A Frugal Life: Danielle From North East Victoria

This is frugality and smart money sense in action. Read on for some really great actionable and frugal advice based on real life experience.

Whether you’re interested in saving money, saving the environment or both – this article is for you.

Personal Snapshot

Name: Danielle

Locality: North East Victoria, Australia

Small rural city with extremely varied weather. Summer has dry heat up to the mid 40s during the day but can drop to a single digit at night. Winter has temperatures during the day which can sit in the low tens and drop to -4 overnight.  The terrain in the city is very flat but is sandwiched between mountain ranges.

Family: We are a family of 3; my husband, Jason, and our 22 month old daughter, Eliza.

Occupation: secondary school mathematics teacher

Sustainability Journey

We live in a small three bedroom house in the less desirable part of town but we fully own, no banks involved, a quarter acre block of land that our small house and huge shed sit on. 

The house purchased in full with cash
Our house purchased in full with cash.

We’ve lived here for just over two years and everything has needed fixing and improving. The house was in a complete shambles when we bought it. There had been little done to maintain it for the 50 odd years of its life, which was made worse by damage intentionally caused by the previous owners.

So, the last two years have been project after project which has really challenged our desire to be eco-friendly. We’ve done everything possible to refurbish our house instead of ripping out and replacing things.

For example, we put new panels in three of the five internal doors rather than throw them out and buy new doors. The other two doors were unsalvageable and two doors were missing. We repaired as many of the kitchen cabinet doors as we could and replaced the rest. The drawers we refurbished but will need replacing in few years as well.

Repairing the internal doors rather than throwing them out and buying new doors.
Repairing the internal doors rather than throwing them out and buying new doors.

Our garden shed was full of tyres of all kinds. Jason categorised them for selling or giving away and a few went to the tip.

When our baby Eliza came along and started moving we had to replace the old gas stove because it was extremely unsafe so we bought a second hand oven and stove top. They were both the most energy efficient as we could find second hand and afford. The change of stove and oven allowed us to completely disconnect from gas, so our house is now run entirely off electricity which we generate or purchase from renewable sources. 

We had to replace the water heater and went with a heat exchanger system that is extremely energy efficient and we are able to set its heating cycle to midday when our solar panels are generating maximum power.

We’ve also done things to reduce our footprint like having our bathtub and washing machine drain onto the yard and water the grass. We ensure we use the most eco-friendly and quickly biodegradable cleaning products we can find.

We’ve had the house windows tinted to reduce the heat in summer and have found it even helps with keeping the house warm in the winter. Of course we have heavy curtains to help the tinting along as well. We also opted to make it possible to isolate each room of the house so we only have to heat and cool the essential rooms. I’m sure there is more about the house that I’m missing too.  Each time we turn there is something else that needs repairing or improving. 

Outside

The yard has been a massive work in progress. We started with a barren yard of dirt, a few weeds and a couple of trees.

We’ve planted many new trees and shrubs. Some were native trees and others are fruiting trees that were gifted to us. Others were ones we saved. They were being pulled out and we dug them up and replanted them.

Currently, we are in the process of growing an avocado tree, fig tree, orange tree, two banksias, two bottle brush, two passionfruit vines, a raspberry patch and a strawberry patch, three standard roses and our shrubs in the front yard.

All the trees and berries are watered by hand from the rain water tank. 

The grass has been another project in the making. While we only water a very small patch just outside the back door, we’ve seeded and weeded the rest of the yard in the autumn simply to reduce the dust blowing in the house and around the yard.

We’ve created a large veggie patch which I’m still learning to optimise in the different seasons. The garden has soaker hoses attached to an automated timer which we adjust based on the season. 

Planting the new vegetable patch.

This summer we heavily mulched to retain moisture and to improve the soil. Behind the shed we compost all our grass clippings and have been using that as organic matter when planing the new trees. I’ve attempted to start a worm farm twice now and both times we ended up going away for too long during a hot period and the worm farm did not survive. We do have a compost bin and will start composting our vegetable waste soon. 

Eliza

When we first found out we were pregnant, we decided it was really important to us to have a baby with as little environmental impact as possible.

As much as possible we purchase second hand.  Her cot, change table, dresser and wardrobe are all second hand.

About 95% of her clothes are second hand. We did have to purchase some specialty items for her like a light weight down sleeping bag for camping and a puffer jacket with a removable hood also for camping but where ever possible we go second hand.

The number of toys we own are very limited.  Some are toys that I had as a kid, some are seconds grabs and some are gifts but the majority of our toys are borrowed from the local toy library. 

Books are much the same. We utilise the library and have a few that are gifts.

