Think things are tough? Struggling to get by? Not sure how $100 is going to feed you and your partner or the family for an entire week? Well how would you go on just $10?
That's what the co-author of The $21 Challenge, Australian Fiona Lippey, did more than a decade ago - and she hasn't stopped saving since.
"I was really bad in the beginning. I was a total shopping victim. I used to buy Lean Cuisine and think that was clever. Now I look at them and think half the food for twice the money," she says.
Then one week she found the household budget for her and her now husband was just $20, out of which they needed $10 for transport.
"That completely changed me. Then I realised it was so much easier to save than actually earn the money," she says.
Lippey started the website Simple Savings 10 years ago as a database and vault of money-saving tips. The site offers a free monthly newsletter but access to the "vault" costs a one-off joining fee of A$47 and an annual fee of A$17.
The business has been so successful, the proceeds now largely support her family of four kids.
The $21 Challenge, which Lippey co-wrote with Jackie Gower, was born out of the website. She stresses that it's not something you need to do every week, but something that can teach you good habits.
"It changes the way you think," she says.
It focuses on feeding a family for $21, but the saving habits learnt can obviously be taught across all consumption patterns.
DO A STOCKTAKE
A lot of savings advice focuses on using any existing things you have in your fridge and pantry, and the $21 challenge is no different. But it does involve making lists of what you can use now, what you can use later and what you need to throw out.
Once you have a list of everything you have, you can plan meals around those ingredients rather than doing the reverse.
With her last $10, Lippey bought a box of fruit at the markets for about $5, after someone told her to go at the end of the day to get cheap fruit and vegetables.
"I may have had some rice and a little bit of meat, which I stretched," she says.
Growing your own food and keeping chickens are also useful ways of bringing your food costs down. But even if you don't have a garden, growing herbs in a Styrofoam box can make a big difference as they can help spice up that otherwise dull tin of tomatoes that everyone seems to have in their cupboard.
"Grow your herbs. They are easy to grow and you can save a lot of money," Lippey says.
The book also contains recipes and tips on how to make the basics, such as your own porridge, and a list of substitute ingredients for some essentials, such as eggs - two tablespoons of cornstarch, arrowroot flour or potato starch, or one mashed banana or half a cup of apple sauce can be used for cakes and muffins.
THINK BEFORE YOU BUY
You should know by now not to go grocery shopping when you're hungry, but it's probably a good idea not to go shopping for anything when you're hungry as strange decisions can be made when your blood-sugar level is down. We often confuse our desire for food with desire for anything, which can lead us to buy things we don't actually need.
Lippey has eight questions she asks herself every time she buys something. "That really applies to everything - a home loan, house and even choosing a school," she says.
When she doesn't ask those questions, as occurred recently when she was time poor and had to buy a tent for a family holiday, she regrets it. "We were going camping and I bought a tent in a hurry - and now I want to burn the thing," she says.
Always ask yourself if this is what you really want to spend your hard-earned cash on or is it just the thing that is in front of you. Breaking it down into hours worked will also help. Is this thing really worth a day's work, or a week's work? It's a different perspective but a good one.
What good will come of the purchase? If you can't find the benefit - and find it easier to work out what you would lose (junk food comes to mind) - don't buy it.
In this age of internet and discount websites, it should be easy to look around for the best buy.
Big purchases warrant a fair amount of research, and if it can save you hundreds of dollars, surely it's worth a few hours of your time. Finally, if you don't have the money, don't buy something. Credit cards and time-purchasing schemes all come with hefty interest rates and fees.
DEALING WITH KIDS
That's all well and good, you might say, but what about the kids? How can I not give in to their cries for the new (insert relevant Disney franchise here) toy/plate/drink bottle? The answer is simple: get rid of the television.
It may sound radical but it works. The Lippey household has done it and their children survived.
On their recent camping trip, they pulled into a restaurant on the way home and when they received a complimentary Paddle Pop with their meal, Lippey's 10-year-old son wanted to know what it was.
"If you don't have a telly, you don't know what the Paddle Pop lion is," Lippey says.
The children still watch the occasional DVD and Lippey obviously has an internet connection that allows her to run the business, but they control the information the family receives and therefore miss out on a large chunk of the marketing spiel that constantly barrages us.
* Stop! Is this a good decision?
* Are you hungry?
* Is there something else?
* Is it worth the effort?
* What will you gain?
* What will you lose?
* Is there a better way?
* Do you have the cash to spare?
- All prices are in Australian dollars
- Sydney Morning Herald