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.

Recycled zip-up bag keeps x-rays safe for free
updated 2 hr ago
I have found the perfect solution to keeping important x-rays and other medical records safe, for no cost. Over the years my husband and I have had several x-rays, CT scans and MRI's and have been given these to store at home.
After our recent move I went through them and disposed of a lot, but have kept the more recent ones, and after trying to store them in the linen press without much luck, I found a plastic zip-up bag from when I bought a pillow. It is the perfect size, even for the largest envelopes! I can now store them behind a cupboard standing up and out of site, but they are there if they are needed.
Keep your hosiery safe and ensure more wears
1 comment
updated 4 hr ago
A simple piece of recycled packaging is helping me to ensure I get maximum wear and value from all my hosiery! Last year I discovered the Sonsee hosiery ( for larger women on Sharktank. I love it but as they are not an inexpensive brand I needed a way to store them so I could easily find the correct tights and they didn't get trashed in my drawer.

I bought some new underwear and pillows recently and realised I could use the small clear plastic pouches (which have press studs to close them) to store them in. A label clearly states what is in each pouch and now I can quickly find my footless tights, my 20 and 100 denier tights and keep safe the light denier stockings that even if they survived wearing and washing always seemed to get caught on things and trashed before I could wear them again. I'm looking forward to this method of re-using these plastic pouches and finding my long lasting tights easily this winter!
Comforting chemical free microwave popcorn
0 comment
updated Yesterday
I have finally found a way I can enjoy super fast popcorn without all the additives! I won't use food with additives and flavourings and the same goes with snacks. As popcorn is a favourite go-to snack, I always used a popcorn popper. Another appliance on the bench - noisy too.

Fortunately I have since found a better alternative - just 2 -3 minutes in the microwave and it's done! Here's how I do it:

Put three tablespoons of un-popped corn kernels into a brown paper bag and microwave on high. There's no oil, no fake flavourings, no added salts or sugars and no toxins.

I then smother in melted butter, a seasoned salt (French Perfume salt *drools*) and a good movie. Or salt and a chocolate powder. Cheap, easy, quick and sorta healthy.

Perfect for the cooler months, making in a caravan, having as an after school treat or late at night with a good book. Enjoy!
3 ingredient Slow Cooker Apple Crumble
1 comment
updated 22 Mar 2017
This super cheap and easy recipe is one of my all time favourite desserts. When you pick up the items on special (e.g. cake mix from ALDI for 99c) it makes it even more economical!

Serves 4 - 6


1 tin sliced apple
1 vanilla cake mix
80g butter


Spray the inside of your crock pot with non-stick cooking spray (or you can grease it with a little extra butter). Pour the apple pie filling into the bottom of the crockpot.

Sprinkle the dry cake mix over the apples - DO NOT STIR.

Top with dobs of butter.

Cook on high for 2-3 hours.

You can also leave the lid off for about 30 minutes to make the top crispy.

