Your money and your life - changing your attitude

5 February 2018

February, week 1 in The Simple Home

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.  
Winston Churchill

Hanno and I made the transition from a frenzied working life to a more simple and beautiful one almost 20 years ago. Now we save what we can, care for what we own and we mend, recycle, reuse and repurpose. Using these principles, we've gone from being thoughtless spenders who bought everything we wanted, to mindful, self-reliant people living on a fraction of what we once did. We are also much happier.


We live on a low income so it's vital that we spend our money wisely, but it's equally important for those who have more than enough to cut back when they can. Mindless consumption has become the norm and if we continue to surround ourselves with products we think of as disposable, we will hand our grandchildren a planet that is not worth living on.

We still hear from politicians and business leaders about unlimited economic growth. I don't think there is such a thing. Our government tells us that our spending supports the economy, and, conversely, that we should be saving more.  I agree, we should save more by cutting back on spending. Our support for the economy is evident when we buy and rent our homes, buy cars, furniture and groceries, and by working for a living. Supporting the economy by buying things we don't need is wasteful and focuses on one aspect of the nation's viability at the expense of others. Of course we need a healthy economy but strong nations are built on people. I think it's better to work hard when you're young to buy a home and pay it off quickly, then, when you've paid off your mortgage, step into a more frugal lifestyle and focus on family and living. That is when you get to enjoy what you've worked so hard for.



It's easy for Hanno and I to live as we do now but when we made our changes, it was much more difficult.  We had to cut back on what we bought, adjust to a new way of life and we had to become used to a different sense of what was enough for us.  Once our attitude changed to living with less, it became easier. Much easier. We understood and accepted that what we do with our money makes a huge difference to how our life is. Now that our needs are more prudent, we don't go out shopping for the fashionable products that once sucked up all the spare cash we had. Now our spending supports our values - we have enough and we know it.


This first part of February will be difficult for some of you.  There are no tasks to carry out, no organising to do, this week is about thinking and understanding. I want you to think about your money and how you spend it. Work out if you need to change your attitude towards money and what you think you're entitled to.  If you're still at the stage of blowing your pay on clothes and handbags every week, you have a long way to go. Maybe you're trying to cut back but finding it difficult. If you're in either of those categories, start thinking about your life hours, how much you sell them for and what you usually do with that money. Think of your money, not in terms of how much you can buy with it, but how many life hours it takes to earn that money.  Here is a post I wrote a few years ago about life hours.

This adjustment is not only about spending money, it's also about putting yourself in a position of not having to buy endless products. It's looking after what you already have, mending, recycling, house maintenance - outside and in, making decisions about food and where you shop, if you can grow some at home, knowing how to store the food you buy so you don't waste it, and a lot more.


But this week we're not making the changes, we're thinking about them and developing a deeper understanding of our relationship with money. We're working out what we want, how we get what we want, we're thinking about working hard to make a good home and when that's done, how we'll change again to enjoy what we've worked for. And all of that will be much easier if you change your attitude to possessions and keeping up with the Jones's. This week is about changing your attitude, looking at the financial part of your life in a different way and strengthening your resolve to live the life you dream for yourself.  This old post about living life might help too.

There is work ahead and it will be hard work.  If you haven't yet changed your attitude towards spending and materialism, you'll have to think about your life and convince yourself that changing how you deal with money is important and achievable.  If you're half-way there, you'll need to have a deeper understanding about what you want your life to be, then make a plan to start living that life. If, like me, you're happy with what you have, you've pared back, made continuous savings on your living costs and working actively to maintain, mend and recycle what you have and have good savings in the bank, then I hope you share your ideas and methods here and help others who are working toward it.

Next week we'll talk about the various life stages you'll go through and how your spending changes in each of those stages. The following week we'll discuss the basics of budgeting and the last week of February we'll look at organising your money.

48 comments

  1. A great post Rhonda.
    I've lived a simple life all my life, and at first it's out of necessity.
    I look forward to reading the next post about the various life stages and spending in those stages. I started working full time in my thirties, so I've a lot of catching up to do. I don't want to retire with a mortgage, so I'm trying to pay it off as soon as possible. Sometimes it's stressful. I have made a timetable to pay off the mortgage and try to stick to a budget.
    When I need inspiration I often read your blog posts and it always gives me encouragement and hope.

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  2. Thank you Rhonda for the encouragement. I feel like i am on a sinking ship as we do not know what, if any, income we will have after the end of May when our job ends on this farm.

