Florence Bay
Florence Bay
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How I lived on $24,000 in 2016, including  mortgage interest payments

In 2016 I lived on $24,000, this included mortgage interest payments of $7,828. Kevin and I have separate finances, so this is about mine. I aim to have my mortgage paid in 2018, which means I will have paid it off in 8 years on a single income. I have no dependants, earn a reasonable income, it is not huge but I make the best use of my earning capacity to reach my goal of an early semi-retirement. Below I discuss the habits and strategies I have adopted leading to my low spending levels while remaining comfortable. This gives me a reason to smile every day! If you find any of the below interesting go to our blog page and there is sure to be a tip there to help you on your way.




Pay as little as possible!


Try house sitting, this is our number one way to save money. In 2015 we paid $1,600 between the two of us for accommodation and house sitting was the secret. Visit our house sitting page to find out more about our house sit adventure.


The next best way to save on accommodation came about by accident. Kevin bought a boat and we have been living aboard since February 2016.  It can be very cheap to live on a boat, especially if you don’t want to sail. If you do want to sail that is completely different and there are added costs. But we have found that if you do the work yourself, buy a small boat, sailing can be an affordable option. Living aboard does allow me to make substantial savings, all I pay for are our mooring fees. Visit our sailboat page to see Clipper, more on our live aboard adventure will be coming.


Rent rooms in your home or rent your whole home. There are many rental option available such as Airbnb, accommodating a foreign student or renting to professionals. I rent my villa unit in Melbourne and it works a treat. I receive income from my house and because I have it rented it is classified as an investment property so I receive all the tax benefits. My rental income is far more than the mooring fees I pay.


Accommodation expenses can chew a large portion of your pay packet, so you need to reduce the cost as much as possible, try some of the ideas mentioned here and see what you prefer. Just remember this is the single most significant single change you can make to increase your money savings.




Find a way to reduce the number of bills you receive and the cost of each bill. I have not received an electricity bill in two years. In fact I am sitting in bed on board Clipper with our 12 volt fan running and it isn't costing a cent. Yes, we had to install solar panels on the cabin roof but in the grand scheme of things it cost about $600. Judging by the electricity bills people receive now this seems very reasonable.


When we house sit we do not incur utility charges. With no car, there are no associated vehicle costs. Some bills are unavoidable such as rates, water, mortgage interest, mobile and food but that is it. I have to say it is quite addictive not receiving an electricity or water bill, and this is another reason for me to smile.

I have a credit card and always pay it off. For me a credit card works well, I receive points when I spend and as a result when I fly virgin it is often for free. Another reason for me to smile.




If you can manage it don't own a car, use bicycles, public transport or walk. If you need a car for a few days, hire one, I do. If you really need a car, ensure it is small and economical to run. If you own more than one car, can you do with just one or reduce the number you have? Only use the car when necessary, so make sure you walk to the shops if they are not too far away. Walking or cycling are slower so you are more inclined to visit places and meet people in the local area, so this kind of counts as free entertainment. Walking is a great way to slow life down a little too. When I went to a financial adviser in Melbourne once, she asked if I owned a car, I said “No”, she said I was saving a small fortune, and I agree.

Stamford Plaza Brisbane

Buy produce which is on clearance, sale or reduced at the supermarket if you can, it is rare there is a problem with it, it just needs to be eaten. Kevin and I each put in $50 a week for grocery shopping. He is able to shop frequently and because we only have a fridge, what we buy we use within the week. Shop at local markets where possible. Purchase items on an introductory offer, you can get great value this way. If you want to eat out find two for one deals or if there is a special at your favorite restaurant make it a special occasion book and dress up. Dressing up always makes the experience special for us, and dressing up is free.




Wear the clothes you have in your wardrobe instead of purchasing new ones. Shop in charity shops and the tip/dump shops. Of course any clothing purchases need to be washed prior to wearing, but you can get some great brand names for as little as 50 cents. And seriously, who is going to know what you paid unless you tell them. Buying this way you can pick up good quality items which were often made in their country of origin such as Australia, Italy, France and Spain.


Use a clothes steamer to make your clothes look crisp and presentable. If clothing requires dry cleaning an option if you are willing to give it a go, is to place your clothing in wash bags purchased from department stores and wash on a gentle or dry clean cycle on your washing machine. I do this with some of my clothing which is not too delicate and it works a treat.

