Each to their own

Posted June 27th, 2014 by Penny Wise

When reading about the lives of other Simple Savings members, I often think to myself 'Wow, I thought I was doing pretty well but they are doing an AMAZING job, I wish I could be like them!' Of course, we all can be, it's just a question of having the mindset, the motivation and the organisation I guess. But every now and then someone comes along who really blows you away, opens your eyes and makes you even more determined to do the best you can do. This happened to me just the other day when I was queueing in the supermarket behind a local woman who was shopping for her family of 10. I don't know her personally but I know several of her eight children. As you can imagine, it took a good while for her to get through the check out and the cashier kept rolling her eyes and apologising to me - that was because it was her mum and several siblings who were doing the shopping! 'Oh I don't mind at all! I'm watching and learning!' I laughed - and it was true, I was absolutely intrigued! Especially when she reached the end and the total came to just $126 for a massive amount of food. Oh how I would have loved to collar this woman and ask her 'How long will this lot last you? What about this? Where do you buy that?' I wanted to know everything! Unfortunately she was at one end of the food conveyor and I was at the other but I really felt I could learn a lot from this woman. One thing was for sure, she was one very organised lady. She and her children were all beautiful, well-dressed, well-behaved and considering how budget conscious they obviously were, looked far from starving or deprived. I would have loved to spend a day with her and see how many other savvy things she incorporated into their everyday life!

Like a lot of Simple Savings members, I watched the recent ACA story 'Australia's tightest family' with interest. It's always great to see how other people do things; especially when you hear they paid off a $100,000 mortgage in five years! I think there are plenty of members on here who are just as conscientious and clever and I don't really think a one-off story is enough, I reckon an ongoing series is required in order for a lot of people to 'get it' and realise that living a frugal lifestyle isn't weird, freakish or miserable! It made me sad to read so many negative comments following the story along the lines of 'What an awful way to live. How can you deprive your kids?' Sad because I felt the person who wrote that comment and others along the same lines would never know the joy, achievement and success which comes from not living like a complete sucker. I also felt sorry for all the people who wrote wistfully 'I wish I could be like that', knowing that they would instantly forget about it and never even try, always feeling it to be impossible and out of reach. Still, I hope there were still plenty of people who had a lightbulb moment and learned even one new thing they could and would put into practise.

I've never been called 'stingy' or a cheapskate - not to my face anyway. I guess every time I've spoken publicly about the $21 Challenge and other money saving topics I've been lucky in that I've always been in the company of people who have wanted to learn. It still gives me a buzz five years after the $21 Challenge was published that people still rush up to me in the street and say 'Your book is brilliant! How do I get my hands on a copy?' So it surprised me after the ACA story aired that there were still so many negative people out there. Perhaps if TV had named the story 'Australia's Cleverest Family' or 'Savviest' instead of 'Tightest', that lovely couple and their daughters would not have received anywhere near the amount of negative feedback. I can only think of one way I would answer anyone who criticised my money saving ways and that would be 'I'm just bloody smart mate!' At the end of the day, it really is their loss, quite literally.

Not so for me! Even though I have to admit I had already learned many, if not all of the tips used by the Gowers (no relation, funny though!) through my years as a Simple Saver, the story still made me want to lift my game. I mean who wouldn't want to be able to pay off their mortgage in five years, that kind of thing makes you sit up and take notice! Especially someone like me who has felt at numerous times over the past year that there will NEVER be any light at the end of the tunnel. Just like the lady in the supermarket it makes me think 'Oop-de-doo, I wanna be like you-oo-oo!' And there were a couple of new things I was tempted to try. I've never really done the bulk buying thing before and my eyes almost popped out of my head when the mother in the story merrily threw in eight bottles of shampoo, seven blocks of butter and goodness knows how much dishwashing liquid. Don't get me wrong, it was explained well in the segment; it all adds up to a decent saving on products you know you are definitely going to use and won't expire. The thing is, I never have any spare money to buy eight of this and six of that - I'm lucky if I have enough to buy one thing at a time! And do I NEED to do it? Are the savings REALLY that much? For example, I could never get as excited as the lady did about saving 10c on a block of butter like in the segment. She bought seven blocks so she could save 70c. For me, while I always look for the cheapest option and buy whatever I need accordingly, it's one at a time and it would take me a lot more than 10c to get that excited! But maybe I should?

Another point which sprung to mind about bulk buying was the size of my household. I could totally understand my mother of 10 in the supermarket buying in bulk, you would have to if you wanted to avoid running out of things every five minutes, not to mention they would go through a LOT of stuff. But for me, we only have a household of three and the television family were only a household of four. Again it had me wondering how productive bulk buying really was. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticising at all, I'm very interested! I guess I just need it spelled out to me further by someone who has done it before I would be brave enough to give it a go. As it is at the moment, I would be too scared to spend money on multiple bottles of shampoo in case I suddenly needed the money for something else and would then be left regretting splashing out on my soapy stash! I would love to hear from other Simple Savers who are accustomed to buying this way and how and why it works for them.

One thing that did impress me however was the monthly menu plan on the fridge in the TV segment. This was great and definitely got wheels turning in my head. I used to menu plan all the time but since I have been the one in sole charge of the household these days I cook purely based upon whatever we have on hand, or a random ingredient I find in the pantry, or a new recipe may jump out at me that I just have to try. Even when I did menu plan, I never did it for more than a week at a time so when it comes to planning for a month I'm not sure where to start. How do I know that far in advance what's going to be on special? How do I know that far ahead what I want to eat?! How do you think of that many meals off the top of your head? And the big one I guess - would a month long plan really save me that much money? I guess just like a weekly plan or a $21 Challenge it would put an end to all those little trips to the shops when you run out of things. It's a bit daunting but I'm pretty keen to give it a go. At least unlike bulk shopping I know HOW to menu plan, I just have to do it for longer! Who knows, maybe going through my recipe books will unearth a whole bunch of long-forgotten awesome recipes to tempt all our tastebuds. I might just try it out this weekend!

I guess at the end of the day it's all about having an open mind. People are so blooming negative these days! You only have to look at the barrage of comments following that story to see the number of people who say 'I could never do that', or 'Nope, that would never work for me'. Maybe if I had never found Simple Savings I would be the same. Who knows, I may even have looked down my nose at them and thought they were a bunch of cheapskates as well! Instead it renewed my enthusiasm, highlighted all the skills we have and things we do without thinking that other people don't, and reminded me of some valuable things I used to do that have fallen by the wayside. Not every money saving tactic in that story was for everyone. Not every money saving thing I do is for everyone either - it's all about trial and error and finding out what works for you personally, your household and your lifestyle. But one thing is for sure, there is no such thing as a wrong way to save money. And the best thing about saving money is, there are so many ways to do it!

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