Save over $23,000 a Year and De-stress with a Few Simple Living Strategies

A big part of de-stressing and living a calmer life is about changing our relationship to money – allowing money to be the tool rather than the driver or motivator of our actions.  Living simply, sharing, fixing, buying less stuff and participating in the gift economy are all powerful actions for positive change – and part of living a permaculture-based lifestyle.

Growing your own fresh produce is such a healthy and satisfying way to simplify your life, and save thousands a year. I typically grow so much that I need to give much of it away – mostly as cuttings at the workshops I give, to help other people’s gardens become more abundant.

By simplifying my life and avoiding unnecessary daily purchases, I am easily saving over $23,000 a year in just a few areas of my life.

What this means is that:

  1. I don’t need to earn that amount (and can spend that time with my family, volunteering in my community, developing new skills, writing, riding, being in nature…) or
  2. I have more freedom to spend the money on more interesting things, or things that will last…. or
  3. Perhaps go on a journey and worldschool our kids.

I’ve found that reducing our daily cost of living can be a simple, yet powerful series of actions that can help us live a more sustainable, low-impact and relaxed way of life.

I feel happier like this – more connected to myself, my community, the place I live, the planet and global society. I feel better too knowing that I have not contributed so much waste and pollution, or impacted so much on other communities. This is important to me.

Slowing down and exploring our own backyard – finding dragonflies, turtles, waterbirds, waterlily and other interesting plants, insects and animals.

So how do I simply save over $23,000 a year:

Go Shopping With a List – save $5000

I find it’s too easy to fill shopping baskets with spontaneous buys especially when I don’t take my list or I shop when I’m hungry. I’ve noticed my register bill almost doubles. I also avoid shopping at big stores that encourage over-purchasing. Even shopping at small ethical stores, I have found this saves me around $5000 a year.

Eat a Simple Dinner at Home – save $5000

I love to cook and kindly my kids say my meals are really good  – they even go so far to say they prefer my food to meals out (phew!). We eat simple, tasty and healthy meals together at home and enjoy the laid-back vibe. Eating out with a 3yo can be ‘not-so-relaxing’.  Some days (for no particular reason) we set the table really nicely, put on some music and make it a special meal. Taking a family out for dinner weekly can be costly. I think we easily save over $5000 a year by eating at home, and taking food with us.

Maia loves creating colourful little table decorations from garden flowers, old jars, socks and fabrics scraps. Delightful!

Pack Lunch and Snacks when we go out – save $3000

Almost every time we start going somewhere the kids say, “what can we eat?” – even if they’ve just had their breakfast. Our growing boys in particular seem to have hollow legs. I always pack a substantial bag of healthy food from home for them to eat while we are out and about – being where we are, outings beyond Crystal Waters are typically never less than 3-4 hours.  We might still buy something, but nowhere near as much. As a Mum I also feel better that the’ve filled up on ‘good stuff’. Taking snack baskets on our outings saves us at least $3000 a year.

Go on picnics and local outings – save $3000

A favourite local outing is a picnic at the river. It is even something we do on special occasions. We pack up our little basket with little goodies and a thermos, sometimes even a bag of potatoes to through in a riverside campfire – yumm!  By reducing the number of expensive outings and choosing to entertain ourselves in our local environment I estimate saves us over $3000 a year.

We all love heading to the river, exploring, having a picnic and cooking potatoes in the fire.

Make a Coffee Thermos at home – save $4000

We love coffee and I think we still spend way too much on coffee when we’re out.  By taking our coffee thermos from home I estimate we could save around $4000 a year  – wow, oh dear, that’s huge.  Perhaps I should just drink my herb infused waters instead – which I already carry everywhere!

Grow fresh greens – $3000

By cultivating some super-easy home-grown food –  fresh salads leaves, bunches of greens, a range of culinary herbs, bundles of cherry tomatoes and delicious snow peas, not only is your food far fresher and more nutrient dense, I’ve worked out that we easily save over $3000 a year. If we took into account all the food we grow and the eggs, it would be much more.

I grow at least 20 different types of greens for teas, salads, stir-fries, soups, curries and other meals. This is super spicy red mustard spinach and one of the open-hearted oak-leaf lettuces behind.


The self-seeding tomatoes are so delicious and abundant. I don’t have to do anything and there are many many kilograms every year.