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    1. I feel your situation, having been in it. Something will surely come up. I lost a job and my husband did, too. I started cleaning houses and meanwhile he got a new job a couple of moths later. We do not live a high life anyway, but it was still a shock and a bit of an adjustment. We did have a bit of savings to fall back on, but not much. But keep your eyes open because you never know what opportunities can crop up. Good luck and my best thoughts for you and yours. It will happen, have no fear. It will all work out.

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  3. Thank you for this post reminding me of my mission. I recently quit a very stressful full-time high-paying job to be home and simplify everything. I was used to buying whatever I wanted and our grocery bill was over $1000 a month! My budget for groceries this week is $90 to feed family of four (including a hungry teenager). I use a debit card to ensure I don't go over budget. Last week my card was decline due to limited funds (a little embarrassing but lesson learned). I am determined to figure out how to live simply and stay on budget. Thanks Rhonda for your encouraging blog to keep me going.

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    1. Have you thought about withdrawing the amount you will spend at the grocery store in cash from your debt card and using a calculator in the store as you shop? that way you wont go over your budget with the calculator and you wont have the embarrassment of having a card declined with cash.....

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  4. Excellent post Rhonda. Thought provoking.

    We are not too far from you atm visiting my FIL and, wow, so nice to see the sun.

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  5. Love reading all of your posts. I have never been one that liked keeping up with the Jones’s or what was in fashion. Much to the criticism of my family and friends. I like making things from nothing. For my birthday last month I asked my hubby for a greenhouse so I could start growing our own food. It arrived last week and we put it up yesterday. I found a local seed farm that sells heirloom seeds that I ordered seeds from( I used birthday money to buy the seeds.) It felt good knowing that I was getting stuff to help my family live better, not stuff that would be forgotten or used up in a few months. Looking forward to reading your post this month.

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  6. Realising I was exchanging my precious life hours for money was a real game-changer for me. It became clear that some of the things I thought were important to have were not worth the money and the hours I would lose to earn it.

    The other big attitude change was to realise that we don't 'deserve' anything, especially not treats of one form or another or 'rewards' because we've worked hard. I realised that the greatest 'reward' for my hard work would be to be able to sleep peacefully at night because I had no debt. Another great 'reward' is to have rainy day savings in the bank. And for me the most wonderful 'reward' is to be mortgage-free and enjoy the freedom that brings (not long to go now on that one!)

    Yesterday afternoon I baked biscuits and my wife and I took them to share with friends after a productive day in the garden. Our friends have a simple,cosy home and share our values. A pot of tea was made, then another. Dinner time came and went without anyone noticing, we were enjoying the time so much. Finally some simple food was put together and we had a late dinner at 9 PM! Cost of our time together - absolutely nothing. It's value - priceless :-)

    Madeleine.x

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    1. I loved reading this thank you Madeleine
      Sue
      x

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    2. This does sound like my kind of life. Such a welcoming way of living.

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    3. Madeline, I really enjoyed reading about your Rewards. I recently had surgery, and it was such a relief knowing I could pay my medical expenses and take the time needed to recuperate due to having savings to fall back on. A timely reminder when saving feels difficult at times. x Renae

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  7. The key to happiness and freedom is to change people's attitude to "things". Only then will your wonderful advice make sense to those folks. It's sometimes a vicious circle though, as I see lots of people gaining happiness from buying more "things". A shift of thinking and gratitude for what we have and learning when enough is really enough. Your words are inspiring many people to think about what is really important Rhonda, and don't I find myself mentioning your blog to folks I meet who can't find a way to begin to live the way they yearn to. You articulate so well, the message I want to give them. Thank you for another fabulous post. X

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  8. This was/is such an impactful book for me (and many others.) And as you say, perspective or frame of mind is a huge revelation of change. Looking at things and money from a new direction is so empowering. Thank you.

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  9. Hubby and I were forced to make changes a number of years ago, when he became very ill and could no longer work. We decided we could live on the one income and we looked at how that was going to be possible. It was about this time in our lives that I heard the saying, "If in doubt, leave without". I still have this run through my head if I am looking at something to purchase and am not sure.

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  10. What a great post - I'm looking forward to February, and following along. It's so important to change our attitude about spending. My husband retired 6 years ago, and our life certainly did change...for the better. We quite spending on frivolous items, and made it a priority to think before we spend. You are right, strong countries are made of strong people, with good morals and grit. I pray that I might be one of those people. Thank you for all you do!

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  11. If I want to buy something,I always ask myself how many hours do I need to work to earn that amount, which usually puts things in perspective. I was doing some shopping on the weekend & I really needed a cup of tea & of course everywhere I looked there were people sitting drinking tea or coffee in the street, which always looks appealing, but I said to myself no I can get a cup of tea for virtually free at home so that's what I did.

