An almost free life.

The only thing I am really happy about spending money on is food for our family and keeping a roof over our heads. Everything else to me seems unnecessary. I don’t like to support massive multi-million dollar companies with their foreign sweat shops filled with people living in poverty. I don’t like to buy things that have been mass-produced in heartless, un-inspiring ways. I am an individual and I like to be one and I love that our home is beginning to reflect that.

My aim is to own only 2nd hand (which are unique and full of character in my opinion) or items I have handmade, revamped, recycled or found.

However I am a female and I am drawn to pretty things so I have learned some tricks to keeping our family clothed and our home pretty for very little, in a humane way and also in a way that is sustainable, which I’d like to share.

These ideas are good for those on tight budgets but want to feel like ‘they aren’t missing out on having stuff.’ I am also trying to inspire those who can afford pointless things to rethink their life choices, who are you supporting when you buy things? Look deeper into where items come from, how they are produced, if they are biodegradable, and to rethink better more fulfilling ways of using their finances, and also to avoid debt (which sadly some people have nothing to show for it anyway.)

Anywho…I shall zip it and just give you some weird and quirky ideas for you to alter and play with and hopefully have fun with.



One of my favourite things to do is to decorate my old stuff so I feel like it’s new and exciting again. You could do this with second-hand items or pick up things during those council collection times or accept random things from friends and family who are moving house.

This stool I painted a pattern on and wrapped wool around the bottom part to add colour. I like using things which I consider ‘still good’ even though they have chips or cracks like my collection on top does. I won’t throw anything out until it’s totally destroyed.


This was a $30 tv cabinet I picked up 2nd hand a few years ago, it was so boring I decided to make it different. I used paint and a black sharpie and I did buy brand new handles from bunnings $2 ea.


It took some time, but I totally think it was worth it.


Now this I love. Glen and I bought this when we first met. It is actually a dvd cabinet which originally stood the opposite way and had a glass door. We never ever used it, it was one of those pointless things sitting in the corner, gathering random things. I asked Glen to remove the door and I took out the plastic dvd track things and turned it on its side.

Now it’s used for all the kids nature toys. Which we made with sanded wood we cut at different lengths, some we painted on the flat ends and others I oiled to make them shiny. We also used felt tip pens to draw pictures on smooth rocks, some of people and cars, others of flowers and trees. They’re great for imaginative play, they build house with the wood and use the stones as people. We collected a whole heap of pretty leaves and laminated them, kids use them for money or in their games as paths and roads. I also cut some into love hearts and put the alphabet on them.

I like our nature spot, if I find anything interesting on a bush walk I add it to the collection.



We also made mobiles and hanging things with our laminated leaves.


An interesting branch and a few origami cranes is an interesting addition to Buddy’s room. (you can find instructions easily for many different origami thingys.)


Fresh flowers are always amazing. Go for a drive down a country road and I’m sure you’ll find tonnes….like we do. (Vases….50 cents ea in a 2nd hand shop.)


And remember a pretty and interesting bouquet doesn’t have to have flowers if you can’t find any. Weeds and greens look cool and fresh too.

Oh and the jars? Sauce bottles. Seriously, we buy cups and glasses all the time and yet we’re throwing away the ones we buy in our food shopping. Keep them! Decorate them! Use bottles as vases and jars as cups! I used to think it was taking the whole ‘being frugal’ thing to far…but if you walk into any ‘cool’ café` these days….you’re going to get a jar!!!


Plus…..with kids, if they break…you know they’ll be replaced when the Vegemite runs out!


I picked up this chair for free about 8 years ago! It’s never been in good shape, just hung around to be used in interesting situations here and there. I just love its personality. I just used weird logs and branches, tin cans and relocated plants to make our entrance quirky and cute. I also used a branch and tied lengths of fabric with knots at the bottoms  (which you can see to the right) to make colourful decorations that look pretty in the afternoon breeze.


This is one of my favourite things. My little mini garden. I got the inspiration from pinterest and made it right away, it took 6 eggs (a couple of yummy omelette) and an egg carton. I pulled the dirt from the very ground where it naturally belongs and added mosses and little plants that I found.

I now have 3 decorating different areas around the house. Cutest, most manageable garden I’ve ever had!


My best bit of advice is to USE EVERYTHING… mum gave me this set when she sold her house. I looked at it thinking it would be something that would sit in my cupboard never being used and I don’t like things being hidden away un-used. So instead of buying some pots to bring in some plants, I used her set. I also used some old lace to put into the old photo frame they’re sitting on.

Weird, cool, free.


Here is another lace photo frame….I like it, might be addicted. Colour and texture are amazing.


All that left over wool from the crochet blankets I make in autumn?….Yarn bombing! Makes things instantly cool and colourful!

