26 May 2017

How to save money in your home

So far we've changed our mindset, or are working on it, we're tracking our spending, or starting to, and before we write up a budget, let's look at ways to save money. The obvious things are selling what you no longer need, making sure you don't waste anything, changing service plans or not paying for things you may be able to do without, such as:
  • a second car; 
  • the premium data package on your phone and internet instead of something more prudent;
  • cutting back on your children's after-school activities;
  • cutting back on family outings that cost money and make it a once a month event instead of weekly.

Hanno and I did all that many years ago. We sold our second car, got rid of pay TV and then I started learning how to stockpile, make bread, soap and cleaning products. I changed the way I cleaned, went back to cooking from scratch and got rid of most of the harmful chemicals I had in the house.  With everyone of those changes we paid out less money. I started decluttering and getting rid of years of excess and while I'll never be a minimalist, we live with a lot less junk now, and it makes a delightful difference. With ebay and gumtree, it's quite easy to sell what you don't want and if you do that, set that money aside to pay down your debt.

Cutting up an old sheet to use as cleaning rags.

I got into the habit of knitting dishcloths that can be washed and reused many times, I now mend torn clothes and dropped hems, I sew buttons back on and replace zippers.  I have a sewing basket where all items that need help are collected and when there are a few things in the basket, I set aside some time to mend them. What a money saver that is and it's a pleasant way to spend time, hand sewing, darning and sewing on buttons.  I now cut up old sheets and use them as cleaning rags and between those rags and my knitted dish cloths, I don't buy any cleaning cloths at all. With a bit of thought, you can change how you work in your home and it will save you a lot of money.

Another thing that's useful for many people is to stockpile groceries. Buying food that you know will keep well in a cupboard, or preserving fresh food when it's in season, will help you save. It also gives you a good backup if there is a community emergency, if you or your spouse lose your job or if you get sick and can't get to the shop. Having that little cupboard full of healthy food will save the day as well as money when you least expect it to.

We've had a solar hot water system for over 30 years. According to the stats, in an average home hot water costs about 30 percent of the electricity bill, so it's a big help if you can afford to install solar.  Generally a solar system for hot water, or solar panels for more general use, will pay for itself in a few years, so if you have some spare money, using solar power is a great investment.

You only need a small garden to grow salad leaves, tomatoes and herbs. If you can do that, it will save you money and you'll get far healthier produce.

If you don't have solar, it will be important for you to look for ways to cut down on your electricity usage. We've been able to cut down our usage and we use a fraction of what is normal now. There are two of us here, with frequent visitors, and we use the same amount of electricity as one person. That has been consistent over the past ten years. If you're going to try to cut your bill, everyone in the house will have to work towards that goal so have a talk with your family and work out ways to work together to cut down. That's particularly important if you share your home with teenagers or young adults.

