All over the Australian media there are stories about how people have stopped spending and how bad this is for shops like David Jones and Harvey Norman.
Various reasons for the new austerity are given: job insecurity; the dramatic increases in food, fuel, education and utility prices that have eaten up discretionary income; the decision by many to shop online and benefit from our high dollar rather than buy from more expensive local stores.
Certainly, it seems that many Australians are less willing to spend on consumer items such as clothes and electrical items. I have a sneaking suspicion that people are tired of nasty, poor-quality imported products made from sweat-shop labour. The expensive brands seem just as rubbishy these days as the cheaper ones.
For various reasons, at our red house we are following the trend of cutting back.
I have recently reduced our grocery budget significantly and am focusing on staples such as flour, sugar, meat, dairy, bread, fruit and vegetables. Breakfast cereals have risen in price so much that I only buy generic cornflakes, weet-bix and plain rolled oats for porridge.
Earlier this year we took advantage of government subsidies and installed solar panels on the roof. In winter they don't provide enough electricity to meet all our electricity needs but they should hopefully cover most of our usage over the warmer months. Other ways we are trying to reduce our utility costs include:
- keeping the heating in the house down to 16 degrees C (61 F) over winter and not having it on at all overnight.
- turning the water heater down; this forces shorter showers thus saving both on gas and water
- washing all clothes in cold water
- not using the dryer over winter (winter is the only season we use the dryer occasionally)
- only using the oven when several items are being cooked at once
- turning off electrical items at the wall when not in use
I am keen to establish my summer vegetable garden early this year so that the food plants are growing strongly before the worst heat arrives. I am also hoping to 'grow' most of my own fertiliser by using our own chook poo, compost, worm castings and worm juice. With some luck and organisation I should be able to grow all my seedling from seed - a big saver!
As I have mentioned in other posts, since April I have commuted to work by bicycle. My three sons travel to school by bike and my daughter catches a bus. Only my husband drives to work. I am now filling up my petrol tank about once every two months.
I am sure that there are many other ways we could be saving money, and I am constantly trying to improve.
Are you living on an austerity budget? How are you trying to cut back?