Last year was a difficult one. I didn’t enjoy my job, but the worst part was that I was sometimes only working a maximum of ten hours a week. So I didn’t earn much. The bf was finishing his bachelor degree in Sport Science and drove from Ballarat to Bendigo (about an hour-and-a-half each way) some three times a week for his internship which ended up not counting. In short, he wasn’t making a lot of money either.
It was a period during which we had to think thrice about every cent we spent before we would even consider spending it. Keeping the books became a creative exercise. And when we had used up all of our creativity the time came to take a cold, hard look at every and any way we might be able to save some money:
- Gas, water & electricity
- Fun things
One: easier said than done, especially during a Ballarat winter when temperatures drop below zero on a regular basis. Add to that the fact that our house was heritage listed that’s how old it was; there was no insulation and the wind would blow through the cracks in the wooden flour. When we were home, we would live on the couple of square meters in front of the gas heater, the only warm spot in the house.
Two: fun things are by no means necessary to survive. That does not mean there are no less important. Going out for a drink or to the cinema or buying that video game you’ve been wanting to buy for ages or buying that pretty dress or getting takeaway – small things that can make all the difference mentally.
Three: go ahead and grab your grocery list. Do you know what everything on there is made of? How many things on that list have you ever tried to make yourself? I bet you have the main ingredients to make a loaf of bread in your cupboard right now and you don’t even realise: flour, olive oil and yeast. Yes, it is a little bit of a hassle to bake bread, true, but for the price of one ready-made supermarket loaf you can make three.
Take laundry detergent, we stopped buying that a year ago. Recently I calculated we’ve saved a week’s worth of rent by making it ourselves (appr. AUS$240 or US$175 or €165). You need three things to make laundry detergent:
- 125gr of soap (that’s about 1 bar)
- 1 cup of borax
- 1 cupof washing soda
On a side note, detergent really isn’t necessary, unless your clothes are extremely dirty, by which I mean mud and other stains or penetrating odours – because the motion of the washing machine itself is enough to remove most ‘dirt’.
We now live in Bendigo and life is significantly better. But why spend all this money on something you can make yourself? Especially when it doesn’t cost a lot of time and effort and it’s better for the world. It’s a hype, of course. I read something the other day about a girl who was able to collect three years worth of trash in one glass jar. She goes grocery shopping at a store where you need to bring your own containers and bags, so she doesn’t even have trash in the form of packaging.
I do really thing that is admirable, I do. For most of us though it is not all that realistic (even though it should be). When you’re happy single and live in downtown New York, a city of the world with endless possibilities – yes. When you live in rural Australia and have to take into consideration the needs of your partner’s children who are still struggling with their parents’ separation – than no. When you both work full-time, earn a minimum wage, are disabled or live in a place where alternative lifestyles are less accessible – than no.
But I don’t want to focus on what we can’t do. Instead let’s focus what we can do. Let’s find the balance between what is possible and realistic, between what we enjoy and what we need to do to make life work for us.