This issue includes:-
How are you doing? It has been a very special month. For the first time ever the Simple Savings team have met each other in the flesh. Most of the time we chat on the phone and by email, but had never seen each other. It took planning, co-ordination and was absolutely fantastic. Wow! What a month.
Thank you for your help and your support. All the girls and I absolutely love what we do and emails like these make us grin from ear to ear:
"I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has provided such great and affordable ideas to make life that bit more manageable. I am a single woman currently building a home on her own. Although I was skeptical to begin with, I now find myself directing complete strangers in the supermarket to your website. I have barely skimmed the edges of the Vault and find myself reading for hours on end. I have already earned my membership fee back in my first bargain purchase. To avoid that huge first shopping bill when moving into a new home, I have started collecting things now and have purchased most of the necessities in bulk. I have enough cleaning products for the next year and it only cost me $113. This alone without my other savings will drastically reduce my regular shopping costs. I just hope that I can contribute with a bargain discovery of my own in the near future. Keep up the good work. I wish I had discovered you sooner." (Rikki Williams)
"I just want to say thanks for all the great tips in the weekly newsletter. I read and have applied the 'one more' principle. Since doing this in my laundry I have used less washing liquid and my clothes are cleaned the same. I always just tipped liquid into my washing machine without measuring it, since reading the 'one more' principle I use only the recommended amount. I have saved myself approximately $20 in laundry liquid, which is much better in my hands than the department store's cash register, especially as we are saving to buy our first house. All this in about two months. So thank you for all the wonderful hints and tips." (Vickie Anderson)
The world is a great place!
PS. This is a free newsletter to help people get moving in the right direction. Its main limitation is size. We try to keep it down to 10 pages each month so we don't bog down people's email boxes. This means there is a lot of information you are missing. As a free subscriber you have to hope we cover topics that are relevant to you. As a Vault member you can browse through 7,500 hints at any time of the day or night.
This means Vault members have the advantage. They have access to extra information. 2,500 pages of it. It is much easier for Vault members to live within their means and get ahead. If you want to keep more of your cash I recomend buying a Saving Vault membership straight away. If you don't have the money now, get yourself a $2 money tin and start putting away $2 a day so this time next month you will be able to buy a membership. Then you can move ahead in leaps and bounds.
To order a membership go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/order
"Another Christmas card?" smiled Happy Hanna, as she spotted Sad Sally greedily clutching an envelope to her chest. "Nope - it's my new plastic!" Sally beamed. "It arrived in the mail this morning - just in time! Now I can get all my Christmas presents without worrying about the price."
Hanna gulped audibly.
"I'm going to ignore that Hanna! Really - some days you are as bad as Peter," Sally tutted. "If the banks are prepared to give me money, I am obliged to spend it. Think of all the presents I can buy now! My kids are going to be so impressed. Now don't look like that!" she defended herself, seeing Hanna's disturbed expression. "They will be impressed. They love me when I buy cool gifts."
Hanna smiled politely.
"Don't you start that again - you're not going to make me feel guilty this time. It's Christmas! The best time of year to buy up big, and I love being able to afford a huge splurge."
Hanna raised her eyebrows and caught sight of the scissors on her desk.
"Don't even think about it! I'm not cutting it up. It's mine, mine, mine. They sent it to me."
Hanna looked from the scissors to Sally and back again.
There was a very long pause before Sally answered "No! I'm going shopping and I'm going to darn well enjoy it! Now leave me alone," before stashing the new card safely in her bag, huffing loudly and heading out the door for some retail therapy.
Who are you most like, Sally or Hanna? Who would you rather be?
Sad Sally isn't the only one who goes a little loopy with the cash at Christmas. I used to do it, but have stopped myself by changing the way I look at gifts.
I retrained myself by referring to items as clutter. It is easy to escape Toys R Us with my wallet intact when I look around the store and say to myself, 'Wow. That is expensive clutter!'
Time is very valuable. Hand made gifts show that you think the person is important enough to make time for them. It is a handy coincidence that making gifts is also a lot cheaper than buying them.
Gift vouchers are usually very poor value for money. It shows that you know so little about the person, you had to buy them a gift voucher. The only time this isn't true is when the person really wants a gift voucher. For example, the person may have very little money and you will be giving them the freedom to buy something special for themselves they would otherwise be unable to.
