If there's one thing that really makes me chuckle it's the number of emails I receive from members who say 'how do you keep finding SS things to write about now you're perfect?' The answer is simple - I'm not! Not yet, anyway. In fact, after the Christmas that's just been, if anyone suggested to Noel I was 100% flawless with money, he would probably spill his coffee and collapse in hysterics. I've been a Simple Saver now for almost four years and the way I see myself is this - I'm a lot more frugal than most people I know - especially when it comes to the big things. But there are still plenty of other members out there who totally put me to shame, particularly on the Forum. Some of you guys blow me away! But that's the great thing - Simple Savings brings us all together, we learn from each other and when we go off track, there's always someone right there who can put us back on it.
All things considered, I should be perfect though! I mean, what excuse do I have not to be? I have all the knowledge I could possibly need right here - it's just remembering to use it. Fiona and Matt never forget to use theirs; I learned so much from spending a week with them in July (and am still extremely envious of their bulk pantry!) Some things are automatic - like at the moment I have a huge pot of chicken soup on the stove because we had roast chicken last night so I have to make the most of the leftovers. Other things I am still downright rubbish at - buying snacks and drinks when out is the big one. I don't know if it's so much about falling off the wagon; it's more about not letting yourself get complacent - or should I say perhaps lazy?
Take Christmas shopping for example. Sometimes you have to learn from your mistakes and this year I learned from mine. I had all the tips and knowledge I needed from the Vault and newsletters to make this Christmas an organised frugal fest, from the Boxing Day sales to buying gifts on special all year round. The fact we weren't even having Christmas at home should have made it even more of a breeze, with no hordes to cater for. But no, Penny the Perfect thought she was too busy all year and never quite got around to it. I soon realised my online shopping wasn't enough to fill two stockings and the Christmas list. Noel kept popping out to grab bits and pieces and in the end there I was on December 23rd with heaps of shopping still to do. I have two words which sum up the whole experience - NEVER AGAIN. Talk about hell on earth. The actual shopping part didn't take that long - I had a list and knew exactly what I wanted and where to get it. It was the things like having to drive around for 40 minutes to get a car park and the endless queues in every shop we went that really took the shine off. I have never had to queue to get OUT of The Warehouse before and it's an experience I never want to repeat. I couldn't believe so many other people were as behind with their shopping as me. Everyone looked as though they wanted to kill each other and I bet they were thinking the same as me - 'what the heck are YOU lot all doing here? Shouldn't you have been more organised?' It really was consumerism gone mad; which I found really quite ironic considering nobody is supposed to have any money these days and the sales hadn't even started. We were all there spending money for the same reason - because we felt like we had to.
By the time I had braved The Warehouse yet again on Christmas Eve to get Noel a bike helmet (that's another story!), any thoughts I had been entertaining about going to the Boxing Day sales had gone completely out the window. As far as I was concerned, I had stuffed up Christmas. I had no idea what Noel had spent, he had no idea what I had spent and to be honest I had no idea what I had spent either! It just became a mad dash to get the Christmas list filled, to the detriment of our sanity and no doubt the bank balance, which I've been too scared to look at yet. I was feeling really down on myself until I stumbled upon a thread called 'I blew it this Christmas' and realised I wasn't alone. I wasn't the only one who had blown it but we all had something else in common too - we all knew how to get ourselves out of it, with the help of Simple Savings. It made me feel so much better and I'm looking forward to seeing how much I can NOT spend in the New Year!
Christmas was a quiet but enjoyable day at the in-laws. Ali was extremely relieved to find his stocking from Santa as he was utterly convinced he had been a naughty boy all year and would receive nothing but coal. In an attempt to appease the big man in red, he left notes and snacks not once but all around his room! He didn't get any coal but was given a penguin-shaped waffle maker in which waffles have been created in all manners and flavours for breakfasts and lunches since. He's wanted one for ages and I always thought they would be a bit of a waste of money but now we're actually making the waffles I can see how easy it is to make a yummy filling meal out of next to nothing. A Simple Savings gadget after all! One money saving gadget with a difference our family received was a Swear Box. Embarrassed as I am to admit it, the air does turn rather blue occasionally at our house and when Alex spotted it out shopping he insisted that we got it to help curb our family's language. I thought it was going to be a bit of a flash in the pan but have been amazed to find that it's really made a difference. For the first three days money was going into the box on a regular basis but every day it's been getting quieter and it's next to nothing now!
So the festive season is just about over for another year and so far I have three New Year resolutions:
1: Not to make any more impulse purchases on 1-day. This has fast become one of my favourite websites and has developed into a very bad habit. Yes, the discounts are massive and the service is excellent but have we actually NEEDED most of it? Remember Penny, it's only a bargain if you were always going to buy it! I am going to unsubscribe myself from their daily email so I can't get tempted any more.
2: Not to buy any more food and drink when out. We have been really bad at this lately but the kids are leading a great example with their new drink bottles from Santa. They have both been keeping them full of water and take them absolutely everywhere. I can't believe the difference it's made in just a few days!
3: To use our War on Debt calendar diligently. If you haven't had a look at the 2009 calendar yet, go and check it out, right now. It's flipping brilliant! I've been telling Noel all about January's 'Better Deal Month' and he thinks it's a great idea, particularly as our mortgage is about to come off floating rate. I'm printing it off as we speak and we're all going to sit down as a family this afternoon and get in the mood for a super frugal 2009. If we can achieve as much as we have already with a simple water bottle and swear jar, think how much we can achieve when we put our minds to everything else! I'm really looking forward to it. Have a great New Year everyone!