Still learning

Posted September 26th, 2006 by Penny Wise

One thing I'm discovering on my savings journey is that it's a never-ending one. There's always so much to learn! I have always been fairly environmentally conscious but since joining Simple Savings I have learned to make far more of an effort in the planet saving department. It was heartening to learn from Linda Cockburn's book that I have actually been doing a pretty good job of conserving resources – although I would still have to go a long way to catch up with Linda! It's lovely to look around our wee block of land and see it working to help us save. Instead of a patch of ground three metres high in blackberry and gorse as we found it three years ago, I have to admit it now looks rather picturesque. The orchard, as it now is, makes a pretty show of spring blossoms on the fruit trees Ali and I picked up for half price last year. The chickens happily roam around one end (they're all laying now) and Noel's freshly weeded vegetable garden at the other end is chocka with new seedlings of all kinds, along with a huge crop of spinach and silverbeet. The soil there isn't the flashest but we've learned heaps from the Vault about mulching, so we're looking forward to seeing the results and my clever worms have been doing a wonderful job of producing lots of rich vermicast (that's the posh word for worm poo – I can't remember the posh name for worm wee, but there's heaps of that as well!) Friday and Bob the sheep hang out there too and keep the orchard nicely mown, so all in all it's been a hugely successful transformation. The orchard also proved to be a great source of firewood recently too. It was a particularly chilly afternoon but with winter supposedly at an end we had gone through all our firewood and the boys and I were freezing. Mum suggested we have a look around the place to see if we could find any suitable pieces of wood lying around that would burn well, so we took the log basket into the orchard and filled it to overflowing with sticks, pine cones and dead wood, which kept the fire burning merrily for another three whole days! How I love being resourceful!

I'm currently ploughing my way through the Complete Tightwad Gazette – jings, what a mission! At the rate I'm going (a few pages a night before bed) I'll still be wading through it this time next year. The author, Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced 'decision') certainly takes some beating in the frugal stakes. However, I caught myself washing out bread bags this morning to recycle into freezer bags, so I guess I must be learning something. Shame I didn't read that part the night before as I only went and bought a pack of freezer bags yesterday – doh! More ideas from the Vault I have started implementing recently is using just one tablespoon of washing powder per machine load as written in One tablespoon per wash. Cutting down the amount of washing powder I was using was one of the first Simple Savings tips I used and I thought I was already being pretty miserly with the soap suds but I wondered how much less a tablespoon was than the half-scoop I was using. The answer was a LOT! Such a huge difference in fact, that I really didn't believe that small amount of powder could really get the clothes clean, especially in my 8kg machine. But it does! I haven't noticed any difference in results whatsoever. Seeing as my 20kg bucket of powder is still almost full, I honestly can't imagine when I will need to buy laundry powder again at this rate!

Another hint I enjoyed reading was Years of saving with the shoebox system. I am absolutely rubbish when it comes to keeping my receipts for anything – I hate having pieces of paper cluttering up the place so I would always chuck things in the rubbish. But Tina's hint made keeping dockets sound rather appealing, not to mention worthwhile with all those savings! So I found an old shoebox and was very pleased with myself when I added my first docket to it, for a pair of Liam's new shoes. I remembered what the hint said about kids' shoes falling apart and thought about how many times that had happened to us before, so as soon as I got home I popped the receipt into the box and I have to admit that it's great to feel we are now protected from anything going wrong with those shoes!

It's not been a bad few days for saving actually. Last week I had to take Ali to the doctor with a sinus infection. He was just relieved that at least he couldn't have tonsillitis any more, but believe me this infection was nasty. Not being particularly speedy on the uptake at times, I let the poor child put up with it, believing his horrendously clogged nose would eventually give way to a proper cold. It didn't and by the time I realised what it actually was, he was in a right old state. I have to admit to being a bit sneaky. I took him along to the doctors to confirm the problem, but I had absolutely no intention of giving him the antibiotics he prescribed. I just wanted to make sure I had diagnosed him correctly for when I gave Fran Sheffield the homeopath a call. Ali had already had so many antibiotics shoved in him this winter, I wanted to see if we could clear the problem without the need for them. I figured that if Fran couldn't fix the infection, well at least I had the antibiotics to fall back on. Oh ye of little faith! A quick phone call to Fran and I was pleased to see that I already had the remedy we needed in my little homeopathic first aid kit. With one dose he was significantly better and with the second dose his nose was completely clear. This was accomplished in around 12 hours. When bedtime came around it was the first time in weeks that he had not needed inhalants or chest rubs to help him breathe. I kid you not, poor Ali had been so bunged up with thick green yukky stuff for so long, it had been weeks since we were actually able to see up his nostrils. I've never been so excited to look up anyone's nose! A total of four doses and he was completely fixed in two days – no more headaches, sinus pain or sore eyes either. I was relieved and Ali was delighted – and the antibiotics remain unopened in the fridge.

While at the doctors, he asked if there was anything else we needed and he was quite surprised when I asked him to prescribe me some Panadol tablets. Since joining Simple Savings I had learned to save money on Panadol by purchasing generic brands, which have exactly the same paracetamol content as Panadol but without the price tag. Of course we discovered that they work just as well, but Noel and I are both prone to migraines and are always running out of Panadol. I was fed up of paying $2.50 and upwards a time for a 12 or 16 pack which we were constantly replacing. I explained this to the doctor and he was happy to write a prescription. I smugly handed the script over to the chemist but was horrified when she returned a few minutes later with a box of 200 tablets – eek, how much was this going to cost me?! I thought I had misheard her when she said 'that will be $3.00 please'. My cunning plan worked even better than I had hoped! Wow, just $3.00 for 200 tablets – and they were Panadol brand too, which would have cost me $34 to buy the same amount from a shop. I was most impressed with that saving alone, but I was even more impressed at one which Liam managed to come up with all by himself. Poor Liam had been stuck with a wart on his finger for quite some time and it was getting bigger. You know how self conscious kids are about that sort of thing and we had tried everything to get rid of it, from cheap 'paint-on' cures to forking out a whopping $47 for a flashy home-freezing treatment called Wartner. I only paid that much because it was supposed to be guaranteed to get rid of them, but although we followed the instructions to the letter, we used up the whole pack of 10 treatments over the months and it made absolutely no difference whatsover. I had decided that the only other avenue was to take him to the doctor to get it removed, but I wasn't looking forward to it.

In the meantime, Liam grew more embarrassed about his unsightly wart and took to wearing a plaster over it 24 hours a day, so that the other kids at school couldn't see it. After a week or so, he announced 'Mum – I'm sure my wart's getting smaller, look!' I wasn't convinced, but he seemed to think his plaster was making a difference, so excitedly put another one on. Another week later, he was even more adamant that it was getting smaller, but I still wasn't 100% sure that the plaster wasn't just flattening it and making it look smaller. He was right though! Four weeks later, that wart is completely gone and all it took was a measly plaster. I wish I had known to do that before, it could have saved us a packet! 'Well done Liam, I'm so proud of you!' I patted him on the shoulder. 'What for?' he asked. 'Well, you fixed the problem yourself! Now we don't have to spend any more money!' 'Tut – you and your Simple Savings! I'm just glad my bloomin' wart's gone!' he groaned.

School holidays are here again and we're doing the Cheap holiday activities as easy as ABC method again. Today is 'B' day and this afternoon we are going to read the BFG by Roald Dahl, drink lots of Frobscottle and have a whizpopping competition. (If you haven't read the book, I'm not going to tell you what that is!) Should be fun, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow's 'C' activity already. Coin Collecting for the Money Tin Challenge!

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