10 January 2013

Reducing the cost of living 3

We've had two days to think about cutting costs and getting into the right frame of mind to start saving money. By know you should have a budget up and running or at least have started tracking your spending. If you've never made up a budget before, it's a good idea to track what you spend for a month so you know exactly where your money is going and your not just guessing. There are two old posts about tracking your spending and budgeting to help you if you're still at this stage, but if you get into a tangle with it, go over to the forum and ask for help.  Here is a free App for your iPhone to track your spending.

This is my food money box, with receipts.

There is no doubt about it, if you cook from scratch, not only will you save money, you'll ingest fewer preservatives and additives. You will also be skilled enough to turn leftovers into a new meal and to substitute ingredients when you run short. Basic cooking is a wonderful life skill to have and to pass on to your children.

When you first start out on this frugal pathway, collect about 12 recipes that you can cook well, that use cheap and easy to find ingredients, that use grains or legumes as well as meat, fish or chicken and that your family enjoy. Once you get these 12 meals to a point where you know you can't make them any better, start collecting a few more, and take your time perfecting those too and customising them to suit your family. When you have a good collection of main meal recipes, start on baking, then drinks, then soups, then school and work lunches, then snacks. When you have all these categories covered, I bet you'll be seen in your family as a really good cook. You will certainly be putting food on the table that you can be proud of and you'll be providing all that nutrition at a low cost.

I've been cherry picking from old posts to cover as much of this as I can without rewriting it all.

A few quick tips
  • Stop spending on non-essentials. Ask yourself if it's a want or a need.
  • Use cash only - it feels like real spending as you have less and less cash in your purse as you continue through the week.
  • 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! 
  • 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 food, rent/mortgage, transport, health, entertainment, grooming, clothing etc., then stick to your budget.   
  • Stop using disposables unless you absolutely have to.  This is not just nappies, it's also cleaning cloths, paper plates, knives and forks, cups, etc.
  • 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.
In the kitchen
  • Keep a square container in your sink. Fill it with all the water that you use for washing vegetables, hands and general kitchen duties. Each time it’s full, take it outside to water your plants. You can also use your sink container for small amounts of washing up.
  • When washing vegetables like potatoes, pour water into a small bowl and wash the potatoes in the bowl. If you stand at the sink peeling potatoes under running water, you’ll use about 10 litres of water per minute …and it will all run down the drain.
  • Use dishcloths that can be reused many times. I use cotton dishcloths that I knit myself. They last for a few years. I use them for a day or two and then hang them over the side of the laundry hamper until I do the washing. You can knit different colours for different rooms so you never use your bathroom cloths in the kitchen.
  • Only use the dishwasher when it’s full.
  • You can save a lot of power by being mindful of how you cook. When something comes to the boil, turn the power down so it keeps simmering and cooking without the high heat.
  • When boiling vegetables in a saucepan, keep the lid on. It will retain more heat and cost less to cook.
  • Make two meals at once - things like soups, casseroles are the easiest, and freeze the second meal for later in the week.
  • When you bake, do a few things at a time. Bake a few loaves of bread and freeze a couple, or bake bread and cake or biscuits at the same time.
  • Invest in a steamer – either steel or bamboo. You can boil pumpkin, potatoes, and any hard vegetables in the saucepan, while steaming tender vegetables on top. Doing this will save you the extra cost of a second pot on another part of the stove.
  • Keep a small container in the fridge for vegetable off cuts that can be used to make stock or soup. Things like celery and radish tops, the top bit you cut off carrots, turnips and parsnips. The feathery tops of fennel. If you haven’t made use of these vegetables after a couple of days, freeze then or use them in your worm farm, for the chooks or compost.
  • Use the carcass of roast chicken to make stock, then freeze it.
  • If you buy bulk meat, ask the butcher to include all the bones, and if they're large to cut them in two. Use those bones for soups and for making stock.
  • Buy meat in bulk. You may even be able to halve a bulk purchase with your extended family or friends. Don't rule it out because you think it will be too much for you. Ask around to see if anyone you know is interested in sharing the order.
  • Invest in a slow cooker or crockpot. It costs less to cook in and will give you fabulous soups, casseroles and a whole lot of other goodies with little effort.
  • Plan your menus. This will save you time and money.
  • Stockpile groceries. This will also save time and money. 
  • Rotate the stock in your pantry and stockpile cupboards. Put new things at the back and use from the front.
  • Save glass jars that can be given a second life storing food in your kitchen.
  • If you find you have a lot of vegetables in the fridge that are past their prime, make vegetable soup and freeze it. It’s always reassuring to know you have food ready to go in the freezer.
  • Keep the seals on your fridge clean. Check them occasionally to see that they’re sealing properly. You can do this by holding a piece of paper over the seal while you close the door. If the door doesn’t hold the paper and you can slide it out, you need new seals.
  • Keep your fridge organised and clean. 
  • Use your fridge wisely. Don’t push things to the back. Know what needs to be used and never waste food. 
  • Clean out your fridge today and start with a clean slate.
  • Use your leftovers.
Laundry liquid savings
One litre/quart laundry liquid from an Australian 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.

