9 April 2012

Starting and saving

I had an email from a reader last week asking two questions:

  1. If you were to start over again, what activities would you start with first? and ...
  2. If you had limited time what activities would you do first to achieve the biggest savings?  

When I read the email, I thought the questions were the same, but when I thought about it, they're completely different. I hope I have a grasp on what she is really asking because I think the difference is important. Changing your life to live in a more simple fashion is not just about activities, it's about how you think and what you value as being essential, authentic and significant in your life, and then changing what you do every day to reflect those values.

If you were to start over again, what activities would you start with first?
The first thing I'd do would be to think carefully about my life to identify what my priorities are. Some of the questions I'd ask myself would be:
  1. Am I getting the best value for the dollars I work for?
  2. Am I happy at home?
  3. Do I spend my time wisely?
If I answered those questions truthfully, I'd have three areas that I could start with. But maybe I could add one more question and that would get me started right now: What can I do today that will improve my life? Maybe the answer to that last question is to make a list. Those of you who read my book would probably remember I made such a list at the very beginning of my journey. I kept that list and over the years and it has helped refocus me when things got tough, so making a list of what you want your life to become can be your master plan or your map into unchartered territory. It is your start.

If you had limited time what activities would you do first to achieve the biggest savings?
We're all at different stages and have differing family commitments, nevertheless, I think focusing on how I shop, making what I can at home and cutting back where I can would probably serve all of us well. That is where I'd start to achieve the biggest savings. So let's see what difference these changes can make to the bottom line.

One litre/quart laundry liquid from the supermarket costs about $9. This will do 20 washes. So 10 litres of commercial laundry liquid would cost $90 and you'd get 200 loads of washing done. That would cost you 45 cents per wash, you'd have the convenience of not having to make it at home but you'd be bringing unknown chemicals into your home as well as the packaging. Not to mention having to carry it all home from the shop.

Ten litres/quarts of laundry liquid made at home using soap, borax, washing soda would cost you (less than) $2 and you could make it in less than 15 minutes. You'd have enough laundry liquid for 160 loads of washing and each wash would cost you just over a cent.

Laundry liquid savings:
For a young family doing seven washes a week, that homemade laundry liquid will last 22.8 weeks and cost about $5 a year. A pensioner or senior couple doing three washes a week, that laundry liquid will last 53 weeks, so $2 a year.

That same young family using commercial laundry liquid will spend $163.80 a year on their washing product.
The pensioner doing 3 washes a week will spend $70.20 on commercial laundry liquid a year.

By switching to homemade the family will save $158.80 a year and the pensioner will save $68.20.

Green cleaners savings:
I won't go into the cost comparisons of making, instead of buying, soap, shampoo, conditioner, Chux/dish cloths, floor and wall cleaners, spray and wipe type cleaners and creamy cleaners for the bath and shower, but if you buy white vinegar, caustic soda/lye, soap making oils, borax, washing soda, you'd be able to make all your cleaners and it would cost you about $30 for a year's supply and you'd have more than enough to do several batches. Compare that to the cost of each individual cleaner you might buy at the supermarket: toilet cleaner, floor cleaner, anti-bacterial wipes, Jif, Spray and Wipe, Chux  I didn't include the 6 pages of air fresheners the start off Woolworths online cleaning products because I'm unsure who would buy Air Wick Freshmatic Diffuser Refill Vanilla and Soft Cashmere 2x174g for $12.89! Jif $3.16, Ajax multi purpose spray $2.97, Ajax floor cleaner with BAKING SODA (ahem) $4.07, Harpic toilet cleaner 700ml $4.07, White King antibacterial wipes 100 pack - $10.73, chux - $6 for 20.

So for a pack of products that would last about three months (I'm being generous) $31, buy them four times a year and that is $124.

By switching to homemade instead of store bought, a saving of approximately $94 on cleaning products. Yes you'd have to make them yourself but they're easy to make and the laundry liquid would take the longest amount of time - 15 minutes for 160 washes.

General savings:
If you shop at Aldi, you'll save about 30 percent so if you're spending $200 a week at the supermarket you'd pay $140 a week at Aldi. If you spend $200 a week at Woolworths or Coles you're spending $10,400 a year on groceries.  If you spend that same amount at Aldi, you'd spend $7280 a year. That is a saving of $3120 a year on a $200 a week shop or $60 a week saved. Add to that the savings made if you make your own cleaners and laundry liquid and you're looking at an excellent weekly saving.

Imagine paying off an extra $3000 a year off your mortgage, simply by changing how you shop and making a few things at home. You would still have similar food and products, your homemade cleaning products would do just as good a job, but you'd be using fewer chemicals, and would probably be healthier for it. I know your environment would be.

