Taking stock

Posted May 15th, 2008 by Penny Wise

Phew, am finally back in the land of the living today! The boys and I have been cooped up together by the fire all week, fighting off a horrible virus. Unfortunately the boys seem to be getting worse, not better. Ali is determined to get rid of his using natural Vitamin C by scoffing mandarins like they're going out of fashion. At a bag a day for the last three days it's proving a rather expensive exercise! I have always been a soup fiend and I have recently come to the joyful realisation that soup is about the best frugal food you can make. You can make almost anything into soup for just a few cents! Plus of course it's the most comforting food you can have when you're sick so I have been making it constantly. We have had everything from Chicken Soup to what can only be described as Diabolical Soup - in my desperation to feel better I chucked in pretty much anything to try and knock out the virus and it didn't quite come off. Let's just say it tasted even worse than it smelled!

Being sick has also been a good reminder of how emotions affect what you buy. In my foggy haze I managed to make a couple of dodgy decisions. First I hopped onto the Ezibuy website. I had held on to their catalogue for ages and put off ordering so I didn't make any rash decisions. Very sensible Penny. However, being all tuckled up by the fire I couldn't help thinking how lovely and soft their giant fluffy bath towels were, or how nice it would be to snuggle up in their cosy flannelette sheets. So I ordered some of each for everyone and was really looking forward to receiving them - until I scrolled down and saw the total at the bottom. $309!!! I don't think so! I gave myself a good talking to and came to the conclusion that while fluffy new towels and sheets would be nice, it wasn't as though we had a shortage of them and could do without them perfectly well, not to mention pick them up a lot cheaper elsewhere. So I gleefully wiped the whole lot off the screen - phew, thank goodness for Internet shopping!

The other thing I did was join Doubleday book club. I have been mulling this over for a couple of months now. We used to have a local book club but it disbanded unfortunately. I have been borrowing books from the library but I never get time to finish them within the time frame and our library doesn't have a renew option so I either got stuck paying overdue fees or had to return them unfinished to escape fines. By joining Doubleday, I figured at least I could read the books I wanted at my own pace, could take advantage of specials and even sell any I didn't want to keep online if I wanted. I was quite pleased with this decision and received my box of books with great excitement. Unfortunately, the very same day I caught sight of this thread in the Savings Forum, '10 Biggest Money Wasters'. It's a fascinating read and so true! Unfortunately book clubs do feature in there rather strongly, so I'm starting to wonder what I've done. It got me thinking about something I wrote for the local paper a few months ago. The following are in no particular order and I am proud to say that since becoming a Simple Saver I no longer do any of them - except number one occasionally!:


1. Cafe culture: Cafe's are everywhere these days and boy, do we make the most of them. There's nothing I used to enjoy better than a panini and a cappuccino five days a week. It was only when I realised I was spending $1,625 of my hard earned wages on work lunches that a sandwich brought from home started to look a LOT more appealing!

2. The Warehouse: Where everyone gets a bargain – and where everyone spends a scary amount of money. When my spending was at its worst I was shelling out around $300 a week in the big red building. 'Cheap' stores like the $2 Shop can be almost as bad – they suck up your money just because you think everything is so much cheaper than everywhere else, regardless of whether you actually need any of what you are buying!

3. Keeping up with the Joneses: Our society is so guilty of this! We all think we have to be seen driving a late model car, watching the footy on the widest screen TV and having the right coloured cushions on our couch. The truth is, nobody else gives a stuff – we're just throwing money down the drain in our desires to portray the 'right' image.

4. Brand snobbery: It's no wonder it costs a fortune to fill our trolleys when we're so intent on buying the best brand names. Advertisers lead us to believe that only the most expensive nappies, snacks and cleaning products will do and that cheaper labels are only for 'poor people', when in fact buying these labels could easily save us all thousands of dollars a year and we wouldn't even notice the difference.

5.Online auctions: I love online auction websites, along with half the country. What I don't love is the horrifying amount of money I chucked away on items I never knew I needed. I now own the country's largest and most useless collection of oil burners and am guilty of buying some truly awful teddy bears. Why? Because they were there and I hate to lose an auction!

