27 September 2011

20 ways to cut back on spending

With world finances getting jittery again, maybe it's time to highlight a few measures to help us all spend as little as possible while remaining comfortable in our homes.
  1. Spend less than you earn. Not just today and this week, but all the time.
  2. Spend only on needs, not wants.
  3. Make up a workable and realistic budget and stick to it.
  4. Stockpile food and groceries - this is your insurance policy that even if the worst happens, you'll still be able to feed the family.
  5. If you have to find some money you don't have to pay bills cut out unnecessary expenses like internet, mobile phone, cable TV, magazines, coffee at the cafe etc.
  6. Cook from scratch.
  7. Never waste food, eat your leftovers and have a couple of meatless meals every week.
  8. Take lunch and a drink to work and school.
  9. Monitor your electricity, water and gas use. Learn how to read your meters.
  10. When you're cooking on the stove top, bring the food to the boil with the lid on, then turn the power down to a simmer. Leaving the gas or electricity on full will waste it.
  11. Turn off lights and TV when you leave the room. 
  12. Turn off stand by appliances when you're not using them and when you go to bed.
  13. Stop buying cleaning products and make your own using bicarb and vinegar.
  14. Make your own laundry liquid. There is a recipe for it here.
  15. If you haven't already done it, think about putting in a vegetable garden. If you've already got one, think about adding fruit and herbs.
  16. If you have no space to grow vegetables, buy your fruit, vegetables, eggs and honey at a local market. The prices will probably be cheaper than the supermarket.
  17. Check out your local butcher shop. The prices will probably be lower than the supermarkets and the quality of meat better. (We bought lamb on special at one of the big supermarkets last week and the quality of it was vastly inferior to what we usually get from our local butcher. Lesson learned.)
  18. Teach yourself to knit and sew. There are many sites on the internet with very good instructions, tutorials and sometimes, videos. Try MADE, Instructables, Knitting Help.
  19. Make your home the kind of place you want to spend time in. Invite friends around instead of going out for coffee or drinks.
  20. Self reliance and a thrifty mindset will help you get through most things. Start with one thing, then move on to the others when you're ready.

It doesn't take much to go out and spend, all you need is money or a credit card and some time. Not spending takes thought, planning, work and determination. But being prudent with your resources, especially when the economy is shaky, will give you peace of mind and the feeling that you're doing as much as you can to look after yourself and your family. 

I believe that we should all live our lives in a way that makes us happy and fulfilled. Enrichment doesn't come from acquisition, it's more complex than that. In my experience, enrichment and fulfilment come when I know I'm doing my best and living each day according to my values. It's not tied up with products, keeping up with the Joneses and following fashion. So if you're just starting out on a more simple life and you're a bit apprehensive about trying some, or all, of the list above, I encourage you to dive right in. I expect you'll get more out of it than you ever imagined.

If you have some more tips to share and add to the list, please do so. I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with.



  1. Wonderful ideas! Thank you for sharing!

  2. The only thing I would disagree with is the Internet; it's pretty crucial to anyone unemployed right now as all applications are handled online. No one requires a paper application here anymore. We kepp cutting and cutting any and everywhere that we can arnd are scrapping by. Still hoping and praying for a job for my husband but he is loosing hope of ever becoming employed again.

  3. thanks for that reminder rhonda. i am interested in your point about stockpiling. when it was my husband and i, i had extra money to stockpile and it worked well. now i dont have so much money so i find it hard to take advantage of the specials that are on but i am doing what i can and i believe every bit counts. still love your blog

    sophie in new zealand

  4. Re - leaving the lid on a pot when you're bringing water to the boil, I also use a three level steamer, so you only need one burner on to do all the vegies - best investment we ever made.