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 single person 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 liquid. The pensioner/single person doing three 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 six pages of air fresheners that 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 rather than Coles or Woolworths, you'll save about 30 percent. If you're spending $200 a week at the supermarket you'd expect to 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 just from changing where you shop and making a few products at home.

In my home, I find that it's easier to organise my grocery money if I have cash. I withdraw this every Wednesday and keep it in a tin. Some weeks I spend all of it, some weeks I don't. In the weeks when I don't spend much I stock up on meat or items for the stockpile. I keep the money in the tin and take some out when I have to buy milk or fruit and put the change back in, with the receipt, when I come home. At the end of the month, I add up the receipts and enter the amounts on a sheet of paper with the month along side. I keep the receipts until the end of the year in case I want to check a price or decide to monitor the rising cost of a particular product. It works well for me. How do you handle your money?

As you can see there are a lot of ways to save money at home. You don't have to do all of them, please pick those that you know you'll be able to do and when you do those, maybe add a few of the others. Most of the things I've written about above are how we used to do our house work and shopping when I was growing up - before the advent of advertising that told us it wasn't good enough and there was a new product that you should try. Well, we all know where that lead and it left behind time-honoured sensible ways of running a frugal home that are still relevant today. 

Please add your tips for saving money in the home. This is an area were we can all learn from each other. I look forward to reading your tips.



  1. I'm really enjoying this series of posts and gente reminders! Thanks for writing them. One of our biggest costs at home is electricity, so I've found a good amount of savings by not using appliances as much - no dishwasher, sweeping instead of vacuuming, no TV, and rarely using the clothes dryer (which has been easy to remember this month since ours is currently broken anyway!). I noticed about a 40% reduction in our electric bill since I stopped using these big appliances.

    1. That's excellent Jaime. What a great way to save.

  2. Hi Rhonda,

    I'm already loving this series! Here are a few random things I do in our home to reduce costs:

    1) I wear a sweater in the house and a flannel gown at night so that we can lower the thermostat a few extra degrees. If I'm tempted to turn up the heat during the day, I rinse my hands in warm water for a few seconds or cozy up on the couch under a blanket while I mend clothes, knit or darn socks. Washing dishes also warms me up.
    2) I line dry clothes outside rather than use the dryer. If the weather doesn't cooperate, I have a clothesline in a spare room where I can hang clothes to dry out of sight.
    3) I freeze stale bread and crackers to use as a filler for meatloaf or salmon patties. I make my own croutons.
    4) I use manual kitchen tools whenever possible such as an egg beater or potato masher instead of an electric mixer. I don't mind the workout it gives my arms.
    5) I use coupons ONLY if they are for products I regularly buy so as not to be tempted to buy something just because I have a coupon.
    6) I open curtains and shades in the daytime during the winter to let in the sunshine. I close them in the daytime in the summer to avoid the heat from sunshine.
    7) I sweep instead of vacuuming. I hate vacuuming anyway.
    8) I repair holes, tears and loose seams in clothing and sheets before they get so big that they need patching. I don't mind patches on clothes I wear around the house...kind of a badge of honor that I've made something last for a while longer.
    9) Banana peels are cut up and placed around my rosebushes for the potassium they provide them.
    10) I buy milk in gallon jugs and freeze three quarts. Saves money to buy gallon size, plus we don't use a gallon of milk before it goes bad. Thaw a quart at a time in the refrigerator overnight.
    11) I never waste meat...costs too much to do that. I buy meat that has been reduced the day I buy it and immediately freeze it whenever I get home in portion sized packages.
    12) I use a vacuum sealer for most everything that is to be frozen except liquids. No freezer burn and food lasts longer.
    13) I freeze juice from canned fruits in popsicle makers for a quick treat. Yummy, especially fruits packed in their own juice.
    14) Petroleum jelly is a great foot and hand softener. Gloves or socks put on at night over petroleum jelly assures that there's no mess and my feet and hands appreciate it the next morning.
    15) Picnics with my husband in the mountains using food and drink from home make for such wonderful dates. I pack our good china, a magazine, newspaper, and blanket. We hike a bit, eat lunch and rest on the blanket. Pure bliss for no extra money.
    16) We eat out once a week and I ask for a box at the beginning of the meal. Portions at restaurants are way too big usually, so I freeze the excess right away for another meal for one or both of us.

