Tightening the belt

Posted August 31st, 2006 by Penny Wise

I am SO determined not to spend anything at the moment! Even more determined than usual, that is. So far, even after last week's Challenge, I have only spent money twice – yesterday I had to take Tui to the vet to get microchipped thanks to the new law here in NZ. I couldn't put it off any longer as it had to be done by September 2nd and then I had to fill up my car with petrol, which was kind of a necessity if we were going to get home from the vet. At least I managed to make a bit of a saving on both counts. Instead of charging $65 for the microchipping like most vets, our local one only charges $35, which as they pointed out goes to show what a huge mark-up other establishments are making on this five-minute procedure. I also learned that I actually save a little on petrol by using a fuel card. I was disgusted last night when I was watching the news and learned that Mobil had dropped their fuel price to around $1.62 a litre 'That's not right – I paid $1.73 a litre this morning!' I said, most upset. Apparently not though, as Noel explained! Our local service station is always more expensive than everywhere else, which they can be, due to the fact that they're the only one for miles around – but, because we have a Mobil fuel card and pay by direct debit, we actually end up paying the Mobil national price – not the local one. So I still managed to save 11c a litre without even trying! I guess Noel should know, after all he spends an average of $300 a week on petrol with his job – thank goodness the company pays for that!

Pah, would you believe it? Have just got off the phone to the 'Appliance Doctor'. You may remember me saying a few weeks ago that my dishwasher was playing up and I was quite content to do the dishes by hand. Our 'Appliance Doctor' friend Terence had already been working on our dodgy fridge – he's a really good bloke who managed to save us quite a bit of money on repairing it. Ever since we had bought our fridge freezer six years ago, we had always had problems with it. The back of the fridge was always freezing up and the ice would then melt and form a pool at the bottom of the fridge. Consequently anything we put there would end up floating around and spoiling – not to mention it wasn't the best having water slosh out all over your front every time we opened the door! Over the years I had called our sparky out several times but he had always just stuck a rod down the back of it and cleaned it out and had never actually fixed the problem. Luckily Terence had been recommended to me and when he heard all the years of trouble we had had with it, not only did he fix the problem, but he also rang up the manufacturer and told them the tale. They offered to supply all parts needed free of charge and pay for 50% of the repair costs! I was pretty impressed, so when Terence returned the fridge, I asked him to take the dishwasher away to see if he could fix it.

That was a couple of weeks ago and I have just received the verdict – it's going to cost $489 for one part alone, another part is still needed, that's without including labour and even after all that, they're not overly confident that the heater on it isn't going to pack up. Excellent – just what we need at the moment! So now I'm torn – apart from the fact we can't actually afford a new dishwasher at the moment, what do we do in the long term? Part of me – the savvy saver part - tells me to get over it, ignore the chronic dermatitis on my hands from washing dishes (gloves make it worse, I've tried) and keep up with the sink routine. After all, people coped for centuries without dishwashers! The other part of me is heartily sick of standing doing the dishes several times a day when I could be getting other things done and spending more time with my children and is urging me to embrace the technology. Either way, it's not going to happen right now, but at least I'm armed with plenty of shopping around skills when the time comes. I shall be digging out my trusty Vault hint from Rob McGlynn 'Shortcut to the lowest price' – this hint has saved me hundreds already and I'm sure it will serve me well again!

Noel bless him is also doing his best to contribute to our belt tightening – well, in a roundabout way. He has stopped smoking again – or perhaps I should rephrase that – he has stopped smoking HIS OWN. Not that I should knock it – after all, he's cut down from almost 30 cigarettes a day to just two or three and he hasn't bought a packet in over a week! He's actually been pretty decent to live with this time, but that's mainly due to all the kind and generous people he has been pinching the odd ciggie from. Unfortunately he made the mistake of pinching a few too many in my earshot – 'Thanks mate, I'll buy you a dozen beers' I overheard him saying to our neighbour a couple of days ago and 'Thanks Annie, I'll buy you a pack to replace what I took' to my Mum! Excuse me, I reasoned, but isn't this rather a false economy? After all, he's hardly saving on buying cigarettes if he has to go around buying thank you gifts for everyone he's pilfered one from! Of course being Noel he had an answer – and I suppose he's right – if he's down to buying just one pack a week in order to be able to ration himself to a couple from Mum, that's still much better than buying a pack every day!

Even though we're being extra frugal this week, I've ended up with a few luxuries on hand – free ones that is! Last week was the boys' rugby prizegiving. Both Noel and I are pretty involved with the rugby club and we both ended up being quite unexpectedly pampered by the parents of the children in our teams. Noel was chuffed to bits to be presented with some 'blokey' gift vouchers and his very own 'Awesome Coach' trophy, and I was given a bouquet of flowers and a vase, a basket full of bath goodies and a box of choccies! What a lovely surprise, it felt just like my birthday! Talking of which, this weekend could be a potentially expensive one without enlisting the help of the Vault – Saturday is Noel's birthday and Sunday is Father's Day. I'd better start looking for some ideas!

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