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    1. I do the same thing. It certainly does work to put things in perspective!

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  12. We are really great in some areas but then blow all we have saved on our particular weaknesses. For me it is vintage clothing and homewares. Hubby spends on his cycling. Of course there is also the children who sometimes need things ( like foam rollers and Thera bands for my son who trains at a circus school 3 times a week and hopes to get his Diploma in circus arts when he leaves school). We have always lived on less than our peers so many savings are second nature but I find it hard to step away from the desire to have just one more thing. Even knitting yarn or material for clothing is expensive and can eat into our tiny budget. We have no debt (we rent) and live on one small income, but all the little items can add up. I return often to your blog for inspiration but the lure of “I need this...” or “This will make my life better/easier....” is difficult to get away from. It is amazing how easily we can justify spending money! Noni from Adelaide

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  13. I enjoyed this post, and will be reading all of your coming posts on living the simple life. My partner and I are both disabled, and both retired. I suspect that your blog posts on simple living must appeal to many retirees!

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  14. Hello, Rhonda

    I love that we're going through the book. Reading your advice here over the years has really stuck in my head. I finally understood just recently that I have to have a plan to tackle my finances if I want to retire in 9 years (at 60). I'm paying extra on the mortgage and paying off the credit card. This means there's not very much in the savings pot but I'm squirrelling away little bits every fortnight and it will all add up.

    I stopped buying expensive face creams. Now I use a night cream (for day and night). A chemist told me the hand cream I buy is also good for the eyes, so that was the end of expensive eye cream. I get my hair cut less often and, despite the dire warnings from hairdressers that it's a recipe for disaster if you don't have a trim every six weeks, no-one's died yet.

    I've started making my own clothes. They won't win any awards but they're wearable and different and so much cheaper. I went to the sale at Spotlight and bought enough material to make a pair of trousers, two blouses and a dress. It cost me $40.

    I catch the bus to work instead of driving and paying for parking. I take my own lunch. Now I'm looking at prettying up my home by painting it and making curtains and cushions.

    And you're so right about how joyful and satisfying it feels. I also agree with the comment above about treats and rewards. Living a simpler life and being debt free as soon as possible is its own reward.
    Merylx

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    1. That's fabulous, Meryl. Well done. It feels so satisfying and empowering, doesn't it. If someone had told me that before I felt it myself, I doubt I would have believed them. Good luck with your changes.

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    2. It's great that you are making some of your own clothes, Meryl. I started doing that two years ago and have made a several things which have helped me build up my skills with the sewing machine. I find it completely hilarious when someone compliments me on what I'm wearing and asks where I bought it. There is often a look of surprise when I tell them I made it myself. Meg:)

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  15. Today I officially finished up working for a public transport company after 10 years of earning a very nice income for doing not much apart from having to do shift work. After spending the last 7 months on half pay leave I have certainly noticed the drop in income and will notice it even more when there's none at all.
    I do have a nice level of superannuation and cash in the bank (to fund much desired but not absolutely necessary renovations).
    I need to start thinking about how to make the best use of both to fund my life for the anticipated next 30 years.
    Claire in Melbourne

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    1. I wish you the very best in the coming months (and years), Claire. Big changes ahead for you. :- )

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  16. Rhonda - my comment earlier today was by my google account (RipeNutrition) my name is Alessandra from Brisbane (just to clarify for the book competition)Thanks

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  17. I have a big problem with buying food. But i have trained myself to shop as cheap as i can so i can buy more. I shop the half price sales, marked down meat and meal plan. I spend half as much on groceries as my friends now. Today for example i got marked down chicken skewers 6 for $1!

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  18. Here in the States we have a program led by Dave Ramsey the teaches us how to become and live debt free. You would be amazed how mush less stree you have when you learn to live debt free.

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  19. There appears to be a small outbreak of common sense in the UK at the moment about buying good quality and only buying once. If you buy the very best quality you can afford the item can conceivably last a lifetime particularly if you maintain, mend etc. This does mean that you must ignore fashion and fads and be content with what you have. I have been alive long enough to know that things which go out of fashion come back in again after a few decades and I ignore the 'latest must have'.

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  20. Right now I don't have too much choice but to adjust my thinking and way of spending - just wish I'd done it sooner. I can pay the bills, including a couple of outstanding debts and manage the discretionary spending - but not sure for how much longer as I am now on early retirement. I manage the food budget well, I have plenty of clothes and I have cut back my monthly allowance and found lots of free things to do but I will also need to find some part-time work. It's actually freeing in a way - I don't need to compete for the latest & the greatest and since I have the time I'm enjoying entertaining at home rather than eating out. My home is neat & tidy and I have everything that I need and I just have to try and remember that!

