Unleashing the camping monster

Posted January 6th, 2008 by Penny Wise

Happy New Year everyone! I've printed off my purchasing planner from the Free Stuff area and so far it's really working. I've only spent money three times so far this year and only on essential items. The planner really makes you think doesn't it? Wish I could say the same about Noel, although hopefully he'll follow my example as time goes on. Mind you, our New Year's Day trip to the beach didn't turn out as cost effective as we had planned. 'Whaddya want to do today?' I asked him on January 1st. 'Chop firewood!', came the reply. On a scorching hot day like today? No way I thought! 'We'll go to the beach', I decided to the kids' delight and spent all morning baking so we could have a picnic and not have to spend any money when out. Being New Year, our usual favourite East Coast beach spots were not an option - the queues over the one lane Kopu bridge are horrendous on public holidays - so in my wisdom I picked a quiet little seaside town half an hour away from us, called Kaiaua. Unfortunately, approximately 200 campervans had also picked the same quiet little seaside town to visit at the same time. They stretched bumper to bumper across the entire length of the beach! We managed to squeeze in between two of them and had brought Hubble and Minnie along for a swim but soon found this was impossible as the sea was full of people dragging nets for flounder. We couldn't find anywhere to unpack our picnic and to top it off, no sooner had the dogs set a foot on the beach than an enormous pitbull leapt out of the open window of a neighbouring vehicle and was making its way over to us at great speed. The boys quickly bundled their poor dogs back into the sweltering hot car and as Noel and I surveyed our surroundings I could bear it no longer. 'This is really horrible - can we go home again?' I asked. After being my bright idea in the first place I thought he was going to say no, that we had to stay and stick it out but fortunately he agreed and we high-tailed it back home and ate our lovely picnic in the peace and shade of the garden instead! Boy was I embarrassed - so much for my so-called frugal trip, what a waste of petrol! 'Now can you see why I wanted to stay home and chop firewood?' Noel laughed. Lesson well and truly learned, I won't be repeating it next year!

It's not all bad though - I managed to finish off 2007 with a fantastic saving! Although, I fear I have created a camping monster in Noel. As you know, I've been keen to try out camping for a while now but alas Noel wasn't, having 'been there, done that' in his youth and with several friends willing to lend us their beach houses, he couldn't see the point. However, once he could see how keen the kids and I really were, he began mulling it over and a couple of days before New Year he announced one morning 'I think you're right. Camping could be really good for us - how about we go and check out the sales today?' The kids thought it was a great idea but I have to admit I was feeling a little miffed. After all, I had been carefully soaking up as much information on camping from the Vault as I could for weeks - what to buy, what not to buy and how to save and so on - and here he was now taking matters out of my hands. Just because he'd gone and got all enthusiastic now, I hated the thought of doing a Sad Sally at the camping shop just because everything was on sale! Fortunately he could see I was less than pleased at the prospect so he agreed we would check out the Vault together first and print out a list of essentials. Hooray, that was more like it!

Instead of heading to the camping shop, (which was holding a 50% off sale, I had already checked the catalogue online), I suggested we first go to Rebel Sports. This was where I had first saw my dream tent a couple of months ago. 12 feet by 15 feet with two large rooms and an awning, it was reduced to half price, but only for a few days. I excitedly rang Noel to tell him I had found the perfect tent and we should snap it up now but I was soon put in my place. 'You are not buying a tent without me', I was informed, 'we'll have a look in the sales after Christmas'. Classic fob-off but at least today he was willing to look and whaddya know? My tent was still there and he thought it was great too. Unfortunately it was back up to full price. I was NOT impressed - if only he had let me get it in the first place! 'Oh well, I guess we'll have to go somewhere else', said Noel as he started to walk out of the shop but I wasn't finished yet. I was disgusted I had missed out on my brilliant bargain and wasn't about to let it go without a fight. I caught sight of a nice looking salesman and zoomed in on him. 'Sorry to bother you but I'm afraid my husband is crap and I was wondering if you could help!' I went on to tell him about how I had missed out with the tent weeks before and now it was back to full price and what a shame it was. He agreed wholeheartedly it was a shame but yes, now it was back to full price. I was about to admit defeat - and then I uttered the magic words 'How much do you want to get rid of it?' After all, it was a flipping great tent, surely it was taking up valuable space in the shop? The salesman scratched his chin thoughtfully, 'Hmm, we do want to get rid of it. Hang on, I'll just pop out the back and see what I can do.' Five minutes later he returned, wheeling 'my' tent - another one, all packed and ready to go. 'Here you go, you can have it for half price if you want', he offered. I couldn't believe it! I thought maybe I might get $100 or so off but my cunning plan had ended up saving us SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS! This might sound a lot but believe me, I had done a lot of shopping around on tents in the weeks prior and hadn't seen anything nearly as good as this one. Also, with the birthday money I had been saving and the family pooling their Christmas money together, it didn't even make a dent in our bank balance. I was absolutely delighted with my SS savvy and didn't let Noel forget it all day!

