29 August 2012

The temptation to spend

Travelling around as we have this past year, we're met hundreds of people and thoroughly enjoyed the experienced. Many of the conversations we've had have been filed away and some I'm still thinking about. Having contact with people we don't know has been such a stimulus for me because I'm hearing the thoughts of people of all ages who crave simple life and want to talk about it. Most of the questions are along the lines of starting the process of simple life, many are about the practicalities of recipes or producing vegetables, bread, soap and other household commodities. However, sometimes a statement or question surprises me and I keep thinking about it.

One recent statement surprised me but when I thought about it later, I wondered why it had. It fits perfectly into how we live now. Like it or not, we live in a materialistic culture and frugality is usually only spoken about by those living it. I had a conversation with a delightful woman who is well and truly on her way to an enriching and wholesome rural life, but she didn't start out that way. She told me: "We had never thought about saving before I read your book. We didn't think it was important."

It is. It is the key.

I have no doubt that this woman was taught the value of a saved dollar by her parents but the trouble is that even though many of us learn thrift when we're children, we unlearn it when we're in our teens and twenties. Then, although we think we're rebellious and pioneering our own trail, we're actually conforming to what our peers are doing - and mostly, that is spending.

Here is a quick list that would be a good starting point on your road to financial freedom:
  • Stop spending on non-essentials.
  • Use cash only - it feels like real spending as you have less and less cash in your purse.
  • Make your own cleaning products. It's cheaper, you'll get better products and it's much healthier. Make your own laundry liquid. It works! Many people have told me on my travels that they had thought about using it for a long time before they made their first batch but the results were great and they wished they hadn't waited so long. Make your own laundry liquid.
  • Stop buying food and buy ingredients instead. Cooking from scratch will save money and help you reduce the amount of artificial additives you eat.
  • Draw up a budget so you know how much you have to spend on living expenses such as food, rent/mortgage, transport, health, entertainment, grooming and clothing at the level expected in your job.   Thrift and The Plan
  • Stop using disposables. Read about it here.
  • Shop at secondhand shops and garage sales.
  • Check if you can lower the cost of your phone, internet, insurance and any other recurring costs. Do a review of these now and repeat it every 12 months.
  • Make a conscious effort to cut down your usage of electricity and water.
I would be very interested in reading your ideas about saving too.

So yes, saving is important. It can help give you a life free from the anxiety that goes along with over-spending and the debt that results from it. Always remember that a saved dollar is better than an earned dollar. You won't pay tax on a saved dollar. Also, if you're tempted to buy something you know you don't need but really want, think of how many hours you'd have to work to earn the money to buy it. Are those new shoes worth four of your life hours?

The temptation to spend is always in the background ready to spring on you. I'm still temped to spend occasionally and I have to fight it. And even when you've paid off your debt and have a few spare dollars, instead of spending, think about cutting back on the amount of paid work you do. Gaining a good work-life balance, where you have more time to do what you love, will enrich your life more than any trip to the mall.



  1. That idea of "how many hours would I have to work to pay for this" is a brilliant way of hitting the spending brakes!

    Living thrifty is so much fun. It makes one get creative and encourages one to be grateful.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Rhonda!

  2. Hi Rhonda one of the things we have done with our children when they hit 12 is to put them on an allowance for entertainment, clothing, snacks and friends gifts. This has really taught them the value of money. The other thing is that we encourage them to start a small business to supplement their allowance and to save for future goals. Our 17yr old has an income generating website and she tutors other homeschooled kids, our 15yr old sell free range chickens and eggs at a market and to friends and our 13 yr old make supcycled denim products. Our 10 yrold is exempt still but always take apart in working in the home. While this is a little side track to your post I thought it am encourage others with kids in the teen yrs.

    1. Our kids worked when they were younger too. It's a great practical way to show them how to deal with money. xx

  3. I understand how this lady was thinking , because I am pretty sure I started out the same.We were both working before we had kids,...then I stopped once the babies came to be with them. I kept spending the same , didn't understand that I was buying things I didn't need ...then I started growing vegetables because as my first baby was starting solid food. That's when it hit me, I was saving money and because I wasn't shopping as much , the temptations weren't there.
    Just by stepping off the treadmill , I got to see that this materialistic world had sucked me in well and truly. I just wish everyone could step off the treadmill for a while ....I see so many families stressed out trying to buy this and that, when all they need to do is get off that crazy ride for a while to see what is important.
    And maybe...just maybe, your book is helping people get off the crazy ride , Rhonda!

