This issue includes:-
How are you doing? The sun is out. The weather is beautiful - rain by night and sun by day. It has been wonderful.
The news this month is that Naomi, who has been working with us for the past six months, is about to give birth. Isn't it exciting! We will put out a special announcement when the baby is born.
Naomi has been doing a fantastic job. She even helps me put together these newsletters and she enjoys reading your letters as much as I do.
"I would just like to thank you for your suggestion about pension discounts from Telstra. We were under the impression that we were getting the pensioner discount, but on triple checking, we found we weren't, even though we were registered with our pension number, etc. This has been going on for a year, so I must stress to all pensioners to check and check again. If you can't see a discount on your account, you are not getting it. Pensioners are supposed to get both a rebate from Centrelink for the phone and a pensioners discount direct from Telstra. Apparently our discount will be back-dated from when we first supplied our pension number to Telstra. Thanks again. Without your savings vault I don't know where we pensioners would be. It's a great site worth much more than you charge." (Roxana Vinson)
"I have to say a HUGE thank you for having the intestinal fortitude to start this website. It is the most amazing place. I could spend hours and hours trolling through the hints but unfortunately I have to savour only bits and pieces as I need them. Anytime I'm going to purchase anything I take a stroll through the hints to see if I can make a saving on it. It's also got me thinking about how I can save on each and everything that I do and buy every day to make my life a little easier. It's also really great knowing that I am making a choice and winning the war against rising prices.
"So, again, thank you, thank you, thank you Fiona for seeing a need and answering it in such a fun, informal and practical way." (Shelley Maughan)
"I have used lots of hints and keep using them. I love using the vouchers that I print off the site. I get tips on where to shop for bargains, such as at Aldi. I even splurged and bought perfume from a net retailer, who charged half the retail price. Without Simple Savings I would never have achieved half these savings nor bought items as cheaply. I even have my friends intrigued and at work we have our "swap cheap ideas and vouchers chats". At the end of the day we all love a bargain." (Melissa Atkinson)
Have a superb month!
This is the story of Sally and Hanna, two people working at the same job, earning the same basic wage, $40,000 per year for 38 hours per week.
The boss thinks Hanna is a real slacker. She is very good at her job, but only works 38 hours a week and always declines offers of overtime. While the boss likes Hanna, he wishes he could get more from her.
Sally, on the other hand, is frantic, rushed and busy. The boss knows Sally will always accept overtime, so he makes use of her. Gradually he asks more and more of her until Sally thinks it would be nice to turn the overtime down occasionally, but 'the money is just too good'.
Sally becomes increasingly worn out and says to Hanna, 'You look happy and relaxed. How do you do it? My kids are starting to wonder what I look like. When I get home they are screaming. I know I should cook them dinner, but I am so tired, we buy takeaway.
'It doesn't help when things keep happening, such as the fridge and the lawn mower breaking down, and the kids needing new uniforms - you know how much they cost. The worst part is that I never get to see my husband. We are so distant now I worry that he is going to leave me.'
It doesn't take long for Hanna to share her solution with Sally. 'Next time the boss asks you to work overtime say, "No". Don't say that you need the money - there are other ways to manage. I can show you.'
Sally has let herself get into a cycle of abuse. By listening to Hanna and taking action, she can get herself out of this bind. Hanna is a clever consumer. She has learnt 'when to' and 'when not to' buy something.
With smart shopping, Hanna doesn't need to spend as much money as Sally to buy the exact same items. Sally's poor money skills mean her expenses are 30 percent greater than Hanna's. So Sally has to work over 50 hours per week to pay for the same things Hanna buys working only 38 hours a week.
Hanna has learned that by looking after her money she can get the most out of life. Sally unfortunately is still going around in circles - working, whingeing and spending.
Who are you most like? Hanna or Sally? Which person would you like to be?