    I'm sure I could think of many more things I do to reduce what we spend, but these come to mind right now. The most cost effective thing I do is to have the right frame of mind about spending and budgeting. Saving money is not deprivation to me. I am kind to myself if I occasionally splurge and I just go right back to my thrifty habits. Key word being HABIT.

    Can't wait for the rest of the series!

    Diane in North Carolina

    1. Great tips, Diane. Thank you. (I hate vacuuming too.)

  3. Canadian Country GalJanuary 10, 2013 5:43 am

    All the ideas are great ones, I do most everything here that is listed. Advertising is one of the biggest reasons people overspend at the grocery store. Nobody could ever keep up to the "newest" and "best" cleaning supplies. In all honesty homemade is better, cheaper and in the end cleaning is cleaning, the newest items don't make the job any easier or any more "Fun" lol. I also use my bread maker to mix dough for homemade buns, bread and pizza dough. The cost of flour, yeast, salt etc is much cheaper than the cost of a loaf of bread. My motto is if a food item can sit on the cupboard for over a month and not spoil, it isn't a healthy choice, I would rather take the extra time to make as much of my food from scratch. I am also a believer that not eating all the additives and preservatives makes a person healthier and I find it easier to keep of extra weight as well. I am really enjoying the blog, just reading it and knowing I am doing most of what everyone else is, makes me feel good about not keeping up with the newest and best like my friends are.

    1. You're definitely on the right track, Country Gal. Keep up the good work.

  4. I like the tip on putting a container in the sink to save some of the water for the garden. I'll be implementing that ASAP. Thankyou.

    1. Julie ... Barossa ValleyJanuary 10, 2013 2:04 pm

      :) i liked this tip also .. feel like a complete duffa for not doing it sooner !

  5. Great tips! I do the receipt thing too. My husband and I both keep our receipts and tally them up once a week, though we aren't tracking what they're for in a spreadsheet (yet).

    As mentioned above, wearing extra layers in winter and keeping the heat out in summer. My husband loves to tease me about my 'nanna rug' I keep on the lounge in winter. I feel the cold more than him and a rug over the knees makes all the difference!

    Ride a bike! You'll save a ton of cash in not running a car (or second car in our case), save money on gym fees, and it's such a joyful way to travel! Australia is starting to return to utility cycling so if you have been turned off by the lycra sports style riding in the past it's a good time to dip your toe in again.

    The thing I love about this journey is each of these small changes is such a triumph! Once you understand the power of compound interest/savings you can really enjoy each little thrifty change (whereas before it might have felt like miserly penny pinching).

  6. Thank you Rhonda for your wonderful, inspirational blog and ideas, most of which I have been doing for over thirty years already and I have always been a happy, healthy and content mother (of four) and homekeeper!
    Nowadays, living together with only my youngest, studying, 24 year old son, it's my habit to put the coins from my purse in a piggy bank each Saturday, after the final shoppings of the week have been done.
    One week that means € 0,65 in de money-box and another week I might save € 6,35. Makes me feel healthy and wealthy!

    Love and greetings from Dokkum, The Netherlands.


  7. I forgot to mention that I don't own a laundry dryer, have no micro wave, don't watch tv nor listen to radio / CD player (due to tinnitus). Laundry is washed at 30 degrees C. All the light bulbs in my entire house are energy saving ones. All these together save me a lot on my electricity bill.


