Cheap living – no toothpaste, no toilet cleaner and no tampons?
This New Zealand sharemilker took drastic steps to save her home in a recession, find out how.
It may sound like a desperate existence. But for Kaitaia sharemilker Lyn Webster, going without isn’t just achievable, it’s easy.
Lyn almost lost her home and business during the height of the recession, she has saved more than $100,000 by going without many items everyone else would regard as staples. Her weekly shopping bill has dropped from $200 to just $35. It was a necessity, for without the drastic measures, she would have lost everything.
From her farm based in Northland, Lyn mentioned, she felt she would have been on government support right now, if it weren’t for the steps she took. “I was in a lot of financial trouble in 2009. I spent money without thinking and I had no nest egg, so when I ran out of money and the farm was struggling, the banks wouldn’t help me.”
The 46-year-old realized the only way to keep her business was if she got her grocery bill down to $100 a week. Four years on, the weekly shop now only takes one trip from the car to the house – and Lyn hasn’t just stopped at food.
Lyn’s youngest daughter, Stevie, who in the beginning resisted the budget, has developed a real skill for making innovative lunches and snacks in the kitchen, from nothing at all.
Living mostly out of her garden, collecting milk and eggs from her livestock and only purchasing staple items such as ¬flour, sugar and legumes – Lyn also refuses to buy any cleaning products and cosmetics, replacing the majority with baking soda.
“There are so many uses for baking soda,” she says. “We use it for so many things, namely shampoo, soap, deodorant. She further says that she now finds it difficult to walk down the supermarket isle where all the cleansers are, it’s so overpowering.
“A 25kg bag of baking soda lasts us an entire year. The first time I washed my hair with baking soda, I thought I’d lost my mind, but my hair has never looked or felt better. I’m never buying shampoo again!”
Even tampons are replaced with the much cheaper and environmentally friendly Diva Cup (a reusable, bell-shaped menstrual cup), and anything with plastic packaging is automatically a no-no.
It’s easy now for the family to get by on the smell of an oily rag, but it took Lyn’s two daughters, Danni (19) and Stevie (15), a while to adjust to the new budget – especially when she told them there would be no more toothpaste.
“They hated brushing their teeth with baking soda,” she says, “but I knew they just had to get used to it. “They got over it within a week and now they hate the taste of normal toothpaste.”
Amazingly, the entire family doesn’t miss any food item from their “previous life” – the only thing Stevie misses is dishwashing liquid.
Not only does growing their own fruit and vegetables mean cheaper grocery bills, but it gives the Webster family the opportunity to pitch in together. They now spend quality time together from weeding and watering, to picking the produce for meal time.
“It’s so easy once you get in the swing of things,” Lyn says. “At the beginning, we were hungry sometimes. I know middle-class New Zealanders shouldn’t feel hungry, but we did go hungry for a little bit. We soon got used to portion control and the different foods we were eating. If anything, we’re healthier now that we’re not eating anything processed.”
While Lyn says others might find her frugal life “a bit weird”, it has now evolved into more than just saving money – she’s also been able to take back control of her life.
“It’s not like I’m a hippy or anything,” she smiles. “But when I made the ¬first batch of laundry powder, I felt the most amazing sense of achievement, and I haven’t looked back since.”
Along with a weekly column she’s been writing for the local paper about her experiences, Lyn has just released her ¬first book, Pig Tits & Parsley Sauce, which tells readers exactly how to save money and live more sustainably.
“When I was in the editor’s of¬fice pitching the column, he asked me what the name of it was and I blurted out Pig Tits & Parsley Sauce,” she laughed.
“It was a saying my mum used to use when I asked her what was for dinner and I thought it ¬fit. If I had blown all the grocery money before the week was up, that’s what would have been on the table.”
It hasn’t reached that level yet, but they have had sheep’s tongue – something Lyn says was “actually quite nice and cheap, of course.”
LYN’S TOP TIPS (OR TIT BITS)
Baking soda and white vinegar. I’m kicking myself at how long it took me to discover the joys. Between them, they will replace most cleaning products and cosmetics.
- Don’t go shopping hungry.
- Take cash to the supermarket, then you can’t overspend.
- Buy cheese and butter on special and freeze.
- Don’t turn things down. If someone is offering you something for free, take it and try it.
- Don’t give up – it takes 21 days to change a habit.
Pig Tits & Parsely Sauce is available on Lyns website or from local bookstores.