I owe a lot of my life in Australia to simple living. Or, let’s use its trendier monicker these days: Minimalism. Simply put, if not for minimalism, I wouldn’t be in Adelaide because a) I wouldn’t have been able to save the money for it b) the mindset of “acquire more stuff” would have made me misreable about my rather slim paycheck.
Minimalism is not just about having a home devoid of stuff and clutter, like the ones you see in trendy interior decorating magazines. It’s about living within your means, living in such a way that would impact the Earth as little as possible and of not using stuff or a lifestyle to fill that emotional void inside. Living a minimalist lifestyle goes beyond decluttering; it’s a change of mindset and lifestyle.
Nearly fifteen years ago I was living paycheck to paycheck. I never seem to have enough money. At first I blamed it on my miniscule paycheck, but as my paycheck grew my problem remained. It came to a point that I had a RM10,000 credit card debt. Towards the end of the month I came to rely on the credit card to pay essential bills like petrol and food. Something was not working.
So I sat back and decided to do something about it. I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and listened to his shows. Through his debt snowball method I eventually pulverised my Rm10k debt and even paid off my car a year ahead of time.
Now all that money that used to go to credit card repayments went to my savings account. Soon, I had a nice emergency fund and was debt free except for the house loan.
When I decided to move to Australia, I realised that I have to have money – a lot of it – to at least survive the first six months in Australia without a job. So, I worked doubly hard, taking on additional tasks to earn more money. After two years of blood, sweat and tears (really), I saved enough for that and then some.
By then I had changed the way I spent my money. I used to spend RM500 a month on books and DVDs. I pared it down significantly by the time I moved. But that 1,500 book and DVD collection I had to give away was a painful reminder of all the money I had parted with in order to fulfill that void in me to feel ‘better’.
Thanks to the habits I learned to simplify my finances and spending habits, I live very comfortably in Adelaide eventhough I’m living on a “minimum wage”. (Though the minimum wage in Australia is definitely very generous and wonderful, where you earn up to $20 an hour compared to the US where you earn a mere $7.)
Still, I have a long way to go. I realised lately that I’ve been eating out way too much. I eat out at restaurants almost every day and go to cafes not once or twice a week as a treat but almost every other day! And that means spending about $10-20 a go each time. Some days I would spend $50 a day because I ate out! Ouch! As a result, I’m not eating as healthily as I’d like.
Worse, I’m starting my old habit of spending way too much on books and DVDs again. My only saving grace is that I can buy books and DVDs very cheaply here (some libraries sell used books at 20 cents to 50 cents a pop – how can you resist that?), but I’m gathering stuff that I don’t need again. I definitely don’t want to end up in the same situation like I was in Malaysia where I had to get rid of hundreds of books and DVDs when I moved!
So, the next few weeks I’m going to monitor how much I’m spending and WHY I’m spending things. You’ll see how, as a single, I manage my finances in Oz 😉 And maybe you can have an idea how one can live frugally in the land where the standard of living is considered one of the most expensive
in the world.