The Frugal Life - if at first you dont succeed...

Tonight I watched a short interview on the Internet of a woman named Rhonda Hetzel. I immediately googled her blog down to earth, to see what else she had to say. Basically her and hubby live comfortably off of about $20,000 a year. She quit her high paying job and began to live the simple life so that she could enjoy life again. Her blog has some fab tips and I'm looking forward to scouring it more! It was also encouraging that the woman is in Australia. So many of these blogs about frugal living...or any blog at all of interest to me, has been American and although still helpful, its not quite the same when the tips aren't useful for those if anyone reading is in Australia, she caters to us with her information, stats and links. Its refreshing!

So this find has inspired me to go forth into the world of simplification once again. You see we have had many setbacks on our journey to live on a tight budget and go back to basics. The latest being the most disappointing of all. We had chooks. Lovely little things, and what a joy they were. I really enjoyed taking care of them and my toddler used to love coming down into the coop to look for fresh "eggies". Unfortunately, the area we live in is well known for stick fast flea and a few other types of fleas that are relentless and almost impossible to remove. Once the hot weather hits BAM the hens are infested. The amount of money it costs to treat them (numerous times each summer) makes it not worth it to keep them because we not only have to pay money to treat them, we also have to treat our three dogs each time as well, and those who have dogs know that flea treatments three times a summer for three dogs is expensive! We spent less on eggs, than we did on feeding and treating the chooks and dogs for the numerous types of fleas that were inevitable. Sadly, we recently had to give them away. We could have sold them but seeing as they were flea infested we just couldn't bring ourselves to do it. And no, the natural treatments available did not work.

So there disappeared the dream of fresh eggs straight from the hens ends.

Another bump in the road I had was fruit and vegetable growing. I made the mistake of trying to grow it all from seed... seeing as I am no green thumb (YET) and don't have alot of experience growing anything at all, I should have taken the easier and more sure-fire route and just bought seedlings that had a little growth already. But no, I had to go all out and try to be super-duper frugal by using seeds because its cheaper. After failing at watermelon, Chillies, beans, tomato's, a mango seed, avocado seed and carrots, I was extremely discouraged and down heartened by the whole experience.

Though I learned alot along the way. For instance, watermelon seeds will pretty much ALWAYS sprout but then quickly die off if they are in soil that is way too sandy and hot. I learned that the lizards in our area enjoy beans more than I do. Every time a lovely little bean appeared, it just as quickly disappeared or was tattered and attacked by a hungry goanna. sigh. I also learned that the lizards like tomato seeds... and if you put a little blood-n-bone mix in the soil, they come and dig up the soil in search of the little seed treasures and you never see a seedling at all. I also learned that Chillies do not like to grow out of egg cartons at all and that fruit trees grown from seed need to get relatively strong before you plant them in the yard or they will just wilt and die or get eaten by some hungry creature. Carrots like nutrients but hate fertiliser and they will taste odd and grow legs like can can dancers if you over fertilize...and the list goes on.

So that, then the chickens (whom I had become quite fond of) not working out was quite a slap in the face. But, not one to give up too quickly I turned to cutting my grocery bill down by making alot more from scratch. This was going well...until I approached my husband about taking home packed lunches. He buys his lunch every day that he works! That is ALOT of money. He doesn't like sandwiches, wraps, salads or baked goods (if the baked goods are more than a day old) so that leaves leftovers. Which is fine, but he likes to have lunch away from the workplace for a break. He doesn't want to have to heat up a meal and eat it in the back room. He likes to get away. Understandable. How about finding a nice bench or hidden spot to sit in outside the workplace nearby? Problem...there are NONE. He has searched, and when I go there I can see he is right...unless he goes and buys food from somewhere so he can dine in, there is nowhere nice for him to sit and eat his meal and its FAR to hot in the car. So, we cannot save money on his lunches unless he suffers eating in the small back room surrounded by products and other workers running in and out. Sure, he could do that if we absolutely had to, but seeing as its not an absolute, why put him through the misery? This setback just meant that even grocery bill cuts weren't as good as they could have been. But I do what I can and it is better than it was... most of the time.

Successes we have had on our journey to living more frugally haven't been non-existent though. We invested in a very very large water tank. It has been fantastic and a great blessing. Although we have a boar for the garden (which you really need on an acreage) The water tank has been great for watering the plants that we water by hand, and for drinking water. Hubby transfers it in a large water-grade container with its own tap in the pantry and i fill up the kettle and boil it up to purify it for drinking water and cooking water. It tastes SO much better and its saving us money, and its a good feeling using the water that God gives us in abundance straight from the sky instead of using the horrible chlorine tasting water that comes from the tap and costs us money.

Another money-saving achievement was mastered long ago but worth a mention. I always scope out second hand stores for our needs before I go to the shopping centers. Some things obviously cannot and should not be bought at second hand stores such as underwear or medication. But for things such as toys, clothing, furniture or books, I have almost always found something good enough in the second hand stores and not even had to glimpse in a department store. All of my maternity clothes were found and purchased at second hand stores except for two pairs of jeans and a bra which I bought half-price from a maternity store because I couldn't find any that fit in the 2nd hand stores. So my entire maternity wardrobe cost me (for both pregnancies) in total approx $160. (or $80 a season) this is for two seasons of clothing since one child was born spring and the other will be winter. If I were to buy it all new and full price It would have cost over $1000 because maternity wear is so terribly expensive. This is completely out of the question for us.

So walking the road of uncostly living isn't always a breeze, but its sure worth it and makes you feel like you've accomplished something. In this land of mass-consumerism and greed its nice to be different. I especially think its important to do a bit of DIY-living for the simple sake of seeing how easy we truly have it here in the western world! I mean, I had the blessing of being able to go down to the local supermarket and buy all my veggies when my veggie crops all failed. Many people all over the world don't have shops or money to turn to when the harvest delays or doesn't even come up. They just have to work extra hard at making sure that doesn't happen, and then if it does, pray and trust that the Lord will provide. Its humbling to know that our idea of "living by faith" is quite different (and ALOT easier) than those around the world who really do live it rough.

My next endeavour? Learn to knit and sew. I own a sewing machine, and have alot of trouble with it... even though its a good one, i believe its user error to be honest. I have made some things, but my patience wears thin as I have never made something perfect. Nothing sellable...or that looks well done. Simple things like basic square silky ruggies for my toddler, a little (strangely shaped) bear, I take up pants occasionally (and have never gotten it perfect but hey whose looking under the hem hehe) and a little dress for a dolly that had no clothes, which also was a rough job but I somehow managed to disguise the horridly novice looking workmanship. I don't think its a case of practice makes perfect in this instance. I think its a case of actually learning how to sew properly in order to then practice properly so I may have to find a local granny to help me out a bit. Knitting I've never done aside from a small square we made in school once. But I'm keen to learn. It would be wonderful to create little outfits for my daughter and myself. And to recycle materials and old clothes into something new. But its going to take a bit of patience and discipline if I'm going to get it right.

I think living in a sustainable manner is a challenge in itself which is well worth the effort. It really is a worthy cause and is good for the family as everyone can get involved. I plan to continue the journey and by the grace of God, master the frugal life!

So what are you currently stepping out into on the journey to frugal living? What have your challenges been along the way?