A month of challenges!

Posted May 21st, 2007 by Penny Wise

Well, my emergency belt tightening may have kept us out of overdraft recently but the relief lasted all too briefly! Thanks to unforeseen expenses such as $600 of car repairs and servicing, receiving the bill for Ali's ambulance call-out and Tui getting rushed to the vet with a flipping great abscess in her shoulder, I realised to my horror when paying the bills yesterday that we are once again up the proverbial creek. To be honest, I'm not sure if even my best efforts can keep us from ringing the bank this time but I'm going to do my darnedest. First on the 'to-do' list is a whole month of $21 Challenges. If I can successfully complete four consecutive Challenge weeks, that will give me an extra $716 for starters. Wow, that's more than enough to pay for my car! Barb K, what would I do without you? I have more than enough 'fresh' vegetables harvested from the garden and frozen to last me at least a month and plenty of preserved fruit to do for breakfasts and desserts if need be. I also have enough rolled oats and dried fruit on hand to make our own muesli or fruity porridge if we run out of bought cereal. Yesterday was spent baking and I made a Chocolate Apricot Slice, Really Good Cheese Scones (from Sophie Gray's book Enjoy - they are Really Good too!), Chocolate Chip Cookies and a batch of Snow Drops which took care of all the leftover condensed milk from making the cookies. Then my mum bless her, turned up later that afternoon with a batch of date scones and the exact same Chocolate Apricot Slice! So that should see us well fed for a while. The cheese scones are so cheap and easy and I have plenty of ingredients to make some more as a standby should we run out of bread. These are also great for work lunches and I still have lots of tomato and vegetable soup we can use, not to mention enough pumpkins to keep us in pumpkin soup for a while too! Tut, look at that - I was quite down in the dumps when I started writing this blog but looking at all that lot, I'm feeling better already!

My chickens are moulting all over the place at the moment so their egg-laying is not as prolific as it has been but I was delighted to find a secret nest the other day with 11 perfect brown eggs in it. It felt like Christmas! Luckily, none of them were 'past it' either but I didn't know how long they had been there so I used them up with the last of the blasted zucchinis to make quiches. The tomatoes are finally on the wane now too but funnily enough I quite miss them. I wouldn't dream of buying them at this time of year though, the prices are exorbitant compared to growing your own! Thankfully Liam has stalled on the new bed idea for a while too - it turned out that he didn't really want to stop sharing with Ali but he had seen a programme on TV where an older boy had been teased for sharing with his younger brother and he didn't want people to think he was a baby. I'm glad we got the truth out of him in time before we gave in and ended up buying something we couldn't afford! I've been going through my little book of expenditure I drew up last year too and seeing what else we could be letting go in order to save money. Rugby season has started and already we have fallen into the habit of stopping at McDonalds on the way home. At $30 a time for the four of us, this should be a treat, not a tradition so we have made a deal with the kids that they only get McDonalds if they score a try. Unfortunately we are only three weeks into the season and between them they have scored a try every week so far so I'm not sure how cost effective this is going to be but at least they will appreciate it more if they have earned it. Although you know what? After reading the Forum thread 'Guilt and the Simple Saver' I'm starting to think that maybe the odd McD's isn't really so bad after all!

Winter is almost here and I'm going into my second year of proudly refusing to own a tumble dryer. Instead, I'll keep doing my best to keep the power bill down and use the heat from our free firewood to get my washing dry. While the house may not look quite so attractive with clothes horses festooned all over the place, the savings are definitely worth it. There have been some great new hints added to the Vault recently too, about keeping lights turned off, such as 'Light tax keeps the switches turned off' and the recent Hint of the Week 'Track your weekly power usage' complete with helpful Power Calculator! Even though I don't always get around to trying out all the great hints I see, even just reading them makes me a lot more conscientious and I can confidently say I have been making much more of an effort to keep the lights turned off myself. To be honest though, as I look through the rest of my little expenditure book, there's not an awful lot else that we need to change. I can see already that we are doing much better compared to last year and I do have to remind myself that the reason things are so tight at the moment is not really due to anything we've done badly wrong; it's just all our savings is walking around in a paddock outside our house, earning us more money. While we could sell some of them now to get us out of this tight patch, we would much rather keep them as long as we can and increase their value even more. So for now, the only bad habit I need to curb is staying clear of that new flower shop!

Talking of which, dear old Mr Patel is a genius. Now the new florist has opened up in town, he has started selling gift wrapped bunches of fresh flowers for a fraction of the price at his store. Not only that, he has opened up a new $2 shop type of discount store, right next to his shop. You can see it already at work - frazzled parents wandering out of the grocery store with their small offspring tugging at their sleeves to go into the $2 shop and spend their pocket money at the only toy shop in town that opens on a weekend. Smart man! He would be a prime candidate to appear on a new TV series starting tonight, called 'Why We Buy'. It looks interesting and I'm definitely going to watch it but from the trailers I have seen, I'm not sure how much of it would surprise us Simple Savers. After all, we already know 'why we buy' - it's all down to clever marketing. Let's hope that most of the 80% of the population who have visited a shopping mall in the last week also sit down and learn something from it too. One lady who certainly isn't taken in by clever marketing and what's more, doesn't care is Kate in the Forum this week, who was loudly pronounced as 'poor' by an ignorant fellow shopper because her trolley only contained budget brands. Funnily enough I have sometimes wondered this myself when I am wandering around and stocking up on similar items but always tell myself 'nah - who on earth would think that about my shopping?' Wrong! People obviously do so if you haven't already, do read this thread which will inspire you and take you through a whole range of emotions. Keep up the great work on behalf of us 'poor people', Kate!

I'm pleased to say that I THINK that all the mice have finally been caught now - they were becoming so familiar for a while there I even gave them names, although I suspect that Barry may still be launching himself from the pantry ceiling into a box of Coco Pops and back again. I'm not game enough to look but either way, nobody's eating the Coco Pops any more! Other mishaps this week have included a washing machine full of chewing gum from a pack inadvertently left in Ali's pocket. While on the plus side, all our clothes smell very pleasantly of green apple, on the down side I have no idea how I'm going to remove the bright green gum from all the clothes. I daresay I'll find the answer with the help of the Vault though! In fact, one of the reasons I am feeling confident that I will get us through the next month financially is because through the advice and tips of SS members I have learned lately that there is barely anything that we can't substitute with something else. For example, in the past few days alone I have learned that I don't have to buy a whiteboard for my kitchen, I can use my fridge! When I ran out of woolwash, I already knew I could use some cheap shampoo normally used for washing the dog instead, thanks to this hint and I have also found I no longer need to buy condensed milk to make any more cookies. I only have enough dishwasher powder left to wash one more load too but thanks to a heap of great suggestions from the Forum, I'm not going to have to buy any more, hooray! Bring on the Challenges!

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