Now don't laugh at the title, I haven't gone and got ideas above my station! All will be revealed soon enough. Did you see the latest Hint of the Week, 'Six buy nothing days'? What a brilliant idea! I'm definitely keen to give it a go - the only thing that worries me is that I would enjoy my one spending day a week too much and try and sneak all sorts of things in. Although, if I managed to get through every other day of the week without spending a cent, I'm sure even buying something as mundane as a packet of frozen peas would seem exciting! It works in really well with the $21 Challenge too, or even your everyday menu planning. When in my usual menu planning routine, I buy everything I need for the week on the Sunday and then I don't need to set foot in the local store for the rest of the week. I'm not sure I will be able to manage six days with no spending this week though - what with a doctor's appointment this afternoon, a vet appointment for Dudley tomorrow and an optometrist visit for Ali on Wednesday it doesn't look promising! What a bunch of crocs we are, maybe next week will be better...
Several blogs ago I mentioned that the family was heading off to Gisborne for a few days to keep Noel company while he went on a work mission. While the accommodation would have been free, Liam and I ended up not going because I was too scared of spending any extra money while there on the inevitable takeaways and 'extras' we would have ended up parting with, so only Ali ended up going to keep his dad company on the trip. The only thing was, I was going to use the 20-plus hour car journey to think about my best and worst savings and purchases of 2006. It's something I like to do at the end of each year and this one is well overdue! I'm sure I will have forgotten something but off the top of my head, here is a rough breakdown of my 'best and worsts' for 2006, in no particular order:
MY BEST BUYS
My worm farm! No waste, reduces the amount of landfill we contribute and is great for the garden.
Annette Sym's 'Symply Too Good to be True' books. These have reduced my grocery bill by helping me to realise our portion sizes were FAR too big. Her recipes always have plenty leftover too, which means we get to save even more on delicious, healthy lunches!
Homeopathic First Aid kit. Gone are the days of filling our family with Panadol! Since buying our kit we have used it to cure everything from migraines, toothache, neuraglia, colds, anxiety, tummy bugs and earaches to (ahem) hangovers and even tantrums! These kits are nothing short of amazing and you can get them here.
Free range chickens. Well, technically they're supposed to be a good buy - mine all laid eggs for about two days and have spent every spare moment since either moulting or broody. Noel is threatening them with the same fate as Bob and Friday if they don't start performing soon!
Luna Pads - sorry guys, am talking feminine hygiene here! Was fascinated by the Luna pads for sanitary savings but if anyone would like to know more about them, feel free to email me - I'm loving the savings and they're sooo much better for the environment too!
My Scanpan cookware. My Mum bought a set of these on special a while back and I was so frustrated with throwing my cheap pots and pans away every few months that I decided to splash out too. I read up on all kinds of brands talked about in the Forum before buying but have been extremely happy with these so far!
Life changing books! Everything Noel and I have learned about gardening and sustainable living in the past few months has come from three Australian books - Backyard Self-Sufficiency by Jackie French, The Permaculture Home Garden by Linda Woodrow and Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn. Usually I don't condone buying any books when you can borrow them from the library, but these ones really are worth investing in! Mustn't forget my copy of the Complete Tightwad's Gazette by Amy Dazcyzyn either, I'm STILL ploughing through that and I don't think I have ever come across someone as frugal as Amy. Much too long to borrow and read in time from the library, far better off to borrow one from an understanding friend instead!
Hair clippers for people to use on grooming the dogs! A simple tip, but nonetheless one which has saved me over $300 since I bought them. Now, if only the kids would let me have a go at their hair with them too we could save even more!
Carpet sweeper. Oh how I love this invention resurrected from my childhood days! A snip at under $20, it's great for those five minute 'room rescues' and another definite bonus is that I can nag the kids into doing it for me. What more can a stressed parent ask for?
Getting away with not being charged $300 for a refrigerator repair several months ago. Actually that was more down to luck than anything - I think I'll keep quiet about that one!
It's reassuring to see that the good buys actually outweigh the bad ones - no flashy artwork, useless coffee tables or salt rock crystal lamps in sight this year! However, I must still admit to the following:
The cordless 'Piranha' vacuum which turned out not to be cordless and has been used once so far
Mini home steamer - bought the same day as the 'cordless' Piranha and has so far proven hopeless at removing wallpaper but may yet redeem itself should it be slightly more effective at steam cleaning the lounge suite.
Overspending on school photos - won't be making that mistake again this year!
Ali's puppy Tui. Not exactly a 'bad buy' as I wouldn't part with her for the world but she has cost us a fortune in toilet rolls and replacing wrecked toys, plants, shoes and underwear...
Guitar Hero Playstation 2 game. I would only suggest purchasing this game for people who are contortionists or at the very least ambidextrous. Must remember to sell on eBay to some other poor mug.
