Recent Hints & Tips

Full access to the Vault of Hints is for members only, but here's a taste! Hints are contributed by both staff and members.

Give the gift of a game of golf
updated Yesterday
I saved heaps on a terrific birthday present for my 'hard to by for' husband. Faced with trawling through catalogues for yet more gizmo's that he doesn't need but I feel compelled to buy so I can give him something, I give up. There is nothing that he needs that I can afford. Then something clicks. He's under a lot of stress at work and I know he would love something that would let him switch off from it for a while. Something else clicks. One of our friends is a keen golfer. I call - would he take my non-golfing husband on a surprise round and let him have a go? Sure! For the price of a green fee, my husband will not only have a great time, but he won't have to fake liking what I got him! I'm now compiling a list of other friends that we have that have skills in sport, (surfing, riding, skiing) - and I hope that I can return the favour for them!
I 'tax' myself 50% on purchases and put it in to savings!
updated 20 May 2017
I have come up with a novel but very effective way to help me save! Being a reformed shopaholic in progress, I have decided to tax myself 50% of the purchase price on any 'must have' items that I may or may not need. For example, today I brought myself a wallet as the old one was not efficient and I kept losing cards out of it. So off I went to Strandbag and spent half an hour looking at all these gorgeous wallets that made me so happy but this soon turned to frustration as I needed a wallet with zips and a few secured compartments so that I wouldn't lose valuable items. To my surprise, in the end I didn't get a wallet but a purse with multiple compartments. Better still, it was a bargain at only $10, reduced from $40! This means my shopaholic tax of 50% on my $10 purse equates to $5, which gets put into savings. Even with my 'tax', the purse still only cost me $15 in total and my holiday account gets a boost too!
Grow your own mighty investment with Acorns
updated 19 May 2017
If you've always wanted to invest, but didn't know where to begin, there's a brand new website out called 'Acorns' which rounds up the money you spend and invests it for you. For example, if you spend $4.50 on a cup of coffee, it will round up the figure so you pay $5.00 and invest the extra $0.50c. The concept (and name) is taken from the mighty oak, which starts out only as an acorn, but grows into something great. If you want to find out more you can go to their website here:

It's a fantastic tool, especially if you don't have the discipline (or means) to make regular savings or investments.
Get tasty tuna for a tiny price!
updated 16 May 2017
Why buy expensive branded items at the supermarket when you can find equally tasty foods without the costly price tag and flash branding? We buy Coles brand tuna in olive oil. It is significantly cheaper than the John West tuna and it really does taste lovely!
'Umami' turns an average meal into a great one
updated 15 May 2017
Japanese researchers have discovered a fifth flavour in addition to the four well known ones (sweet, sour, salty and bitter). It's a savoury flavour called 'Umami' and it enhances the flavour of your food, making it, well, tastier! You can add Umami to your meals easily by using Western food that has the same biochemical compounds. Next time you find yourself short of ingredients to make a flavoursome meal, check out your pantry or fridge to see if you have any of the following common ingredients:

* tomato paste - the best way to ensure you always have this available is to put it into ice-cube containers and freeze it.
* parmesan cheese - Home Brand long life parmesan is cheap and doesn't contain any additives, so stock up!
* mushrooms - a great way to always have mushrooms handy is to use packs of dried Shiitake from the Asian grocer or even from the normal supermarket. (Porcini dried mushrooms are super tasty but VERY expensive!)
* cured meat - a little bacon or salami can really lift an average dish
* soy sauce
* seaweed - for the more adventurous

