budget · frugal · life · Money

Frugality and Simplicity: Things we’ve done right

Following on from my previous post on developing a more frugal and simple life…

I was thinking about areas we could improve, and areas where we’ve done relatively all right over the past twelve and a bit months since moving back to Melbourne.

Things we’ve done “right” this year:

  • Been patient. When we needed something, we didn’t go out and splash it on a credit card with money we didn’t have, or buy the first, shiny brand new item we saw. We waited and saved up to buy the things that we “needed”. When we first moved into our flat, we scrounged most of our furniture from Mum’s Shed, that mystical and magical place filled with unimaginable items (mainly stuff left there when various family members head overseas or downsize their ginormous homestead to a 2-bedroom flat in town). I wrote a big list of items that I thought we needed, however over the ensuing months I realised we didn’t actually need half of them. The main household items that we did need was a bed (although I think The Lovely Boyfriend would have been quite happy to continue sleeping on the floor for years), a washing machine (didn’t need need one, there is a laundromat around the corner, but I wanted one) and a vacuum. We survived the first 10 months without a bed, and our patience rewarded us. Just as I’d finally convinced TLB that we could afford one, and started looking, a free second-hand bed fell into our laps. A friend’s sister was moving interstate and they didn’t have room for their spare bed. Did we want it? Yes please. We probably would have gone all year without a washing machine, but another friend called up one day and said his neighbour was having a garage sale. Did we want a washer & drier for $60? Yes please!
  • Related to the above point to an extent, but we’ve been very frugal in setting up our new life. We didn’t bring much at all with us from Canada. We either sold it, gave it away, or left it in my parents-in-law’s garage. The only things we’ve bought have been a vacuum cleaner, which once we got the cat we realised we really needed and couldn’t rely on Mum bringing hers over on her once a month visits. We shopped around though, and got one on sale for$59 or so. It’s nothing fancy, but it works. After boiling my water for tea in a saucepan on the stove for the first eight or so months, I lashed out and bought an electric kettle. $30. Neither of us care about having new things, so we were completely happy to furnish our house from the odds and ends found in Mum’s Shed and generously given to us by friends and family. Even if we didn’t have the luxury of raiding Mum’s Shed, we most likely would have gotten a lot of our furniture from op-shops or second-hand stores. Setting up a new house from scratch can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
  • We cut a lot of crap. It was a bit difficult at first. We were earning about $100,000 between us before taxes back in Canada, and we while we did save a fair amount of money for the move, we were also used to being able to spend what we wanted, within reason. If I saw a book or an album I wanted, I didn’t really think about it, I just bought it. We ate out a lot, bought a lot of lattes. I worked across the road from a mall, and every now and then would walk through and buy myself new clothes, new boots etc. This year I’ve either been living off savings, or Centrelink and haven’t had much money to throw around so it’s forced me to be frugal. I didn’t want to wrack up a credit card debt, so we resisted getting one until the end of the year (more about that later) and I just learned to go without. Now I kind of wonder what I’d spend money on anyway. If I need new clothes, I go to Savers (a huge second-hand op-shop). You can get some pretty good things there. The only books I’ve bought have been ones with titles like “Educational Psychology”, “Educational Research: Creative Thinking and Doing” and “Place and Time: Explorations in Teaching History and Geography”… We still eat out sometimes, but it’s only a couple of times a month instead of 3-4+ times a week. If we go to the cinema, it’s on Monday or Tuesday when they have the half-price tickets. I took my own lunches to uni, TLB takes his lunches to work and coffee from a cafe is a once a week (or less) treat instead of a daily indulgence. We used to go out for brunch almost every weekend. There are so many lovely cafe’s around where we live that it’s tempting to go a lot here too, but most of the time when we do relent and go (we only go when we have visitors now), we end up thinking that we could make just as good at home. Which is true. We’ve gotten pretty awesome at our brunch making skills. Brunch here can cost upwards of $40 for just two people. We can do that at home for less than $10. Usually much less, depending on how expensive avocados are at the time…
  • The location we chose to live. We’re a five minute walk to two supermarkets, a fruit market, two butchers, a bunch of cafe’s and restaurants, a cinema, and random other shops. We’re also a five minute walk to two different train stations. It only takes 10-15 minutes to get into the heart of Melbourne from our house on the train. To bike in only takes 20 or so minutes (apparently). We’re also only a fifteen minute walk from the Footscray Market, which is a large, cheap fresh food market with all sorts of yummy different, Asian inspired foods. Being able to walk to so many things really cuts down on our car use. The car gets used to take TLB to work, and if we need to carry something particularly heavy. It’s not the cheapest location, rent wise (my friends from the country were shocked at how much apartments/flats cost in the city, let alone a house) but we’re in a flat that’s older and not been renovated for over 20 years. It’s fine for us for now, but it’s nothing fancy so it’s on the cheaper end of the rental market here. We saw cheaper but they were horrible, dank, grimy places that I wouldn’t want to live, or on neglected streets that would be depressing walking home through. Our flat is bright and airy and the rooms are large. We might be moving within the next few months, but we are planning on sticking to the same area. I don’t want to have to get in a car to go get the groceries or go to the train station.

So, to recap, things I think we’ve done right this year include being patient and frugal when setting up our new abode. Cut buying most unnecessary items. Eaten at home a lot, or packed our own lunches.  Picked a location to live that is conducive to more walking and less driving.

Over the next 12 months I can’t see us needing anything else for the house. We’re already in the habit of eating at home most of the time. Anyway, we’ll see.

Next post will be on areas I think we could improve, and our biggest areas of expense.

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