Hooray for Home Brand!

Posted August 7th, 2006 by Penny Wise

Well, Fiona and her family are now wending their way across the South Island and their timing was perfect as the weather chose to turn completely to custard here in the North on the day they left! I have to admit that having the Miser Extraordinaire visit my home was a little nervewracking – on the one hand it was a pleasure to be able to show her my menu plan stuck on the fridge, my Habit Changer calendar proudly hanging on the wall and of course a Simple Savings special, the vinegar spray in the kitchen! But on the other hand it provided the perfect opportunity to demonstrate what a Sad Sally I used to be. The boys and I had already sorted out two boxes of toys that they had outgrown for Fiona's son Sam to play with during his stay, but looking around the playroom and the kids' bedrooms, the enormous collection of toys, games and videos was still deeply embarrassing. On the radio show we did together a couple of weeks ago I did confess that my biggest financial mistake had been spoiling my children – and there was heaps of evidence all around to prove it. 'You must have spent thousands!' commented Fiona as we watched Sam in his element with all the toys. Oh yes, I thought – it's enough to make you cry looking at it all like that! 'But you see', I said in my defence, 'This was all bought in my Sad Sally days a couple of years ago, before I had heard of Simple Savings – I've hardly bought them anything since, we've all been re-educated!' As the thought sank in, Fiona confessed she still can't believe the effect that Simple Savings has on people, but there was no getting away from my transformation! Even with all the wonderful emails she receives from happy members, she still struggles to accept the credit for turning so many people's lives around. So, if you haven't written and told her yet how Simple Savings has affected your life, go on and do it! We'll get it through to her somehow (cheeky grin!)

It was a shame that she had moved on before I had the chance to tell her of my new discovery. Home Brand products are now available in NZ supermarkets! I have to admit to being a little confused when reading about Home Brand items in the Vault. I wasn't sure if it was an Australian description for a generic item, or whether it was a 'supermarket's own' brand or what, but I discovered in Countdown supermarket yesterday that it is actually a brand name. The lady at the checkout told me that the chain had been taken over by an Australian company who had replaced the 'Basics' range with Home Brand, so now we have even more in common with the Vault! I don't know if any other supermarkets stock it in NZ, but if Kiwis head to Countdown, you'll find it! At least Fiona and Matt were introduced to our friend Nireen while they were here. Remember her from the 'Hey Big Spender' blog entry from not so long ago? She was the one who spent $300 on an anti-wrinkle cream which claimed to be 'better than Botox' and had a money back guarantee if it didn't work miracles in 28 days. Ni duly applied her cream every day and on the 29th day she rang Mum in disgust, 'I'm going back to Auckland to take this useless cream back, are you coming?' 'Why, hasn't it worked?' asked Mum in mock amazement. 'You can see bloody well it hasn't!' came the reply. Mum advised her to ring the company first before travelling up to the city. The voice at the other end of the phone was flabbergasted. 'You can't want a refund! Nobody's ever asked for a refund!' and so on, but Ni stuck to her guns and eventually received her $300 back.

If only it was so simple to ask for a refund on other things! Take Ali's tonsils for example – not that I would wish him to have them back, but an expensive lesson was learned this week. I confess, I am guilty of having read some of the hints on Simple Savings that urge members to 'check all bills and estimates properly or you could make an expensive mistake' and thought to myself 'pah, as if I would let that happen!' WRONG! How could I ignore one of the golden rules? Read things properly – my failure to do this has resulted in an extra $1000 expense! We received the invoice for Ali's adenotonsillectomy the other day and I was horrified to see the glaring total at $2,125. 'That's wrong!' I protested to Mum, 'they quoted me $1,050 – you were there!' True enough, when I had first spoken to the hospital on the phone, Mum had been there as I wrote everything down - $85 for the consultation, $585 for the surgery, $350 for the anaethestist and so on; 'with a few bits and bobs you're looking at about $1050 all up' the receptionist told me. Seemed to add up well enough to me. I relayed all this to Noel, along with the explanation that Ali's op was going to cost much less than at other hospitals and we agreed we should take advantage of the 'bargain'. So when the paperwork arrived a few days later for Ali's admittance, the quote was included, but we didn't bother reading it properly because we already had been given the breakdown of costs over the phone. Consequently I had proof that we only needed to cough up half the amount. 'Where's that quote?' I said to Mum as I rifled through the drawers and we went through it together. Sure enough, yep - $85 for the consultation, $585 for the surgeon, $350 for the anaesthetist... and $1,050 for the hospital fee, made up of $500 for the theatre, $100 for recovery, $130 for the bed and $320 for 'sundries', which presumably included the yummy home made lunches we had been served. The receptionist hadn't been trying to pull a fast one – I had just misunderstood the quote. The $1,050 she mentioned was the 'all up' fee for hospitalisation ON TOP of everything else she had rattled off, not the grand total. Add a helping of GST on top and you have a generous bill of $2,125. What else could I say about my mistake but DOH! It made the $10 I had been gleefully let off in overdue video fees the day before seem very insignificant.

The funny thing is, that in some ways I was relieved that it had cost more to remove Ali's tonsils than I thought. When I thought his op would be $2,000 less than all the other hospitals I have to admit that I had a few misgivings. I mean, why were they so much cheaper? Were the doctors not as good? Jings, did they even know what they were doing?! At least once I found they were dearer than first thought, I was satisfied that we had received satisfactory hospital treatment! Isn't it funny how we're so quick to believe that the most expensive must naturally be the best? I told Ali there would be no Christmas presents for him this year now, as his tonsils were too expensive; you should have seen his face! Thankfully Noel didn't give me too hard a time about it, and luckily we can arrange with the hospital to pay it off in instalments – I mean, we had budgeted to be $1000 worse off for the month, but $2,000?! Thanks to the Vault I've become pretty good at finding ways to pluck savings out of thin air, but I think this one might take a bit more effort. I can feel another $21 Challenge coming on!

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