Friday, September 23, 2022

Choosing a variable tarriff for electricity? Ummmmm

 


It all started a week or so ago, when I opened an email in which our electricity company Synergy which offered us a deal whereby, if we had a 'smart meter' we could choose to pay a variable tariff -in which some parts of the day were quite cheap and the peak times quite a lot more expensive. 

Up until now, we have had only a standard rate no matter what time of day you used the power. The details of the offer are: 

    Between 9 am and 3pm the charge would be 8c per unit.

    From 9pm to 9 am would be 22 cents per unit.

    The most expensive time would be between 3pm and 9pm when it would be 0.50c per unit.

Our current charge is 28 cents no matter what time of the day we use it.  

One thing we noted, was that the supply charge per day for the variable tariff has been increased from about 96 cents per day to $1.20 per day. You have to read the information quite carefully to find this out! 



The aim of the proposal is to 'stabilise the grid"- Perth is a great place to have solar panels, so many days of sunlight - but they make a lot of energy during the day when many people are at work, and then when they go home and turn on their TVs and stoves and things, the sun is going down and the grid is at peak demand but without solar input.  This week we got news of a problem with the grid due to a coal mine going bankrupt is here-it is only a small part of the way WA gets energy -we have wind farms and plan to get more. There are a few places where there is a local energy grid using a battery and wind farm combined with solar power for homes.

DH and I considered that we should be in a good place to do change to this tariff -we are retired so at home a lot, we have solar panels and a smart meter. As DH said, we should also be prepared to play our part in this. For decades, enviromentalists have talked about 'peak oil' and the necessary adjustments away from fossil fuels. We are all going to have to live less profligate lives in the energy sphere. Our simple living lifestyle, which we have been working on since this blog was started in 2008, should set us up for success.  

We have watched with great concern about the fuel crisis in Europe and especially in the UK, we have noted that many people will struggle with a low energy future if the rent in draughty, poorly designed homes (if they can afford to rent!) or if they are sick or in need in some other ways and need to use power for life saving machinery. Practicing low energy lifestyles seems like an act of solidarity, somehow. We have the choice -which we know is a luxury- of saving money this way, and helping out our community. Over the years we have been carefully renovating our home and changing our practices to live simply. 

WHAT WE DID

DH loves to work with numbers. In order to decide if we want to change our tariff, we started collecting data on our current use, and put it in a spreadsheet. DH collected the data three times a day. 

The first week we did not change our habits at all. 

The second week we did the following things:

1. As it is still cloudy and raining at times, we have a time switch on our solar hot water system, to boost it with electricity  if the sun has not been shining enough to get the water hot for a shower. We get about 8 months of free hot water from the solar hot water system, so cost of this boosting in the winter this is not a big issue for us. We adjusted the timer to boost during the cheapest period. . 

2. We have checked that there are no chargers left on during the peak period-and this is particularly true for things like tools in the shed and phone chargers in the house.



3. We adapted our cooking -  trying to either cook without the oven, or make bread and use the leftover heat for other things, or cook earlier in the day.  As a baker of sourdough, this means that I need to go back to proofing my bread overnight and cooking it in the morning. I used to do this but winter temperatures overnight made this impractical., and to be honest, I just didn't feel like making bread in the evening. Long hot summer evenings are much more conducive to this. 


The electricity company's  own suggestions include:

1. Setting your washing machine or dishwasher to run during the day instead of at night, to take advantage of super off peak rates. There might also be a ‘delay’ button or timer feature on your appliances to help you to do this.



2. Charging up your consoles and other devices during the day, and switching your chargers off when you don’t need them, particularly during times you’ll be charged at peak rates.

3. Doing the bulk of your cooking or meal prep before you head out for the day, or setting your dinner to cook during the day in a slow cooker, rather than cooking with your appliances when you get home in the evening.




WHAT WE FOUND: surprising

DH found that the first week's average daily use was 16 kw hours spread pretty evenly over the 24 hour period. If we had signed up to the variable tariff this usage would be expensive -more than $1.20 more or at least $62 per year. 

