The Simple Home book giveaway

I have two The Simple Home books to give away. I'll give one away in June and the other in December. They'll go to two readers of my blog who consistently make interesting or helpful comments on The Simple Home month-by-month posts. I've got a notebook here at the computer and I'm writing names down when I see a comment that I think will encourage readers. The winners will have their name written on that list more than once. Good luck, everyone.

Organising your money and financial overview

26 February 2018
This is the last week of our money month. I hope you've sorted out what needs to be done, organised a budget and thought about where you're headed, financially. Most of the activities we've addressed this month are simple exercises that will put you on track towards a healthier financial future.  The one thing that will make these things make sense and appear to be easy to set up and maintain over a long period of time is changing your attitude towards money. Many of us grow up thinking we deserve good things and that we should keep up with our brothers and sisters and the next door neighbours.  There is sometimes a feeling now that if you don't look like you have as much as everyone else you're not as good, or a failure. That's rubbish. Although we like to think that things are fair and equal, they aren't and I doubt they never will be. So get rid of those negative thoughts if you have them and just focus on what you need and what you have, everything else is irrelevant.

Work out what is enough for you and your family to thrive, and then work hard to achieve that level. If you use your time to earn what you need to pay off a home and buy what you need, and if you look after what you already own, you'll probably develop a feeling of self-reliance and you won't be bothered by what others have. Working towards your own financial independence is enriching and empowering and soon you see the results of your work and no amount of envy will move you off that path.

Organising Your Money

Bank accounts

Most of us have two types of spending: the regular bills that we pay monthly, quarterly or yearly, such as electricity, phone, internet and insurance, and the more irregular expenses such as groceries, fuel, transport, and so on. Hanno and I pay our regular bills online by direct debit, BPAY, PayPal or credit card, and use cash for the latter. If you have a computer, it’s worth the effort to sit down and organise automatic direct debits for regular payments to make your bill paying as efficient as possible. Having pre-programed payments will help you pay your bills on time so you never pay late fees. A late mortgage payment might mean a strike against you on your credit rating. Make sure that never happens. 

It’s easier to manage money if you have one account for your spending (bills, debit card and cash withdrawals) and a separate one for your savings. Leave enough money in the spending account for the bills you need to pay this month, as well as the quarterly, six-monthly and annual bills you're putting aside money for. This is the account to have your pay deposited into. You should have a set regular amount in your budget to save in each pay period so when all the bills are paid and money set aside for known bills, you can then transfer your savings to your savings account.

Cash and cash envelopes
Many people use debit or credit cards to spend their money – there is no problem with that if it works for you and you’re not incurring fees. I have always found that I have a better idea of what I’m spending if I use cash instead of cards. When I have to hand over a $50 note, I feel it, but I don’t when I hand over a card to pay the same amount. If you’re struggling with your budget or if you’re still over-spending, I encourage you to put the cards away for a while and try working with cash.

One problem with cash is that it’s a temptation when you have it in your purse. To avoid this problem, when we withdraw cash from the bank every month we put it in envelopes or zip-lock bags earmarked for particular budget categories – groceries, petrol, garden supplies and so on. My budget tells me how much to put into each bag. When I go shopping, I take money from these envelopes and then return any change to the bag.

During the month, I can see the amounts getting smaller and I know exactly how much I have left to spend. We can also take money we haven’t used from one envelope to pay for something that may have been more expensive than expected that month. Being flexible with these envelopes can be a great help sometimes. Whatever is left in the envelopes at the end of the month – and there always is some left over – is added to our savings. It will take you a few months to have this system rolling along effortlessly but when it does, it works very well. 

The Big Joyous Picture 
If you have a steady income, be it from a job, a business, investments, a pension or welfare, and can consistently live on less than your income, you’ll be doing okay. If you manage to save the extra, you’ll be doing even better. Once you’ve made the shift from spender to saver I hope you see the wisdom in what you’re doing, from financial, health and environmental perspectives, as well as from a lifestyle one. And don’t downplay the lifestyle angle: everyone wants to feel they’re living well and being productive, no matter how their income is derived.

When you see your friends in a new car, or changing with the fashions, you’ll most likely want to remind yourself that your life provides plenty of satisfaction and that even though you like the new things your friends have, you don’t want them; the cost is too high, no matter what it is. Your debt is reducing, not going up, and I hope that will give you a measure of accomplishment and joy that no amount of new clothes or travel will give. 

Be aware of how to cut your costs, stick to a budget and pay off your debts. These things take time, so enjoy everything that life offers as you live it. Don’t close yourself off to the people around you. Remain interested, take chances, learn new things, develop the person you want to be. This can be tough at times, and not everything will go according to plan. Keep your eye on where you’re heading and know that all this work, caution and forethought will pay off. Your reward won’t just be living debt-free, it will be the choices and options that will give you, as well as all the joy you find along the way.

Weekend reading

23 February 2018
We went out to dinner at the local Korean BBQ last night with Kerry, Sunny and Jamie.  The dinner was a little family celebration of Kerry and Sunny's new family home being finished.  It looks like they'll be moving in next week.