  5. Some interesting tips there some old some new. Thanks for taking the time to remind us.

  6. Thanks for the practical tips, number 19 has really got me thinking and inspired a post on my own blog. A tip I have from my own experience is know your own lifestyle and work with it, not against it. For example I know that on busy weeks I get home from work too tired to stick to my good intentions to cook healthy food from scratch; that's when rubbish convenience food used to go into the microwave or expensive takeaway was ordered. So now when I make pasta sauce, curry, soup or stew I make a big batch and freeze enough for several meals. That way I have a supply of cheap, home cooked ready meals for when I'm tired (or lazy!)Funnily enough they're all frozen in the plastic tubs that I accumulated from takeaways.

  7. Thank you Rhonda a timely reminder as my son is just about to go off to uni ,his loans don't cover his accommodation costs and at the moment I have very little work. I was feeling rather stressed by it all but by setting a proper budget based on our outgoings and my husbands wages vie realised that we will be fine, coupled with the simple living advice found on your blog I feel so encouraged by this post."I expect you'll get more out of it than you ever imagined"

  8. Use cast iron to cook with. It takes a little more time to heat up but once hot will retain the heat so you can actually turn off your burners towards the end of the cooking time and it will still cook whatever is in the pan. Either purchase or make a solar cooker. Learn how to use your grill to cook supper including veggies, pizza, etc.

    Group all your short trips into one trip to save gas. Write down where you have to go and take the shortest route between all your stops. Car pool with a family member or neighbor when going for groceries. Buy in bulk.

    If you have favorite magazines, pay in advance. They have better prices the longer the subscription.

    Turn off the lights one night a week and use lanterns or lamps to light the rooms. Play games and get to know your family.

    Buy mechanical clocks and watches that you have to wind. Saves on batteries.

    Go to thrift shops for fabric to make clothes or quilts. They even have patterns.

  9. Hi Rhonda, What a great list! So many practical solutions. Because we live out of town, I would add to it - Put some time into planning the things you need to buy and keep a list, otherwise you waste petrol running in to town for one or two items.

    Also buy bulk amounts of flour, tinned goods etc.

  10. Some great basics in this list Rhonda. Thank you I would add learning some basic sewing and mending to that list as well. I'll pop back to see what other tips are left in the comments too.

  11. That's a great list and I'm not sure I have to much to add. Maybe that we are also in interesting times regarding fuel and so we minimise our use of the car and ride our bike when we can and use trains where possible. I think knowing that there is abundance around us if we have the eyes to see and we will find contentment with a simpler lifestyle if we understand that.

  12. I dont agree with knitting or clothes sewing - mending and alterations are great though.
    Knitting can be an expensive hobby and you cant beat thrift stores for decent clothes at a fraction of the price of fabric. I would nt give up the internet either but in a pinch I would give up eating meat, taking vitamins, buying make-up mouthwash or even toothpaste. It depends on how hardcore you have to be. I see shabby folk coming out of the supermarkets with big pallets of bottled water. I drink tap water regardless of the "taste".
    If I was really broke I would live on eggs rice beans lentils and a few veggies and fruit if I could find it cheap enough. I would buy a 10lb bag of flour and make my own bread.

  13. I'm interested particularly in the stockpiling idea.

    I'd like to refer to what Sophie said about having money to stockpile in the first place .
    When we had 3 small children and money was very tight at our place I read about stockpiling but had no spare $'s to do this with.

    Then I decided I could NOT afford not to stockpile. So every week I studied the specials and wrote out a menu . I made sure my list was $10 a week less than my shopping budget. Even if we had to have dried split peas rissoles for dinner.

    With that $10 and whatever small amount may have been left from my planned shopping I picked the very best of the specials and bought that. So if coffee was on special I bought coffee, if mince was on special I bought mince, if a box of tomatoes was on special I bought tomatoes. Dries beans and pasta made me use up the whole $10.

    Doing this made us have more variety and eventually I got to the stage where I had enough in store to only buy mostly items on special.

    To me a good special was one where you bought 3 items for the cost of 2. If you get good at this you can effectively cut most of your grocery bill by one third.

