What really counts

Posted January 27th, 2009 by Penny Wise

I've had such a lovely morning in the kitchen! I used up the half a dozen soft apples in the fruit bowl to make 12 Apple and Lemon muffins (from Sophie Gray's 'Stunning Food with Small Change', everyone loves them!) and two Oaty Apple Loaves for the freezer. I made a delicious pot of chicken soup for lunch using the remains of last night's roast chicken too, using Rilla's recipe I dug out of a Savings Forum thread here. It's SO yum! I even made a huge pot of dog food which should last several days and looks good enough to sample myself! Don't think I will though!

Now to most people my morning probably sounds less than exciting. Whoopee-doo, Penny's done some cooking! But it means a lot to me because it means this little rubber ducky is BACK ON TRACK. I'm so excited! I'm going to bombard my family with so much yummy food they're not going to know what's hit them! I know, I know, all this should be second nature to me anyway and in theory it is - but I've been sadly lacking in practice lately. To me, living the Simple Savings life is all about making choices. Stopping, thinking and choosing a smarter, cheaper way. For almost four years now I have prided myself on making smarter decisions than the Sad Sally's of the world - most of the time. Thanks to Simple Savings my head is full of a squillion brilliant ways to save money, how lucky am I? I should never have to worry about money again! But once I have those squillion brilliant tips in my head it's up to me to keep using them. It's up to me to keep choosing the smarter way - and I'm embarrassed to admit I've made some pretty dumb choices lately.

You see, the last few months have been a time of great change for me. Mostly positive changes, but not all. I've discovered strength and determination I didn't know I had and reached goals I never hoped to be able to achieve. And amongst it all, I've let other things slide. It all started when I lost the weight I had been trying to shift unsuccessfully for the last 15 years. Not surprisingly I felt fantastic! The only downside was that NONE of my clothes fitted any more - of course, that wasn't really a downside, I was pleased as punch but it did mean I was going to have to buy some new clothes. The plan was to replenish my wardrobe over time, bit by bit. Unfortunately I didn't stick to the plan. I soon got sick of all my tops literally falling off me and while I tried to keep my 'bottoms' up with belts, there was so much material bunched up around my middle it looked downright ridiculous. Think http://www.summer-wine.com/digitalvoices/compo2.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.summer-wine.com/digitalvoices/index.htm&usg=__dKUPQbDNbl93nHat66claSc_Ffo=&h=342&w=238&sz=9&hl=en&start=18&um=1&tbnid=FUYcqRKcebFjwM:&tbnh=120&tbnw=84&prev=/images%3Fq%3DCompo%2Blast%2Bof%2Bthe%2Bsummer%2Bwine%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN">Compo from Last of the Summer Wine! In the end I decided it was no good, I had to go shopping.

And what a shop it was! For the first time in longer than I could remember, EVERYTHING fitted. I don't mind admitting, it was a huge buzz and hey, everyone deserves a bit of a blowout now and again. I had put in a lot of effort and that was my reward. Yay for me! But it didn't stop there - that was only the first of what went on to be surely a dozen or more clothes shopping trips. I got totally carried away and started going into shops I would never have dreamed of setting foot in before because I knew I wouldn't have fitted anything. Soon even I had to admit that I didn't need to buy another stitch of clothing for a very long time. So then I started on Noel and the kids. Well, it wasn't fair that Mum had all the smart new gear and they didn't! We might be the best dressed family in the street these days but I dread to think of the effect it's had on the bank balance and if I could, I would take it all back.

I always prided myself on not being a materialistic sort of person but after the mass clothing expeditions it started to rub off onto other things. Everything suddenly had to be the 'right' brands - although to my credit I rarely paid full price for anything. Thank heavens there were still a few scraps of SS sanity beavering away in my brain! I was out there having fun and all of a sudden I stopped caring so much about the other little things, like not buying takeaways, not making unnecessary car trips and all kinds of other things which drove Noel crazy after being so diligent for so long. For the first time in longer than I can remember we started arguing about money again and how I was just throwing it all away. I came up with every excuse in the book to try and justify my purchases and decisions - 'but it's school holidays', 'just one more treat' and countless more I can't recall. I'm probably being a bit too harsh on myself; I mean my frugal skills didn't completely abandon me. It's just for everyone smart decision I made, I managed to make at least two crap ones.

I knew I was going wayyy down the wrong track but didn't seem able to stop myself until we went on holiday to the beach last week to Whangamata, seaside town of the beautiful people. I was walking along in my brand new purple Billabong flip flops, with brand new purple painted toenails to match, yet more needless, spur-of-the-moment purchases. It was a scorching hot day and as usual I was turning my nose up at all the Sad Sally's. 'Why are they all shopping on a day like this? Why aren't they down at the beach?' I scoffed. And then I realised I had become one of them. They, like me were out buying stuff. Just stuff. As I looked through the shop windows full of nice but absolutely pointless items, I thought to myself 'Look at all this stuff - it doesn't mean a thing!' Honest to goodness, none of it mattered at all, it was just meaningless stuff that none of us need. Woohoo, ladies and gentlemen, Penny has finally woken up!

It's taken me ages to write this blog because it makes me sound like a total self-centred cow but that's the way I feel I've been acting. Spending left, right and centre and thinking only of how things look on the surface. I never thought I would be that kind of person; it just goes to show what drives people to fritter away money and how Sad Sally bolts can hit you out of the blue. Fortunately nobody with the exception of Hollywood stars can keep up that sort of spending indefinitely and I always knew I would wake up one day. Not a day went by where I didn't check Simple Savings and the Forum and wasn't inspired by someone else's efforts. At last I can say today I've been proud of my efforts too!

As usual Fiona is right, money really does cause havoc in relationships if you're not on the same wavelength. Being on the same SS path together is the best recipe I know of for marital success and it's a path I'm determined to stick to. I've even given up alcohol (yes, really, honest!) as I'm sick of wasting money on the stuff and I'm about to get seriously busy on Trade Me selling all sorts of unwanted stuff in an attempt to recoup some of what I have spent. I might cringe at the bank balance right now but the best thing is, I know a squillion brilliant ways to get us back on track and I'm so grateful for Simple Savings - especially when I've been acting simple myself! As I look around right now I can see the lake out of the window, my cakes cooling in the kitchen and my two gorgeous boys waiting to go swimming with their mum. Family is all that matters - not purple toenails!

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