Hello to all the new Kiwi members! Isn't it brilliant news about the new NZ site? I'm so looking forward to telling everyone I know about Simple Savings - even though I have been bashing their ears about it for quite some time as it is. And why not too? Thanks to SS, I am looking just faaabulous lately - well, compared to the usual Penny standards anyway! Unfortunately I have had to concede defeat on the method of washing my hair with soap and vinegar. I'm so upset when everyone else has been enjoying such success with it! I followed the instructions to the letter but no matter what I did, my hair resembled steel wool - even the kids noticed 'What have you done to your hair Mum? It's hard as!' Worse still, my hairdresser noticed when I took the boys for a haircut. 'Egads girl, what have you got in your hair?' she asked. 'Oh, I'm just trying out a new shampoo', I mumbled, smiling apologetically. 'Well stop using it! Wash the dogs with it instead!' she scolded. Ah yes, people were noticing alright. From a styling point of view, my hair had never been easier to manage; it was permanently set solid and never moved even a hair out of place, so I was detemined to keep persevering but my experimenting came to an abrupt end when one of the local newspapers wanted to take a photo of me last week. Instead of being filled with excitement, I was immediately filled with dread - my hair! I have learned over the years that when a newspaper takes your photo, they are often kept on file for a few years so that when they are quoting the same person again in future, they simply use the same photo for convenience and even share it around with other publications in their media family. Very commendable but there was no way I was being captured for posterity sporting a concrete bouffant. I told them I was terribly busy that morning but would pop in and see them that afternoon - and immediately made an emergency call to my hairdresser. To give Debbie her due, she didn't laugh TOO much when I confessed all; in fact she was blown away by the volume. She even picked I had been using Sunlight soap, due to the sheer bizarre texture of my hair but wasn't surprised as she said lots of people use it with great success. Just obviously not me. By the time I left the salon, my oily frizz had been transformed into a mass of soft, intricately arranged curls and I was quite looking forward to striding into the newspaper and posing for my mugshot; 'Of COURSE I look this sophisticated all the time, dahlings!' It was just a shame it cost me $20 to fix up my hair experiment that was supposed to SAVE me money!
On the positive side though, Debbie was blown away by my haircut! I wasn't looking forward to sitting in the chair and admitting I only needed my hair washing, not cutting as I had already done that myself. Years of doing my own wonky fringes told me this didn't usually go down well with hairdressers but on scrutinising the layers and the fact there were no split ends to be seen anywhere, she told me I had done a fantastic job! She was amazed when I told her how I did it but admitted that was exactly how hairdressers normally layer hair, simply by bringing all the hair around to the front, so could see how and why it would work. Reassuring words indeed - I'll definitely keep on doing it! Some time later I emerged from the newspaper office and decided as this particular town wasn't a place I visited often I would have a quick look around. Funnily enough I had just been discussing my favourite saving tip with a lady at the newspaper and I told her the one which works best for me is to ask yourself 'Is there a better way?' I was starving and was tempted to head up to the nearest McDonalds but quickly stopped myself when I remembered our conversation. Sure, I could walk all the way to my car, drive to the other end of town and spend almost $10 on fast food or I could walk a few feet to the nearest bakery and buy a huge roll stuffed with salad for $2. No-brainer! Stop, think and save Penny. The same happened when I spotted a sale rack outside a clothing store, advertising 40% off boys' clothing. I rifled through them and picked out some great things for Liam - then put them back, reminding myself that I had only just sorted out the kids' wardrobes and knew without a doubt that he did not need any of these things. As I progressed down the street, it almost turned into a little game - stop, think and save; stop, think and save and by the time I made it back to my car I felt terrific at the amount of money I had been able to successfully stop myself from parting with.
