This issue includes:-
Wow. The 2006 Calendar has been a hit. I'm so glad you liked it. We really put a lot of thought and effort into it.
"The calendar is fabulous! Inspiring, practical and pedagogical. Well done to the team. I have decided to switch to a quality of life option - work less and study which will give me some time with the family and fulfill a deep desire. There will be some juggling, but I am determined that we will be able to live well on my reduced income and that at the end of the 18 months, we will be a happier, less money-driven family. The calendar will be a great starting place. God bless you all. I will be sending the email link to many friends." (Nayia Audras)
Everything else is going well here. No broken bones this month. Sam and Jacqui have been helping me bake sponge cakes. They are so cute; the moment they hear the electric beater, they start hovering around the kitchen, waiting for the bowl. The bowl is almost as big as Jacqueline!
Thank you for your help this year!
"One of the best gifts you can give at Christmas time is a Membership to Simple Savings. My stepmother bought me a membership last year and it was one of the most helpful, useful, entertaining gifts I have ever received. It has made my life so much more enriched, I have more money saved in my account than I have ever had and everything in general seems just that little bit easier in this fast paced world! I know that if I have a question or need help with something, guaranteed I can find it among the fantastic hints. Make up a folder (display folders can be purchased for under $2.00 in any supermarket or budget store like Go-Lo). Print out some relevant helpful hints and "Free Stuff" or "Budget Planners" for your friend/family member or get really creative and make up a personalised scrapbook. Include a membership for the year and I guarantee your friend/family member will be thanking you too for this very thoughtful gift." (Leah Greig)
"I joined yesterday and was just now going through newsletter archives. I was grinning by the time I finished reading 'Reducing Travel Time' in the August edition - it sounded like you knew us!!
"My DH (darling husband) has just done this; he was leaving at 6am and returning at 7pm, on a good day. He quit his job to find something closer to home (he had no time to find a job while still employed). He started last week with a new company and now leaves home at 7am, returning at 6pm - that's an extra 10 hours a week for me and our 2 and 3 year olds! Yes, he took a pay cut of $8000, but as your story says - in real terms we haven't lost anything.
"Let people know it's not just a story - We did it!!" (Narelle Bogwitz)
"Love your site, so interesting and so much to read and try. I will have to live forever! I have always wanted to travel to Antarctica on holiday and have saved hard and will now be fulfilling my dreams and am off for 25 days on 8th December - I've never been an extravagant person and spend most of my year making toys for the Salvos, beds for the Animal Welfare League or rag dolls for DOCS, so I deserve it! Have a Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year; think of me on top of a glacier with my bargain bucket thermal underwear and Warehouse thick socks, and gum boots again from a bargain bucket - you have taught us all well, keep up the good work." (Marlene Harris)
"For the whole year, Roger and I couldn't begin to express our gratitude for your website. Christmas is coming and we have no worries for all Christmas expenses. Since we returned from our big holiday last March (Philippines for eight weeks and Singapore for a week) - made possible because of those bits of savings in everything, we have been saving all our spare coins every day and we just counted them, amounting to $978.15. Isn't that amazing! Thanks a bunch! Your website is THE BEST IN THE WHOLE WORLD!" (Mell Aganon)
"I just wanted to send a message to thank you for a wonderful website! I joined up a few weeks ago and I love reading all the hints in the Vault! I still have my 'L' plates on, as there is a lot of information to take in!!! (which is wonderful!!) I have made changes to my shopping habits, and so appreciate the tips I have learned from you.
"My husband and I have been married a year now and plan on starting a family very soon. I work part time now, my husband full time, but we would love it if I didn't have to go back to work in those first few years. I now feel we have a chance of making that happen! Thank you for providing the information to help me feel more in control, instead of worrying about our finances! It has made such a big difference!