    These days I mainly shop at Aldi as they do this for you - as the comparision ads that are on tv show us. But that is how I used to stockpile when our family income was very limited.

  14. Good Morning Rhonda,
    thanks for some timely reminders. I actually read back through your budgeting/simple living posts regularly for inspiration, and to keep me focused on my goals. To Becky, are you in Australia? Maybe your husband needs to think outside the box. I've heard that Centrelink provide a benefit and training for people to start a new business and I've read some very inspiring stories of unemployed people starting a business and ending up hugely successful - good luck!
    Other great ways to save money include a no car day each week, and we also like a no electricity day. TVs,dishwashers etc...all cost a lot to run.
    If you need clothes or shoes,try the op shop first,or a clothes swap with friends.
    Rhonda,making your home a place you want to be is a fantastic tip. When I wish I could have different furniture etc..I sometimes find a good de-clutter and clean and some flowers or herbs on the table gives me a completely new appreciation of how fortunate I am.
    Wishing all a beautiful day, Madeleine

  15. #20 is well stated and leaves the door wide open for individual creativity. These 20 could well be posted ever 3 months or so!

    I watch for sales on staples (rice, coffee, cereal, etc.) and stock up. Since I don't make my own detergent yet, I purchase it when on good sales, too.

    Our public library is a great and free resource - for reading material, dvd's, art work, interesting lectures, etc.

  16. Stockpiling... did that, because I see a very dark future for Europe when things keep on going like this. We do all the other things. I do not care about having less money. I really do not give a damn.

    Saving sounds like fun, and it was for me. Now I want to be prepared for everything. Do I sound pessimistic? I have never been like that, but now...

    Not really on topic and it is always good to read suchs lists again.

  17. Thank you for some great ideas. Two years ago, our family decided to cancel our satellite TV. We use several internet sites now to watch the programs we like, saving us over $70 dollars each month. We recently asked our daughters if they wanted the satellite back and both said no.

  18. I have one to add: Re-think the way you do holidays. Most of the people in my neighborhood go absolutely wild for Christmas and put it all on their credit cards, and then spend the rest of the year paying it all off. Instead of buying your kids a million presents that they will break or loose interest in after five minutes, purchase only one or two high-quality items that they will really love. Be happy for the simple things. Last year, I bought my husband a silly t-shirt and his favorite candy. He bought me some nice fabric for sewing a blouse, and took my sewing machine in to be serviced. As for our 18-month-old, we blew up 50 or so balloons and let him frolic in them. He loved the balloons from Santa way more than the blocks from grandma and grandpa.

    I know a lot of people would balk at how little we got. Truthfully, we could have afforded to spend more money but chose not to. Christmas is supposed to be celebrating family, not celebrating stuff. Consciously choosing to give small gifts instead of big expensive ones that involve diamonds is the perfect way to do that.

  19. I like to give gifts as books and this year I've been giving good second-hand books at a big savings to our family. The recipients have been just as thankful for their gifts.

    Also, giving homemade gifts including food items can be hugely appreciated, saves money and shows thoughtfulness. It is also a gift of one's time and creativity and love.

  20. Thank you for this timely post! My husband and I are also cutting back costs right now and it was nice to see someone else doing the same. Good day to you!

  21. While I have little to add, there are a couple of those that REALLY ring true with me. One is growing a few herbs, and putting them in your windowsill if you have no outdoor space. I find that small bunches of herbs and bunches of shallots/green onions are one of my most wasteful purchases. They are always with one dish in mind, and frankly are quite superfluous unless you're in a restaurant. However I do buy them on occasion and I only eve need half of them! Having a bunch of green onions growing in the backgarden or herbs in a pot doesn't save lots of $ each week, but it also stops the annoyance of throwing away half a bunch of black, curled up basil.

