Bigger fish to fry

Posted March 9th, 2012 by Penny Wise

Life is a funny old thing isn't it? I actually intended to write this blog a couple of weeks ago. I had been having a very productive day sorting out all sorts of little bits and pieces - you know those little bits and pieces that actually add up to save you quite a lot of money but you never get round to dealing with them? You know the kind of things which any Simple Saver worth her salt should never let slide in the first place? Yep, those ones. It all started when I decided to claim my email inbox back. I'm one of these people who even now, even after more than ten years of email access, get a buzz of excitement at the mere sight of a new message notification. So there's nothing worse than when you rush to check it and discover that you've wasted both your time and adrenaline on some random product that you don't give a stuff about. So I unsubscribed to the whole lot. Every time another store email came in, I hit the link. No more 1-day, no more GrabOne, no more Strawberrynet, Noel Leeming, JB HiFi, Mighty Ape, Fishpond, Whitcoulls, Farmers, you name it, I wiped it. And lo and behold, my inbox is now deathly quiet - and I don't care! I can go for whole days without getting a single email now and the ones I do get are actually of interest to me. It's so liberating!

I know what some people think. 'But I subscribe to those websites, they save me money!' Indeed. they have saved me money in the past too. They have also cost me a lot through emailing me irresistable deals of things I would never have known existed if I hadn't subscribed. CD's and books I didn't need. Jewellery. Treats for the kids. 24 cans of Red Bull. Giant bags of lollies. I remember one of the first frugal mantras Fiona taught me - 'A bargain is only a bargain if you were always going to buy it anyway'. How true that is, and I have lost count of the people I have told that to since when they ask me whether they should buy something or not. Jeepers, I know people who are subscribed to so many things they have more than 10,000 emails in their inbox! And if they genuinely save you money, that's all well and good. But when they're harming you, rather than helping you by encroaching on your time and tempting you to spend what you would normally never even think of, it's time to sever the relationship. It did occur to me for a brief second that perhaps I shouldn't unsubscribe because I might be missing out on a valuable saving some time but you know what? If I want to buy something in the future I'll just do what I would normally do anyway when making a purchase and shop around for the best price. Done deal!

I don't have a credit card but Noel does. It's normally only used for work expenses but I took a good look at the statement and whilst there wasn't a huge amount on it, the huge majority of it could have been avoided. Like a certain Ms Penny Wise getting a little carried away on iTunes. I mean wanting to indulge oneself in a brief moment of high school nostalgia doesn't have to mean spending $20 on downloading Terence Trent D'Arby's entire first album (which I have to confess turned out to be absolutely dire and nowhere near as fab and cutting edge as it was when I was 14). And why on earth were we still paying $6.95 a month for Club Penguin when Ali hadn't used it since July? And then there was the boys, merrily chalking up charges on Xbox Live - $8.25 here, $10 there until a total of $142 had amassed. Both of them of course blamed it on the other so we had no choice but to split it 50/50 and take it out of their savings. Lesson learned - by all of us!

While I was on a roll I finally cancelled the regional newspaper nobody reads any more since they changed their delivery time from afternoon to 5am, saving $24 a month and checked out my Vodafone account to make sure I was still getting the best deal on my mobile. They were doing their part well enough - all my texts were free (and I confess I text a LOT - in fact I drove Fiona and Kirstin mad last year when they visited!) My call charges were all as low as could be as well so that was good - so why was the balance so high? Ahhh - Internet data. It cost me $21.95 for the month and why? Because when I'm out and about or sitting in the car or just passing time I check Facebook on my phone. Noel thinks it's sad enough that I can't refrain from checking it when I'm out and about as it is and I am inclined to agree - but to actually PAY for doing it? No way! Needless to say, another bad habit just got broken.

Before I knew it the day was at an end. I had achieved some handy savings and was feeling rather pleased with myself. Granted, I should never have let those expenses get away on me in the first place but at least I had nipped them in the bud now. Better late than never! I was feeling rather pleased with myself so ran a nice, hot bubbly bath. I reached for one of my favourite posh 50c indulgence soaps and began lathering up a storm, feeling that everything was all well in Penny's world - and found a lump. A lump that wasn't supposed to be there. And right there my nice, cosy, secure little world came crashing down. Everything in my life suddenly became uncertain. Apologies if that sounds over-dramatic. It's not as though it's an unfamiliar situation in our family. My mum's had lumps - four times to be exact. My mum-in-law has had breast cancer. My aunties and cousins have had it - some of them even have it right now. Some of them have survived, some haven't but I've been around it enough to know the drill. Number one being don't panic, it's just a lump until you know otherwise. Besides, with our family history I could hardly say it was unexpected - compared to some of the others I was downright old to be getting my first lump! I always thought I would just laugh it off, put it down to genetics and not really give it much thought. But I didn't. From the moment I found it I hated it. I felt - faulty - does that sound weird?

I guess everybody's different and you just never know how you're going to feel until it happens to you. On the positive side I honestly believe that if I had still been drinking I would not have found that lump. I would have probably already had a couple of glasses under my belt and would have just soaked in the bath with another goblet full of Lindauer until I resembled a prune and it was too cold to stay in any longer. But not any more. I was actually proud of myself for finding that lump! Monday morning found me in the doctor's office and from there followed a barrage of tests. Because of all our family breast cancer woes they didn't want me to wait four weeks under the public system to check if the lump was OK so they rushed me through under the private system and the following Monday I found myself at St Mark's Breast Care Centre in Auckland. If there was a Hidden Gem of hospitals this would be mine! The staff were wonderful, so warm and friendly and there was no wait for anything. Everything was so well explained that I felt quite comfortable under the circumstances. They told me that they would try to have the results to me by Wednesday and the phone rang first thing on Wednesday morning with a happy voice telling me that my lump was clear. Yay! The down side was that it cost $800 for the tests but in the end it was a small price to pay for peace of mind.

I'd like to say that was the end of my worries but not quite. Not being someone to do things by halves I also had a dodgy smear test recently and had to go for further tests, the very same day as the other ones! At this stage these results aren't looking quite so promising but it will be another few weeks before I know for sure. I guess what I'm trying to say by dumping all my health woes on you, is that the whole experience has given our family a short, sharp shock into what really matters. The bickering and whinging over small things has disappeared. All the 'I wants' have disappeared. We have bigger fish to fry. Instead we are cherishing each other and the time we have together right now because at the end of the day that's all we need. And I will keep on saving all those little bits and not let them slip past me again because you never know what's around the corner. If anything happens to me I don't want to deprive my kids by having frittered my money - money they are going to need - on rubbish. No more procrastinating for me, life really is too short!

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