"My congratulations go to Penny too for her great blog. It is fun to read, honest and she provides great practical applications of what she reads in Simple Savings." (Donna Lees)
"I have found Simple Savings a godsend. I have changed my shopping habits completely. I spent $108.09 back in August (when I discovered Simple Savings) on bulk goods, laundry powder, vinegar, sugar soap, wash up detergent, liquid hand wash, shampoo and conditioner and a crystal deodorant stick and I have not had to spend another cent on these items since (now December). I have also shopped around for car insurance and saved $130 a year by searching the Internet. I have also changed my Internet and phone providers and am saving myself up to $90 a month. We have just had a week's holiday with the savings we have made. Thank you, what a great service!" (Lucy Bennett)
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
"Merry Christmas darling!" beamed Sally, as she sashayed into the living room, resplendent in her new designer dress, and planted a kiss on her husband's cheek. "Wow! You look fantastic!" admired Peter. "Is it new?"
"What, this old thing? I've had it ages! Honestly, you men have no idea", Sally mumbled, steering the subject away from her latest splurge and smiling brightly. "Isn't it lovely to see the kids enjoying themselves? Kids! Come here and show Dad what Santa brought you!" she yelled.
"Hmph, how come he gets all the credit?" Peter mumbled out of the corner of his mouth. "Wow, Santa was good to you guys this year wasn't he?" he smiled at the children, both struggling with their armloads of gifts. "Let's take a look at them". "Hang on Dad, we have to go get the rest!" the children shouted as they headed back to their rooms.
"You mean there's more?" Pete looked at his wife in amazement. "Don't you think you went a little overboard?" "Of course not!" Sally defended herself. "I bought them in the sales." Which wasn't exactly true, but over the years she found it easier to lie when quizzed about her spending.
"Really Sal, how on earth did we afford all this - and everything else for today?" Peter looked around unconvinced. "Er, the boss gave me a nice bonus for Christmas, didn't I tell you?" Sally waved him away. "Oh come on Pete, don't look so suspicious! We deserve a few treats darling, after all our hard work this year, just enjoy". She's right, thought Peter; it has been a hard year, so full of debt - perhaps she really is learning, maybe we are on top of our bills at last. What a great Christmas present that would be. "Sorry love, you've done a great job", he smiled kindly.
Phew, that was close! Sally breathed a sigh of relief as she watched her husband playing with the children. He doesn't ever need to know about that credit card! It was worth it to see everyone so happy. Now I've got everything under control, I'll cut it up tomorrow. Merry Christmas Sal!
Who are you most like, Sally or Hanna? Who would you rather be?
Poor Pete works so hard to get ahead, only to be sabotaged by Sally. I feel really sorry for him. Sally really doesn't mean to do it - she just doesn't understand that buying expensive gifts puts unnecessary pressure on you and your loved ones at Christmas time. It is pretty silly. There are much smarter ways you can show how much you care!
One of my favourite sayings is: "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for life." Helping a friend to learn how to save money is much more valuable than giving them money. When Matt and I were struggling with no money, we went to our flatmate for help. Instead of giving us money, she shared her knowledge. That knowledge turned our lives around and it was the best thing she could have done for us. Giving the gift of knowledge is easy. Everything you need to share is in the Savings Vault!
Print out one of our 'Habit Changing' Calendars, then go to the newsagents and get a plastic binder. Wrap up the whole bundle with a beautiful note and a bow asking them if they would like to embark on a habit changing journey with you.
Print out some 'I promise to...' vouchers. Nothing shows a person how much you care for them like scrubbing their toilet, or being their slave for an hour.
Print out the Bill Payment system and pop it in a folder along with some free tip sheets. Make sure you write a nice note explaining how much fun you have had at this site, so they understand how Simple Savings has made your life easier and appreciate that you wanted to share it with them. (It is important you explain you want to share the joy of having an easier life rather than letting them think you are implying they have money problems.)
