But acknowledging these ‘treats’ allows you to carry on minimising in other areas, without feeling hard done by or guilty.
    To us, sustainability and biodiversity are essential and therefore food takes up a big part of our budget. I don’t feel comfortable lining the pockets of supermarkets so will buy locally, even if that means more expensively. Not frugal in terms of money, but certainly in terms of world resources. Cooking is favourite hobby and therefore preparing delicious food is entertainment to me and takes a lot of my evening. That is a really useful mindset! I have talked to my local shop owners and asked them to stock products to reduce me having to order from the internet – this cost no more through the shop and they got my business!
    Clothes are dried in front of the woodburner. Remind myself that its sustainable and strangely comforting to see it, when my living room appears to be a wash room. To remove any ‘wet clothes’ smell, we put cloves (left over from mulled wine!) on the stove. We don’t shower every day as this is unnecessary for most of us and wasteful.
    Food and leftovers get passed around – once the bones have been made into stock, the cat gets them to chew anything off, the chickens then peck it clean and the pigs get the bones. We produce almost no waste. We keep animals for meat, use them to turnover land and grow most of our own veggies.

    Eat seasonally – learn to love winter veg for example, even if it means another stew or soup – get creative in the kitchen! Socialise at home. Brew your own beer- from kits this cheap and really good!
    Shopping is only at the charity shops, which I trawl almost daily where I work. I buy something if I know I’ll use it -works out cheaper in the long run (maybe not for those on a day to day budget).
    My latest obsession is patching all our old jumpers at the elbows with charity shop woven wool scarves (cost pence, don’t fray, easy to sew on and in loads of colours and patterns!)

    Also, don't obssess over saving money tasks-- acknowledge if you do something becuase you enjoy it. It's great to recognise life's pleasures!

  49. Our electricity usage is charged by time of use. The cheapest rate is on the weekend and between 9 pm and 7 am weekdays. I try to do the week's cooking on Saturday and Sunday. The electric stove is unplugged unless in use (actually the main switch on the box is turned off). This has saved us a lot of money. The meals for the week are then reheated. We don't eat meat, mostly vegetable/bean or wild salmon based meals. When I do have to cook (salmon) I use an electric fry pan - cheaper than the stove. Even on the weekend I use slow cookers, make extra batches of bread or bread dough to freeze. Even though we buy green electricity, our bills are much lower than the average. We also have a sun oven which we use in the summer.

    Our house also has electric heat in the ceiling which we do not use. I found out last year that even though we don't use it there is still electricity being used. We had it disconnected and noticed a decrease in our electricity usage.

    Love this blog and look forward to reading it daily. We live in central Canada so our seasons are reversed but I store away any ideas that apply.

  50. Can you barter for things? I used to trade excess produce from my garden or books/movies for eggs and different veggies or help around the house and garden.

    I also used to salvage wood furniture and give it some tlc before selling or trading it. A friend let me borrow his power tools in return for doing some baking and I'd sand down items and restain or paint them. Don't have the space now but I miss seeing things come together.

  51. Hi Rhonda,

    Gosh, hard assignment, you do sooo much already. But here goes;

    Hire an energy appliance tester from your library (the Qld state government EnergyWise program). Testing how much energy your washing machine, sewing machine, water pump, tv etc uses, when both on and on-standby, might help you find new ways to save.

    I don’t recall you talking much about senior cards – you must be due for one soon. With some research you might find some extra savings with that program. Even perhaps call some of your suppliers and ask if they have non advertised discounts?

    And have you applied for a health care card from centerlink? It helps you save on utility accounts and health care. Actually, you probably know all about this from working at the community centre, still it might help someone else.

    Last year we changed our internet connection from bigpond to internode. Half the price, 4x faster and about 100 x more up n’ downloads. We’re very happy with their service. We also dropped our phone line. Now we just use our mobile plans and skype. I don’t think you have a mobile, but perhaps you can investigate using only Skype, email and snail mail? My Dad couldn’t dream of not having a home phone, perhaps you feel the same. But sometimes it’s worth re evaluating the things we instantly say ‘no way’ to.

    My final piece of advice is;

    Congratulations! You have definitely completed Your Money or Your Life, Step 6 – minimising expenses. It’s now time to pick up the book again and read Step 7 – maximising income.

  52. Even if reading here about some cost-cutting measure that I've been doing for ages, it helps to have you, RJ, and these folks remind me of it, support me in it. Simple living helps our planet too. Just got hit with a BIG health ins. increase, so we're tightening too. I'm excited tho' 'cause I've finally talked Hubby into adding more insulation to the attic. In this case, spending $ in 2011 will save even more $ in the long term.

  53. After being told that I need to rebuild my open fireplace chimney, even though I rarely used it , I rebelled and had my husband knock out the fire place and bought a beautiful wood burning cooking stove . Now you can’t get us out of that room. I use it to bake my bread now, cook soups or pot meals and oven meals. Preparation is still done in my kitchen and my electrical stove because of the location. The thermostat has been on 16C day and night and I only hear the furnace come one couple of times.
    I love washing my sweaters by hand and drying them outside , I also hang my clothes up and air them so I don’t wash them after each wear .
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful blog with us. I have been looking at making my own cat food, I have 4 four legged babies, but so far I have not been successful. I am vegetarian and cooking meat makes me queasy . Any suggestions

  54. Goodness - there's a lot of great advice in these comments - I don't know what I can add with regard to saving money... except that I joked to a friend just this week that it must be against my religion to buy anything new these days! I do love to re-use anything and everything I can. But, you are already doing that, too.

