Not long after we came to Australia in 1987, my wife, Jacqui, and I suffered a financial mishap that meant all the wonderful things we were going to do were no longer feasible or available to us — a blow definitely, but something that made us start thinking seriously about life and what we were going to do with ourselves. We decided we had little alternative, apart from ‘getting on with it’, something we’ve now been doing for about 32 years, and it really hasn’t been at all as bad as we thought it might be at first.
We’ve really had little in the way of money, other than the pension and a couple of very small annuities I get from England. However, with careful budgeting and a rather radical change to our lifestyle, things started to work out quite well.
I suppose we were helped too, by the fact that both of us are of a very positive frame of mind, and where some others might have taken a more dramatic approach to their life at the prospect of ‘being broke’, we looked on it all as something of a challenge and an adventure. As I said, the first step of our plan was to work out the things we absolutely needed, the things it would be nice to have if we could have only afforded it, and the things that were absolutely no use to us at all.
High on the list of ‘absolute needs’ was food and rent of course, then came transport — a necessary consideration in Australia, except if you live, work and play in the CBD, but even more crucial now that we live 200km from Melbourne! Clothing was also going to be a necessity, whichever way we looked at it, and we were determined to put aside a little bit so that we could go to the local pub on a Friday night, about the only outside entertainment we had.
The things we would like if we could afford it occasionally included a day trip to Lakes Entrance or Phillip Island perhaps, taking our own food with us and simply enjoying the scenery and dapping our feet in the water. Having a couple of friends around for an evening, with Jacqui cooking up something wonderful, washed down with a fairly inexpensive bottle of wine, followed by a good old chin-wag. Even, possibly squandering $20 on some new plants, to put in the garden!
Of no use to use, at all, are playing of the pokies (the quickest way invented by man to get money out of man), or conjuring ideas of buying another car (we’ve had our Passat for 13 years now, and it still runs beautifully, though when I had my own business in England, I bought a new car every year, whether I needed one or not).
It’s a simple set of rules to follow, and none of them too soul-destroying — just don’t aim too high, and you won’t be too disappointed! There is even a perverse sort of pleasure to be had in our situation; for instance when the money market falls to pieces and people we know are worrying themselves to death because it means they might finish up without that $1 million of super they were working for. Or the people who accumulate massive wealth and then have to install expensive burglar alarms around the house and have all their windows covered in metal shutters, cutting out all that lovely (free) sunshine! We also know, whatever they pay for it, in flashy restaurants or expensive grocers, the food we eat is just as good for us as theirs, in fact better in many cases, and it only costs us a fraction of what they are paying, plus the fact my wife is an excellent cook, so what we eat is never ruined.
Yes, I admit it would be nice occasionally, to be able to splurge on an expensive pair of shoes or a taxi ride instead of waiting for a bus to go somewhere, and it would be nice to be able to take a week’s holiday or a cruise, but then we think, ‘What the hell are we on about? We are on holiday all the time here, with Ninety Mile Beach 10 minutes away and Wilson’s Prom within view, not to mention the great and inexpensive eateries all around us!’
We’ve never had it so good, and we’ve got great friends as well. Who could possibly want more?