What an interesting week it's been. I suppose you could say it's been somewhat confronting, but in a good way. There I've been, moaning for the last fortnight about how much money has been flying out of our bank account and feeling all 'woe is me'; then I come face to face with a group of people who make me feel like the luckiest, most ungrateful moo in the world. I was invited to go and talk to a group of Work and Income NZ (WINZ) clients and give them tips about household management and lowering their food and cleaning costs. I was a little nervous to say the least, and it didn't help that everyone I spoke to scoffed 'Hmph - don't know why you're bothering, they'll just go and spend all their money on cigarettes and booze, no matter what you say'. Nice attitude. What I actually encountered was a group of strong women with gorgeous, well cared-for and beautifully behaved children. One thing that was obvious though was that they were all worn out and in need of some pampering and time to themselves.
It was also clear that a good few of them were wondering how on earth I was going to be able to help them. I mean, how are you supposed to save anything when you have nothing to start with? I was starting to wonder myself - but I needn't have worried. As I talked, I could literally see lightbulbs going on in their heads, often accompanied by huge smiles as they madly scribbled down tips. We talked about so many things - where the cheapest places were to buy food in their town, how to make food, especially meat go further, how menu planning could slash their food bill and how to do it, how we use the Canteen Price List to limit expensive snacks and teach the kids how what they choose to eat can help Mum keep more money in her wallet. We talked about the Eight Steps to Happiness and how it could help them save money every day, how to identify bad spending habits and keep track of them and how to stretch almost everything they use to get better value for every dollar.
By the time they left two hours later, they were all clutching a huge pile of Simple Savings printables and chatting excitedly to their kids and each other about all the new things they were going to try and changes they were going to make. One thing I hadn't planned to talk about but ending up having to was the $21 Challenge. The WINZ co-ordinator had heard all about it and printed everyone a copy of the $21 Challenge Survival Guide in advance. I wasn't sure how discussing this was going to work and stressed that it had orginally been intended for Simple Savings members who had a stockpile to live off. However, these ladies were up for the challenge and agreed to start theirs the next day, support one another through it and meet the following week to discuss how they went with the co-ordinators, who also agreed to do the Challenge! I was so chuffed for them and it made me realise how it isn't the $21 figure that's important - it's the skills we all learn from doing the Challenge that is what's really important. Even if those ladies can make just one extra meal out of their pantries without having to go and buy something, then that's a great saving and they should pat themselves on the back. I can't wait to hear how they go and am keeping my fingers crossed for them!
It was so great to be able to talk about Simple Savings in person. None of these ladies owned a computer but we were still able to share so much helpful information. The whole experience made me realise how much I take for granted though. Standing up there made me feel rich beyond belief. Not just because of everything I have, but everything I know - everything I have learned from Simple Savings so that my family has everything we possibly need. Knowledge is power as they say, and that morning I felt like Ivana Trump. I really hope that the knowledge I was able to pass on goes some way towards helping those women and making their lives a little easier. I promised I would go through the Vault for them and write down some cheap beauty treatments and ways they could pamper themselves, because if anyone deserves a treat, they do.
I had to chuckle because just a few hours before I had been having an attack of the 'Sad Sally's'. My tumble dryer conked out almost three years ago now and I have never replaced it because my conscience won't let me - they're too harmful to the power bill and the environment. However, winter's not even here yet and already my resolve was wavering badly. Now Liam has a school uniform it's far more of a challenge to get clothes clean and dry quickly. It's fine when the fire is going but heck, it's only April! Already I've been struggling and I wasn't sure how much longer I could hang out. But after that talk I realised it just wasn't important any more. These ladies all did without tumble dryers, dishwashers and all the other things I took for granted - they had no choice but if they could do without them, so could I. I was amazed the other day when I was talking to a friend - a mother of six - and discovered she manages without a dryer for her family of eight! So who am I to complain?
Even my favourite Simple Savings gadgets which help me save money every day get taken for granted. There I was, talking about how crock pots can save you a heap of time and money, when I realised that for these ladies, a crock pot was a far off dream, along with a yoghurt maker and a pie maker. No problem, you don't need a yoghurt maker to make yoghurt and you can make individual pies in muffin tins but how do you substitute a crock pot? I wouldn't be without mine, so I've made it my own personal mission to get every single one of these ladies a crock pot, so they can enjoy cheap, nutritious 'nude food' with their families. It shouldn't take much if I ask around, so many people have them gathering dust un-used in their cupboards. My mum has already donated one, all I have to do is fix the seal so I'm off to a good start! For every crock pot I get I'm going to include a copy of the Savings Forum Slow Cooker Book as compiled by the lovely Carol, so the new users will know exactly what to do with them. I have made several recipes out of the book already and it's brilliant. Mimi's Greek Crockpot Lamb was absolutely divine - and I don't even like lamb!
The ladies were all given a copy of 'The Great Little Cookbook' too, which was developed by Work and Income NZ and is full of great money saving ideas and recipes. They had never heard of it before, but I had - through the Vault! You can get your own free copy here.
So all in all I'm feeling pretty positive. No more 'woe is me'. I have a much better deal that a lot of people and I am in control of how little or how much money we have. The buck stops with us. Speaking of which, Noel is still smoke free, yippee! My Glad Wrap challenge is still going strong too, I haven't even opened the new roll I bought weeks ago and can't bring myself to. I'm not sure I ever will, I have come close a few times but would rather use anything else but that now!