At Christmas four years ago, I was pushed for time and unable to leave the house. So I tried buying my gifts online for the first time. I shopped around and worked out how to get really good gifts for very little money. My favourite companies are:-
The websites are a little hard to navigate, so ask them to post (snail mail) you a catalogue. All the gifts or the items needed to make gifts arrive by post. It is fast, easy and of course, cheap.
We all know the old saying 'it's the thought that counts'. Well, it is true! The best way to show someone you really care about them is to spend time making them something. Working out just what to make can be challenging. Here are some great ideas to get you started.
Last Christmas, instead of buying everyone gifts, I bought some small gift boxes for $2 each at cheap stores and baked mini puddings and mini rum balls (I made heaps from one recipe), which I put in the boxes. I tied them with a length of curling ribbon to make them look attractive. Everyone loved the goodies inside, and the maximum cost was $20 for at least six boxes. I will definitely be doing this again this year. It will probably become a tradition - and why not?
A friend gave a 'Useful Box' to my children one year for Christmas. I found it saved me heaps over the year, as well as settling the argument of 'can't do my homework as I left the pen etc. at school'.
In a decorated shoe box she put an assortment of pens, pencils (black lead and coloured), a ruler, an eraser, a sharpener, a compass, a glue pen and a whiteout pen, and put the child's name together with 'Useful Box' on it. As it was so successful with my children, I have used the idea many times for other children. If I buy during sales or on 10-20% off days it works out an inexpensive and welcome gift.
Christmas puddings are great to give as Christmas presents to loved ones. I make a few and wrap them in calico with a ribbon. The recipients love getting them as a personal gift. I also adapt the idea for couples by mixing the recipe and instead of cooking on a cloth/basin I grease teacups and 3/4 fill them with the mixture, cover with alfoil and place in frying pan with water and cook with the lid on until done. They cook quicker than a large pudding and are perfect sizes for individual serves. If I am giving them to a couple I wrap them in cellophane with a lovely gold ribbon and none of the pudding is wasted.
A cheap Christmas gift to make, especially if you have grand children, is playdough. This simple and cheap recipe makes heaps of playdough. I have done this and put it in an ice cream container we decorated ourselves. You can make any colour and it's non toxic. Kids of all ages love it, and even adults can't resist having a go!! You would be surprised at who will play with playdough, maybe have a competition for one of your afternoons to see who can make the best figurine, animal... let their imaginations come into play!
2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt
1 tblsp cream of tartar
2 tblsp cooking oil
2 cups boiling water
1 - 2 tsp food colour
At Christmas time, you can also add glitter to the playdough for a festive touch!
Here is a cheap and delicious way to save on a really fantastic gift idea for Christmas, Tia Maria liqueur!
One cup (250ml) sugar
One cup (250ml) hot water
Four heaped teaspoons instant coffee
One dessertspoon vanilla essence
One cup (250ml) of rum
Dissolve sugar and instant coffee in hot water, then add vanilla. Allow to cool, then add rum. Stand for a week before using. Looks great in a colourful bottle with a pretty ribbon, makes a wonderful gift!
Here are some more favourite homemade gift ideas from the vault:
The 2006 calendar is a gift from me to you to say "Thank you" for all your support. "Thank you" for buying Vault memberships. "Thank you" for everything. I hope you like it. Three of us have been working on it and it is still not quite ready. We got a little carried away celebrating, but it is on its way and should be complete next week. Watch out for the announcement.
A postcard from Penny! Apologies for the longer-than-usual gap between blog entries. Rest assured I am not resting on my laurels with this money saving lark - on the contrary, the Wise clan have hit Australian shores and I am learning the Simple Savings philosophy from the Miser Extraordinaire herself! At this very moment I am sitting in the Simple Savings office at Fiona's computer, where it all happens, as she has kindly let me pinch it to write my blog.
It's a pretty amazing place to be, hanging out with Fiona, Matt and their two beautiful children and meeting the rest of the Simple Savings team. Naomi, who many of you will know from sending in your emails, is here with her adorable girls and all the children are having a ball getting to know one another. Noel, Liam and Ali are in their element down at the lake, swimming and fishing and playing cricket on the back lawn, spending some quality family time together without Noel's incessant work mobile constantly encroaching on their 'father and son time'. I had the pleasure of meeting Debbie Eustace, who many of you will have seen on television talking about Simple Savings, Steve Panozzo, the fantastic cartoonist who brought Sad Sally and Happy Hanna to life and the resident Simple Savings homeopath, Fran Sheffield.