As one member wrote to me recently, 'Simple Savings has given me control of my life again'. Looking at this list has made me realise it has done the same for me. Take the other day for example. I was about to go out and was having a bad hair day. I was in need of a haircut but didn't have the time or extra cash to get one in time. No problem, I cut my own using this tried and true method! I was a bit hesitant to mention this hint again as last time I did, heaps of members went rushing off to try it and not all of them experienced the same brilliant results (although fortunately most of them did!) It felt great to know that I could take care of my own haircut in just a couple of minutes and best of all, when Noel saw it he loved it and said I did a much better job than the hairdresser! Now all I need is to try and find a non-chemical hair dye. Ever since I told the boys they were not allowed highlights because of all the dangerous chemicals, they made me promise not to have any either! Very sensible indeed, but I dread to think what's going to happen when I start going grey and sometimes it's just nice to have a bit of a revamp. If anyone has any suggestions I would love to hear them!

Being unwell has left me unable to do much but potter for the last few days and with National $21 Challenge month coming up, I decided it was the perfect time to take stock of what was actually in my pantry, fridge and freezer. I'll post the results in a separate blog for anyone who wants to see it. All I can say is wow! We have a LOT of food. Mainly thanks to the chest freezer, that thing is really worth its weight in gold. The only thing I didn't feel so good about was the amount of expired food hiding in the pantry that I had to throw away. It wasn't a huge amount and was almost entirely down to our family changing to a wheat-free diet that things such as a whole bag of wheatgerm and a pack of egg noodles got chucked out unopened. At least the chickens were happy though! Doing my stocktake was a great feeling but one thing was clear - we had run out of some essentials. Time to go shopping! But for what? My foggy brain wasn't coping too well with writing a shopping list - then I remembered a wee gem which had been sent to me by Savings Forum member Mands a few days before. Now spreadsheets and me don't usually go too well together but this is brilliant! It is SO easy and comprehensive you just can't go wrong. I proudly took my list into Mr Patel's and for once in my life, didn't forget a THING! So thank you Mands, you will make my $21 Challenge month - and every month from now on - much easier!

Before I go, I must tell you about my Mother's Day present! Things have been a bit hectic round here to say the least and my lovely hubby has been very supportive, helping out and cooking when he can. I was getting pretty despondent about not being able to get washing dry, particularly Liam's school uniform and Noel's work clothes - in fact one morning I had no choice but to put Liam in the car in his pyjamas, dash to my mum's house with his school uniform and chuck them in her tumble dryer, pulling them out just in time to drop him off at school as the bell rang. I know they're not the most eco-friendly of gadgets but I was finding myself dreaming about owning one more and more often. The only thing putting me off getting one was that the budget simply didn't stretch to it. That and the fact that neither Noel or I liked what they did to the power bill or the environment. So imagine my surprise when Noel came home last week and told me to look out the window. There was a shiny new tumble dryer, just for me!

I was over the moon but couldn't understand what had changed his mind. "Well, you're so busy you never get time to dry the washing in front of the fire any more - not to mention we're trying to conserve firewood so we were having to light the fire just to get the washing dry, whether it was cold enough or not. Most of all though, the boys and I were fed up of never being able to find any clean undies!" he grinned. Point taken! I just had one more concern though - how the heck did he afford it? New tumble dryers were not exactly in this month's budget. I needn't have worried, Noel had it sorted. He proudly told me how he had spotted it in a local second hand shop in immaculate condition. He went away, got some cash out, returned a few minutes later and asked the assistant if she would give a discount for cash. She gave him 10% off! The timing couldn't have been better too, as the very next morning I was desperately shoving Liam's uniform in and trying to get it dry in time for school once again. Eco-friendly or not, it has already really helped to take the pressure off. While I still using the washing line or clothes horses wherever I can, it's just great to not have that dreadful urgency of HAVING to get things dry while the washing mountain grows higher and higher. Needless to say, my savvy hubby has earned himself quite a few brownie points!

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