Your time with your kids is brief

Live simply: 14 Ways to Save Money and Avoid Debt

Live simply, live well, get debt-free, be happy.

Voluntary simplicity is a way to work towards debt-free living. When I first heard of this concept back in the early 90s I was impressed at how this is such a positive earth-friendly way of living and have tried to live this way ever since. I’m so glad I found this approach before I launched into a career and mortgage package. Instead we have created our own work and built our own house – simply and based on the environmental and social justice ethics I value.

It’s not for me about dropping out – I definitely want to be be a connected, active and contributing member of society.

Voluntary simplicity to me is about reducing consumption, streamlining possessions, increasing community self-reliance, simplifying needs, simplifying diet and finding more space to breath, being happy and connecting with my community, my environment, my family and myself.

Getting involved in a community tree planting project.

I feel a great sense of freedom and flexibility by living simply, being conscious of my consumption and avoiding debt. I also feel a richness that cannot be defined in dollar terms.

We spent ten years building and saving, building and saving – living in simple accommodation on-site while we did. This helped so much in avoiding going into debt to build our house. (Visit my post about the house:

By simplifying my needs I have found that I can:

  • reduce my ecological impact (less resources used)
  • reduce my social impact (reducing pollution, factory-made stuff and supporting fair trade)
  • reduce my costs (less purchases)
  • reduce the time I need to work for money (I work part time, independently, based from home)
  • reduce my stress
  • increase the time I have to spend with my family (including time to homeschool 2 children and look after a pre-schooler)
  • increase the time I have in nature and the garden
  • increase the time I have to write and relax
  • increase the time I have to grow, make and build
  • increase the time I have to volunteer and contribute to my community
Growing hardy edible perennials like Brazilian Spinach means that, here in the subtropics, there is always food in the garden. (Read my post about growing abundance:

I choose to without debt and keep our needs simple. We’ve don’t have a mortgage or don’t use credit cards. Here are some of the things I do to live simply and keep our cost of living down…

Pass on good clothes that your children have grown out of and accept bags of from friends.  Children usually grow out of clothes before they wear them out. I love getting bags of surprises from friends. The kids like the fact that it’s come, for example, from their older friends – it gives it extra meaning. With three children, trading clothes provides a big saving. We also have found some excellent things in the local second-hand stores, and like to sew up our own things too.

There is a lovely little second hand shop in our ecovillage run by volunteers. Maia always finds lovely clothes and shoes there – she is wearing them here. The kids also find gifts there. For my birthday today, they found knitting needles and yarn, a new coffee mug…


Becoming an active member of your local libraries is a fabulous way to access great books and toys – and then pass them back when the kids have had a good look and play, and ready to move onto the next thing.

Mostly I find that I can get just about everything I need in my local town. The popular thinking is that you need to go to big box stores for discount buying, but typically I find the prices are comparable. Also I save buy not buying spontaneous purchases I don’t actually need. Every now and then I do find myself in a large shopping mall (sometimes I do community seminars in libraries embedded in these places).  I watch myself as I wander around – things catch my eye and I start feeling drawn into needing this and that. Our place is already filled with enough ‘stuff’ – I really do not need any more. I think I save thousands this way.

One of my favourite shops – the organic food coop in Maleny, my nearest town.

Have you ever gone shopping late in the afternoon when you are really hungry and come home with a whole lot of things you wish you hadn’t bought. I try now to always shop when I am full and have a clear list of the things I need.  By avoiding plastic packaging as much as I can, I find this also limits the purchasing of unnecessary items.

Simply by having a small herb and vegetable garden you can save lots of money – even if it’s just to grow the greens. Buying fresh bunches of herbs, dark leafy greens and salad greens can add up over a year.  With a bit more space and growing perennials, a small garden can have more food than you can possibly eat.

Community gardens are great places to learn how to grow food, or to get a plot of land if you don’t have space at home.


This is my chicken house enclosed by wonderful self-seeding pumpkins – so much food. I eat the leaves, the flowers, the shoots, and the pumpkin seeds and all. Self-seeding annuals are such abundant plants that keep giving.

Homemade items, hand-made cards and homegrown plants are great gift ideas that are lovely to both give and receive.

Our diet is simple, healthy and tasty – a lot of fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, eggs and home-baked foods. We are a meat free household, except for a little from our neighbouring organic farm and I make a most things from scratch. It’s actually quite quick and easy, really yummy and much cheaper.

