Seafood platter in Scarborough
Seafood platter in Scarborough

Beautiful seafood platter in Scarborough through Groupon

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The secret to living well on $17,000 a year

There are many things I love about my life, drinking a glass of champagne, eating a beautiful seafood platter, travel and wearing a lovely dress. What I love most is I manage this all for under $20,000 a year. So how do I do it?


I love frugal living.  I have been like this for as long as I can remember, even back to my childhood. I am frugal by nature.  I love quality and craftsmanship, most of all I love value for money. I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for something. I shop generally for quality, then comes finding the item for the right price.


Why I live a frugal life?


My aim since turning 40 has been to semi retire early, I am currently 46. I want to slowly work less giving myself time to do what I love most, travel, bush walk, cycle and whatever other adventures come my way. I enjoy my work as a technology trainer, it is eight to five, five days a week, like most jobs. I get paid well, but I want to have a choice about when I work and for how long. Imagine, six months working each year and six months to do what I want, bliss!  I also get quite tired and the idea of resting and not getting up to an alarm is heaven.


My spending analysis


At the end of each year I like to assess my spending for the year. This year I expected to spend $20,000. I exceeded my expectations and spent well under that coming in at $16,975.


For a few years I would write down everything I spent. I then came to the conclusion that whatever I spent it was between $24,000 and $26,000 each year. So I no longer track my spending. I will let you in on my trick to finding out your spend quickly and easily a little later.




How I lived on $17,000 a year


Living on a low amount does have its challenges, but I must say for the large part, I find it quite easy.  I would rather have the challenge of living off too little than having to find money I don't have. I suppose it helps that I have spent much of my life living in a more frugal manner. The advantages have far outweighed the disadvantages.


At the beginning of 2018 I had a mortgage, two bicycles and lived on a 28ft sailboat on the Brisbane River at Bulimba. I worked full time as a professional Technology Trainer. So what changed during the year of 2018? also loved it, to see their piece on paying my house in eight years in their cash confession series


The biggest change was making my final mortgage payment in March 2018.  After eight years I had finally paid my mortgage of $315,000, I paid $3,261 in all, for my mortgage in 2018. I own my property, no more interest payments, everything I earn is now mine to save, invest and spend. Watch the videos I have made which discuss in more detail how I paid my mortgage off.


During the year, in fact most years, I sacrificed more into my super continuing to build for my retirement. While I am earning good money I save and invest as much as possible. I pay 15 percent tax on what I sacrifice in super so save on tax. For the last 10 years super has been my main saving vehicle. I will now turn my attention to investing outside super to build a passive income before reaching retirement at 67. By the way, I expect to still be working a bit in my 50’s and 60's but it will be by choice not necessity.


I still live on Clipper, Kevin’s sailboat on the Brisbane River. I pay the mooring fees which are $3120 a year, I also pay the odd bit here and there for the boat, but the boat is his. Living on a narrow 28ft boat is not always the easiest, but it is the cheapest way for me to live at moment. Keeping accommodation costs as low as possible is vital to living on less. The boat helps, my other secret tip will come later.


Watch our YouTube videos where we show you how we live on a small boat on the Brisbane River.


I cycle to work most day, I also use my bike to go to events after work and holidays. I have two bicycles a Chas Roberts road bike and a Kona mountain bike. If I am not riding I catch public transport. I did hire a car for one day last year, but that was it. This keeps travel costs down significantly.


I choose to live for free when I can, watch my YouTube video on Living for free in Brisbane. Using Meetup and the internet in general to find seminars, lectures and workshops which are free.

Cocktails at David Jones Queens Plaza Br
Maleny botanical gardens
Shopping the frugal way

Shopping, well, I do love window shopping which is free.  Shopping at tip shops around Brisbane is my best tip. Finding brands such as Country Road, Tommy Hilfiger and G Star Raw to name a few. Paying 50 cents per item of clothing. I found two pairs of beautiful and expensive sandals at the tip shop for $3 a pair, I love it. Shopping after Christmas and end of year sales at department stores is great, especially when reduce with an extra 20, 30 or 40 percent off.


Food shopping has continued to be mainly Kevin's' job because he can shop during the day when good meat is placed in the reduced section. We buy most grocery items when reduced or on sale and it makes a huge difference. We put in around $50 a week each for shopping. Our bargains are prime pieces of steak, cheese, yoghurt, milk and fish. Even the deli has specials which are worth checking out. If I see a good bottle of wine and it is around $10 or under I will often buy it for future consumption.

Fiona's frugal and fun holidays

My holiday was a flight to Tasmania to visit my parents in Hobart. I have virgin frequently flyer points through my virgin credit card. With my points and the voucher I received from virgin credit card of $129 the fare cost was $50 all up. It was lovely to get away for a week to rest and relax.


Entertaining myself



Entertainment consists of movies at Cineplex cinemas which is always reasonably priced. The Queensland state library, art galleries and museums. Meetup is great for finding lectures, seminars and workshops. Sometimes we will just walk into town, 10 km, grab a snack from the supermarket and sit in comfortable chairs in the cool of a shopping complex. There are often very quiet and comfortable places in shopping complexes and department stores which don't cost and you can bring your own food a drink.

We also test drove a Tesla, an amazing experience. You will see the picture of Kevin if you have the opportunity. We knew about Tesla's due to the research Kevin did to convert Clipper to an electric vessel. The Tesla was amazing, an the test drive free.

This is how I lived on $17,000 for 2018

Now I did say I would let you know my special tips.

  1. Tip one – House sitting. This eliminates rent and bills and for some lucky people they get paid. Take a look at our house sitting articles and YouTube video and , maybe this is something to consider.

  2. Tip two - Find out your spend for the month.Go to your bank transaction account, use the search tool to choose the month, January for example. Then choose debits only, add the numbers and write the figure. Then choose credits only. Subtract the debit from the credit and you have your spend for the month. I find this the quickest way to determine my spending.

  3. I don't own a car, and suspect I may never again. I expect the car and transportation of people to change significantly over the decades. My plan is to be traveling and living in different parts of the world. I have no need for a car, thankfully.

If you want to know more about how I live, take a look at our Youtube channel. You will see life in action living on $17,000 a year.

We would love to hear from you, please feel free to contact us thorough our email address, click the contact us button or subscribe to our Youtube channel. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Sunshine coast hinterlands
Test drive of a Tesla

There is of course a lot more of the nitty-gritty in regard to spending only a little. Save not spend and sometimes it is that simple. Think outside the box and think smart. It may not be as difficult as you think