19 February 2013

We've given up work but we haven't given up working - UPDATED

I was asked by a reader the other day why I don't do more posts on budgeting and frugal living. There are three reasons: 
  1. The mindset of frugality is as important as how you spend your money. I think I could write about cutting back, paying off debt and wise economy until the cows came home but unless you really "get it" nothing much is going to change. 
  2. Budgeting and frugality are carried out in the context of each life. I understand fully how my own finances work. I know that by doing certain things, we can live well on our pensions and on what I earn and save money every week. While many of you would have budgets similar to ours, most people don't and I don't pretend to know what it's like in 2013 to rent a home, pay off a mortgage or be unemployed and desperately want a job
  3. There is a limit to how much I want to think about money.
Saving money is a life-long activity. While you're moving through life and paying off your home or rent, and all the other things we need through the years, you also need to make provision for your later life. It wasn't so long ago that life in retirement was very short. The idea of having a pension after the age of 60 or 65 came about when most people lived till they were about 70. Times have changed and it's becoming quite clear that most governments won't be able to pay the living costs of all their elderly citizen much longer.  I think that in Australia, when people start retiring after having worked their entire working life paying into a superannuation scheme (pension/401K), the government will start cutting back on age pensions.  Let's face it, many of us will live into our 80 and 90s, not the 70 year mark the pensions were meant to support. Compulsory superannuation was introduced into Australian workers' lives in 1992, so, in theory, all those people who started full time work after 1992 should have enough money on which to retire when they're 65 or 70. A lot of those funds are invested in the stock market. Of course, we all know that things don't always go according to plan. We're slowly emerging from the GFC which started in 2008. Self-funded retirees I know who thought they'd planned well and invested well via their superannuation fund, lost a lot of money in the stock market and ended up almost broke. Luckily Australia has the age pension which acts as a safety net for our citizens.

I don't think anyone should work until they drop but we all have to do our fair share of the work. It makes sense to me to work until you have enough on which to live then you stop paid work, whenever that may be. Our government is encouraging older Australian to work longer and put off retirement. From what I can tell when I ask around, my contemporaries tell me there are no jobs for older people and the jobs that are there always go to the younger folk.

In the past I've talked about a lot of ways to help cut back, pay off the mortgage and save enough for later life. I'm not going over it again because you either have the mind to do it or you don't. Me writing about it here on a continuing basis won't make anyone who is inclined to spend, pay off debt.

I will say though that if you do cut back, make do with what you have, develop a frugal mindset, be prepared to give up working for a living and then start working for a life, you might find yourself where Hanno and I are now.  We might have given up work but we haven't given up working. Not all work must be done in an office, a factory, a shop, a hospital, or a school. Many people make their living from home and even when they don't make as much money as they would working full time in their old job, they turn their backs on 2013 desires, have the time to grow food in the backyard, to shop for specials, to stockpile and cook from scratch. All those things help reduce the cost of living.

I have had some wonderful emails recently from young couples who have either just left the traditional workforce, or are about to. And please don't write in and tell me that if everyone did that the economy would collapse. I am so proud of those people who have confidence in their own abilities, who decide to step back from the mainstream and who believe in themselves and in how they want to live. I know it's not for everyone but for those who chose it, it's a wonderful and enriching way of living.

And after all that carry on above, if you were to ask me what my money advice is, it is this:
  • Buy only what you can afford to pay for in cash.
  • Have an emergency fund.
  • Forget about fashion, style and keeping up with the Joneses. The Joneses are probably up to their eyeballs in debt, and style and fashion as such fleeting, inconsequential things.
  • Stop watching advertising on TV.
  • Stop shopping online and in the shops.
  • Believe in yourself - you're probably much stronger than you think you are.
There were a few requests for the cinnamon rolls recipe so here is where I found it I didn't use their cream cheese icing though, my icing was a mixture of icing sugar, a little melted butter and lemon juice.



  1. I understand. :)
    (I must have missed the post where you said you wouldn't be posting about budgeting and frugal living...Now I'm curious what you WILL be posting about!)

