Yep - that's me! Super stingy and proud of it. Overall it's been a brilliant week, although for a while it looked as though it was all going to go disastrously pear-shaped. The Lord giveth and taketh away so the saying goes, and for a while he took away thousands of dollars I didn't even have. But then I got it back again! Let me explain. A few days ago I was opening the mail and was delighted to find a statement from our electricity company advising us that we have been credited a whopping $903 on our account due to frequent incorrect meter readings since July 2007. In some cases, the meter reader had even been reading the figures back to front! So why didn't we notice? Simply because the number at the start of the meter reading was the same as the number at the end, so nothing jumped out at us in the bills but the extra amount kept rolling over as the months went by. It was only when we received that massive bill the other day for over $500 that we twigged something was up. I dread to think of all the other people that incompetent meter reader has been overcharging too. So no power bills for us for a few months! I was pretty chuffed to say the least - until I opened the next letter and found a tax bill for $5000 due this week. Boy did that burst my bubble. I was devastated after all my hard work lately, trying to be so super duper frugal. But how could it be? I was up to date on all my tax - wasn't I? Noel thought so too, so we rang the accountant and asked them what it was all about. Once again it was someone else's mistake - they hadn't recorded what I had already paid in their client system and just sent me the bill according to the computer screen. The amount I actually owed I was over the moon to discover, was $322. I've never been so happy to write out a tax cheque before!
So, apparently solvent once again, I decided I would take the boys out for the day on Tuesday as they had an extra day off following Easter weekend. We always make a point of never going near the shops on a long weekend or public holiday but I figured the following day would be pretty safe as most people would be back to work or school. The mission was to get Liam some new rugby boots. Two years ago I started a 'boot borrowing library' for our local rugby club and we now have almost 30 pairs that people can borrow for free, but they don't go up to Liam's size. On getting his feet measured I was horrified to learn that he takes a men's size 9! We tried on several pairs and bought the cheapest pair in the store but they were still $99.99 (which reminds me - why do you think nobody has ever bothered to make a 99c coin? It would make life so much easier!) Liam was pretty pleased with his smart new boots and thought I was only joking when I said I was going to start binding his feet to make them smaller like they did in ancient Japan. The boot shopping experience left me feeling pretty grumpy but not as much as the fact that the world and his wife also seemed to have an extra day off as well as us and they had all decided to spend it in the same shopping mall in Thames. I swear to goodness I thought I was going to hit someone. I don't know about you but I tend to shop with a purpose. I just go to get what I came for and then get the heck out of the store - but not other people, oh no. Other people float. They float along the aisles, not really looking at anything in particular, just generally getting in the way. Then you've got the ones that block up entire aisles while they chat, completely oblivious to the fact that nobody can get past from either direction. The worst ones however are the car park floaters, who either amble along in front of your car in the middle of the road, blissfully unaware you're crawling along behind them and calling them every name under the sun, or suddenly appear out of nowhere and calmly wander out across the road in front of you, causing you to screech to a grinding halt while they carry on their merry floaty way. Boots purchased, the boys and I decided we could stand no more and mercifully made our way out of the carpark and left for home.
Which almost didn't happen, thanks to Hurricane Ali. So-called because he leaves a trail of destruction wherever he goes, the back of my car usually has to be seen to be believed, thanks to my youngest. As we pulled out onto the open road, we all needed a little cooling off so I was about to put on the air conditioning but then said to myself 'No Penny - opening the window will use less fuel and be kinder to the planet'. So that's what I did and it was doing the job very nicely - until one by one, a dozen black balloons started floating around the car. They had apparently been lying undisturbed on the floor in the back for days but the air circulating around the car had stirred them into making an appearance. Before I knew it, I was madly swatting balloons away from my face as we zoomed along the highway but then, horror of horrors, they started floating out the window and heading straight for the oncoming traffic! There I was, weaving along the road, desperately trying to do up the window while keeping yet more balloons away from my face. I swerved, went to slam on the brakes - and found I couldn't, there was something lodged underneath the brake pedal! What on earth? I kept trying to push the pedal down and thankfully managed to squash whatever it was and regain control in time. The 'whatever it was' then began rolling around under my feet so in the end I had no choice but to pull over and investigate. Whereupon I discovered a very old, very wrinkled passionfruit had also made it's way from Ali's domain and almost killed us all. Ali was completely unperturbed by the whole chain of events but it took quite some time for Liam and I to regain our equilibrium!
