Well, the New Year has proved pretty interesting already in our household. I was so well prepared leading up to January 1st! I found the Forum to be a brilliant place for clarifying and reaffirming New Year's resolutions to plan for my Wealthy Habits calendar. It's both amazing and reassuring to find so many people with the same goals – and vices! For example, my struggle to give up Diet Coke has been an ongoing battle for years. Even as a 15 year old Saturday girl in a shoe shop I was known for my Coke swilling habits and would down an average of six cans during the four hours I worked there every weekend. You can imagine how much of my pay I would have had left! Even back then I knew it was bad for me, but here I am almost 20 years later and still hooked on the stuff. Well – I was hooked on it, but not any more! While browsing the Forum on New Year's Eve a new thread jumped out at me - Giving up Diet Coke...for good! Within that single thread I found a whole army of fellow Coke addicts – all wanting to give up for the sake of our health and our bank balances. It was incredible – and exactly what I needed to strengthen my resolve and kick the habit for New Year. Three days later I have not touched a drop and don't miss it at all, even though I still have more than a litre in the house – sitting on top of the toilet! Yes, my favourite fizzy tipple has taken on a whole new dimension since SS member Katrina told me that Coke makes a wonderful toilet cleaner. She is absolutely right, it does a brilliant job and there is no way I would consider drinking it again now I have seen what it does to my toilet bowl! It certainly makes an interesting conversation piece when people come to visit too, but I don't care – it's worked for me and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to kick the habit!
So straight away there's a good saving to start off the New Year of around $500 a year just on Diet Coke for me – eek, did I really spend that much? That's not all I've managed to give up though I'm proud to say. Today is also my third alcohol free day and I really feel I have managed to kick the red wine for good this time. The first day was easy, the second day was hard but I felt so brilliant when I went to bed last night knowing I had resisted having a single mouthful. People can never understand why I want to give up drinking – 'it's not as though you've got a problem is it? A few glasses never hurt anyone' they tell me. That's as maybe, but I'm thinking of the $2,500 a year we would save by not buying wine any more! I mean, that kind of money would fly our whole family to Australia! It would pay to decorate and refloor my bathroom four times over. It would buy two of the garden sheds we so desperately need one of. When I look at it like that, I'm just not willing to pour that kind of money down my gullet, it's just not worth it! At least one of us is showing some willpower – Noel gave up smoking on New Year's Day, and again yesterday, and again today...
For once I'm letting him off the hook though, as he's been worth his weight in gold the past few days in his role as a Dad. Giving up my small vices may be a challenge but it's nothing to what our Liam is going through at the moment. For over a year he has been walking around looking like Casper the ghost, with hardly any energy from one day to the next. Blood tests showed he was iron deficient, so he made a real effort to increase his iron intake but even though he now eats like a horse, it made no difference. The past few months we had noticed he had developed quite a pot belly and put it down to too much food and too little exercise, but we didn't want to mention it to him – I mean, what parent wants to tell a 10 year old they think he's getting fat? Especially one who worries as much as Liam! Anyway, to cut a long story short, his general health has been getting worse and the poor kid has developed agonising stomach cramps on a daily basis. We felt so helpless watching him but couldn't put our finger on what the problem was, while all the time Liam was growing more and more frantic with worry that something was dreadfully wrong with him. I finally had a lightbulb moment when I realised that Liam's tummy pains were always much worse immediately after eating his breakfast – toast – and lunch – sandwiches. I did some Internet research on gluten intolerance and couldn't believe what I found. It was like reading about Liam exactly! I was excited, Noel was excited and so was poor Liam, at the thought that we may have finally stumbled on the answer. A thorough examination at the doctor's confirmed our suspicions – it seems that Liam has Coeliac disease. For any 10 year old this would be a huge challenge and I know that if it wasn't for Simple Savings I would be a panicking mess at this latest revelation, but thanks to the newsletters, the Vault and the Forum discussions, I know that we are not alone. A quick scan of the word 'gluten' in the Vault brings up 31 related hints and recipes. I found another 15 helpful threads by searching the Discussion Forum.
Both these resources have been so helpful and informative already, and in more ways than one. If I had not been made more aware of the number of people living with food intolerances through SS, I would probably have made a special trip to the nearest large town with a health food shop in order to spend a fortune on stocking up on 'safe foods' for Liam. My first instinct was still to do this! However, I stopped and remembered all the savings tips I had seen on SS; remembered reading about all the different ways members make their own enjoyable gluten free foods and are still able to save money. Don't get me wrong, I'm under no impressions it's going to be easy to keep a junk food loving 10 year old happily fed and growing well, but I really feel my Vault membership is a Godsend right now. If anyone has any suggestions for kid-friendly gluten free meals, particularly when it comes to school lunches, I would love to hear them! For any Kiwis in the same boat, I was recommended a brilliant shop for those 'must-have' coeliac items. Luckily it's only half an hour away from me, but they also have a website called N'tolerance so I am confident that anything we can't find elsewhere, we will be able to get there. I started my $21 Challenge this week as planned and hadn't bought a thing except a bag of potatoes, but now Liam's eating rice crackers as though they're going out of fashion who knows what the rest of the week will bring! Noel has been a real calming influence through all of this and has volunteered as Liam's gluten free 'buddy' at home so that he doesn't feel like the only one missing out on 'normal' food. He's doing a great job so far, although he was rather perturbed to find that beer is on the 'forbidden' list. I just hope he's better at giving up beer than cigarettes!
Other fun snippets I have found from the Vault this week have saved me $25 on an A4 work diary for the year ahead after reading this hint Unique diary from exercise book. I was able to jazz up an existing one I already had for nothing! Another hint will bring valuable savings on gift cards and mean I never stay out of touch or miss a special occasion - Greeting cards from Jacqui Lawson. I have to admit, I've never been one for sending e-cards, I just don't find them the same as receiving the 'real thing', but these e-cards are something else! They are just beautiful and I am always chuffed to bits when someone sends me one, so I think they are well worth the $10 fee to send as many as I like for a year and make a much bigger saving in the long run. One gift hint I wish I had known about before Christmas but will certainly be using in the future is this one about a brilliant free download called Google Earth. This program is mindblowing, I could spend all day on it, jetting all over the world for free! Just this morning I was enjoying a real blast from the past, zooming in on my old house and school in England before jetting off to revisit some of my old holiday destinations in Europe as a teenager. You have to see it to believe it, but be warned – it's almost as addictive as the Vault!