It was wonderful to meet Fran in person, as our family has so much to thank her for. Fiona just asked me how my 'lump' has been and would you believe I had forgotten all about it? Since I had a consultation with Fran and began taking my own remedy a few weeks ago, the pain has completely disappeared and the lump has gone. I'm serious!
It was unfortunate timing that on this important day where I was due to meet all the key people behind Simple Savings, I was also nursing a hangover of catastrophic proportions, but thanks to Fiona I learned there is even a homeopathic remedy for that! Just one dose and I was back on the planet - now that stuff is priceless!
One of our first missions was to head to Aldi, which unfortunately has yet to reach New Zealand. It was certainly an experience! I couldn't believe I was trailing around one of the places I had heard and read so much about from Simple Savings and watching Australia's most famous frugal shopper at work! What I have noticed most about my visit so far is that Fiona and her family are 100% real - they don't just preach the Simple Savings philosophy, they live it. I have learned heaps from watching Fiona bake and create amazing meals from things I have never even thought of. I was delighted to find the all-important vinegar spray on top of the kitchen bench, the bicarb soda and the blender which receives all the food scraps so that Jacqui and Sam can trot out and help feed the worms. The family has no television, which I thought would be a problem when my boys came to visit, but they're so busy doing other things that they don't even notice! It's just too much fun playing outside and they look wonderfully healthy for it. The Lippey vegetable garden is thriving and the plots are all mulched (though Matt doesn't recommend using oat straw for mulching!)
Spending this time with the Simple Savings team has shown me that life really can be idyllic. We are all here enjoying the simple pleasures, living proof that life really can be amazingly simple, yet you can have everything you need and want for nothing - it really puts your everyday wants and needs into perspective. I can't wait to get back and start feeding some worms of my own!
Penny's Blog is a special treat for Vault members and is updated a couple of times a week. It is so much fun; we are making at least one full entry a month available to everyone. You can read it by going to: www.simplesavings.com.au/pennywise
Fiona's Note: I thought you might like an explanation of the oat straw comment above: Last month we were conducting experiments looking for the best value garden mulch (price versus quality). The winner was, of course, the free eucalyptus mulch mentioned in last month's newsletter. We also tried sugar cane mulch on sale at $11.00 per bale. It worked well but was too expensive. Then we tried oat hay at $7.00 per bale. It was a disaster. We have oat grass sprouting everywhere and had to remove it from our vegie gardens to somewhere we don't mind oats growing.
This month I was more grateful to Fran than ever. Poor Miss Jacqueline broke her arm falling off the slippery dip and I discovered how quickly the remedies can relieve pain and speed up healing. After we had a diagnosis and her arm was in plaster, I called Fran for her advice, then checked the remedy with my GP. She was in real pain, then within five minutes of having a remedy she was her happy self again. It was so fast it is hard to believe.
It is so easy compared to the expense and drama when Sam broke his collar bone last year. The right remedy makes being a mum easy. This month Fran tells us how homeopathic remedies can heal very serious injuries. The stories in Fran's case studies are real, only the names are changed.
To read the latest go to: http://homeopathyplus.com.au/cases/fractures.html
It is important to note that Fran is a registered Nurse, mid-wife, AHA homeopath and has a Masters degree in Health Science Education. As a nurse she still works in ICU.
Why are stories about homeopathy included in the Simple Savings Newsletters? Because homeopathy is a cost-effective way to reduce your medical bills and keep your family healthy. Homeopathy is a system of medicine that works with your body rather than against it. As the underlying imbalance is corrected, symptoms disappear and so does the need for all those expensive medicines. Good health leads to big savings! Homeopathy is safe at any stage of life and is free from toxic side-effects.
Homeopathic remedies are very powerful and choosing the right remedy can be extremely difficult. So when choosing a homeopath it is important to make sure they meet the minimum standards set by the Australian government. It is sad but true that some who prescribe homeopathic remedies have had little or no training in homeopathy. To check that your practitioner is qualified to government endorsed standards, go to: http://www.homeopathyoz.org or http://www.aroh.com.au
The latest addition to Simple Savings Recommends may be just the thing to help you save money on your favourite Christmas tipple! The Simple Savings Recommends Program includes companies that we have found to provide genuine savings, beneficial to all Australians. The site below has recently been awarded our stamp of approval.
