Eyes Wide Shut

Posted April 7th, 2010 by Penny Wise

Apr 7, 2010

Oops, sorry it's been a while! We've been enjoying a bit of family R & R lately, spending the Easter long weekend at the beach and prior to that watching the NZ Black Caps play Australia in the cricket test. While we won't talk about the result it was a brilliant way to spend a day, relaxing on the grassy bank in the sunshine, while the boys ran around madly collecting autographs from their favourite cricketing heroes. We were lucky enough to be given free tickets, which was a fantastic saving of $90 for the four of us. Unfortunately we got stung with the food! With so much going on in the way of kids' sports and racing around on weekends and after school, both Noel and I were sick to death of packing lunchboxes and drinks every time we had to leave the house. 'Stuff it, we'll just get something when we're there. It won't cost that much!' we thought. However we were proved wrong when we purchased a small bottle of soft drink and a pot of chips each and it came to $32! We decided there was no way we were spending another cent at those prices but it was a long day and we were all absolutely starving by the end of it! The next time we went, we were prepared and packed enough food and drink to sink a battleship!

I'm delighted to say that with the exception of our gold plated cricket snack I have finally found something that has helped me break my last remaining bad habit of buying food and drink when out. It's ridiculous isn't it - how can someone who can feed her family like kings on next to nothing when we're at home, be so rubbish at throwing money away when we're out? Disorganisation mainly, but my 'Would Have Spent' account has proved to be exactly the memory trigger I need. The current balance after just a few weeks stands at $370.50! Admittedly, not all of it would have gone on food and drink but a good part of it would have been frittered away without thinking if it hadn't been for this account. It has also helped prevent me from making other daft impulse purchases, such as spending $39.99 on a pair of 'wheelie' shoes for Ali, even though he has wanted a pair for ages and they were on super special on 1-day. I stopped and thought and decided Ali already had plenty of shoes and didn't need ones with wheels in, no matter how cool they were. Instead, I proudly put that money into my 'Would Have Spent' account!

No doubt some of you are reading this and are thinking 'Duh! That's not exactly rocket science. I can't believe it's taken the silly moo so long to work it out!' But everyone's different and different things work for different people. Sometimes we don't see what's staring us in the face. It always makes me laugh at library talks when I tell people that the average food bill for a family of four is $320 a week. 'Oh no, I definitely don't spend that at the supermarket!' they reply smugly. 'Oh really? But what about all the trips to the corner shop when you run out of milk? What about your bottled water and takeaway coffees? What about the sandwiches you buy to have at work?' You can literally see their expression change as they realise 'Oh heck, that sounds like me!' They just never considered that all those little bits were actually part of their food bill too. So yes, there are a lot of us thicko's out there but the important thing is not when, why or how we change - only that we DO change. It may have taken me a long while to find a foolproof method that really did the trick for me but I'm 100% confident that I have finally cracked it!

To help with my mission I have just picked up an ingenious 'tiffin holder!' Well, that's what I call it, ever since I read Sophie Gray's article on 'tiffin' in an old newsletter. It's a three tier food thermos that can keep food hot or cold for hours and comes with three stainless steel bowls, each with a sealed lid. It's brilliant and means we can take enough hot food for all of us to warm up with on rugby or swimming nights now the evenings are getting colder. The only downside to my tiffin holder is the size. It's ideal for the car but far too big for the boys' schoolbags, so I have purchased a Foogo food jar for each of the boys at school. It's really important that Liam can take hot food to school in the colder months as he's not able to take sandwiches and other bulky fillers like the other kids. We have been really impressed with their drink bottles of the same brand and are really looking forward to broadening our lunchbox horizons with these little beauties!

So the 31 Tip Challenge is over and we're into $21 Challenge Month, woohoo! As I mentioned before, sometimes you don't see what's staring you in the face. It turned out that one of my favourite new tips was also one of the simplest and most basic you can imagine. I have made all sorts of cleaners in the past but had honestly never cleaned my toilet with purely vinegar and bicarb before. Still, it was 31 Tip Month and I had nothing else so I decided to give it a go. I chucked in a cup of each into the bowl and watched the explosion. Wow! I can honestly say it's the best toilet cleaner I have EVER used! Our grotty looking downstairs loo has never been so white and sparkly!

Still, I'm really glad it's $21 Challenge Month because I'm going to need it more than ever. I've been experiencing problems with my car for what must be at least 12 months now. First it was little things - this funny little light which looked a bit like a helicopter would light up on the dashboard whenever it felt like it. The mechanic didn't know what it was so I took it to a Holden specialist who didn't know what it was either but charged me $700 to replace a part. As it turned out, it made no difference whatsoever. Soon I was experiencing a wonderful light display and my little helicopter was joined at random by an exclamation mark and sometimes even the airbag light. That was a bit of a worry I can tell you - I never knew when I was driving if the airbag was going to blow up in my face!

More trips to the mechanic and Holden specialist ensued but nobody ever found an answer. Not even when the speedometer and air conditioner began conking out on me. It's not a nice feeling when you're doing 100km on the motorway and your speedo suddenly dies without warning! Still, both Noel and all the 'experts' insisted there was nothing really wrong with my car. Even when it broke down in the middle of the main street in front of half the town and I had to get it towed away.

Admittedly this only happened once and it was a good few months ago but recently it has started doing it again - cutting out without warning. It broke down in a gateway when I arrived at cricket practice. It broke down as I pulled up at the Post Office. It broke down as I was about to go round a roundabout. It broke down in the middle of Whitianga when I was trying to find the library and most worrying of all, it broke down when I was following a cattle truck along the notorious Kopu Hikuai road on the way home, with a stream of traffic behind me. I don't mind telling you, I was crapping myself. I was literally praying 'please get me home!' Since then I have only driven it once and I didn't even get 5km down the road before I had to turn back as it was spluttering and lurching so badly, before - you guess it - the blasted thing broke down 1km from home.

As you can imagine, I've pretty much had it up to the eyeballs with this car. As well as spending several thousand on mechanics and specialists and new parts, I've also recently had to replace all four tyres. I don't mind that - they're about the only things that actually work! The thing is, every time Noel drives the car it goes perfectly, hence he thinks there's nothing wrong with it. He's so convinced that he took it to yet another mechanic for a third opinion and whaddya know? They can't find anything wrong with it either! Aghhhh! What's it going to take for anyone to actually take me seriously - a ten car pile up?!

Don't get me wrong, the last thing I want to be doing is spending a large amount of money on buying a new car but it would just be nice to have one that I could trust to get me and the kids from A to B in one piece. Either way, whether I end up forking out for a new car, or by some miracle an angel in mechanic's overalls discovers what's wrong with my car and actually fixes it, it's going to cost us some money. So you know what that means? Next week is going to be $21 Challenge week in our house! I'm really looking forward to it, as I've spent a heck of a lot of time talking about the Challenge lately but haven't actually done one for quite a while. I can't wait! The only thing is, do I put the money we WOULD HAVE spent on food towards my car or into my 'Would Have' account?!

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