Whew, what a busy week! Dropped the kids off at school this morning after 49 days of school holidays - yippee, we survived the summer break, and so it seems has our bank balance! Mind you, I shouldn't be surprised, I have managed to save sooo much money recently!
For example, just by keeping my eyes open and checking my statements properly I noticed I had been over charged by $130 on one bill, and when I went to buy a birthday present online in the Pumpkin Patch sale, I noticed they had charged me $11 too much. Once upon a time I would not have even noticed, or just coughed up the extra amount without saying anything, but not any more! Our family is also saving around 50% on shampoo since I bought two plastic pump bottles for a couple of dollars and transferred shampoo into one bottle and conditioner into the other. It is amazing how little is actually needed to wash my hair effectively - three squirts of the pump is all I need for my long hair and Noel and the boys only need one squirt each. We are all using half as much as we were before and my hair certainly doesn't seem to be suffering for it. I also picked up a plastic spray bottle at the same time and use this to refill from my large cooking oil bottle. I use so much less oil in my cooking that way, by spraying instead of pouring - not only does it save heaps on oil but it has to be better for us!
One topic which has cropped up again and again during the school holidays is 'Making the best of what you have'. Isn't it funny what you can talk yourself into thinking you need? For example, one of my favourites lately has to be the Penny Wise solution to buying a swimming pool. Several of our friends have pools and although the boys and I were having a wonderful time swimming at the local pool every day, I decided that it wasn't enough - I wanted a pool of our own. I envisaged that it would save us money on pool entry fees and petrol into town and back each day, but I didn't realise just how much a pool was going to cost. An inflatable pool wasn't an option with a water loving dog like Ella around (having already wrecked at least two) and even eBay options proved to be either too pricey or too decrepit to consider buying. I was feeling a bit frustrated and sorry for myself as I couldn't justify the expense or need for a pool, but really wanted somewhere the boys could play and keep cool when it was really hot. Luckily an idea soon came to me and it cost me nothing! Some time ago a friend was moving to a smaller property and asked if I would like the old painted claw-foot bath that had sat in her garden. Being sought after items these days and none too cheap, I snapped it up. It had always looked very chic at her place and had been filled to overflowing with nasturtiums, but although it was a focal point in our garden I had never gotten around to really doing anything with it. So, out came the hose! I filled the bath, let the water warm up in the sun for a few hours and plopped in some bath toys. The boys had a ball in the sunshine, having water bomb fights, playing and even snorkeling in their new 'pool'. Later on, I just brought out some soap and shampoo and they had a wonderful time getting clean in their outdoor bath, before helping me bucket out the water and using it to water the plants. Even Noel was happy to jump in it to cool off after mowing the lawns!
My best saving though is definitely the one that came about this weekend. By thinking outside the square (and thinking like a Simple Saver) I have saved us hundreds, if not thousands on home renovations! Liam and Ali have always shared a bedroom, because they wanted to, but at seven and nine it was becoming increasingly clear that they needed their own space. This was not going to prove easy though, because daft as it sounds, even with our huge house, there is actually very little space for bedrooms. I had worked out a plan, which involved cutting through walls and so forth, and we were waiting for a builder to come and give us a quote. I wasn't looking forward to this because there were plenty of other things on the house and garden agenda which should really come first, but the fighting between the two boys was driving everyone mad.
On the whole, I consider ourselves quite lucky in that the boys get along really well, but after weeks of being stuck at home together on holiday, the wait for a builder to fix the problem was proving painfully long. The last straw came when Liam was caught throwing Ali's possessions out of the upstairs window and I narrowly managed to intercept a tiny blonde whirlwind hell-bent on revenge, removing a large kitchen knife from the drawer and heading upstairs with it! It soon became apparent that if they weren't separated soon, the proverbial you-know-what was going to hit the fan. A solution had to be found quick smart.
I was lamenting my situation with Maxine at one of our daily discussions at the swimming pool when both our brains started ticking over. I was thinking about some of the stories I had read on Simple Savings and how people had made the best use of what they had to avoid adding an extra bathroom, or creating bedrooms from small spaces and so on. Before long, we had the answer (and now I look back I don't know why I didn't think of it in the first place!) The bedroom Noel and I share is huge and directly on from this is what is supposed to be a large walk-in wardrobe, but it is of such a size that it is actually big enough to serve as a small bedroom. By swapping bedrooms with the boys, this would actually give them a large enough area that they could still be together, yet have their own space. Better still, we could do it straight away and it would cost absolutely nothing! No builder, no mess, no cost. Noel and the boys thought it was a fantastic idea too and we set to work at the weekend.
It took us two whole days and was a huge mission but the result is just perfect. Ali volunteered to have the smaller room and he is snug as a bug surrounded by penguin pictures, his beloved stereo and his goldfish. Liam loves his new big room with plenty of room for friends to stay and Noel and I are quite happy with our new room too. We still need to make a few finishing touches - at the moment we are sleeping with a giant sized poster of Shrek in our room, but I have got quite used to the glow in the dark stars on the ceiling! I'm so proud we were able to come up with a solution without spending a cent and very glad of those Simple Savings stories to set me on the right train of thought. It certainly pays to make the best of what you've got!
Speaking of which, did you see last week's copy of That's Life magazine? Issue 5 (February 6th 2006) featured a story on Linda Cockburn and her family in Tasmania, who set themselves a challenge to spend nothing at all for six months. At the end of the six months, they admitted it had been extremely challenging at times, but they had managed to live on $11 a week! What an amazing achievement and one which has been documented by Linda in a book called 'Living the Good Life', published by Hardie Grant. It's a book I can't wait to get my hands on!