Other ways to save money by living simply


  • Assess needs against wants – check in with yourself. I find I can often easily put things back on the shop shelf if I stop to think about it. Stepping out of the consumer lifestyle can be very liberating. It helps to avoid big shopping centres too. It’s hard to come out having bought just what you needed, and quite often items are not as good as expected.
  • Choose good quality items that last – It’s better to spend money on something that will last a long time and is fixable, rather than on cheap disposable versions.
  • Choose good quality second hand things – there is so much scope here! Furniture, cars, bikes, computers, musical instruments, clothes…
  • Declutter – finding a clarity of mind in clear spaces, spaces not filled with ‘stuff’ we own.

Voluntary simplicity

Choosing to live more simply, moving away from the work-spend cycle and finding a broader definition of richness and wealth, is often known as downshifting or voluntary simplicity. This way of thinking and living embraces the notions such as:

  • bigger is not always better,
  • focus on quality rather than quantity,
  • see that accumulating more stuff does not make us happier, and
  • a simpler life creates far less impact on the environment and society.


Did you know that every year, the average Australian family produces enough rubbish to fill a three-bedroom house, producing about 2.25 kg of waste each per dayCool Australia 

I also strongly believe that we do need to Live simply so that others may simply live as Gandhi said.

By embracing voluntary simplicity ideals, it is embracing an ethical life, that values other people, other communities, other species, other ecological communities… This is certainly connected to the third ethic of permaculture.

The three ethics at the core of permaculture are:

  1. earth care
  2. people care
  3. fair share

7 Responses

  1. Berwyn Farm
    Berwyn Farm at |

    This is such a great post … our life here in rural NZ is in keeping with nearly everything you've mentioned above and that is so cool and makes me very happy. Thank you so much for writing such an inspiring blog 🙂

  2. Sherri
    Sherri at |

    Morag I really enjoyed this post. I found your blog through Rhonda at Down to Earth. I am almost finished a certificate IV in Permaculture through TAFE. I have gained so much practical knowledge through my studies, and a much deeper appreciation of permaculture.

  3. Alex
    Alex at |

    Yes great ideas Morag . We do most of these things without thinking. A birthday picnic with little grandsons at a big children's adventure park down the road turns into a lets have a taste of what we have all brought as it's laid on the table . A cute mini cupcake creation in the shape of number 5 on a pizza oven tray. An egg and bacon Frittata still in its oven dish. Various dips and crackers. Abundance of sweet oranges cut into wedges. Veggie sticks. Thermos of piping hot water for the tea and coffees and for a husband going off to some work an early lunch. Spaghetti in tomato sauce with chopped up sausages steaming hot in a wide neck thermos .
    If we look at our actions we may well see that we are doing things quite simply already and can pat ourselves on our collective backs.
    I love your blog and wish at this moment now being winter and cold in Sydney that the garden wasn't so bare…still I guess a time and a season. …and I do have a few herbs 🙂

  4. allotmentadventureswithjean
    allotmentadventureswithjean at |

    It is quite astonishing what can be achieved with the Simple Living outlook on life. Financially and otherwise.
    I am working more and more towards that end.
    Such joy in harvesting food you have grown, I find I value it more too now I know what is involved in growing my food.
    Time saved from 'recreational shopping' frees me up so that I have more time to do the things I really want to – time to visit the allotment, time to spend with friends, and time to find more ways of cooking the occasional 'glut'. 101 things to do with choko!

  5. Fiona Chain
    Fiona Chain at |

    Beautifully written Morag, I would love to bestow a more simple life on my beautiful niece and her little family. They are a young couple with two darling little girls who are growing up way too fast. There is so much pressure on young families today to do and have it all, I blame Facebook as it is too easy to see what other people are doing and there is that stupid saying- FOMO, fear of missing out, I turn that saying around to mean – Fullfill oneself more often. I strive for a simple and small life and dearly wish it for all members of our little family too. Thanks for a lovely post. Yesterday's was lovley too, I just didn't get a chance to comment.

  6. Debbie
    Debbie at |

    We do many of the same things you do but I do want to grow more of our own food. My problem is that my husband tends to be a picky eater when it comes to certain fruits and veggies. But, in his defense, he was not exposed to much variety as a child and has vastly increased the foods that he will eat after living with me for so long. 😉

  7. Jane Jereb Robinson
    Jane Jereb Robinson at |

    Following your estimates I had no idea I saved so much and even more as we are not coffee buffs. It is amazing how much money slips through the fingers so effortlessly.