The second week of consiously making changes meant we used the same number of kilowatt hours, but reduced our overnight consumption drastically, mostly by changing the hours of electricity boosting. We also turned off chargers, and computers more consistently when not in use.  Some things were easy enough -waiting to turn on the dishwasher or dryer is not often an issue.




Changing our cooking practices required some thought.  One day I made a vegetable soup -first roasting the veggies for extra sweetness, straight after the bread came out of the oven, after 9 am but before 3. Then I put the soup together and simmered it  on the induction cooktop before 3. Then I put it in our insulated hot box until dinner, when I will blend it and serve it. Most of the cooking was done on what would be the cheapest tarriff. 

Another day, I planned a 'baking day" - making a quiche for dinner and some banana bread in the oven on the lowest tarriff setting. 



IF we  took up the variable tariff, but changed our ways and could keep them up over the year, we would save $40.

Now, in a cost of living crisis, that might be significant, but it required a lot of effort on our part.  

AND what about the other seasons? 


SUMMER  if it is still hot after 3pm in summer and we want to use the power to cool ourselves down -won't that be expensive? We often get sea breezes, but they sometimes come after 4pm or later. Earlier this year we had a 'heat bomb' where the temperature did not drop much overnight for over a week of soaring temperatures. The evaporative air conditioner we installed this year uses a lot less power than a refrigerated air conditioner, however. 

WINTER we are usually pretty active and don't use any heating until evening -and then we sit together in DH's study where a column electric heater and some rugs and quilts is enough. It could be expensive though....In winter you want warm food -and even using our insulated hot box and microwave, and the smaller than the oven convection microwave, you would still use power at the most expensive time of the day.

One of our friends said that most people would not go into the detail of the Synergy offer -I guess that is true. We did, however, and right now we are not signing up.

I am happy to try to save power where we can though. 


Finally -stuff I found on the internet related to simple living! 

Growing veggies -encouraging tips here 

Rhonda's wise words on reducing expenses here 

Green Godess sauce here

Baking zucchini slice in the slow cooker here 

Enjoy this wonderful Youtube channel in Ireland called Bealtaine Cottage

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Djilba- everything is growing!


Just part of my garden.


After a lot of winter rain and some warmer days, it is clear that Djilba is in full swing. I am really enjoying the lushness of the garden -there are so many flowers, so much abundance. Djilba is a transitional time of the year, with some very cold and clear days combining with warmer, rainy and windy days mixing with the occasional sunny day or two. Our water tanks have been full for months now. 

We are harvesting rainbow chard, asparagus and snow peas. The rhubarb is growing. Deciduous vines and trees are budding. The parsley has self-seeded, and so of course have all the herbs and annuals. We have bees back in the garden again- all over the rocket flowers and the happy wanderer vines. 
There are also a lot of very active birds! We are delighted with the tiny honeyeaters and the parrots and the wattlebirds which are zooming about among the flowers. They are picking off the pests from my plants too. One embarrassing moment for our cat Dora was when she went out casually (she is never out for more than 5 minutes) to drink from her favourite bird bath, and got swooped by the wattle bird! She had to beat an undignified retreat! 



The Derbyl Yirrigan is full and flowing nicely up in the hills. We had a lovely trip out here on a very rainy day, then popped into a pub in Guildford for lunch. Sometimes you just need to break with the routines of retirement life! 




Djilba is the start of the massive flowering explosion that happens in the South West. This starts with the yellow flowering plants such as the Acacias. Also colours that are around at this time of year are creams, combined with some vivid and striking blues.  We went for a walk through King's Park Botanical Gardens recently -where so many flowers are massed from the various regions of the state, and it is quite glorious. 


The Araluen Gardens have a different display -massed tulips planted by their volunteers -which made a great day out too. 



There is no doubt that, with so much going on in the garden, and available for free in national parks, we feel very rich indeed. 

