Photo: Image courtesy of Fiona Lippey
Living in Canberra, Australia isn’t cheap, but that’s just what made Fiona Lippey so good at saving money.Thirteen years ago, she was a personal assistant scraping by on minimum wage. Flash forward two decades later, and Lippey is one of Australia’s foremost personal finance gurus, known for her hit $21 Challenge book series and its website, SimpleSavings.com.au.
The change didn’t come overnight for Lippey, who grew up “moderately wealthy” with a civil engineer father and a mother who was a nurse. “They were never frugal,” said Lippey, so when she was strapped for cash in her early 20s, she tapped a girlfriend to show her the ropes of bargain shopping.
“She showed me where to get cheap food,” Lippey told Business Insider, and “I learned you could make a lot of money by saving money.”
Lippey also learned there are two ways to buy everything, even in ultra-posh Canberra.
“At first I had no idea this was possible,” said Lippey. “I assumed you had to buy really buy expensive tea bags because the ad told you so. Then I realised the cheap tea bags taste as good as the expensive ones.”
Her friend also helped her get creative in the kitchen, finding ways to substitute pricy ingredients for cheaper alternatives.
“Perhaps the biggest thing I learned was that you didn’t have to choose a recipe and find the ingredients, but to find the ingredients first, then find a suitable recipe and cook it,” Lippey said. “The idea was to put every piece of food to use.”
Although she felt “hopeless” at times, living well below Australia’s povery line when she had her first child, Lippey found an outlet by launching Simple Savings to help struggling mums.
“I was chatting with a mum who had a one-month old and was upset that she only got paid once a month, and was trying to stretch her tiny amount of money. She kept buying this expensive brand of nappies, and I realised that this lady had no one helping her,” said Lippey. “I told my husband, ‘It’s so wrong,’ and he said, ‘Do something.'”
Today, Simple Savings boasts over 15,000 tips and 130,000 subscribers. We’ve picked out some tips from Lippey’s book to prove you can live on $21 a week:
Plan for every activity that involves food. Lippey takes her intensive meal-planning to the next level by always having food on hand for swimming, sports events, and the days she works late. This way she never runs out to the store at the last-minute, and doesn’t feels pressed to make snacks for her kids.
Choose what to cook by day. If Monday’s a busy day, cook something quick. If Tuesday’s slower, take the time to prepare something more involved.
Do an inventory. Take note of all the food in your pantry, then try to create a “bonus” meal. Schedule these for quieter days, says Lippey, “when you can experiment with ingredients without the pressure of having to get the kids to football practice.”
Cook in bulk. Lippey calls these her “get ahead meals” because she cooks twice or triple the batches of food. “They can be simple shortcuts such as making a week’s worth of sandwiches,” or “making a triple batch of bolognaise,” she says.
Prepare things in advance. Set a time to defrost, soak, marinate, and freeze things so you don’t forget to do them later.