Here is a list from an old post, written in 2011, that might give you more ideas about cutting back.
  1. Spend less than you earn. Not just today and this week, but all the time. 
  2. Spend only on needs, not wants. 
  3. Make up a workable and realistic budget and stick to it. 
  4. Stockpile food and groceries - this is your insurance policy that even if the worst happens, you'll still be able to feed the family. 
  5. If you have to find some money you don't have to pay bills cut out unnecessary expenses like internet, mobile phone, cable TV, magazines, coffee at the cafe etc. 
  6. Cook from scratch. 
  7. Never waste food, eat your leftovers and have a couple of meatless meals every week. 
  8. Take lunch and a drink to work and school. 
  9. Monitor your electricity, water and gas useage. Learn how to read your meters. 
  10. When you're cooking on the stove top, bring the food to the boil with the lid on, then turn the power down to a simmer. Leaving the gas or electricity on full will waste it. 
  11. Turn off lights and TV when you leave the room. 
  12. Turn off stand by appliances when you're not using them and when you go to bed. 
  13. Stop buying cleaning products and make your own using bicarb and vinegar. 
  14. Make your own laundry liquid. There is a recipe for it here
  15. If you haven't already done it, think about putting in a vegetable garden. If you've already got one, think about adding fruit and herbs. 
  16. If you have no space to grow vegetables, buy your fruit, vegetables, eggs and honey at a local market. The prices will probably be cheaper than the supermarket. 
  17. Check out your local butcher shop. The prices will probably be lower than the supermarkets and the quality of meat better. (We bought lamb on special at one of the big supermarkets last week and the quality of it was vastly inferior to what we usually get from our local butcher. Lesson learned.) 
  18. Teach yourself to knit and sew. There are many sites on the internet with very good instructions, tutorials and sometimes, videos. Try MADE, Instructables, Knitting Help
  19. Make your home the kind of place you want to spend time in. Invite friends around instead of going out for coffee or drinks. 
  20. Self reliance and a thrifty mindset will help you get through most things. Start with one thing, then move on to the others when you're ready.
There are so many individual things that we could give up or cut down on but it is up to everyone to work out what they are and then commit to doing it. One thing I do want to remind you of is this: these are YOUR decisions to make, not mine, not your best friend's, only yours and you family's. Think about your life and what you can achieve by make these small changes. I'm not saying it will be easy because it's not, but it does get easier. If you can do this and use your savings to pay off debt or save, it might change your life.  Good luck, my friends. I hope you dive right into this.

I hope you have the time to add your comments about what you're doing and what works for you.  What you say here may be just the thing someone needs to read. xx

More reading: 
This is an old post of mine that may help you: The Frugal Home


  1. I love your list Rhonda, it covers everything I try to do on a daily basis, I would add be frugal with your clothes washing. Most of our clothing isn't really dirty, I often wear pants for 2 or 3 days before I wash them, I only change my PJ's twice a week. Towels are washed weekly (and are perfectly fine if hanging on an airing rack) Sheets fortnightly, it's an individual thing I know but using common sense and your nose when it comes to laundry can save time and money on water, power and detergent.

    1. Thanks Cheryl, they're good suggestions. I certainly agree with you about the washing.

  2. Hi Rhonda,
    Your list is what I do or am in the process of learning to do, I am yet to tackle knitting dish cloths, I have bought the cotton and needles, I just need to sit down and make a start! I have a terrific YouTube clip and I have watched it over and over, I really must give it a go soon.
    Stuff I do everyday to save money are-
    We have a one light rule in our home to cut down the electricity usage, I wash twice a week and line dry the clothes, pack my lunch everyday and put left overs front and centre in the fridge so they are used up, I make bread once a week, this provides two lovely loaves which is ample, we buy our fresh produce at the markets, shopping around for the best value for money, I make all our cleaning products from simple ingredients, I wear an apron to protect my everyday house clothes to cut down on washing, I air our bedding (heavy quilts) to reduce the need for washing, I menu plan and stick to it, I make the most of my time at home by making a list of jobs to do that way the house stays clean and tidy, I cook from scratch most nights using the occasional bought curry paste and stock cubes, we eat meat two to three times a week with fish(caught by hubby) and veggie meals making up the rest, I ride to work and use the bike to run small errands instead of using the car, I save the warm up water from the shower and use it to water our big potted figs out the front. Doing these things for the first time for some people may feel odd, but after a while they become a habit and it feels like the natural thing to do.
    Have a lovely weekend.

  3. Very wise words Rhonda. I am rereading your book The Simple Home at the moment and have just this afternoon done my budget and goals for the next 6 months and written up some menu plans. Great peace of mind comes from living within your means.

  4. We have really seen the difference of eating at home - we used to go out at least once a week and now we don't, and actually prefer not too! Amazing when you have all you need and want at home :) in fact, we have had lots of meals out lately with family visiting and I have had enough! I couldn't imagine saying that even 1 year ago. Needs change, it is a gradual process but they really do.

