Living on a limited income

When we settled down here after years of working for a living, I wanted to leave commercialism behind and embrace a simpler, quiet life. I wanted to know peace and joy, connect with the land we live on, and develop a calm demeanour that would carry me through all the good days I hoped were ahead but would also save me on the bad days. I knew they were lurking too; no one escapes them.

I didn't know then that longing for a quiet life would mean I would work harder, embrace parts of my heritage, move away from buying what I needed and provide it for myself instead, or that all those things would make happier than I had ever been.  It wasn't easy though, it was tough in those early years. I had to turn my back on the instant satisfaction of continuous buying and look in unexplored places for happiness, strength and flexibility. I found the peace and joy I was looking for and I understood then that constant craving for products would never give me the kind of life I wanted. Constant buying puts you on a spending merry-go-round and you have to work hard to continue paying for it all.


I have often said that money is not the centre of my world. We needed it to buy our house and furnish it, and to live the way we wanted to live, but that is the only value it has for me. I don't want to amass a fortune, travel the world, live beyond what I know, nor pretend to be someone I'm not. I was born working class and I will die working class. There is nothing that inspires me more than seeing other women and men working for the life they want to live. Putting in those hours improves us. Work, either paid work or domestic work, polishes our rough edges, teaches us to be reasonable, organised and resourceful and it helps us discover our own worth.

Hanno and I live on a limited fixed income - a pension with a small amount of royalties coming in twice a year from the sale of my books. We own our home, paid cash for our car and we have no debt.  Generally, we can save about $200 in each fortnightly pay period. But there is one vital thing that makes saving fairly easy for us and that is a frugal mindset. Without changing the way you think about money, it will be a tough uphill climb for you. You need to see value in the things you already have and the many things that money can't buy. If your idea of bliss is wandering through shops looking for things to buy, or going on an overseas trip every year, or buying a new car because your best friend did, you need to rethink your desire to live simply.  You can't have both - you either live a pared down life buying what you need, paying off your debt and saving as much as you can, or you don't.

Saving money can be done in a few ways.
  • You can work more hours, save those extra dollars and start paying down your debt. 
  • You can work your normal hours and work out ways to spend less on food, entertainment, transport and utilities.
  • You can reduce your cost of living and start producing and growing some of what you use.  
  • You can declutter and get rid of all the excess you have in your home and sell it all at a garage sale or on eBay.
All these measures will help but saving the money you already have pays off handsomely. A saved dollar is more valuable than an earned dollar because you will pay tax on every dollar you earn.  One thing is for sure, you'll have to stop and think about it, decide what your values are, work out what you want to be doing in a few years time, and make a plan to help that happen. Change and saving doesn't happen because you want it to, it needs planning, work and ongoing commitment.

This is a topic that we need to be mindful of all the time.  It's one of the things you have to get to grips with when you start living a more simple life but you can't lose sight of your financial goals along the way. With the rising prices we live with, it's a good idea to track your spending and check your budget every couple of years so you know that you're using your money wisely. In my next post I'll write about the practical ideas you can use in your daily life that will help you live well while you cut back.

How have your ideas about money, debt reduction and thrift changed over the years?


24 comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post and the ones to come on budgeting. I actually enjoy budgeting and planning. I was once influenced by magazines like English Country Homes and Interiors. It is the cottages done up beautifully not the mansions I am drawn to. I know that won't happen for me and it doesn't bother me one bit. My focus is on living within our means and enjoying the company of my loved ones. I add the homey cottage touches my way and it feels good because it's real and paid for. I think living this way reduces anxiety and comparison. Comparison is exhausting, limiting and consumerism is built on it. Wow, that was philosophical for early morning.
    I am fine tuning our budget for retirement at the end of the year. Thank you Rhonda for your writing over the past 10 years. It has enabled me to strengthen who I really am and fine tune my values. That in itself is so liberating. I too have know wish to travel the world etc. I want to nest and breathe deeply and am so thankful and aware I am able to do so. It will be modest and more than enough. Sorry this is long everyone it just flowed this morning 😊

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    1. Well said Jamie......my sentiments exactly

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    2. And isn't it ironic that cottages embraced a sustainable living lifestyle? the people that once owned them were not at all wealthy; except, perhaps, in spirit!

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  2. I've been reading your blog for a long time and I love your posts because you write and share about real life and what truly matters. I recently bought your book. Please keep going and going!

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  3. Good morning Rhonda, Looking back on my life, I have always been frugal, my Mum and Dad were thrifty and I guess that is where I learnt it from. It was just natural for us to make do and mend. Going further back, my grandparents were the same, living a simple abundant life, with good food on the table and a lovely home as well. Even back then we were very aware of using little water (tank water) and electricity, I can vividly remember only having one light on at night. We are, what we are bought up with, I think our past generations had it right, didn't they? Have a lovely day.
    Fi

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  4. You got all that exactly right. It's a different mindset one focused on the ultimate goal and staying on top of exactly what you are spending your money on. Nothing beats keeping track of all expenditures (large and small----those small ones are sooooo sneaky!) to see where money is trickling away for nonessentials so that trickle can be slowed or eliminated altogether.

