It stinks, and it’s scary; the cost of living is going skyward — food, electricity, gas, water, travel, rent, mortgages, and more, and the hikes continue. When will it end? (collective groan).
Affording to live has never been so…well… unaffordable.
Mortgage rate increases that cost hundreds more each month have hit Australians hard. Even with government assistance, huge utility bill increases are painful for UK friends and relatives.
Unavoidably, then, our attention has been on measures to reduce consumption, value what we already have (each-other), and develop more sustainable lifestyles.
How are you beating the crisis?
Here are 20+ ideas that are working well for us:
- Kmart – Your Tommy Hilfiger underwear isn’t making dinner for you. We’ve realised getting socks and underwear from Kmart saves $$$. Everyday things like deodorant, toothpaste, t-shirts, shorts, and makeup are much cheaper and it’s the same stuff for the most part.
- Free / Low-Cost Activities – Instead of fancy hotels and weekends away, we’re trying to do more free activities like bike riding, going to museums, fishing, reading, picnics in the park, hiking, beach walks, and gardening there are so many ways you can create adventures for $0. Like that camping escapade; I cried and laughed for the entire trip because it was challenging, cold, and windy, yet it remains unforgettable because it was unique and outside my comfort zone. It cost $5 to stay at the campsite and a couple of dollars for the eggs and toast we made in the morning.
- Meal Prepping – A die-hard ‘Meal prepper’ – I try and batch cook many meals at once on a Sunday – enough for every day of the following week. Has helped me avoid impulse buying takeaway food, I love not having to cook each day, just reheat. Also saves money with bulk-buy discounts on ingredients. If I make too much I freeze some.
- Substitute ingredients – Instead of premium meat, we’ve resurrected good old tuna bakes, homemade soups, and salads which work out to be a cheaper cost-per-meal.
- We’re going to Aldi way more – Switching to protein bars from Aldi (20% cheaper than Coles) we were nervous they’d be awful, but they taste the same! We discovered Aldi yellowfin canned tuna happens to be more delicious than any other tuna as well.
- Growing our own food – We purchased potted baby tomato and cucumber plants from Bunnings. In Australia cherry tomatoes grow insanely well; and cucumbers. Turns out it’s bizarrely rewarding and exciting to see things grow and then eat them. Homegrown tastes more delicious than store-bought. We’re watering them by using recycled rainwater – free food/free water!
- Health Insurance – My medications are expensive; so I called my Health Insurance and found out I can swap extras to save. For example, swapped physio with pharmacy – now I get $40 off meds. It was worth the call!
- Electricity – We invested in solar panels / solar batteries so luckily the bill is nearly zero – the panels and battery supply all consumption for a 3-bedroom house. Highly recommend solar powered everything – if you can make the upfront investment. (see fencing budget method below on how to save up for it).
- Thermal clothes – A while ago it was a very cold winter so I bought thermal wear from a camping store – these layers have saved me many times from needing the heater on. Stoked I’ve got them now!
- Fire Pit – Get the marshmallows out and cook over a fire; this is fun not just for entertaining guests but cheaper than putting the electric oven or gas stove on. Now we’re spending most Sundays cooking food over an open fire, and eating fresh off the grill. Delicious.
- USB charging sensor lights – People were bemused by my hubby’s portable / USB charging sensor lights that light your home as you walk around at night. Suddenly, they are essential electricity-saving beacons of hope that I can’t live without. It’s like having a smart home without the setup cost. S-M-R-T!
- Curtains – My Mum installed velvet curtains which is clever! – Insulating the home, with thicker longer curtains will keep things toasty. Keeps the sun out in summer and the heat in during winter. You can get the curtains from Salvo’s / charity shops for a couple of dollars.
- Woodfire / Combustion Heater / Fireplace – We installed a fireplace a while ago and collect wood from local parks. One fireplace (strategically placed) heats the entire home all night and day for $0. Best purchase ever. Doesn’t even matter that we have no double glazing, the fire warmth sticks around for many hours, and collecting wood keeps us very fit!