  5. Today I want to reach out to thank you and tell you how much I LOVE your blog. I have been reading it on and off from the very beginning and always find it a source of inspiration and support. I've learned a lot of practical things, and your sane, steady advice has helped guide my way in life. Thank you deeply for sharing this gift of yourself, I am indebted.

    1. I'm pleased you've been helped. Thank you for letting me know. xx

  6. I was always an advocatr of using old sheets, socks etc when I made a discovery that chsnged my thinking. We had just moved house and I wasn't very organised about where my dusters were, so I bought a packet of microfibre cleaning cloths. They proved an absolute revelation. Thry need no extra cleaning products and they take much less elbow grease! They do make different grades for different jobs, but in all honesty just the basic ones seem fine for sinks, baths, work surfaces, dry dusting, damp dusting, whatever you use a cloth for. I believe they are resonably "green" as a product being made from recycled plastic bottles and they are very long lasting.

    1. Hi Lizzie, I was using microfibre cloths too but discovered that when they're washed, the tiny fibres flow into water ways and eventually into the ocean. They're now found in the bodies of many fish. So I've stopped using mine and I'm trying to work out how to dispose of the microfibre (and fleece). https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/20/microfibers-plastic-pollution-oceans-patagonia-synthetic-clothes-microbeads

  7. Oh Rhonda, I love you, truly!! Thanks for the reminder to not worry about what others (even family) think. Ours think we're nutty for "depriving ourselves" and going without, especially when it comes to not having a second car and other typical things. Sometimes there's even genuine concern for our safety...and it can be easy to get caught up in the fear of thinking you don't have something you might need, if that makes any sense.

  8. I would now be in a mess if we had not stockpiled some food as the driver in the family has just broken his shoulder and I can not get to the shops without a car. Luckily the freezer and cupboards are well stocked so we'll manage OK. Thanks for your help and encouragement in living a simple life.

  9. Such a great list, Rhonda. I need to get onto a couple of those things. We do have solar hot water and solar panels and they save so much in electricity costs. Well worth the investment. Meg

  10. Hi Rhonda,

    I was just wondering what I could add to the list when I looked at my indoor washing rack by the fire and thought - reusables! It is laden with handkerchiefs and some napkins. I'm not sure how much this saves us over a year but it would be quite a bit. I also use a fountain pen - a bottle of ink refills your pen up to 50 times which works out very cheap and keeps plastic out of the landfill.

    I have teapots in a few different sizes so I try to make only as much as we need. Although half a pot of tea probably doesn't cost much it is a waste to throw it out. (BTW tea leaves will generally always work out much cheaper than tea bags). I was given a cup sized tea infuser too and use that for mugs of herb tea. I've been taking a thermos to work (previously Uni) for over 30 years and drinking an average 3 cups of tea during the day I must have saved many thousands!

    Thanks for linking to your older post, I remember reading it when you first wrote it and how encouraged I felt as a newly single mum trying to keep all the balls in the air.

    One final thing, my partner is painting the exterior of our home saving about $8000


  11. Very informative and helpful reading Rhonda. Haven't quite organised the dish cloths yet but that will come soon. I have gone back to the beginning of your blog and I am still in 2007, LOL. I love it and amassing much information and ideas. The stockpile cupboard is really a brilliant idea.

  12. One major thing that saved us when my children were small and my husband lost his job was that I always had a jar where I put my loose change (pennies and ha'pennies back in the day : ) ). Those coins do mount up so my daughter has taken a leaf out of the book and is doing the same thing - those coin counters in the bank are very useful!

    Keep up the good work with your blog Rhonda I read you often but haven't commented until now...so we're out there : )

    1. Thanks for commenting, Angela. It makes a difference when people comment for the first time because it gives me a better understanding of who is out there.

      I usually have a change jar too.

