"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - February 2006

This issue includes:-

  1. Sally & Hanna: Life Catches Up
  2. How to Spend Less Than You Earn
  3. Becoming More Like Hanna: Prizes
  4. Penny's Blog
  5. Why Homeopathy?
  6. From Last Month: Cool Rentals and Adding Value to Your Home
  7. This Month's Help Request: Kid's Birthday Presents
  8. Savings Story: Saved $5000 and bought car outright

Hi,

How are you doing? I hope you have had a great month. Things have been busy around here. We have been redesigning the site from scratch and hope to launch a new section each week.

Thank you for being part of Simple Savings. It is amazing what we can achieve as a group. Below are some of the emails we received this month from people whose lives have been changed by your support. It is mind blowing.

"I would like to thank you for your site. We had a shocking 2005. It started off really well and then went to custard in June. We got married, sold our house for a great price and purchased a beautiful home. Then I was stabbed by a neighbour, lost four weeks of wages, my husband's pay was cut, then in August I found out I was pregnant (bitter/sweet, will be the 3rd). Things were looking pretty bad before I found and joined your website in September. Since then we have not looked back. We changed our mortgage, got rid of the credit cards, changed the way we shop, sold one of our cars and bought a push bike.

"My husband was forced on six weeks annual leave over the Christmas period, and I am surprised to say we are doing great.

"It is fantastic. If it hadn't been for the suggestions and ideas from your website, we probably would have lost the house last year. But, instead we are thriving. I no longer live from paycheck to paycheck. It is great relief and now I finally know what it is like to kick back and really breathe. I am on my way to being a Happy Hanna. I just can't gush enough. THANK YOU Simple Savings!!!" (Leah Pasnin)

"Hi! I've been a member for about two weeks and I am very proud to have made back my membership cost (and more!) today. I was hesitant to join initially as I have been ripped off before by bogus Internet deals so I had just signed up for the free newsletter. When I saw you were having a 'sale' I decided to risk it and buy a membership. I am very glad I did! My biggest interest is the cleaning section and I will now change my cleaning habits forever! I am very fussy about having a clean home and was a real chemical girl... my motto was 'If it will eat through my skin it will clean my bathroom'. But I have found the methods discussed in the Vault to be very effective (and far more affordable!)

"Today I went down to Bunnings for some bulk cleaning products. I bought five litres of handwash for $17.74 and then came home to realise I would've spent at least $50 on the same amount from the supermarket! That's a minimum saving of $32. I also found a pack of 40 scourers for $6.14. At the supermarket I would've got no more than 12 scourers for that price! In addition I got a litre of concentrated glass cleaner for only slightly more than I would have paid for a 500ml bottle of diluted glass cleaner and I will be able to make myself enough glass cleaner for the next couple of years!

"I am so proud of myself and want to thank you for teaching me some new ideas for saving money... hopefully I will have saved enough in the next couple of months (and changed my habits sufficiently) for my partner and I to be able to afford to have our first child. Thank you!" (Jennifer Davies)

"I have been visiting your website for some time, but have only recently become a member of the Vault. I absolutely love it. The contents have truly exceeded my expectations (except I didn't realise how much time I'd spend glued to the computer screen. I am addicted!) Thank you and congratulations to the amazingly creative and inspirational contributors. My member fee will pay for itself many times over, in no time at all. This website makes frugality fun!" (Daniele Burke)

"I just wanted to tell you what a difference your website and insight into spending/shopping has made to my life. I'm a first year medical student this year, and though the tips have helped me to stretch my student budget farther and to live comfortably on not much at all - the biggest thing I have gotten out of the site is being part of a community (even if it is virtual) and continually focussing on family and friendships, rather than on work and money - because using the tips and thinking like a 'simple saver' naturally the money takes care of itself and my focus is on enjoying my relationships. Activities with my partner have become more and more activity focussed rather than eating and spending focussed - and the time we spend together is richer and we are finding brilliant things to do that cost very little. This is a HUGE blessing for me! I know that's the reason you started it all - but it never hurts to hear what good your actions have accomplished.