- Flybuys and points – We’ve both signed up for flybuys for reward points. And we are swiping that little flybuys card everywhere from Target to Coles and back again. Explore rewards points and take advantage.
- Bargain Hunt – We’ve trying to be savvy bargain hunters! We’re looking harder at different everyday products online first to see if we can get the same thing cheaper. We found a moisturiser usually $80 for just $5 by checking the ingredients and googling an alternative.
- Rainwater tanks – About $50 on special for 100 litre tanks, rainwater tanks are relatively cheap and will save on watering the garden (which ties in with growing your own food) (see above).
- The Fencing Fund budget method – Previously I’d splurge leftover income at the end of the month. I’d sometimes save a bit or use credit cards as the bills rolled in. What’s changed? Now on pay-day, I set aside a portion for all future bills. Another portion for paying down loan balances sooner, and another portion for investing in some of the measures above (e.g. the water tanks, fireplaces, solar). Then, after the future, is taken care of, (e.g. fenced off out of my main account), I only spend what’s left.
Say gas is $200 a quarter – which is $800 a year, divide that by twelve which is $66 a month, and ‘fence off’ $66 a month into another account. Later, when the bill arrives use the fence fund to pay the bill instead of that month’s salary. Do this for all quarterly and once-annual bills so you are one-to-many steps ahead. Also pay some funds into a ‘Future Measures’ fund and a ‘Pay down Loan Sooner’ fund – whatever you can afford.
- Online Subscriptions – From Netflix, Amazon Prime, Foxtel, Stan, Soundcloud, Spotify, and on and on, I mean I felt like I needed all. I’ve narrowed my subscriptions down to “one of each thing” and have a lot more disposable income (what was I thinking!)
- File Storage Services – File Storage – I used to pay lots of money for Dropbox, until I found Google One as a cheaper alternative… I could use a portable drive for free, but prefer the accessibility of the cloud.
- Restaurants – We’ve normalised taking a drinking bottle of tap water to Nando’s instead of ordering drinks with our meal saving us $5 per person. We take leftovers home in a takeaway container, which provides another meal. We, grab a few extra serviettes – they make great (free!) tissues/kitchen rolls 🙂
- Switch Providers OFTEN – Providers don’t typically give us much for loyalty, instead, they seem to reward new customers with massive discounts. For this reason, we’ve saved more by switching providers often, from health insurance, internet, gas, electric, phone, and mortgage/banks. We review all of these multiple times a year (well ok my hubby does this).
One time, my husband called a provider to say he was canceling to rejoin as a new customer to get the new customer discount and they said “…oh no don’t do that! we’ll give you the discount anyway!!”
- Switch off at the plug – Not the fridge of course! But we switch off power at the power points – I admit I’m not good at this. But check which of your appliances have a high power draw on standby such as TV’s, stereo’s, computer monitors, it makes a difference.
- Appliances – We ditched the fridge from the 90’s, it’s not economical anymore. We used to have multiple fridges; one in the garage, one in the house, and another in the basement. We consolidated appliances and sold the other two.
- Buy Second Hand – Charity shops / Salvo’s are full of amazing pre-loved clothes, if you need a top or some pants, I have a friend whose entire wardrobe is second-hand, and she never buys from fast fashion and looks like a model. Thanks for the inspo Kate!
- Facebook Marketplace – Sell stuff you don’t need anymore. Furniture or white goods are easy to find on there, we also routinely give away our preloved stuff to other family members it makes their day and saves them heaps.
- Swedish Dishcloths – Google it, they are amazing and (mostly) replace all those reams of kitchen roll I used to get through. They are also re-usable / can be washed in the washing machine.
- Gratitude – Write a list of things you are grateful for each day (trust me – it works!)
- Continue to follow your dreams – don’t change what you love doing, just find another (cheaper) way
Being mindful of how you spend money makes a real difference – take care of the cents and the dollars look after themselves. Thinking forward and not just today has been the biggest game changer… This may not be a new concept, but it was for me… and i’m hoping it can help you too.
If you have any ideas of your own – I’d love to hear them?
© Morvana Zaahira Goodman 2023