I love one of the latest Vault hints entitled 'Adopt an elderly neighbour and save', what a brilliant idea! Not that my Mum is what you would call elderly, bless her, but I do know from her how hard it can be trying to save money when you live alone. Obviously she eats less than our household and she does lots of bulk cooking and freezing, but people often presume that because she lives on her own it must be easy to survive on next to nothing, when in fact many of the costs she has are the same as those of a regular family - power, heating, rates, petrol and so on. Her power bill for one person is often more than ours is and I thought ours was bad enough! The difference is that we are fortunate to have two incomes to pay our power bill, she has only a small pension and a few part time hours' work each week to pay hers. I'm sure the 'adopted neighbour' in the hint is extremely grateful and gets a lot of pleasure from the thoughtfulness and social contact.
On the subject of my Mum, I've been meaning to write for ages about one of the things I'm most proud of her about. A couple of years ago, she noticed a need in the community for the elderly to have much-needed regular social outings – and in many cases, a decent meal. So she came up with the idea of starting a Luncheon Club and enlisted the help of some of us Lions ladies to help. We decide on a menu each month and divide up the cooking between us – last week we cooked them a full roast pork dinner and sticky date pudding with ice cream. For $7 each they get a well-balanced home cooked two-course meal with tea and coffee. Mum keeps it going by using the money each month to buy food for the following month and so on, plus we get donations of home grown vegetables and meat from generous farmers to enable the elderly diners to have some real treats that they would never go to the trouble of cooking for themselves, or indeed would never be able to afford otherwise. So one Friday a month we turn the local Church Hall into a restaurant and invade their kitchen. The Luncheon Club concept took off immediately and we now bring up to 40 elderly, lonely or disabled people together at a time for a meal and a chat. They love it and we love doing it! For the majority of them, it's the highlight of their social calendar and each get-together is eagerly anticipated. I'm so proud of Mum for coming up with the idea and providing such a valuable service in our community. Mind you – she's made me promise to do the same for her when she gets to their age!
It's amazing how much I take my Simple Savings knowledge for granted; I was chomping at the bit to step in when I heard a friend of mine talking the other day. She is bringing up five children on her own and things have been tight for years. She has no car and hates asking anyone for anything because she is such a proud lady. Her children are lovely and a real credit to her, but she was bemoaning how much she has to spend each week on snacks for their lunchboxes and after school. Because she spent so much money on muesli bars, chips and other snacks, she rarely had enough money left to feed them a proper dinner, often ending up with spaghetti on toast as their main meal of the day. The other women in the conversation all agreed, except one who admitted it wasn't a problem as she bakes a lot of what she needs. I said I did the same and they looked truly amazed! 'Oh no, I couldn't be bothered with all that', they all said. 'Who wants to be stuck in the kitchen? We don't get time!' They went on to discuss how they had heard about menu planning and suchlike, but again that sounded far too hard and they could never be so organised.
I desperately wanted to launch into full Simple Savings mode and tell them that I did every one of the things they were talking about and how much money they would save and how I would be happy to help and show them how... but I didn't. One thing I have learned through my money saving journey is that some people embrace the idea of being frugal and some don't and there's not a darn thing I can do about it. Then there's the ones who think they are already doing a wonderful job at managing their households and simply aren't open to suggestions because they think there is nothing anyone can teach them. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticising them, I just think it's a shame they're missing out! Where saving money is concerned, sometimes you have to know when to keep your mouth shut. I read a comment in the forum the other day which summed things up very well 'Living frugally is a bit like religion and politics – it can make for uncomfortable discussions'. Very true and as the contributor went on to say – 'that's why the SS Forum is so good, we all have a commonality of purpose!' At least Maxine and I have each other to be miserly with too – she was all perturbed about the amount of her power bill recently and rang up to check how much mine was. She was relieved but I was equally perturbed to find that my bill was $20 more! Mind you, we both felt much better when we discovered our friend Rochelle's power bill was almost $100 more than both of ours!
