Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Budgeting and Insourcing...accept your limitations!

$32 Strawberries...keep reading and you'll see why!

I often have friends visit, who cannot believe that we live so well on so little.

We eat well, we entertain well, we dress well, our daughter, and our youngest son (we actually have four sons, but the older three are all grown and married) want for little, and we travel overseas every two years or so.

There are many, many blogs out there these days on saving money, living frugally and reducing your carbon footprint.

But most of the families I know personally don't subscribe to them, and wouldn't dream of planting a vege patch or repurposing a pair of jeans into a tote bag. It's all too much trouble. Even if it's for the reward of an overseas trip funded by the bank account, rather than the credit card.

The problem is that upon first viewing, all of these things are 'too much trouble'. It's all a bit of hard yakka, as we say here in Australia.

So you need to start small, like I did. That said, you also need to choose your battles wisely. Can I tell you about some of mine? You might learn a thing or two.

When I commenced my money savings journey in earnest after many years of frittering my hard earned cash away on stuff that only made the retailers wealthy, I had a few false starts.

One of those was soap making.

I am a sucker for scented bath and body products. I never could go past a Body Shop or Bath and Body or Lush, without buying just a couple of things. These coupla things would undoubtedly run into double or triple digits in dollar terms, but what-the-hey....

So one of my early efforts focused on making my own luxuriously scented soaps.

Well after spending about $100 on ingredients and equipment, I was ready. Or so I thought. Measure this, weigh that...oops need something else. Dash out, get missing thing, go back to start. High anxiety, due to many, many warnings on the dangers of inhaling this or spilling that. Get soap made, leave to cure behind lounge, to great grumbling from The Musician Husband. Test at 3 weeks, notice great chunks of caustic soda...toss, start over. Eventually get something useable and nicely rustic, but family refuses to use it as it 'looks funny'. Dole it out as gifts to unsuspecting friends. Experiment over. That said, I did eventually have soapmaking success which you can read about here.

I had greater success with hand and body creams, which was a little more foolproof, but ultimately went back to the pharmaceutical stuff for the face as the face really, really needed it. All good on the body cream though, as well as pillow/linen spray, bubble bath, solid perfume, home made talcum powder, bed powder, and lavender bath bombs.

But it was the overwhelming success of my home made Limoncello which actually caused me to wonder if I'd missed my calling as a Grand Brewer. Maybe my family and friends are all just hopeless imbibers of exotic liqueurs, and they would have loved it not matter!

I had similar epiphanies with my vege patch. Plant strawberries, get one strawberry, give up. Try again. Get 4 strawberries this time...caculate how much I spent on wicker planters, potting mix, wet granule thingoes, strawberry runners and fertiliser. Decide $32 per strawberry is false economy, and give up.

Tomatoes...same. I do have some tomatoes on a tomato plant in my front yard right now. But for the life of me, I can't make the tomato plant stand up with the blessed tomatoes on the thing. I've planted them in a posh tomato planter with it's own add-a-ring tower to guide the tomato. The tomato plant ignored it and grew off on it's own tangent, falling over and breaking at regular intervals. I've staked them, they fall over, I've tied them to a palm tree, they broke off. I don't know. Maybe fruitish things are not for me. The Musician Husband just kept asking me why I don't buy the tomatoes for $2.99 a kilo. A fair question. 'They taste better' simply garnered a raised eyebrow.

I've had better success with leafy things. I've got a lovely nasturtium happening and we do eat it in place of Rocket which we love. I also have a Wild Rocket, some asparagus, a finger eggplant and some chilli. All A-Ok. But I am the only one who eats those things and it's not like I'm saving a bomb by not having to buy them.

I've decided that people who make a success of this kind of lifestyle deserve a medal, really. Honestly they must do nothing else. I admire them and all, but it's just not for me. I can't for the life of me, understand how they grow enough strawberries, or use the oversupply of tomatoes and zucchinis. And I'm not being derisive, I am just asking myself the question.

Oh and did I tell you about my sewing adventures? Buy sewing machine at $250, buy numerous patterns at around $17 each....perhaps 10 of 'em, buy fabric. Look at instructions, recoil in distaste. Measure something? Overlock something? Hand stitch something else? Hmmmm. Not to mention The Musician Husband complaining about the dining table being set up as a sewing station. (Do you see a common theme here...) Okay, maybe on another day.