This year's Simple Savings calendar is ready for you to download, print and give to your friends, flatmates and relatives - in fact, anyone you think would enjoy reading the calendar or could do with a little bit of financial help. You can print it out, colour it in and staple it together for less than $1. Have a great year!
To download or view the calendar, go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/freestuff/calendar2005.pdf
You can decorate your home and Christmas tree on the tightest budget and save your cash for the things that really count. All you need is a little bit of creativity and a few of these great hints to create a merry and cheerful atmosphere.
Buy some plaster of Paris from the hardware store, chocolate moulds with Christmas designs, a length of gold cord from Spotlight or other discount store, and a can of clear spray paint from a discount store such as the Warehouse.
Mix up the plaster of Paris and pour into moulds to set - make sure you put a small length of gold cord into each decoration with both ends sitting in the plaster to create a loop for hanging the decoration.
Once set, remove and paint with bright Christmas colours. Once the paint is dry, spray it with the clear paint and you will have some attractive decorations for your tree.
Candy canes make cheap and terrific decorations for your Christmas tree at only $2 for 12 canes from discount shops and supermarkets. It's a good idea, if you can do so safely, to bug-spray around the bottom of the tree. The ants won't wait until Christmas Day!
One year when we were really short of money, I made Christmas decorations that could be hung on the tree or around the house.
For baubles, cut circles out of bright, shiny cardboard. Instead of glueing just two together, glue three together for a three-dimensional effect. Cut out pictures from old Christmas cards, paste on the baubles and hang them with string.
For crackers, wrap toilet paper rolls in Christmas paper and tie the ends with ribbons. Hang from the tree or fill them with goodies for Christmas Day.
Use old scratched or useless CDs to make lovely Christmas decorations for your tree. Simply glue the labelled sides of the CDs together, making sure you first put a loop of fancy ribbon between them. Then, using a hot glue gun and sequins, glitter, craft 'jewels' or any other pretty objects, make decorative patterns on each of the shiny sides of the CDs. Hang in your Christmas tree, or outside in a fruit tree (birds hate them), or you can use several of them to construct a mobile to put in a sunny room.
Make decorations out of old wire coat hangers by twisting them with pliers. A little spray paint and bits of material and beads and they look fantastic!
These festive candle holders can be used for many purposes - as table features, stair and path guides, or fence borders.
Purchase lo-ball glasses from your local op shop (these cost around $2 for six), or you can use empty jars if you wish. Five-hour tea lights are $2 for 12 at Woolworths and can be found even more cheaply at discount stores. Clear Christmas stickers or decorations such as bells, presents and so on will cost you no more than $2 for six; tinsel in festive colours is available at $2 for 2-10 metres, depending on the type and where you buy it.
Tie tinsel around the base of a glass or jar. Stick stickers or decoration to the outside of the glass and pop tea light inside. When finished, light with a barbecue lighter.
These simple, pretty lights will cost you about $1 each - even less if you recycle old jars and buy tinsel and stickers in bulk.
Collect gumnuts and other native bits and pieces. Spray paint in gold (you can find this paint in junk shops for $2). Place in a wooden bowl or on a coloured paper plate.
I take great pleasure in making decorations for my Christmas tree. I paint the tips of pine cones with white, silver or gold paint using craft paints and a paint brush from a craft shop. Then I sprinkle silver or gold glitter on the wet paint. I attach wire to the top of each pine cone and hang it on the tree. I also hang personalised baubles on my Christmas tree for each member of my family. I buy foam balls of any size from Spotlight, write their names on the balls using a silver metallic pen, and stick stickers with a Christmas theme and silver stars on the balls. Finally, I tie a ribbon around the balls and then a bow on top with a loop to hang them on the tree.
When my grandchildren were young, I hung miniature felt Christmas stockings on the Christmas tree. Each stocking had the name of a grandchild, and contained $1 or $2. These personal touches make our Christmas night even more special.
Make pompoms out of tulle ribbon (quite inexpensive from Spotlight) and hang on the tree. Just cut out two donut circles from cardboard, place together, wind the tulle around and through the hole until full, cut through the two donuts and tie together with string.
