Photo by Michael Rivera

“Money makes the world go around – that clinking clanking sound…” Remember the words of the song? It certainly has a nice ring to it. However for those of us who only have a small amount, it can often be a challenge to make it “go around” a long way. While it is encouraged to pursue our work or career goals, it is still handy to know how to live frugally while we wait for such a day to come.

I am someone who has had to survive on a low income for most of my life. It wasn’t always easy, but I found that it can be possible with some creativity and innovation. Here are a few things which I implemented that helped me…

1. Shop at the more humble department stores and shops for lower cost items. Kmart, Target or Best and Less are good for clothes. The Reject Shop is useful for stationery or kitchen items. Kmart is also handy for homewares and hardware. Aldi is cheaper for groceries, and any items not available here can be bought at one of the bigger supermarkets.

2. Comfortable shoes can be bought at a much lesser price at the larger Chemist Warehouse outlets. I just make sure the soles are thick and firm to help support my heels.

3. I have adapted to buying “home brands” for many items. The quality is often equal to that of the more expensive “advertised” brands.

4. Bring a list when shopping to avoid impulse buying unnecessary things.

5. For holidays, visit and stay at places that are only 1 or 2 hours drive from your own home. E.g., Lake Macquarie is only a one hour drive from Sydney, while Terrigal is one and a half hours away. Both of these places can provide a quiet time of rest and relaxation near the waterside. It’s not always necessary to travel overseas to Fiji or Hawaii for the same R&R.

6. Only use a credit card for convenience, not credit (if you have one at all, which is not recommended). Aim to pay off the whole balance at the end of each month so you don’t attract any interest.

7. Be on the look out for “specials” for small and big ticket items. There is a feeling of glee when you can score an item you need at half price.

8. Shop around for the best price on certain items. Even though it may be more “leg work” (which can count as exercise), it can pay off in the end.

9. Sometimes we need to change our attitude to buying scenarios. If you are good with a needle and thread, shopping for “vintage clothes” (from the Op Shop) or garage sales can provide interesting results. If you alter it to your size or in a creative way, you could end up with an outfit that is totally unique. I once bought a dress from a garage sale. At a Christmas party a few ladies commented on how nice it looked. (You don’t have to tell people exactly where you bought it from too).

10. Ask yourself two questions whenever you buy something: a) Do I really need it? b) Will I ever use it, and if so, when? If you say no to either of these questions, don’t buy it. We can probably get by with a lot less than we think. During a time when I had more income, I found myself cluttering up my small place with a lot of unnecessary junk. It is said that a cluttered place can lead to a cluttered mind. Even with clothes, many women could probably attest to the fact that they don’t even wear about 80% of their wardrobe most of the time.

11. Even if you’re not working, contribute a small amount to a Super Fund e.g., $50 a month or according to how much you can afford. If you start early, you will have a bit of a nest egg when you retire. The government also matches your contribution each year if you are a low income earner. Choose a “Balanced Fund” so you don’t see your savings decrease too much, which can be a bit demoralising if you already have a low income.

12. Stay as healthy as possible by doing regular exercise and eating as healthy as you are able. This can minimise exorbitant doctor fees and hospital bills for major physical illnesses later in life. Medicare will cover certain costs, but not all.

13. Have a certain amount in your bank account as a reserve for emergencies or miscellaneous expenses that arise. I recently had to spend $230 to fix my washing machine that was acting funny last month. Having a reserve means you can still buy groceries during this time.

14. Nurture your spirituality and learn to trust in your higher power for your provision. God is well able to provide for our needs if we choose to turn to Him. He can guide us as to what action to take for ourselves.

“During a time when I had more income, I found myself cluttering up my small place with a lot of unnecessary junk. It is said that a cluttered place can lead to a cluttered mind.”


There is something to be said about living more simply in our modern age. Perhaps when it comes to the crunch, it’s not really more “stuff” that makes us happier, but rather things that money can’t buy, like meaningful friendships, contentment and peace of mind.

And a final note on the subject of money…

15. Try to cultivate a generous attitude. This may seem contradictory at first. You may ask, “How can I be generous when I may have so little?” But there are always ways we can give. For instance, every year try and give away any clothes, books or household items you no longer use (but are still in good condition). Or put some loose change in the collection bowl on Sunday. Maybe offer your time at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen, if you are able. There are numerous ways to volunteer which you can find on the internet. Volunteering is also a great way to make new friends and network for jobsearching. When we give of ourselves or our resources (however meagre), this is what truly “makes the world go around”. If we all did this, we could become a more benevolent and compassionate society. In time, we will reap the rewards in our own lives too.

It all begins with you and I.

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