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  21. Hi Rhonda,
    Thanks for another brilliant post. As I have said before you are very generous with your time and the wisdom you share is so very valuable. It is also very important that those of us doing our best to live a simple life (and embracing so many of the things you do)feel that we are not the only ones on this path. You have certainly created and nurtured a very supportive and encouraging simple living community that is highly valued,respected and treasured by so many. Thank again for all you do. Cheers Jo

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  22. Hi Rhonda
    My hubby and I are still working out the balance for us, we have young children and though we’re careful with money, we still feel we have areas we can improve in/be more thoughtful about. We’ve recently re-introduced using cash for groceries to help keep our spending on track in that area. We also changed an insurance policy that has added some more money to our savings account each month.
    I’m reading the comments as they help me to think about what we do or could do differently.
    Melissa (Wollongong).

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  23. Your posts are always so clear, and I think you are doing a great service to provide this information. thank you! I have always been frugal, and known how much money I could allocate in each area. When I married my second husband I realized he was not like that! He is now in charge of updating the budget, which we have on a spreadsheet, and this keeps us both on track. I am not sure if you have covered that point, when one of the team is not quite as frugal. We have set goals for where we need to be in retirement (in three years time) and save for specific expenses (such as me flying overseas to see my children every year.) It is a beautiful thing to look at the budget as see how well we are doing, but it certainly takes hard work and commitment.

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  24. I agree! I've never been one to spend tons of money on clothes, etc. but I do have my weaknesses. So I've tried to cut out the frivolous spending. For me it means I go to the Dollar Tree less and try to skip past the Dollar Spot in Target, these cheap goodies add up and are a drain on my budget.

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  25. I am thoroughly enjoying these frugal and intentional life posts. If you plan an intentional life, life goes easier. Of course, obstacles will always get in your way, but with careful planning, hopefully they won't be a total shock. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom.

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  26. This is a wonderful time of the year to reevaluate spending habits. We have been doing just that. My choice in perspective has always been key for me. I look at budgeting and being frugal as an opportunity for creativity. Like a game. Some of our favorite meals were created on very little. I have been disabled my entire adult life, so we have always relied on only my husbands income. I may not make for a good employ, but I still work hard within my physical limitations to take care of my family. Those limitations also give rise to creativity for making a home.

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  27. Rhonda....your comment on thinking about the 'life hours' needed to earn the money to buy something reminded me of a movie, "In Time", that your readers might find interesting. The movie itself was ho-hum; but it certainly made you look at things from a different viewpoint. If you wanted something, you literally had to give up X number of hours of your life. Definitely food for thought. Linda in Alberta

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  28. I retired this year so no paycheck! We are living on hubs retirement for now.i shop thrift stores for what we need. I'm much more cognizant of food costs and I'm buying jars, dusting off the pressure canner and loving every minute of my life. Thank you Rhonda for the nudges you offer.

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  29. The biggest change for me, over the past few years, has been that we now do much more for ourselves. In the baking, sewing, knitting, fixing, mending, growing and making things at home are savings because we aren't paying someone else to do them. I have learned some new skills (like sewing, composting, cutting hubby's hair) and rediscovered others (like knitting & baking) but I started with small projects that I learned from. I took advantage of books from the library and online tutorials to help too. We still have to pay an electrician or plumber or mechanic occasionally, I still buy the odd magazine (but far fewer than before) and we have takeaway fish and chips once in a blue moon but I find that I'm far more reluctant to part with money than I was before. I think that's been the change in my attitude, I'm more conscious of what I spend money on and I spend it much more mindfully. Meg:)

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  30. It's amazing that the older I get...the less I feel I need. Yes, we pay for the basics like electric, heating oil, groceries...but the rest I don't need. When I took away buying things on impulse, I started realizing and appreciating all the things I already had. My life is much simpler now.

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    1. I agree. I've just tried a Money Free January...only brought absolute essentials. It gave me the ability to have enough money to change to grocery shopping once a month. That first shop in February blew me away...because I have become frugal (and minimalist in all areas of my life) I found we don't need so much "crap" food. My generous shop for the month came to the same I would have spent in a week before; that gives me 3 weeks savings! As I have been examining "need" and "wants" I have started to eat less. As a consequence of the Moneyfree Month I am losing weight without forcing myself, I am content and the "decluttering" process i have been slowly doing for a year has revived and now I am getting more space in my life by freeing myself of things I never thought I could let go. I feel less anxious and overwhelmed by things and people. I think I am going to continue to keep my spending and "wants" reduced just to see what other changes will occur in my life and thoughts. Thankyou everyone out there for your shares of your life experiences; it helped me to step into a new way of being I have long been trying to achieve.

