I've had a really good month so far! My willpower is at an all time high and I'm feeling really proud that I've successfully managed to beat a few demons lately. I've lost count of the number of things I have put back without buying, or simply not picked up in the first place. The key to not spending money really is to simply STOP and THINK. It's that easy! No big deal, no guilt trips, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything - there are just a lot of things I honestly don't need. I hardly spent a thing last week! Mind you, that's about to change as the bills are due but after last month's disastrous effort I feel like we're not only back on track but getting ahead. Last month I hardly looked at the bank balance because I was too scared; this month I've hardly looked because I haven't had to worry, I know I haven't spent anything. I certainly won't need to buy chocolate for a while, that's for sure - and not because of Easter! As well as the 24 Mars bars I won on the radio last week, some friends of ours also gave us two whole boxes of 80 Freddo Frogs and 45 Flake Deluxe! Although it wasn't as though they didn't have any to spare - a truck and trailer containing 16 tonnes of Cadbury's chocolate rolled near their farm and rendered them unsaleable!
Not that you'd catch me eating chocolate at the moment. If I was any better I'd be a saint. My diet went out the window last month with all those Burger Kings but the scales are going in the right direction again - down! I can't remember the last time I bought a bottle of wine and I haven't eaten wheat in almost two weeks. The results are speaking for themselves already, my tummy is shrinking! Although that could be from all the exercise I've been doing - I'm back running again for the first time in a couple of years, hooray! I'm also finally utilising the exercise bike I nagged Noel into buying me about four years ago too. I bought the entire Green Wing series on DVD for Christmas and decided today I would watch an episode every time I get on the bike. It worked a treat as it was so hilarious that I kept on happily cycling for ages. The only problem was, I thought each episode was 30 minutes long and kept waiting for it to end. I didn't want to turn it off as it was so funny but it actually turned out to be an hour long and by the time it finally finished my bum was killing me and I had to get Noel to help prise me off the bike. Am not actually too sure if I'll be able to walk tomorrow! Still, no pain, no gain and it's cheaper than going to the gym!
So here we are, it's Easter Monday, the weather is glorious and the town swimming pool has been devoid of people throughout the long weekend - except us. Where is everyone else? Shopping. Personally I can't think of anything worse than hitting the shops with the rest of the nation on a long weekend. The people, the traffic, the queues - we just stay the heck away! I was really impressed at the choice of winning letter in That's Life! magazine last week - the opinion of a fellow Kiwi who obviously feels the same way. Hopefully she won't mind if I copy it here:
"I always hear people complaining they never have enough money and that working long hours is taking too much time away from their family. Why is it shops were so busy and had record sales during the lead-up to Christmas and, more recently on Waitangi Day? Surely these would have been excellent days off work to spend time with family, not spend money that people say they don't have? Like the old saying goes, the best things in life are free, so instead of buying up big, enjoy your family."
Smart words indeed and you know what? Turns out it was sent in by a Simple Saver! Good on you Cherie Savalot! Will be interesting to see what the shopkeeper's statistics are for Easter weekend. It's pretty ironic really - if you read the papers nobody has got any money but they're still all madly shopping anyway. Except when it comes to food, it seems. People act a lot differently in the supermarket these days. Everyone's taking much longer to shop; they're all busy checking and comparing prices. The difference is, they're doing it out of necessity - us Simple Savers do it out of habit. I read an excellent article in this weekend's paper, called 'The Squeeze Is On'. Nothing new in the fact that it was bemoaning rising interest rates and food prices but outstanding because it was the first article I have read on the subject that actually spoke SENSE! It actually offered positive advice and ways to cope - and where did it come from? Not an economic expert, not a real estate agent or even a budgeting advisor but a struggling mum. 'She says "Baking is not expensive and you get a lot more out of it than with a packet of biscuits. Being frugal doesn't always mean going without. Instead of Watties or Oak, maybe you can get Budget or Basics (brands). When it comes down to it, you are still feeding your kids and giving them the energy they need". She also suggests people get rid of credit cards and cheque books to avoid bank fees.' Smart lady - I wonder if she's a Simple Saver too?
Next to the very same article featured a 'blind taste test', comparing the most expensive brands of everyday products with their cheaper counterparts. I'll admit, I was fervently hoping that the 'no-name' brands were going to scoop the pool but the truth is, they scored very poorly (although it was great to see good old Home Brand baked beans placed above Watties and Heinz!). Personally I don't give a hoot. I've been buying Home Brand and the other cheapo brands for so long I don't notice the difference and let's face it, us clever frugals are all pretty darn good at making ordinary food taste fantastic. What concerned me about this though, was the fact that the article might put heaps of people off trying the cheaper brands - people who really should be giving them a go if they want to save money on their food bill. For example, one of the posher brands of baked beans was described as 'A really nice deep tomato flavour, a good amount of beans and pleasing aftertaste. The beans were tender, not mushy'. While one of the cheaper brands was described 'A strong beany flavour that one taster thought was a bit 'tinny'. Beans were mushy and brownish'. I mean - given the option which one would you try after reading that?! I found it a bit of a shame, with the way things are at the moment these generic brands should be celebrated and brought to people's awareness, not slated for not being up to scratch. They're there to help people save money after all and thank goodness we have them. At least the journalists did find one outstanding quality about them - they couldn't fault the prices.
Ali and Noel have been about as far away from the shops as they can be over Easter weekend. Yesterday they were up at 5.30am and went out fishing, bringing home 15 delicious fresh snapper, enough to feed us, my Mum, the in-laws and the lady up the road who was kind enough to let Noel and Ali go hunting on her farmland this morning. Once again they were up at the crack of dawn and brought home enough venison to last us a very long time. Unfortunately our freezer is still so full of beef, pork and marlin that we had to divide it up among the family as we couldn't fit it all in! I don't like venison myself but it's supposed to be very good for you and costs a fortune to buy. The intrepid hunter-gatherers strike again! The only thing we are lacking at the moment is eggs. I have lost my two favourite chickens, Big Girl and Brenda in the last couple of weeks. They were old girls - well, I hope that was the only reason we lost them. Big Girl (not a small bird as you can imagine) was capable of laying the most ENORMOUS eggs! I shall miss them both and of course they had to be the most productive layers too! The way things are going I may have to resort to buying some in the not too distant future, how painful that will be!