  8. As usual Rhonda, WONDERFUL tips. :) I do most of the things you suggest - except the homemade laundry liquid. I've made the liquid and powder and with our apartment washer, it just doesn't work. I've tried so many recipes, tried washing in cold water, warm water, and hot water and my husband's clothes still smell like...well...boy. :) I've put baking soda in the powder, added baking soda to the wash cycle, vinegar to the rinse cycle. I don't know if it's our water or what. But it just doesn't work - and my husband doesn't labor for a living and he's not super smelly...I don't know. But with coupons matched with sales, I've been able to buy laundry soap for under $3 (usually Era or Tide) for 40ish loads - but I have an apartment washer, it's about half the size of a regular washer, so I use 1/2 as much laundry soap. $3 for about 80 loads isn't too bad.
    Sorry for the ramble. :)
    Have a wonderful day.
    - Kristin

  9. also, I don't keep my coffee pot, toast or any other kitchen appliance plugged in unless we're using them. That has saved us some cash on the energy bill. :)

  10. Hi Rhonda,
    loving this series of posts, thankyou :)
    I handle my money by withdrawing an amount for the month to cover food, petrol,family fun and my personal spending money. This goes into 3 purses, that way I can easily see if the food money is running low and as a family we can decide 'do we want to borrow a dvd or save the money for a bigger treat?'When the money's gone,the money's gone.
    I have a diary that is just for money. Into this I enter every bill and when it's due, and record everything I spend other than the cash expenses above. This allows me to keep track of how much is left in each person's clothing budget,what we've spent on health etc..It also answers the question 'where did all the money go?!' It really isn't a big effort and I feel such a sense of control over my finances,which is comforting. It also helps me to make a realistic budget for the following year as i have a tendency to underestimate how much things really cost.
    The other thing I do is transfer money once a month into internet accounts. I have about 6,for things like savings,emergency fund,renovating,tax. This prevents me from spending money that should be saved - it's so easy to do!


  11. I'm just here to endorse your endorsement of Aldi. Since it has arrived in the Bronx my food bill has decreased tremendously. My husband constantly jokes that the people we see coming out with carts overflowing only paid twenty dollars. Just last week I missed their closing time and wound up at another place. For a few things I spent twice what I'm accustomed to spending at Aldi. I was angry at myself. But admittedly I had bought coconut milk which I haven't noticed at Aldi as yet.

  12. Thanks, I have started my journey last year slowly by decluttering and simplifying. I made the citrus cleaner and my lemon one is nearly ready. Last night we had our first zucchini and my low acid tomatoes are going great. My husband and I are working on our budget this week and I will utilise your money tin idea with the receipts for the food. Thankyou

  13. Limit use of cling wrap or foil – cover food with an inverted plate or use reusable covers e.g.$2 microwave lid fits a plate of food & easier/safer removing than cling wrap, or get ‘easy covers’ which are easily rewashed different size plastic covers with elastic around them (I paid $1 box 20 at Reject shop > 5c each so cheaper then cling wrap usually 4c+ a metre single use only), or if buying consider the ‘pyrex’ dishes/bowls with the ‘pyrex’ lids (often can be used as a pie dish) or the ones with plastic lids for storage after cooking (fantastic, bought on special, use them over & over).
    ‘Dreampot’ – insulated container with 2 stackable pots, expensive, bought in my big spend life however would hate to be without it now as saves $ & other great advantages -
    Save gas as the 2 pots only need to cook a few of minutes on the stove then stack in the thermal pot to continue cooking in their own heat. I use for cooking veggies mostly (advantage put into pot, go do something else as don’t need to monitor stove for splutters etc., still cook on hot days as doesn’t heat up the house, doesn’t matter if left for hour or 2- greens I put in later), use instead of crockpot, haven’t tried yet for making yoghurt but done steamed pudding.
    Laundry – use Rhonda’s washing recipes, great, and don’t wash clothes worn once unless needed.

  14. Great tips. What fabric do you use to knit your dishcloths? Though I am the opposite with cash. I use my credit card for everything and then each fortnight I pay it off, the points are used to purchase things that are treats. I find if I use cash I spend it, magazines, drinks, things I don't really need. But I am really frugal with my card.

    1. Iliska, I use 100% cotton knitted yarn, sometimes 8ply sometimes 4ply. The 8ply give you a good substantial cloth, the 4ply knits into a nice light cloth that is good for washing up glasses and cups and also dries quickly. You can usually buy cotton at Spotlight but try Bendigo Mills too. They sell online.