 

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

My Kunanyi quilt is done


Here it is, on our bed -the quilt I call Kunanyi, after the mountain in Hobart which often has snow at this time of the year. After all the quilt is made from 'snowball' blocks!



It is lovely to wake up to, on one of those sunny but freezing mornings we get at this time of the year.


I made it with fabrics which were given to me at Christmas time one year. It features Nordic designs -pine trees, hearts, stags. There are snowflakes too -so I guess it is a Christmas quilt! Sort of "Christmas in July" which some people do in Australia, to give an excuse to eat all the traditional Christmas fare which is inappropriate when it is hot in summer, our actual Christmas time. 







 It is a big quilt so I got a longarmer to do a lovely swirly pattern -sort of like the wind which swirls at the top of Kunanyi.


Here is a link to more information and pictures about Kunanyi -Mount Wellington.


Saturday, August 6, 2022

New Design Wall- with how to do it yourself

 


Twelve years is a long time for a temporary design wall to work. This  design wall (above) is a piece of batting, sewn to abacking, and hung from curtain rods in my sewing room, just behind the door.

It worked pretty well, but it was small and flimsy. I often had to use pins to keep heavy pieces on to it.

My dream was to one day have one of those design walls I saw on quilter's blogs- made with some kind of insulation foam blocks covered with batting.  The love of my life (apart from my garden and quilts) Mr DH, heard my call, and started to work out how to do it. The design brief included the idea that the boards should be relatively easy to dismantle -ie no sticking the boards to the wall with glue.

He did the research. He made the plan. Five boards. Four stuck together horizontally with gorilla glue and tape. One cut down the middle and stuck vertically. 




He created a solid shelf for the bottom of the design wall to sit into. He created metal brackets for the top, to hold it in place.


We had a bit of a blip when we realised that the piece of batting which I had saved for the project was about 20 cm or 10 inches too short! Quick trip to a shop, and we were here stapling the batting to the back of the boards, and using tape to secure the corners.




Here it is in all its glory! Solid, smooth, not wobbly or flimsy.


I love it

Thank you Mr DH! 💗💗

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Winter -lots of sun, and then lots of rain?

Our Garden

It has been an off again and on again sort of winter so far.  We had a couple of good downfalls, -enough to fill the water tanks- then about a week or more of sunny dry weather. The garden thinks it is spring -and so I am finding tomato seedlings everywhere, and it is hard to prune roses when they are growing madly. 

As a result of climate weirding, our rain bands are sliding away down south of us, so that the northern suburbs of Perth are often in sunshine when the south is getting a drenching. This is the way it has been going for decades now. Given that we are in a mediterranean style climate, where we get a long summer drought and a short wet winter, the effect is that we are now relying on desalination plants for our water to such an extent that the state government is going to build a third desal plant, and our water costs are now getting much more expensive. 


We live in the northern suburbs, and so I am glad that we have already planted a number of trees which can provide some shade for the garden. Our city council has a program of planting street trees. I have been lucky enough to get them to deliver and plant a Jacaranda tree. It is going to have lovely blue flowers, and as it is deciduous will let winter sun into the garden. 


As a result of the winter sun, I have been able to do a lot of gardening. I have planted a dwarf mulberry in a pot -which I will need to keep under control rather like a large bonsai, but which I hope to get some big fruits. I have a mulberry tree in the garden, but the fruit is small. As my dietician and I have worked out that I am super sensitive to sorbitol, found in many stone fruit, I am looking to berries more. Fortunately citrus is OK in my diet because we have lots of citrus. The pink grapefruit have been abundant this year -I keep pressing them on people when they come to my house, and the basket at the letterbox has been filled several times. 

I bought another crown of rhubarb -this is another 'fruit' on my safe list. 

I planted a wicking bed of mint varieties -grapefruit mint, lime mint, chocolate mint and variagated pineapple mint. 



I am very happy with the way the verge garden is growing. This was brick paved 18 months ago. DH and I got a load of free mulch from the council recently, so it is looking fine at the moment. The mulch cools the soil, keeps it moist, and rots down to feed the microbes in the ground. There is a 'river" of everlastings which I planted, which should look pretty good once spring arrives. 



