Had a wee bolt from the blue this morning! I was browsing through the site looking for inspiration for my weekly 'That's Life!' article when I came across the very first Simple Savings newsletter I ever received, back in October 2004. I had recently joined and was still hopelessly floundering at my Sad Sally worst, buying $20 seashells, $40 vases and $17 worth of magazines in one sitting for nothing more than fun and fancy when this newsletter appeared in my Inbox. To say it was a 'WOAH!' moment was an understatement. You can read the whole newsletter here but the part which really got my attention was 'The Steps to Living in Paradise'. These days members may know them better as the Eight Steps to Paradise, but this was the first time they had appeared on SS and I am forever grateful to baby Jacqui Lippey as she was then for enabling her mum to come up with them. They made such a profound impact on me that I thought I would share them here for the benefit of anyone who has never seen them or who would like to be reminded of them. Here is how they first appeared:
"Yesterday morning Matt (my husband) woke up and said, 'It is great living in paradise'. He made me think 'Why are we so different? I'm not special. We are not even middle income earners. How come we can afford to live in paradise?' And, with the kind of thinking that only happens at four o'clock in the morning while nursing a teething baby back to sleep, I found the answer - six steps anyone can follow to live in paradise.
Step 1 - Guard your wallet
Guard your wallet from attack. A marketer or salesperson's job is to make you think you need something that five minutes earlier you did not know existed. They have many ingenious ways to attack you. They are using psychological tricks to get to your wallet and steal your money. If you are on guard, you will be able to keep more of your money. So if you start reaching for your wallet - STOP! Set off your internal alarm bell and move on to Step 2.
Step 2 - What will you gain?
You have stopped yourself. Congratulations! Now, work out what you or your family will gain by having that item. What are the long-term consequences? Will it improve your health and happiness or genuinely give you more free time? How? If you can't answer these questions positively, then leave your money in your wallet. It is important to be really skeptical. Now move on to Step 3.
Step 3 - What will you lose?
Every time you buy an item you gain something and lose something. If you are lucky, the only thing you lose is cash and the time it took you to earn that money. But this is not always the case. A great example is a television. When you buy a television you gain entertainment but you lose quality time with your family. Another is an electric mixer - you gain a faster way to make cakes but you lose the exercise and arm tone you would have got by hand beating it. So before buying anything, you need to work out what it is you are going to lose. Ask yourself, 'What will I have to give up in order to have this?' (In case you are interested, we don't have a television and we do have an electric mixer. I would rather tone my arms paddling a canoe.) Once you are certain you've worked out what you're going to lose, move on to step 4.
Step 4 - Is it worth the bother?
Every time you reach for your wallet, purse, credit card, etc., ask yourself if it is really worth the effort. If you have to carefully assess every item before you buy it, do you want the bother? Just leave your money in your wallet. It is so much easier. If you leave the money in your wallet you won't have to make any choices, work overtime, and so on. Over the last couple of years I have trained my brain into thinking that spending money is a hassle - a real bother. This protects my family (our oasis) and ensures that I only buy items that will improve the overall quality of our lives. Now, if you have decided it really is worth it, move on to step 5.
Step 5 - Is there a better way?
Now it is time to shop around for a good price and work out the smartest way to buy it. How can you get the best value for your dollar in the minimum time possible? Most of the time, I find the answer in the Savings Vault. Sometimes, I have to do it the hard way and work it out for myself. Very occasionally, the hard way takes more time than I saved, but I get satisfaction in knowing that I have NOT been tricked and that I'm doing what is best for my family. Looking for a better way is the key to being lazy and successful. For example, instead of paying $15 per kilo for meat at the supermarket we looked in the Yellow Pages for a local wholesale butcher and pay around $6 per kilo for top quality, home delivered meat. Once you have researched your purchase and found the best way to buy it, move on to Step 6.
Step 6 - Do you have the spare cash?
Most of the time buying things on credit is stupid, so if you don't have the cash, you just don't buy it. Go without - save up till you have the money to spare. This doesn't apply to such things as borrowing money for a basic car so you can get a job, but it does apply to 99% of purchases.
If you use the six steps and they improve your life, as I'm sure they will, thank baby Jacqueline's teeth because I'm usually asleep at 4am."
They most certainly did improve my life and I wrote to Fiona to thank her. Shortly after that I began nagging her to bring Simple Savings to NZ and the rest as they say, is history but it was THAT newsletter and THOSE steps which was really the turning point for me. I enjoyed reading this little blast from the past and kept on reading some more of the old newsletters and it struck me that most money saving tips never go out of date. Sure, the prices may change (and not for the better unfortunately!) but even the first newsletters back in 2003 when SS was just beginning have some really helpful money saving information which is still relevant today. They also brought back memories of two of my all-time favourite Simple Savers; Shane O'Donnell and Lesley Barber. Shane lowered her debt by an amazing $30,000 in one year and was kind enough to share as much information as she could with us all as to how she did it. A few years back we had a weekly Simple Savings podcast with World Talk Radio and I remember her being interviewed on it. She was amazing; I remember being in the supermarket at the time listening to her on my iPod and was so engrossed I almost came to a complete standstill with my trolley! You can read Shane's story and all her recipes which are still available in the Vault here. I'm going to print them all off and use them to help us through while things are especially tight.
And then there's the lovely Lesley Barber, who quit the rat race to take early retirement and achieve her dream of a self sufficient life in Tasmania. What an inspiration, I used to love reading her updates! Just look for Lesley's name in any of the old newsletters to catch up on her story.
Seven years have come and gone since that first life changing newsletter. I still may not be perfect 100% of the time but one thing is for sure, I have learned a LOT about saving money and will continue to do so! Just the laundry tips I have learned in the last month alone have a) made my life so much easier and b) reduced the amount I use the clothes dryer beyond belief. Our house is too tiny to have too many clothes horses but I managed to make more room in the carport and dragged out a huge clothes horse which was broken. It would no longer stand up but I tied it to one of the carport poles and now it gets loaded up with washing and catches plenty of breeze whilst staying under cover. My laundry has never been so organised! Where there's a will, there's a way!