Cheap food doesn't have to look cheap. So we have asked for help from Sophie Gray, author of the range of 'Destitute Gourmet' cookbooks. She has put together a fantastic group of recipes so you can impress six people for $60 on Christmas day with a gourmet feast. Yummy!
Sophie is a former chef and a bit of a food snob. She loves good food and when they hit hard times she refused to lower her food standards. So she became creative and developed a large range of recipes for her family to fit their tiny budget. These recipes have turned into three cookbooks called Stunning food from small change, Everyday smart food for the family and More stunning food from small change.
If you've never seen a 'Destitute Gourmet' cookbook, go down to your local bookstore immediately - they're amazing!
Sciaciatta is a type of Italian flat bread, pressed down with the fingers. This creates air holes in the bread making it great for dunking. This quantity makes 2 large or 4 smaller loaves. Serve it warm, cut into fingers, with a selection of dips, olives, cheeses or whatever else takes your fancy.
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp dried yeast
6 cups plain flour
2 tbsp rosemary, chopped
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp coarse salt
Handful of small rosemary sprigs
In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in the 1/2 cup of warm water, sprinkle on the yeast and set aside until frothy.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, chopped rosemary and oil.
When the yeast mixture is frothy, add to the flour and stir in, along with the 2 cups of warm water.
Stir the mixture to form a soft dough and turn it on to the bench, adding more flour if needed, kneading until smooth and springy.
Place dough into a clean greased bowl, cover with cling film and microwave on low power for 1 minute. Rest the dough for 10 minutes then repeat. After the second rest the dough should have doubled in size. (Alternatively set aside in a warm place until doubled in size.)
Punch the dough down, knead lightly and divide into two pieces. Roll and stretch the dough into two large oblongs and transfer to baking sheets. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse salt and scatter with small rosemary sprigs. Use fingertips to create dimples all over the surface of the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 20-30 minutes. The bread should be golden and sound hollow when tapped. Cut into strips and serve with a selection of dips.
1 carrot, grated
1 apple, grated
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Handful of sultanas
Handful of chopped walnuts
Sprinkle of sesame seeds
Mix all the ingredients together and serve.
This dish makes an excellent special occasion meal. Serve it hot in thick slices with roast vegetables or the carrot and apple salad and chutney. It has a lovely savoury flavour that appeals to diners of all ages which makes it a good choice for family get-togethers.
2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 slices bread
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp mustard powder or wholegrain mustard
1-2 tsp dried sage
500 g pork mince
4-6 rashers of bacon with the rind removed
Pre-heat oven to 200°C.
Sauté the onions and garlic in the oil till soft and set aside.
In a large bowl, tear the bread slices into pieces and add the egg, salt, pepper, milk, mustard and sage, onions and garlic. Mix with a fork till soft and mushy.
Stir in the pork mince.
Lay a sheet of foil on the bench and arrange the bacon rashers side by side. Scoop the pork mixture along the middle of the bacon row and shape it into a log.
Lift the sides of the foil and wrap them around the log so the bacon encloses the sides of the 'loaf' but not the bottom. Shape into a loaf by smoothing the sides (with the foil still wrapped around). Place in a shallow baking dish and remove foil. (The foil is only to help wrap the bacon around the loaf and shape it. Wash the foil carefully and reuse it for something else.) Bake the loaf at 200°C for 40 minutes or until juices run clear when pierced with a fork.
This is totally delicious served hot in slices with roast vegetables and, when cold, sliced very thin it makes excellent sandwiches!
For guests you could shape little individual loaves and place a cross of bacon rashers on the top - remember to adjust the cooking time.
These little tartlets are great with coffee, making a good alternative to mince pies during the festive season (something to offer all those weird people who don't like fruit mince). We enjoy them as an easy dinner party dessert - three little warmed tartlets per serve, dusted with icing sugar and served with French vanilla ice cream. Or just keep them in a tin for when you fancy a little something scrumptious to get you through the afternoon.