Every girl needs to pamper herself once in a while though and from my own recent wardrobe de-clutter, it was plain that I was in desperate need of some new stuff. Trousers, skirts, shoes, jumpers for winter - you name it. The problem was, I couldn't afford to go splashing out on new clothes. I was feeling a bit down in the dumps and decided to browse the Vault to find some suggestions of how other SS members give themselves a lift when money is tight. It didn't take long to find the answer - op shopping! Why didn't I think of that before? I enlisted Mum's help to make sure I didn't go overboard or buy anything that wasn't suitable and off we went for a leisurely browse around all the second hand stores. I couldn't believe my eyes in the first shop we went in - almost every garment had a label I knew and many of them were labels I would never otherwise be able to afford in a zillion years! Everything was immaculate and had been meticulously washed and pressed. I bought three skirts, a pair of trousers, three jumpers and two blouses, all for the price of what it would normally cost for a single outfit at an average clothing store! The lady in the store even threw in a pretty brooch for free, just because I said I liked it! Mum picked up some gorgeous bargains too and from there we headed across the road to the Salvation Army Family Store. My mum is a shoe fanatic and straight away spotted two pairs of expensive leather shoes which had never been worn. They fitted her perfectly and I was excited to see a pair of brown Hush Puppies ankle boots - again, never worn. After a lengthy hunt for a pair of jeans, I also found a pair of Levi's, complete with the original tag. I tried them on and they fitted perfectly but I couldn't help laughing when I saw the price tag - $4 for a pair of brand new Levi's! There was even better to come though; when we took our purchases up to the counter the lady looked at the shoes and said 'Tut - these haven't been priced. They're $2 each then'. 'You're joking!' Mum spluttered but it was apparently so; anything that had gone out on the shelves without being priced were $2 - store policy. My Hush Puppies were also $2 and my Levi's were reduced even further to $2 when the lady informed me they were having a 50% off day, just like this hint says! She even threw in a Star Wars book for free that I had picked up for Liam! I couldn't believe it when I arrived home and hung up all my new things. Everything I had bought was a top quality brand, almost all of them were brand new and unworn and they were all far better quality clothes than I would ever normally have dreamed of buying. Makes you wonder why we bother buying anything 'new' at all!
We also found it quite interesting talking to the shopkeepers when going around. The first secondhand bric-a-brac store we went in was a sad place. This was a shop that used to be a huge, bustling business, full of people and full of quality bargains. I remember visiting them when Noel and I were setting up home together and we still have everything I bought from them! However they had recently moved to smaller premises and didn't carry even a small fraction of the items they used to. The woman who owned the shop was talking to another customer and we could hear from her conversation how disillusioned she was. According to her, Trade Me (or eBay for non-Kiwis) has killed off the second-hand trader. Many shops have been forced to close because nobody needs to visit them any more; they buy everything they need online. Others find they make more money selling their items on Trade Me than they do sitting in their own shops. A sign of the times and I thought it was pretty sad, considering what an essential part of the community these places have been for generations. On the other end of the scale, it seems to have worked the other way for clothing retailers. The woman at the first clothing store we purchased from actually started out as a Trade Me seller but found that buying and selling clothing unseen over the Internet was too hit and miss for many people - including her, so she opened her own shop instead and has never looked back. She's right too - I would never buy any clothing from Trade Me I couldn't try on first and get my money back on if they didn't fit. I had a go at selling a few garments there in the past but found too many other people thought the same thing!
There have been some great hints added to the Vault recently. One of my favourites is Superior comfort from cheaper shoes. What a great idea! I'm sure I have been guilty of throwing out shoes like this in the past, so will definitely keep this hint in mind in the future. Unfortunately it also looks as though I am going to have to try out Pest control like the professionals too. I don't like using chemical sprays but we have been getting inundated with nasty white tail spiders and are going to have to do something about them, unless anyone knows of a more environmentally friendly method! One of my big spending mistakes from last year was spending too much on the annual school photos. I ended up ordering every single pack going - individual, siblings together AND class photos and it cost me a blooming fortune, so this year I was determined to be smarter. When photo time came around, I was very careful to order only a portrait pack of the boys together, for around a quarter of the price of last year's splurge! The boys got their hair cut and went off to school excitedly in their best bib and tucker but were rather despondent when they came out of school. 'We didn't have our photo taken Mum - we told the lady heaps of times that you had paid but she didn't believe us so she wouldn't take our photo'. The kids were gutted and so was I so I went to the Principal. The photographer and his assistant had long gone and if the silly moo had checked our family's envelope properly along with all the others, she would have seen our cheque sitting neatly inside, just as her instructions spelled out. Bloody typical, it had to be us, didn't it! The thing is, this year's photo of the two boys was even more special than usual because it's Liam's last year at primary school. Next year he will be at college and won't be having his photo taken with Ali, so I don't mind admitting I was mightily persisted off. However, I wasn't beaten! I had seen enough Vault hints such as DIY Pixi Fotos at home to know that I could achieve a perfectly nice portrait of my boys at home, using my own camera, so that's what we did. Get stuffed Photolife, you miserable lot - I've cancelled the cheque and saved myself $42!