There are other ways to save in the home - being conservative with the use of electricity and water can save quite large amounts. Hanno and I have just received our second electricity bill since we installed the solar panels and we're still in credit. I'm really pleased about that because this bill was for summer which is the season we have our highest use. But all of us can save on electricity just by turning off switches when we're not using the appliance, baking a few things at once, installing power-saving light bulbs and turning off at the wall instead of using stand-by power.

Further savings can be made by stopping pay TV and mobile phone accounts and phoning around to see if you can get better deals on your phone, internet and insurance. Even if the savings are small, it's better than an increase.

I would start with these things and save money. I'd start cleaning with safer products and the money saved could go towards debt repayment or what the family needs. When I had myself set up with green cleaning and more mindful grocery shopping, I'd teach myself how to cook from scratch and start a stockpile.

It all seems so simple now but when I was starting out, it wasn't. If you're still just reading here but haven't taken your first step, I encourage you to dive in right now. Get your pen and paper out and start thinking about your list. Be bold. You don't have to live like everyone else. I'll hold the light up for you while you walk through that first tunnel. The first one is always the most difficult but we both know you can do it.

Later this month, on 19 April, I'll be a guest speaker at the monthly meeting of Permaculture Noosa; Hanno will be with me. I'll have a few books there to sell and will gladly sign one if you want me to. If you've already bought a book, bring it along if you want me to sign it. I'm happy to do that.

The next day, 20 April at 12.30pm, I'll be meeting people and signing books at Dymocks in Brisbane. Please come along if you can. I'd love to meet you, especially if you've been reading or commenting here.

On 17 May at 6.30pm, I'll be at Avid Reader in West End signing books and meeting whoever comes along.

And on 25 May at 10am I'll be giving a talk at the Maroochydore Library and again, I'm happy to sign your book if you bring it along. All these events are free and open to everyone.


  1. I enjoy all your posts, Rhonda.
    Cute doggies!

  2. Thanks Rhonda, I love that line that you will hold up the light to guide us. It is such a comforting thought.
    This is really a journey and about turning our backs on all those aisles of cleaning products which are full of harmful chemicals and so expensive. And ads whereby visitors are rating your toilet, who cares!
    Your advice and receipe for homemade laundry liquid show how much saving can be made. Good honest cleaning products that get the job done, used for many years before all the marketing and age of consumerism.
    Thanks again Rhonda, hope to see you soon in Brisbane.

  3. Good advice Rhonda. I'm in the process of switching my mortgage lender. My online bank, where I have all of my savings accounts because of the generous interest they pay, is almost 1% lower on mortgages than my bank. If I stick to my goal of paying it off in 3 years, this switch will actually save me months!

  4. Gosh you're inspiring Rhonda! Thanks for holding my light :)

  5. g'day
    beautiful crisp autumn morning it is here too.
    an inspiring post yet again, i feel so good about myself after reading here, whether it be an old blog or this mornings. i haven't done a list of any sort as yet, did many years ago, my main goal being to own my own house, which I now do along with the bank :))
    getting started on making things from scratch is hard for me as I only know how to do knitting easily but am keen to learn to make all the cleaning items, just need to remember to buy them when i go shopping, have them on my list but being on disability pension i do all the food shop first & there usually isn't much left for extras, so I am going to aim to get 1-2 thing/s per fortnight as i can afford. bought my vinegar 1st, several weeks ago. loved those citrus spray cleaners you had links to.
    am going to have a go at making dog biscuits today, made chicken stock with a carcass so hopefully she'll (B.B.) will like them.
    still in the process of redoing my vege patch after finding it once we mowed. try to buy bales of mulch when I have spare change.
    thankyou again rhonda jean for the inspirition you give us all here & the courage to reinvent ourselves.
    selina from kilkivan qld

  6. Dear Rhonda. Thank you for today's post. I am enjoying preparing my food from scratch. Grow my own veggies at my allotment. On my list now is to make my own cleaning products. Planning to be at Avid Reader 17th May. Best wishes. Jean.

  7. Thanks Rhonda, these posts help keep me on track. When I read your book I made a list as suggested. I found it quite difficult at first as it took some real personal reflection. However it now acts as a reminder and guide when things seem to be 'too tough'. I have it on the first page of my home journal. It has become my guiding light.

  8. Love you blog! Just got my book Friday all the way to Crockett, Texas


  9. Well done, Karen. As you have noted, these changes are difficult for most of us. I hope your list and your home journal serve you well. xx

  10. Rebecca in TassieApril 09, 2012 10:09 am

    Good morning, Rhonda,
    I have a (silly) question to ask - we replaced our washing machine, and it says not to use 'soap based' liquid/powder, but specifically 'front loader and high efficiency' products. My question is, does that mean your home made laundry liquid would be unsuitable? I think their reasoning was that a soap based product would somehow, over time, clog up the machine? I can't imagine, however, that we would have to be THAT strict ...
    Thank you for your encouragement to all of us, assistance and words of wisdom.
    Have a lovely day,

  11. Any chance you'd record these talks and put them up for readers to watch???

  12. Hi Rhonda,

    I appreciate seeing the breakdown in cost to make laundry soap vs store bought. Since I have read your blog for years now, I have read your writing about it before, but it didn't really register how much I would be saving. I have a large family & do well over several loads a week. I must get to making my own!