Makes 36 mini tartlets
1 quantity sweet shortcrust pastry - see recipe below
75 g butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecan nuts
Pre-heat oven to 200°C.
Line mini-muffin pans with pastry circles.
In a small saucepan melt together the butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Allow the filling to cool slightly before whisking in the egg.
Place spoonfuls of filling in cases and decorate with a pecan nut. Bake for 10 minutes or until cooked - the filling will bubble. Remove from tins while hot and cool on a rack. Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream.
This will also work in a traditional 12-cup pan for Christmas mince pies but will not give a good result if made as a large tart - it is too brittle.
1 heaped cup of plain flour
100 g butter cut into cubes
1 dessertspoon sugar
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup of cold water
Put flour and butter into food processor and pulse until fine crumbs form. Or place flour and butter in a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips.
Add sugar, egg yolk, salt and water and pulse until just combined or, if making by hand, stir in the ingredients and water using a bread and butter knife until the pastry just holds together. Add more water if required to form the mixture into a soft dough. Mix or handle the pastry as little as possible as 'overworking' results in a tough, sometimes greasy pastry.
Wrap the pastry in paper or cling film and rest it in the fridge for half an hour before rolling out.
Several years ago we ran a competition that asked people about their Christmas cake traditions. The results were a total surprise. Literally hundreds of the respondents admitted to buying, receiving or baking Christmas cakes every year religiously when not a single member of the household actually liked Christmas cake. This prompted me to develop a recipe to use up all that Christmas cake in a way that retained the spicy, festive qualities but had none of the cloying heaviness that people seemed to object to so strongly. The result can be made easily and quickly and is simply delicious.
300 g Christmas cake - bought or homemade
2 tbsp of spirits such as brandy or rum, or alternatively use orange juice
2 litre tub of store bought French vanilla ice cream
Strawberries and Hershey's kisses to decorate
Line a metal loaf tin with sufficient plastic cling film to completely line the tin and fold over the top.
Remove ice cream from freezer and allow to soften but not liquefy.
In a large bowl crumble the cake and sprinkle with the spirits or juice, turn the ice cream into the bowl and gently fold the crumbled cake through the ice cream.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and tap on the bench to fill corners. Fold excess cling film over the top and return to the freezer to re-freeze.
Before serving, slice the strawberries in half but do not remove the stalks.
To serve, turn the ice cream out of the tin onto a large serving platter, remove cling film and pile strawberry halves and Hershey's kisses along the top and the sides of the ice cream. Slice into thick slices. Alternatively, serve in slices with mixed fresh berries, berry coulis or crème anglaise.
A great hint for saving extra dollars is to find out how to make your favourite product or name brand recipe. Here are some of our subscribers' favourite copy cat recipes.
This mix equates to approximately six times the normal Jarrah tin of Chocolait.
3.5 cups Diploma dry skim milk powder
500 g box of Cadbury Drinking Chocolate
8 tbsp of coffee whitener (Coffeemate will do)
1.5 cups of Splenda (Equal powder or Nutrasweet will also do)
1 cup of sifted cocoa
Mix all ingredients together in a very large container.
Put 3 heaped teaspoons per mug (30 g) and fill with boiling water and a splash of skinny milk. For a really yummy twist, swirl a thin stream of chocolate topping around the inside of the mug before adding the hot water.
Each 30 g serve is approximately 307kj (73 calories), with 1.5g fat
For a great-tasting, quick, healthy and inexpensive breakfast, make your own egg muffins.
Fry six eggs, using egg rings (if you don't have any, check your local discount store), fry bacon if you wish and toast your muffins. Once all ingredients are cooked, assemble the muffins, including sliced cheese if you wish. Once assembled, wrap each muffin in alfoil and freeze.
