Challenge: Our families year of less so we can experience more

Last week I floated a challenge idea for our family I thought I would name "Our Families Year Of Less So We Can Experience More."

The Landcruiser loaded up as we moved our family, three dogs, two cats, and Squirtle the turtle 2000kms across Australia to our new farm.  

In many ways we are pretty good at buying second hand, buying only what we need and embracing a simpler lifestyle.  In other ways, we could do better.  More importantly, I WANT to do better. 
This year we need to make our money stretch a really long way.  We have the yurt to kit out once it arrives next week with a fully functioning kitchen, super energy efficient fridge, gas oven, there is a basic solar system to build, water tanks to install and a basic shed to build.  Then there is the driveway that is in dire need of serious maintenance.  It is currently 2km of 4WD track only. (not actually joking, it's why this place was affordable.)

Instead of feeling constantly broke and overwhelmed by a looming to-do list I decided to make a challenge out of it which I have named Our Families Year Of Less So We Can Experience More.  

In this year I want to challenge us to think differently about how we live our lives, to be inspired to think outside the box, to explore and learn and to lean deeply into living simply while enjoying the everyday moments in life together as a family.  I want to take the time to play board games, read books, take trips to the beach, enjoy picnics together and to work together in a more creative manner.  
This challenge will continue to evolve as we become better set up with the yurt.  Having a full-size fridge and an oven will greatly improve my ability to cook full meals and store fresh food for example!  But we will start now, doing the best we can with what we have.  I am also conscious that the boys have had a huge move to process and adapt to so I will be ensuring somethings/traditions stay the same for them to give them a feeling of stability and familiarity.    

It is easy to buy exactly what we need from the shops, it is challenging to think about what we need and to see if we can come up with a creative way in which to achieve it.  Sometimes we will simply need to go to the shop and that's ok.  This challenge is meant to be fun, to bring us clarity and guidelines from which to work from.  If we slip up we are not going to berate ourselves, I will simply be honest about it and use it, reflect and move on.     

Camping on the farm.  Its basic but it does the job.  

For instance, I always pack drink bottles, crackers, and fruit when we go out, but we still splash out and buy take away more than we really need.  (Like sushi.  Which is simple to make.) Most of our clothes we buy new though we do op-shop a bit.  I would like to flip that so we mostly op-shop and only sometimes buy new.  Often we will fall into the trap of 'busy' and head to the shop to buy an item we need instead of patiently searching gumtree or op-shops.  

When it comes to setting up the yurt and the farm, we will source a second-hand kitchen and re-design it to for space.  We have done it before HERE and it was lovely.  We can build a small shed and shelter out of recycled materials.  We will search for quality second-hand appliances or scratch and dent.  I actually love that when things are built and created out of second-hand materials that they have a story and history behind them.  

Up-cycling, thrifting, and making is undoubtedly slower.  Sometimes with a young family, we simply don't have the time or energy to embrace these things.  And that's OK.  We have done our best until now.  But now I am ready to sink my teeth into a project to help us make a drastic shift.   

As with all things, actions speak louder than words.  

If we say we value the environment, that we value up-cycling and creativity and then don't make the time to do it then it is simply words.  The thing is we want our life to not be made up of well-meaning words, but instead, we want to live the life we value, to live a life of action.  We want to continue to teach our children to care for this plant and each other.  We want them to know the joy of lazy days, messing about at the beach and creating their own adventures.  

We want to have the financial freedom to work less and spend more time together.  We want to be present in this precious season of having young children.

I believe this challenge will help us get to that place.

The beautiful old woolen crochet blanket made up from an avid knitters yarn stash I discovered in an op-shop.  It was this blanket that inspired me to take on this year as a new challenge.
In this challenge, we hope to save money which will contribute to getting the farm established and also to re-building a good emergency fund after our big move.

We hope to become more conscious of what we consume and the way in which we source the things we buy to fulfill our needs.

We hope to make greener and more ethical choices which will, in turn, lead to shrinking our environmental input as a family.

We hope to be challenged to really explore our new area and all the wonderful natural resources and various events that are on offer here.  We hope by doing this challenge we will become more familiar with our community and to build new relationships with others who are similarly minded.

We hope to walk to the beat of our own drum, in being courageous in saying no and in finding the beauty and the joy in the simple things that surround us.

- Clothing
- Linen
- pet needs
- all kitchen/household items
- furniture (indoor and outdoor)
- kitchen cabinetry/bathroom items
- books
- building materials which are safely able to be purchased second hand for various projects like iron, timber etc.
- DIY composting toilet

- Undies, socks, underclothes. (hygiene)
- Any compulsory school uniform items I can't source second hand first.  
- Electrical items, plumbing, and essential building supplies that for safety reasons need to be brand new.  The yurt will be our home and needs to be safe.  
- medical stuff
- Fabric (though this will be carefully considered and op-shopped if possible.  I usually only buy natural fibers too.)
- Children's birthday gifts. (mostly we give money and we keep birthdays simple anyway.) 
- seedlings/seeds  (we will be starting out with veggie gardening at the farm, though we will save seeds as we get better set up.)      