    1. Rebecca, I didn't saying I wouldn't be posting about budgeting and frugal living. I was asked why I don't do it more often, that is what I'm saying no to. :- )

  2. I'm sitting here having my breakfast after having got the kids off on the school bus. I've been wondering what I'm going to do today, anxious about using this day wisely rather than frittering it away on indecision, there's just so much to be done. Thank goodness I looked at your blog, it's exactly what I needed to hear, especially that last bullet point - believe in yourself. So now, I'm heading off into my day with a modest list of jobs and a genuine sense of purpose. Thank you Rhonda, you help in more ways than you can imagine.

  3. I agree. So many work on keeping up with the Jone's that they don't realize they are also getting the Jone's debt.....

  4. Great advice as always Rhonda. My advice regarding budgeting would be 'just do it'. Make a start. You may quickly realise you need more old bills to work out utility costs etc but as long as you've made a start you can build on it. I hated the idea of budgeting so I did a little each day until I finally sat down with my husband and said "This is what we've got to work with!". It felt so could when we were done and the feeling of control and understanding from having a plan and goals is just fantastic.

  5. Agree wholeheartedly. It's a whole of life perspective, and I'm encouraged to see each of my siblings, some who have had and still have a spending lifestyle begin to make some small changes. They all have or are in process of setting up gardens, making natural cleaning products, cooking from scratch... Now to encourage them to pay off and stay out of debt!

  6. Hi Rhonda! I totally agree - it might not be for everyone but for those who embark on this journey, it is very fulfilling. I was brought up only to buy what I could afford to pay for - if I wanted something badly enough, I had to save up for it. It's done me the world of good and I still use this philosophy as an adult. Thank you for your post! Kirsten x

  7. You can teach an old dog new tricks, my husband who retired a few years back has had a change of thinking. He always enjoyed our homegrown produce and garden but had no interest in being involved. Now I feel I am losing my vegetable garden to this enthusiastic grow our own, make our own, live wisely, spend less advocate. We are thrilled that 3 of our married "kids" are doing the same to the extent their busy lives allow at this stage. I am overjoyed .
    The Joneses.

  8. Yes Rhonda, talking about how to be careful will often just cause people to shut off.
    I think the savings from the laundry liquid example, is a very powerful eye opener to how we can save and "bring" money back to the budget, thats the practical level.

    Now for TREATS...you can bake 36 berry and white choc chip muffins for about, $12 they would cost say $4 or more each in a cafe thats $144. Muffins freeze well and can be cooked in one batch in a fan forced oven.....saving of $132.
    What about the coffee ??? same sort of huge saving,a good coffee relies on the beans being freshly ground,no big deal, do it at home or buy a weeks supply of ground from your local cafe, then use a plunger or stovetop esspreso, awesome coffee.No need for a machine at all.
    We all enjoy a coffee out with friends, but if your "treats" are mostly at home with or without friends, the savings are enormous, and no, this way is not mean spirited, at your home friends can have 2 muffins or a 2nd coffee no worries.The cafe becomes a real treat.

    I think simple living takes mature thinking and maturity is not a number of years it is an attitude.An attitude of thinking for yourself and not following blindly the rest of the mob.

  9. When we stopped paid work a couple of years ago, we got a variety of reactions from family and friends. Most were positive, but some weren't. Some people wondered how we would fill our time, and how we would find a purpose to our lives (we were only 50 when we retired, so it was thought that was way too young).

    I found that strange, because there is SO MUCH to do. We still work, but we no longer have that feeling of being caught up on the treadmill. We do the things that need to be done (the work) and we have the time for the things we want to do (the leisure). And we get satisfaction from all of it. As you say, we are now working for a life, and it's a good one!

    We did a budget before we stopped working, so we knew we could afford to do it. Having now lived through 2 years of this new part of our life, we have found that we don't spend as much as we thought we would. But we aren't going without things.

    I think this has been because of a change of mindset away from being mindless consumers, and taking advice such as yours - particularly the last point about believing in yourself.

    We are doing what is right for us.

  10. Just wondering, did you contribute to some sort of investment fund like a 401(k) for your retirement or do you just have the pension? Not to be nosy, just wondering if you saved in a fund or just in a savings account. I find it's hard to live, even frugally, and give money to some investor for retirement as well.

    Thanks for your time.