Recommendations

I ordered some actual hard copy books, during the Black Inc end of financial year sale. I usually just read ebooks or get library copies, but these were cheap and quite good reads. Lisa Wells book "Believers" making a life at the end of the world" was particularly good. 

We have also been re-reading Pope Francis's encyclical "Laudato Si" which is very good. 


You might also like this article: 

War with the trees by Rebecca Solnit 

Or you would watch on YouTube- Shade as a dryland strategy -with Geoff Lawton 

And here is someting interesting -Free pdf -Biophilic design 

Quilting 


I delivered my Kunyani quilt (above) to the long armers, and have started on a fun improv quilt below. This is still very much a work in progress. It could be very different when it is finished. It is too dark at the top and bottom in this photo, so I am creating something different. 


Covid 

We have been celebrating our grandson's 8th birthday despite the fact that his party had to be delayed due to Covid hitting the parents -again. We went to a favourite park on what should have been his birthday party day, and had a good time.

Covid is rampant through our community and yet people are still not taking obvious precautionary measures. As it is winter, and there is also a flu epidemic, I find this recklessness to be concerning. DH and I are trying to stay safe without becoming hermits! We wear masks indoors, we limit our exposure to risky settings like shopping centres and restaurants and bars. Nevertheless we have had some friends at our place for lunch and for dinner -with appropriate ventilation. 

Podcast fun- and a tidy up too

I have enjoyed listening to A Slob Comes Clean- a podcast about getting control of the house -by someone who is (probably) neurodiverse. The author identifies as a creative person who is easily distracted and who finds it hard to do anything consistently. She says her brain is different than other people's and that is why household tasks are always a struggle for her. 

I guess most people coming to our home would not have seen  it when it was a disaster area - DH and I clearly remember having a couple of police officers come to see about a burglary some years ago, and telling them "no, the place hasn't been ransacked-it always looks like this". It was about this time that I started searching for any ideas about how to get on top of things. I  found "Sidetracked Home Executives" at the library and that was the beginning of a system which made all the difference. 

Later on I did "Flylady" routines for about a year or so.

One thing I know, the less stuff I have at home, the easier it is to keep it under control. This is hard for all of us who live here -we are natural collectors! I found the podcast mentioned above a bit of a boost or refresher to keep on ridding the place of stuff we don't use and don't need. It is an on-going task. Right now I am working on throwing out socks that have holes. Yes, I know that I could darn them -I even know how- but unless they are my really good wool ones, that is not going to happen. The sock drawer works best when everything in it is actually wearable, and it feels a bit like a luxury to know you can pull anything out of the drawer and find it useful. 

Volunteering

Later this week I will be working on the playcentre garden again. They got a grant for some garden improvements, and so I am going to refresh some very tired hanging baskets with new liners and will plant strawberries. We also have a small ficus, a hoya and some mint to plant in the entrance area which is now very bare. 

I hope you are having a good safe time whereever you are -and if it is winter where you are, that you are finding good things to do to keep active. Stay safe and thanks for reading this far. 


Sunday, June 5, 2022

Eat like a peasant


 It is now winter -or more precisely the Noongar season of makuru, which is when we can expect more rain and cooler weather. In the face of the good news of our new government (Yay for democracy! Yay for preferential voting!) we have the continuing bad news of rising prices in just about everything, but especially energy prices. 

As I wrote in my last post, there are some long term things we do to help us cope with inflationary cost pressures. 

I have been reviewing our habits on grocery spending  and genearl food habits this month, and thought I would write down some of the suggestions. One of the things I have been doing is reminding myself of the "peasant lifestyle", through some cook books on my shelf*, as the resourcefulness and simplicity of the peasant lifestyle is a bit of a hedge against feeling powerless in the face of the supermarket price rises. I turn to the classic cuisines of the Mediterranean and Asia for inspiration. 