    The other thing is knitting. While it can cost $100 to knit a man's sweater with a reasonable quality pure wool, one that will last for decades, you have to see the long term investment in garments like that. It's no good aspiring to change your wardrobe each season to the latest shapes and colours. HOWEVER, I am finding knitting is a great way of producing cheap, custom gifts for my daughters' friends birthdays, as well as family member. I've made heaps of baby slippers and beanie hats, pencil cases (with really cheap functional yarn, then bought some sparkly pens to go inside) beautiful headbands with basic crochet stitches, little handbags/purses, socks and dishcloths. I've used purl stitches to add images to otherwise plain 'dishcloths' and oversized them to call them flannels/washers for new babies, with their initial purled into the centre. With basic machine sewing I've made oven mitts and oven gloves at Christmas time, in colours to match people's kitchens. Keeping your eyes open during the year for big sales can provide all of the consumables to make these small functional gifts. Last year, in the week BEFORE Christmas, our Spotlight store had all of its Christmas fabric around 40% off! Too late for me to make and post things in a country this size, but a great opportunity to stock up for the next year's gifts ;-)

    I also like to turn my electric cooktop off before I've finished cooking as it stays hot for a long time, as do my pans, so I can usually cook the last few pancakes etc without the heat on :-)

  22. Just recently I was invited to a Pampered Chef (expensive home cookware sales) party. I was very close to this person and knew she needed the money from the sale. I purchased a large pizza stone for $38.00(US). My pizza pan was in horrible shape so I never used it (plus I worried about what it was made from)and this was the most practical thing I could purchase. Here, that would buy pizza out for our family maybe three times. We now have made homemade pizza at least once a week using leftovers and vegetables from the garden. We have gourmet pizza every week that is never the same and much, much better than eating out. We haved have already recouped our investment since pizza is my husband's number one favorite food! It was expensive, but a wise investment for our food plan.

  23. I would like to piggy-back on Beth's comment about holidays. Last year money was tight so I made homemade hot cocoa mix for everyone. They LOVED it. The year before that it was knitted dishcloths. They still rave over them. This year they asked me for more hot cocoa mix, laundry powder and bread. So it looks like a homemade Christmas for me this year. Which, for my budget is fantastic.

  24. Good Morning Rhonda, very timely for us too. Next month our rent will rise $40 a week and push us under the poverty line for the first time in my adult life.

    Tricks I use to help include turning the washer, breadmaker, oven off a few minutes before time to save a little gas/electricity. Boil water in the kettle when cooking as it's quicker than heating water on the stove for veggies, boiled eggs etc. Don't fill the kettle for one cup of tea. Eat even smaller portions of meat and dairy or go Vegetarian and work left-overs into the next meal. We eat lots of veg. soups these days but each one is different and is bulked up with beans, lentils, rice or pasta.
    Use the thrift shops for as much as possible....crockery, glasses, cutlery, baking equipment, linen, furniture, clothing, books and gifts and best of all fabric, yarn and patterns.
    Also let people know that you won't be offended to be offered household goods/clothing etc that they no longer require. We were given 18 good bath towels, tools and other goods after a friend's friend died last year. We didn't need any of it but quickly found new homes with my adult chn. Over $120 worth of new clothing came my way this week too!
    Make the most of free resources at your library and enjoy local parks and beaches for picnics.
    And smile...we are still The Lucky Country...we still have so very much more than most people in the world!

  25. Here are a couple of blog posts I've done on the subject:




  26. This list is worth printing out - I find that I do most of these things, but without reminders or other people around me doing the same things, somehow these basics can be forgotten for a time.

    Then I remember and start all over again :)

    Thanks Rhonda!

  27. Thank you for all of your wonderful ideas, hints, tips, suggestions. I have been a long-time reader of your blog and, as I will be leaving paid work within the next few weeks, your blog posts will be even more helpful and encouraging. I received my "Women's Weekly" yesterday - very much looking forward to your column each month.

  28. Excellent, common sense advice :) I would add 3 things:

    1) Find out if you have a Freecycle network in your area and use it! I've been incredibly blessed to receive many things through that network without spending a penny.