We will aim to bring all our food with us at all times unless it is a special occasion like a birthday and the person wants to eat out for their special birthday dinner or if we attend a social get together organized by others.  Our wedding anniversary will also be an exception.  If we do decide an occasion warrants a treat, we will ensure it is a budget treat.

We will aim to stick to mostly what I consider basic ingredients and to keep our shop under $200/week for 5 people 2 cats, 3 dogs, and Squirtle the turtle.  Currently, we have no veggie patch which will allow us to supplement our food budget later.    

Our challenge is to embrace and explore all the free or very cheap activities that are available to us in our new district.  Birthdays are an exception so a trip to the cinema or the zoo can be enjoyed by the birthday child!

Much love,


  1. I am totally enthralled reading about your move and your lovely new property - such a pioneer woman!!

    1. HA! I think the pioneer women were a whole lot tougher then me Phil! Today I'm am hiding out writing in the library between doing odd jobs (washing/post/pharmacy) in town that need doing due to days extreme heat and wind.


  2. Amazing!! It sounds like you've really thought about this, and the exceptions that will be made and it all makes perfect sense to me.
    You inspire me to be more committed to our families spending habits. We're pretty good at repurposing almost anything, but I'm sure we could extend ourselves further. Shopping second-hand has also become our norm, I rarely enter the shopping centres.
    Best of luck with it all
    Cassandra xx

    1. Thanks!

      Yes we want to save serious money, but we also want to ensure the boys are content and happy too and that any changes we make are not too drastic to them considering we just moved them across Australian from every one and everything they know.

      I must say I am not a big shopper either. I only buy what we need and what we need is pretty simple. But I reckon we can do better and the whole clothing industry can be so brutal the more we learn about it. The problem I face with buying second hand boys clothes is that so many things are badly made not many great quality boys clothes make it to the op-shops.


  3. That sounds like an excellent challenge. I bet you will find it fun and uplifting when you see how much you can save. I have loved spending less and making do these past few years. My special treat is a few balls of sock yarn.... I have become a knitting sockaholic.

    1. Oh knitting socks! So lovely.

      I think it will be really fun to thrift and be creative in fitting out the yurt, being such a beautiful round structure I reckon we will get it looking really lovely and interesting.


  4. I look forward to reading about your journey. I started my year of less in 2018, with a commitment to seeing if I could stop shopping new. With the exception of yarns, which i purchased at a local small yarn shop, and used to make gifts. I only purchased walking shoes. Everything else was second hand. I admit I no longer have children at home, so I recognized my journey will be easier than yours. It is a challenge in creativity, and resourcefulness, but it seems to me you have a head start in both.
    Whatever changes we make to lessen our environmental foot print, and become more self sufficient will be good. Onward Emma!
    Patricia Fl/USA

    1. Well done! That's so great!

      Good shoes are important for your back and spine, they are one thing we do buy good quality and I suspect we will continue too this year unless we fluke it at an op-shop. I did find henry a brand new pair of sneakers for $2, but as the boys get bigger it becomes harder. We are however shoe minimalists. I only have 4 pairs myself which I rotate, and hiking boots.

      Grant is very clever with his building/handyman skills so that makes this whole process easier! I reckon with his skills and my determination to save and thrift it will be an interesting challenge!


  5. That granny square blanket is absolutely gorgeous! Someone put so much love and time into it. I'm sure they are happy that you appreciate it.

  6. You have a well thought out plan Emma. I look forward to reading about your challenge. Good luck!

    1. Thankyou! It will be interesting to share with everyone.


  7. Em, you may find that you become so used to living frugal that even when your financial circumstances change, you will continue to live this way. That's what happened to us after four years of paying off our mortgage (we were determined and focused on being debt free ASAP) and a new sense of security and liberation had developed right under our noses without us being aware of it. It sounds to me like you have it in very good balance though, without depriving any one of your family members. I can't wait for each new post, to hear about your progress. Much love XX

    1. I hope so Sally! I'd really love to be entirely debit free/mortgage free ASAP.

      I love that your a wealth of wisdom on living and setting up a farm with this mindset.

      And yes, its super important to me that we don't put the boys under any unnecessary pressure considering all they are currently adapting too. I had a great chat with Will this morning about it all and he is very keen to hit the op-shops!


  8. I would love to hear more about how you manage your food budget. I aim for $300pw for our family of 5 plus one cat. I am fine when I meal plan and we don't eat out at all, but could definitely be better prepared than I end up being most weeks!

    1. Well while we are camping I think our food budget may be slightly higher then that due to no oven and functioning with a tiny fridge. But certainly I will share my grocery list and what a typical weeks meal planning looks like for us. Sometimes we go slightly over that too depending on the week.


  9. I wonder what you will learn in a year? A lot, I'm sure! It is expensive to set up a property from scratch, but hopefully, if you make some local connections, you'll find a good bartering system. Where Grant trades his labour, helping someone on their project, to borrow a piece of their equipment for his. So you don't necessarily have to buy things - you borrow them. Fingers crossed for you. :)

    1. I hope there is lots to learn, life would be boring otherwise right?

      And yep, it sure is expensive. Once we get a shed up it will help us safely store useful bits and bobs we find which will help in the long run. Having had to move so far away we need to start our timber/iron etc spares again.



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