"In 5 years time I'll be a doctor and earning a considerable wage - but I feel I have a good grounding in spending sensibly and not feeling caught up in a lifestyle that requires me to work endlessly to 'get ahead'. I feel like a Happy Hanna now- and am building the tools to keep being Hanna, rather than the Sad Sally I have been.

"I just want you to know the focus on relationships and family has been the BEST part of Simple Savings for me. Thanks for the common sense advice that had just escaped me! I think you would do the community a GREAT service by educating kids in schools in future if this is something you'd like to pursue. I wish someone had taught me all these tips when I was at high school - then in my first few years of working I would have avoided so much wasteful spending. You inspire people!!" (Rhonda Pratt)

"With all the resolutions people make and break, the only one I have made this year is to consult the Savings Vault before I make a purchase. In the first five days of 2006 I have managed to save $179.17 in just two purchases. THANK YOU!!!" (Melanie Clarke)

"Thank you very much for letting me join your website.Thanks to the Vault this year I will save $960.50 on dog food, $54.72 on skin products and worked out how to pay off our loans early and save $17,689 in interest. I'm so happy!" (Robyn Bargh)

Have a wonderful month!
Many grins,
Fiona

PS. If you want to buy a Vault membership go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/order/


1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Life Catches Up

It was February 14th and Sad Sally arrived home from work, exhausted. "Stupid work, stupid bloody Valentines Day" she mumbled as her husband appeared from round the corner with a long stemmed rose between his teeth. Sally's heart melted and she smiled softly. "Wow, Pete!"

"Aha, success! I made you smile." grinned Pete. "And, I have finally got you alone."

"Where are the kids?"

"They are asleep. It is 9pm after all." Pete winked and handed her a glass of wine. His glass was empty and so was the bottle. "I have been waiting for you." Pete was trying to be affectionate but Sally was tired and all she could think of was that darn credit card statement. She only had $1200 left to pay off. One more month of overtime and it should be cleared - then she would have lots of time to cuddle up with Pete.

He noticed her mind wandering and his smile started to fade. "What's wrong? I thought you would be pleased."

"I am." Sally forced a smile. "I really am."

"Well it sure doesn't look like it. What is it this time? Don't give me that 'have to work overtime' garbage." Pete hiccuped. "Sally, I know you. You are hiding something." The night was not turning out how Pete had planned. It had been New Years since they had spent any adult time together and he was getting frustrated. Then the penny dropped and Pete came to his own wine-fogged conclusion. Sally must be having an affair. "So Sal... what is his name?"

"What?" Sally was confused.

"It was around Christmas when you started acting funny." Pete's tone became angry. "Did it happen at the Christmas party? It is your boss, isn't it? That is why you always choose him over us."

"How could you say that? I'm working hard to pay off everyone's Christmas gifts and you accuse me of having an affair. How could you?"

"Christmas gifts? What have they got to do with anything? You told me they were all bought on the cheap. They have already been paid for." Pete hissed accusingly.

Poor Sad Sally's whole world was falling apart. She sunk into her chair and confessed. "I bought the Christmas gifts with my new credit card."

Pete stopped in his tracks; he knew his wife was telling the truth this time. She had done this kind of thing before. "Oh Sal. How bad is it this time?"

"$1200, but I have been doing my best to clear it working overtime. It was up to $3000."

Pete sighed "So you're not having an affair. Are you sure?"

"Yes, Pete you are the only man in my life."

"Good, because divorces are really expensive!" Pete grumbled, but his smile was one of relief. "Come on, let's go to bed. We'll make a date tomorrow to sit down and work this all out together. Maybe there's something we can all do to clear that last $1200 together".

The next morning Sally was the happiest she had been in ages. For once, Hanna's predictable gushing about her fantastic husband and wonderful Valentine's Day didn't even bother her.

 


2. How to Spend Less Than You Earn

If Sally were to read her own story, she would be horrified to see the huge negative effect her spending has had on her family. Even if you could show her the number of hours she was stealing from her family in order to pay for her bad habits, she would probably just shake her head and refuse to believe any of it.

How can money have had such an effect on the family? It shouldn't be that way. But, it wasn't the money that caused the problem - it was the over spending. If you spend more than you earn it will eventually catch up with you. It is simply a matter of time.

