Ministry of Savings

Posted February 18th, 2010 by Penny Wise

Today looks pretty much like any other from where I'm sitting. Out of the window to my left I can see Lake Waikare, dotted with white caps. Out of the windows right in front of me I can see farmland stretching as far as the eye can see, right up to the Bombay Hills. Out of the window to my right I can see a ring of shady trees and bright orange poppies waving in the wind. What makes today different from yesterday and the two thousand or so days before that is the 'For Sale' sign at the end of the drive. It's taking some getting used to, I can tell you! After almost three months in limbo, we have finally got the go ahead to move to Whangamata. Yesterday we put an offer on the house we have been dreaming of all summer and it's been accepted! Woohoo! Now we just have the small matter of selling our place to attend to...

Already I'm wondering how we can possibly bring ourselves to leave this place. It doesn't help that everyone I talk to asks how on earth we can bear to leave it either! There's no doubt it's a pretty special place. The hardest part for me is knowing that once it sells, we'll never be able to get it back. Somebody else will be picking fruit from our trees and sitting on our deck with a glass of wine, watching the incredible sunsets. But it's time for a change and in our case, it really is a seachange. Noel's ready for a new challenge, the kids are chomping at the bit to get to their new school - and me? I'll be a writer who lives at the beach! How cool does that sound? I think even I can learn to live with that!

Still, now is not the time for resting on our laurels. We've got a house to sell and who knows how long that could take in the current economic climate? For all we know I could still be looking out of these same windows in two years' time! Hopefully not but in the meantime we've got some serious goals to work on. The first one is to make our property look totally irresistable to buyers without spending a fortune. The second is to save as much money as humanly possible. From now on, every month is going to be a 'No Spend Month!' A small house on a 659m2 section in Whangamata costs the same to buy as our big house and two acres. Even if our house sells at the full asking price, we are still going to have to borrow more than $17,000 to cover the agent's commission fees and any other expenses which will no doubt crop up. If it sells for less than the asking price, we could be looking at considerably more. OK, so even if we do have to borrow it won't be a huge mortgage by any stretch but I hate owing the bank money, hate it!

So I'm really glad that my War on Debt calendar is showing a '31 Tip Challenge' for March, I reckon it's going to be a big help. I've already started digging out tips which will help me declutter and give the house a bit of a revamp for little or no cost, such as The Power of 'Sparkle'. A friend of also told me about 'home staging' and gave me the link to a website called Homebase. While my budget doesn't stretch to having a team of professionals come and give my house a makeover, their site contains heaps of free tips and photos to show how you can achieve terrific results yourself. After checking out their website I decided to give it a go and I honestly can't believe the difference just moving a couple of bits of furniture around has made, I wish I had done it years ago! I look around this tidy, uncluttered house and can't believe it's mine. The only problem is, now I love my 'new' house so much, it's going to be even harder to leave!

A couple of years ago, a lovely lady wrote to me and said 'Do you realise what a wonderful legacy you are leaving your family with your blog?' I honestly had never thought about it that way so I decided I really should start printing my five years' of ramble off so that my children and even grandchildren can read it some day. I've yet to set a spare three weeks aside for putting the pages all in order, but as the printer churned out page after page I caught sight of all kinds of tips and snippets and it struck me 'Penny, when was the last time you tried something new to save money?' I mean, don't get me wrong, like many Simple Savers there are countless things I do every day to save money but it's all so automatic these days. While I'm patting myself on the back for making muesli bars or chucking baking soda down the loo for the hundredth time the Vault is still being topped up constantly with tips I've never tried or heard of before. The Hint of the Week email is a great reminder to give a new savings tip a go and I often do follow through with those but I confess I am guilty of spending too much time catching up on the Forum and not enough time catching up with new tips in the Vault. Which is criminal really because I'm missing out on the opportunity to make some brilliant savings! I mean, honestly Penny how hard is it for you to click the 'Recent Hints' button once a week and spend a new minutes taking some new tips on board? I'm the kind of person who would forget her head if it wasn't stuck on so I have just written 'CHECK NEW HINTS!' on every Monday in my diary for the rest of the year. That should keep me going for quite a while and that way I won't miss out on brilliant ideas like 'Sustainable Streets' - now that is something I would LOVE to do! *Sigh*, if only I wasn't moving!

As well as learning new tips, I've been learning just how rewarding it is to share tips with others. This week I gave a talk at Dinsdale Library in Hamilton. Once again it was packed and once again it was packed with people who desperately wanted to learn how to save money. So many lovely people stick in my mind from that day - such as the delightful pensioner who was on holiday from Australia and came up to tell me he and his wife put a quarter of their weekly pension into savings. 'That's how we were able to afford to come here!' he said proudly. Then there was the lady who confessed to me that she loathes baking, as I used to, and wanted to know what it was that changed my mind and made me learn to enjoy it. 'Easy', I told her. 'Pride! Instead of resenting the fact that the family keep scoffing your baking, be proud that they love what you make. Be proud that you have the skills to make yummy things for them and do such a great job of caring for them and making sure they have good food to eat. There's not too many people like us around, so be proud!' I also loved talking to the lady who came up to tell me that her pre-school daughter calls packaged food 'stale food'. 'I don't know where she came up with that from, but she insists she only likes her food fresh and will only eat home baking and fresh fruit and veges. She even grows her own tomatoes in a pot!' A Simple Saver of the future if ever I saw one!

Without a doubt my favourite however was the lady who waited behind for ages until everyone had gone. 'I just wanted to say thank you for coming', she said shyly. 'Oh, not at all, thank you for coming!' I laughed. 'No really - I only came here today to use the Internet because mine's been cut off. Instead I walked in and found you. I had a job interview this morning and I got the job. Next thing I know I'm sitting in the library hearing all these wonderful tips. I'm feeling so positive, I can't wait to give them a go. From now on, I think things are on the up for me!' Boy, that lady made my day! I guess my point is, it's not just learning new tips that makes a difference, it's SHARING them too which is just as important. Every single person who takes a few minutes to share a tip in the Vault or Forum is potentially making a huge difference to someone elses' life, even if they don't realise it. I love Jamie Oliver's idea in his book 'Ministry of Food' where he encourages everyone who tries a new recipe to pass it on so that it helps someone else. In that case, we must all belong to the 'Ministry of Savings'!

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