Doing it tough

Posted October 26th, 2009 by Penny Wise

I have to admit, after all those hours stuck in the car last week it's lovely to be home, sweet home again. No rest for the wicked, however! There are tough times ahead and we are really going to have to knuckle down and get back to the business of saving. Every dollar we have at the moment is allocated and there's not a cent spare for Christmas, or anything else for that matter. It's just one of those things really - well, several of those things! My medical bills for the last couple of months have run into the thousands - it couldn't be helped but it wasn't exactly convenient! It used up just about all the money I made from my Trade Me selling frenzy. Still, shouldn't complain, I'm eternally grateful that I had that money put by in the first place. It was definitely worth all those laborious hours spent listing, wrapping and posting!

As I sit here I am also waiting in anticipation for two new 'babies' to be delivered. The first is a new oven. When we moved here six years ago the oven didn't work. Goodness knows how the previous family managed but we needed to be able to cook, so had to go and buy one! The mortgage was daunting enough so we bought the cheapest model we could possibly find - and have been paying for it ever since. Noel likens cooking with our oven to ballroom dancing; you just have to keep waltzing past it constantly, you can't possibly go away and leave it. It doesn't matter what clever trick we've tried over the years, things just end up burnt. If we try and stop them burning on the top, they just get burnt on the bottom! It's pretty soul destroying when you're trying to save money and half of what you bake ends up going to the chooks. I've put up with it for years but since I've been unwell and Noel has been doing so much of the cooking, lo and behold! He's sick of burning his creations too and announced enough was enough, we were getting a new oven. I really don't want to spend money at the moment but I know that doing this is going to save us a lot in the long run. Just yesterday I managed to burn 24 biscuits, 12 muffins and a fruit loaf!

The second new acquisition is *blush* - a dishwasher. After goodness knows how long of making do without one, we have reluctantly given in. Correction, Noel and I have reluctantly given in, the kids are celebrating. Again this is basically down to my rubbish health over the past few months. Noel works at night so it's down to the kids to do the dishes. With our daily schedule we don't usually sit down to dinner until 7pm or 7.30pm. By the time dinner has gone down, the kids have had showers and done their homework, they were still standing doing dishes at 9pm or even 9.30. Apart from making me feel horribly guilty (often guilty enough to would get up and help, then Noel would come out of his office and catch me and growl at me!), we found our family time together in the evening was just gone. We did it for as long as we could; we proved that we could live without a dishwasher and we can rest assured that the kids can now go out into the big world one day and do the dishes like a pro - but for now, they deserve time to be kids. Saving money on a dishwasher is not so important to me that my childrens' schooling could suffer because they were up too late doing dishes to get enough sleep at night!

So that's another large expense we would really rather not fork out for - but wait, there's more! I almost fainted the other day when Noel came home and announced he had been to the sale and bought 16 beautiful Jersey cows! 'With what?' I wanted to ask, 'Did you pay with beans, like Jack and the Beanstalk?' I guess he knew he'd be safe buying Jerseys; he knows I think they're adorable, with their eyes like melting pools of chocolate and their dear little Bambi-like calves. They were indeed a bargain, as far as cows go, and yes dear, they are a wonderful investment, especially this time next year when they will have tripled their value and all have calves skipping around - but it's NOW I'm concerned with! You see Noel's reasoning is that if he puts every last cent into buying something sensible like livestock, we can't waste money on anything else. Ain't that the truth!

So Christmas is weighing heavy on my mind this year, I have to admit. As mentioned, it's our turn to host and there could be anything up to 10 of us. Food isn't a problem, Noel has got our 'homegrown' Christmas well and truly covered. It's the present side of things which is concerning me. In that respect, this Christmas is going to be our most frugal one ever, it has to be. We're just going to have to sit the kids down and explain that Christmas doesn't always come at a convenient time of year for many households! I know it'll be OK and the kids will be fine with it. They are already decluttering their stuff and selling it on Trade Me to boost the Christmas coffers and we're just going to have to do the same. We've got a perfectly good trampoline sitting out in the paddock for starters that the boys outgrew several years ago, I'm sure a little one somewhere would love that for Christmas! I'm going to take a photo of it and advertise it on the notice board outside our local Post Office. Since decluttering the house a few months ago it has been so much easier to keep clean and tidy but there is still much more than can do if I look harder. I've never had much luck selling clothes on Trade Me and I have some smart ones I'm never going to wear so I'm going to donate them to Dress for Success. While they won't make any money for me, hopefully plenty of other women will prosper from them!

Apologies if I'm sounding a bit 'woe is me' about Christmas. The thing is, I'm actually quite looking forward to seeing what a magical Christmas I can make with next to nothing. Some of my most favourite tips and stories have been from SS members who have made the best of what little they have at Christmas, with wondrous results. They're so inspiring! So I'm going to scour the Vault and Forum and see what ideas I can glean. I've never been much of a 'crafty' type but I'm willing to give it a go this year and am going to get the kids to help me. It should be fun! I remember making Christmas bell decorations out of egg cartons with my mum in England when I was little. They were made of polystyrene back then and came in all sorts of colours. We had those bells for years! That was back when Christmas trees were an eclectic jumble of colour; before the marketers came along and said everyone's Christmas trees had to be stylish and colour co-ordinated. Well I don't care, I'm going to rebel against them this year! Our Christmas tree is going to be decorated with whatever we can find that will look festive and fantastic, I don't care if I have to cut stars from the shiny silver strip on the side of the toothpaste packet!

I do confess to cheating a little - well, not exactly cheating. I've just been looking at other people's ideas and working out how we can create the same for a fraction of the price. I've been looking through the Ezibuy Christmas catalogue and wondering how to replicate what they sell for megabucks. It's a great way to get ideas - I've already saved $54 on an ornamental Christmas tree, just by spraypainting a branch silver! Festive red glasses I will be able to pick up for a fraction of the price at The Warehouse. One thing I'm determined to have a go at is making my own crackers, or bon-bons. My mother in law and I were admiring some beautiful ones in the catalogue and toyed with the idea of getting them, until we saw the price. $40 for six - and we would need two boxes! And let's face it, they all contain the same old rubbish as always. I'm sure the kids would much rather have a 10c lollipop in their crackers than a bottle stopper or lipstick case!

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