Here is an article about 'cucina povera" -or peasant food! Click here

Growing some of it ourselves 

It is fair to say that the garden gives me great pleasure, and good exercise. If it did nothing else, it would be a worthwhile investment, but the garden actually provides us with real food which we can eat fresh picked and without any food miles. I deliberately try to grow things which are expensive when bought in the shops, and things which don't travel well -like herbs. Our diet can be tastier, healthier and more varied by doing this. We don't grow potatoes, carrots or onions because they take quite a lot of room in an small garden, if you want to stop buying them from the green grocer altogether. 

The think you notice about the peasant life is that it flows with the seasons. Seasonal food is cheaper, it doesn't need to be transported half the way across the world, and it is fresher. In the Mediterranean diet -often cited as very healthy- fasting is a normal part of the year but especially for the religious seasons of Lent and Advent. Vegetarian food is common, with meat used sparingly. 


What we have been harvesting

Tangelos -these gloriously orangy oranges are fabulous in breakfast juice. Our tree has about 20 fruit this year, and I am saving every single one for us. 

Grapefruit-these are the pink ones, and I reckon there are more than 100 on the tree. I have already given a basketful away to the neighbours through our buy nothing group on social media. We add some of these to our breakfast juice. 

Meyer Lemons -sweeter and juicier than eureka lemons, and we have a very productive tree. Have given away a basketful already this season.

Limes -not just for gin and tonics, but good for these. I will freeze some in quarters, and I am also going to put some in salt -like preserved lemons- for adding to salads and rice and couscous. 

Olives -DH and I are putting away a couple of small jars in brine every few weeks. 



Salad leaves -I am growing  a whole range of 'cut and come again' lettuces, along with rocket and coriander and dill, in the garden at the moment. Most of these are self-seeded, which means that I just let the plant flower, and then the seeds fell into the garden and now I have new plants. Winter is the best time for green leaves in this climate. We also have kale, kan kong, warrigal greens and sweet potato leaves for stir fries. At about $3 per bag of salad leaves at the supermarket, we are doing well in saving money just from this one item alone, especially as ours are always picked absolutely fresh. 

Herbs- soup is better with parsley and thyme, pasta is better with basil and rosemary and oregano. I have bay leaves growing outside. I have makrut lime and curry leaves for curries. Mint for tea and deserts. One read recently that those tiny packs of herbs in the supermarket come out to $200 per kilo! Now, herbs are astonishingly easy to grow- in fact with things like mint and saddle back sorrel the trick is to keep them from taking over the garden. Instead, I keep them in a pot, and feel like one of those TV chefs when I just pop outside and come back with a handful of herbs for my recipe.

How much do we spend on the garden? My budget gives me $50 per month, and I can usually find something to spend it on. I don't buy pesticides or fungicides -but I do buy a bag or two of pelletised manure, and quality potting mix to add to the compost when I am potting up plants. This month I bought rock minerals because Perth sandy soils can be a bit deficient in minerals. I also bought a bag of kitty litter which is made of bentonite clay, because it is a cheap way of getting clay to add to the sand in the garden when I am planting something. Sometimes it  is nice to buy a new plant -I got a bougainvillea this month -but I often can divide or take cuttings when I need to fill a space in the garden. We make compost and get free mulch from the city council, and I am always on the scrounge for free ingredients to add to the garden. This pile of leaves was one such opportunity - I had a bag in the boot so I quickly piled them up and took them home for the compost.



What is the garden worth in dollar terms? I haven't actually done the figures, so I don't really know. We still shop for vegetables and fruit, but I think our diet is more varied, and we have fresher meals because of it. I saw someone offering home grown grapefruit for $1.50 each! I have more than 50 on the tree -so that is a significant cost saving right there. 

If you have the land -or even a bit of a sunny balcony or a strip of land next to a driveway, I think you can eat from the garden and save money. 