  15. Brilliant series of posts - thank you!


  16. Fantastic tips and great advice. With the introduction of ATM cards a number if years ago people don't really handle cash anymore. For the past 5 years I have mostly used cash. I withdrew it once a month and put it into separate envelopes marked petrol food and entertaining. I would also write week 1 and the date week 2 and the date etc. with the food sometimes I wouldn't need to out the cash in my wallet after 7 days and sometimes I would out it there on day 6 so it was a rough guide depending upon when I needed to stock up. I love this process and using money you see what you have left over and how much you have. When you are handing over $100 cash you know it is costing you $100 cash. When you hand over your ATM card sometimes you aren't even interested in the amount only if ther is enough in the account to use the card. I was recently talking to my young nieces 18 and 20 and said a good way to save without saving was to never spend another $5 note. Each time you get one in your wallet out it in a jar at home. Four of these add up to $20 so it quickly adds up but you won"t notice $5 from your wallet. We had a long conversation about what a good idea it was and after all that one of them said we don't use cash we use our card so that theory sort of went out the door so now cash is not really used as the norm. If people use cash all the time I can assure you there is not a lot of overspeninding because when it's gone it's gone. I pay all my bills on line and the majority of funds are in an on-line interest saver until it gets transferred to pay bills but in my opinion cash is still king. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

  17. One other thing we do to save heaps of money on fresh local food is both urban and rural foraging, and bartering. We were both raised in the country, so still visit our families and still get our rural forage fix (field/pine mushrooms, feral fruit and nut trees etc)-then use the excess to barter for fresh eggs and milk with family friends.
    In our suburb in Melbourne-there were lots of Italian and Greek immigrants that settled here-so our neighbourhood is filled with mature fruit trees. We simply ask residents if they mind if we pick some, and end up with lots and lots. We have just done 3 hauls of apricots (about 15 kg in total), lemons, plums and loquats, which we then eat, dehydrate, poach, stew and freeze. Autumn sees quinces, pomegranates, apples, olives, mushrooms and chestnuts. This also helps with rotting fruit and the clean-up of the produce, of which people are often quite grateful for. We then return with some jam, or other small token of thanks. This has often lead to wonderful friendships with many amazing people many whom have lost partners and family have moved away.
    We rent an old Italian house and we have figs, plums, feijoas in our yard and grow a medium vege patch. I try to grow other things than my neighbours and friends, so we can then swap our access. Otherwise there are food swap meetings in our suburb and neighbouring ones nearly every weekend.
    Finally we eat what are considered weeds. Nettles, dandelion, lambs lettuce and purslane to name a few. Much of this grows in our yard or around the neighbourhood and we pick what we know is not sprayed. These 'weeds' are most often nutritionally superior to a lot of cultivated greens (so much so they are becoming popular now) and so easy to access.
    The kids (as well as us)love the whole foraging expedition, and you meet so many incredible people, hear amazing stories, and learn about your community.
    Sorry about the ramble-but I wanted to add this as a way of saving on fresh produce--but it provides a very rich bonding experience for both and family and community.

    1. Robyn, I love your comment. I tell you, if I lived down there I would be in there with you picking apricots, plums and pomegranates. It's a lovely thing to take back a jar of jam and have a natter with the neighbours. We have purslane and gotu kola growing wild in our backyard although we might lose it soon if we don't get any rain. Our usually green backyard is brown at the moment. The second time in 15 years I've seen it like this.

  18. Your blog is like a warm hug.

    And even though I know the math on interest, this was the post I needed today to remind myself that when the time is right, my husband and I will have the cash to buy land for our tiny home on wheels (which we are owner-building with cash right now) and homestead. No personal loans, nothing. It just doesn't make sense or cents. So tempting to buy land right now with the prices low in the US, but the right land will be there when we are really, and not artificially, ready to purchase.

    One more money-saver: menstruating women should look into investing into cloth pads or even more cheaply, a Diva Cup. Far more comfortable, less toxic, and the pads, though expensive, will last 5+ years with proper care. I hang mine to dry. I've been using them for 2.5 years. Did the math and have saved hundreds after my initial $100 investment. It's become second-nature now. I haven't even walked down the women's hygiene aisle this decade!

    1. I've been using a diva cup with cloth pad backup for years now, I must have saved heaps with this and I like not using disposables. It's all a lot easier than you might think if you've not tried it before.

