You either 'get it' or you don't

Posted June 13th, 2008 by Penny Wise

Thank goodness for last week's $21 Challenge! It's certainly proved helpful for a couple of unexpected expenses this week and most of them have been caused by Minnie the cocker spaniel. She started off the week by eating the Sky TV remote. I don't know what was so appealing about it that particular day as it's been in the same place every day since we've had her but she decided that Monday was the day to chew it into a zillion pieces. While I wasn't exactly impressed, I refused in the first instance to buy a new one. I figured it would be good exercise for our family to have to physically get up and down and walk across the room to change channels. Until later that day when I had been watching the news on Channel 1 and the kids asked if I could please change the channel to Animal Planet on Channel 75. Standing in front of the TV like a plonker pressing the button one channel at a time, I decided I didn't have the time or the inclination to keep this up day after day and called Sky in defeat. Once the woman on the other end of the phone had stopped laughing she told me it was going to cost $25 for a new remote.

The following morning I got up and saw in delight that we had successfully captured Supermouse, our evil pantry thief from last week. As suspected he was indeed one heck of a mouse - and there was no way I was going to dispose of him. I ran upstairs excitedly to tell Noel and returned to find both Supermouse and the trap had disappeared. I didn't see who took it but judging by the way Minnie came bounding in from outside and ran straight to the pantry to see if there was anything else worth looting, I had a pretty good idea. I eventually found the brand new trap plonked in the middle of the front garden and chewed to pieces but Supermouse was nowhere to be seen. I am hoping to goodness that the trap did its job and that Minnie deposited him outside having already gone to mouse heaven, NOT inadvertently released inside alive and kicking to darken my pantry once again. Eek!

Wednesday arrived and everyone was on the lookout. Minnie was due to go to the vet to get speyed and under no circumstances was she to eat ANYTHING before her operation. The kids and I had been super vigilant, making sure all food sources were out of the way, not letting her outside unaccompanied or off a lead and so on. With just 10 minutes to go until we were due to get in the car we were all feeling very proud of ourselves for not letting her consume anything - until Ali found her sitting in the middle of my bed eating a cardboard toilet roll tube. She had also helped herself out of the bin to one of the cotton wool pads I had used to cleanse my face the night before and as Ali tried desperately to wrench it out of her jaws she steadfastly refused to open her mouth and swallowed it instead. You can imagine how daft I felt having to ring the vet and asking them to postpone. Fortunately they weren't in the least surprised, being a spaniel and all. We booked her in for the next day instead but decided this time that the only way we could keep her safe and be 100% sure that she hadn't eaten anything was to keep her in at the vets overnight before her operation. Unfortunately this was going to cost an extra $15, bringing Minnie's bill for the week to $47 - not to mention the $180 it was going to cost for her operation!

Even though she is such a ratbag, we all love her dearly and missed her terribly while she was away. We even slept in yesterday morning and missed the school bus because she didn't wake us all up as usual. I'm happy to report she is now back home but deeply traumatised and absolutely scared stiff of me, the horrible lady who she trusted and took her to that dreadful place where they did nasty things to her. Every time she sees me she shrieks and I've lost count of the number of times I've had to go and look for her only to find her whimpering and shaking uncontrollably under a bush! Poor Minnie - I don't think she'll be getting into any more trouble for a little while at least.

Apart from those odd little quirks though, it's been a pretty good week. I realised as I walked into Mr Patel's on Wednesday that it was the first time I'd spent anything all week! To date, I have spent $80 this week and quite a lot of that was because I used my trip to the supermarket to pick up several items in bulk on special to put in the freezer. Yesterday I was asked to go and give a talk to a group of women on a low income, who wanted to learn how to manage their money better. They were all really motivated and I was chuffed to find one of them was already a Simple Savings member. Others were solo mums, trying to feed as many as six kids. They all had my admiration, particularly one young mum who had a baby daughter. She told me that she put $10 away every week for her baby's education and she couldn't touch it until she was 21. The condition was - her daughter would only be entitled to the full sum if she didn't repeat her mum's mistake and get pregnant before she turned 21. If she did, she had to give her mum back half the money! We all had a giggle and I thought here was a young woman who obviously was doing her best with the little she had.

Until we started talking about food. As always, the subject of the $21 Challenge came up and I was explaining that to be able to do that, you needed to have a basic range of staples in your pantry. This girl told me that she never cooked and didn't know how - she lived on takeaways every night of the week. It transpired that she was spending a whopping $200 a week on takeaway food, just for her! The rest of us were gobsmacked, envisaging the trolley load of real food she could be buying with that money - not to mention the savings she could be making. It soon became obvious that it really wasn't the poor girl's fault - she had never been taught any different. The first job she ever had was at McDonalds and she had learned to survive on it. At first she was a little defensive about her eating habits but soon I could see her brain ticking over as she started writing notes. I wrote down all the names of Sophie Gray's books and told her to go to the library and see if she could find them. By the time she left, she vowed and declared that she wasn't going to buy a single takeaway between now and when the group met again the following week. I was so proud of her! I can't wait to see how she goes.

One thing which became apparent from talking to the group was that I never realised how many people have a 'thing' about eating leftovers. They can't bring themselves to do it, thinking it's yukky and worrying what other people might say - even when times are really tough. Is it any wonder we waste up to 100kg of food a year per person! So I told them to do what I do - have tiffin instead of leftovers! I explained how Sophie Gray wrote about 'tiffin' in a recent newsletter and how for me it suddenly made my warmed-up leftovers sound a whole lot more appealing. As I left, the ladies asked me what I was going to have for lunch and I proudly told them of the leftover beef casserole and veges I was looking forward to for my tiffin. I honestly don't think it had ever occurred to any of them to do that before but then I used to be like that too. I could see them thinking 'Well if she thinks it's OK to do it, it must be OK for the rest of us to do it!' That's the whole thing about Simple Savings isn't it? Sharing ideas and trying things you've never thought of before.

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Bill Ralston for Radio Live. Bill has been around for years and has a reputation as a real hard-hitting TV and radio interviewer. After the whole Alison Mau experience, I was terrified - this guy was going to eat me alive! However I couldn't have been more wrong. He was helpful, positive and completely got the whole $21 Challenge concept. Who would have thought I would be discussing the wonders of Lonely Sausage Risotto with one of the country's longest serving media personalities! Don't you just love it when people 'get' Simple Savings?

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