How low can you go?

Posted October 23rd, 2006 by Penny Wise

When you have a dog like Tui, trying to save money can feel like a losing battle. I've mentioned her penchant for toilet rolls before, but these days nothing is sacred. In the last couple of weeks she has chewed through a Playstation controller (value $60) a 'Plug and Play' game (value $80) , countless toys, socks, plants and her latest trick was dropping Ali's Spiderman mask down the toilet. So now not only do we have to remember to keep the toilet door shut at all times to ensure the survival of the toilet rolls, we now have to remember to put the toilet lid down too. We never know what we're going to find and her favourite pastime may not cost us money, but it has the potential to cause great embarrassment. She won't leave our undies alone! It doesn't matter where we put them, nine times out of ten I can be walking down the stairs and find a bra dragged halfway down, or a pair of knickers abandoned on the lounge floor. She swipes them out of the laundry basket and if we don't catch her in time they end up festooned across the driveway, which is a novel way to welcome visitors. I couldn't begin to describe my relief to find she was carrying a pair of Noel's boxers out to greet the Telecom man recently, instead of mine (I haven't actually told Noel that, so we'll just keep it quiet!)

Last week the kids all had a day off from school while their teachers attended a curriculum day or some such thing, so Maxine and I decided to take our four boys out. We felt that they deserved a treat and wanted to give them a lovely day, but without breaking the bank. Unfortunately the weather put paid to all our low cost outdoor ideas for picnics, walks and swimming and there was nothing on at the movies, so we decided that we would let them loose in Lollipops Playland for the day. It's indoors, the kids have a ball and get heaps of exercise and I reckon $6.00 to stay there all day isn't bad. It's also somewhere we never usually go, as our respective husbands would rather have their toenails pulled out one by one than spend the day stuck inside, forced to listen to other people's screaming kids for hours on end, but we thought it was great! The only downside to places like that is the cost of food. Now I know, we should have brought our own from home, but the truth was the cupboards were bare and besides, we had already planned to treat the kids to McDonalds. However, they were having such a good time, it made more sense to eat at Lollipops than whisk them all off and take them somewhere else for lunch. Looking at the price list, the kids' food wasn't too bad and wasn't going to cost them any more to fill up their tummies there than at McDonalds – never mind that a bowl of chips per child cost the same at Lollipops as it would to feed an entire family - with plenty leftover – bought for the same price at our local takeaway. The grown-ups' food is where they get you. I was about to order a bowl of wedges from the adult's menu, until I saw the price - $9.00! I looked at the kids' menu directly above and saw that I could order exactly the same from there for $6.00, so that's what I did and there was plenty enough there to fill up a hungry adult. I thought of how Fiona has often said companies take advantage of tired, vulnerable mums in order to get them to part with their money and as I looked around at all the worn out parents watching their little ones play over pricey paninis and decadent cappuccinos, I could see this was a classic example. I was just glad that thanks to Fiona's wise words they got a few dollars less out of me!

Hours later, it was time to leave with our four sweaty, hyped-up boys and off to the next stop, which Maxine and I were not looking forward to. Letting the kids loose in the Warehouse was a necessary stop-off as I wanted to pick up a Christmas present for my niece while it was half price, but unfortunately it meant we needed to set foot in the toy department. We trailed round and round but couldn't find what we were looking for and all the while the kids had found all kinds of things. 'Can I have this? Please – I'll pay you back!' and all the old tricks of guilt and persuasion, multiplied by four. I would like to say that we stood our ground and didn't allow them anything, but our fruitless search had worn us down and in all honesty we just wanted to shut them up and get the heck out of there! There was no way they were getting $20 or more each out of us though and somehow in my frazzled state of mind, I came up with an idea. 'Righto you lot!' I barked at them. 'You can choose something, but this is the deal. I challenge you to find something decent for $5.00 or less. If you find it, you can have it!' A hilarious race followed as the boys all rushed madly up and down the aisles, checking prices. 'Aghhh! You and your Simple Savings challenges!' shouted Liam from two aisles away. Maxine and I dashed around after them in the hope of spotting something vaguely appealing and while it was relatively easy to find something under $5.00, the majority of it was rubbish. While we didn't want to spend more than that on a treat, at the same time, we didn't really want them to come home with a waste of money that they would never play with, just for the sake of completing the challenge.

I was starting to wish I had set the price at $10 instead, but we got there eventually. Six year old Jacob took a while to convince that items with a $49 price tag were not the same as $4.99, but he was pleased with the miniature knight playset that he ended up with. Liam chose well with a bouncy ball and multi-coloured biro pen and Ryan picked a rather impressive action figure for $4.96. Ali wouldn't leave behind a talking squirrel from the seconds/clearance table and we were done! It was great watching the boys think out of the square, weigh up the pros and cons of their purchases and make choices over items they wouldn't normally consider. It was also a lot more fun and guilt free for their Mums too! Ali got home and made a home – I mean a dray – for his squirrel out of a shoe box filled with packing 'straw' and Liam was so exhausted he slept all the way home in the car, which is unheard of!

One treat our family wouldn't dream of missing out on was going to the Air NZ Cup final at the weekend, watching our home team Waikato play Wellington against the likes of Tana Umaga. What a fantastic night, made all the more memorable by the fact that we won, woohoo! The only thing which grated somewhat is that for the privilege of going to the final, we were required to pay $18 more to sit in the same seats we had occupied all year at the games leading up to it. It didn't go down well with supporters and was scorned at in the media, but of course there was still a full house, just as the organisers knew there would be. If you didn't want to miss out, you had to cough up, simple as that. So, cough up we did, but we made sure that we didn't hand over a single dollar more to the organisers for food, drink or memorabilia. Instead, the following day I saw a brilliant front page commemorative poster in our local store's news stand, so I went in and asked if we could have it when they had finished with it. They happily agreed and the boys got a unique A3 colour poster for free! After watching the game replay yesterday we also spotted ourselves several times on TV, so that was an added bonus – not that anyone else would recognise us in our red, yellow and black wigs and face paint! Go the Mooloos!

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