Mind you, I don't think we'll have any problems with wayward passionfruit for a while anyway. Just to top everything off, we returned home from our ill-fated shopping spree to find that Noel's favourite pet cow, Susan (she-who-can-do-no-wrong) had got into the orchard and given some of the trees a haircut. Well, more like a scalping really. The apple trees have been whittled down to sticks, Dudley's memorial apricot tree is now half its original size and there's not much left of any of the others either. All except our other precious memorial tree, Tui's pomegranate, which is only missing a few tips. Now, if it had been any other animal that wrecked the orchard, Noel would have gone absolutely ballistic but not Susan. He simply shrugged and grinned 'Ah well, they'll grow back a bit bushier now, it'll probably do them good!' Well 'scuse me but I was rather hoping all those apples would have saved us buying any for quite a bit longer. Thank goodness the feijoa trees all have fruit on them and are safely surrounded by the chicken run. At least we still have some 'nude food' on hand! Talking of nude food, if you haven't yet read the new newsletter, go and read it, right now! It's brilliant and has really got me thinking. I mean, we try and eat as much nude food as possible, Susan and other saboteurs permitting, but I've realised our house can be doing so much more to reduce the amount of packaging we use, or at the very least we could recycle more. We ran out of Glad wrap a few days ago and I bought another roll but even then I felt bad. At the time I thought 'I'll buy it because we might need it' and decided to compromise by buying a cheap pack of those little plastic 'shower caps' for food dishes as well. I figured then at least I could use those where possible, rather than the Glad wrap but since reading the newsletter I thought 'no - we don't need it at all!' It's true - now I've thought about it, I really can't think of anything we have to use it for. I already use Tupperware sandwich keepers in the boys' lunchboxes but today Noel went off with his sandwiches also in containers I found after digging around in the plastics cupboard and I explained why he had to use those instead. I'm looking forward to seeing how much less we throw away as a result. I'm also learning heaps from the book I've been wading through - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I never realised that Coke is made of corn syrup and water! No wonder Liam goes off the planet when he drinks the stuff - I always blamed it on the sugar or aspartame but he's allergic to corn! A very good reason not to have the stuff in the house again - except for cleaning the toilet of course!
As mentioned, I am being Super Stingy at the moment. I have declared this week a $21 Challenge week - it's not imperative that I scrimp this week, I'm just doing it for fun really and to remind myself how frugal I can be. Today is Day One and Noel doesn't have any bread. Normally we have heaps in the freezer to last during a Challenge week but the freezer is too full for even one extra loaf! I was too stingy to drive into town and buy one and begrudge the price of most brands anyway so I've decided to have a go at making some for him. I do have a breadmaker but until now I've only ever used it to make the boys' rice bread so I'm quite looking forward to trying something new. I just hope it turns out alright! I proved to myself just how stingy I could be at the weekend. We went away to the beach and I was left with a whole day to myself while Noel and the boys took part in a kids' game fishing competition. A whole day of peace! Unheard of? What could I do? I teased Noel by telling him I was going to have Eggs Benedict at Vibes cafe and then shop 'til I dropped before having lunch at Soul Burger; maybe even catch a movie. I think I had him worried but the truth was, I was bored out of my mind! I was however determined to go shopping but I made myself a deal - anything I bought had to be second hand. I found the perfect opportunity in a second hand shop called Funky Junktion, where I picked up three recent release books I had wanted to read for ages for just $4 each. A great start! But from then on, no matter how I tried, I couldn't find anything I wanted or needed. I decided to be really brave and set foot in some of the beautiful 'stuff shops' which used to be my downfall but nothing in any of them appealed to me any more. They were all beautiful but very useless 'things', nothing more. I could hardly believe these were the same shops I used to spend a fortune in but it was so empowering walking out of them all empty handed.
The only time I was tempted was when I walked past a beauty salon which was advertising on-the-spot facial appointments. There were a few moments when I did seriously consider it and thought 'why not'? However I soon found the answer why not - I could do the same thing myself for much less! Readers of the Forum will know I have been having a few problems with my skin lately so I decided to shop around at the chemists and see if I could find any of the members' recommendations. Just a few minutes later I walked out with four free samples of Cetaphil products so I took them home to try out! I couldn't even bring myself to go to a movie as there were none I really wanted to see anyway, so I popped into the DVD store, took out 'Music and Lyrics' and sat comfortably at home with my feet up, contentedly ogling Hugh Grant with my face slathered in Cetaphil. True bliss on a budget!