Hmm, this Recession Challenge is proving harder than I thought! Oh stop making excuses Penny, you're just being lazy. The boys and I were sick for a few days last week and I'd like to say that the reason I didn't go whizzing off to Mr Patel's for copious amounts of fizzy drink and ice cream was because of the Recession Challenge but in all honesty the only reason was because I couldn't drag my sorry self out of bed. Organisation is still a big key to saving money and a skill I have yet to master. Take Saturday, which is the kids' cricket day. It's a brand, spanking new team and the first week everyone got caught out. Having only played rugby until now, none of us envisaged how cold and hungry 11 kids and their parents would get standing around for half the day with not a great deal happening and try as we might, nobody could resist the lure of the bakery around the corner! This week however was Recession Week and I wasn't willing to end up there again. We had leftover bacon and sausages from the night before and we planned to make these into sandwiches to take with us. Unfortunately we all slept in and got out of bed in a tearing hurry, scoffing the sausages and bacon as we rushed out the door. Once again lunch was courtesy of the bakery, along with three drinks as Ali was the only one who remembered to take his water bottle. A bit of a cop-out really; if we truly were in dire straits we would simply have had to go without. To top it all off, I made a huge pot of minestrone soup last week to feed all us sickies. It's the recipe from Sophie Gray's new book 'Delicious' and it was absolutely divine. It would have lasted us several more meals if Penny the Plonker hadn't forgotten to put it in the fridge in her mind-fogged state before slinking off back to bed. By the time it was rediscovered a couple of days later, it was beyond rescue and the chickens thought it was their birthday. A shameful waste. This week will be different!
It's not only this Recession Challenge I'm having trouble getting my head around, it's Christmas too. I've never been so disorganised! I can't even bring myself to think about it at the moment but I'm going to have to get into the spirit of things soon because in just eight days I have been asked to present a 'Christmas on a Budget' evening at a local cafe. I'm sure with the help of the Vault all will be fine. I'm looking forward to knocking up a batch of home made Baileys for everyone to try but as for Christmas presents for everyone this year I'm at a total loss. I've got a couple of gifts for the whole family tucked away but I can't tell you what they are now Noel reads my blog! Even the kids have no idea what they want and I certainly don't. I'm tempted just to get everyone tickets and be done with it. Liam has wanted to go and see the WWE wrestling in Auckland for the last three years and Ali and I have always wanted to see the Crusty Demons, who are coming to Hamilton in February. As least my youngest brother-in-law's gift won't cost us anything. He's coming over from England for Christmas and I never got around to posting his present last year so he's told me to keep it for him to open this year! With tough times ahead (and indeed here) for so many I would really like to have the courage to say to the rellies 'Look, let's make a deal to spend no more than $20 each on gifts this year' but I'm never brave enough to say it. My SS ways are never something we talk about in my extended family - probably because they know if they got me started on the subject they would never shut me up! I guess all I can do is keep my eyes peeled from here on for the best value gifts for everyone. I know I can do it, I just have to be organised for once!
One thing I think Santa is going to struggle with this year is filling a Christmas stocking for a pre-teen. I knew I couldn't hold it off forever but Liam has finally become aware of brands and labels. All of a sudden his old iPod isn't good enough any more; he wants one with a screen. Mum's old mobile phone isn't cool enough for him either - he wants one with more up to date ringtones and a 'screensaver with a chick on it' like his mates. He's no longer happy with $29 shoes from The Warehouse but wants Puma or DC shoes for around $175. I can tell you right now he's not going to find either of these in his stocking on Christmas morning but I still think it's going to be a challenge to fill that stocking without taking out a loan. I'm joking honest, but seriously he is getting to be high maintenance. Even his clothes are more expensive than mine now. I'm saving a bundle on clothes now I can fit into kids' sizes but he's gone the opposite way and I'm paying men's prices for his! I've never used Trade Me for buying clothes before but I think I'll be looking there from now on; especially after talking to a friend of mine the other day. She and her family are always immaculately turned out and I shamefully thought they must have a money tree somewhere as her son, who is slightly younger than Liam is always seen in all the trendy labels, right down to the coveted DC shoes. 'How come I'm not allowed those kind of shoes when Conor is?' Liam grumbled in front of his mum. 'Because they only cost me $20 on Trade Me!' she whispered out of the corner of her mouth. I guess if Santa can find some more at that price maybe they won't be completely out of the question!
Being ill last week might have been a bonus for the weightloss but not my training! It's Round the Bridges this Sunday and Alex and I will be running 12km around Hamilton city, along with another couple of thousand mad people. Before I got ill I was super confident I could do it with my eyes shut but I think I've got some catching up to do! Even more nerve-wracking is the fact that once that is over I have to step up the training so I can run 21km for the Taupo Half Iron Man event in December. It's my birthday that week and I'm really looking forward to my birthday present - our whole family is going to do the Tongariro Crossing! It's an 18.5km trek across a volcano and I can't wait; it looks absolutely stunning. What a way to celebrate a birthday, with something that's priceless, yet costs nothing. Well, except a few blisters maybe! Noel is now on his sixth week of not smoking and is looking and feeling fantastic. Talk about motivated - he ran 15km at the weekend! Not a bad effort for someone who hates running. So far he has saved himself over $300 already, not to mention countless ciggies he hasn't smoked. He's still a bit of a grumpy old so-and-so but we're extremely proud of him and you know what? I think he's finally cracked it!
Two things to check out before I go:
1 - Have you seen all the new hints in the Vault lately? There's stacks of them! It never ceases to amaze me how clever people are; the Vault is such an immensely valuable tool. Perhaps I should just give everyone on my Christmas list Vault memberships this year, I reckon people are going to need Simple Savings more than ever. In fact, now NZ is getting a new Prime Minister, I might just write to John Key and tell him all about SS! Now there's a thought...
2 - Have lost 12kg and still shrinking! If you haven't already seen my 'before and after' photos in the Forum, you can have a giggle by clicking here. I'm going to hang those shorts on my wall as a permanent reminder!