Hanno and I had never been to a Korean BBQ restaurant before but we both loved the food. There was a buffet of vegetable spring rolls, tempura vegetables, chicken and miso soup which we had while we cooked our BBQ at the table. They had containers of marinated pork, chicken, beef and seafood as well as a variety of vegetables and sauces. We'll definitely be going back there.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the useful discussion on family finances during the week.  It's such a help for people who are struggling with money to read ideas from others who have had the same struggles and successfully worked out ways to manage their money.

I hope you have a great weekend and have time to reflect, relax and spend time with the people you love. xx

Living with the land
A winter too many - this beautiful lady died at the end of January
Dublin's workhorses
A day without plastic. Can you do it?
Career transitions are possible at any age
The Basketmakers of Lough Nafooey living on the land
How to hem pants - tutorial
Felting inspiration - Easter hares
Half of world's oceans now fished industrially, maps reveal

Managing your financial life

19 February 2018
The Gender Pay Gap
Throughout the developed world, there is a significant difference between what men and women earn. In Australia the gap is currently around 17 per cent. All through their working lives, women usually earn less than men even when doing the same type of work; they move in and out of employment during the years they have babies and often work part-time when they do return to work. As such, a woman’s overall lifetime income is much lower than a man’s. As well as being unfair, this means that women’s superannuation is much lower than their male counterparts, putting them in a precarious situation as they age. I wish I had a solution to this problem. I wish we had politicians who were strong enough to stand up and work towards a solution. I don’t have the answers, but I do have some suggestions. 

The list below is mainly targeted at women who have chosen to be at home to raise children or those who leave the workforce when a baby is born.  It could also cover men who choose the same path.  The main point of this list is to protect people who are working within a relationship for the mutual benefit of the couple and their children, who do not get paid.

Weekend reading

16 February 2018
After 50 years of wearing glasses, soon they'll be off, for good.

This is the first post I've written since my eye surgery and I have to tell you, I'm feeling great.  There is a new, sharply-focused world out there that I've been rediscovering but so far my discoveries have only been inside the house.  I still have a problem with glare so my outdoor adventures will have to wait a few more days. In another day or two, I'll take my glasses off for good and will only need reading glasses. I'll have the other eye done next month and I'm looking forward to having two good eyes again.  I'm so glad I had it done.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to write comments on The Simple Home posts, although I'm a bit disappointed there are so few. The comments feature your ideas and opinions, often different to mine, and they are a big help to those who are struggling with change or not sure about what to do or how to do it.  If you have the time, please add to the discussions, what you write may be just the thing to help fellow readers.

I hope you have a lovely weekend. I've been sent a book to review so I'll be starting that and trying to keep the plants alive in the hot weather.  See you next week. xx

A stitch in time saves stress down the line

Working for a living

12 February 2018

February, week 2 in The Simple Home

While I knew from a young age that I would work when I was older, it didn’t occur to me until much later how vital work is. Work builds character, families, neighbourhoods and nations. I can say without a doubt that I am the person I am because of the work I’ve done – both in the work force and at home. The daily effort of earning a living and keeping a home operating builds layer upon layer of experience, skill, confidence, trust, character, responsibility, understanding and common sense.

There are several distinct stages we go through in life, each has it's own rewards and challenges and going through one stage often helps prepare you for the next.  I've written about this in The Simple Home but I'll highlight how each stage is slightly different and the financial aspects that can make a real difference as you grow older.

Weekend reading

9 February 2018

I meant to show you Sunny's sesame plants the other day when I did the herb post. We started growing them in the bush house when a friend gave her three small bushes. I potted them up and they're growing fast.  Although they're known in Korea as sesame, they're not the true sesame plant.  These are correctly known as perilla and if you click on the link you'll see why we're growing it.  Sunny, and many Korean people, use the leaves to wrap around small portions of food.  Apparently the plant also produces a beneficial oil if it's crushed but these haven't produced seeds yet. As you can see in the photo, they've got a lot of flower head so the seeds are probably close.

I'm having my first eye op next week so I'm not sure of what I'll be doing here apart from The Simple Home post on Monday. Next week will be hot so I guess I'll be inside most of the time.  I hope this is the last of the really hot weather.  I'd love to experience some cold nights again.

Thanks for your visits this week. I hope you have a peaceful and relaxing weekend.  See you soon. xx

Herb cuttings

7 February 2018
One of the many ways to cut costs in your kitchen garden is to take herb cuttings. I do it at this time of year but you should do a bit of research and see if it's viable in your area now. My common sense tells me, but I don't know for sure, that if you provide a protected light position, out of the sun and wind, cuttings taken now, in most warm climates, would grow. Out northern hemisphere friends would need to wait till later in the year. I take cuttings now because they're starting to look a bit ragged after summer, they need cutting back and the weather is still warm - it's hot but not as firece as it was a few weeks ago.

These are oregano cuttings. Even the ones on the left side, with very few roots, will probably grow well. I got about 12 cuttings from these clumps.

If you lift up the oregano at the side of the pot, you'll notice a lot of fibrous roots.  Just cut out a clump and divide it up to plant.

If you have herbs growing and you don't want to take cuttings, now is a good time to cut them back and give them a drink of whatever delicious organic fertiliser you have on hand.  Comfrey, seaweed or any of the liquid commercial feeds are good for this.  If you buy a commercial fertiliser, try to get a good organic one - it's better for the soil, the plant and you.

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.