    2) Share and network with neighbours and friends. Share harvests, tools and skills :) Help each other as needed to save hiring out for jobs.

    3) Barter as much as possible. If you can pay for something you need by giving what you have/make in exchange, no money need be spent.

    Great post!

  29. I love lists like these. My husband is currently in law school and we have three small hungry boys to feed on a very tight budget.

    I would suggest becoming a one-car family if it is possible in order to save money. When we arrived at our new home (we had to move to a different state to attend law school), we had sold one of our two vehicles and had planned to use this money to purchase another used vehicle for myself to drive the boys around while my husband used our 19 year-old two-door sedan to commute to work. But we have since decided to wait as long as we can until it feels like it is absolutely necessary that we have a second car until we get one. This has many advantages - even if I wanted to, I can't swing through the fast food drive-thru because I have no car to drive, nor can I go to stores as easily. It keeps me at home more, and makes me more conscious of how I use my time. And, of course, we spend much less on gas and insurance, and have one less used car to worry about when it comes to maintenance.

    Two other things that are saving us money are 1) cloth diapering (saves about $90 US/month) and finding money-free leisure activities. It is so easy to want to "relax" by going to the stores when I have a turn with the car, but now I go to the library or a thrift store for the most part. I am also trying to work on our garden for fun.

  30. Thank You for this post...I would like to add that Dh & I have been reading and studying Holistic Remedies using not only herbs, but Spices and Essential Oils..After much discussion we felt this was a valuable asset to add such supplies to our stockpile/emergency kit.
    ~~Peace & Love~~

  31. When our company was bought out and most of us layed-off, I cut my budget by 36 percent. A chunk of that was gas (no driving to office), but there were a ton of "little savings" too and they all add up. It didn't happen all at once, but I just kept adding new ideas, and I'm not through yet - have a few more up my sleeve (some are from this blog).

    My favorites have been experiment to save energy/utilities: venting electric dryer into old pantyhose indoors in winter, water misting several windows and sticking bubblewrap to the glass, pinning pieces of black fabric to curtain linings in winter to absorb heat from sun, using a tiny ceramic heater where I spend the most time and no heat in spare room and lightly heat other space, set hot water heater just above vacation setting, get wet in shower then water off while sudsing up then water on for rinse, mulch with anything available to save water in the garden, reduced minutes/no data/no text pkg. for cell phone and no landline phone, take cooking heat outside in summer by baking/cooking in the turkey roaster or crockpot on back patio.

    And at Christmas, I only gave homemade black walnut toffee (may sound cheap, but the whole family has had to cut back, and this lessens the pressure on everyone else too).

    Thanks Rhonda for keeping us on track and motivated and sharing ideas.

    brenda from arkansas

  32. Great post. One more idea:
    Seek out things to do that are free and add to your life: a walk to the park, reading a book from the library, visiting with friends, drawing, making up stories, playing games that you used to enjoy but haven't pulled out for a while, ....

  33. At risk of providing too much information...

    I recently invested in a pile of reusable menstrual products, including some cloth pads and a Lunette Cup. The initial outlay was not cheap - around $60 for the cup and probably the same for 9 pads - but given that I spend around $10 a month on disposable products and these reusable ones should last at least 5 years, it's a good long term thrifty investment! And will reduce my personal contribution to landfill significantly :-) It's not that big a leap from using cloth nappies, and more and more people are making/selling these products online. It's taken about 2 years from first hearing about this option to taking the step of using them myself, but better slow than never!

    Again, I hope I haven't crossed the too-much-information line too badly!! Thank you for the consistent yet gentle challenges you give us to think more about the connection between values, lifestyle and cost of living.


