Am feeling quite smug at the moment! Not only am I nice and toasty warm as I write this I'm also saving power! I don't know why I didn't think of it ages ago. With power cuts a very real threat here in NZ I've really been trying to make a concerted effort to save on power but it's proving rather hard in our huge two-storey home. Upstairs gets terribly damp and we need to run not one but two dehumidifiers to keep the bedrooms dry and healthy in winter. We tried keeping them off but had to admit defeat when the windows were constantly streaming and the frames all got covered in mould. If anyone knows a cheaper, more eco-friendly way to combat 'crying windows' I would love to hear it!
We have a wood fire which does a brilliant job of heating the main living area but not my office where I work all day and Noel works all night, so it soon became necessary to run an oil column heater in there for the majority of the day too. My hands were getting so cold I could barely type some days if I kept the heater off! My office is also so dark that I'm afraid to say I often have to work with a light on during the day just so I can see – two when Noel and I are both working. Then there are the computers. I have two, networked together which makes me feel terribly guilty but again it's been rather unavoidable.
Until today! Pardon the pun but I had a lightbulb moment. It was so cold in the office I just couldn't stand it. Ali on the contrary was snug and warm by a roaring fire – he's been off school for a week now with a dreadful flu. Enough was enough! I turned off one of the computers, unplugged my laptop and popped it on the dining table. I figured I don't have to be online for everything I do and I had plenty of offline work to do today. So here I am, snug as a bug! I only need to run one computer, I don't need a heater because the fire's already going and will do an even better job now I can shut the office door to zone off the living area and I don't need to have any lights on when I work out here either! I know, it's hardly rocket science and I can't believe I didn't think of it long ago but with me the only one at home all day I feel responsible for much of our power usage, so I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. I could do without 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' blaring in the background but at least I'm warm!
Mind you, I don't know what I beat myself up so much for. I was listening to the radio this morning and they were asking people to ring in with their thoughts on the looming power crisis. I couldn't believe what some of them were saying. One household had three computers and FOUR fridges, in a household of three people! Their reason for having four fridges? 'We drink a lot of beer and eat a lot of food'. Well I hope you like warm beer and cooking over a camping stove mate, 'cause that's we'll all be doing soon enough thanks to plonkers like you!
Someone asked in the Forum recently, 'How do you stay motivated about saving?' and I was surprised that the answer came to me straight away. For me, it's the Hint of the Week and the monthly newsletter. I love reading the member's letters and hearing all about their triumphs and the Saving Stories are amazing. Some of them just blow me away, like 'Wake up with Simple Savings' and 'Skint but stylish'. The Hints of the Week have been awesome lately too, such as 'Cut fuel costs by 40%' and 'Declare war on the mortgage'. I mean, who could fail to be inspired by stories like that? It just goes to show, there's always something more you can do. I think everyone gets a little complacent or falls off the wagon sometimes and reading these really gives me the jolt I need to keep striving and trying new things. Best of all, it's the sheer amount of money that people are able to save that strikes a chord with me and makes me think 'Woah! I could do that!' I've always loved receiving my Hint of the Week and my newsletters but it was only when I went to answer that question that I realised how incredibly valuable they are. I've written a mental note to myself to read the newsletter archives much more often!
Minnie the dotty spaniel has finally forgiven me for getting her speyed but it has taken almost a week and she has taken her revenge by hammering my wallet. Not long after coming home from the vet she started emitting this dreadful pong, which soon became apparent was an ear infection. It was driving the poor thing absolutely crazy, not to mention us, as she shook her floppy ears all night and thrashed around all over the place. Already stressed out from her op, it was all becoming too much. Unfortunately it all became too much on Sunday morning when the vet was closed. The duty vet agreed she should be treated sooner rather than later but unfortunately it was going to cost $80 just to get him along to the clinic on a Sunday! I couldn't leave Minnie as she was so woefully agreed, although I must say it was worth the trip when I arrived to be greeted by an incredibly handsome young Scottish vet. Minnie also thought he was not at all bad either and went from a snapping, wailing banshee to putty in his hands. The fickle creature! Ears on the mend and one much happier spaniel later I figured that would be the last of our vet trips for a while and indeed it was – for a whole two days until Minnie pulled out half of her stitches. With a gaping hole in her middle, I was convinced all her insides were soon going to come tumbling out and once again dashed off to the vet. Alas, our dashing young Scotsman was nowhere to be seen and Minnie was none too impressed with his replacement either, refusing to co-operate for the poor woman whatsover. After all that, the vet decided that Minnie's tummy looked as though it was going to hold together all right and no further action was necessary. A wasted trip but a costly one nonetheless, not least when I filled the car up with petrol on the way home. There I was, thinking I was terribly clever by refusing to pay the exorbitant prices at my local station – and I still got stung $2.19 a litre! Egads, it really makes you think twice about going out these days.
At least there are other ways we can save and Noel is throwing himself into his vege garden at the moment – well, not literally, although it would look quite funny if he did! He's got broccoli, cauliflower, red and green cabbage, brussels sprouts, radishes, celery, silverbeet, onions, spring onions and even purple broccoli growing in there at the moment. I'm really missing the home grown potatoes though, it's just not the same buying them in a bag from Mr Patel's any more. I bought Noel a present today to help encourage his efforts, it's the brand new edition of http://www.nzgardener.co.nz/">'Homegrown 2: Live off your land for less', a special edition from NZ Gardener magazine. 'Save money with shoestring hints and easy recipes for growing, foraging, baking, brewing and bottling' it says. I've only flicked through it but it looks really good. It even tells you how to grow your own luffa sponges and soapwort liquid soap so I think when Noel's not got his head stuck in it, I'll be pinching it off him!
As well as growing our food, Noel's been doing a brilliant job of cooking it too lately. Some months ago I splashed out on a copy of 'The River Cottage Family Cookbook' by one of my favourite people, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Anyone who takes on the British supermarket giants to ensure better welfare conditions for the poultry they sell is a pretty darn good bloke in my book. Not to mention a brilliant Simple Saver if ever I saw one! At $65 it was a lot more than I would normally pay for a recipe book but I had a feeling this one would be special, and I was right. We all love the recipes so much that Noel and I take it in turns to make them! You won't find anything posh in there – it's the sheer goodness and divine taste of cooking with nude food that we love. I've made countless home made burgers, fish pies and spaghetti bolognaises over the years but never any like these, they're out of this world. I've never found cooking so relaxing or enjoyable!
Which reminds me – I was supposed to be doing a $21 Challenge week this week! What with Ali being so ill I completely forgot! Will have to target next week then. Have had the pleasure of doing more radio interviews this week and I'm happy to say that ALL the presenters have totally 'got' the $21 Challenge and supported it wholeheartedly. Mind you, for a non-Challenge week I'm still not doing too bad – I've spent just over $50 so far this week and much of that is on things like lemonade for sore throats and other 'comforts for sick people' that we wouldn't usually buy. Which goes to show it's not true what many people think, that after a $21 Challenge you have to rush out and spent $600 on re-stocking your pantry! With almost two weeks still to go in National $21 Challenge Month, my mantra has become 'don't knock it until you try it', and you know what? I reckon there's a lot of people out there giving it a go for the first time. Good on ya!