Trials and tribulations

Posted June 22nd, 2006 by Penny Wise

What a lot I have learned lately! So many new saving experiments to do. Unfortunately Noel foiled my shampoo experiment when he refilled the bottle on Day 43 so I never got to see exactly how long I could make it last, but it still had at least a couple of days left! So my next new experiment is to see how long I can make my pre-paid phone last between top-ups. I put a $20 top-up in yesterday, so will monitor the days until the next one. When I bought my pre-paid phone, I thought I had made a big mistake. I changed because I thought my monthly contract was too expensive, but once I went on to pre-paid, it seemed as though I was running out of credit every five minutes. It was only once I read the Vault hints from other members that I realised that the problem wasn’t with my phone, it was with me! Before, I would be lucky if I got half a dozen calls for my $20 and feel very short-changed, but the Vault hints made me look at my phone habits and I realised that half of the calls I made, didn’t really need to be made at all, or I could have waited five minutes later to make the call from home for free. So I have made a really conscious effort over the last few months to cut down those ‘I’ll be home in five minutes’/ ‘I miss you’ / ‘Are the kids OK’ calls and such and unless it’s an emergency I only ring my friends and family on my landline. Using my mobile for unnecessary calls had just become a habit because it was there; I soon realised that 90% of calls could wait. Now it seems to take ages between top ups, so I am going to see just how long I can stretch it out. Texting is a wonderful thing too; even when my phone tells me I need to top-up, I can still continue sending heaps of texts before it finally runs out. So here begins experiment number two!

Should my children ever get over their Blah Flu’s and go back to school, there are also a couple of lunchbox experiments I am keen to try, courtesy of the Vault. One is to make their sandwiches in advance for the week ahead and freeze them, so all I have to do on school mornings is grab a couple out of the freezer and pop them ready-made into their lunchboxes. We can get up at 6.00 in the morning and still be late for school three hours later so we need all the help we can get in that department! I also read another hint recently which described making up your own DIY baking mix in advance for your favourite cakes and muffins. Basically you just weigh up all the dry ingredients as normal according to your recipe, then mix together and store in a bag until ready to use; then when the time comes, all you have to do is tip the contents in a bowl, add your ‘wet’ ingredients and you’re done in a fraction of the time. I thought it was a darn good idea; I mean if you think about it, that’s all the commercial packet cake mixes are isn’t it? With packet mixes around $4.00 a pop, making up your own when you have a spare few minutes is an easy way to make a saving. Being the super organised person I am, I have often been found whipping up a batch of muffins on school mornings (usually when I realise in horror that Noel has had an attack of the night time munchies and eaten the last two muffins in the tin the night before without telling anyone) so this could prove to be a very helpful tip in our house!

I was interested to hear Sophie Gray and Fiona discussing the $21 Challenge on last week’s radio show, where Sophie wondered aloud if many of us challengers would be heading off for a huge supermarket shop as soon as we finished our frugal week. I have to admit I didn’t! Mind you, I did find it a bit of a painful experience on Monday when I went to the local store and spent $31 on not very much at all. ‘That’s more than I spent all last week!’ I gasped, much to the checkout lady’s amusement (she knew all about my miserly efforts from the week before). Unfortunately I also managed to pick up a false bargain at the same time; I saw there was a ridiculously cheap special on 2kg dishwasher powder, so nabbed one and felt very pleased with my bargain. It was only when I got it home and went to use it that I realised the neck of the dispenser was so wide that all the powder came pouring out in fast and furious quantities. ‘Hmph, some bargain – I’ll be going through it twice as fast at this rate!’ I thought, but being a conscientious Simple Saver I know I shall find a way to cut down!

The last week has seen two doctor’s visits for our family. I have learned that in our small town, it costs considerably less for three of us to see a less experienced doctor than it does for two of us to see a more experienced doctor – even though they share the same practice! Funnily enough, it was the younger, less experienced doctor who turned out to be the most helpful, in my case anyway. After looking down my throat, he said ‘Now, I could send you next door to the chemist to buy some expensive Difflam lozenges, but what will do the job just as well to ease your discomfort is a warm salt water gargle every hour. It will have just the same effect, but will cost you nothing as long as you have salt in your pantry’. Now that’s my kind of doctor – and he was right! Another surprising tip, which costs absolutely nothing is for clearing blocked sinuses. Next time you are suffering with a cold or blocked nose, try this, it really works! All you need to do is massage your thumb round and round on each fingertip and after a few minutes (or less) your sinuses will magically clear! My Mum got it from a reflexology chart and I don’t know how it works, but it really does. Saved me heaps on nasal sprays and decongestants I can tell you!

Mind you, I think it’s time I got back in the land of the living so I can keep tabs on my cheeky mother. Feeling the winter chill, a friend of hers merrily pulled up a long skirt to reveal some brightly coloured striped thermal ‘long-johns’. ‘I’m warm as toast and nobody knows they’re there!’ she grinned. Mum thought of the long hours spent each week shivering in the cold building where she works and decided she would invest in some too. However, living in our tiny community there is only one possible stockist of thermal underwear and Mum was feeling a little embarrassed about asking for her long-johns, so she decided to bend the truth just a little: ‘My DAUGHTER has asked me to get HER some thermal long-johns, do you have any?’ she asked sweetly before happily exiting the shop blush-free with her new purchase. I don’t know what shocked me more; the fact she fibbed about buying them for me, or the fact she admitted to doing it! ‘Honestly Mother, I shall be far too embarrassed to go in that shop again’, I scolded, which in hindsight means she has probably done me a favour – one less place I can go to spend my money!

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