You can't always get what you want

Posted March 16th, 2008 by Penny Wise

Yes, I've changed my tune from Hannah Montana to Mick Jagger this month! It's so true though isn't it, and I find myself singing it whenever I read the newspapers at the moment. 'Feeling the pinch', 'Portrait of a property slump', 'Inflation is painful' and other such articles have really got me fed up to the back teeth. What is the media doing to help these people apart from spreading doom and gloom and encouraging everyone to wallow in misery? It's not easy and it's not going to go away in a hurry but can we have a little positivity please? I've decided they need a little help writing some new headlines to help things along a little, such as:

'Feeling the pinch? Join Simple Savings and learn how to lower your living costs!

'Struggling to hold on to your house? Simple Savings can help you make it through!

'Inflation proving painful? Learn how to slash your food bill with Simple Savings!

We can't do anything about the rising interest rates but we CAN do heaps to lower our living costs and you know what? I'm really not worried yet. Maybe I'm sticking my head in the sand but I refuse to get caught up in all the predictions of woe. Our family know how to survive - in fact we know thousands of ways to survive - and it's all down to Simple Savings. Forgive me if I sound somewhat harsh, I know there are people out there who are really struggling and it is not their fault and they all have my sincere sympathy but what the media don't mention is that the reason so many people are struggling to make ends meet with the basics now is because they have already spent all their money on crap. I used to be one of those people and I thank heavens for Simple Savings or I would be still be with them. I'm the first one to admit I'm not perfect and there's still plenty more our family can do to lower the amount we spend - I still fritter away too much on buying food and drink when out but I'm really making a big effort not to do that any more. And... don't laugh... I know I've said it before... I HAVE GIVEN UP WINE! I really, truly have and it's thanks once again to the 'wants vs needs' rule. In the end I could think of only one reason to drink it - I liked the stuff - but plenty more reasons not to. So that's it, I refuse to buy it any more and I don't feel I'm going without at all! Already I am noticing the difference in how little I need to go to Mr Patel's now I don't care because I don't WANT it any more, woohoo!

Amidst all the doom and gloom I have managed to find some very interesting reading too. Yesterday's Sunday Star-Times front page featured a special housing report in which experts say 'an affordable house' should not cost more than 30% of your household income. This means, if your average family income is $83,063, all you should spend on a house is $260,000. If your average family income is $79,916 all you should spend is $250,000 and if your average family income is $65,992 all you should spend on a house is $210,000. That to me makes sense. What doesn't make sense is that half a dozen families I know are earning $70,000 a year and borrowing 100% on houses valued at $400,000. And why? Because they wanted it and the want became all-consuming. I recently came across an open letter from United States President Warren G. Harding dated 1928 and I reckon he must have been a very smart man. He wrote:

"I have for many years been pretty well convinced that saving money is largely a matter of habit, and people who make a good beginning at it presently discover that it is by no means impossible and it is altogether a good thing to do. Just at this juncture in the world's and our country's affairs it is certainly one of the most useful contributions that people could possible make to putting the world right. I do not believe there is any other way to straighten out the tangle of financial and economic concerns into which the world has been precipitated, than to produce a good deal more than we consume, which means to save, and by our savings to re-establish the world's stores of working capital. I have no more earnest hope than that the public may take this lesson to heart and learn to save as, in view of our great national good fortune, they could be able to do". You and me both, matey! A Simple Saver if ever I saw one - I wonder if he's a distant relation of Fiona's?!

Apologies for the lack of blogs this week, it's been a busy one with Ali's swimming sports, school camp and allergy testing. Now that was an eye opener! I mentioned in my last post that he was going to be tested for allergies as we felt all the antibiotics and steroid inhalers were getting us nowhere. The results showed that Ali is allergic to -

* Wheat

* Gluten

* Dairy

* Eggs

* Shellfish

* Soy

* Cigarette smoke (yippee!)

* Mould and wait for it...

* Chickens!