    1. Jules, when we were both borking we made the compulsory payments into our superannuation funds. They were paid out when we finished working - Hanno's 12 years ago, mine recently. I agree it's difficult but here it is compulsory so we had no choice. Of course, when you get the money paid out to you years down the track, you realise what a wonderful investment it was.

  11. Good on you, Rhonda! Well said! It's like you say in your soap making tutorial, 'if you don't get it; if you don't understand the process, then find something else to do.'

    This blog is my first go-to of the day and I would never find the inspiration to plan my lovely day if you continually banged on about budgeting and frugal living. Where is the inspiration and encouragement in that?

    As Tui Creek Tales said, you help in more ways than you can imagine. Keep up the wonderful work.

  12. Thank you for a well timed kick up the backside, I will be linking it to re-read in the future when I need some why-I-should-be-budgetting inspiration :)

  13. Thank you for another insightful post, Rhonda. I agree with your reasons for not writing about budgeting again. I have had similar experiences when I've tried to impart my own views on that subject; everyone is different and some people aren't interested in doing things the way I do them. That's fine with me. I know that choosing to live more simply than most of my peers do has given me a lot of confidence in myself and in my ability to make a good life for my family without incurring debt or wasting money on frivolities. It's a good feeling.

  14. Hi Rhonda,

    I especially love your sentence about believing in yourself. That sentence feels like a warm hand squeeze and smile from you.

    For those of your readers who desire more posts from you about budgets and frugal living, I hope they will look back at some of your earlier posts. There's plenty there about budgets and frugal living. Plus, I keep your book handy and it's a great reference for me. How you and Hanno live is a beautiful example of frugal living without being preachy and I love that about you've always reminded us all to make the life that suits us rather than try to be clones of you and Hanno.

    Diane in North Carolina

  15. A lovely post once again :) I can't fathom why people want to 'Keep up with the Jones's'. I'm the opposite, as a 31 year old Mum of two who works 4 days a week I would love to give up work and just work at home. I've redone our budget and we live simply and frugally but even with a mortgage under $200k we cannot afford for me to stay home yet :(
    Whilst I sometimes feel disheartened I can't live they way I would like, I know that in 20 years as a 50 year old I will be able to because right now, I'm choosing to live this way and when I'm 50 I will have many friends still struggling with debt and I will be able to retire as the hard work I am doing now will allow that.
    Thank you Rhonda for being an amazing role model for my family too :)

  16. Another thought provoking post today Rhonda - this is also my first blog read everyday and is helping me changes from spending way too much to getting our budget under control and accelerating payments on the mortgage.

    BTW, those cinnamon buns look divine!

    thanks fleur

    1. Keep up the good work, Fleur. I added the recipe link to the post.

  17. Hi Rhonda,

    Wonderful post as usual. Another 18 months or so and we'll finally be in a position financially to indepenently retire in our early 50's. We are so excited. Like you I think it is great to see people of all ages having the courage to leave the normal workforce to work at home so to speak. Unfortunately I do get very dissapointed with way too many I know of personally or I'm aware of who are deliberatly collecting unemployment benefits (but doing everything possible to avoid paid work) so they can afford to live this lifestyle at home we dream of. So like you I'm also proud of those younger people who chose to leave the traditional workforce as long as they are doing so "honestly" using their own finances.


  18. There's one point on which I disagree:
    "Forget about fashion and style".

    I like to indulge in what I call my imaginary life where
    I attend the Oscars,Charity Balls, etc.
    I follow the fashion weeks at New York, London, etc and select my dresses for such events - it's great fun!
    AND - you don't need a lot of money to hit the op shops and style yourself up an interesting home - I've scored some wonderful treasures.
    AND - if you teach yourself to sew you can snap up fabric from Spotlight for $2/mt and whip yourself up a nice frock. Super cheap!

    But it's very difficult to get the balance in life right.
    Enough money to pay for things like health insurance, rates and superannuation
    but have enough time to spend at home growing, cooking, housekeeping.
    Then there's money and time needed for hobbies and a social life.
    It really requires a lot of thought, planning and hard work.
    But it's such a rewarding creative pursuit to meet the challenge of building a life that fulfills all your needs.

  19. Rhonda, would you please be able to add the recipe for the delicious scrolls you have shown? I was getting quite distracted while trying to concentrate on your post ;-). We have a 4 year plan for retirement and I 'listened' to many of your tips as well as to my parents. It is amazing that the simplest changes can make all the difference in monetary terms and a feeling of being in control of your life and budget.