Foraged from my garden for lunch.

We love sharing a great meal, and we love cooking up our fresh produce at home – creating interesting meals from whatever is seasonal and looking great that day.  When friends come over with a plate to share we have a great feast. Family parties are always a simple shared meal at home or a picnic in the park too.


I have worked out that the clothes I wear would fit into a smallish suitcase. Anything else in my wardrobe is superfluous and I am gradually shedding it. Having a couple of basic items and that can be dressed up or down makes life much simpler. Same with shoes – I have 2 going-out pairs, a garden pair, a pair of thongs for the beach and a pair for riding my bike. That’s all I need.

Going for a striding walk or swift ride around my neighbourhood is part the way I try to keep fit, but so is gardening, chasing the kids… Also, seems a silly thing to say, but it is possible to walk and ride without having specialised fitness clothing for each activity. A simple but good bike, with simple clothing and a reasonable pair of shoes is really all that is necessary.


If we need something, we save up and buy it rather than borrowing money, using credit. Often this means we choose preloved items rather than new – which saves both resources and money. We have some lovely dining chairs that we found at the tip shop – a set of nice bent wood chairs that just needed a good clean.  Our car was 10 years old when we bought it. We picked one with low mileage, good service records, excellent safety features and great fuel economy – and saved ourselves over $30,000.

We purposefully have debit cards rather than credit cards. It’s an easy limit on consumption. We need to have the money in our account before we can buy things. With all the other voluntary simplicity measures and conscious consumerism, we are able to make this work.

Everything doesn’t need to be a monetary exchange – we can give and share our products, services and skills in other ways. For example, when people come to my house, they often go away with some produce or cuttings from my garden – and same happens when I visit friends. I often give talks and workshops in exchange for entry to festivals and events. In a year, this alone saves me well over $1500.

Community meet-up and produce swap at the local bakery on a Saturday morning.

Going out with the family can get so expensive, and it’s amazing how much we use and waste to do this –   take-away food packaging, fuel etc. Particularly with little ones, it can also be quite stressful and exhausting. Having a simple unplugged ‘day out’ at home is so much fun – organise a picnic in the garden, a treasure hunt, games, maybe invite some friends over, make your own music, put on a show…

An afternoon of unplugged garden play with children from the neighbourhood (grandad made the swingset, the sandpit is surrounded by logs from the local woodlot and the cubby is at least 4th hand).

We recently joined a local sailing club for a very modest fee. Rather than buying our own boat, we decided to share the club’s boats and windsurfers. Each of these little boats gets used so much – again, it saves resources and lots of money. It’s quite liberating. On a Sunday morning we just turn up and help set up  – we don’t need to take all our own gear – they even provide life jackets and a rescue service.



21 Responses

  1. Fiona Chain
    Fiona Chain at |

    "Voluntary Simplicity" love it, these two words sum up the life I am striving for, though it is a slow process for me. I still have way too much stuff with a lot of emotional ties to certain items that I just can't part with as yet. I am not a shopper though so that's a start. Thanks for another great topic. Have a great Sunday.

  2. Anna Lorraine
    Anna Lorraine at |

    Very good. Loved the ideas.

  3. Jazmin Lee
    Jazmin Lee at |

    I'm with you. Less is More.
    Soon we will be travelling and have chosen to do it simply too.
    I'm taking a tiny backpack away for two months….some of my clothes I shall leave behind with friends in the third world. Since I have luggage space I can take things over to help poor communities….books, pencils, sewing kits.

  4. Morag Gamble
    Morag Gamble at |

    The emotional ties to things is huge – especially with the kids. A friend gave me a good idea recently. Take a photograph of you or your child with the special thing, then pass the thing on. It's the memory often that is important, not the thing! It works a treat.

  5. Morag Gamble
    Morag Gamble at |

    Have a fabulous journey Jazmin and Samuel!

  6. Jude Wright
    Jude Wright at |

    Great blog. I love the voluntary simplicity lifestyle. Both my daughters were raised this way and they both have developed into independent, environmentally conscious people. I know what you mean about the clothes; I make most of my own clothing now from old bed sheets and quilt covers gifted to me by friends and family. My underwear is made from old tee shirts and I am working on shoes. I own one pair of work shoes and a pair of crocs for home. Honestly, I don't miss having cupboards full of clothes and all that washing. Love the simple life.

