Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Living on an Austerity Budget

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?


Christy said...

I think the world is on austerity measures. In the USA my husband has been out of work for over a year. I did manage to move to a full time position because someone retired, but otherwise they just laid of 6 people in my company of 130. They haven't laid off since 1991.

Several years ago we went to a wood stove for heating. I've drastically cut our food bill back to $50.00 US per week. Everything from scratch. Vege from the garden.

Thrift shopping for other items, even small electrical items. If I don't really need it don't get it.

Our killer is health ins. $450 per month, plus co-pays on doctor visits and drugs.

But one does what one can and looks at the glass half full and not half empty.

Lil Bit Brit

Donna said...

Oh, yes, we've been living on an austerity budget since my husband's layoff two years ago. We've cut our food bill way down, growing more veggies and fruit in the garden this year, thrifting wherever we can, and are now down to one car.

It's a real challenge, but one can get very creative!

Tracy said...

I developed a lot of habits over the two or so years Dh didn't earn anything, as he started his business. Many of them remain and I am the one who is still reluctant to spend just for the sake of it. Unlike Dh who thinks shopping is a sport...or something!

How is the 16C in the house going? I would be walking around wrapped in my warmest clothes AND a quilt at that temperature. 17C works first thing in the morning, but from around 10am onwards I just become frozen again. One day maybe we'll get around to putting heavier curtains on our vast number of floor-ceiling windows to help with this.

OurGangof7 said...

Yes, we too are cutting back as much as we can. The following is just a snippet of the things we are trying:
The dryer gets used only in emergencies.
I have cut right back on the amount of meat I buy as it is so expensive.
We are expanding our veggie garden and have just bought a stack of fruit trees for the future years and I have also stocked up on my seed collection hoping to grown alot more of our own produce.
Thrift shopping has become my favourite past time but only for things we need.
Decluttering our house and selling our decluttered items online has become my job.
Making my own laundry powder, spray and wipe etc.
Every cent helps.

michelle said...

Oh my goodness do we ever! We decided to go back to living on a single income last Christmas as we were sick of never having any family time, it has been absolutely fantastic, but our budget has really felt it. I have had to be really strict.

I stick to a very tight budget, I withdraw the weekly shopping allowance and add up my groceries as I go around to make sure I don't overspend. I don't impulse buy. I have a very strict list, I plan out everything for the week. I make my own bread and yoghurt and things like that. I do splurge on organic milk from the health store though. I don't own a dryer or a dishwasher, air-conditioning or heating. We just have a lot of blankets for when it gets down to zero (all op shopped).

When we go on holidays its usually camping, Friday takeaway night is homemade pizza or hotdogs. We keep chooks, eggs are a great source of cheap protein, especially now meat is getting so dear. Speaking of which we buy our meat in bulk when we can.

It's just a matter of being prepared to live within your means isn't it?