$2.00 gifts on their own can look a little stingy, but you can wrap them up with some knowledge in the form of a Simple Savings tipsheet to make a great present. The tipsheets compliment presents and work well folded into a card or placed in a folder. Combining the two gifts together increases the value without breaking the budget. It will show you have put some thought into it (given them useful information) and spent some time on them (you actually went to the shop and bought something even if it is only small).
If the membership you give your friend saves them $10 per week on their grocery bill, they will be $520 better off this time next year. That is quite a gift! Remember my favourite saying? It also applies to the Savings Vault. Think of it this way - you can give someone $50 and it may relieve the pressure from one bill. Or, you can give them a Vault membership which will teach them how to keep more of their money so they won't have to stress over bills. To organise a gift membership go to www.simplesavings.com.au/order.
Part of the festive fun is letting our imaginations run wild and decorating our surroundings in our own individual Christmas style. Fantastic decorations do not have to cost a fortune. If you are stuck for creative inspiration, have a go at some of the clever ideas these members recommend for the best Christmas tree in the neighbourhood!
We make our own cheap and effective Christmas tree decorations. We collect gum nuts, pine cones and leaves. Next, we paint them and decorate them with glitter. We then drill a hole through the stems of the leaves and gum nuts and put some gold thread through. They look really impressive and cost so little!
Recycle your old bayonet style light bulbs to make free Christmas tree decorations! Just save your light bulbs when they blow and either spray paint in gold or silver (or any colour) or use glitter glue pens to decorate. Tie pretty satin ribbon on them to hang on the tree. Make sure the ribbon is nice and tight so they don't slip off and take the usual care you would with other glass decorations.
Each year I use candy canes as Christmas tree decorations and I buy a bag of coloured popcorn and the kids 'string' them on thread. We have instant colourful strands for the tree - and they are yummy to eat.
Feeding extended family and unexpected guests through the Christmas period can prove a big expense. We can always count on the Destitute Gourmet, Sophie Gray, to come up with wonderful dishes that look impressive and taste even better, without breaking the bank or chaining the poor cook to the kitchen. Try the recipe below for a Christmas pudding that doesn't have to be made until the day you want to eat it!
Pre-heat oven to 160C. Makes eight large serves.
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup castor sugar
1 egg beaten
1-3/4 cups plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped pecan nuts
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Soak the dates in the boiling water, to which the baking soda and ginger have been added. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg. Sift in dry ingredients, alternating with dates and soaking liquid. Fold in chopped pecans and vanilla essence. Turn the batter into a greased ovenproof baking dish and bake for one hour until risen and golden. Serve with whipped cream and hot brandy syrup. Hot brandy syrup: Boil 1-1/4 cups of brown sugar with a cup of water until the sugar has dissolved. Add a pinch of salt, a knob of butter and 1/4 cup brandy, stir to combine and pour over each serving.
Visit Sophie Gray's website, www.destitutegourmet.com, for more 'stunning food from small change' recipes. Once again our clever members have everything under control with more tried and true frugal festive food ideas below!
I found this recipe on the Internet because my husband doesn't like traditional Christmas pudding. It is so easy and yummy you can't go wrong!
2 litres good quality vanilla ice cream
1 plain label Christmas pudding
1/4 cup brandy
Pour brandy over pudding and allow to soak in. Crumble pudding and stir through slightly softened ice cream. Line microwave cake ring pan with plastic wrap and fill with ice cream mixture. Fold plastic wrap over top and cover with foil then put in freezer. To serve put onto serving plate and fill centre with mixed fresh berries or fruit.
6 large eggs
2 tins condensed milk
350 ml (1/2 bottle) brandy
Blend all ingredients together and chill. Serve in glasses either straight or with dry ginger ale, topped with ice cream, to make a Fluffy Duck. Or serve hot with some nutmeg - mmmm, a delicious nightcap.
Christmas can be an expensive time of year but I have learned to make savings. I buy turkey and chicken pieces instead of a whole bird. This saves time in cooking and preparing, and if you want stuffing to go with it, make it up in muffin tins.