      Good luck with the tiny house!

  19. I agree with Kathy about cash versus card. Since I have reverted to using cash I think about what I am buying a lot more. Random buys are much less likely if I don't have the actual cash.

    Regarding laundry products and cleaners. Many years ago my then husband worked at a chemical factory that produced among other things washing powder, fabric conditioners and dish washing liquid. The dish liquid came from a big vat of concentrated soap liquid. It was then watered down and coloured and scented for the various companies. The cheaper brands of washing powder were full of fillers such as potash and the best of all was when he told me that the "Plus" in the new nappy conditioner was just extra blue dye (plus extra cost of course)

    Cheers, Karen near Gympie

  20. Great topic.

    Using a Credit card takes discipline but can be used to great advantage especially if one has an offset account linked to their home loan. In our case we charge just about everything to credit card and have arranged for the bank to auto-deduct total payment for the card amount on the date due. This is effectively free money for 45 days which is being put to use to reduce interest on the home loan. And because we have a loan package with the bank (easy to get for many borrowers nowadays) the credit cards and all accounts are fee free.

    But again I stress one must use discipline with the credit card and ask the same questions when buying things such as, is this thing I want to buy a "need" or a "want".


  21. Rhonda i have been making your powder version of laundry detergent for about a year now....with excellent results i might add!! I noticed that you keep mentioning you use the liquid form. Is there any advantage to using liquid as opposed to powder, or is it just personal preference. I have a disability so haven't tried the liquid form, mainly because it would require extra energy on my part that i have to conserve to be able to perform other tasks. Thanks in advance Rhonda for any advice regarding this.

    1. Hi Lois. I make up the liquid because I use it for other cleaning. I use it as a stain remover, to wash the floors and sometimes the grout in the shower. I think both the powder and the liquid clean well but you can do more with the liquid. xx

  22. I keep track of grocery expenses in an index book. It helps you see what prices are what date you purchased items and gives you a quick reference tool for bulk buying options

  23. Looks like lots of great tips and hints (I have downloaded Money Smart, thank you) but will revisit and read all later.
    I can say that we have passed on the love of cooking good, real food to my two girls, aged 22 and 19. Both can knock up a delicious dinner for themselves and they pride themselves on it. Miss 19 makes better pavlova's than me and her signature dish is Tandoori lamb cutlets and Bombay spiced potatoes. Their Dad is a proficient cook too, he does our Saturday and Sunday night meals with MasterChef flair! We don't eat out a lot because we can cook a better steak, curry, pizza and fish and oven fried chips!

    Cheers - Joolz

    1. My two daughters are also 22 and 19 and are also great cooks. Just today we produced 14 jars of (homegrown) loquat jam, homemade pasta, and a delicious chocolate cake. They also make from scratch wonderful bread, curries, greek style yoghurt and are willing to have a go at anything. My husband makes great scrambled eggs :-)
      I agree too that a lot of the food we eat is better than what you'd get at a restaurant. Yay.

  24. Having incorporated most of what you have mentioned over the last 4-5 yrs of reading your blog..one thing I have added to our routine is ...I sat down with my husband and together we wrote down the meals we eat most often..from that list ..a shopping list was made... making sure our pantry always has the ingredients for those meals..down to the spices etc...by doing this a meal can be made in an hour or less ..and saves from the stink'in thinking of let's go out to eat... granted it is just the 2 of us living here..having done this has made our stockpile/pantry grow without question of what's to eat...this has saved money shopping with less temptation for junk/garbage foods..

  25. This series is so good Rhonda! We just switched over to grocery shopping at Aldi and I honestly cannot believe how much money we are saving on groceries. I must admit, some ridiculous snobby part of me was reluctant to make the change, but after a just a few weeks of shopping at Aldi I cannot imagine going back to Coles or Woolies. The products are exactly the same quality but so muh cheaper! Can't wait to start making our own cleaning products and implementing some of your other suggestions when we move into our new home :)

    Katie x

  26. Great tips!!
    What saves me the most money in the grocery store is a) shopping with a list and b) keeping a running tab on my list of how much money I have already in my cart. It is way easier to breeze through the sweets aisle adding nothing to the cart when I know that I`m close to my spending limit for the week.