After that, we went to The Warehouse with our trusty camping list in hand and shopped around for some other camping accessories. By this time we were in full SS mode and we were ruthless! We didn't buy a single thing we didn't think we could get for cheaper elsewhere and using our frugal know-how we were able to save a fortune on camping crockery by purchasing exactly the same ones in the camping aisle for a fraction of the price in the picnics and plasticware section on the other side of the store. One tip which really helped was this one which reminded us always to think what we had on hand at home first and this saved us heaps. We saved heaps more on air beds in the Kmart sale and our final stop was Kathmandu, the camping shop. We used their 50% off sale to save another $100 on good quality sleeping bags and I was pleased to see that wherever we went, nobody else's prices came remotely close to my tent bargain, not to mention the quality. All in all, a very productive day with some huge savings made, thanks to the Vault! We had our first 'camping practice' that night in the back garden and it was so much fun, even the dogs thought it was a wonderful adventure. We cooked our dinner on the portable barbecue I had got Noel for Christmas and just had a wonderful time talking and laughing together in our $8 fold-up chairs. As mentioned, the whole experience has unleashed a camping monster in Noel, who has since spent ages on the Internet writing out lists of possible camping sites we can visit. Compared to the usual cost of renting one of our usual holiday homes, our tent will have paid itself off in just five days, so we reckon it's a pretty good investment in the long run. It's going to be so much fun!

Apart from our camping splurge, the holidays have been extremely low cost so far. The boys and I go swimming every day for the princely sum of 30c a day (we paid upfront at the beginning of the summer, so it works out to just 90c a day for the three of us compared to as much as $8 that it would normally cost us if we just paid the casual fee every day - wow, I never realised what a saver that was!) We have also sacrificed part of the field adjoining our house and designated it as a 'family sports area', which is getting heaps of use. It's the boys job to mow it and take care of the cricket pitch every week and at least now we don't have to worry about breaking any windows! We can play volleyball out there, badminton and softball too, so one way or the other I might lose a few kilos in 2008! Yes, like many people I am trying to 'better myself' this year (as I try every year and usually fail miserably), however last year's effort ended up better than I thought, as one lovely member reminded me that by giving up Coke Zero I had saved myself $900 last year. I hadn't even noticed, I was too busy beating myself up about all the things I HADN'T done! It has also now been five years since I gave up smoking, which adds up to a whopping 45,625 cigarettes I have NOT smoked and a staggering $22,082.50 I have not spent! Oh how I wish I had put my cigarette money away in a money tin when I first quit, can you imagine how rich I would be by now? Unfortunately I don't quite know where that $22,000 has gone but as I pointed out to Noel yesterday, can you imagine how much worse off we would be if I hadn't quit?! So I've successfully given up the smokes and the Coke and now I'm back on the diet wagon. I'm doing quite well - I'm on Day 4 now and only starving half the time (just kidding!)

I have received so many emails in response to my last blog, I will reply to them all I promise! Half of them tell me how it's nice to see I'm only human too and my post didn't make them feel so bad about their splurges after all, and the other half said 'why the heck can't Noel make his own lunch?' Tee hee, I had great fun imparting all those ones to him! He goes back to work this morning and I bought a bag of bread rolls on special to fill with last night's roast beef so we're starting the year off on the right foot. I learn just as much from the Vault and Forum as any other member on here and as I finally got round to paying the bills and working out our monthly budget yesterday, I decided to try something new from the Forum thread 'Recording your spending - January 2008. It's something I have always put in the 'too hard' basket but I'm proud to say I've finally tried it out and it's a cinch! I downloaded the budgeting spreadsheet here as recommended by Natalie and it's just brilliant! I've put it on my computer desktop so I don't forget to enter info into it every day and stuck a Memory Trigger sticker on my monitor too to make doubly sure. I think it's going to be really interesting to watch where our money goes during the year ahead. I reckon it's going to be a really good year! Now if I can just remember to fill in my bloomin' Menu Planner...

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