Going Green, Money Matters, mustbethrifty house

End of an era

Three years have past since my first mustbethrifty post. In my quest to save money and resources, I’ve done things my pre-mortgage self never considered doing: getting multiple quotes, researching products, putting up with housemates, clothes and food swapping, scavenging and borrowing, mending and altering. I’ve finally learnt how to become comfortable with my mortgage.

Now, after nearly five years with my first mortgage, I am about to sign up on a second mortgage, this time hand-in-hand with Cheap Geek. We will be moving out and ‘living the dream’ of house and land (and chickens).Putting on a sold sticker

I’m really happy with the house we’ve bought. Continue reading

Footnote Frivolity***, Going Green, Reviews

Sustainable and legal? Sustainable House and Sustainable Food

Michael Mobbs' Sustainable HouseA couple of decades ago, former environmental lawyer Michael Mobbs set about turning his inner Sydney home into a sustainable oasis*: the mains water was disconnected, the solar panels got put in, and a waste facility was buried in the backyard. In 1998, Mobbs wrote Sustainable House, detailing his experience.

Resources on sustainable retrofitting tend be brainstormers or how-tos with a focus on design, construction or behaviour modification. For instance, yourhome.gov.au lists ‘six ways to minimise water use’ and discusses rain tank considerations. Mobbs’ book is more of a how-to on getting around bureaucratic naysayers. When told that inner Sydney rainwater was unsafe to drink, he took his own samples every fortnight, over eighteen months, and had them tested at a laboratory. Continue reading

Going Green, Second-hand Scavengers

For sale, sale, sale…

For sale. Image courtesy of Tony (note: Tony does not endorse the author or the contents of mustbethrifty.com)After a year of living out of her backpack, my friend Grace has been doing some ‘severe decluttering’. When I asked her how her long weekend went, she told me that she had just sold everything she had put up on Gumtree to some ‘really lovely people’. I was so impressed by her success, I started asking questions.

Mustbethrifty: What made you decide to sell your stuff?

Grace: After coming back from working in the slum regions overseas I felt overwhelmed and confronted by my storage container…Where did all this stuff come from? Did I really own that many pairs of shoes? And that large suitcase of clothes? Continue reading

Clever Cooks, Glut(tony), Going Green

Your pumpkin for my onion?

Many moons ago, I wrote a post about veggie swaps, meets where you swap your excess homegrown produce with others. Being a lazy gardener, I haven’t planted many annuals this year but that doesn’t mean I can’t swap my food.

In order to minimise waste, I’ve been splitting my bunches of spring onion and coriander with my friend Sarah. Yesterday, she returned the favour by giving me a chunk of her pumpkin, corn, and some coriander:

Food swaps don't have to involve homegrown produce
Food swaps don’t have to involve homegrown produce

She even gave me a soup recipe that uses up the pumpkin, the coriander plus the short-dated peanut butter jar that she offloaded to me the other day!

Food swapping doesn’t have to be limited to fruit and veg. Make two trays of lasagna and exchange one of them for some of your neighbour’s casserole. Swap short-dated stock with friends and family. Set up a ‘free shelf’ in the pantry and the fridge between housemates.  Bribe your local grocer with banana muffins and end up with an armful of free, overripe bananas. Not only will you cut back on waste, you’ll also nurture a sense of community amongst all those involved.

Going Green, Money Matters

The indirect cost(s) of double glazing

The guys from Ecostar Double Glazing installed our fancy schmancy double-glazed windows earlier in the week. The house is much quieter now. While some noise still comes through, we’re able to watch TV with a 30% lower volume.

Double glazed window from Ecostar
One of our new double-glazed windows.

There’s also a noticeable difference in how the house heats up and cools down. After a warm day, the internal temperature usually drops in the evening, but with double glazing, the heat is trapped inside. The only way to release it is to open up the windows. Fortunately, Ecostar’s windows are designed to maximise ventilation.

Opening the windows to allow air in/out
The window swings out and slides down, making the most of convection currents. Warm air escapes out through the top and cool air gets drawn in through the lower gap.

Unfortunately, our $13k+ windows do not come with flyscreens*. What’s even more unfortunate is that silly us picked casement windows instead of double hung windows. While casement windows are Ecostar’s cheaper option, they can only be fitted out with costly flyscreens.

Normal flyscreens that fit on the outside of a window or on the inside of a window with a winder usually cost as little as $50 to order and install (via Doorite Screens). Normal flyscreens do not fit on casement windows that have extruding handles; only magnetic or retractable flyscreens are compatible. Magnetic flyscreens are the cheaper option, costing approximately $150 per screen. Retractable flyscreens will set you back $280 to $430 per smallish window**. Ask for Tuff Mesh (aka Cat-Proof) and you’re looking at a 15% markup. Gulp. 

The windows are also devoid of dressings, which means that while minimal ambient heat is transferred through the glass, direct solar gain is still a concern in summer. Plus living in a fishbowl kind of sucks. We’ll soon need to fork out for awnings and blinds/curtains for the windows facing north and west***.  Double gulp.

This double glazing thingy is going to end up costing more than our wedding. Thank goodness for little red packets.


*Still, we did get a very good deal on our windows. The installers from Ecostar told Cheap Geek that they had worked on a similar job which set the owner back $20k. By capitalising on Ecostar’s end-of-year and sign-up-on-quotation discounts, we saved ourselves thousands of dollars.

**Like a good Must Be Thrifty, I got basic phone quotes for ‘a small window’ from four different companies.

**By the way, does anyone know what type of window dressings are the most thermally efficient in both winter and summer?

Going Green

An expensive lesson learnt in home improvements

There’s this quaint but somewhat useful Vietnamese wedding tradition where wedding guests gift the bride and groom red packets filled with money for luck. Cheap Geek and I cashed in on this tradition; instead of setting up a wedding registry, we asked our friends and family to gift us money so that we could get some double glazing for the house.

A window into domestic bliss?While double glazing has good R values, there are cheaper ways to improve the passive design/thermal efficiency of a house: door and window seals, roof insulation, pelmets and heavy drapes. With the exception of heavy drapes, none of these things are good at keeping sound out unfortunately, and because we live on a main road, sound is a big issue. Cheap Geek and I are sick of being woken up by morning traffic, of having the trams compete with our favourite TV shows, and I’m pretty sure my hearing’s being damaged by the constant noise. So now that the wedding is over and we’ve kept to the wedding budget, we’re putting in some double glazing. 😀 Continue reading

Gardening on a Budget, Gen DIY-er, Going Green, Reviews, Second-hand Scavengers

Localism’s the new black: Millie Ross’ The Thrifty Gardener

Millie Ross' The Thrifty GardenerGardening books are either aspirational or educational. With its brightly coloured pages and photos, Millie Ross’ The Thrifty Gardener comes across as aspirational but unlike other aspirational gardening books, striking architectural plants and stunning aspects do not feature. Instead, The Thrifty Gardener’s aesthetics lean towards the ‘nanna-chic garden’: there’s fruit and vegetables amongst the flowers and the structural elements of the garden such as walls, paths and water features are DIY-ed from salvaged items.

Aimed at the beginner to intermediate gardener, the book starts with planning and design, before moving into specific tutorials that range from propagation to small and large projects such as newspaper pots and clay fire pits. Continue reading