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  5. I think I used to manage money better when I was quite young and had just moved out of home, we had so very little of it while I was studying at Uni that every cent mattered. I used to portion money into envelopes in those days, and it worked a treat. I think the introduction of a semi-cashless society changed how I manage money, and it's never been as easy to track and manage it as it was back then. I've wanted to go back to that system, and have thought about doing it, but with so many automated payments and electronic banking these days it's a lot harder. Physical cash wields more power with me that a sterile debit card!

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  6. I am composting and planting a small garden this year. I don't waste food. Even if we don't eat it all, the wild critters on our property do. And I consider that a win. Their habitat is small so I try to help when I can.
    I hate to clothes shop so I use what I have and only buy cheap, lol. I sew so I can mend anything too.
    I cook almost every night and when I don't we eat leftovers. I might go out once a month with friends.
    I do, however, indulge in my grandson and we go to Disney some, but it is totally worth it!

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  7. "It was tough in those early years' - thank you for saying this, how true that is. Satisfying, invigorating, worthwhile but most certainly tough. It was encouraging to see you write that and tell it how it is. (liking your new selfie picture too)

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  8. When I worried about what others thought, budgeting was stressful. Now that I'm older and don't worry so much about what others think, budgeting and being thrifty have become rather fun. I'm MUCH happier this way.

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  9. There is a different between low income and proverty. I find it important to maintain and take care of what you have.
    Coffee is on

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  10. I've been always frugal, I think I learned it from my mom.
    When I started living on my own, my frugal habits helped me a lot. And later on, living well below my means allowed me to choose a career I love without giving too much priority to how much I'd make.
    I do think that I' fortunate to be in good health and have a reasonable income. So, living simply and frugally is a choice for me and I think it makes a difference.

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  11. Very well said! It takes a change in mindset indeed. I have friends that are in financial difficulties but can't see their behavior is causing it. As the phrase goes, you can lead a horse to water but can't make him drink. ;(. I am thankful we learned in time to get out of debt and pay off our house, now we are retired and have a simple life, but fulfilling. Thank you so much for your books and these blog comments, you truly have a great gift of communication.

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  12. It could not be more true that this mindset takes an ongoing commitment - I've always been on the more reserved/frugal side financially, but especially when we bought our home, I was so tempted by the desire to buy all the pretty things to furnish it with! Shortly after, though, we had a few rather dramatic financial hardships that I think "cured" me of those thoughts. There was a time I remember very distinctly that I could not afford to buy a pack of butter. Things became stripped down to the bare essentials, and needless to say I became very well-versed in the many ways to cook a potato! And so, to be honest, when I have those thoughts about wanting something that isn't a true need, they wash over me rather easily now. My husband is also from a third-world country, and that puts things even further into perspective. I have little tolerance these days for typical American consumerism and the entitlement that often accompanies it. If we have enough food to eat and a roof over our heads, anything else on top of that is riches upon riches!
    -Jaime

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  13. Love this topic, love this post Rhonda. We have been slowly but surely brainwashed over the past 70 years or so to consume, consume and consume some more and really we need so very little to have a good life. Thoreaux said "I make myself rich by making my wants few." Sums it up really. So much more satisfying to go and do some gardening than shopping.

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  14. Thank you very much Rhonda. This is something I need to remind myself. Things are getting more expensive here in The Netherlands and I have to be even more frugal then I was before. They say the crisis is over, but my bank account doesn't agree !!

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  15. Delighted to have found you! Your down to Earth views, and your fine writing make yours I blog I must follow. Come visit mine and see what I'm doing if you care to. Must say I share your views on the uses and misuses of money and am on a similar path of thoughtful, productive retirement. Aloha Rhonda

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    1. In Hawaii and Marin County? Both very expensive places to live, I must say.

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  16. Thank you Rhonda, for this post. This is really something thinking about.
    Now on retirement I try to life with more limits. This post helps me a lot.
    X Manon

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  17. Thank you for your post, it is very inspiring ! I live in the South West in France. I have a big house with a huge garden (but not flat) next to a forest. I don't like my job but it is very well paid so ... We finish to pay our house in march 2019 and as it comes closer, I Wonder if i can manage to change my life after : quit my job and find one that will bring me happiness ? But i also have 3 Young child (12 / 4 / 1 years old) and i don't know if it is a good idea ! I am turning 42 in november, perhaps it is the 40 crisis (i don't know if you have the same concept abroad ??) but things have to changed now. I feel it. I need it. Your blog is very inspiring. Thank you very very much for helping the other to think about their own life :D

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  18. I really enjoyed your post, Rhonda. It is so inspirational. Thank you.
    Linda

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  19. Thanks for the reminders Rhonda. We are still fine tuning the expenses for 2 of us and the property needs improvements but it's all proceeding gradually. Lol, the decluttering is interesting.

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  20. Reading some of Wendell Berry's essays in The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry. Nothing quite like them to regain perspective on this incredible subject!

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  21. Thank you for your blog Rhonda, I've been a keen follower for many years.

    Just a comment, and I'm not here to skite or judge. My wife and I both receive an age pension. We're able to live on one pension and save the other without suffering any hardship. I built our home over a six year period on the pension (no mortgage), we have solar electricity and solar hot water (no electricity charges plus an income from the feed-in tariff) and we can afford yearly overseas holidays. Admittedly, we don't have any medical expenses, yet.

    Pensioners seem to be always complaining about how hard their life is on a supposedly below-the-poverty-line income. I think we're very lucky to be able to live so well. I cannot, however, say the same the state of our planet and the likely hood of humans surviving for much longer.

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