  13. I only buy our meat from the butcher. When we first got married I bought some meat from the supermarket and it was that tough we couldn't eat it. Never again.
    I do have a small contribution which is when food shopping avoid paying for a 'service.' For example supermarkets now have ready made/cut fruit salads and various green salads all in those handy little plastic containers. Much cheaper and better to cut your own and save on plastic too. Also when buying meat you can purchase larger pieces and section it yourself, dice/slice meat yourself, remove the skin from chicken yourself.
    Interesting reading everyone's comments and picking up bits here and there.

  14. Hi Rhonda thank you for your posts I always love reading them, they are so helpful. I have cut down our weekly grocery bill, started a vegetable and fruit garden (cockatoos are a problem so it's not productive yet), and a big saver for us is to shop at op shops or second hand markets, EBay also. Op shops are a treasure trove these days and i buy quality clothing, toys, books and household items very cheaply as and when we need them. We also donate too. We have 2 young children and we very rarely buy new toys and books for them. The kids and I also love collecting sticks to use as kindling for the fire rather than buying kindling which is appx $15 a bag. Little things but they add up :) thanks again Rhonda

  15. You have a great list here. My tip may seem odd if you never eat out but my husband loves to take me out. We eat breakfast occasionally at an Amish restaurant. They have the most delicious sausage gravy and it draws us back there over and over because I just cannot duplicate it's flavor. We suspect they make their own sausage. Last week when we were there hubby asked if they sell the gravy by the gallon. I thought, "WHAT?" Well they do and it is only $16 a gallon. We took it home and divided it into 16 portions and froze it. It reheats to taste just like fresh and this will save us a ton of money over eating a full breakfast there just because we love the gravy. I really doubt I could make it myself for that amount since it is loaded with meat. So, it is something I will consider in the future because this will keep us eating at home more often.

  16. Another wonderful post, thanks Rhonda. One little thing I've done is go back to a stovetop kettle on our gas stove. I was fed up with buying electric kettles that didn't last and ended up in landfill. My new kettle cost $60 but has a 25 year warranty and works when the power is out too. It takes a little longer to boil but I'm pretty sure I'm saving on the cost of boiling water using gas and in winter the gas burning warms the kitchen a little too.

  17. I enjoyed your point about being prudent regarding data/phone packages. It is too easy to agree to a data package way in excess of one's actual needs. It is worthwhile to track how much data one uses and then decide on a package that meets those needs.

  18. Hello Rhonda I am a long time reader of your blog, I live in Melbourne. I have been enjoying looking at videos on You tube on Minimalism, Simple Living, Urban farming etc, there is a great one from YOU on current affair I think! I just wanted to ask you, do you have any favourite inspiring You Tube videos that you love to watch your self? there is so much on there, it is hard to sift through. Appreciate anything you can share. Kind regards

    1. Hi Tan, I've got a couple you might like in my list for the next weekend reading post. That will be published either the coming Friday or the following Friday.

  19. For me the biggest money saver change I made was to largely stop the spending on little treats. By making my shopping day for groceries be a once a week outing I combine jobs with simple pleasures- a coffee (maybe a snack), the library and sometimes a sneak peek at a magazine. That has become enough and an outing to look forward to. Town is 40 minutes away.
    Around the home it is;
    Cooking from scratch
    Being power use conscious.
    Planting what we use a lot of.
    Repairing clothes and taking good care of them.
    Decluttering- helps me be mindful of what we need rather than wants. It also helps us take care of what we have as it is all easy to see.
    Not following trends.

  20. Hi Rhonda,
    I am a very long time reader and this is the first time I have commented. I also attended your workshop in Blackheath. Just to say thank you for always writing about what I need to hear and what I need to work on.
    Marilyn from Dromana Vic

    1. Hi Marilyn, thank you. I remember you. You met my sister Tricia too. I hope things are going well for you. xx

  21. Thanks Rhonda, all is going well and I am slowly getting my life where I want it to be....2 steps forward and 1 step back but learning all the time and still progressing in the direction of where I want to be. Thanks so much for your blog it keeps me centered and on the right track.