Since I've started thinking about Umami and using it in its various forms in my cooking I'm getting lots more compliments from my preschool-aged kids. Their food wastage has been greatly reduced and they gobble up their meals to leave clean plates almost every time
Save 5% on Woolworth's e-gift cards
updated 8 May 2017
Most people know that you can purchase Wish Cards from your local RACV (or equivalent) but I only found out recently that you can now purchase them online in an e-gift card too! The added bonus of not having to go into an office is great and you can also buy more denominations too. We save about $12.50 per week using it for the things we grab at Woolies and fuel for the cars. I also use a Flybuys linked credit card to purchase the e-gift cards so am maximising points for both loyalty programs!
The real cost of spending
updated 7 May 2017
I have turned my love of a good bargain into something far more valuable! Whenever I am tempted to buy something I could possibly do without, I first calculate how much we would save by paying that money into our mortgage instead. For example, I recently saw a new dress on sale for $49.99 - a bargain, right? However, I paid a quick visit to a mortgage calculator website and discovered that if I didn't buy the dress and put that money onto our mortgage instead, it would take a whole month off the loan term and save us $334.39c in interest. In other words, my 'bargain' dress would really cost me over $300!

Looking at my purchases this way has become a really easy and effective way to curb my spending habit. Now I carry a piece of paper in my wallet with various prices on and I can see how much I would really be spending. It's amazing how much stronger my willpower becomes when I check my piece of paper before buying something and find out what its real cost is!
Enjoy 'designer' bread for $7 a week
updated 1 May 2017
Try this quick and easy recipe for Irish Brown Bread that's good enough for even the guests! This has saved me a small fortune on 'designer' bread when unexpected friends drop in. For us, it works out to about $7 per week or $350 per year. No breadmaker required either! You need:

1 1/2 cups wholemeal self raising flour
1/4 cup white self raising flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarb soda
250ml buttermilk or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup natural yoghurt mixed together

Mix together dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk or alternative, and mix together to form a dough. Knead lightly to form a round cake, place on a lined baking tray, and make a cross in the middle. Bake at 175C for 50 minutes. Delicious served with butter and smoked salmon if you want to be a bit posh!
Cheese scones for a tasty sandwich alternative
updated 1 May 2017
When I have run out of bread for school sandwiches, I find cheese scones a real lifesaver. Very cheap and easy and fast enough to whip up a batch before school!

Cheese Scones: (makes approximately eight)

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup cheese
2/3 cup milk

Mix ingredients all together, roll and cut out and place in a hot oven for 15 minutes.

The kids love them and it makes a nice change from sandwiches. You can also add a handful of bacon bits and sprinkle some cheese on top. Very tasty and much better value than cheese and bacon rolls from the supermarket!
Gourmet freezer sandwiches
updated 1 May 2017
If you want to save money by making your own sandwiches for lunch in advance, here are some gourmet recipes you can make in bulk and freeze. My girlfriend shared these with me and I guarantee you will look forward to your lunch every day with this variety! Each recipe makes six sandwiches using twelve slices of bread.

Chicken & Celery:
3/4 cup (180ml) packaged light cream cheese
1 1/4 cups (250g) finely chopped cooked chicken
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 teaspoon celery salt

Ham & Corn Relish:
250g thinly sliced ham
1/2 cup (125ml) corn relish
1 cup (120g) grated smoked or tasty cheddar cheese

1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 green shallots, chopped
50g button mushrooms, sliced
1 small (150g) green pepper, chopped
180g sliced ham, chopped
1 1/2 cups (180g) grated tasty cheddar cheese.
(You can do this without the mushrooms if you like)

Carrot & Sultana:
1 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup (60g) chopped walnuts
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/3 cup (55g) sultanas
(I don't use the walnuts but add cream cheese)

Peanut Chutney Chicken:
1/4 cup (65g) crunchy peanut butter
1/3 cup (80ml) mango chutney
1 1/4 cups (250g) finely chopped chicken

Deli Delight:
2 tablespoons pesto
1 cup (200g) ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped seedless black olives
1/4 cup (25g) finely chopped drained sun-dried capsicum
12 slices (100g) deli meat / ham
(Friend makes it without the olives)

Curried Tuna:
2 x 185g cans tuna, drained
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup (60ml) coleslaw dressing
1 tablespoon curry paste
Combine all ingredients in bowl before making sandwiches.