*Books like "Honey from a weed" by Patience Grey , and  Rick Stein "From Venice to Istanbul" 

Other Resources

Integrated pest management

It's OK really 

Great tips here  from Zero Waste Chef

Friday, May 6, 2022

Inflation -some strategies for avoiding spending money


 In Australia, as in other places, the cost of living is rising sharply at the moment. Interest rates are going up, and for those who have loans and mortgages that means that they will have less discretionary spending money.

Food prices are going up around the world, too. 

One of the best definitions of inflation, that I have read, is 'a time when your money buys less than it did before". For anyone on a tight budget, or a fixed income, inflation is a challenge -how manage when prices are going up? What follows are my thoughts on how someone in my situation -one a fixed budget and at the retired stage of life, might do some hedging against price shocks.

  NOTE: I know many others have it much tougher than we do, and I am sorry, really sorry. If this blog post is not helpful because you just don't have enough money now let alone when prices go up, please know that I have been there too, and I really hope our society can be kinder and fairer to everyone. In Australia that means, at the very least, we should raise the rate of Newstart to something like $80 per day. 

Get it for free

This is a devil's ivy plant, which was given away on our local "Buy Nothing"  site, because it really really needed some plant first aid. Now, I have quite a collection of indoor plants, and enjoy growing them up. They can cost quite a few dollars, but last a long time if cared for and in the right place. 



After a few weeks of tender care the plant is now thriving in a new pot -this one which actually has drainage- and I am using the pot as a cover pot for another of my plants. It was a fun challenge, and it made me happy. If I want to, I can now give it away as a gift.  Free stuff -you might find it in all sorts of places if you are open to it. It is particularly true in gardening -most people are very happy to give away cuttings and seeds, or even whole plants if it is in the wrong place, and you are willing to dig it up for them. Many of my garden plants were grown from cuttings, and often turn out to be the best for this climate, such as pelargoniums and shasta daisies. 


I will also mention libraries as my favourite place to get reading material for free. I absolutely love my library -I am an avid reader. It would cost a fortune to keep me in books, so libraries are a great source of entertainment and education and they cost nothing. 

Books to find at the library on frugal living
The Art of Frugal Hedonism bu Annie Raiser Rowland and Adam Grubb

A Girl Called Jack -recipe book for those who are living in a low cash environment -and all the other cook books Jack Munroe has authored, like "Cooking on a bootstrap" and The Tin Can Cook. 

Regarding free stuff -it may be important to check what subscription items are in your budget that you could replace for free things -I am thinking of subscriptions to various apps and channels. If we are creative, we can find our entertainment and educationw without paying each month for it. 

Lend it

If you can't get it for free -maybe you know someone who would lend you something you only need for a little while. I read somewhere that most electric drills are used for only 4 hours. People want it to do one thing, buy it and never use it again. In some parts of Australia folk have set up lending libraries of things like camping equipment, garden and workshop tools and the kind of things you need for a big party, but don't need very often. If you take good care of the item you borrow, and return it on time, you will keep your friend happy.
Don't forget to return the favour -maybe you have some things you could lend to another. The kind of reciprocity of this exchange builds community. 

Maintenance Pays Off

We have all had that experience of suddenly discovering that the washing machine won't work, or the dishwasher is making odd noises, or the car has a warning light on the dashboard. Not only is it often extremely inconvenient, it is also really expensive. Getting a tradie to visit your home involves a 'call out fee' even before they have started work. 

I try to do routine maintenance on my appliances to ensure that they last as long as possible, and that such emergency service calls are only required infrequently. I am not in any way a technical or mechanically minded person, but I can easily clean the filter on the dishwasher, and often give it an extra clean with lemon juice or vinegar, to clean off scale and mould in the pipes and hoses.  One of my friend's adult daughters watched some YouTube videos before succesfully fixing their washing machine. 

My car does get it's regular service, and now that we use a mobile mechanic who comes to our home, we notice that they do not try as much as the franchise mechanic, to on-sell us extra parts like air filters.

Cleaning out the gutters before the winter rains is a good maintenance tip. Water in the roof can be really expensive to fix. 

If you can sew, a bit of repair on a hem or a button can save money on buying another item of clothing. 