A challenging list to be sure but funnily enough I'm not panicking. He doesn't eat much dairy anyway as he's never liked it and has embraced fruit sorbets with a passion now he can't have ice cream. We're already used to being wheat free with Liam and the fact Ali can tolerate corn means he can enjoy more gluten free products than his brother. The one he's most upset of all about is shellfish, as he and Noel are the hunter-gatherers of the family! We didn't go to the supermarket much before but it will be even less now as our visit to one at the weekend proved there is so much we no longer have to buy as we simply can't eat it. 'No more tinned spaghetti! No more 2-minute noodles! No more burgers!' I waved them all goodbye gleefully as we breezed up and down the aisles. I can't say Ali displayed the same level of enthusiasm but I have to admit, I was actually quite glad that I now had a legitimate reason not to put all that junk in my trolley any more. No more bread to buy, not even butter or cheese. We are going to be one super-duper frugal healthy family! Talking of which, March 15th was World Consumer Rights Day and the focus for 2008 is on the marketing of unhealthy food to children. To mark the day, Consumer NZ launched a free interactive lunchbox which lets parents compare the nutritional value of some common lunchbox snacks such as roll-ups and chippies. The kids and I have had heaps of fun filling up our virtual lunchboxes and seeing how healthy our choices are - give it a go, you may well be surprised!

I also discovered last week that the power bill company owes us quite a bit of money! My poor Mum was recently in hospital for five weeks and apart from an astronomical mobile phone bill while she was in there, was looking forward to seeing how minimal the rest of her bills would be with the house being empty. Imagine her horror when a bill arrived for almost $500 for the month! A call to the power company showed that there had of course been an error and she was then billed the much more reasonable amount of $95. Our power bill is paid by direct debit and I hadn't even looked at ours yet but in turn I was also horrified to see we had been charged $528 for the scorching hot month of February! Not blooming likely! So I also contacted the same company who apologised profusely and said the meter had obviously been read wrong but further investigation showed this has in fact been happening for months, even when the power bills have been much lower! So they are launching a full investigation and we will be compensated accordingly - thanks Mum!

I must just share one small wee triumph before I go. Liam has recently started a new school and lately had been complaining about a big blob of a boy in another class who had been bullying him and constantly trying to pick a fight. It was starting to get him down a bit and I was at the point when I was debating whether I should talk to his teacher but I wasn't quite sure how bad the problem was - and after all, he was at 'big school' now, he had to learn to sort things out for himself, didn't he? Anyway, the day Ali went for his allergy testing, I also had to take Liam out of school for the afternoon so I went and signed him out and we made our way out of school, with Liam walking just slightly ahead of me. All of a sudden, this scruffy, blond doughball of a kid who had been walking towards us spun around on his heel and started making his way towards Liam, hell for leather, head down, shoulders hunched, while Liam walked on, oblivious that he was being pursued. 'That must be the little toerag!' I gasped to myself - I couldn't believe how aggressive he was! Classic school bully material straight out of a story book. He shoulder charged straight into Liam and was about to knock him to the ground when I tapped him on the shoulder and said 'Excuse me, are you Callum?' 'Uh - yeah?' he turned around and answered slowly. 'I thought so - I've heard a LOT about you!' I smiled sweetly and walked off with Liam, leaving him staring dumbly after us. We both fell about laughing when we reached the car but I still felt sick for ages. Had I done the right thing? Had I done enough? I mean, what I REALLY wanted to say was 'Oi you! Leave my son alone or I'll rip out yer bits and pieces and shove 'em down yer throat!' but I didn't want to make things worse for Liam. Having your mum fight your battles for you is not always cool. I stayed awake half the night hoping that what I had said was enough and spent all the next day worrying about how Liam was getting on but I needn't have worried. 'Did you see Callum?' I tried to ask not too immediately when I picked him up that afternoon. 'Yeah, but he leaves me alone now', he grinned. And *touch wood* he has done ever since!

PS: Forgot to mention, I also got Liam allergy tested at the same time as Ali. Liam was previously tested by a Kinesiologist but as Ali was being tested the scientific way, I wanted to see if there was any difference in Liam's results by having him tested through conventional methods. The results? Exactly the same!

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