Earlier this week, the lovely Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial wrote a post titled ‘living within our means‘ and it struck a cord with me. No matter if you earn the big bucks or just a modest income, if you spend more than you earn you’re in trouble.
I’ve written a few times about how I save money but I loved the way Celia broke her post down so I thought I’d provide my two cents worth for each point from a late-20s-mum-to-be point of view. I in no way claim to be an expert money manager but since I quit my full-time, set salary job a few years ago I have learned a few things that someone might find helpful (I hope!).
Celia talked about being prepared in terms of keeping a stash of money set aside for emergencies. She was referring to big emergencies where the rug is totally pulled from under you. I totally agree that we should be as prepared as we can for these sorts of things. Although we all hope nothing awful will happen to us the reality is you never know.
I also like to be prepared on a smaller scale. This last 7 months that Will and I have been house-owners it has been things like getting our pool up to scratch to pass a safety inspection or replacing a busted tire on the car that have made us realise you need to also have a little stash for the sorts of random things that pop up that you probably never thought to budget for.
On an even smaller scale I think doing things like having a few meals stashed in the freezer, keeping your pantry and toiletries well-stocked or even having a list of quick and easy meals to make at the last minute can save money. Instead of buying take-away or picking up a few rolls of toilet paper for some exorbitant price at the petrol station you just have to defrost and serve or grab a roll from the stash.
When I’m buying a replacement, it’s for the spare item not for the one we’ve just used that way there’s always a supply.
Save what you can on everyday things
The point I really want to make on this one is that it has to fit with your lifestyle. If saving on meat means a 1 hour return trip once-a-week, I know I for one am going to get over it pretty quickly.
Buying in bulk doesn’t work for everyone and neither does stocking up at Aldi. Since switching to mostly organic at least when it comes to fruit, vege and meat, I’ve had to work out a way to stick to it that fits with our budget and isn’t difficult because difficult for me means I won’t do it.
What works at the moment is doing a big butcher shop once a month at the organic butcher which I divide up and freeze. My cryovac machine is my best friend. I never really plan it too much but there are staples and always a big chunk or two of an inexpensive cut of meat for the slow cooker.
I signed up for a fortnightly delivery of a mixed box of fruit and vege from HomeFresh which I’ve been really enjoying. You can customise the box to suit and because everything is always in season and so very fresh, it lasts up to two weeks in the fridge.
For the grocery staples I do a big shop online once every two or three weeks. I know you have to pay delivery to shop online but I find the running total down the side keeps my spending in check.
For little bits and pieces I either try and substitute or pop to our local IGA.
I also buy in bulk for staples like dishwashing tablets and heads for our electric toothbrush. They’re so much cheaper to buy online but yes you do need somewhere to store them. I’ve stocked up on everything recently in anticipation of Bubba’s arrival and our house now looks like we’re doomsday preppers (may have purchased 360 dishwashing tablets on eBay).
DIY, make it, bake it, grow it
You know I love a good DIY and I’m constantly making things from scratch. Some of my favourites are tortillas, sourdough bread, ciabattas, fajitas, burritos and even yoghurt and ricotta. To some people, the idea of making their own tortillas is ridiculous but I like them much better than the store-bought version and enjoy making them. See back to my key, it’s all about finding what works for you.
I also make my own washing detergent (I’m giving it a few months before posting the recipe) and am always on the lookout for new projects to try.
Grow it is another great one and this can be as simple as a little pot of your most-used/loved herb growing on your kitchen windowsill to a giant vege patch that makes you self-sufficient. I’m still, even after 3 years, finding my feet with homegrown but we do have a wonderful lemon tree and lime tree that I hope will give us fruit for years and I keep experimenting.
Make your own gifts
This might seem like a stingy option but often homemade gifts are a welcome change to a present that might sit in your cupboard gathering dust. I love receiving something I can use/eat and the idea that someone went to the trouble of making it for me is great.
I’ve been giving little homemade gifts for Christmas and other occasions for a few years now and they’ve included spice rubs, chocolates, sauces, infused oil, homemade napkins and soy candles. As Celia said, find whatever it is that you’re good at making and go for it.
Explore free and inexpensive services and activities
This one I can’t say I thrive at. We love to eat out too much but one way to stop it digging into the budget is having a bit of money put aside each week that we call ‘fun money.’ We can blow it on whatever we want without feeling guilty.
Having said that, I love a lazy day at the beach, I could wonder around book shops for hours and baking a cake and having friends around for morning tea is one of my favourite things to do and practically costs nothing.
Patience and perseverance
I’m going to add ‘adaptability’ to this one too. Like I said, how we live within our means will vary enormously between one person and the next. The key is finding and doing what works for you and sticking at it but also being open to changing it as your lifestyle and personal situation changes.
Hope I haven’t sounded too preachy but this is how I manage. I’d love to know other people’s tips and what works for you?