With Wine Robot, you can shop around for the most competitive prices. They provide a free service which helps you locate the best prices for the wine you want. Wine Robot searches the stores for you and lets you compare the prices on up to 10,000 wines. Once they find you the best price on the wine of your choice, you are given a list of suppliers spread across the country. You can search by name, type of wine, region or year it was made - and of course the price!
There were some wonderful responses to both our help requests from last month's newsletter.
Last month Shirley Edwards asked:
"I am hoping that members of the Savings Vault can help me save on batteries that are an essential part of our budget. I have two cochlear implants that take 3 of 675 cochlear implant batteries and they last only 3 days. On an average it is $6 or more per packet of 6, or $55 per box of 60. Do any readers know of where I can order, on a regular basis, cochlear implant batteries for a cheaper price?"
Save money on hearing aid batteries by using Zinc Air types instead of Silver Oxide. I have used many types of hearing aid batteries over the years and have the following experience of them that may help save money. If you use the Silver Oxide batteries, they last only a few days, but they are cheap to buy. If you buy the Zinc Air Activated batteries, they are a little more expensive but last a lot longer. When I first got an aid it used 675 Silver Oxide batteries and I was getting three to five days' use from them. I then found out about the Zinc Air Activated type and started getting two to three weeks out of them. These batteries have a small sticker over the back (+) of the battery that covers some pin prick size holes in the casing of the battery. When the sticker is peeled off, air gets in and activates the battery, thus the batteries remain fully charged until you peel the sticker off. Silver Oxide batteries have a short shelf life in comparison and are on the way down from the moment they are produced. I can highly recommend going to a high profile pharmacy (high turnover) and getting a packet of Zinc Air batteries to try. Activair is one brand that springs to mind. If they work, you may be able to see an Audiologist about them, as you should get a better discount on them if you buy in bulk.
Don't miss out on a Disability Support Pension if you are eligible. This is not well known, but if you inform Centrelink of your circumstances you may qualify for a Disability Support Pension. With your DSP Card (like a Health Care Card) you are eligible for large discounts on items such as hearing aid batteries.
Contact the Deaf Society in your state. You can become a member and this may help you get batteries at a cheaper price.
For a small yearly fee you can get discounted batteries and stacks of help from 'Better Hearing Australia'. There are offices scattered all over Australia. The URL is: www.betterhearing.org.au
And Shelly Cross asked:
"What do people do for celebrations? i.e. you've just saved money, or got a bonus from work etc. What are the ways in which you can treat yourself to a celebration without then blowing what you've carefully saved for? Thanks - and keep up the good savings efforts everyone - it's an inspiration!"
We treat ourselves without blowing the budget by going on a winery tour (we drive ourselves so that we don't have to pay for the tour - but the driver does not swallow all the samples, so they are not over the limit). We get to sample the wines and we purchase the wines that we like. This works for us as we know that we like the wine we have bought, so we are not wasting money. We have a great day out sampling and enjoy taking our new bottle when we go out to a BYO restaurant.
When we feel like celebrating or doing something special but don't want to blow the budget, we take a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers down by the river and watch the boats go by in the late afternoon. We keep a picnic rug in the car boot for these special occasions. It's very romantic and costs little.
It's surprising how easily you can turn your home into a place of celebration. If I want to celebrate something with my husband, or just go on a 'date' with him, I will whip out our camping table, set it up in a nice spot in our home, decorate the table and put out our best dinnerware, light candles, turn on some nice music and cook up a lovely meal. Be inventive, surprise people! Sometimes a surprise can be the biggest part of the celebration. For example, for my sister's birthday, she asked me to buy her a voucher for a massage. I am only recently married so the budget is tight and we just couldn't afford it. So, we went and bought a quality moisturiser ($8.00) and a plastic turtle massager (around $3.00). We then typed up a funny poem for her, included a business card with her husband's photo and 'Personal Masseuse' on it, and a list of instructions for an excellent massage. She loved it, and she got a massage from her husband and they were able to spend quality time together also!
Dinner parties are also excellent ways to celebrate and you don't have to spend a fortune - let your friends be a part of the celebration and get them to bring a dish along so that everyone contributes equally. Even more fun is to have a theme, so that everyone has to cook and dress to fit in with that theme. For my 21st party, I had an 'Australian Animal' theme, and everyone had to make a costume that cost less than $5.00, and a little prize was given to the person with the best costume. It was an absolute ball to see what people had managed to come up with!
