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

Track your spending

Carrying on from my previous post... I think the first step in making long-lasting changes in how to deal with money is to first work out what your values are and to adjust your thinking to make sense of it. Generally, when you're living this way, you try to cut your costs, stop unnecessary spending and create your own organised system to pay off debt and lower the cost of living. How you do that is up to you and it can be done well in many different ways. There is no one size fits all formula for this. You look at your own life, your needs, your level of debt and you work out how you'll cut costs while you pay off debt.

The first thing I suggest you do is to track your current spending. We all know how much money we have coming in each week/month, but not all of us know how much we're spending, or on what.  By tracking your spending, you'll know how much you're spending on what you need and also on those things you don't need, but want.  It's good to identify those wants, because they are usually what you can stop buying to save money. Coffee and magazines are generally in the wants category. Spending four dollars a day on a cup of coffee when you're at work five days a week will add up to about one thousand dollars a year.  And that's just one thing. Magazines are another thing that can be easily stopped. Buying lunch at work five days a week, if you spend about seven dollars a day, will cost you around $1750 a year. Even if you spend $750 buying your basic ingredients to make lunch at home, you're saving $1000 a year. If you can get into the habit of taking your lunch and a drink with you when you go to work, it will help you save.

But there is a catch here. You have to be sensible about what you cut back on. If a cup of coffee every day seems to be too much of a sacrifice, buy coffee every second day or twice a week. In three months, think about it again and you might be able to do more. YOU have to decide on what you can live with. It's not for me or anyone else to tell you what you should do. You're taking control of your own life and you call the shots. Just make sure your decisions are sustainable and realistic. Make sure your changes can be done, start off slow if you need to and as you see the changes happening, you may decide to increase what you're cutting back on.

Here's an old post on how to track your spending.

We are all different in so many ways, some of us rent, some work from home, some have a car, some have no children, some have a large family. No formula can cover all the differences.  The one thing we do have in common is that we all need food so if you can save money on your food, then those savings will be ongoing. I don't bother searching for "specials" or clipping coupons. What I see on sale at supermarkets are usually products I would never buy, they tend to be snack foods, soft drinks, processed foods and expensive cleaning products.  By making my own simple cleaners, stockpiling and shopping for fresh food, while growing a bit of it ourselves, we get, I think, the best value for money.  We shop at markets when we can and do our shopping at Aldi with a bit at IGA or Woolworths for things that Aldi don't stock.

You might discover that bulk buying with a friend or family member will save you money. You may decide to cut down on meat. You might grow a garden. Again, there are many ways to do this, you just need to think about it and work out what works for you.

In my next post let's share our ways of cutting back.  I'll make up a list of what I do but I'd love to read what you do as well. By sharing our plans and strategies, we might help someone else start making changes in their life.  We'll be waiting a long time to see our governments and the media encouraging us to cut down on what we spend. We have to do this ourselves and help others do it too. It can be done, it can be enjoyable! I know quite a few people who see cutting back as a game. But no matter how you do it, do it. It will help you change your life.

Living on a limited income

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?

Weekend reading

 Yes, these two photos are related. That hole next to the elder seedling is Gracie's latest masterpiece. 

We're enjoying a spot of rain here. The gardens are soaked, the tanks are full and the only problem is us gardeners can't get out into the garden.  Maybe tomorrow.

Thanks for your visits during the week and especially for leaving a comment. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and that you take it easy and relax.  See you again next week. 😌

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Eating cheese does not raise risk of heart attack or stroke, study finds
Irish beach washed away 33 years ago reappears overnight after freak tide
A mattress stitch tutorial
Scrounging for money: how the worlds great writers made a living
What Henry Ford understood about wages
How to foil a fox attack on your chickens

Catching up on our news

Thank you all so much for the love sent in the last post.  It's quite humbling to read it.  😊  I am going to devote some time to getting back to my core topics.  They won't come thick and fast like in the past but they will be here. I hope to have a money post up soon.


Tricia flew back to Sydney yesterday after a lovely holiday with us. We reminisced, drank tea, hand stitched, knitted, ate cake, laughed at Gracie and generally had a wonderful time together. When we were little, we were like chalk and cheese but now in our twilight years, we are closer than two peas in a pod. We like the same things, enjoy the same food, have similar opinions on many subjects (and a few differences too), and as we grow older, I see myself in Tricia. I guess she sees herself in me too. It's a nice feeling having a sister to be close to. We are the product of our times and our parents, especially our mum, and when I spend time with Tricia and think of my mum, I feel ever grateful to have been born into my family.

A couple of the morning teas while Tricia was here - crackers with Mersey cheese spread, cucumber and tomato and (below) plum cake.  I made a pear and walnut cake too but now I can't find the photos. Of course it was magnificent. ; - )

A lot happened while Tricia was here so I hope you have a few minutes to sit a while and catch up on our news.  The main activity was our electricity pole. Remember back a few months when we had to have it replaced and had a problem with the insurance. Well, they came through afterall with a good payment and we were able to have all the work paid for under the insurance pay out.  Earlier in the week, after a couple of months of preparation, sourcing a pole and having it erected, our electrician and our supply company arrived at 6.30am to connect the new pole, establish supply from the street and remove the old pole. We asked our electrician to leave the old pole here as we wanted it for fire wood.  He offered to cut it up for us so the chainsaw fired up for a while and we were left with a 30 year old hard wood post, all cut up in manageable sizes for our BBQ grill.  More on that later.  It lay on the ground there for a day or two and yesterday afternoon Hanno chopped it into smaller bits and took it all into the shed so it stays dry.

The crew working on the two poles, above. Below, our electrician made short work of the old pole with his chainsaw then Hanno took over and chopped it into smaller pieces to be stored in the shed for our BBQ grill.

Meanwhile, out in the vegetable garden, the bok choy have all been eaten and today I'll weed that area and sow more seed. I've also sown seeds for red sprouting broccoli in seed beds and will plant them on when they're ready. The silver beet (Swiss chard) is ready to harvest, herbs are going wild and many of the tomatoes are flowering. What a wonderful time to be in the garden. I hope your garden is growing well too.

All the bok choy has been harvested from that first space on the left (below). I'll weed that area now and sow more seeds there. 

Something that is not so wonderful though is the fox is back and two days ago, Kathleen, our remaining frizzle was killed. That blasted animal bit off her head and left her little body under the lemon tree. What a senseless death! The chickens are spending most of their time in the coop and only wander out when they know we're in the garden. We've let Gracie out into the larger back garden now so she will leave her scent around and hopefully deter foxes.

This is the knitting I was doing while Tricia was here. I wound two balls of the lovely O Wool Balance (50 percent wool/50 percent cotton) to make a little shrug for my two year old grand daughter. I should be finished with it next week.

I have to catch up with my housework over the coming days. While Tricia was here I did next to nothing except cook and make the bed.  The first thing I'll be doing is to get those bok choy seeds in, I have to repot my large rose which has been pruned and moved, the bush house needs a good clean out and a few plants have to be shifted to their winter spots. It's nothing much, it's fairly light and enjoyable work, but it needs to be done before next week. Inside the house I'll clean the bathrooms, wash the floors and make the guest room bed up again; Tricia vacuumed in there before she left. My only worry is that the doona from the guest bed is airing out on the clothes line and I woke up to the sound of rain. Oh well, as we all know, nothing is perfect.

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