  34. One very good way to save money is to keep up your health. Less money later on for doctors..less time with doctors means more time and ease with your family, garden and any other thing! :) If your health goes down how are you going to enjoy gardening and such? When you do need to replace pots and pans or any other thing research and buy the best you can afford in the quality that will last the longest for the use it is intended for. Keeping in mind we only can use so many posts and pans etc at one time! How many of anything do we Really Need? If you buy say cast iron you will have it for lifetime and so will your grandchildren. Remember your most precious asset is people so keep in mind activities that keep you together..not apart in separate rooms of the home. If the kids are in on the new way of doing things they will learn things they will use for a lifetime. Don't forget lots of libraries let you use computers free there now too. Also they have lots of good do it yourself, frugal cooking and homesteading type books. Plus many others...just ask! Ours even loans out board games!
    Develop friendships with like minded couples. You can mentor each other and go on to learn more to teach each other. There are endless ways you can help and share with others. Keep spreading the news of how enjoyable life of stability is. Sustainable living is not without lots of work but it is ever so enjoyable work. Much more than trying to keep up with those Jones...where ever and who ever they are! :) Sarah

  35. Forgot to add my all-time favourite big savings during our children's childhood: not paying a cent for babysitting/childminding. When grandparents became too old to help, my husband & I used:

    1. Daytime--playgroup with a couple friends, swapping days & times for short periods of time eg 2 hours...like a "Mom's Morning Out" idea.

    2. Evening time--Neighbourhood Babysitting Circle: by invitation-only parent-run closed group where parent goes to another's home to look after the children (some families stayed in Circle til their teens were 18; others left when kids about age 14-15). Ours was a long-standing group that had about 20 common-sense rules, a point system per hour, rotating monthly parent 'secretary' to call for a sitter high in points and a great tea-tray awaiting the sitter at each 'sittees' home!

    Children were meant to be 'on their way to bed' and it was great as there wasn't the temptation to 'do housework' at someone else's home, so sitters could read, do handwork, scrapbooking, watch a TV show/movie, write (!) a letter, do computer laptop work etc without distractions for several hours til the parents came home.

    Cape Town
    South Africa

  36. What a wonderful reminder ! A special thank you for caring about all of us!

  37. One of the biggest things for us has been avoiding those activities and places that create discontentment in us. Mainly that means not watching TV, and only going to the shopping mall or most stores when we need a very specific thing (then, get in and get out!). The ads and the ambiance are designed to make you feel unhappy with who you are and what you have. We feel better about our lot, and more grateful, when we just avoid seeing advertisements that shove consumerism and wasteful fashion in our faces.

  38. Oh my gosh, did I send a big long comment and THEN type "Rachel" instead of "Rhonda"??? If so, please forgive my brain-blip!! So embarrassing...

  39. So timely, as I have just heard my employers are reviewing all job gradings, and it looks like everyone on the admin staff will be dropped a grade. Not very nice news, but with advance warning, I will hopefully be able to build up a cushion of funds, plus learn a few more good habits before the cuts bite home.

  40. One problem here in the USA is the strangle hold Big-Ag has on meat. Wal-Mart and Meijer (two of my 3 grocery options) has "factory" meat--premeasured, packaged, no sales just meat (Meijer pretends sales--their prices are higher all the time then they give you a break for a week). I try to buy my meat at Krogers because they mark down meat for quick sale. I have a menu plan in mind, but change it if there are bargains like a marked down whole chicken (3 meals) or something.

    The only farmer's market in our area has a sort of meat co-op for organic beef which I'd love to do, but it's simply out of reach financially. CSA and Farmer's markets in this area are geared to the upper-incomes, which is sad. I love the CSA idea and would pay more--but can't go as high as they are here. I know in other areas they are more competitive.

  41. Rhonda - as per usual - you are a beacon...your values remind me so much of my beloved late grandmothers, that reading your blog, and now your magazine article, has become a special time where i sit down with a cup of tea, scribble down notes madly, and think of her...thank you so much for your generosity of spirit in sharing your ideas, thoughts and wisdoms xoxo

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