Turkey & Cranberry:
1/3 cup (80ml) cranberry sauce
250g sliced turkey breast roll
150g camembert cheese, sliced

Cottage Cheese and Date:
2 bacon rashers, chopped and cooked
250g carton cottage cheese, drained
3/4 cup (125g) chopped dates
3/4 cup (110g) chopped dried apricots
Mimi's Chicken Roll
updated 1 May 2017
You will give the deli people a run for their money with this rolled chicken meatloaf. It's cheap, relatively easy, and everyone loves it. I even did it for Christmas lunch one year when we had a picnic in the park instead of the traditional lunch.

2 chicken breasts, minced or ready-made chicken mince (500gm total)
2 eggs
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (plus 1 cup extra)
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp chopped dried fruit (raisins, apricots, mango or pistachio nuts or macadamias if you prefer - or even both!)
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (chives, parsley, thyme)
Baking paper

Mix the mince, 1 egg, the milk, 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, and the fresh herbs.

Take a sheet of baking paper and spread the mixture over the paper in a large rectangle about 20cm x 30cm.

Mix the other cup of breadcrumbs, the dried fruit and/or nuts, and the second egg. Spread this down the long side of the mince rectangle, closest to you.

Using the baking paper to start the roll, enclose the stuffing and then roll into a long sausage shape, finishing with the 'seam' underneath (it's a bit like rolling sushi or a swiss roll sponge). Press the ends together.

Place, seam down on a baking sheet, and bake covered for 45 minutes, then remove cover and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Serve sliced with relish or sweet chilli sauce, salad and crunchy bread.
Giant bickies for kids!
updated 1 May 2017
My children love the 'Giant Choc Chip Bickies' available through their school canteen but at $2.00 per bickie I couldn't justify the cost so found an alternative to make my own for only 13 cents each! This recipe makes on average 24 giant bickies and they are so delicious. Each bickie is about 10-13cm in diameter, almost a meal on their own. To further increase my savings I only use Home Brand ingredients and have costed the bickies out at 13 cents each. Quite a saving from $2.00!

The best news is that these bickies now make me money. I was having morning tea with some friends who own a takeaway shop and as it was a baking day I took some of the bickies along. They were so impressed by the look and taste of them that they have me baking them to be sold through their shop on a regular basis. On this occasion my money saving idea has become a money making idea!

The recipe is as follows:-

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
250g margarine
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups SR flour
1 packet choc chips

Method: Cream together white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and margarine. Add eggs, self raising flour and choc chips and mix well. Leave for about 15 minutes before rolling into palm sized ball and then placing on Glad Bake (on a tray). Cook at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 to 25 minutes.

Hint: After 12 minutes I swap the bottom and top trays around in the oven to avoid the bottom tray of bickies burning.
Get more for less at Woolworth's through eBay
updated 27 Apr 2017
I have discovered how to get more groceries for my money through eBay! Woolworth's online shopping vouchers can be purchased through eBay. We got one today and purchased a $240 voucher for just $200! There is another value available too. NB: There are conditions and time limits so this needs to be checked out before purchasing, but well worth checking out!
Minimum fuss haircut you can do yourself!
updated 26 Apr 2017
'Do It Yourself' free, layered haircuts are possible for those with medium to long hair! Try this, it does work (and as a student married to a student, I can vouch for it):

It's best to wrap a towel around your shoulders before you do this; that way you can just shake the towel outside to get rid of the excess hair.

Turn your head upside down and make a ponytail with your hand about 3-5 cm from your front hair line.

Tie a hairband around the ponytail, keeping your head upside down.

Then tie another hairband every 5 cm up the rest of the hair until you can't go any further and trim 2-4 cm of your hair (to get rid of split ends) with very sharp scissors.

Undo the hair bands and brush. There you have it - a new layered hairstyle with minimum fuss and no cost!
Our Easter Bunny 'shops' well under budget!
updated 25 Apr 2017
Our family's Easter spend comes to little more than $1 each and there's more than enough for everyone! We have eight grandchildren to give Easter chocolate to each year - yes, I know we don't have to but as they believe that Easter bunny and their Grandpa are good friends it would be difficult to get them to understand why there are no chocolates for them... you can't have adoration of a grandparent without paying the price!