  22. Hi Rhonda,

    I love these posts. I always come away feeling a little closer to "home" after reading them.

    I was glad to have a small but healthy pantry recently. After our last big renovation push to get the roof on we were pretty tight cash wise, as we are doing everything here only as we can afford it. But there was plenty of pasta to eat, and good hearty soups bulked out with barley, sourdough and big cheap roasts.

    Now the cold weather seems to have settled in, I'm beginning to master how to not just cook on, but to bake in my little old wood oven too. Free fuel, and free heat is lovely.


  23. Discovered your lovely website in the process of gathering tips and suggestions for doing a £1-a-day food challenge and am so enjoying reading it. I love it that once one starts implementing a frugal tip here and there they seem to multiply and become habits that grow sustainably. A tip I've discovered myself in recent weeks is saving up the trimmings from vegetables - scrubbed carrot peelings, outside leaves of onions or leeks, celery off-cuts etc etc - things that I would have just put on the compost heap otherwise - and adding herbs from the garden, and cooking them up with water and salt to make homemade vegetable stock that is a fantastic addition to homemade soups and casseroles - gives a real flavour lift to otherwise plain dishes for almost zero cost. I use a pressure cooker which is very economical of fuel and brilliant for cutting down cooking times not just for stock but soup, dried pulses etc etc. Thank you for all your inspiration, Rhonda. Elizabeth x

    1. Welcome Elizabeth and good luck with your challenge.

  24. I know that I am late in replying to this post but I thought you may get a giggle out of something that happened to me today. My mother is entitled to 90 minutes cleaning every fortnight. So while the cleaner was here I cleaned up and sorted out both vacuum cleaners, yesterday I had to repair the front loading washing machine and I had a little whine as I am so ill equipped to be the man about the house. Then I astonished her by picking up a work basket and began to repair the toe of my father's sock. Those socks cost about $50 a pair. He needs them for medical reasons. I determined that dad will have every little bit of wear out of them. I know repairing socks is not an everyday thing but those are just too expensive to throw away at the first bit of wear and tear.

    1. Good on you, Suze. To get the most out of every dollar, we have to do these (now) unusual things. I bet your mum was proud of you.

  25. Hi Rhonda,
    Firstly, thanks for your laundry wash recipe, it was a life changer and has been the gateway for me starting to make my own liquid hand soap and shower gel. Shampoo will be another challenge! I am in the process of using up a pile of normal consumer dish scrubbers, and have resolved to buy no more. I learned to make my own sourdough starter and how make beautiful homemade sourdough for 1/6 the cost of the sourdough I used to buy every week. I feel my biggest cost savings have come from getting rid of the TV (so much more time to make things, and no insidious advertising), eating meat only once a week, growing as much as I can in my tiny duplex front garden, and minimising driving by bundling tasks and having car-free days. Renae :)

  26. Hello, Rhonda, thank you for this post and for your excellent blog. I often feel as though we are swimming against the tide, so it is really valuable to have contact with others who have similar values and objectives.
    When my husband and I bought our first home, we chose something modest and paid it off more quickly by living on one income and putting the other toward the loan.
    At the time we started our family, we made the decision together that I would be a home-maker, rather than continue working outside the home. Eventually I took a few hours' cleaning work on Saturdays when my husband could stay with the kids, but the family has always been my priority.
    Last night I was in the car with our eldest (15-year-old daughter) and she made me feel so happy and grateful that we have done things this way... She told me that, although at times she found it hard when other kids were going away on holiday, showing off new phones and talking about what they'd watched on Netflix, she's glad to have been brought up the way she is and she can now see value in being able to find happiness in simple things.
    Hearing this filled me with so much joy... thank you for encouraging 'counter-cultural' people like us who are living according to their own convictions.
    Kellie :)


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