Happily, the reverse is also true. If you spend less than you earn, your savings will grow. You will be able to reap the benefits and enjoy the security of having a large wad of cash in the bank.

Here are some of the things I do to make sure we always spend less then we earn:

These are some of the things I do on a day to day basis to protect my family from money troubles. To find out more about how other people keep their expenses low, surf through the Vault. It only costs $47 to join and you will make that money back pretty fast.


3. Becoming More Like Hanna: Prizes

No-one is Happy Hanna all the time. We all have Sad Sally moments, even me. Once upon a time I was the saddest Sally of them all, destined to work my guts out climbing the corporate ladder. I turned our family's fortune around by examining the way I shop and do things, talking to Matt when I make a mistake and working out together a better way to do it next time. It is a gradual, cumulative process. It took us five years to get to where we are now and we still have a very long way to go.

But I'm sure we can speed up the process for everyone by working together. So we have made a short three part plan.

  1. Admit blunder
    This is the biggest and most important step. What things have you bought recently that you are ashamed of? I'm pretty ashamed at myself for spending $86 at Borders Bookshop. The worst part wasn't spending $86 on books but using our new 'line of credit' loan to do so because I only had $30 left in my wallet. This was the first time in 5 years I had used a credit card of any kind and the guilt has been eating at me for two weeks. I am so ashamed of myself and I never want to do it again.
  2. Make a plan
    There are two ways I am going to stop myself from blowing the budget at Borders. The first is cutting up that stupid card. There. Done. Big grin. Ahh... now that feels better. (Yes I really did pause while writing this to cut up a brand new card.) I do not want to have easy access to that sort of money. The temptation of that card proved too great. I don't want to be a Sad Sally. Now for the second half of the plan; avoiding impulse purchases at Borders. Last time I went to Borders it was the last stop in the shopping centre, everyone was tired and I bought items just to keep the kids happy and get them to the car without screaming. (Miss Jacqueline is 22 months old and a giant drama queen. She cries with such gusto she gets pools of tears at her feet.) In future we will go to Borders first, when everyone is still fresh and I won't find myself buying items to placate overtired kids.
  3. Set up a Memory Trigger
    The way I'm going remember to go to Borders first when we go shopping is today I'm going to put a note on my shopping list. When I'm planning our next trip to the shop the note will help me avoid another Borders disaster.

There! I have confessed. Now it is your turn. What Sad Sally thing have you done recently? Did you get a new credit card, or spend $200 on a dress? How are you going to stop it happening again? How are you going to remind yourself? Please write in and share your own three step plan with everyone so we can learn from each other and all move forward together.

To encourage you to give it a go, we are giving away two extra memberships each week until the end of March, for the best three part plans. To share your tale go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/3partplan/


4. Penny's Blog

Penny Wise

This month we moved 50 blog entries from the member area to the free area so everyone can read them. They are so much fun. Click here to go to the full blog index.

This caricature was drawn when Penny visited us in November. Penny laughed when she saw it and said that is exactly what it is like at home; Penny typing in her tracksuit, Noel talking on the phone, one child throwing balls around the house and the other glued to the playstation. In real life Penny has a big smiley grin and happy friendly eyes, just like the caricature.

Here is one of Penny's latest entries.

Honesty is the best policy

Jan 26, 2006

Frugal school holidays or not, I still found doing the January bills somewhat painful! I had to chuckle when I read the latest Sad Sally story in the January newsletter. There really are people like that out there - I should know, I was a prime example not so long ago! I remember shortly after joining Simple Savings, I read something which implied couples would enjoy a happier relationship if they were not bogged down with financial worries. To be honest I was quite indignant - what on earth did money have to do with marital happiness? What about love and all the warm fuzzy stuff? Did that not come into it?

A year or so down the track, I know exactly what it means. When my Sad Sally phase was at its worst, I knew every trick in the book to cover up my spending. I hid credit card statements. Every time Noel questioned me about my purchases, the prices I had paid would miraculously drop by 50%. I was a master of subterfuge. I would actually lay awake at night worrying what would arrive in the mail on weekends when Noel was home - what if he got his hands on anything incriminating before I could grab it and snaffle it away? I was so adept at intercepting the mail that I actually convinced my poor husband we no longer received bank statements now we had access to Internet banking, so terrified was I that he would discover the evidence of my uncontrollable spending printed in black and white.

Things came to a head shortly before starting my blog last year. We spent a week on the coast and I had blissfully floated my way around the local craft shops and art galleries while Noel and the boys were at the beach. I bought anything and everything from hideously expensive giant seashells to candles, incense sticks, artwork, crystals, bath stuff and a big red vase. By the end of the week, I had managed to spend no less than $500 and I had a whole bunch of absolutely useless rubbish to show for it. I couldn't believe I had done it - there we were trying our best to save money and thanks to me we were now $500 worse off. I was eaten up with guilt over the weeks that followed. The bills were due and I was going to have to front up about how we came to be so short of money. In the end I could stand it no more and after a sleepless night, I woke Noel from his peaceful slumber to bawl noisily all over him. 'I've got something to tell you!' I wailed. 'What is it, can't it wait?' he mumbled. 'No - I have a confession to make. It's been building up for ages and I have to tell you right now!' I continued bravely in the dark.

Noel sat bolt upright. 'What is it? What have you done?' Heaven only knows what he thought I was going to come out with - I think he was expecting me to reveal I was having a sordid affair with the mailman or something, so he was rather taken aback when I blurted out, 'I spent $500 just on things all for myself when we were away at the beach and it was a load of crap and it was such a selfish thing to do and I'm so sorry and I'll never do it again!' 'Is that it?' replied Noel, incredulous. 'Did you have to pick three o'clock in the morning to tell me?' 'I'm sorry, I just couldn't hold it in any longer, I felt so guilty' I sniffled. 'For goodness sake you silly moo, I know you spent heaps, I'm not stupid! Just don't do it again or I won't be so understanding. Can I go back to sleep now?'

And that was it. Right there and then I vowed never to lie about my spending again and I have stuck to it. I'm still in charge of bill paying and book keeping, but these days I share everything with Noel, so we both know how much we have at all times and how much we need. The Bill Payment System shows us both where our money is going and mistakes are few and far between. Noel knows how hard I am trying and how seriously I take saving money now and nothing is hidden. Whoever wrote that stuff about money and relationships was right - it's like a huge weight is off my shoulders and I have nothing to feel guilty about. Consequently I'm happy and content, secure in the knowledge that I'm trying my best, and I think Noel and the boys would agree a stress free, guilt free wife and Mum is much nicer to live with. I still throw the bank statements away before Noel gets a chance to read them, but only because we don't need them any more - thanks to the Bill Payment System, we already know what's in them!

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


5. Why Homeopathy?

Following last month's newsletter, we were severely attacked for explaining how homeopathy can help vaccine damaged children. The one question almost everyone asked was:

"What has homeopathy got to do with saving money?"

Orthodox medicine is very expensive, homeopathic medicine is very cheap. It is easy to save yourself a lot of money by finding your family a good homeopath. Our family found this out the hard way and I don't want others to waste money the way we did.

In 2003 we spent $10,000 trying to regain my family's health. We had visited GP's, a naturopath, specialist doctors, an osteopath, chiropractor and even tried acupuncture, before visiting a homeopath. Our search ended with Fran Sheffield. I was astounded how cheap homeopathy is, and how effective. When I weigh up the results against the amount of money we spent, I am amazed.

It is a little known fact that even though Simple Savings has been operating for three years, Matt and I were only able to work for two of them. During the second year, we were lucky to manage five hours a week. The rest of the time was spent looking after Sam. Following his vaccine, he just got sicker and sicker. Little colds that should have taken a few days to pass would take him out for a month. This has changed since we have been under Fran's care. Now a little cold is just that - a little cold. It has now been two years since Sam has required antibiotics, his food allergies are starting to disappear and he is confident, happy and content. Fran and the homeopathic remedies are saving us $8,000 a year. Before we found Fran, we were spending more money on health than on rent!

This is why we choose to include homeopathic articles in our newsletters. I don't want others to have to spend $10,000 on medical conditions and ongoing health problems like we did, when there is a much cheaper way.

There are six adults who work on this newsletter. Five of us have children who have been adversely affected by vaccines; the sixth person is childless. While that may be a very small sample size, it is still a pretty scary statistic. Compared to others, my family got off very lightly and Sam has developed into a normal, confident little man. But over three years we easily spent $20,000 (about a quarter of our family income over that period) to get him to this stage.

This is not a medical essay. I'm not a doctor - it is just our story. It is the reason why we include articles about homeopathy in a newsletter about saving money.

Here are some facts supporting my observations:

Looking at these numbers I have to wonder; if there were skilled homeopaths like Fran working full time in hospital wards, how many lives would be saved, how much money the government would save and what effect this might have on the hospital waiting lists.

We are pro-immunisation

Last month, it looked like we were attacking immunisation and saying, "don't immunise your child". This was not the intention. Immunising children is very important. What we were trying to do is show people that if your child is "vaccine damaged" homeopathy is a reasonably priced solution to save your family from trauma and in some cases bankrupty. We think immunising children is important especially against killer diseases such as Whooping Cough, etc. It is also vital we approach the issue with an open mind, so we can make sure what we are doing is up to date with latest research and our kids are always getting the best care. Australia is leading Immunisation research in the world at the moment and Fran will go into more detail in coming newsletters. Next month's article is titled, "How Homeopathy Can Treat Epidemic Diseases".


6. From Last Month: Cool Rentals and Adding Value to Your Home

Last month we had two help requests. Angela Simons asked:

"This summer has been really hot and we are baking in our rented house. Does anyone have any suggestions to cool the house that we can pay for and might be able to talk our landlord into?"

A tricky problem for Angela, but one that our cool, calm and collected members had plenty of answers to! Check out the ideas below for some cost effective ways to 'chill out' this summer.

$39 box fan keeps home cool

We keep our home lovely and cool with a $39 box fan that sits on the window sill. I didn't believe it before I tried it, but it works a treat and is so much cheaper than purchasing an air conditioner! I filled the gaps around it with used cardboard to help its efficiency. Place the fan on your open window sill facing outwards during the hottest parts of the day, to act as an exhaust fan, draining the hot air out of the room. Face it inwards when it gets cooler (late afternoon or evening) to pump the cool outside air into the room. The running costs for a fan are much cheaper than for an air conditioner and it is less drying on the skin. It is so effective it cools the room down to almost chilly in the evening!

Contributed by: Cecile Meliton

Buy a portable window air conditioner

An easy and economical way to keep your home cool when renting is to buy a window air conditioner. These are portable and plug into a power point. The house does not need to be altered in any way to accommodate these. Just pop out the flyscreen, put the aircon in and make an alternative screen out of timber to place around the aircon in the window cavity. Depending on what type of window ledge you have, you may need to place a length of wood under the base of the aircon outside the window to prevent it leaning back.

Contributed by: Jo Rose

Exchange rent for installing fans

We used remote control ceiling fans as a simple and economical way to keep cool. You don't need an electrician - just a handyman can install them as they don't need any wiring. They just fit into the existing light fitting and can be taken with you when you leave the house.

We installed them in the home we were renting and managed to talk the owner into keeping them. We were able to leave them in the house in exchange for a week's rent!

Contributed by: Gail Green

Hang washing inside on hot days

A favourite cheap and easy way to cool my rented unit when I lived there was by hanging a wet towel where it could catch some breeze. This small trick easily took a few degrees out of the unit. Alternatively, hanging my washing inside did the same thing. This was in addition to closing the curtains, and opening doors and windows to allow any breeze to flow through.

Contributed by: B W

Fast growing deciduous trees

Another cheap and easy cooling solution is to plant deciduous trees outside the windows if possible. They will provide shade in summer and let the sun in during winter. Speak to your local nursery to find out which type would be best.

Contributed by: Tanya Gavin

Landlords are approachable

Don't be afraid to approach your landlord for help if you are renting an uncomfortably hot building. I'm a landlord who has learnt from experience that happy tenants are by far the best tenants. Ask your landlord if they will do a deal which will benefit both of you - your landlord purchases a portable or installed air-conditioner, in return for which you will pay a couple of dollars a week extra in rent - up to an agreed price (e.g. 30% of the total purchase price).

That way, you get to enjoy an air-conditioned home for as long as you're living there, and when you leave, the air-conditioner stays - improving the property value and also providing an incentive for the next tenant. Each of you will only ever pay a maximum of 50% each, plus your landlord may be able to claim a tax benefit (depreciation) if it's installed. Another incentive for your landlord may be that you will agree to an extended lease if air-conditioning is provided - or let them know that they will soon be paying for advertising, lease fees and such because they'll be looking for a new tenant!

Contributed by: Tracey Posa

Here are a few more ideas for Vault members. Follow these links directly into the Vault:

Aluminium foil beats the heat Contributed by: Allison Kohn

Cool savings for tenants and landlord Contributed by: Tamara Prentice

Insulating your windows Contributed by: Jenifa Oakes

DIY cooling methods Contributed by: Rebecca Von Perger

Trees are a cheap cool solution Contributed by: Therese Ellis

...and Sarah asked:

"We'd love to know more about cheap ways to brighten up the 'worst house in the best street' for when we purchase our own home some time this year! Any hints or tips would be great!"

Once again, we received a huge range of fantastic ideas for beautifying on a budget. These ideas for revamping inside and out had us all inspired to get out there and get creative!

Renovation vouchers

Instead of housewarming gifts, we asked our friends for their time when we moved into our new home and added $100,000 in value to our property!

When we bought our house, it really was the worst on a nice street, so once we had settled in, about 15 of us gathered one Saturday morning and got to work - you would be amazed at how much we got done! We painted, rendered, varnished and gardened until about 3.00pm (everyone brought their own tools or paint brushes) Then we put on a big sausage sizzle for all our wonderful helpers.

It was not only a fun way to fix our house up but it got so much done that would have taken us months of weekends to do by ourselves. We also saved heaps in labour costs as our friends and family made sure they did a good job of whatever they did for us, even if it took a little longer because of all the chatting!

We also saved money by going to down to the local cement outlet and asking if they had any cement they were getting rid of. We got heaps for around half price and only had to pay retail to render one side of our house.

Since our 'housewarming working bee', we have continued our progress by spending at least one night or weekend a month at the free seminars given by Bunnings warehouse. We have saved so much by doing most of the work by ourselves. Just one year on, our house is worth $100,000 more than when we bought it and we have only spent around $20,000 on doing it up!

Contributed by: Kellie Rossiter

The three P's of renovating

To give your home a cheap and easy makeover, I recommend you paint, plant and polish!

Paint - covers a multitude of sins and brightens things up quickly.
Plant - a bit of hard yakka in the garden, getting rid of rubbish, trimming back, and reorganising plants takes time and not necessarily lots of money. Ask friends and neighbours for cuttings and be willing to give cuttings of what you have.
Polish - become fastidiously neat with your home. Clean everything and you'll be surprised at how your surroundings just don't seem so bad anymore!

Contributed by: Tania Rantala

Add instant value

If you have the 'worst house in the best street' you can instantly add as much as $25,000 value onto your home by painting the outside, putting up a fence and doing up the garden. If you do the work yourself, it should not cost you more than $4,000 total. Most of this cost would be buying the fence.

This method brings a great profit and I have done it twice. You only need to sand back rough spots on the house. No need to prime or get rid of shiny paints. This works great on the inside too, for the old skirting boards and door trims which used to be done with enamel paints. Save hours and money on paint stripping too - no need to get paint strippers, just add E-Bond to your paint. This makes it stick to anything; even glass and you can't get it off. Saves you hours of time and is worth it. Painting is easy, just time consuming. After painting the sides of a picket fence with paint brush, you can do the rest with rollers - just as effective and much quicker!

Plan your garden first. I like useful plants such as fruit trees and permanent vegetables such as rhubarb and so on, I then put plant flowers in between. If you can find someone who breeds rabbits, they will gladly give you bags of straw full of good stuff to use as mulch. I have found that my garden really took off when I added this. Better than cow and chook poo and a great source of free mulch as you are doing someone a favour. You can often go to racing stables and fill your trailer for free too. Your garden will look great and you have produce. Flowers are cheap if you put in the work. Buy flower and vegetable seeds and raise them.

You can put another $20,000 value on your home by painting the inside. It is easy to cover one room each weekend. If you can strip back your flooring to its original boards where possible and polish, you can add as much as $10,000 extra value. Rent the machine and sand yourself or get someone in to do it. It costs about $2,000 to $3,000 but well worth it for such an easy profit.

Contributed by: Nadine Raes

Ask for discounts wherever possible

Being on our third home renovation, we have learned how to save thousands. For the garden, I go to places that have a garden centre like Bunnings and K-mart and only look at their marked down plants. You will find most only need a water. I put in a whole new garden bed of Calla lilies, fuchsias and impatiens all for just $12 last week.

When walking around to check out the other plants, I look for any that I like that are wilted or in need of TLC, pick them up and go and ask if they would mark it down for me - I had one plant reduced from $8.00 to just $1.00 by doing this!

Let your friends know of your renovation plans. We were able to get our brand new kitchen appliances at 50% below retail, through a friend who doesn't even work for anything appliance related! We get 40% off our paint just by going to a paint depot, like Wattyl or Dulux and buying direct - you have to ask if they have any discounts available or you won't get them.

We are using a cabinet maker to build our kitchen rather than a kitchen specialist and are saving over $2000, which will cover our appliances. It will take just one day longer to have it fitted and we have to arrange an electrician and plumber. When you need to call tradesmen out, always ask for a cash price and try to organise their visit to incorporate as many jobs as possible, to avoid paying future call-out fees if you find something else that needs doing the following week!

Asking handy friends or family members to help make your curtains can save you hundreds and they look just as good. Do as much as you can yourself - we saved $150 on cleaning up alone by using a ute and trailer to go to the tip, rather than hiring a skip. Ask for discounts wherever possible - the worst answer you'll get is a 'no'!

Contributed by: Kerry Rodgers

More of our favourites are included below and are available exclusively to Vault members. Follow these links to take you there!

Brighten up your house for free Contributed by: Mark Cowper

Do a lot of the work yourself Contributed by: Carina Stark

Quick changes to unsightly areas Contributed by: T Rose

The power of 'sparkle' Contributed by: Tracey Posa

Make your house look great for less Contributed by: Lisa Giselle Pastars


7. This Month's Help Request: Kids Birthday Presents

This month Melissa Ryan asked:

"Most of my friends and family have young kids and a lot of them live interstate. I would like to acknowledge their birthday but a card just isn't going to cut it with a 2 year old! With birthdays almost every week it gets expensive to buy and post presents. Does anyone have any suggestions about birthday gifts for babies or young children that will be easy to post, enjoyed and not too expensive?"

If you have some great ideas for cheap and easy presents to post go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/donatehints/


8. SAVINGS STORY: Saved $5000 and bought car outright

I've just bought a new car and saved thousands by not borrowing a cent.

A couple of years ago I had decided that I would put away 10% of my pay each fortnight into a separate account for a new car. I reasoned that "what you don't see, you don't miss", and saved almost effortlessly. Any extra left in my account at the end of the fortnight also went to this account. As it's a ING Savings Maximiser account, the interest started becoming quite significant!

After deciding on the car I wanted, I sold the old one privately, getting $3500 more for it than I would have for trading it in. I also increased my bargaining power by not having a trade-in.

I then hit the phones. I started at the dealerships in my state (NSW) furthest from me, asking for their best price, no finance, no trade-in. By the time I called the local dealership (in Newcastle), I had the best price available in the state, and asked them to match that price, or I'd head to Sydney! After all, a train trip and $20 in petrol to return was peanuts compared to paying full price!

Now, not only have I not had to borrow money I have also: reduced the amount I had to save by accumulating $1000 in interest from my ING savings, gained an extra $3500 by selling - rather than trading-in the old car, and saved myself $850 on the purchase price just by spending an hour making a dozen phone calls!

Instead of taking out a four year car loan I'd still be paying off, I've managed to buy my new car outright in two and a half years, finding almost $5000 (or a quarter of my car) without too much effort!

Contributed by: Helen Fung