Cutting my own hair was another strategy. Armed with detailed instructions from a reputable money saving website and a sharp pair of scissors, I hacked my way to a visit to my hairdresser. I had to. It looked awful. I think my hairdresser is still chuckling to herself over that one.

Have I mentioned the breadmaker and the slow cooker? Both wonderful inventions. Did I also mention that the average temperature where I live is around 27 Celsius almost year round, except when it rises into the high 30's right around Christmas? Yes we have our chilly moments...they last about six weeks. Have you ever tried to have a slow cooker and a breadmaker on the go when the ambient temperature is in the 30's? That's a minimum of around 86 Fahrenheit. No way. We eat cold food when it's hot and hot food when it's cold. It just makes sense. So overall...useability factor...about 3 out of 10. We'll stick with yummy Poached Chicken Breast, thanks very much.

These days, I've accepted my limitations and my money saving strategies are more about cooking from scratch, shopping from my own wardrobe and the thrift shop before even crossing the threshold of a retailer of any kind, making gourmet gifts and preserves, and making sure that my pantry is well stocked for tight times.

I don't spend on gym memberships when I can walk for free, I don't join weight loss programmes when I can Google how to eat sensibly complete with menu plans and recipes, I don't sit in stinky nail salons to get my nails looking nice when I can have a quiet moment in my own back yard painting my nails over a cuppa, I don't buy books or magazines when I can join the library or search the net, and I don't buy my children experiential gifts...I give them the gift of my own experience. I reduce my carbon footprint by walking for exercise rather than driving to the aforementioned gym and buying local where I can. I recycle, repurpose and buy pre-loved wherever possible.

So if you want to, as my blog title suggests, live a life of which your Nanna would be proud, look at where your hard earned cash goes. Make savings in those areas where you are humanly able, where your own strengths lie, and don't worry about what the rest of the world is doing. The important thing is to make small changes where you can. There is a Chinese proverb that says 'The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.' Amen to that.

Don't make soap when you can make soup, don't grow tomatoes when you don't eat them, and don't plant strawberries in a $30 wicker basket. The birds and wildlife will still get to them before you do, no matter what they're planted in.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?



  1. Yes, there has certainly been some disasters in our house, by me, some of them the same as yours. I just think some people are skilled in certain areas and not in others, I think we should just run with our strengths.

    Though, I am still working on making my own clothes, sewing is not really a skill I have mastered but I live in hope, using material from the op shop so my disasters aren't too expensive, I just REALLY want to do it.

    1. KJ, I think 'mastering' the skill, is less important than trying. But I still believe in working to my strengths these days. Getting distracted by what works for others is a demon! Mimi xxx

  2. Good post.
    I can grow enough to feed us but I can't cook fancy things. And anything I try has to be really cheap and easy to do.
    We are all different so I do what I do and try not to worry too much about what others do. There's lots of things I want to do but can't/don't. I'd like to be able to do some of the things you do...
    I don't know anybody else who wants to live like we do. Is that because we don't live a good life or because they don't...


    1. Exactly my thoughts Barb. Do what works for you. Mimi xxx

  3. Great post Mimi. You are so right...we each individually have to identify areas we can save money. I too have tried many things that just havent worked because I either dont have the skills or the time to do it. I have also spent money on things I know I could do for free but that is because I save my money in other places so I can do those things. We can only do our best with what we've got whilst trying to live a life that makes us happy :-)

    1. Yep, differences make the world go round Bungle, right?

  4. I am trying growing some veg again. My granddaughter loves being out in the garden so for her pleasure it is worth the money right now. Simple entertainment is required twice a week. There are so many things I would like to try but the truth that I have an extensive yarn and patchwork fabric collection, art and scrapbooking supplies that would last several lifetimes has hit me hard. I also have embroidery stuff too. I need to put this stuff to use. I also need to honour the gift of an expensive sewing machine and the gift of a family singer featherweight. I find it easy to table and start and have to push myself to finish something.

    1. Suzan, I think we all come to this realisation eventually. I recently acknowledged that I will never cook every recipe in my extensive collection of cookbooks, so they have transitioned to the garage...which is my 'speak' for 'on the way to the op shop but not quite committed yet'! Mimi xxx


I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx