Crunch time

Posted April 24th, 2007 by Penny Wise

Egads, what a difference a few weeks makes! I hate to admit it but the Wise family finances are currently undergoing damage control. Sigh - just goes to show we're still a long way from perfect! Last week was bill paying time again and boy did I get a shock when I went to pay our bills online - where had all the money gone?! I felt physically sick when I saw how little we had and even worse when I realised that with at least another two weeks until pay day, if we weren't careful there wouldn't be enough to pay the mortgage. I'm still not sure we're going to make it but I'm sure as heck going to do my utmost to make sure we do. 'Where's it all gone?' I groaned miserably to Noel as we scoured the last month's transactions. 'You know where it's gone - to Ronald McDonald, KFC, the movies - we've both been crap', he replied. Of course, he was right - we have been rubbish lately - not with everything but obviously enough to matter. Just as all those little bits of money here and there add up when you're saving, the same happens when you're spending a few dollars here and there too - they still add up to a lot. The annoying thing is, we kept telling ourselves at the time that we had to do better and stop spending! With half a herd of cows only just paid for and back-to-back tax bills looming, it wasn't as though we had money to burn. You know - I think we had become so used to being good with money all this time and having enough in the bank that we got all complacent, thinking that whatever we did now, there would always be enough to go round. Wrong! I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a worry but the funny thing is, rather than being negative or suffering from sleepless nights we're actually finding this to be quite a positive experience. We obviously needed a wake-up call and we're both excited about getting our family out of this and doing better. Initially I thought I would have to stop the automatic payments I created last week, as that would give us an extra $280 a month but I immediately talked myself out of it - nothing's going to stop me paying those debts off sooner and we'll just have to survive without it. The kids know the situation too. For a long time now they have been aware of what Mum and Dad have to pay for each month - I think it's important that they know that the things they do without thinking - turning on lights, running a bath or watching Sky TV all have to be paid for. They know that we have to pay the bank each month for our house. They also know that making that payment is the most important one of the lot and that if Mum says there might not enough left in the bank then it's SERIOUS STUFF. It goes without saying that there's no lollies, drinks from Mr Patel's or new toys for a while and they know not to even bother asking.

Saying that though, it's not all doom and gloom. They know that they will still get plenty of treats - just different ones. It's all about getting back to basics. I have to relearn some of my good habits and putting them all together again feels really good. The baking that went by the wayside during the holidays is back. Noel's packed lunches which also got forgotten about during the school holidays when I didn't have to make any for the kids, are back. Texting a shopping list to Noel of essentials to pick up on his way home from work, rather than making a separate trip myself, is back. I'm quite enjoying using some new savings tools too. I've done a Sad Sally trick and slapped Memory Trigger stickers all over the house - except unlike Sad Sally, mine aren't just for decoration. I've started keeping a 'daily spends' book too. I write down everything I buy each day in a little notebook, along with the total spend for the day and I pride myself on writing as little in that notebook as possible. It's a great way to evaluate your spending habits and see where you can improve from one day to the next. Today I have spent only $3.60 at the chemist but I love the days where I don't part with a cent! Another hint I have just put into action is this one 'Never miss a saving with home filing system'. The first time I read it I thought 'Eek! That sounds complicated!' but then I read it through again and could imagine how well it would work - especially for someone as disorganised as me. The only thing was, I didn't have a filing cabinet and certainly wasn't in a position to buy one! Not to be deterred however, I decided to adapt the system to suit what I did have. I followed the instructions for setting up the system with the same amount of files as the contributor stated but instead I used clear display pockets, which luckily were on special in Warehouse Stationery so I was able to get everything I needed for about $6. I then got home, emptied out a huge lever arch file full of stuff I no longer needed (and proudly put a huge pile of reuseable paper in my scrap paper tray) and set up my own personal filing system, one pocket for each day of the month. It's working a treat and I use it just like the contributor Diana Ots does, to organise my days in advance and it means I am never late with anything and I never miss a saving. Just like Diana my desk was a mass of note and paper scraps too but not any more - all I need on my desk is my folder!

The good old Forum has been reading my mind lately once again. With my renewed enthusiasm for all things frugal and domestic I was determined to be the best mum I could to my kids. I wanted them to be as well-fed and content on our budget as any kid could wish for so I was delighted to see a thread pop up called 'Help! What do you feed children for morning and afternoon tea?' Oh sister, I hear you! This has long been a woe of mine. While baking and bikkies are now a constant provision in our house as a rule, when it comes to morning and afternoon teas I have always been rubbish. Of course, the kids are used to always stopping for morning tea at school but when we're at home I forget completely and then grumble at them when they ask me at 10am if it's lunchtime yet, without paying any mind to the thought that perhaps they really are hungry and their poor tummies are accustomed to morning tea at that time. Afternoon tea is even worse. I have a lovely vision of myself welcoming my weary children home from school each day with an inviting fruit platter or something suitably healthy and mouthwatering but they don't want to eat when they walk in the door at 3.30 - they just want to blob out and play. So I go off and do something and then snap at them two hours later that I'm too busy to make them anything when they tell me they're starving and force them to wait for dinner. The thing is, I WANT to make them delicious afternoon teas but I never know what to make that will tempt them. Luckily, I no longer have that problem thanks to this thread! I have printed off all the wonderful ideas and have stuck them up in the pantry so next time they're hungry they can browse the list and there's bound to be something they want that is simple, fast and delicious. I can't wait to give these new ideas a go - the only problem is, I don't know which one to try out first!

Master Ali has been in the wars again. He somehow tipped his little motorbike and copped a nasty burn on his leg from the petrol tank. The smart little guy ran straight over to the hose and started sloshing it all over his leg. After 10 or so minutes we carefully patched up his squeaky clean wound and he seemed fine but the next day he was in a lot of pain so I consulted my trusty homeopathic First Aid kit and found the exact remedy I needed. Within a couple of minutes he had gone from being hardly able to walk and in floods of tears to happily walking around pain free again. I felt pretty pleased with myself and Ali was impressed too. In fact he was so much better that I made the mistake of uncovering it a couple of days later. I have since learned that in 'the old days' it was thought that you should let the air get to burns so they can form a scab but apparently this is no longer the case. When the weekend came around he went out playing and knocked his scab which immediately turned very bloody, yucky and sore. So off to the medical centre we went, where I got a rap on the knuckles for uncovering the burn and Ali was extremely brave as they cleaned him up. $30 later and a visit back to the doctor every two days for re-dressing means I have now learned how one should look after burns properly. I felt terrible - Ali had done such a great job of keeping it clean and the remedy had done such a great job of keeping him pain-free, I had absolutely no idea it was a third degree burn! Poor little scrap. Needless to say, I have since learned of quite a few procedures which have been updated since I did my First Aid course at high school and I really felt that as a mum of two boisterous boys I should update my knowledge. I had always intended to complete a St John's course locally but the $200-odd dollars to do it always put me off and I always ended up saying 'Ah well, maybe I'll do it next time'. Daft attitude really. Luckily for me, my Mum has already done the course being compulsory for her workplace and she was able to give me all the necessary information from the reading material, to the DVD and even the inflatable dummy's head for practising CPR! It definitely pays to ask around if anyone you know has any First Aid resources you can read up on or borrow, as you too may not be as up to date as you think!

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