I make my own cake instead of buying one. I soak the fruit and nuts in black tea for 24 hours and make it up as usual. I don't make a cake with more than 2 eggs in, I find it unnecessary. I pour a tablespoon of brandy or whiskey over the cake daily for 2 weeks to keep it fresh; the taste does disappear after a few days of not doing it.
Mince tarts can be made with 500g of mixed dried fruit minced up fine in a blender to go further. I make sweet shortcrust pastry and put in about 2 teaspoons for each portion, then bake for 20 mins or until golden brown.
Using these methods, I have worked out that our Christmas dinner will cost under $20 to serve ten people. We make our own beer so for $11 we have 72 bottles of beer. I buy the beer kits when they are on special. I make my own hats, sweets and table settings. The library has lots of books on the subject and most items you need can be found in op shops for a minimal cost.
Your turn! If you have a favourite 'tummy stopper' recipe, we would love to hear it! Write to us here.
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
Friday December 9th
I am really struggling with Christmas this year. For the first time ever, I have absolutely no idea what to get anyone. I was so secure in the knowledge that I couldn't touch my Christmas Club money until now, that I have given no thought to what I'm going to buy with it - and now I'm stuck! I've been doing a bit of half-hearted shopping online, which is great because I have plenty of time to think about whether I really want to buy something, whether it is really suitable for the person I am buying for and how much I am tallying up in my online shopping cart. I also have to use my credit card to shop online, which makes me give plenty of thought before putting anything on it. The problem is that I'm so stingy these days, it takes me far longer to shop because I think everything through so carefully and change my mind 20 times before finally purchasing!
I think that's part of my problem, you know. I've been keeping this blog for seven months now and have been making such a concerted effort NOT to spend any money, that now I am having trouble parting with it. I think I'm scared of undoing all the good I've done all these months, by going overboard on Christmas. Based on previous Christmases, these fears are not unfounded. Let me tell you about last Christmas - I'm really embarrassed about this and haven't told anyone else, but if there's still time to save someone else from being in the same predicament this Christmas, then it's worth me sharing!
This time last year, I was such a Sad Sally. For the two years we had been living with a mortgage, we had basically continued to live as we had done without a mortgage - and on half the income. As December approached, I tagged along Christmas shopping with Rochelle and boy did I learn a thing or two about bargain hunting! I was delighted with my purchases and felt that I had really bought wisely. Indeed I had, but it wasn't enough to make up for the months of overspending and impulse buying. Christmas morning came and I told myself that the kids wouldn't notice that Santa had been doing most of his shopping at the $2.00 shop this year instead of the pricey toys he usually sent their way. They did notice, but it wasn't a big deal - they were happy for Mum and Dad to get the credit for the larger stuff instead once we were all sat under the tree. Even Noel thought I had been a lot more sensible with my buying choices for a change.
But I had left it too late. Money worries had got a hold of me. I had been too scared to look at the bank balance for a while, but I had to know. I did my best to keep up appearances at the in-laws' festive family gathering, but by the afternoon I could bear it no more and had to nip home to check the balance online. My worst fears were confirmed - we were spending Christmas Day overdrawn by several thousand dollars. I spent the rest of the day in bouts of tears as I wondered how we were ever going to get out of debt. Noel couldn't understand why I had chosen Christmas Day of all days to check the bank balance and the rest of the family must have thought I'd drunk far too much eggnog and made myself all emotional. It was truly horrible and hard to believe it was only 12 months ago.
This year it's going to be different. No credit card debts, no 'junk', because let's put things into perspective here, Christmas is only one day! My mindset has changed beyond belief since last year. For example, a few days ago I saw the Warehouse was advertising a great price for a video/DVD player. We don't have a DVD player, but we can watch most DVDs on Liam's Playstation, which means squeezing into the boys' playroom. 'That would be perfect for Noel and I for Christmas!' I thought - until I thought again. Is it worth paying $199 just so we can watch DVDs in the lounge? Is it really such a hardship to watch DVDs in the playroom? It's a great way to enjoy family time together. No way! A year ago I would have just taken advantage of the 'bargain' and gone and bought it anyway.
