Most Popular Hints

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Here are the ten highest voted hints from the Vault:

A simple budget change saves over $600

After reading every newsletter on this fantastic website, I decided to make changes to our household budget.

I started by rummaging through the cupboard, where I found an insulated plunger coffee mug that my husband and daughter had given me as a gift. The mug had never been used as I found it easier to grab a 'latte to go' on the way to work. I bought a tin of ground coffee beans for $6.65, figuring that this tin, with its plastic lid, could be refilled. I now keep this tin in the fridge at work. So, instead of buying three lattes a week at $3.50 each, I now allow myself one a week or sometimes just one a fortnight.

While buying my latte I would sometimes purchase an English muffin with bacon and egg. I now have muffins in the freezer, bacon rashers trimmed and have perfected the three minute poached egg. The bacon takes one minute in the microwave and the muffin is toasted in no time. If I am in a hurry, I wrap the bacon and egg muffin in a small piece of alfoil and take this to work. So instead of paying $14 per week, or $672 per year, I now buy the ingredients for the equivalent of $1.45 per week, saving just over $600 per year. Wow!

You have no idea of how proud I feel. I have saved so much money and it's thanks to your wonderful site.

by: Ann O' 15 responses in the members' forum

Clean baths and basins with Sunlight soap

Think twice before you buy an expensive bathroom cleaner to clean your acrylic bath, vanity basin and laundry tub. Try Sunlight soap - it works wonders!

After recently having a dint repaired in my three-year-old acrylic bath (the kids were too rough with their bath toys!), I asked a man who repairs acrylic baths, basins, and so on what the best cleaning product was to use on this surface. I was amazed to hear that good old Sunlight soap was the best. He said most of the marketed products available eventually wear the surface and take off the shine, then people have to pay him hundreds of dollars to get that shine back again!

I decided to try it for myself. I purchased a pack of Sunlight soap (four in a pack) for $2.09 at Coles (with even cheaper generic brands available). One cake of soap lasted me for six months - that's just over $0.50c for six months of cleaning the bath, vanity basin and laundry tub. Best of all, it really works! Also, it leaves a wonderful shine; I was really impressed. I use an old sports sock over my hand and foam up the soap, then I clean away - all that soap scum and grime easily vanishes.

by: Jodie Kelly 94 responses in the members' forum

Free on-line classes for computer skills

Save hundreds of dollars on learning computer skills with Hewlett Packard. Their website ( offers free online classes. Become proficient in Microsoft Word or Excel, take better photos and learn heaps of craft ideas to use them with. There are assignments at the end of each part of the course and a short quiz. There is also a message board to leave messages for the instructor and see how others are finding the course or even share ideas. There are two lessons available per week and you receive an email to let you know when each lesson is ready. You even get to print a certificate at the end, stating you have completed the course.

There are various courses available - some for small businesses and others for hobbies such as scrapbooking. Another bonus is you can print each page of the lessons as you go and keep them for future reference. Similar privately run courses or through WEA can cost a minimum of $100!

by: Wendy Starkey

11 years of baking helped pay for our cars

I bake everyday because I enjoy baking and my family (5) enjoy eating. This has saved us thousands over 11 years. We have paid cash for 2 new cars and we have owned our house outright after only 5 years of mortgage. To save money grow a vegetable garden and flowers for enjoyment. Shop for specials and buy in bulk but not so much that it expires before you can use it.

by: Tracy Gillard 15 responses in the members' forum

Add personal touch for successful renting

Going out of my way to present well to prospective landlords has really paid off for me. I recently had to find a new rental property and found that the open inspections where attracting many families at a time. Being a single mum of four, I knew I had my work cut out for me trying to get something over the two-parent families.

I decided I would write a covering letter as an introduction to the land agent/owners. I wrote about who we were and even what schools the kids went to, to show we were already established in the area, where I worked for the same reason. I got friends, my employer and my pastor to all write character references for me, which I copied and added with the letter. I also have a dog, which can be a problem so I got my then-current agent to write a reference for my dog too, which I also copied and added with the letter. I then attached these to the application, along with copies of my last four weeks' payslips and a payment summary from Centrelink.

The first house I applied for had more than 20 families and most of them were two-parent families. I added all the above mentioned stuff to my application and I was happy to receive a call the next day to say I was successful. I asked the agent if my letters and other details had helped and he told me that they had been the deciding factor. They liked that I had taken the extra step and cut out some of the work for them. They also appreciated that I had been so open with them. I would recommend this to anyone trying to rent a place. It takes only a little time and effort but could be just what you need to secure a house!

by: Sonya Pelgrave 19 responses in the members' forum

Skint but stylish

Skint but stylish. That's how I like to think of my lifestyle, because it is such fun to live on the smell of an oily rag without anyone else knowing! Eighteen months ago, although in recovery from depression, I found myself many thousands of dollars in debt and with several accounts having been sent to collection agencies. I was also 31kg overweight and at risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. The excess weight (not to mention the stress!) was also making my arthritis worse. I was no longer able to work in my former profession and, as I was in my early sixties, I wasn't able to find other work and was on Centrelink (Social Security) benefits. I have since been transferred to the Age Pension. I knew I had to make some drastic changes, and pretty darn quickly too! I had just a few things going for me:

  • My Visa card was a debit, not credit, card.

  • My account was with a credit union, rather than a bank, and fees are much less.

  • I was knowledgeable about nutrition.

  • I was willing to face unpalatable facts about myself and make lifestyle changes.