My local bowling club saves me hundreds on WiFi!
updated 21 Mar 2017
I save up to $200 a month on Internet bills by hanging out at my local bowling club! I just take my laptops along and use their free uncharted WiFi to do upgrades and downloads (shows, movies, music and so on) or live streaming. My son also loves to YouTube and connect to WiFi to play his games. Instead of going through my data, we easily use between 5 - 25 Gig of the club's data every month. Not only does it keep my home Internet bill really low, it also gives me an excuse to enjoy a drink at the club in the afternoons before heading off home to cook dinner!
Homework + Officeworks = $225 saved on new phone
0 comment
updated 21 Mar 2017
I managed to save $225 on my new mobile phone in 10 minutes flat! I simply went online, compared the mobile phone price online for various retailers and then took the best price to Officeworks. They had the identical phone in stock and they beat the price by 5%. Too easy!
$1,300 saved on our cruise? We'll drink to that!
updated 20 Mar 2017
My partner and I saved more than $650 each on a nine night cruise, thanks to the P&O $1 drink special! Drinks can be very expensive on a cruise ship and this is where people tend to spend a fortune, however if you are patient there are huge savings to be had. We waited for the $1 P&O drink package to become available again before booking our cruise. As our savings show, it's well worth it!
Ask first, spend later
1 comment
updated 19 Mar 2017
Our family made a deal between ourselves which has saved us hundreds of dollars.
We agreed not to buy anything new until we had asked around first. It started with my daughter needing a new stove. Her oven was propped shut with the broom until a friend called in for coffee and knew someone who had just renovated their kitchen. A phone call later and the stove was hers for the asking! The same happened when a new wood heater was needed. Next, we advertised for a second hand glasshouse and ended up with three for $300! Now both families have new greenhouses for winter tomatoes. Then, I blew up my Big Oscar food processor and found that they are no longer made to get a replacement. So again we put out our feelers and found one next door for $70 and half a sheep! Nothing was new but nothing was tatty; it was simply given by people who wanted their goods to go to a good home. So, before you are forced to spend money you can't afford, please ASK!
Remove facial hair easily with peel-off masks
updated 18 Mar 2017
I have discovered an easy way to remove facial hair which is both painless on the skin and the wallet. Being over 40 I have noticed the facial hair sprouting. Unfortunately I react badly to waxing, coming out in red bumps and acne that take days to heal. Fortunately I have discovered a solution! I have a peel off face mask once a week and I find this takes off the majority of hairs (the remainder I just tweeze away) with no red bumps and keeps my face lovely and smooth!
My shopping list tells me what NOT to buy!
updated 18 Mar 2017
To help save money when shopping, we all know it's good form to write a shopping list; a list of what we need and want to buy. A shopping list helps us to stay within our budget, and therefore saves us from spending money unnecessarily.

But - how many of us go shopping with a 'DO NOT BUY' shopping list? What is a 'DO NOT BUY' list exactly? It's a list of items that you DON'T need to buy!

Are there four tins of Milo in the pantry? Put Milo on the DNB list! Got enough sausages to feed at least two Bunnings sausage sizzles? Put sausages on the DNB list! Why are there six jars of strawberry jam in the pantry, when only Great Aunt Ida has it on her toast on her annual visit? Put it on the DNB list!

I've just been through my pantry doing a clean up. I hang my head in shame. On my new DO NOT BUY list (along with sausages), I have -

- Vegemite (1/2 a 950g tub, 1/2 x 560g jar, 1/4 x 150g jar, nearly empty 455g jar and two half empty 145g tubes!!)
- Peanut Butter (1/2 a 2kg tub, nearly empty small jar, 1/4 x 796g jar, 1 full 796g jar, and scrapings in another 796g jar)
- Jams (way too many to list)
- Milo, hot chocolate, flavoured quik powders
- Coffee and tea
- Two minute noodles

These are things that we mindlessly pick up every shop, put into the trolley, because we USE them all the time. But do we really know how much we are wasting? I know I am wasting heaps of money. And food. I hope having a 'DO NOT BUY' list helps someone else too!
$2 dinner nights
updated 18 Mar 2017
I am saving around $100 a month on my grocery bills, thanks to a few simple changes to our family meals. I wanted to reduce our food bill and after some thought came up with the idea of making two nights per week a '$2 Dinner Night'. For example, one night we will have something like toasted baked bean sandwiches or stuffed baked potatoes; the other I use up all the leftover vegetables in the fridge to make a self-crusting quiche. This reduces the amount of food we waste and the kids love it. Even the simplest meals can be delicious and filling and the savings we are making from our twice-weekly $2 dinners are well worth it!
'Live simply, so others can simply live'
updated 18 Mar 2017
Almost 50 years ago I decided that my 'broke' accounts clerk fiancee should be in charge of our finances. His only possession was a lovely sports car but after an accident, he traded it for a family car with a bank loan. I gave him cash to purchase a suit for our wedding but afterwards, he noticed I only had two good sets of undies. He purchased five more sets. Our first grocery shopping overran the budget he had set and he had to write a cheque.

After two rented flats we purchased a house with a second mortgage and loan from Dad. My wages didn't count in our application to the bank. I managed on the set housekeeping by cooking filling meals, sewing our curtains, recovering furniture, making my clothes, mending his, washing and pressing instead of dry cleaning, growing vegies, planting fruit trees and making do. After a year we bought a TV for cash so he could watch sport. It wasn't long before we paid off the loan and second mortgage.