Use everything.


Use everything! Remember that free piano I scored earlier last year? It’s my favourite place to decorate. I found this lovely mossy branch ages ago and it now lives on top. I swap and change my random jars and bottles and 2nd hand glass wear often. I add greenery plucked from the garden or fresh flowers I come across. The top of my piano is almost always a direct reflection of my personality.

Nature is seriously the ultimate in free decor. I’m one of those people who goes “That’s a nice tree….” I love the shapes, the twisted nature of well nature….it’s interesting…take a look…


Glen and I teamed up to make this tree house for Buddy. Just a stump which had a convenient hole, a forked branch and two second-hand timber fruit bowls turned upside down and nailed in place. I drilled a hole so I could stick in some fresh green branches. I made the bridge using branches cut to similar lengths and drilling holes in both sides and stringing them onto some rope and tying on.

Simple really….AND FREE!


This was one of those ‘that’s a nice branch’ moments. As soon as I saw it, I recalled a pin I pinned on pinterest. And voila. I used two clear sticky hooks on the ceiling and used fishing line to hang the branch. Once hanging I used some of our old Christmas baubles to hang from it.

I am in love!

Glad I ran out of hooks because I would have trees hanging everywhere!


Hard to photograph.


Painted rocks. Fun activity, cool decorations/toys!


Now I’m not sure if you want to go this far but literally making stuff is fun! I made this chair for Buddy with some logs and branches, some nails and some serious brain power. I’ve never ever made anything like this before but glad I tried! I want to make an actual single bed frame next!

Just try to think about it as if it were a puzzle. Or look at an ordinary chair and go from there.SONY DSC

He likes it!


Just a branch and torn fabric….adds interest. Using our own art to decorate our walls is a much more personal touch than those massed produced, not to mention expensive prints.


I made these candle holders super quick. I hand sawed round slices of wood and then cut branches so as they had at least 3 forks to make them stand evenly. I then nailed in place. (little glasses set of 6 $1!!!)


I made this yesterday. The 3 spoons and wooden platter thing cost me $1.50 second hand. I took 3 eggs ad drew small circles on them, I then used a pin to prick it around the circle. Once I had the hole I drained out the egg and put in dirt and a little succulent. I used blu-tack to keep them still on the spoons and I guess the rest is self-explanatory.



Toys cost a lot of money and I like most parents has that terrible desire to spoil our kids with a random gift or toy, even if it isn’t Christmas or birthdays. To avoid paying for material objects that my kiddies will -like they always do- tire of quickly, I make them things.

You can do this together or surprise them with it. You don’t even have to be able to draw well. Think stick people with different expressions, simple trees or houses. I coloured and laminated mine and added magnets, but you could just let your kids cut and colour your doodles and just use blu-tack….

It’s new and fun and you won’t feel guilty about spending cash on stuff.


This is Blue. He is Buddy’s favourite toy and sleeps with him every night (which I adore) he is just made from a baby sock. That oval shape where his nose is…is the heel. You can see that all I did was sew a line up the centre from the toe and two smaller lines a tad further up. Sew on button features if you want (or not and add a bell inside for a baby.) Stuff and sew the top.

New toy. No cost. Made with love. And IS very loved.


In fact I made all my kiddies lots of gifts for Christmas.


Sadly, all my VERY hard and time-consuming work was over shadowed by ‘shop’ bought presents.


My babies will get a small shock next Christmas as Santa will only be brining one ‘shop’ bought gift and that will purely to keep the whole Santa thing alive.


I know what you’re thinking, I don’t have time, or it will cost heaps in materials….well no.

It won’t.


I buy fabric from second-hand shops. Think bed sheets…that’s a heap of fabric, usually around 1-2 dollars and you can get all kinds of pretty and ‘vintage’ styles. Jars of buttons, or even cut them from old clothes. Hand stitching can take time but use your hands will watching tv at night, you’ll feel far more productive!

We have Google now people. You can literally learn how to do anything and find free patterns for everything!!!!

I don’t get why we aren’t all taking advantage!


A little tip on buying clothes. If you do…which yes I do buy new things sometimes. Make them last as long as possible!

This was an adorable little dress, but Sophie got it caught in the chain on her bike and it tore. Instead of throwing it out, I cut a split up both sides and tied it into a knot. Now it’s one of her fave tops.

Also again…..basic kids clothes are so simple to sew together! I know it is tempting to buy new things, I mean nowadays it is easy, quick and the prices of some kids clothes are ridiculously cheap but remember that’s because they’re made in massive over heated, over crowded sweat shops with terribly poor working conditions for employees.

