Sunday, October 25, 2009

The challenge conditions

We have outlined the conditions we're setting on our no spend year - it's just an outline at this stage, but it's a good place to start as any.

Firstly, the $5 for each member of the family. This is our own personal spending money, we can do what we want with it. Doesn't that contradict the no spend concept though? Technically, yes, but we also consider it a pressure valve for the challenge. If one of us suddenly weakens, we have that limited means to money. Limited, being the target reason we're getting the $5. It's there but it's limited.

When we do the maths $5 doesn't sound like much on it's own, but each member of the family will receive $240 for the year. A total of $720 for the period of the challenge. This money is for our own uses, but we can also pool that money for gifts. For example, on Mother's Day, Dave and our daughter have the option to buy something for me individually - or they can pool their money and give a joint gift. They may not want to buy me anything at all, choosing instead to make something - saving money.

If it comes to giving someone else a gift, we can pool our money together too. The objective isn't about "how much" can I have, but rather how much can I do on a limited amount of funds. By including our daughter, we're hoping to help her understand how to manage money better too.

The other condition we're contemplating is a set amount of money for projects. By projects, I don't mean anything our hearts desire. Pretty much, all projects will come to a halt for 12 months. However, one of the conundrums which almost talked me out of doing this challenge in the first place, was the need to maintain our property. There are a few projects/items which would not be sensible in the long run, to hold up for the year of the challenge.

What we were considering were:

1. A freezer: to store bulk foods cooked in advance, and to be able to buy in bulk when there are specials. As we don't have the ability to grow food at this stage, we will still need to buy it in. We will have a set budget for food which won't alter. Having a freezer expands our options of doing more with our food budget.

2. Wood heater: it will be a free source of heat, utilising an on-site wood supply. It will reduce our winter electricity bills, as well as a continued supply of heat during power outages. The chopping, stacking and collecting of wood becomes a source of activity for the family during winter and the months leading up to it. The heat generated will also allow us to do a range of inside activities (in the living areas) with a degree of comfort. Most importantly though, it also helps reduce fuel around the property during the low bushfire risk period - winter.

The above two outlays, I would really like to do in the next 12 months. I will describe a few more soon, but I would consider them "optional" outlays. One and two, described above, would really assist us in our no spend year. I can't imagine how difficult it would be during winter, to not want to crank up the electric heaters if there is money saved in the bank. We would have achieved so much half way into the challenge, only to be thwarted by having to freeze our butts off inside.

3. Fencing: if we could include this one, all the better, as it's possible our dog will be returning to us next year, when a relative sells their property where she's been living. But the fencing is also required to protect livestock (and plants) from other animals. We have received quite a few visits from our neighbour's dogs - on both sides; and this is a concern for us for our daughter's safety. While they seem like nice dogs, that all changes when a child may not have an adult standing around for protection. I have also caught one of the neighbours' dogs, charging our Hilltop coop, to see the chickens fly around in a tizzy.

4. Carport: to protect the cars from the elements, thereby reducing maintenance bills and generally improving the life of the vehicles. At present we have no protection for the cars, not even the shade of a tree. Of course, I could only see this outlay happening if we could find a second-hand carport or one given to us.

5. Curtains: to help improve the insulation of the home. Our two sliding glass doors (dining room & laundry) currently have no curtains and is a terrible heat escape during winter.

We have not decided if we will proceed with these outlays, but the option for a set amount of money put aside for necessary improvements, is something we feel is important. I was thinking anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000 as the set budget for outlays. When I look at those large numbers, I feel like the challenge is not worth the effort - but I also wonder if I don't put a cap on possible outlays, then we may not last the distance of the challenge.

Giving up spending on unnecessary desires is one thing, but giving up spending where it will save money in the long run - that seems a little contradictory too. Improving the life of a vehicle, saves money in the long run. Providing a free heat source during winter also saves money in the long run. Fencing saves us from having to replace damaged plants and livestock.

With any money spent on outlays however, the aim would be on sourcing second-hand items in reasonable condition.

This is our general (first draft) outline of the conditions for our challenge. Any comments and suggestions welcome. For example, how would you number the 5 outlays according to importance? Could we do without the freezer perhaps? Maybe fencing should be the top priority? Perhaps we should do without the heater for another 12 months?

What do you think...?


