A few years ago Jamie, my partner, became very stressed at work and eventually we decided he needed to take some time off. This time became 12 months, most of it unpaid. We love our house so decided not to downsize, but instead decided to simplify our lifestyle. We had to change how we lived to be able to stay where we were.
We adopted what is known as Simple living; a lifestyle where you consume only that which is required to sustain life; a lifestyle where you learn to be happy with what you need rather than what you want. Living frugally means buying less, wanting less, and leaving less of a footprint on the earth. It isn’t easy but it is very satisfying and I must admit the last three years have been the happiest of my life!
We started slowly and are still working at improving; it is working though because our debts are slowly being paid off. Jamie is working again though at a reduced pay level, but because of our change in lifestyle we manage just fine.
Here are some of the things we did to supplement our drastically reduced income.
• We reduced our possessions. When you go through all your stuff ruthlessly it’s amazing to see how much crap you buy over the years. Start getting rid of stuff you don’t use, wear or want anymore; give it all to the salvos, or have a garage sale. It’s a rewarding process, and at the same time, it makes you realise how useless all our consumer shopping is. Once you realise you don’t need or want any of the stuff and that the stuff really doesn’t make you happy you may be less likely to buy more stuff.
• We joined freecycle.com and gave lots of our stuff away but in return got some things we needed for free.
• We adopted the snowball debt reduction plan http://www.daveramsey.com/article/get-out-of-debt-with-the-debt-snowball-plan/
• We increased our self-sufficiency by growing all our own vegetables and what we couldn’t grow we bought from the farmers markets. We save loads of money on groceries.
• We freeze or preserve excess veg and fruit for lean times and buy in bulk such staples as dried beans and peas – amazing how many tasty cheap meals you can make with beans! Also chutneys, jams and relishes make great gifts.
• We started borrowing books from the library on self-sufficiency and frugal living to inspire us. Good ones include Rhonda Hetzel’s ‘Down to Earth’ and Arabella Forge’s ‘Frugivore’. Both authors have blogs: http://down—to—earth.blogspot.com.au/ and http://www.frugavore.com/
• We make our own green cleaning products. So much better for our family and the environment and saves masses of money.
• We recycle and reuse anything and everything!
• We reuse water bottles so we don’t need to buy them – this saves hundreds of dollars a year
• We stopped going to big retail centres and malls. The only purpose of these places is to spend money. If we need to buy something, we go to a single store and get what we need. No window-shopping!
• When we had the urge to buy something we go to op-shops or markets. You get what you need without making an environmental footprint and in most cases your money will help others rather than feed a corporation.
• We try to walk rather than use the car or catch public transport. We only run one car.
• I learnt new crafts and now make presents for people rather than buying them.
• We realised the best time we could spend with our kids was by being with them and talking to them. Much better than taking them to fancy places. Also when we do take them out it’s much more special.