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Saving money and living sustainably, what 2019 looked like for our family

2020 has kicked right into gear and while this is not the usual time for looking back at the past year, planning for 2020 has meant that there has been some recapping. One of the biggest changes I made last year was with my partner Briant. We cut back on many of the luxuries and we have a lot to show for it. In 2019 we saved hundreds of dollars on our household budget and I want to tell you how we did it.

Household Waste & Cleaning

At the beginning of 2019 we have reduce our household rubbish down to one quarter of what it was, one tiny bucket of rubbish gets taken out each week. How did we do it?

  1. We recycle everything we can

  2. We have a soft plastic bin that we take regularly to the supermarket, this means our soft plastics are diverted from our bins and landfill

  3. We use a Bokashi Bucket, so all our food scraps, yep, EVERYTHING – meat, citrus, onion, garlic and teabags goes into the bin and then buried in the earth once it is full

While this doesn’t contribute by putting money in the bank, it does give back to the community and the earth, and has reduced the amount of rubbish our household throws out.

On the topic of food waste 30-40% of all rubbish is food waste, the average family about $2000-$3000 per year of food away. Imagine if you could save most of this. You can!

  1. Buy only what you need and store it correctly

  2. If you have too much, cut it up and freeze, preserve, pickle or dry

  3. Donate or give to friends of family

Lastly, anything that does look like it needs to go into the bin, put it into your bokashi so it goes back into the earth. BTW – food waste going into landfill does not compost, it actually rots, turning into Methane, a greenhouse gas.

We bought one small roll of glad wrap in 2019, and still have some left. All of our food goes into reusable containers or we use wax wraps.

Clothes washing, we bought a 1 kg bag of soapnuts in the middle of 2019 worth $25. Six months in and we still have half a bag left. $25 for a year’s worth of washing detergent isn’t bad.

In addition, we bought 2 x spray bottles, filled them with leftover citrus peel and white vinegar ($2 for 2 litres from Woolworths or Coles). This has become our general-purpose spray for 12 months, plus we used all of the leftover stuff we used. All up this year I have spent $10 on natural general-purpose spray.

We use re-usable/ washable wipes, so we don’t constantly have to buy paper towel (although we do use this too on occasion).

For handwash, I went to Greenies and bought a litre of Castile Soap, there are so many uses for it. There are over 18 uses for this stuff, just read the label.

Body & Beauty

Make up, lotions and potions. This year I bought hardly anything, I had so much leftover stuff or stuff that I was saving. No more, in 2019 I used it all. I did not have to buy any moisturizer, perfume, sprays, wipes or anything.

I use an ENJO Sante make up remover / face cleaner and exfoliator. This cost me about $30 3 years ago. I pop it in the wash and I still use it today. No facewipes, make up remover or face exfoliator required.

At the end of 2018, I started to make my own soap, crazy huh? But, with about $15 I made enough soap for 1 year and I was able to give away quite a bit of that. Imagine how much money you might save by making your own soap. My favourite soap recipe is coming soon.


A couple of months ago I started riding my bike to work 2-3 times per week. I live about 12 km’s and it takes me about 40mins each way. The benefit is that I get out in nature, I listen to a podcast and I get to work feeling zen. There is also the added benefit of not having to fill my car so often. Instead of re-filling twice a month, I now refill about 1-1.5 times a month, more money in my pocket.


Lastly, we signed up to a community garden patch. We live in an apartment and while we can grow herbs on the balcony, we wanted to grow a bit more food. Because who doesn’t love fresh local food? I have a black thumb, I’ve managed to kill mint 3 times, one thing we have managed to grow VERY successfully is Basil. Now a bunch of Basil at a supermarket is about $3, while I probably bought it every 2 months, I always lost about ½ the bunch. So, I went to Bunnings, got a pot, potting mix and a pack of seed. Put the potting mix into the pot, chucked the seeds in and voilia, Basil, heaps of it, it grows like crazy. So, a bag of seeds worth $3 and pot + potting mix worth about $15 has provided me with a never-ending supply of basil. If you try to grow one thing this year, it should be Basil.

These are things we have started doing slowly over time over the past 12 months, we started with one thing and then other and then another. By the end of the year we have saved money, reduced our footprint on the planet, spent more time outside and most importantly spent more quality time together. So, what are you going to try this year?

Disclaimer: Everyone’s situation is different, to give you some context we are a double income couple, no dependent kids. Thankfully we have very similar interests and values which means that ideas and thoughts about reducing, making do with buying less and making our own was never a hard sell. I recognise not everyone is in this position. My advice, do what you can! This is one of my favourite memes little things can make a big impact.

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