    I withdraw my household money once a month and keep it in an extra wallet. For my weekly grocery shopping I take 50 EUROS (we are in Germany) with me, and don't spend more, no matter what.
    Money that is not spent on the end of the month goes in to a tin where I save cash for the time when I have to replace my car.

    Works for me! And it is a really good feeling to know that I will be able to buy a small used car without going into debt when my beloved old Fiesta gives up...

    1. Katja I hear ya I'm doing something along those lines too so when I need to replace my car I will be able to and have no car loan !!

  27. Although I make your laundry detergent and use it for various purposes and love it, for washing clothes in the machine I prefer soapnuts. They are a completely natural product, so quick and easy to use, and cost so little! I spend about $20-30 for a year's supply! That may be a little more than your laundry liquid costs but it's still SO much cheaper than commercial laundry products. Have you ever used them?

  28. Hello, Rhonda -- as usual, I feel like I've had a wonderful chat with a loving mentor after I read your blog! Here are my few thoughts on saving money:

    * I second those who have spoken of using cash instead of a card in order to help keep spending lower. I find that when I can SEE the cash amount dwindling, I am more careful!

    * I also second the idea of saving your spare coins/change aside in a receptacle, and "cashing" that in occasionally. Here in the US, we don't use dollar coins very much, but even just emptying out my wallet and putting aside the nickels, dimes, quarters (and even pennies) gives me a quite surprising amount of cash every six months or so. (Besides, I find it kind of fun to fill up those little brown paper sleeves from the bank!) It's painless savings.

    * My real temptation in terms of food spending are those nights when I didn't have something planned for supper, or we got home late from piano lessons (I have three young children), etc., etc. It's so easy to get take-out or pick up a take-and-bake pizza. Instead, I'm trying to implement something I've read about often in my old (I mean, vintage!) cookbooks -- an Emergency Shelf in my pantry. Apparently, it used to be a very common idea. One keeps such things as tinned soups, veggies, tuna/salmon, crackers, quick-cooking noodles, perhaps jarred curry sauces, etc. -- anything that could be put together quickly, with little fuss and little prep. It might even be things that are more "processed" than we usually eat -- I still feel that by doing at least some of the prep myself and having a meal to sit down to, I am providing something better for my family than drive-thru junk.

    I'm sorry this ended up so long; again, your blog is a great, great blessing to me! kristin

  29. A few small tips:
    - learn to preserve vegetables! All you need are salt, water, cheap + abundant in-season produce, and a collection of glass jars wheedled out of colleagues or friends. Voila, veg for the winter without needing to spend big on out-of season stuff!
    - for tea drinkers, try buying reasonably good quality loose-leaf tea, storing it in airtight tins, and using the same leaves for at least two infusions - if you choose wisely this can work out cheaper than teabags. (I say "at least two" because a REALLY good green tea is good for more like 4-6 infusions...tea is my vice, can you tell? =D)
    - try to keep drinks at the pub to a minimum! I've seen my fellow students needing to scrimp on food because of their pub trips, which by the way only consisted of one or two glasses of something every weekend. It adds up!
    - in keeping with the foraging spirit, look out for household goods and other bits+pieces left on the pavement outside houses. This worked especially well for me in inner-city Melbourne; I picked up enough free crockery from the pavement to kit out an entire dinner set for 2! Probably best to leave electrical goods where they are though...
    - Urban food swap stalls are wonderful =) It's a nice way to meet people, pick up free food and off-load excess garden produce if you have any. Even if you don't have a garden, most people who run food swaps are so excited about finding homes for the 3 giant courgettes and 4 kg of grapefruit that they're usually happy to give them away! I know, I manned a swap stall in Melbourne for a year =)
    - Don't buy extra blankets in the winter - collect woollens that have accidentally felted in the wash and sew them together instead =)

    Amelia x

  30. Brilliant post Rhonda and heaps of brilliant ideas being put by everyone too.
    I have the issue that my husband doesn't necessarily agree with everything I try to do to reduce cost of living for us. So that's a huge hurdle I still need to overcome. I do however insist we take our lunches to work (in reuseable containers) or take snacks if we'll be out for the day. This avoids buying unnecessary food at elevated prices from cafes or convenience shops.I love going to my food swap it's brilliant and I can't reccommend highly enough to people who haven't been to one before.
    I turn off appliances at the wall when not in use and I certainly love beating sugar and butter together to make cakes instead of beaters! Great work out for the arms!
    I keep all left overs and make a entirely new meal out of them. It's amazing what meals can me made out of them. This especially fun when I'm told 'there's nothing to eat'!
    I also reuse plastic shopping bags for bin liners instead of purchasing liners. I always so no to plastic bags when shopping but inevitably they still accumulate so this is the best use for them. I also collect bread bags to reuse for going to the vege shop (although I'm hoping to be self sufficient in time to come!)