Gold plated Daniel Carter poster, which Noel still thinks cost $45, not $75 - tut, Penny! I bid on it through a radio station charity auction and won it on December 11th 2006. I finally received it on Saturday! It is a very nice poster though but shall not be repeating the exercise (or ever confessing its true price to husband).
It's not all bad though! Thanks to the Vault, the Forum and some sturdy SS logic I also managed to save thousands more by:
* Swapping rooms with the boys instead of hiring a builder to give them separate rooms.
* The now infamous $21 Challenge - go Barb K, what a legend!
* Cancelling my account at the grocery store (Mr Patel is STILL grieving)
* Borrowing a treadmill instead of buying one and discovering that yep, I wouldn't use it!
* Getting squillions of loads out of a pack of washing powder by using the one tablespoon rule
* NOT giving in and buying a tumble dryer, even when the weather got really tough
* Texting instead of calling on my mobile (a recharge card can last me six months now!)
* Unblocking the toilet myself instead of calling a plumber
* Never missing out on a refund thanks to the shoebox system
* Deciding not to put our finances in jeopardy by going on holiday when we couldn't afford it
* And one I think I even forgot to mention at the end of the year (forgive me if I do repeat myself though!) $5000 saved by cutting down our own trees (we're talking about 50 here) instead of hiring a contractor. I still have the scars on my legs from all the scratchy branches to prove it!
So now I've got that over with, I guess I should really explain today's title 'Penny the Warrior Princess'. Now, for non-rugby fans, be warned, this next story does involve talking about my beloved sport! The reason I am including it in my blog is because I wanted to demonstrate that it costs nothing to dream and if you're really lucky, it doesn't cost much to make them come true either. Because I ended up receiving so many requests for 'The Tana Umaga story', I have given in and am putting it in my blog! I shall start at the beginning. When Liam was just a wee dot, he came home from kindy one day clutching a picture with the heading 'MY FAMILY' which had pictures pasted on it. Ali and Noel were represented by catalogue pictures of a boy and a man. Next to them was a picture of Judge Judy and 'Grandma' written shakily underneath it. But it was 'my' picture that really made my day; he had cut out a picture of Xena, Warrior Princess in all her leather garb, brandishing a weapon and had written 'MUM' under it in bold letters. I ask you, what adoring mother wouldn't love to be seen as a Warrior Princess by her child! Anyway, I never forgot that picture (OK, I admit it, I kept it!) and the other day used my full Xena 'clout' to give my boy the one thing he wanted more than anything in the world. Ever since he began playing rugby at five years old, Liam has idolised Tana Umaga, the former All Black captain. Over the years he has entered school speech competitions talking about him and written to the NZRFU several times requesting his autograph, but we have either never heard anything back or have been nicely fobbed off. When Liam's health was at its worst several weeks ago, Noel and I tried everything - and I mean EVERYTHING to lift him out of his gloom. His dream had always been to be an All Black just like Tana but as Liam's world grew a sadder and harder place to be, I could see it slipping away. In despair I promised him I would get him Tana's autograph if that would cheer him up and inspire him to keep dreaming. He told me that he would try but dreams didn't come true, so from that moment I was determined to do everything I could to make it happen. I wrote three times to the Wellington RFU, where Tana plays for the Hurricanes and explained Liam's predicament but heard nothing back.
We had already arranged to go and see the Chiefs play the Hurricanes at Waikato Stadium on Friday night and as the day arrived with still no word from Wellington, there was only one more thing left I could think of to try. I got the best seats I could and Liam and I made a huge banner to try and catch Tana's eye. Everyone at the stadium saw that banner - it was on the big screen and was even photographed for a French newspaper! Even his teammates saw it - everyone except the man himself. As the game wore on we grew more and more despondent and I was all out of ideas. Suddenly, with just four minutes to go until the end of the game I grabbed the kids and together we pushed down to the very front row. Penny the Warrior Princess was not going to be beaten, no way! As the game finished and the team made their way across the field, I shouted at the boys to hold their banner up as high as they could. And Tana saw it. He stopped and we could see him reading the words to himself - 'TANA, PLEASE MAKE A 10 YEAR OLD'S DREAM COME TRUE AND SIGN LIAM'S JERSEY'. A big smile spread across his face as he made his way over and said 'So which one is Liam then?' It didn't matter that the TV cameras were waiting for him to talk about the game; it didn't matter that a crowd of other fans had gathered all around us - he only had eyes for Liam as he was the one who had gone to so much trouble to get his attention. He not only signed Liam's jersey, but chatted away happily and posed for a photo with him before ambling off into the tunnel. That night Liam learned that dreams really can come true if you want something badly enough - and all it cost to make it happen was a $5 plain white sheet and a $2.50 pack of marker pens to make the banner. I guess it goes without saying that Liam's mum has gone up a long way in his estimation - Penny the Warrior Princess lives to fight another day!