Living on a limited income

22 May 2017
When we settled down here after years of working for a living, I wanted to leave commercialism behind and embrace a simpler, quiet life. I wanted to know peace and joy, connect with the land we live on, and develop a calm demeanour that would carry me through all the good days I hoped were ahead but would also save me on the bad days. I knew they were lurking too; no one escapes them.

I didn't know then that longing for a quiet life would mean I would work harder, embrace parts of my heritage, move away from buying what I needed and provide it for myself instead, or that all those things would make happier than I had ever been.  It wasn't easy though, it was tough in those early years. I had to turn my back on the instant satisfaction of continuous buying and look in unexplored places for happiness, strength and flexibility. I found the peace and joy I was looking for and I understood then that constant craving for products would never give me the kind of life I wanted. Constant buying puts you on a spending merry-go-round and you have to work hard to continue paying for it all.

I have often said that money is not the centre of my world. We needed it to buy our house and furnish it, and to live the way we wanted to live, but that is the only value it has for me. I don't want to amass a fortune, travel the world, live beyond what I know, nor pretend to be someone I'm not. I was born working class and I will die working class. There is nothing that inspires me more than seeing other women and men working for the life they want to live. Putting in those hours improves us. Work, either paid work or domestic work, polishes our rough edges, teaches us to be reasonable, organised and resourceful and it helps us discover our own worth.

Hanno and I live on a limited fixed income - a pension with a small amount of royalties coming in twice a year from the sale of my books. We own our home, paid cash for our car and we have no debt.  Generally, we can save about $200 in each fortnightly pay period. But there is one vital thing that makes saving fairly easy for us and that is a frugal mindset. Without changing the way you think about money, it will be a tough uphill climb for you. You need to see value in the things you already have and the many things that money can't buy. If your idea of bliss is wandering through shops looking for things to buy, or going on an overseas trip every year, or buying a new car because your best friend did, you need to rethink your desire to live simply.  You can't have both - you either live a pared down life buying what you need, paying off your debt and saving as much as you can, or you don't.

Saving money can be done in a few ways.
  • You can work more hours, save those extra dollars and start paying down your debt. 
  • You can work your normal hours and work out ways to spend less on food, entertainment, transport and utilities.
  • You can reduce your cost of living and start producing and growing some of what you use.  
  • You can declutter and get rid of all the excess you have in your home and sell it all at a garage sale or on eBay.
All these measures will help but saving the money you already have pays off handsomely. A saved dollar is more valuable than an earned dollar because you will pay tax on every dollar you earn.  One thing is for sure, you'll have to stop and think about it, decide what your values are, work out what you want to be doing in a few years time, and make a plan to help that happen. Change and saving doesn't happen because you want it to, it needs planning, work and ongoing commitment.

This is a topic that we need to be mindful of all the time.  It's one of the things you have to get to grips with when you start living a more simple life but you can't lose sight of your financial goals along the way. With the rising prices we live with, it's a good idea to track your spending and check your budget every couple of years so you know that you're using your money wisely. In my next post I'll write about the practical ideas you can use in your daily life that will help you live well while you cut back.

How have your ideas about money, debt reduction and thrift changed over the years?