  1. for us our big box freezer is a must, when i bake i always make a few for the freezer - pies sweet/savory, extra fruits are pureed & frozen for later pies & cakes, lasagna, meat loaves, rissols, garlic bread just to name a few items & also if i go into woolies late when they mark down their bakery items, i will buy up all their fruit loaves, french sticks, cheese & bacon rolls & a few burger rolls. these all go into to the freezer. we also buy our meat by the carcass as it is much cheaper.

    a wood fire is a very good investment, esp as your fuel will be free & it will cut your power usage way down.
    you could ask around & see if someone is puting in a new one or put an add at the local supermarket or at your local freecycle site, you just never know your luck.

    fencing is a good idea as well, maybe you could have a poke around the tip

  2. I think you need to minimise waste - both now and when you're free spending again. You'll need to look after your assets - I'm thinking of the carport here, and that will prevent that asset deteriorating quickly, and will minimise waste.

    I also think fences are an absolute must. It you intend to grow food, you'll need fences to keep chooks, dogs and wallabies out.

    The freezer is important. Again, you'll minimise waste because of it. Like Nicole, we have a large chest freezer and it stores grains, flour, frozen vegetables form the garden as well as a little meat and fish.

    Good luck with your challenge. I think it will be a great learning experience.

  3. Thank you Nicole and Rhonda for the feedback. I appreciate the time taken to respond.

    The freezer sounds like the way to go, especially for the 12 months we'll be limiting our food budget. Avoiding wastage is another good point - thanks for bringing it up Rhonda.

    I hadn't factored wastage into the equation, as I was focussing soley on the financial aspects. But it's important to acknowledge it's more about avoiding waste than limiting funds. Because you can still create waste on minimal funds.

    Thanks for the idea of advertising on our local notice board Nicole, I hadn't thought about that. I've seen how people print out their ad on an A4 piece of paper, with little strips people can tear off with a contact number.

    Something to look into and all good food for thought. :)

  4. A freezer does sound like a must, I find eBay fantastic for things like that, sometimes you can get things almost new for a fraction of the cost.

    As Nicole says you can buy things like sides of beef all divided up for a fraction a the supermarket cost. Shopping at certain times is great too, I bought 4 packs of organic mince the other day for less than the price of regular beef. I just had to freeze it immediately because of the sell by date.

    If you're getting a wood fire, what about one of those pizza ovens, you could cook and keep warm with it.

    And if you have a breadmaker that could also save you money, homemade bread is much cheaper than shop bought, especially if you buy the flour in bulk. If you don't have one keep an eye out in op shops or freecycle.

    I wish you luck anyway.

  5. Chris, I am reading all your new posts backwards (new to oldest) but I have to comment. I agree a freezer is a must, especially for storing meats and bulk grains in. We purchased ours second hand it is a small tucker box and it is certainly big enough for us. Maybe the classifieds or many shops are having sales at the moment.

    I might be able to help you with the curtains. I will email you...

    A car cover might do instead of a carport, they are under $100 usually and will give the car protection againist the elements.
    It sounds like you are on the right track though - Emily

  6. Oh gee, silly me, I have a car cover tucked away in one of the cupboards. It's hardly been used, but it will do temporarily. Thanks for the idea Littlefarm.

    If you have any curtains you're not using any more, I'd be happy to use them here. Thanks for the offer too.

    Greenfumb, you mentioned ebay which fills me with great enthusiasm and a little fear. I haven't gotten over my phobia of using ebay yet. I've heard people find bargains all the time and it's worth looking in to.

    I've never found the format of ebay, easy to use for some reason. I guess it's one of those things you have to learn with practice.

    But if we're serious about saving money and creating minimal waste, then ebay is something we should explore too. Thanks for all the feedback everyone. :)

  7. I know what you mean about eBay, it took me ages to pluck up the courage and it seemed really complicated at first. Now I use it all the time, a couple of times a year I do a splurge and get rid of unwanted stuff and I try to buy any furniture or household stuff we need from there or my beloved Vinnies.

    If you can blog you can certainly use eBay.

    And don't forget freecycle and

  8. I would certainly vote for the wood fire (maybe 'cos I'm from a cold area!)but esp using your own wood, and you can use it for cooking on top if you get a decent one, save $$.
    Actually I think all your ideas are good ones, will all save money in the long run.
    I have used ebay loads to buy and sell, have another look at it, it is easy when you know how and I often buy locally so I can save on postage too.
    Op shops for curtains maybe? OK, maybe not this years style but if we are talking about keeping the cold out they are a must.

    Sounding like a good plan...


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