Controlling your own life

24 November 2015
Last Friday I linked to a forum post written by one of the members who is working on reducing her spending and doing the grocery shopping on, or under, budget. She wrote about  using a calculator to add the purchases as she shopped which helped her come in under budget. But the sentence that really struck a cord with me was this: "... it felt so good to be taking more control and knowing that it is helping me to reach my savings goals." I smiled when I read that, I've heard it so many times before, I feel it myself.

I get a lot of emails from people who've consciously moved away from the mainstream idea of living above their means to become more frugal and pay off debt. This usually involves writing up a budget and working hard to bring in all planned purchases under budget so that the debt reduction plan moves ahead every week. The common theme in these emails, and I felt this very strongly myself back when I changed my life, is the feeling of control you get from carrying out and repeating these humble actions.

When I decided I'd had enough and would change how I lived, I stopped listening to advertising and just concentrated on what I was doing instead. I thought that if I stopped buying 'stuff' I would be better for it. And that is what happened. Look at me now, I ended up here, living a life I could barely dream of back then. When you turn off the advertising and stop caring what your friends are buying you realise you don't need the latest dress, shoes or phone and at the supermarket you stop buying convenience. That results in less money spent and more debt paid off. When you keep repeating that and actively try to reduce your cost of living without sacrificing your quality of life you're well on your way to living the life you want for yourself.

And instead you do something like I'm doing today - cooking a piece of corned beef in the slow cooker to use as cold cuts because it's much cheaper than buying them already cooked, sliced and cold. This week I'm making good quality ice blocks for Jamie too. I have one of my sponsor Biome's stainless steel icy pole sets and I'll be filling them with yogurt and fresh fruit, and making an egg custard and freezing that instead of looking for expensive good quality ice blocks. It's not as quick and easy as buying cold cuts and ice blocks, it takes more time and effort but I'm not prepared to pay for someone else to do those things for me. I'd rather do it myself, know what's in our food and pay less. I don't get caught in that convenience trap anymore and I'm in control of my own life again.

Advertising and the habit of convenience tells you to sit back and everything will be taken care of for you. Everything is for sale as long as you work enough to pay for it. And that creates a cycle that starts with you wanting the best for yourself and your family, you work hard to buy the things you need and want, and tiredness creeps in, you buy more convenience to get you through and then you have to work more to pay for it. I know it's difficult finding the time and energy to become more productive at home when you're busy with paid work or small children. The trick to doing it is to choose the right things to start with. It's a slow process of picking what will make the most difference in your life, starting with that and adding more as you go along.

I'd encourage you to start with making your own laundry liquid , then use that to clean other things in your home so you can stop buying those cleaners and save that money. Homemade laundry liquid will cost you about three or four dollars for ten litres and even the commercial liquids in bulk packs will cost between $4 and $6 per litre. It works and doesn't take a lot of time to make - about 15 minutes for ten litres and that should see you through at least two months, depending on the size of your family. It might be a year's worth of laundry liquid if you live alone. Fifteen minutes every couple of months isn't much. Combine those savings with shopping at Aldi and cooking from scratch as often as you can and you're well on your way to significant savings and paying off debt. And when you do, you'll feel that elation that taking back control of your own life gives you. You never get that when you keep buying 'stuff', you just get to work longer.