  4. I agree with previous post. I always work out how many hours I would have to work to pay for something, it's usually just not worth it.
    Apart from a spell in my teens, I've never really been interested in shopping. I always thought 'same stuff, different colour'. In fact my Mum told me when I was a little girl, she would offer me something occasionally when we went shopping. I would always say 'no thank you' probably much to her amazement! I think I was already preparing for my later life!
    best wishes to you & hubby Rhonda.
    Angela (South England) UK

  5. Ive recently started trying to live this frugal lifestyle. Its extremely hard with six children. Two in college, two in highschool,and two in elemementary. However, I am becoming more conscious of my choices,choosing to eat out less,have stopped little extras,and have been saving loose change for chirstmas. Im a stay at home mom,so I stay at home ,and am trying to group my errands. I buy in bulk,and have a pantry and freezer ready for the months before christmas,and for emergencies. I have been thinking along these lines,but what really hot it home for me,was my grandmothers death,and she had money for my dad,only because she budgetted,and was careful,and invested,and made sacrifices. So the changes in our house have been coming,and although its hard to skip a magazine,or a lunch out, I try to remember that in the end,its worth it. Thankyou for your inspiration.
    Christina from texas

  6. I am a member of simple savings. It is an Australian website and forum dedicated to helping people spend less and save more. It has really helped me with my budgeting and spending habits.

  7. It's amazing the difference limited exposure to advertising makes too. Whenever I feel like I'm overspending I stop looking at magazines or watching TV and my desire for unnecessary things just disappears. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything because advertising isn't forcing that message into my head.

    If I need a pick me up I use an online calculator to see how many years that extra repayment has saved on our mortgage. I will quickly forgo that new dress when I see that compounded over time it will equal months off the loan!

  8. Wise words Rhonda. I also think that if you have put time, love and effort into making something from scratch, you will not only save money but enjoy it so much more.

  9. Wise words as usual Rhonda.
    However here in France we do get taxed on our saved euros! How much incentive is there to save if after having paid all those other taxes there's even more to pay at the end of the year. However being of your generation we still manage to save and just have to put up with being taxed on our old fashioned habits.
    Helen in France

  10. I must clarify I meant its a necessity to live frugally with my 6 kids. I reread that. I think the hard part is that there are so many things that are necessities. But im constantly trying my best to not spend unwisely.
    Thanks! Christina

  11. I love the statement " a saved dollar is not taxed" . Now there is something to think about and remember :)

  12. I'm trying all sorts of things about the house to save money - some worth it (making our own bread) others not so worth it (homemade deodorant that lead to fungal infections!! hehe)... I'm still evaluating homemade laundry powder as I'm not sure it does as good a job as the commercial stuff. The garden is going to be good for our budget I think as I've stuck to a strict budget - regardless of that - it will all be good eating :-) Also, having young children is great for the budget because I'm pretty much housebound!

  13. Hi if I have to buy something I always cheek on eBay or green tree first then I hit the second hand shops or markets . Since I read your book I do a lot of things differently Linda

  14. Some great tips Rhonda. It easy easy to caught up in spending - especially when your too busy to think about what you are actually doing.

    Whenever our spending gets out of control we go on a 'no spend' week or more (we once did it for a month) where we don't spend a single cent other than to pay bills. We do without and live on the food in our pantry and our vege box (which we pay for up front at the start of the year because we are a CSA farm member). I find its a great way to remind myself how little we truly need to be happy.

  15. I think by following these "tenets" one could be on their way to the "good life". If we deeply think about it, the things we would be cutting down on simply don't stand up to the scrutiny that they genuinely make us happier.

    For example: "Stop buying food and buy ingredients instead. Cooking from scratch will save money and help you reduce the amount of artificial additives you eat." Save, eating out at a nice restaurant from time to time, buying packaged food makes us feel guilty - as it is usually over-indulgent - and makes us unhealthy. True joy can be found cooking from scratch, sharing your efforts with friends, and seeing their reaction. It gives one a sense of pride.

  16. I have been living on a limited income for most of my adult life. Sewing was a challenge so I collected (free) denim jeans, took them apart and made many projects (still a favorite activity to do). Before all the back to a simple life became well known we had a big garden and chickens in a big city, we found out later it was legal to have 3 (we had 7) and our neighbors loved to watch them. I have canned jams and fruit all my life even as a kid we "found" berries and fruit trees on public land. I don't buy quantities of chips, soda or sweets and they are not missed at all. Saving change has been a habit since childhood that never stopped, recently it almost paid for a new Mac computer but life got in the way again (loss of my job, as the main income). Oh well! These habits just never left so it was easy to adjust, again. We think that the dollar saved is good but the tax paid on the interest is a crime! Your words are great and brings back memories, thank you!

  17. Hi Rhonda,
    I find steering clear of shopping centres is good for both my mental health and bank balance. When I'm at the shops these days I feel like I'm fighting an enslaught of temptation. There's 'stuff' everywhere, and I can sometimes leave feeling despondent, or stressed, thinking we can't afford a new this or that. Once I get home and remind myself, actually we could buy it but we don't need it, I feel much, much better.
    I find Bunnings a lot harder to leave empty handed though :)
    PS I have a chook I need to cook - what's happening in that pic of yours?

  18. For those who mentioned being taxed on savings (I presume you mean when you have an interest savings account) stick it in the mortgage/offset account instead! Not only will you not pay tax on the savings you are saving yourself from paying extra interest on your home loan, the effects of which compound over time.