  31. Good and timely advice. There are so many ways to save. My mother used to say "you're old enough for your wants not to hurt you." There is a lot of wisdom in those words. Our best savings has come from an unlikely source--a natural gas well drilled on our property. We get free gas, so we put in gas heat (replacing wood heat, although we still have our stove and the fireplace) and bought a used gas dryer, a 1950 Tappan range, a new hot water heater and a gas fridge. Our electric bill is less than half of what it was. Another good savings was to drop our phone to the very basic level. Since we can call long distance free on the cell phones and reception is okay here, we saved $50 a month on the house phone. We also got rid of satellite TV (no cable here), saving another $50 a month and switched to an insurance company that caters to military families, saving another $100 a month.

  32. Thank you for this wonderful post, Rhonda.

    I have to admit, though, that I didn't make it past the link for the budgeting application!! I started reading the post on my phone yesterday morning and didn't finish! That isn't to say I didn't come back for the rest; I did this morning :-)

    But the budgeting application made me realise I had never thought of utilising my phone while I am out shopping and knowing when I have spent more than my fair share. Of course, I TRY to use the calculator on my phone to add up the groceries, which is a pain trying to juggle it and my bag etc etc (personally, I have always thought they should have some type of calculator in the handle of the trolley, so you can scan your item and it adds it up as you go...but, that would restrict spending I would imagine!) and I have a budget to stick to, which I frequently go over :-(

    I didn't care much for the Government's application, so I went off in search of my own and came across EEBA. You have talked about using the resealable bags as a system and I have tried it, but couldn't remember to do it consistently. This is similar, except it is based on the envelope system.....electronically ;-)

    It is overflowing with every different option you can think of or need, you can upgrade to premium versions, sync it with another device as well as on the website where you can view things in much more detail! Best of all it is free!


    I thought it was fabulous! I am still trying to get my head around how to make our system work.


    In the link above, it talks about creating a 'Monthly Cushion', so essentially living off last month's paycheck and working toward living on less than that! Which is a great idea, but will take some discipline and effort.

    Thank you so much for DTE & the forum, you are an inspiration and an enormous help! xx

  33. Really enjoying these write ups and comments. We have a large family and have to make the meat stretch. I always buy bulk and cook different meals with the same meat all at once, right now on a wood cookstove. I also use a pressure cooker a lot as it uses 1/3 the cooking time. I was using a smartphone app. for budheting and grocery lists but this year I am back to paper and my grocery bimder. Bulky but I can keep my price match flyers and coupons all togther.

  34. I would suggest not shopping at supermarkets at all if you can avoid it! Try your local farmers market, farm direct market or farm gate shop. The quality of the produce is so, SO much better and you can often buy in bulk or get discounts towards the end of the day. I also consider that a slightly higher price paid per kg for meat (and it is often more expensive because it is raised ethically and sustainably) is worth it for my health and the health of my family.

  35. Hi there, I've been wanting to try the home-made laundry liquid for ages. I made a batch on the weekend and did my first load of washing today, but when I started hanging it out on the line to dry, I could see marks that showed me the clothes weren't clean. I'm not talking about getting blue-white whites, just regular clean clothes. I followed all the instructions and measurements carefully so not sure what went wrong. Any suggestions, please?
    Thank you.

  36. Make a solar oven. They cook slow like a crockpot and can be made inexpensively. Plans are readily available on the internet. They save on energy costs and don't heat up the house in the summer. All you need is a sunny day even in the winter.

  37. These are great tips!

    As a student it can be difficult to manage the costs of living, let alone trying to save as well. However, I have been able to make a few small changes which have helped reduce my costs. Firstly, unplugging appliances rather than putting them on standby has reduced my electricity bill by approximately 10%. I have also installed a water efficient showerhead and limited the time I spend in the shower to 5 minutes which has greatly reduced my water and gas bill.

    I love your tips and will definitely be using these in the future, especially your idea of making your own cleaners. I had no idea how simple they are to make!



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