  7. Kirsty Fletcher
    Kirsty Fletcher at |

    Great ideas. Though need gumboots in the garden for winter as well as summer garden shoes.. also always like a pair of black going out boots for winter in Melbourne. So my shoe count is up. Though most are op shop shoes..

  8. brittanyjh18
    brittanyjh18 at |

    Love this! We are in the same boat trying to figure out how we can do this! And we're moving to Maleny!
    What did you live whilst building your home? Did you have building experience?
    Could pick your brain for hours!!

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous at |

    An historian I know agrees with this concept.

  10. Morag Gamble
    Morag Gamble at |

    It's lovely to hear how your daughters have grown up with the simple lifestyle and have taken it on with them. Making shoes sounds like a wonderful challenge.

  11. Morag Gamble
    Morag Gamble at |

    We lived in a caravan, then the office, then the main part of the house while the rest was finished. Being on-site was great as we immersed ourselves in the building process, also saved us renting elsewhere. We loved the owner building process and how we were able to refine details as we went.

  12. Tricky Wolf
    Tricky Wolf at |

    Great post, we share the same views as you, good to show you that simple living doesn't mean you have to disconnect and become a potato sack wearing hermit lol

  13. Chris R
    Chris R at |

    What a beautiful idea Morag. Love it !

  14. allotmentadventureswithjean
    allotmentadventureswithjean at |

    I love this blog post. So much information that is relevant to the way I am wishing to live my life. I keep just a small wardrobe, cook from scratch each day. Being part of a community garden is very fulfilling, It's wonderful exercise, a great meeting place, a great learning place, and I always come away with so much food even though my plot is quite tiny. So much food sharing goes on at the garden. We teach each other how to get the most use out of what we grow, and work together in the community garden.
    I'll see if I can tick off a few more boxes on the list you have posted today. A good list, gives me food for thought and something to aim for.

  15. Chris R
    Chris R at |

    What a beautiful idea Morag. Love it !

  16. Selina B
    Selina B at |

    great post!
    supermarkets don't have bulk shopping anymore, many people get sucked into thinking they do but it's just misleading. 2kgs is not bulk. i shop very rarely these days as i've also stopped buying processed foods & condiments (giving up cane sugar helped!) i rarely bake & i try to eat fresh vegies & fruit. am trying to cut back on the plastics, slowly getting there (rubbish goes out about once in 2-3mths at a rough guess) anything recyclable or can be repurposed i keep.
    thanx for a more ideas
    thanx for sharing

  17. Anonymous
    Anonymous at |

    Parents of my daughters' friends picked them up from school and took them home for dinner while I was away in the city for a specialist doctor appointment. As a thank you gift for parents, I roasted a chicken and potatoes with veggies. Considering this family doesn't cook much it was a very appreciated gift. The $10 it cost me more than made up for the peace of mind that they gave me, and knowing the were with friends instead of at home worrying. It was invaluable aND so appreciated.

  18. Sharon Dehart Lofton
    Sharon Dehart Lofton at |

    I love this lifestyle. I am big about not buying what I don't need. I also watch my packaging of items to control my carbon foot print. Hats off to you for taking control of your life instead of having life take control of you.

  19. x2far
    x2far at |

    Hi Morag. I love this post. It is such a great summary of all sorts of ideas that I value…not a fan of consumerism on any level and dread having to go near big shopping centres at all. The reason for my comment though is because I was interested in your second hand shop out at Crystal Waters. For years I have been giving my boys second hand clothes to various charity shops around Buderim. At the moment I have quite a few bags of clothes (track pants, ugg boots, shirts etc), many of which are suitable for the winter months ahead. My question is two fold; do you guys accept donations from outside the community? If yes, is there a way of getting it there, other than driving out?

  20. Morag Gamble
    Morag Gamble at |

    Thanks for sharing! Thanks too for the offer of the clothes. Unfortunately there is no way of getting here without a car. (I am exploring ideas with some people here about ways to develop non-fossil fuelled cars – but still a little way off). The shop loves donations but is quite small – they therefore only accept good quality seasonally appropriate clothes (which sounds like yours are). Please email me and I can give you their direct contact details (find my contact details in the contact page at the top of this blog). Thanks!!

  21. Juanita
    Juanita at |

    we have a local church that has THE GREAT EXCHANGE and you can bring 25 items -clothing, books or jewelry and they check it in and then you take 25 out. You can bring in 25 pieces of clothes and take 25 books out or vice versa, really wonderful one Saturday a month and ever Tues/Thursday