Entertainment and outings


Look for accommodation or meal specials at your favorite upmarket hotels, make sure it includes an evening meal or breakfast. There are some amazing deals out there, look for posters, banners or even go into your favorite hotel and ask. I found and offer for the Stamford Plaza in Brisbane, a nights accommodation with a seafood buffet for two at a cost of $200. So I booked this for Kevin's birthday treat in October last year. We checked in one hour early, used the pool, dressed up for an initial drink in the bar, then I changed dress (yep I was making the most of it) and we went for our seafood buffet for two. The cost of the seafood buffet for two was $120, so I ended up paying $80 for our overnight accommodation. Brilliant value, luxury and another smile from me, Kevin thoroughly enjoyed the night as well. Cheap movies are still around, some cinema chains don’t charge the earth for movies such as Cineplex. We have one in Bulimba, we both see a movie in comfort for under $20.


Use the library and loan books, eBooks, audio books, magazines, movies and DVD's. We also hook into their free internet, it is air-conditioned and water is available. Today there is free coffee, tea and cake because Brisbane libraries are now open until 4pm on Saturdays.  Lucky we decided to work on our website at the library for the afternoon.


Eventbrite is a great site for finding seminars, workshops, discussions and wine and cheese evenings. We attend many of these events though the year, they are interesting, nibbles and drinks are often provided and we get to meet other like-minded people.


We are members of the Wooden Boat Association, as Clipper our live aboard is made of wood. The second Tuesday of each month they have a BBQ for $10 and a meeting afterwards. We love it, they are knowledgeable, organise trips all the time and the meeting at some point is hilarious. So join a club and see what happens.



Buy after Christmas and end of financial year sales. If you have the opportunity to purchase when there is a good deal, as long as you need it, buy it. This is how we live and it is amazing what is out there. My very secret tip is, put an “I want to buy” add on Gumtree for free. We know it works because this is how we found and purchased our sailboat, Clipper. Every time we try this we usually get a response to our query.


Buy on introductory offers or deals. I purchased wine in December 2016 on an introductory offer from the Virgin wine club. I received 17 bottles a mix of white and red this included three bottles of champagne all for $100. The aim is not to buy further wine throughout 2017, with work end of month drinks and free events we attend I expect I should manage. I have a bottle of white open in the fridge at the moment, and yes, I drink out of a quality wine and champagne glass, my champagne glass was purchased at the dump shop for $1, no compromise here I am afraid.


Personal grooming


Cut your own hair. Kevin purchased a quality Wahl hair clipper in 2015 for $150. We have not visited a hairdresser since. We recharge it on the boat or in the shower room at the sailing club. I cut Kevin’s hair every three weeks and yes, Kevin cuts my hair approximately every two to three months. Yep, my hair gets a little short, but in my case it is about three weeks between a good haircut and a bad one. Three weeks after my haircut I look pretty good. We save a minimum of $340 every year. Prior to this I had only attended trainee hair cutting sessions in London and Melbourne, these were always cheap, but rarely free.


Skin care


This one area is my down fall, skin care.  When I lived in London, I had no problems as sun really was not an issue. When I returned to Australia in 2005 I had to become more vigilant using sunscreen and good skin care products. I spend a lot of time outdoors cycling to and from work, walking and on the deck of the boat. I don’t want to pay an absolute fortune for my skin care so I must find a product at a price I am willing to pay. I have purchased from www.strawberry.net, www.brandsexclusive.com.au, Black Friday deals in November of each year and after christmas sales. As long as I am getting value for money I don’t mind paying more for my skin care because protecting and looking after my skin is important to me.




Give house sitting a go. People need their home and pets looked after and there are some great locations, and as of yet all we have paid for is our transport to the location.  www.aussiehousesitters.com, www.trustedhousesitters.com are well known sites to register with. Once registered add your profile, pay the yearly fee, we pay $65 with Aussie house sitters and off you go, apply for house sits.


Cycle tour or bush walk using your own camping gear. Once set up with your own camping gear the cost just keeps coming down. A great way for families to have time together outdoors.  Kevin and I are both avid cycle tourists and we have had great experiences touring.  You are far less intrusive on a bicycle as people think you are a bit bonkers choosing to tour on a two wheels, people always like to come and have a chat. By the way, you can eat slightly more beautifully naughty food too.

The A1 highway through the middle of Scotland
Orkney - Ring of Bodgar

There is of course a lot more of the nitty-gritty in regard to spending only a little. Don't spend in the first place is a great start. and sometimes it is that simple. Do you really need the item or service . Once you have spent the money you can't get it back again. Think before you spend. You will reap the reward in the end and that is where you have freedom and choice. Plus your bank account will starting looking really healthy.

What next

Watch for future blog entries and our eBook where we describe how we ended up where we both are today.

This is article does not state every habit and strategy I use, but many of the significant ones are mentioned. We are not financial adviser and anything we state in this article is simply a way of life we are happy to lead. Please seek financial advice from an accredited adviser.