Modern society has many ways to make us feel economically inadequate. There are pressures arising from numerous sectors demanding more and more slices of our income pie. Most people could be forgiven for thinking the days of fair wages and a reasonable cost of living are over – and they may well be correct (for the near and medium future anyway).
However, we don't have to accept the higher cost of living, or the obligatory annual 10-20% rise in costs whilst wages and pensions stagnate, and we don't have to keep loyal to how we actually spend our precious money just because it's what we've done for years.
Not at all, we can fight back through our own instincts and recoup bags of money by simply considering our lifestyle choices a little more closely and regaining control of where we spend our money.
Let's face it, times have changed and prices for essential commodities are no longer reasonable – they're outright disgraceful! Politicians and CEOs are not listening to our whining but they WILL listen to our actions and if we change our habits and buy/use less, we might just find prices coming down for everyone. Furthermore, we might also find out something about ourselves and make our own lives more fulfilling and healthier at the same time.
This list of self sufficient ways to save money broadly touches on 12 areas, which has helped me to reign in spending without feeling like I was going without. You may have heard some (or all) of these points before but are you practising any of them? Have a read through and see how 12 dollar saving dozen basic self sufficient methods can save you thousands over the course of a year.
1. GYO Vegetables – Growing some of your own vegetables is one of the easiest ways to save costs – I've said it many times before. How often do people buy a bunch of expensive supermarket vegetables only to use a small portion of them whilst the rest sits rotting in the crisper? What a waste of money!
Growing vegetables at home means harvesting them fresh as needed, which produces less waste, fresher produce with more vitamins, and more food for less money. A $2 packet of lettuce can potentially produce hundreds of lettuces whereas $2 will not even buy a packet of mixed salad lettuce leaves these days.
2. GYO Fruit – Fruit trees aren't as scary to grow and maintain as people may imagine. In fact, most fruit trees (suited to the right environment) basically look after themselves. Supermarket fruit is not only becoming a luxury just for the rich, it could also be harming your health according to some reports claiming some fruit is so full of chemicals it should be labelled as unsafe to eat.
Just speaking about cost alone, take freshly squeezed orange juice, for example, how expensive is it?! Our family, only drink orange juice seasonally for about 3-4 months each year when our trees are fruiting. For the rest of the time we do without or drink other juices we produce from other fruit and veg in season.
3. Keep Poultry – A few chickens (or several) are not expensive to keep and if managed correctly can actually make money. Scraps from the table and vegetable garden can feed the birds; in return, you get fresh humanely farmed eggs to eat and sell, fertiliser to feed your plants, and even meat (if you plan to eat some of your birds).
4. DIY Exercise – A double saving benefit. Firstly, with the constant bombard of fitness crazes through advertising and reality TV shows, generations of people falsely believe the only way to get fit and stay healthy is to pay big money for the privilege. I can tell you through experience, there is no “healthy shake” or expensive gym membership on the planet you can't replicate yourself for free to save money. When I was a soldier, we found hundreds of ways to improvise training to make it fun and effective without the need for any gym equipment or facility. Ditch the gym, or at least reduce your membership and use your inventiveness and surroundings to get the most out of your workouts.
Secondly, (and this is an offshoot good consequence to regular exercise) is the potential to save thousands in medical expenses over a lifetime by just staying healthy and taking care of yourself through regular exercise. Exercise more to reduce your health expenses? Sounds easy doesn't it? Yes it is.
5. Substitution – We get into habits and take many things for granted so when prices increase we tend to stay on the same path but pay more. Substitution is a way we can save money by being a little smarter about how we use the resources available to us. Substituting one thing for another doesn't necessarily mean doing without either – it can mean a healthier and exciting change.
Some examples of substitutions are:
Meat can be expensive – substitute a meat dinner with a “no meat night.” If you still want protein and iron then use beans or eggs both of which will make a great meal but lots cheaper than meat.