While it is tempting to take advantage, because it’s like an out of sight out of mind situation, it can be really fulfilling to make things yourself and have your kids proud of you AND the things you have specifically created for them.

Again….forget expensive and fancy fabrics in the shops…..buying second hand is seriously the most cost-effective way. One double bed sheet can make up to 5 simple play dresses OR 10 pairs of shorts!!! A large jumper or mens shirt can make vests, jackets….endless possibilities!


I love cheeses. I enjoy making cheese platters to share with my family. It’s indulgent and glamorous and what woman doesn’t love both of those things?

Well I can’t justify buying and expensive cheese. I basically think of money in a way that reflects wants/needs….I can see the cost of one thing and instantly equate that to how much milk I could buy my family or how much fresh fruit it would equal.

So when buying something souly for myself I feel bad that it doesn’t benefit more of us.

So I now make my own cheese.


And it is stupidly easy!

Here’s how!

You will need one litre of milk to 1/3 cup of lemon juice. So you can double or triple if you like. So that would be 3 litres of milk to one cup of lemon juice. Now I mean REAL lemon juice freshly squeezed. I have also used grapefruit and orange. The end result doesn’t actually taste like the juice…it is purely for the reaction caused by the citric acid. I also use UHT milk as I buy it in bulk for $1 a litre, it works totally fine.

Put your milk into a large pot and allow to heat up almost to boiling. Once you get those small foaming bubbles around the side pour in your juice.

It will begin to curdle immediately. Stir while still heating but don’t boil for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit in the pot for about 40 minutes.

Get your strainer ready. Place cheesecloth or something similar…(I have used a piece of thin cotton and also and old muslin baby wrap I had in the cupboard. The point of all of this is to be creative and not rush out to buy something…think about it…what could you use without purchasing something new?)

After it has sat, pour into your fabric lined strainer and allow excess fluid to run off. We only want the curds. You can ball it up and twist to drain off the liquid.

You can drain it lots and add salt to taste and it will be like a crumbly feta cheese( which you can put onto salads, lasagna, spag bol.) I like to leave mine a little softer when making cheese for platters. When you’re happy with how it is holding together add your flavours. I add salt for a savoury cheese and honey for a sweet cheese.

The 1st pictured is an apricot and almond cheese.

2nd is mango and walnut and this last one is simple drizzled with sweet chilli sauce.


doesn’t it just make you feel fancy thinking about it!?

Simple, YUM and cheap!!!


Speaking of food, I just thought I’d add this….all these are is a home brand packet of biscuits, coated in melted chocolate and sprinkled with flaked almonds.

Cost around the same as one little packet of tim tams to make and you get around 3 times many. (Plus people think your super cool if you whip them out!)


Finally bought some new mugs! 25 cents each! And they’re oh so pretty!

A few extra tips….

  • Buy deoderants, perfumes and bathroom stuff that you AND your partner can both use. It’s so expensive.
  • Fill birthdays and special occasions with family to avoid the added up costs of extra food and gift bags etc.
  • Find patterns on the net for things like hats, scarves, purses and those wanted but sometimes unneccesary accessories.
  • Make gifts for friends and family.
  • Drink water! Free and it’s good for you.

I know it’s hard to get used to not paying for things every single day. Life has become such a commercialised thing, everything we see or do is geared in such a way that makes us think we need to spend money!

And it is wrong.

We throw away perfectly good things all the time, we’re teaching our kids that things are disposable, disireable….desperately so and then yet at the end of the day just chuck it out….?!

I feel we’re becoming so focused on what we and what others have that we are no longer focused on what really matters.

Plus wouldn’t it be nice to go for a walk on a beautiful day, find a pretty shell and feel just as good as if you’d indulged in retail therapy?!

WITHOUT paying a fortune you can not justify?

  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The whole point to this long, exhausting post is that to live a frugal or almost free life, doesn’t mean you’re poor, scabby or any of those negative things we’ve all come to believe.

It actually means your life is so much deeper and richer because it is filled with so much more thought, much heart, much more soul……


……..and with lots of love.

Feel free to give me any tips you may have, I’m always looking for more and also go here if you’d like to follow me on pinterest. (or click the button up there somewhere on the right.)

2 thoughts on “An almost free life.

  1. Wow! Cristie I love your way of thinking and the clever and imaginative way you use things. The kids and Glen are so lucky to have such an awesome mum & wife!
    Keep it up! Love that you have starting writing again 🙂 love Gwenda

    1. Thanks Gwenda 😀 I think my best thing I was blessed with is boredom! The things I come up with when bored turn out pretty good lol I am also glad I have begun writing again 🙂 I think putting all my energy into an entire book might have turned me off for a while, but now I feel like I have something to say again and hopefully I can inspire people in a positive way. xox

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