    Maria M

  13. Rebecca, this is yet another push to get us away from old products and using new ones. I have been using front loaders for 20 years and I've never had one clog up, in fact we still use our 20 year old machine outside, plumbed up the the tank for really yucky stuff - like dog blankets etc. If you have any problems with your machine, it sounds like if you use soap based liquid it would void your warranty. However, I would still do it and make sure to run an empty cycle through each couple of months using just water and a cup full of vinegar. It will clear the whole system out.

    Sally, there is no chance, however, I am working on getting some videos recorded.

    Yes Maria, you must. LOL

  14. Rebecca in TassieApril 09, 2012 12:42 pm

    Ah, yes - I suspected that may be the case. It's sad that there is this push. New is often not the best. Why make things more complicated (and costly in so many ways - dollars, our health, the environment ...) than they need to be? Money, I guess.
    Yes, it's not always easy, but we can teach our children a better way. Step by step. We can equip them with skills and knowledge that will make them rich. And we can help each other along the way as we share tips, skills and knowledge.
    Thanks, Rhonda for responding to my question.

  15. Hi Rebecca

    Another reason is that top loader products foam a lot more than products specifically designed for front loader machines. As home made laundry powder/liquid doesn't foam much it is perfect to use in front loading machines. I have done so for about a year with no dire consequences.

  16. Hi Rhonda, it has been fantastic to read your blogs the last few day. See I've only just discovered you and have just finished reading your book that my mother in law shared with me.... fantastic. you are just what i have been looking for. So i'm recording my progress on a blog to keep me motivated and since i left my family in qld its a nice way to keep in touch with them and let them know whats up, now im all the way down here in SA :)..... I will be referring to you alot, I hope thats ok .... i am so excited to be starting this journey! Thanks for given me the means and the reasoning why I should just get on and do it like i've always wanted..

  17. These are such great questions, AND great answers! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom...

  18. Hi Rhonda,

    Thanks for yet another inspiring post. I'm going to try the homemade laundry soap, once I can find the ingredients.

    Love the picture of the Airedales-is this of Alice and Rosie? I so miss having an Airedale around the house. I love our two mutts, both rescue dogs, but nothing beats that tilty head and happy face!


  19. I totally agree! Laundry PODS are the rage here--so unbelievably expensive but sold as "so convenient." I did actually go down both the laundry soap and the cleaning products isle--we have awful water and I was in need of some water stuff for the whites (since found out "bluing" is even better)I was overwhelmed by the choices and PRICES. All for chemicals and chemically-generated "fresh" scents.

    I've made my own laundry soap for so long now I'd never pay for that again, although I have used the freebies that I've found. Our water makes whites a challenge and some chemicals do help from time-to-time.

  20. I've just signed up to your blog and I must say I'm hooked. I live in Brisbane, it's the school holidays and today's activity is going to be making our own laundry detergent. We are in an inner city suburb and this year have starting our own little urban farm. Have 2 large veggie patches and 6 chooks, who just started laying last week. I'm loving this new life if giving back to the land, eating from the land and being as chemical free as possible. Small steps at a time and I just know that the laundry detergent is going to be a great help to my children's education on being green, our contribution to reducing our footprint and our shopping bill! So glad I stumbled on to your blog. Thank you.

  21. Rebecca in TassieApril 10, 2012 1:20 pm

    Thank you, Sportsgirl, for responding!

  22. Rhonda, I like the way this post came out. When you can see the yearly savings and time invested, it's so clear where you'll get the biggest bang for the buck.

    And "holding the light up" - that's what you do. You're special that way.

    brenda from ar

  23. grey chook to the other: "go on, dare you to hop up there, dare you!"... black chook: "ooooo ooooo I'm scared"... grey chook: "pah, chicken!"

    sorry, couldn't resist the look on the chook's faces!!;)

    ...and laundry pods are evil - saw them for 15 bucks for 20 pods in plastic tubs in Big W... rage... who on earth is throwing their money in their dire direction?

  24. So excited that you will be in my neck of the woods! Tomorrow, I'll probably miss you but hope to see you at Avid. I borrowed the book from my library, and was so sad to give it back so quickly (It was a 2 week loan because so many people want it : I went back on to place a hold and there are 23 people in front of me).


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