As for nappies, we’ve gone cloth as much as possible. In almost two years we’ve purchased a total of 50 disposables. The first 24 were to be used in the hospital when she was born and then used to fly to Canada. The second batch were purchased for a hiking trip where the length and weather were not conducive to washing cloth nappies. We used a total of eight on our trip and the rest are sitting under the change table.

The cloth nappies that we do have were bought second hand and will hopefully be passed on when we are completely done with them. We also started potty training really early. When the second round of lockdown was announced I did some research into elimination communication and I figured we could have her sorted in the six weeks of lockdown. Sure enough, at 16 months old, Eliza was only using nappies to sleep and when we were traveling in the car. Now we only use them for sleeping and on long road trips. 

Growing Up

As a kid my mom was very budget conscious and we reused and repurposed everything. She used to wrap boxes in wrapping paper so that you could open the box without ripping the paper and just tied it up with a bow so it was stored for use again the following year. We always untied the ribbons and pulled the bows off gifts to reuse them.

Gift bags were meant to be used many times and were always saved and stored. We never had gift paper for birthdays but used the comics of the newspaper and we made cards, not bought them. 

We always had something edible growing in the garden.  Mom was keen on composting and even in the winter when it was snowing we would bring the compost bucket into the house to thaw so it could be dumped into the compost bin in the yard. 

All of our crafts growing up were using toilet paper rolls and cardboard from cereal boxes. Our clothes and toys were often hand me downs or were handed down to younger siblings and cousins. 

Mom was a no waste warrior before it was a popular thing. We used yogurt and sour cream containers to store left overs. Even our lunches, which we made from Year 1 onwards were reusable containers packed with home made goods. I didn’t know you could buy cookies until I was teenager. 

So I guess my mom taught me how to reduce waste and is a big inspiration into how I live now. Jason is also a big inspiration and we work together to reduce waste in our house. I think the biggest inspiration has been Eliza as it’s her planet we are destroying. 

Community

I’m part of Repair Cafe which is a group of people who get together and help people repair stuff for free. The group’s motto is if it’s broken we can’t break it more so we’ll try to fix it.

The Repair Cafe, fixing items for free.
The Repair Cafe, fixing items for free.

The local toy library is another group that has a sustainability focus, though that’s not their main purpose. It allows us to borrow toys without needing to own them and throw them away when Eliza gets tired of it and it provides variety that would never fit in our house. 

Goal Setting

We typically set a general goal each year.

They have varied from reducing plastic waste one year; finding eco-friendly ways to raise a baby; to this year increasing the productivity of the garden to reduce our food miles and make use of our large yard in a meaningful way. 

Money and the Environment

I think the eco-friendly lifestyle has some financial benefits.

While natural products tend to cost more there seems to be less required. Growing our own food definitely saves on produce. Purchasing second hand also makes a big difference

I am seriously concerned about the future of our planet. There is so much damage that has been done and so little is done to repair it.

To make a difference every person on the planet needs to be taking drastic steps to reduce their environmental impact and there are so many people who don’t care or can’t handle the inconveniences that come with less plastic use, cloth nappies, repairing instead of replacing, etc. 

I highly recommend you watch the documentary Before The Flood .

All the little things add up to make a big difference! As you change your ways they become a new normal and you don’t remember them being any other way. 

Do You Have A Sustainability Journey To Share?

Would you like to share the story of your sustainability journey?

Maybe you’ve just begun, or you’ve been doing this for years. Either way, I’d love to hear from you.

Perhaps you have a story to share about any one or more of these topics:

  • growing your own food
  • preserving food
  • permaculture
  • minimalism
  • living frugally
  • zero waste
  • reduce, reuse, repair, recycle
  • alternative power sources/housing
  • reducing car usage
  • up-cycling
  • reducing usage of single-use products
  • reducing plastic products in your household/work place
  • vegetarianism/veganism
  • sustainable farming
  • composting
  • buying locally
  • environmental community groups

By sharing knowledge, we can all grow and prosper together to co-create a healthier world.

If interested, I’ll email you the Eco-Warrior questionnaire. When responding to questions you can answer as many, or as few, of the questions as you like.

It will be fantastic if you could also send through a few photos to visually show your eco-friendly lifestyle.

I am more than happy to keep your name anonymous if desired, and your privacy at all times will be respected. No identifying information in any format will be given at any time, unless permitted by yourself. 

Want to share your story? Please head on over to our Contact Page and send me a message!

Did you know we also have a series on financial sustainability called Aussie Millionaires.

It’s important to be not only environmentally sustainable, but also financially sustainable. All your money choices directly impact the environment as they are either good, neutral and downright bad for the planet.

Please, share your story. The planet needs our collective sustainability knowledge.

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