To keep costs down this year I bagged up cheap chocolates in a brown paper bag with pictures coloured in on them by Yours Truly. A production line of colouring in and each child has a personal gift from the Easter Bunny. It seems he came to have coffee with Grandpa last night and left these for us to hand deliver when we visit the Grand-kids.

Bags: $2 for 18

Chocolates: $11 for 30 eggs (the six remaining are for hubby and me) and 8 chocolate chickens

Grand total spend for the year: $13. Chocolates for 10 people at $1.30 each and hubby and I get a treat each as well!
Kogan prepaid SIM cards save all year round
updated 24 Apr 2017
My gift of pre-paid SIM cards is helping my family members save between $120 and $240 a year on calls, texts and data! I bought a Kogan prepaid SIM card for my daughter and my mother. Each cost $126.95 and last for 365 days. For that price they get all calls to Australian landlines and all calls to Australian mobiles, all texts AND 1Gb of data every 30 days. The data stops when the 1Gb has been used and restarts when the next 30 day period starts. You can purchase more data if you like, but this should be enough for the basics on a phone. My daughter uses WiFi at home or free WiFi when out to update apps and save on data usage.

This SIM works out at a bit over $10 per month which has saved $20 per month on my daughter's phone and $10 a month for my mother but she now has unlimited calls where her previous credit used to run out at $20 per month with no free texts. I bought the SIM's on sale so keep an eye out for the specials and jump in. They are a great saving!
Comforting pud uses only the basics
updated 23 Apr 2017
This pudding is so easy to make and is delicious served warm with ice cream on a cold winter's night!


2 tbsp butter

4 tbsp sugar

6 tbsp milk

8 tbsp SR flour

Mix and bake for 30 - 40 minutes in oven.

Serve with jam and coconut (optional) and icecream or cream.


Love the basic recipes!
Give your cut flowers a rosier future!
updated 22 Apr 2017
I have learned how I can get the best possible value and enjoyment from cut roses. Normally you buy or are given roses, only to find they can blow out (go soft and droopy) only a day later! However if you take the stems and cut off the bottoms (about 3cm) then place them in a bath, cover with cold water and leave for about three hours (sometimes more), the roses will rejuvenate and look like new. This also helps another problem when roses droop just below the base of the bud. Once cut, roses can get an air bubble just under the bud. Laying them in water this way helps to release the air bubble and allow the bud to replenish and last longer. This has saved me money on flowers I have bought in the past and will continue to in the future as I know when roses can be saved. It's lovely to be able to make any roses I have been gifted last longer too!
DIY darning 'mushroom' does the job!
updated 22 Apr 2017
I have discovered you don't need to spend money on a darning 'mushroom'; all you need is to get creative and find a free alternative! I have a pair of socks with a hole - well, I did! But today I darned it. I don't own a darning mushroom and it is always easier to do if you have one of those. However hubby has a roll-on deodorant so I used an empty bottle (you could use a full one of course, the sock wont mind) and I darned the sock.

The colour doesn't match, but who cares? The inside of my shoe isn't going to complain! If anyone sees it I will proudly say, 'Yes I darned it, I did a great job didn't I?' The rest of the sock was perfect, well maybe a bit greyer than white but they keep my feet warm and protected and this is all I need. I could not see the point in going to the store to buy a packet of socks when these ones were perfectly fine once darned. My money is safe in my savings account, my feet are safely in the socks and all is good with the world!
Sticky sausages
updated 22 Apr 2017
Try this recipe! It's cheap to make and all my family enjoy it.


