In search of perfection

Posted December 28th, 2007 by Penny Wise

It's been a funny old year! It's certainly been a great one for Simple Savings though and it's brilliant that so many New Zealanders are now Simple Savers too - even if my identity has been well and truly sprung in the process. I get called all sorts these days, depending what you read. 'Budgeting Guru', 'Budget Queen' and my recent favourite from the Sunday Star Times, 'NZ's Doyenne of Thrift'. I like it! I'm not entirely sure what a doyenne actually is but it sounds pretty flash so I'm sticking with it. Everywhere I go, people ask for advice how to save on this and that - which is great, I don't mind that at all but I do struggle a bit with everyone scrutinising what I buy, or trying to hide what they're buying themselves so I don't see! Let's face it, nobody's perfect and I've still managed to make my fair share of budgeting bloopers this year. I am kicking myself for every one, believe me and in all cases but one they have been for little things that just mount up. So - are you ready to hear them? Take a deep breath now...

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the confessions of Penny not-so-Wise, which seemed like a good idea and only a few dollars at a time but actually add up to more than I even want to think about. In this, the year of 2007, I hereby admit to:

* Falling off the menu planning wagon. I have to menu plan, I just have to! If I don't we don't get dinner until goodness knows when, I have no idea what is in my pantry and it just means more trips to Mr Patel's to try and come up with something decent for dinner. Since Liam was diagnosed as wheat intolerant (which was, ahem, back in August) I have failed to keep up with my menu planning and our waistlines and grocery bill has suffered for it.

* Not making Noel's work lunch anywhere near as often as I should. I HATE making lunchboxes! I loathe it with a passion and am never organised enough to do it the night before so do it in the morning ten minutes before we all have to go out the door and by the time I have sorted out the kids I have almost always run out of time to make poor Noel's. While it may only cost him $4 a day to buy a salad roll from the local bakery, over a year that adds up to something dreadful and all because I can't get my sorry butt out of bed earlier in the morning. To make matters worse, it means Noel also gets a dreadful ribbing from his colleagues for buying his lunch because they all know who he's married to. Not a good look Penny!

* Too many cafe lunches. STILL! To be fair, I have tried to keep this down to once a week. Mum and I enjoy catching up together without all the noisy interruptions of our chaotic household and in my own defence I do largely stick to the best value dish on the menu - a gigantic bowl of wedges smothered with melted cheese, sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. You get enough to feed a horse for $6 - and unfortunately because I hate to waste anything I scoff the whole lot. As a result, not only have I thrown away a small fortune in wedges since they have been part of the menu, I have put on so much weight that I am now popping all the buttons on my summer shorts. It's really WEIGHING on my conscience as you can imagine!

* Too many extras at Mr Patel's. Not all the time, granted but still far too much. By extras I mean buying drinks when out, lollies for the kids and magazines. Of course I buy That's Life every week now and I try to keep to other publications which will help us save money in the long run, such as Consumer but I have still succumbed to the odd celebrity gossip magazine just because the headline has grabbed me and then kicked myself for wasting money on something which only takes five minutes to read from cover to cover and more than likely isn't true anyway! As far as I'm concerned, that's the biggest waste of all. And talking of waste, I am also guilty of...

* Feeding too much to the chickens. By this, I mean giving them our leftovers on too many occasions, when they could possibly be made into another meal for us. Obviously the chooks think it's great and I suppose we do get lots of eggs in return but it's still not as smart as getting a whole extra meal for the family!

You know, looking at that little lot it's painfully obvious to me is that they are all linked to one thing - I'm too flipping disorganised! If I just took a few minutes to menu plan, make Noel's lunch or keep a water bottle in the car, we could save SO much money. Seems to me my budgeting bloopers are all down to lack of planning - which brings me to my worst confession and undoubtedly my worst buy of 2007. In my aim to get organised, I wasted $200 on a PDA. Basically, it's a little electronic organiser and as soon as I heard of them I thought owning one would be the answer to my prayers. I was sick of having notes everywhere - little scraps of paper covering my desk and kitchen bench reminding me to do things. I even told myself it would be helpful for writing my blog, as I often see things when out and about which I think 'ooh, that would be good to write about!' and then forget about them instantly. Yes, with my wonderful PDA I was convinced I would be transformed into the epitomy of organised calm. Noel - he who sickeningly never forgets ANYTHING - instantly informed me it was a crap decision. 'You'll never use it!' he declared, 'what's wrong with using a notebook?' 'Because I have had notebooks and I always end up leaving them at home!' I reasoned. And that's exactly what has happened with my PDA. I think I have remembered to take it out with me about four times since I bought it. I think even I knew it was a waste of money at the time, which is why I didn't tell you about it before. I'm not even 100% sure where it is now but as soon as I find it I'll be doing my best to sell the darn thing on Trade Me. In my constant desire to be organised, I actually threw away $200 - what a plonker! I'm not saying they're not for everyone - they're just not for me. I've never been a person who takes a calculator shopping and even my Spendtracker has spent the majority of its life in the glovebox of my car, so I should have known I was never going to be a PDA type - shame I chose such an expensive way to find out!

This hereby being the end of my confession, my New Year resolutions are as follows:

1. I solemnly resolve to menu plan EVERY SINGLE DAY without fail.

2. I will make Noel's work lunch every morning and make sure I always have plenty of bread rolls in the freezer and cold meats and salads in the fridge. I was really inspired by the hint 'Work lunch cafe earns a whole week of food.' If that motivated chap can do it for everyone, I can do it for Noel!

3. I will meet Mum at the cafe no more than once a week and split a bowl of wedges between us for just $3 each when we do.

4. I will not be a sucker for celebrity gossip mags because let's face it Penny, YOU DON'T CARE. You don't give a stuff what any of them are doing so why on earth buy into it? I also vow that the boys and I will take a bottle of water and healthy snack in the car on all our journeys and after-school activities so we don't need to buy any.

5. I will only feed the chickens and worms scraps which genuinely cannot be used or made into something else, rather than just chucking them out in the 'tidying up' process.

Five resolutions, well that's not too bad is it? I should be able to remember those alright and although I have now made this so-called Doyenne of Thrift look completely crap in front of thousands of Simple Savers, all is not lost. My disorganised blunders are just a drop in the ocean compared to what I have actually saved this year. Thousands and thousands, by stopping to think before I buy, by researching everything except the blasted PDA properly before buying and asking myself my favourite question from the Eight Steps countless times - 'is there a better way?' Plus, thanks to the inspiration from Forum members last New Year, I did it! I GAVE UP COKE ZERO! My 1.5 litre a day habit gone! Finito! I would love to know how much the grand total is of everything I have managed to save this year. One day I'll get round to doing just that - writing down exactly how much I save every day and then adding it all together, I bet it would blow me away to see just how much. In fact, maybe I should make that New Year's resolution number six!

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