  20. I am now adjusting to life at home a couple of days a week without my daughter who has started kindy....its been hard, but the routines and things will settle soon and I will start feeling better....however, someone the other day said, will I be going back to work............'back to work'...I thought to myself, what have I been doing the last 12 years at home with my three children if it wasnt work...???? Of course, Ive been at home, painting my fingernails, and sculpting in clay, Ive been exercising for three hours a day and giving myself facials....oh, and sleeping, having an hour nap every afternoon, because thats what you do when you are at home 'not working'......crazy, Im busier now with 'my work' than I ever was....Im just here a couple of days doing it without my helper... :)

  21. I read your blog often but seldom comment...but had to on this one. I so agree...you either know it by now from what you have written or you don't. I spent the weekend with my sisters...my one sister was giving a baby shower for her daughter (who is not married...living at home...has no idea how she is going to support the baby)..but..a fortune spent on the shower...a fortune spent on little tiny baby clothes (no way can the baby wear all that)...when in reality all the money spent on the shower and gifts should have just been saved for future needs for the baby. But...I didn't say a word.

  22. Seconding the request for the cinnamon rolls recipe :) they look divine! thanks for being such an inspiration, Rhonda!

  23. To add to your final comment: Don't read your junk mail! If there is a Sale on they'll make you think you need it!! Another request here for that cinnamon roll too... Looks Yummo! :) xo

  24. Having a good budget is the key to having a comfortable life. It doesn't have to mean you miss out of things but the things you buy like you said should be bought with cash and if that means you have to save a while to get it then I think it make the reward even more special. The other day my little one asked for her pocket money in advance and our response was that it's important to save and wait just that bit longer than to borrow money if you don't have to. We thought it was important for her to learn the importance of saving and the patience of waiting which is not always easy for little ones. Thank you for always being inspiring Rhonda and helping to remind me of the path I have taken of being a homemaker is an important one. Catherine

  25. What a great post! I'm trying to get to the point where we have to work very little, but earlier this year we dedicated to travelling and having our last hurrah before the idea of babies comes into play. I look forward to the day where I can work only if we want to. I would be curious what staples you buy?

  26. Some one I know once quoted to a friend, "The grass always looks greener on the other side, but people forget they still have to mow it!"

  27. I LOVE your niddy noddy. I wish I could find one.

  28. hi rhonda,
    im becoming addicted to your blog!
    i am 29 and live on the disability pension. before i was granted the pension i studied, and was on unemployment when i got too ill to continue my studies so i learnt early to live frugally.
    the pension feels plentiful by comparison to earlier amounts, i now have enough money to save for the first time in my life!
    i live in a small apartment that is so dark i have to turn the lights on to see in the daytime.this means i cant grow my own food but budgeting and reading my junk mail catalogues really help me save money on my groceries.
    i do all my cooking from scratch but things like dried pasta if i can get it for 70c instead of $1.20 a pack i will buy 10 to stockpile and although these are small savings they all add up :)
    anyway that big ramble was just to say that there are no hard rules for living frugally and different things work for different people, find what works for you!

  29. I wanted to thank you for your post...it seems it was there to help ease my mind. I have just tried a return to 'almost full time' work in a challenging job and, after only a few weeks, have found it too much. I have been very grumpy and sad and losing patience with my family because of the stress I bring home with me. We are currently trying to work out how I can (my employer willing...) cut back or, if no other option available, resign and do something else with my life that doesn't impact so much on my family. I lie awake at night worrying about not having enough to pay for things like private health insurance. Thank you for your ideas that might help if I have to walk away from my job.

  30. American cinnamon rolls do not usually have a cream cheese frosting except ones sold in bakeries and such so they can charge more. At home we just do powdered sugar, milk and a bit of vanilla. I used to make huge pans of cinnamon rolls when our 5 children were still home and they devoured every one! Now I make a small batch and freeze extras to reheat for just the two of us.

    I so agree with everything you said! Friends kept whining about being in debt but just used the charge card constantly. I told them they needed tho stop whining and get rid of the charge card! Amazingly they are still our friends and I have not seen the charge card for awhile either!


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