If you have your appliance handbook, there may be some tips about regular maintenance and what to do if it stops working. I have mine in plastic pockets in a lever arch folder, and this has saved the day many times. Like the time we somehow put the child lock on the induction cook top -and nothing worked. before panic set in completely, we remembered the manual, which  told us how to fix it, without a call out fee! 

Plan for replacement -or do without

We are using YNAB for our budgetting, and I love it. One of its rules is that a good budget knows the difference between an emergency and a 'true expense'. True expenses are things like buying new tires for the car -usually not an emergency, we should be able to predict that we will have to do this at least months if not years in advance. Similarly, we should be able to predict that a 7 year old appliance is probably going to need replacing sometime in the next year or so. If we set aside small amounts regulary to cover such replacements, we should not have our budget wiped out by them. In fact, if it works well, we just pay it! No drama at all! 

Of course, if there are too many things which need replacing all at once, before the budget has enought in it, we might be in difficulty. At such times we might just have to get by without the appliance for a time. In an inflationary environment, it will possibly be much more expensive to replace our appliances than when we bought them some time ago, and so knowing how to do without for a time, is a really good strategy. I know that I can wash all the dishes by hand, even though I would rather not, but I would struggle to wash clothes by hand so I would priorities a washing machine over a dishwasher if it had to be one or the other. 

Of course, you can budget this way without YNAB -we did for years with a spreadsheet, but the idea of true expenses is important to know. 

Do It Yourself

Some years ago I was part of a website and forum which taught frugality. One of the people there was a woman who had suffered an injury at work and so was unable to contribute cash to her family by paid work. She worked hard on finding ways to replace the things they had bought with cash, with things she could make using the time she had once traded for dollars at work. If she had been used to purchasing a packet of biscuits, for example, she made biscuits. If they were used to buying soap powder, she made her own. She actually went to the shop, studied the list of ingredients, went home and researched and experimented to find replacements. If you have the time to give, you can replace many consumer and manufactured products with your own ready made items, at cheaper cost, without fancy packaging, shelf stabilisers and funny ingredients. 

You can make your own curry powder, grow your own herbs, bake your own bread, culture your own yoghurt and make clothes. I learned a lot from this woman's example, and now have many items we regularly make ourselves.



In the garden I make compost, which uses up things we would otherwise throw away, and get a soil amendment to help me grow fruit and vegetables which saves me money too. Our worm farm makes the best soil amendments. Sometimes I simply take the 'do nothing' approach -if the plant is a bit sick, and I have watered it and fed it, and it still has problems I wait to see if the ecological niche it lives in will support it or whether it was just wrong for this place. I don't buy poisons and amendments for the garden. 




DH is a handy person who has helped us a lot by putting up shelves, painting walls, making and repairing furniture, repairing loose screws and such. Often a simple tool kit, picked up cheaply in garage sales, can make a big difference-every house should have a screw driver or three, a hammer and a pair of pliers. Dh often recycles things we get for free from our local Buy Nothing group, or cheaply from the Tip Shop. These lovely windows came from a neighbour for nothing.


Just today he replaced a towel rail in the main bathroom, which had actually broken off at the part where the rail joins the supporting plate attached to the wall. Imagine if we had to get a tradie in to do that job -it would have taken a lot more than the $70 for the new rail.


Don't forget to Pay it Forward

If the times are bad, our community can be a powerful force for good. It is hard to face hard times alone, so if we can, we should offer our surplus to others. This is a basket of limes from my tree which I have put near the letterbox for others to take.




If we have free time we can volunteer at a community organisation -it costs nothing, but can be very rewarding. If we are living in a tight economic environment, and feeling pinched, giving back to the community by volunteering might be something which gives us a feeling of bounty, of abundance and of connection. Both DH and I volunteer in community organisations and we love it. He is treasurer of a mediation community and I work in the garden of a play centre. 

Finally my advice is to try to be content with things -and here is a small article which may assist 

Home renovation of a modest budget