Two children joined us. When hubby forgot to pay the water bill, I thought his showers would be interesting but a neighbour saw the water being cut off and alerted him. It didn't happen again. After nine years as an at home mum I entered university to retrain and started a new career. This gave the kids a few advantages. My husband retired early and ran a small business. He became a brilliant financial manager, as are our children. We have travelled around Australia and the world using budget transport and accommodation.

Retired, we do not qualify for the pension because we own our home with a flat attached, a rental house, a camper trailer, great super, savings, two sound vehicles and everything we need and could want. We are currently completely renovating our home with professional tradesmen so we can remain here in our low maintenance, peaceful and comfortable cottage we bought 47 years ago. Our motto - 'Live simply so others can simply live'.
Start a non-perishable 'Emergency Pantry'
updated 17 Mar 2017
This simple tip saves me a fortune when times are lean and I have extra people to feed! With extra family members coming to stay and only my pension to live on, I was worried how on earth I was going to feed five people. So I created an emergency storage cupboard to help ease the financial burden. Every fortnight I put several items in the storage cupboard. Tinned tomatoes, pasta, long-life milk, a spare packet of biscuits, lentils - anything that won't 'go off'. I don't notice these few little additions in my usual grocery bill but it's suprising how it all adds up in my cupboard. Lo and behold I soon find that I have enough to make it through the lean days! It's important to remember to rotate and use the old and replace with the new but my storage cupboard is now well stocked and used only in emergencies. I don't worry any more!
Secrets of my stylish, savvy, mortgage busting wife!
updated 16 Mar 2017
My wife loves clothes shopping! We are both working but are trying to live off one wage so we can pay more off the mortgage. These days when she feels like a shopping spree she is able to curb it by going 'shopping' in her wardrobe, following these simple steps.

1. View clothes in wardrobe.
2. Try on different combinations of shirts/skirts/pants to create new outfits that haven't been worn before.
3. Record these outfits in her phone/on a piece of paper. That way when she is wondering what to wear to work/date night she's got a list of outfits that she knows look good. (This saves time too.)

By doing this my lovely wife is able to stem her need for new clothes and often doesn't buy anything, or just gets one thing she needs instead of the four new dresses that she didn't, while we continue to get ahead on our home loan!
Christmas wishlist saves us all money on the things we love!
updated 16 Mar 2017
If you and your loved ones are stuck for the perfect gift to get each other at Christmas, make a wishlist! This year my mother, boyfriend and I all made lists for Christmas. It has been so much fun trying to match what would really make my mother's heart sing, rather getting her a "nice" present that she doesn't really need. My boyfriend got to pay for things I wanted to buy anyhow such as clothes, which meant he is hiding packages from me from eBay until Christmas so there is delayed gratification! I bought him mostly car things and an RACQ membership at the highest level which can benefit more than one person and car but because of the extra cost we had been delaying purchasing. I managed to find original handmade items on which cost much less I normally spend but are probably going to be more of a hit because they are unique e.g. Harry Potter pencil case for $12 and a Wonder Woman cosmetic bag for $10. Lastly my good friend mentioned that she didn't like my godchild (actually Buddha child!) to get an overwhelming amount of material presents all at once. So after a conversation about how great literature enriches the spirit and mind, I have hit on the idea of sharing child friendly parts and versions of War and Peace, Shakespeare and other classics for story time as my present to her!
Our 'no waste' gift wrapping is useful AND reuseable!
1 comment
updated 13 Mar 2017
Our family's eco-friendly gift wrap is a gift in itself! Whenever we need to give a present at our house, we enjoy raiding our pillowcase stash. The children love trying to come up with the most appropriate pillowcase for the recipient. We don't waste paper and can reuse all pillowcases, whether for pillow purposes or wrapping. We often carry this forward in our gift giving to others, by wrapping presents in new tea towels and the like. Not only does the recipient not need to worry about tossing out shredded and wrinkled paper, but they get something useful as well. Saves on sticky tape too as we only need to seal the packages with ribbon that we use and reuse time and time again!
Get sewing on a budget with Singer Start machine
1 comment
updated 13 Mar 2017
If you would love to own a sewing machine, or teach young family members to sew but the price puts you off, I can highly recommend one called Singer Start, available from Spotlight. Normal retail price is $89 but I picked mine up in one of their sales for just $62.30. The Singer Start is a beginner sewing machine, smaller than usual but suitable for new sewers. It has 3 sizes of straight stitch, 3 sizes of zig zag stitch, a stretch zig zag stitch and a four step buttonhole. A very basic sewing machine.