    But, as for increasing the income coming in - your etsy store is a great idea.

    I wonder if you could also utilise the great following you have here on the blog and write up an e-book or two? I know you are writing a "real" book already, but an e-book in a specific area wouldn't have to take away from the book...

    I've bought e-books and e-patterns before, only a couple of dollars a pop, and I feel good about paying for that person's expertise...
    You have so many skills and such experience Rhonda, there'd be more than a few of us willing to pay for it.

    or, an e-course in frugal living? That would be brilliant.


  55. Thank you so much for this post.

  56. We stopped buying all books and use only the library, we stopped all magazine subscriptions,eating out (rare rare), we lowered our thermostat and layer up during winter, no more fancy car washes (they were almost $10 each) now I wash my car and windows, consolidated trips to town to save on gas, shop around for EVERYTHING, never pay full price for anything and we just clearly define wants vs. needs. And I use coupons. I unfortunately learned these lessons the hard way and we almost lost everything. Please tell your readers to learn to be frugal before you have to be frugal. Life is too short.

  57. I noticed in this post that you said you do not purchase shampoo. Just curious, as I am trying to find a cheeper way to wash our families heads of hair, what do you use for shampoo? Not sure if you are able to barter for it - or if you have a homemade version. Just curious.

  58. Martie, I use my homemade soap to wash my hair and have done for a few years now. It does a very good job.

  59. We have always lived frugally.....we don't have cell phones, while the kids were growing up and into college, we didn't watch TV (we listen to the radio or play games or TALK or eat together or read.....and we live near a large city!); when I go to the grocery (I love to grocery shop!) I buy what's on sale or clearance and then figure what to make with's usually meat but we don't eat much meat anyway. And we have ???? we doing fine and paying for 2 kids in college now. I love living like this and when we want to go out to eat, we do!

  60. How about teaching your frugal living class online? I am sure there would be lots of people willing to do say a 6 week course to set them up and get all the routines in place.

  61. WOW - what amazing stuff. Rhonda - so much to be learned from you and your readers. We were a family of 6 and we were raised in the frugal trenches, but when I got out on my own and had control of my own finances, well, there were certainly indulgences. Though, I'd often be thrifty in one space so I could splurge in another. As the years go by, I find myself coming back to those early ways and even taking it further. And I was always a pretty good saver, and not into taking on big debts, so that gave me an edge. The company I worked for was bought out by Verizon and thousands were sent to the house (me included, and 6 years sooner than planned). Some people feel deprived being frugal, but mostly it just gives me a feeling of being in control.
    TIPS: squeegee the toothpaste down and cut the end of the tube off so you can get at all of it; mist windows and put on bubble wrap at least on the non-gorgeous view windows; pin black fabric up on sun facing curtains in winter, and go back to white liners in summer; close vents and doors in unused rooms, space heat heavily used rooms, lightly heat lightly used rooms; in summer leave garage door up about 3-4 inches and leave attic access in garage open to allow faster escape of attic heat; plan landscape/garden plants that shade house in summer, especially east and west sides; if you're not a big milk user, buy half & half and water it down as needed, it keeps about 5 times longer than milk in the fridge; vent electric dryer indoors into old pantyhose in cold weather (remember to cover regular vent so cold doesn't leak into the house, return to venting outdoors in hot weather (this was in Mother Earth News); cook outside in summer.

    Thank you for giving so generously of yourself. Did you know you'd be helping people all around the world?


  62. Wow, great info. Nothing to add, just wanna join in! We have two kids, no cell phones, share a car, make almost every meal from scratch, use coupons (new for us), learning to stockpile, really want to garden and am reading up on it, we buy almost nothing outside of food (and we're on one full time, one part time income). But when we do buy it's always frugal and out of necessity :) As much as it stresses me, it's necessary for me to go on full time at least for a bit...we are just behind on everything and getting a home just wouldn't happen. A lot of being able to save money also comes with buying at least partially in bulk or making products at home and can't do either at the moment. I digress. I'm happy to labor for the good of the fam :) I love this blog and the joy it brings!

  63. My small contribution is saving money by gardening frugally. We grow more of our family's food each year, saving us a packet (including the health benefits) but it still costs some money to get started and to maintain. We always work with nature to make the most of what we plant so we have less casualties. We see our backyard as full of free resources so we use them differently - less and less is 'waste.'

    We've saved by making our own organic fertilisers including recycling food wastes & weeds in creative ways, finding out where/how to get plants for free, repurposing old containers into planters, recycling building materials whilst renovating, revamping old potting mix to make it stretch and creatively reusing egg cartons, toilet rolls, cardboard boxes, milk bottles, plastic meat trays etc to turn them into useful garden tools like seed raisers, watering cans, plant labels, scoops, funnels, fruit fly traps and regularly replant parts of veggies to grow new ones for nothing! Free instructions to make these at Checking the Classifieds under 'Giveaways' you'll often find just what you need for your garden too. Keep the great ideas coming.



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