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  31. This was just what I needed. You have a way of doing that somehow.... Thanks, Rhonda.

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  32. Fantastic post, Rhonda. I love the way you explain budgeting and money habits. I am starting to attract what I need. I just received two huge bags of yarn from fellow knitters. I can sit home and knit happily, without spending any money. I will list the baby items and sweaters that I make on Etsy. It all started with reading your blog...thank you!

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  33. Great post Rhonda, I wanted to add my current experience and hope its helpful to some. About 6 years ago when I first read your blog I was inspired to live more simply, something i had been trying to do but with not a lot of luck. Your gentle advice was transformative. I redid my budget and saved and within 6 months we had adjusted to living on one income. I started a small business and have been making a modest living from it since but also with the time to plan, shop, cook and veggie garden which gives me so much pleasure. We recently took on another financial commitment which has meant I have to go back to paid employment. Luckily i found a job I love close to home. But my challenge now is to work out my priorities so that we can live the way we love but with less time than before. And organising seems to the key. I used to make all the sourdough bread we ate, now I make fewer loaves and the kids use the bread maker for school lunches. I couldn't give it up completely but have found a happy medium. Shopping is harder but I still make this an important weekly event as the money I spend and the food I buy have such a big impact on our family. One other thing I that i have found helpful is prioritising home time. (I'm a homebody at heart so this was an easy one :-)
    So thank you for all your advice and your wonderful books (and the wonderful community of folks who comment on your posts), they have changed my life and continue to give me inspiration. I'm loving going through the book a month at a time, when I look at my crazy laundry I know that come May all will be sorted. What a relief! Kate xx

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  34. Excellent post Rhonda. Lots of common sense but lots of wisdom and very welcome too.

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  35. Thank you everyone for sharing your stories. I find them encouraging.
    For me I try to remember I have enough. I still have the occasional treat but that is now budgeted for with weekly personal cash. It is a modest amount but I find I am now very choosey on what I spend it on. For now I am going to save it so I have more choice.
    If I want something elsewhere in our budget I try and reflect on whether it is a want or a need. How many life hours it takes to earn the money to buy the item is a good brake too. I remember about 10 years ago I had a wee job in a gift shop on call. It had a scrummy cafe next door. Gosh the smell of coffee and food was enticing! Then I would remind myself of how many hours of work it would be to pay for it and it wasn't worth it. I made my own cuppa.
    Since moving to our new (old) home I have spent way over budget on groceries. I know that is partly Christmmas, family staying and being physically tired after renovations we have been doing. So I want to get back in control of this area. I would be interested to know of peoples average grocery spend for two adults if anyone would like to share. It's hard to get a gauge as prices seem to continually climb.
    P.S smaller portion sizes need to be practised too!

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  36. Such a timeless topic. We quit the city ratrace almost 3 years ago, and paid off the last of our revolving credit card debt last year. We purchased a home and land, and are currently doing a no-spend month to get a better handle on the ins and outs of our money. So good to revisit your budget on a regular basis. We don't purchase anything extravagant, but my husband has a terrible habit of buying breakfast on the way to work/school, and I know that if I don't pack his lunch, he'll eat out instead of doing it himself - it's just not on his radar. Small shifts = big difference.

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  37. Inspiring and helpful post, Rhonda!

    My husband and I are working fulltime and we do the household chores too. When it comes to budgeting we have our fair share of it. Bryan pays for the groceries and marketing while I pay for the insurance, which is quarterly, toddler's milk and some savings. We have minimal dialy allowance but we do bring our homecooked meal for lunch. For the bills my mom and I share it since we're staying in her house.

    Also, this coming school year our toddler will start primary school. The hubby will take care of his tuition and fees.

    Mostly, the spending part is on him while the saving part is on me.

    We try to keep our expenses on track every payday and we talk about it.

    We have a few herbs and a fruit tree in the garden and we're planning on adding veggies too.

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  38. I love this post! Frugal living is very much what we have been trying to do (out of necessity)for most of our lives. Thus it has been a part of how we live to a degree. But we still have improvement to be made and work to be done and have been cutting back even more for the past year or so. Reading your approach on thoughts & mind-set is very helpful! Thanks Rhonda. I love your blog!

    ~Sue M.

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