Serves 4


8 thick sausages
4 tblsp tomato sauce
2 tblsp dark brown sugar
1 tblsp mustard powder
2 tblsp soy sauce


Set oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Mix all marinade ingredients in a shallow ovenproof dish. Add the sausages and coat them in the marinade. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Serve with mashed potato.
Immune-boosting chicken soup
updated 22 Apr 2017
Because my mum has an auto-immune disease, she is prone to colds, flu and pneumonia and takes an average of 12-18 tablets a day. As I don't want Mum to get sick or have to take more tablets, I needed to think up a way of boosting her immune system. So I started to make ordinary chicken soup, but it wasn't potent enough. That's when I came up with this recipe. I think that it tastes delicious and has plenty of flavour.

Becky's Kill Anything Chicken Soup

8-9 chicken lovely legs, skinless
8-10 chopped cloves of garlic
1 chopped onion
2-3 small red chillies (Remove the seeds if you don't like it too hot as they're the hottest part, or just use one chilli. But you must use small chillis because they loosen mucus.)
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 litres Continental chicken stock
2 finely chopped carrots
1-2 handfuls corn
1 cup macaroni pasta
2-3 handfuls baby spinich

Heat the oil in a stock pot and brown the chicken, garlic, onion, chilli and ginger.
Add the chicken stock, carrots and corn.
Bring to the boil, and if needed add water. Simmer for 15-30 minutes. Take out the chicken, pull the meat off the bone, break meat into small pieces and put back in the pot. Add macaroni and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until pasta is cooked. Add baby spinach, taste, add salt and pepper if needed, then serve.

Since I've started to make this recipe, my mother has had fewer colds. When she has been sick it has not been for as long and has meant fewer hospital visits - not to mention fewer doctor's visits. Between the savings on medical bills, doctor's bills and hospital visits, I cannot begin to imagine what our savings have been but I don't doubt that it's been in the thousands of dollars.

Check store websites before buying that 'must have' in-store
0 comment
updated 22 Apr 2017
I have learned not to automatically believe what the shop assistant tells you - and always check their website before buying! I found a pair of pants in Peter Alexander that I fell in love with and asked the assistant if they had any loyalty/discount schemes. I was told they don't, but they have a mailing list. The assistant offered to put me on the mailing list, but I said I'd do it at home. This turned out to be a good decision, as the pants were discounted on the website, although they were full price in the store! Also, by signing up for their mailing list, you get a discount on your first full-price purchase too!
Check best deals between same NZ and Aus products
0 comment
updated 22 Apr 2017
If you have an international rewards card or account, be sure to check all countries and their relevant pages to make sure you don't miss out on the best price! Today I was using Qantas points to buy a noise cancelling headset as mine had needed replacing for years. Just before finalising the purchase I thought I would try and pay in Australian dollars so I could use my Australian account; however I couldn't find a way to do it. So I tried the Australian website thinking I would simply complete the purchase from there instead but the cheapest set of noise cancelling head phones cost three times as much as the cheapest on the NZ webpage! The moral of the story - check the different pages before choosing your item to make sure you can't get a similar one for a better price! You will need to check shipping costs as well just to make doubly sure you are getting the best deal but it's well worth the effort.
Extreme makeover at an extremely good price!
updated 20 Apr 2017
I gave my lounge a makeover for just $28 by simply taking a fresh look at my colour schemes and accessories. First, I purchased three medium-sized canvases from a budget store and some plain and patterned material, both in matching colours. I then created some original fabric artwork by covering the canvases and attaching the material at the back with a staple gun. Finally I bought some cheap accessories, including a bowl and tablecloth, to compliment the artwork and bring the room to life. The finishing touches came from a vase and floor mat no longer wanted by a friend, both of which matched my new colour scheme perfectly!
An extra meal from every jar or tin
updated 20 Apr 2017
Here's how I get an extra meal out of every jar or tin! Every time I open one, I keep one portion of it aside, for example if I open a tin of peaches to make a crumble, I keep a small amount aside for use in fruit muffins or to have with breakfast the next day. If I open a tin of tuna for a pasta bake, I keep one small portion aside to make a sandwich. If I open a packet of corn chips to make a large nachos, I keep a portion aside in a resealable bag for a school snack. It's a great way to make your pantry items, and your money, go that little bit further!

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