In the morning, simply take the muffin from the freezer and cook in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. For an even quicker breakfast, unwrap from alfoil and wrap in paper towel. Place in microwave for at least 1 minute, depending on microwave. My kids love these for breakfast, and they only cost around 60 cents each!
My three-year-old son just loves Tiny Teddy Dippers and I used to buy one pack of six for $3.57 every week. Then I came up with the idea of buying a jar of Nutella and a packet of Tiny Teddy biscuits for $4.50, which makes around 24-30 servings and lasts him four weeks. That's a saving of $10 over a month.
50-60 cumquats or calamondins*
1 bottle gin
Make sure the fruit is clean, then prick all over with a sterilised darning needle. Pack tightly into jars (pretty, if using as gifts), covering each layer with a light cover of sugar - DON'T SMOTHER THEM. Cover all with gin. Leave for at least three months. As well as drinking the 'Cointreau', you get to eat the fruit as a delicious dessert.
* Calamondins have been masquerading as cumquats for decades. However, true cumquats can be eaten straight from the tree. I know because we have one growing in our 'citrus grove'.
Copycat recipes are fantastic for fussy teenagers and husbands. If you have a recipe that you have tried and love, please send it in to us so we can share it with other families:
We have welcomed some fantastic new sites to our Simple Savings Recommends Program this month. The Simple Savings Recommends Program includes companies that we have found to provide genuine, foolproof savings, beneficial to all Australians.
These two sites have recently been awarded our stamp of approval. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
At Priceless Pets you will find quality flea control and heartworm control products for your dog and cat at the cheapest prices in Australia! Priceless Pets is owned and operated by a veterinary surgeon with over 30 years experience and a chartered accountant with over 15 years purchasing experience. They do your comparison shopping for you whilst also ensuring the best quality and safest products for your priceless pets!
Wik Industries strive to make high quality cleaning products and pass them on to the public at extremely cheap prices. They are an Australian family owned company that has been making cleaning chemicals and detergents in Australia for nearly 40 years. Now for the very first time the public have the opportunity of purchasing these products at FACTORY DIRECT PRICES from their Factory Direct Distributors. Pay as little as one-fifth of what you are accustomed to, saving big dollars on your weekly shopping bill.
We also currently recommend the following websites:
Good value for mums who love buying designer things for their baby. They sell second-hand baby clothes, high chairs, toys, prams, etc. for half of the new retail price.
It is the best site in Australia for comparing the prices of DVDs from several online stores. They will help consumers find the best price for any DVD online.
Purchase top quality cleanskin wine for less than $10 a bottle. They test everything and only sell the best. It is the lazy way to choose high quality, cheap cases of wine.
Online bookstore with a selection of popular books for 20 to 75 percent below retail, compared with most other online stores which provide only a 10 percent discount. Great for buying presents.
To learn more about the Simple Savings Recommends Program go to:
Last month we had two help requests. Jeff B asked:
"I have met a lovely girl who I would like to impress but I don't have any money. Can you please give me some ideas for inexpensive first dates. I want it to be really special. Not just the 'dinner and movie' thing. I'm looking forward to reading your ideas."
This certainly brought out the romantic in all of you and we received some beautiful and creative dating ideas to help the cash-strapped Jeff. Here are a few of your suggestions that made us smile.
My husband and I used to buy some fish and chips or chicken and champagne and go to the beach or a park. We used to have a wonderful time. You don't have to buy expensive food or drink. Call into a drive-thru and buy one or two drinks each, instead of champagne - it doesn't matter what they are. This way you get to spend quality time together getting to know each other without lots of other people around.
We girls LOVE effort. The money spent is not an issue! A home-cooked meal with candles and music is very romantic - there are heaps of recipe suggestions in the vault, but stick with simple so you can focus on her not the food. Candles are best if scented - girls respond to aroma a lot more than men do.
I readily admit to being an old-fashioned romantic - that is, I don't like paying more on a date than I would have in the 1950s! My favourite cheap day out is finger painting (yes, you read right). Buy some cheap paints and some paper, and take your date to a romantic, quiet locale nearby (I'm a Brisbanite, so the riverside Botanical Gardens are perfect).