I should mention here that Spotlight also sells a 'toy' sewing machine for the regular price of $59, however the Singer Start is NOT a toy but the real deal! It is very difficult to buy a cheaper sewing machine these days, plus it comes with a 12 month warranty.

I gave this machine to my almost seven year old granddaughter after school yesterday and already she has made a fringed scarf and a looong beanie with a fringe instead of a pom pom. The scarf has a row of stitching at each end where you cut the fringe to. The beanie also has a row of stitching for the fringe, one long seam and a hem. These involve using the reverse button and sewing a straight line, and cutting straight as well, all of which she does very well. Not to mention a lot of patience (sometimes counting to ten) on my part!
Save $50 a year on Pay TV with iTunes and Woolworth's
0 comment
updated 13 Mar 2017
We never pay full subscription price for our pay TV since finding this smarter solution! Like most people we talk to (particularly parents!), we have discovered that free to air TV is not always fantastic, and so have subscribed to both Netflix and Stan.

We had the choice to subscribe either through their websites, or through iTunes. If you can, I highly recommend subscribing through iTunes, as we discovered that Woolworth's periodically offers 15-20% off their iTunes gift cards. This saves us around $4 a month, which doesn't sound like a lot, but is a decent discount for $20 worth of subscriptions, and adds up to nearly $50 a year. Well worth keeping an eye out for!
Strive for, and maintain simplicity with these mantras!
0 comment
updated 13 Mar 2017
Having recently moved to Sydney from South Africa, with my little nuclear family, some financial adjustments have been required. Hubby is working and I'm settling our new home and nearly two year old into our surroundings.

Like all us here, I love a bargain. I feel like I'm relatively frugal and am a girl so go through these strange ramblings of 'Oh my gosh that's beautiful, I love it, but do I need it? Where could that money be better spent?' 'But Leah it's a $14 ALDI track-top you should just get it for yourself, it's really not that expensive! Why are you giving this top so much headspace?' 'I wonder if I could get it cheaper online?' With everything going on in the world, having moved countries and raising a little boy, that blasted ALDI track-top still has me bugging out over it?! How does that even make sense anymore? Retrospectively I realized this evening, after spending the better half of the week thinking about this silly track-top, that I need to work harder on and with what I have. I've penned a few tips/mantras to help me along the way.

1. This is a journey and there are many small wins along the way, eat the elephant one bite at a time. Every (proverbial) top you don't buy is a win and should be celebrated. Pause and take a moment to be proud of your wins along the way.

2. Remember, strive for and maintain simplicity; this is about SIMPLE savings, simplicity affords you time once achieved and time is money, cliche as that saying may be.

3. Use the (FREE) deal, my son turns two soon and just over Christmas he amassed another toy box full of gifts. I've decided that he's getting a library card with access to a few toy libraries for his birthday gift from me and an "experiences" account. My food shopping savings will be calculated and deposited into this account for purposes of enrichment and no more toys will be living here unless they are used and loved.

