Everyone's an expert

Posted August 21st, 2007 by Penny Wise

Greetings, my name is Penny Wise and I have no mortgage. I live on a diet of cigarettes and water and force my poor husband and children to follow my vegetarian diet. I don't need to go to supermarkets because I do all my shopping online. I have my own business but don't do any work so I have heaps of time to bake and do all the stuff that other people don't get time to do. Sounds like me you reckon? Ah yes, now I know how Posh Spice feels! Since I was spotted on the telly last week, everyone has become an instant expert on me and my family. I have learned so much about myself through the grapevine that I never knew before! At first I'll admit I was angry - how dare these people make such ignorant assumptions? As if knowing me well enough to say hello in the street gives them an instant insight into my bank statements and what we all eat for dinner. I've never met a vegetarian livestock dealer either, Noel's colleagues would fall about laughing at the thought of him scoffing tofu instead of steak. Still, I guess it's to be expected - after all, for anyone who isn't familiar with the Simple Savings way of life, money is still one of those taboo subjects which is never discussed. My favourite quote at the moment came from new member Lorena in the Forum - 'our society in general seems to have more problems talking about savings, money and finances than they do with sex'. It's so true isn't it! I don't give a stuff who knows how much our mortgage is or how long it's going to take to pay it off (2028 and counting!) but for other people it's a huge deal. The fact is, if everyone was as open as we Simple Savers about money and how we spend or save it, a lot of people wouldn't get themselves into such financial strife in the first place.

But, it's still up there on the list of 'don't go there' subjects, so for now I guess I'm just going to have to put up with the sidelong looks and 'there goes that lady who starves her poor children' mentality. You would think the fact that Liam's about a foot taller than his mates would put their minds at rest there! Still, it makes me laugh and more than anything it makes me realise how much other people miss out on having a better lifestyle for themselves. Still, it could be worse - poor Annette, my friend who featured on the programme with me, is heartily sick of people coming up to her and saying 'Jeez, you must spend a FORTUNE on food, don't you know how to cook?' And, there have been a lot of positives too. I've lost count of all the people who have approached me wanting to know more about home made cleaners as they want to reduce the amount of chemicals in their home. They usually see home cooking and baking in a new light too, once I put the thought in their head that at least I know exactly what goes in my family's food. It's been lovely to see some secret frugals coming out of the closet too - and the funny thing is, they are the ones who I would never have imagined. The immaculate mums with never a hair out of place, always rushing around with their children from one activity to the next; the ones who most people would think never have time to eat anything except out of packets. They are the ones who are using Sophie Gray's books to slash their food bills and whiz up good food fast. They are the ones who spend Sundays baking a whole week's worth of lunchbox goodies with their children. There's that saying isn't there - if you want something done, ask a busy person? I'm full of quotes today! Funnily enough though, it's made me see these 'supermums' in a whole new light and to be honest, with a lot more respect and admiration. Next time I see them driving to work with their flawless make-up and hair, I'll remind myself that like me, they probably stood and baked a batch of muffins that morning while they packed their kids' lunchboxes too.

At least the kids haven't had to deal with any such comments - they are revelling in their newfound 'celebrity status'. Ali spent so long signing autographs at school, I caught him on the computer that evening, printing out photos of himself and laboriously signing them in readiness for the next school day - what a classic! And the best part of all, is that all the sceptics have only served to make me even more determined to flaunt my frugalness in front of them. I have to share a wee secret - I am the only person in NZ to own a Simple Savings shopping bag! So today I sported it proudly down the street to Mr Patel's and in every shop I went in, people commented how neat they were and stopped for a closer look. I only stopped to grab some fruit, milk and Budget brand toilet rolls and as the checkout lady and I packed my bag, I told her some of the things people had been saying about me after seeing the programme. 'Just you send them to me, I'll put them straight!' she growled. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who gets a hard time from Mr Patel about buying 'poor people's brands' though, a good few more have come out of the woodwork!

Last week I had been intending to do a $21 Challenge but with one thing and another my plans kind of went out the window. However, would you believe my grand total for the week ended up being just $17? I beat the Challenge without even trying! Although it probably had quite a lot to do with being too busy to get to the shops but nonetheless I think that must be a new record for me. Noel gave up smoking yesterday. I hope it's for the last time - he and Liam signed a lifetime contract. Noel asked Liam what he wanted most for his birthday and his reply was for his dad to give up smoking. I hope he doesn't let him down. So he doesn't feel lonely I have also volunteered to give up wine - again. At least cleanskin wines are getting a bit more popular here in NZ now, although unfortunately not so cheap. I did an Internet search for cleanskin wines and was really excited to find an online retailer, but my bubble soon burst when I saw the prices - they were more than I would pay for a wine with a decent label! So the search goes on and I aim to fill my empty wine rack with budget wines before Christmas, without drinking it all first, which is what usually happens. If Noel can just stick to it this time, we will be over $3000 better off this time next year!

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