Liam turned 10 last week and I was a bit embarrassed when people asked me what he got for his birthday. After all, most people would think a motorbike was a rather extravagant gift! But in all honesty, we didn't really give it to him – he earned it himself. I must stress that I'm talking about a kids' dirt bike, for pootling around our two-acre block, not whizzing up and down busy roads! Ever since one of the local lads tried unsuccessfully to sell him a rust heap a couple of years ago, he had wanted one. Fine, we said – but you have to save for it yourself if you really want one. So from that point on he started saving in earnest and every single cent he owned went towards that bike. Birthday and Christmas money all went in the bank, he fed, reared and sold calves at a profit, and any coins from the tooth fairy, even every dollar he got for scoring a try at rugby – it all went in the bank. After a while, he didn't even worry about asking for pocket money, he just wanted everything he had to go towards his motorbike. By the time his birthday came around, he had saved a total of $1,200 and he and his Dad went bike shopping. You should have seen his face the first time he sat on that bike! What a proud expression of achievement. It's not something I ever thought I would allow a child of mine to own, but for Liam it's a confidence thing. He really misses the space and independence he had on our old farm and he's not into racing around or doing dangerous stunts, he just potters long sedately with his dog in tow – who has finally learned that the evil imposter wearing a crash helmet is in fact his beloved master. Not that Liam has finished saving though! As far as he's concerned it's only just beginning again – he's saving for a car! 'They're expensive things Mum, I'll have to start saving now if I want one when I'm old enough to drive', he explained seriously. At least he doesn't expect his parents to buy him one then, that's a relief! Goodness knows how I ended up with such a money conscious little saver, but I wish I had had half of his dedication and saving savvy in my younger days, it took me 30-odd years to get it!
With the way things are around here though, it's surprising we ever manage to make any savings at all. We've been seeing a fair bit of the inside of hospitals again recently. My father-in-law had a mild heart attack last week; his third, but unfortunately his wife was away at the time. Luckily we had been keeping an eye on him – as well as we could, which was near-impossible with him being a stubborn type. By the time his blood test results had come through from the doctor (which showed that in his present state he had less than 24 hours to live) and they were desperately trying to get hold of him to send him off to hospital, Mum finally tracked him down – he was calmly mowing the bowling club lawns. Needless to say he was carted off to hospital where he awaits more tests – at least we can breathe a little easier knowing he is in the right place and not trying to chop firewood or something!
It's not hard to see where Ali gets his stubbornness from – instead of going to school yesterday morning, we spent the day in A & E, waiting to see what he had done to his foot. I couldn't understand how he had returned from a birthday party with a sore foot the day before, especially when he insisted he hadn't been playing rough and tumble games. However, his foot got progressively worse as the evening went on and when he got up the next morning he couldn't put any weight on it at all. I couldn't send him to school hopping on one leg so thought I had better get it checked. On arrival we had to pay $30 before we could see a doctor and we were given a form to fill in about the nature of the injury. It was then I finally got to the bottom of the problem. Apparently, while I was inside at the party thanking the host's mother profusely for having my youngest, Liam and his devious friend had locked poor Ali out of the car. Being a rather demonstrative wee soul, Ali let rip in typical fashion, ranting and calling them all kinds of unsavoury names – and kicking the car door repeatedly while demanding to be let in. It was the kicking the car part that had damaged his foot, he confessed apologetically. 'What am I supposed to write on this form?' I asked the receptionist, 'Throwing a tantrum and hurt foot kicking my car?' 'Let's just say “kicked car door by mistake” shall we?' she smiled. We were duly seen by a doctor, who sent us off for x-rays – another $20 charge – which confirmed that thank goodness nothing was broken, just extremely bruised and swollen, which one would somewhat expect from kicking the living daylights out of a Holden. So he's gone back to school with an impressive bandage on his foot and hobbling around on crutches until the swelling goes down. Liam came home from school and said his teacher wouldn't believe him when he told her how Ali had injured his foot. She really should know us better by now!