You don't have to travel far to enjoy a cheap 'resort' style holiday. We're taking our caravan to a 4.5 star caravan park with a resort style pool and other great facilities for a few days. Our friends (on a very tight budget) are taking a cabin (air conditioned, two bedrooms) at the same place, so we can have a joint celebration. It's costing only a couple of hundred dollars and we will enjoy ourselves just as much if we'd spent thousands flying overseas.
I am always prepared for celebrations by putting away small amounts of money several months before, as well as storing non-perishable goods (soft drinks, chips, lollies) bought on special. I store home made goodies in my freezer. You can make your own invitations and decorations, such as streamers out of cheap crepe paper. Popcorn is another cheap party food which is quick and easy. At Christmas our family members share the load by each bringing something to contribute to the day's food and drink. Much cheaper and less stressful.
For couples, sharing a candlelit bath, with soft music playing is a lovely way to spend time together. For a group of friends, a communal dinner is a fantastic way to enjoy time together, with no one having to spend a fortune. Each person brings a dish or course. The more friends, the greater the variety, and you get to try out each others' cooking.
Movie nights are a low cost evening too; each guest brings their favourite video or DVD and a snack, and you all get to see what the others like.
Don't leave sleepovers just for the kids! They are great fun for adults too. For the girls, get a group of friends together and give yourselves makeovers, just like you used to when you were teenagers (there are some things we just SHOULDN'T grow out of)!
It doesn't have to cost much to celebrate and enjoy each others' company. I find dinner for a few friends at my house is a great way of celebrating. Cooking a large meal like spaghetti bolognaise is fairly inexpensive and can be made more special by making your own garlic bread and salad to go with it. A bottle or two of Cleanskins wine ($6.00 each) and fab conversation really is a rewarding experience.
Our family of five has lots of 'mini' ways of celebrating during the year. Sometimes on birthdays, we have an 'upside down dinner' where we all have dessert first and then eat what we can of the main meal next. The kids love to do this and it feels special and costs little. Banana splits are great for this as they get a little fruit, a little ice cream and topping and crushed nuts plus whatever else you want to afford. The kids love making them. Home made ice cream cakes for a birthday are simple. Get a two or four litre tub of your favourite ice cream and take it out of the tub. Decorate all over with Smarties or lollies for kids, then store in freezer until ready. For adults, you can melt the ice cream slightly and mix in frozen berries and crushed Pavlova or marshmallows, Oreos, Violet Crumbles or whatever you choose!
My husband and I celebrate by having a quiet time in the house - filling the room we choose to use with candles (all cautions in place), putting on our favourite music and having a drink or takeaway. When we get Chinese takeaway we always steam our own rice and just get one or two main courses.
For family celebrations, we save up the cheapie coupons, use them to rent a DVD and hold family movie and pizza nights with home made popcorn. We paid about $15 for a popcorn maker and have made great savings in the long run. We can make popcorn and eat it plain, with butter or caramel topping. It only costs a few cents for a huge bowl and is great on rainy days. We have great picnics in unusual locations to provide a little celebration; such as a picnic in the lounge room on a rainy day, on a mountain top at sunset, pancake picnics at the park early Sunday mornings - we even had an historical picnic at the cemetery (which the boys loved!) Our celebrations may be small but they hold many great memories.
This month Sharon Williams has asked:
"We have seven children aged from 14 down to 11 months and taking holidays has become a problem. Most units have a limit of 5, 6 or 7 people and renting two adjoining units is way too expensive.
"The girls are interested in horse riding so we looked into farm stays. We found it could cost a family our size $900 per night! I could buy the girls a horse for that!! Recently we borrowed a friend's onsite-caravan and annex. It was a pretty tight squeeze but we spent most of our days at the beach so it didn't matter that things were rather cozy in the evenings. Even then though, the caravan park insisted we pay for the adjoining tent site as there are too many of us to be in one site according to their regulations. We dutifully set up the tent and used it to store bits and pieces. I contacted RACQ and they obliged by writing an article in their magazine. Unfortunately most of their suggestions were not very helpful. Their idea of a 'large' family and mine differ by about 4 children :-) If anyone has any ideas of interesting and affordable places that a family like ours could stay we'd be grateful. We don't mind camping or caravanning. We love the beach and bushwalking."
If you would like to help Sharon go to www.simplesavings.com.au/donatehints