My friends and family are also getting a surprise when they ask me what I want for Christmas this year. A large plastic bucket with a lid on, some small dishes for freezing individual sized meals, new baking trays - well, why not? At least they are things that I would really like and be useful. As I look around the house I cringe at all the 'must have' things I bought two or three years ago. I honestly say to myself 'What on earth was I thinking?!' I mean, as if they make a difference to anything! I spent an absolute fortune on useless dust collectors and if I never bought another thing to furnish our home it wouldn't be missed. Shame it took me more than 30 years to realise, but you're never too old to change. If this little tale doesn't show what Simple Savings has done for me, I don't know what does!
'Tis the season to be jolly, but some of us cope far better with the increase in rich food and drink than others! Thankfully, our favourite Homeopath, Fran Sheffield, shows that in this month's article, the correct remedy can combat the after effects of too much Christmas pudding or even obliterate the worst Boxing Day hangover! To prepare yourself for the festive season and read the latest, go to:
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.
When choosing a homeopath it is important to make sure they meet the minimum standards accredited 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
Our latest addition to the Simple Savings Recommends Program may be the ideal gift solution for the person who has everything! Pure essential oils are so versatile, with hundreds of beneficial uses in every drop. However, not all essential oils are equal, so we are pleased to recommend a company who can guarantee the best quality products at the right price every time. The Simple Savings Recommends Program only includes companies that we have found to provide genuine savings, beneficial to all Australians.
The site below has just been awarded our stamp of approval.
New Directions is the perfect wholesale resource for 100% pure essential oils, gift packs and related raw products. They pride themselves on excellent quality, service and highly competitive prices that you won't find anywhere else. They can tailor their impressive range to suit your individual needs, such as purchasing ready made products for gifts, or bulk buying if you are interested in producing your own home brand. They even provide you with loads of free recipes to get you started on making your own lotions and potions!
Last month Sharon Williams 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."
Sharon's request brought in a huge response from large and small families alike who have enjoyed and recommended heaps of wonderful cost-effective ideas for future holidays. Families of all sizes may find themselves getting itchy feet when they read some of the suggestions below!
You do not need to stay overnight in a hotel to have a holiday! Our family of 14 children has found the least expensive way to travel with such a large group is to take day trips within a few hours' drive from home. That way, you save on the cost of overnight lodging.
A little research between friends and co-workers about close-to-home entertainment (e.g. a couple of hours' drive away) can uncover some great ideas, such as horse riding. Many horse owners give lessons but do not advertise; they use word of mouth to get their business. A day of horse riding lessons for a group of children who take a picnic lunch packed at home will cost much less than just one overnight stay in any hotel or inn.
An ideal place for a family holiday that won't break the bank is Glenworth Valley Horse Riding at Peats Ridge on the NSW Central Coast. They have discounted rates over the school holidays for horse riding. They also offer camping sites on the property at $10 per person per night and kids under 12 camp for free, with no limit on the number of people in the camping party.
There is a toilet and small shower facility just a minute away from the site. Glenworth is only 30 minutes from the beach and there are many attractions nearby so you can do as little or as much as your budget allows. More information is available at www.glenworth.com.au
For enjoyable low cost camping holidays, the National Parks and State Forest camping areas have some great facilities, including toilets, barbecues and showers.
You can even take the dog to some State Forest campsites. State Forests are more relaxed about that kind of thing than National Parks - we have been to some lovely State Forests which are often on the edge of the National Park anyway and always less crowded!
There are many associations, community groups and Unions which offer low cost holiday accommodation. Many own their own holiday homes which are available to members. Because they are not in it to make a profit, the costs are very modest.