Soda water mixed with cordial rather than soft drinks – Home-brand soda or mineral water is cheaper than pre-made soft drinks and if you mix with less syrup it's not only cheaper it's also less sugar and better for you.
Drink water from the tap instead of bottled.
Take your own lunch or make the kids lunches instead of buying.
Make take away/take out – Have a go at replicating McDonalds, KFC, Sushi, or your favourite take away food. This can be a fun challenge for the family, cost much less, be a healthier choice, and taste better than the real fast food.
Here is (above) a simple Japanese sushi knock-up I regularly make as a fast-food hit for my family. Rice paper spring rolls with a selection of sushi bites and some dipping sauces – dead set easy to do!
6. Preserve – The lost art of preserving is making a comeback! Make your own jams, jellies, pickles, sauces, dried fruit, from your own fresh ingredients. Then store and use them through the coming year as required. Give your preserves away as Xmas gifts because people love receiving home made preserves as presents (just ask them to return the mason jars when they've finished).
If you don't grow a lot of produce then buy in bulk from the markets, excess citrus, old mangoes reduced in price, plums, are all great for preserving.
7. Barter – Let's get back to the early settlers and barter more with neighbours. Trade some of your home-grown produce your neighbour doesn't have for something you haven't or can't grow. This saves money and is also a way to trade excess stock to make better use of overall neighbourhood produce.
Some neighbourhoods organise a once a fortnight home-grown produce swap meet for their own area – I think this is a mighty idea.
8. Compost – There's nothing new about making money out of waste. We throw out way too much wet waste when we could be utilising it back in our own garden. Composting feeds worms and microbes in the soil and in turn these tiny animals keep our plants healthy. Think twice before throwing food scraps away and bury them in the garden or compost heap instead to reap the benefits of waste.
9. Energy – Solar, if you can afford the outlay do it because electricity prices are out of control and the evidence points to a looming electricity affordability crisis where it will become unaffordable for many homes in the next decade.
Try to find ways to save energy in the home like LED light globes, power saving devices, off grid devices (like solar lighting), hang your clothes on a line instead of using a dryer, etc.
Fuel – Walk/ride instead of driving, downsize to a smaller engine vehicle, cook with gas rather than electric stove, install a gas or solar hot water system.
10. Home Cooking – Packaged and processed food is convenient but it's also way more expensive than making your own meals from scratch. If you can't grow all your ingredients, try to buy the shortfall as raw produce and prepare them yourself. Have fun at home making your own meals experimenting with different ingredients to make the recipes more exciting and tasty.
11. Rainwater – Town water is no longer the sleeping utility sheltered from unreasonable price hikes. Unfortunately, due to privatisation and energy costs the rising price of water is beginning to become concerning. Using a rainwater tank or diverting rainwater to parts of the garden (where it's needed instead of down the storm-water drain) is a better use of this resource and will save money by lessoning the need to use as much town water in the garden.
12. Self Entertainment – We've become obsessed with the want to be “entertained” by someone or something else instead of dreaming up our own entertainment/activities. Parents are willing to watch their children from the sidelines but reluctant to actually participate in the actual training.
Instead of going to the cinema, watching sport, or other paid activities, get up and do something free and active yourself like giving your kids a personal training session in their sport or going to the beach (if it's nearby). Get into the garden and create an outdoor area where you can maintain as a healthy hobby and also relax in at times.
There are plenty of free activities to choose from that will not only save you money or improve health, but they can also help bond families and people together.
The days of outsourcing are over and the days of self-sufficiency, DIY, GYO, of two or three generations ago are back. Most of us cannot sustain our current lifestyle habits for monetary and health reasons; therefore, we must make changes to help us get better value out of our dollar.
I hope my 12 dollar saving self-sufficient ways to save money list can be as much value to you as it is to me. “They” might try to squeeze us through price rises; nevertheless, we'll fight back through basic lifestyle choices that needn't mean going without but the contrary, actually making our lives more fulfilling and healthier.
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Mark Valencia Editor SSM
Look, and see the Earth through her eyes…