Think Penny, think!

Posted September 1st, 2014 by Penny Wise

I've had a song in my head for days which will not leave me! It's 'Hand in My Pocket' by Alanis Morrissette and the lyrics start 'I'm broke but I'm happy, I'm poor but I'm kind, I'm short but I'm healthy'... pretty much sums me up at the moment! But the thing is, the reason it popped into my head in the first place was because I was thinking exactly that - I'm broke but I AM happy. At least for now anyway! My Trade Me auctions are still going along well and considering I don't have too much work on, my days are full either trying to find work or trying to find more ways to save money. It's actually quite fun! Even if some people might think my methods are a bit loopy.

Take my power saving methods for example. With no TV, no dishwasher and no electric heaters I was a bit miffed at how our power bill had gone up a further $20 a week in the past year. The only thing I could think of which would suck up power was the clothes dryer, which I do admit to using far more than I would like due to my outdoor washing line being located in the most illogical and rubbish place in the whole yard. I'm not kidding, when the cat threw up on my duvet a while back and I had to stuff it in the washing machine (the duvet, not the cat), it hung motionless on that ridiculous washing line for SIX WEEKS before it was dry enough to take in, while Minnie the spaniel and I shivered and fought for space each night under our single sleeping bag! Anyway, grumbling aside, attempting not to use the dryer was about the only pro-active way I could envisage of getting the power bill down and on mentioning it to Fiona, she told me that Matt said a dryer could indeed contribute to as much as a third of our power bill. Eek! That got me motivated no end, the thought that I was a) potentially throwing so much money away and b) that I could do something to prevent it. No sooner did I hear that than the dryer was instantly banned. Who cared if it rained constantly? Who cared if our house was the size of a matchbox? There had to be a better way to get our endless barrage of school uniforms and rugby gear dry from one day to the next and in time without resorting to the dryer.

It was whilst carting clean washing up the stairs to Liam's room that the answer came to me. Our house may be small but it has very high ceilings. As we all know, heat rises and when the rest of the house is relatively cosy and comfortable, Liam's room is like a sauna! There had to be a way we could make the most of that heat and use it to dry our washing. Together Liam and I surveyed the ceilings, then toddled off to Bunnings and bought two lengths of washing line and four hooks. I also splashed out a whole $12.97 on a clothes horse. Our lounge was only big enough to safely house one small clothes airer without being a fire hazard but I realised there was plenty of room for another on the landing half way up Liam's stairs, where the temperature gets nothing short of tropical! To finish our mission, we picked up one of those little plastic carousels for drying socks and undies from the $2 shop, then went home to set everything up. We strung two washing lines up high in the ceiling down the hallway and while the boys laughed and said it looked daft I think they were actually quite impressed at the lengths I was going to in order to lower the power bill! I couldn't believe how quickly the washing dried on the new clothes horse and the little carousel and as a bonus there is no more 'MUUUMM! What have you done with my training shirt/uniform/rugby socks?' because everyone can see exactly where they are! It may be unorthodox but it actually makes keeping on top of the washing a lot easier and more convenient. Another bonus is, because the boys can see the effort I'm going to, they are also being a lot more conscientious about switching lights and appliances off too. We've swapped most of the lights for just a couple of candles at night and it's so cosy and nice!

I'm proud to say that I have also finally - FINALLY - taken on board some more secrets to being a super smart shopper. I know, I know, I always was a bit of a late bloomer! But at last I have subconsciously morphed into a walking price book. I always used to envy people who were so good at knowing what the prices of everything were but at the same time I had no desire to be that way myself. I mean, fancy being so nitpicky about the cost of something like a packet of chocolate TimTams - it's a bit boring and unnecessary isn't it? As it turns out, not at all. I guess I thought it was never that important before; sure I always took care to pick the cheapest of everything when they were in front of me but I could never tell you what the price of anything was as soon as I had left the store and I certainly didn't know whether it had been a good deal or not. Now I can however, right down to the very last cent! I never even realised I could do it until the other day; it must have been a gradual process these past few months when I've really had to make every dollar count. Boy was I proud when I realised! At last I really was a super smart shopper, a bona fide one just like Happy Hanna! And it wasn't silly and it wasn't boring at all, it was brilliant! The best part about being a Bona Fide Super Shopper is when you get to the checkout and you can't believe how small the total rings up at because you did such a fab job. Seriously it has taken me almost a decade to realise how important this shopping skill is, let alone develop it fully but to everyone out there who 'got it' long before I did, you are legends!

The next thing I discovered after becoming a price expert was this - if you do see something at a really excellent price, buy several - and then hide them; in my case from Liam. It is very important that you do not put them where they can be seen, otherwise they will disappear within 24 hours. Instead, let the rest of the family think that there is none, then gain instant Fab Parent status by bringing one out when the occasion arises. In Liam's case it's something like a bag of potato chips when he moans there's no food, or a packet of decadent biscuits magically materialises just in time for school lunch boxes when you haven't had time to do any baking. Poor Liam, I've been having a bit of a giggle tricking him lately! Not only have I been hiding food willy-nilly, I've also been swapping brands on him. Liam and I have always been terrible soft drink guzzlers to the extent it was making a dreadful dent in our food bill. My poison was Diet Coke; his was orange juice or Lift, a fizzy lemon drink. A few months back I swapped my Diet Coke ($3.50 - $4.00 per 1.5 litre bottle) to Pam's brand, which is a NZ home brand for 99c. I won't lie, the first time I tried it I thought it was THE worst thing I had ever tasted bar none. But I got used to it and now I don't notice the difference at all! As for Liam, he would happily drink a 3 litre bottle of juice a day but I got tough and told him he now has one bottle a week which he has to make last and when it's gone he's down to water or powdered cordial sachets for 45c a litre. He got used to that too. What he doesn't realise is that I've been filling the same bottle of his favourite Lift lemon drink with Pam's fizzy lemon for weeks - the brand he swore he hated and he hasn't even noticed the difference! Teehee, what a devious mother! The thing is, we're both surviving, neither of us are missing out on our favourite drinks and we're saving a minimum of $20 a week. Sometimes you just gotta do what you have to - but now I've made the change I won't ever go back!

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