An example of this would be the Country Women's Association. For a small fee you can join the association and participate in morning teas, charity drives and patchwork sewing groups to name a few and become eligible to use the association's other facilities.
In WA the CWA owns a house in Busselton, which is a great holiday spot and sleeps 10. As a member of the Association you are entitled to rent the house, but it is popular so you must book in advance. Even the Union my father belongs to owns several holiday units up and down the coast which can be rented.
It is possible that other associations, such as the Lions, OB's, Kiwanis and so on may have them as well if you enquire. You can give back to the community, make new friends and enjoy the benefits of belonging to a group in return.
Swapping houses with trusted friends or family can be a great way to have a super cheap holiday. Even if it's not a traditional holiday destination, another location will still provide loads of different tourist attractions, picnic sites and things to do. Remember to establish all your ground rules (such as BYO linen and food) and don't forget to leave a small gift by way of thanks!
When looking for cheap holiday accommodation for large groups, I go to www.realestate.com.au and look up the holiday rental properties (usually whole houses). There is something there for everyone. Most houses are fully self-contained with the exception of linen and so on and can accommodate up to 10-12 people. Some even have table tennis, pool tables, and suchlike.
Select the area in which you wish to go (maybe near the beach or a riding school) the price range, and accommodation for however many, and the selection of rental properties will come up. Peak season holiday times can be at a premium, but off-peak times are sometimes half the price. I find it a good, cheaper, hassle-free way to book your holidays, as long as you plan ahead.
Enjoy comfortable holiday accommodation including breakfast for as little as $45 per night each! Many residential colleges offer their rooms and apartments as rented accommodation over the University holiday periods.
They are often in fairly central city locations, and cities can offer a range of cheap activities, such as visiting parks, looking at architecture, visiting museums, aquariums, swimming at beaches or local swimming pools. In Sydney and Brisbane, boats are part of the regular public transport system so a 'mini-cruise' can also be relatively cheap.
Farm stays are a great source of low cost, active and enjoyable holidays. I can highly recommend Wwoofing! Wwoofing stands for Willing Workers on Organic farms and is for everyone, young or old, singles, couples or families. You simply give some of your time in exchange for board and meals and many farms have enjoyable activities for children, such as horse riding. For more information, visit: www.wwoof.com.au and www.byokids.com.au/content/view/32/57
This month Elizabeth Forrester asked
"I am wondering what your members think about private health insurance. Is it worth the money? I have a partner and a 15 month old child, which means I would need to take out family health insurance. The cheapest quote I have found so far is $1,700 per year (ouch) or $32 per week. At the moment I do not work and this is money that we just don't seem to have. However, I have a lot of problems with my teeth but looking on the health insurance website I realised that many of their services are capped (that they will only pay out a certain amount). This year alone I have already spent over $500 at the dentist and now I need more work. My daughter also needs to have her adenoids checked. If this requires an operation it is approximately two years waiting time on the public list. I am interested to know what your members think. Do they know of any cheap funds which still provide a good service?"
If you would like to help Elizabeth, go to www.simplesavings.com.au/donatehints
Our family of three recently enjoyed a real weekend to remember for just $250, thanks to some careful planning. We had a wonderful weekend away at Dubbo, accompanied by my parents, visiting the Western Plains Zoo. With the cost of petrol and zoo admission alone at $30 per adult, I was concerned about the cost leading up to the trip, but because we were organised in advance, our $250 included all meals and snacks, petrol, accommodation and zoo entry. To prepare for our trip, we did the following:
All in all, it was a weekend to remember, and cost us around $250 per couple. For me, this is utterly amazing. My hubby and I agree if we weren't so money-conscious now, the same weekend would have cost us $250 just for the hotel! Plus the gold and silver coins I stashed away for spending money prior to the trip did enough to almost finance our entire weekend away, as I banked $197 in coins two days before we left.
To top it all off, I realised the look of pure joy on my little boy's face as we travelled around the zoo would have been exactly the same if we had spent $2,000 that weekend!