  19. Wish I had read it before I sent off an order at an online sale today. Though I must admit there was that nagging thought that maybe I didn't REALLY need them -- I removed a few things before checkout but some of the others were things to look nicer than the things I already have!! Why, why do I fall into this trap?
    It is the credit card trap where we pay later, no budget and not using cash as you suggest.... Changes ahead for me!
    Thanks again for great post Rhonda.

  20. I find it interesting how things of convienence often turn around to bite us in the butt. Take credit & bank cards for example. Has their popularity really been driven by consumer desire for quick easy access to money, or has it come from the fat cats that are laughing all the way to the bank, literally.

    My partner and I use to use cards and little cash. Despite being on the slightly fugal side we never seemed to get ahead. No matter what we earned it was always spent. It occurred to us the problem was the simple fact that neither of us knew how much money was available, so could the decision to spend or not to spend be made. To solve this we destroyed or locked away the cards and switched to cash. We now have our finances under control with no supposed inconvenience.

  21. A great post. We have pretty well always had to live carefully, and I've always cooked from scratch, tried to bulk cook and have meals in the freezer for those busy days or when you are off-colour and cannot cook. The only things we have bought new over the years are electrical goods (e.g. cooker, vacuum etc) All furniture has come from auction. I've never been a "let's go to the shops" person since my teenage years were over when it was a Saturday ritual.

    For those tempted to shop on-line - with me it's those Amazon-moments (for books, which are my weakness) - I put it on my wish-list and although my finger is tempted to press one-click, I give myself a chance to sleep on it and the urge usually goes away! Now I try not to go to look at Amazon in the first place : )

  22. Unfortunately many people do not learn the importance of saving from their families. My husband comes from that sort of family. I've even heard my MIL complain about a BIL, who likes to have money in the bank - the words used were that it was a waste just leaving it in bank instead of spending it.

    Then she would complain how nice it would be to grow up "rich" like I did. My parents owned their own property with a big house. When we were young we lived very frugally, growing our own food, when there wasn't enough Mum went without dinner, Dad would work several jobs such as fruit picking, painting as well as his railway job. He built our house using mostly second hand materials, everything was saved for. As a result he had no credit rating, the one time he decided to get a loan for carpet, only because he wanted a credit rating, he was knocked back for not having one. He'd already saved enough for the carpet and stood up in the office saying "bugger this I'll pay cash" before walking out.

  23. Great tips Rhonda - it helps to have a review every now and again :) One area that we really need to cut down on is electricity. With our wet and cold summer I haven't been able to put our washing outdoors as much as often and I'm really conscious of the energy and money we're spending on the dryer.

    One thing that really helps me save money at the grocery store is to always plan out the week's meals based on what's already in the garden, cupboards and refrigerator. Then I make a list of missing ingredients which I stick to when I'm going around the shop. It also helps to do your shopping on a full stomach!

  24. Thanks Rhonda. I needed to hear a speech like that. I first got on the saving train with the old book "Your Money or Your Life" which I found in a thrift store years ago. What a great book on this very topic but even with that we still need fresh inspiration now and then.

  25. It is so easy to spend, even when being frugal, we just forget. I have learned quite a bit from the forum and your blog. All your saying is what I knew as a child and forgot when working as a single and now usually a two income home. Thanks

  26. My family was awful at savings and frugality. My mom was smart to do 401(k) savings when they came out, but she still had tough times making ends me here and there.
    My hubby and I live in New Jersey which has very high property taxes. Thanks to the crappy housing markets the values of our houses have gone down and so have our taxes so it is a weird combo of blessing and curse. We do our best to balance our budget since we are on one income. We have a small veggie garden, but it was an off year for some of our produce like tomatoes but great for kale :)
    Our cars are from 2002 (over 110K miles) and 2005 (over 75K miles) and even though the car deals are fabulous now, after much hemming and hawing, we have nixed the idea of taking on car payments. We will continue to maintenance our cars best we can until we absolutely have to replace them.
    As my hubby says, "We are all just one paycheck away from going off the rails." That is why we do our best to save as much as we can for ourselves and our baby boy.
    Your blog has been an incredible journey for me over the years and I commend you for sharing your stories and your knowledge with all of us.

  27. My parents never had any money skills and still don't. They taught me nothing whatsoever about money and kept everything money related a secret. It has taken me thrity plus years to become financially savy and it frustrates me to no end seeing my parents still unable to budget or manage on their income. I think the best thing we can do is talk about money and everything related to it with our children!!

  28. I like your ideas. very well put. especially the one with "how many hours you'd have to work for..". Wwhere i live there are some ads from a construction materials retailer and right now their new logo is "affordable even with small incomes" and they feature different types of workers + quotes, like "with my 3-days income i was able to buy a mower". I always wondered if I am the only one thinking "who on earth would work 3 days for a mower?!". keep up the good work!


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