4. Give, not only money but of your time. Frugal living can leave you feeling bored, especially when thinking back to times when you often spent your time out on places that cost you heaps to keep you feeling "entertained". Research what fills your "feel good" tank and fill it, volunteer or create a capsule wardrobe and donate the rest. Help your friends do the same, you will feel lighter for it.
DIY party balloons are cheaper and more personal
0 comment
updated 13 Mar 2017
Instead of buying expensive balloons from a party supplies store, buy a pack of glossy balloons (try Spotlight or similar stores) and use spray paint to decorate. Inflate the balloons first, then spray metallic coloured spray paint using a stencil. You can also spray through a strainer for a light mist, or apply some glue then stick on glitter or sequins. It's so much cheaper and more personal too!
Chocolate sauce is a lifesaver when the cupboards are bare
updated 12 Mar 2017
There is nothing worse than suddenly having a chocolate craving, or an unexpected guest arrives at the door during a $21 Challenge week when your cupboards are practically bare! You want to give them something fabulous but have been caught unawares. This indulgent chocolate fudge sauce mix will save the day. It's great served over stale cake, ice cream or banana splits; you are limited only by your imagination. It uses very few indigents, cooks in two minutes in the microwave and tastes great! In fact, everyone I make it for has asked for the recipe.

Microwave Chocolate Fudge Sauce

25g butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp milk


Melt the butter (20-30 seconds in microwave should be enough).
Add remaining ingredients and stir well.
Cook for two minutes and again stir well.
Serve over cake or ice cream.

The sauce will thicken on cooling. For a thinner sauce simply reheat.
Hommus recipe
updated 10 Mar 2017
Try making your own hommus. It is half the price of bought hommus and tastes fantastic. All you do is put a large can of drained chick peas, the juice of a lemon, six cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of tahini, two tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper in the blender. Remove from blender and serve.

200 grams of hommus costs $2.20 from the supermarket and this recipe makes 400 grams for $1.80.

The only upfront fee is the tahini. One jar costs about $5.00 but it will last you a very long time.
Free roses for your garden
updated 10 Mar 2017
Free roses? It can be done, with just a little work and co-operation.

Autumn is the time to look around and note down the lovely roses in full bloom in a friend's or neighbour's garden. Note the location and colours of the blooms for future reference, as once the roses have finished blooming you will forget which bushes had what flowers.

In six weeks time, when the roses are about to be pruned, ask your neighbour/friend if you can have some cuttings off the roses you have noted down. You might like to swap cuttings or offer to prune their rose bush in exchange for the cuttings. Most people will be more than happy to share the cuttings with you as they are destined for the bin anyway.

Take each pruning and cut it down to a 20-25cm length, about the thickness of a pencil, cutting just above a bud or side shoot at the top and just below a bud or side shoot at the bottom. This can be planted straight into your garden as winter pruning time is the ideal time to strike rose cuttings. Water them every few days and in spring you should notice new shoots.

This is a great way to obtain new roses, in the colours you want, for free. I have just suggested this idea to my 'Sad Sally' friend who is planning to buy a dozen rose bushes to plant in her garden, at about $10 each. She could save that $120 with a little planning and patience.
Home made super charged citrus cleaner
updated 10 Mar 2017
For a super strong home made cleaning solution that costs just a few cents, keep the skins of any citrus fruit you or the family eat and place them in a jar. Top the jar up with vinegar and leave for 5-7 days. Then pour the liquid into a spray bottle and you have a very powerful cleaner which will cut through even tough grease and it smells great too!
Grow two tonnes of food for $19.50!
updated 10 Mar 2017
The Diggers Club has a Low-Income Vegetable Offer. It is a collection of their highest yielding varieties of vegetables and is available to Health Care Card holders.

The Diggers Club phone number is (03) 5984 7900. Their web address is

I don't have a Health Care Card, so I spent $46 on seed. With 13 packets of seed, you can grow:

350kg of pumpkins
1025kg of tomatoes
610kg of cucumbers
9kg of peas
8kg of beans
300 parsnips
200 broccoli heads
100 bunches of silver beet
300 onions
700 lettuces
1200 carrots

I have a vegetable garden only 10 metres long and four metres wide. I spend an average of four hours a week on the garden, which includes the time to blanch and freeze surplus produce. We are a family of four on only one wage as I stay home with our three and five-year-old children. I now spend only about $7.00 a week on fruit that is in season and on special. I save a minimum of $40 a week which, after our initial outlay, is a saving of $2034 a year of healthy, pesticide-free produce.

I didn't know how much produce I could grow with our cold frosty winters, but I managed to grow a lot. I am more limited in summer as we are on dam water.

Happy gardening!

*The price of the low income pack was updated in 2011.

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