Once you get into it, it's a lot of fun, and plenty of laughs. Don't forget something to clean your fingers though!
For an enchanting date borrow some Christmas fairy lights and decorate a room to have a picnic in. Add a bouquet from a friend's or your own garden (mums and dads are usually good for this) and maybe take a walk afterwards.
There were just too many great dating ideas to include in the newsletter! To view other exceptional suggestions for dating go to Entertainment -> Dating in the Savings Vault.
Our next help request was from Kerry Paull who asked:
"I would like to surprise my husband with some power tools. He doesn't have any, and I don't know what I am doing. What should I shop for? Where is the smartest place to buy them? I'm afraid I'll get ripped off or buy something that will break. I would really appreciate any helpful hints about where to buy great value new or second-hand tools and what I should consider before purchasing."
Well - we asked and certainly received some great advice and hints about how, what, where and why to buy power tools. Kerry will certainly be armed with great advice thanks to your first-rate help.
If you want to buy tools for your husband, my advice is to take him shopping (don't tell him what you are doing) and listen to what he wants. Then shop around for the best price, and ask your local supplier to price match.
When thinking about buying new tools look for three letters, GMC. Not only are their products relatively cheap, but in my experience they are more than adequate for domestic jobs. I have purchased several GMC items from Bunnings or BBC and I have been quite satisfied with them. All tools come with a two-year replacement guarantee.
You can find quality tools at garage sales coordinated by executors of estates. Take a 'handy' friend to help you pick up the best bargains. You will often find items you just can't buy any more that have been handed down from a previous generation.
To get the most from your tool purchases think about what sort of work you will do with them. Most of the inexpensive ones are OK for light handyman use, but if you are building your own house you aught to aim for trade quality. These are built to operate eight hours a day, six days a week for several years. If you are looking at this end of the market, try to hire the model you are considering to test its balance, weight, etc. The best bit of advice I can give is to spend more money on the drill bits, router bits, saw blades, etc. as this will make a big difference to the quality of the work and the life of the tool and bit. Just don't misplace them like I do - it's expensive and frustrating!
My fiance is a carpenter and has found many useful tools at the Tender Centre, Everton Park, Brisbane. It opens its doors to the public every fortnight, and you can place a tender on the items that you want. There are always heaps of second-hand tools, but better yet, there is an area where you can test them out. Perhaps you could take a friend with you who knows about tools to try them out for you.
Some of the suggestions were really detailed. For these and more tool talk check out the hints at House -> Tools -> in the Savings Vault.
This month we had a great request from Caroline Shaw.
"I found a great site called www.made-in-china.com where you can buy goods direct from the factory, but I'm too scared to try them. Has anyone ever tried buying goods direct from China? How did it go? Are there any companies or sites you would recommend. Many, many thanks."
If you can help Caroline, submit your suggestions at: www.simplesavings.com.au/donatehints
Just scanning the Savings Vault I have discovered how to save a fortune on everything - in my first month I saved about $150!
Every pay day before I leave the house I pay all my bills online through Bpay. Best of all Bpay is free. I can then go shopping for myself, my husband or my children without having to make sure I keep money aside for those pesky bills.
I have also discovered Coles online. With two young children it's hectic going grocery shopping, not to mention the extra money I spend buying things to keep my two-year-old quiet. For a small delivery charge, they deliver right to your door, and have mobile eftpos.
The Savings Vault is our paid members area. It costs $47 per year and it is chock full of saving hints (over 5,600 now!). To give you an idea of how many topics the Savings Vault covers, here is a link to the preview page: http://www.simplesavings.com.au/vault/?preview=1
If you have encountered a problem with our newsletter, please email me. I will give your comments immediate attention.
© 2004 AL Consulting Pty Ltd. This publication may be freely redistributed if copied in its entirety. Portions of this newsletter may be reprinted with written permission.