With this small armoury, I prepared to do battle! The first thing I did was to sit down with all the paperwork, and list all the accounts, personal loans and the total. I nearly had a heart attack right there and then, but with the information, I was able to draw up a projected payments schedule. I contacted all the collection agencies and told them how much I proposed to pay each fortnight until all were paid. I did the same with private lenders. Nobody turned my proposal down; it really is true that, if you get in contact and show willingness, most lenders will give you time to pay. They would rather have their money than you in jail!

Step 2 was to organise payment of my electricity account by direct debit from my pension - what you never have, you never miss. Once the phone bill was paid off and reconnected, I did the same with that too. In all, my debt reduction program was going to be about $200 per fortnight, or roughly 34% of my pension and Centrelink allowances. Since my rent costs another 34%, the remaining 32% had to stretch to cover food, cleaning materials, clothing, pharmacy costs over the pharmacy allowance, fares for trips outside walking distance, presents, postage, life insurance and credit union fees (direct debit from my credit union account), occasional small charitable donations and the occasional small treat.

Step 3 was to go on to a sensible eating program (not a fad diet) that would help me to lose weight, bring my blood glucose and serum cholesterol levels into the normal range. A low GI, high carbohydrate, moderate protein, low-fat pattern fitted the bill in all respects. The challenge was: could I do it on $50-$75 per fortnight? The answer is yes! I make my own wholemeal bread, soups, skim milk yoghurt and lots of interesting dishes from many countries, based on grains and vegetable proteins, and stock up on tinned oily fish for essential fatty acids when on special. I have red meat and poultry only once or twice a fortnight and the rest of the time my proteins are derived from legumes, eggs and low-fat cheeses. It's just as well that I like oats! I drink two litres of water a day and make my own herbal teas from homegrown herbs. I don't buy soft drinks and buy leaf tea rather than tea bags, as it's better value per unit serving. I find whole fruit better all round than juice as a rule.

Step 4 was to get mobile! I walk, because I can't afford gym membership, and walking can be done by those who can't jog. Being out in the open air blows away the blues too. Having won a free pedometer, I wear it and try to reach 10,000 paces a day. I also started a vegetable garden and this saves me money where it counts, on vegetables, as well as being another source of fresh air and exercise.

Is it working? Is it what! In the last financial year I paid off $5000 in debts on the pension alone, and am on track to achieve the same amount this financial year. I lost 13kg in the same period - a nice, sustainable rate. My blood glucose level is normal, my serum cholesterol almost so, although because of familial hypercholesteraemia, I need some medication to help with that. I am continuing to lose weight slowly but surely and have much more endurance and less pain. My GP is nearly as stoked as I am. I take care of my clothes, believing that 'well-pressed is well-dressed', so my appearance doesn't give me away either. Occasionally I earn a little money from magazine contributions and this usually goes towards seeds or something else for the garden, but occasionally I restock the pantry with staples. I make my own cleaning products with such simple substances as vinegar, bi-carb of soda, washing soda crystals, soap scraps, eucalyptus oil and - wait for it - Worcestershire sauce (cleans brass and copper a treat, and one nearly always has it handy). I turn my appliances (apart from the fridge) off at the wall when not in use and have noticed a difference in my power usage. All my incandescent light bulbs have been replaced with long-life fluorescent ones, and by crafty use of acrylic-lined curtains I keep my house cooler in summer and warmer in winter. I pile on the clothing layers in winter and wear cool clothing in summer. If I'm watching TV in the winter, I cover my legs with a woollen rug and put on another cardigan if necessary, rather than turn up the heater.

Because I can't afford much for presents, I give of myself. A nice present is a 'book of vouchers', made attractively and containing such redeemable coupons as: 'This voucher is good for two hours' ironing... or an evening's baby-sitting... or... whatever!' Very few people say no to home-made goodies either. It makes me feel truly wealthy to give someone a loaf of bread still warm and fragrant from the oven, or a jar of chutney.

by: Eco-Baby the Green & Grey Grandma 179 responses in the members' forum

Home-made bulk pancake mix

I am saving an amazing $100 a year on home-made pancakes! My family love it when I make pancakes for them but being a typical time-poor mum, I only ever made the 'instant' type in the plastic bottles. The trouble is that one bottle only lasts one pancake making session, so not only is it costly but I would also have liked to have enough be able to make extras for lunches and so on.

Then I recently stayed with a friend who was making up this Bulk Pancake Mix to put in a breakfast hamper for her elderly dad. She kindly shared the recipe with me and now our family gets to save $100 per year and we also contribute around 75 less plastic bottles a year to landfill too!

Bulk Pancake Mix (Makes 7 - 10 pancakes):

6 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk powder
3 tablespoons sugar


Mix together the following lightly -

1 1/2 cups pancake mix
3/4 cup water
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil

Cook in a non-stick frypan over a medium-high heat. No more 'plastic bottle pancakes' for us!

I loved my friend's idea of bagging it up for a present too. She was putting hers in a large plastic ziplock bag, wrapped in brown paper and tied with a gingham ribbon, with a bright red cup measure and the instructions tied to the top - very cute!

by: Mimi 61 responses in the members' forum

Handy reference protects you from theft

Protect your personal wallet contents for just a few cents. Just go to your local library and empty your wallet or purse on to the photo copier (license, cards, Medicare - everything!) and make a copy. It can save you hours of worry and extra money should your wallet get lost or stolen. You will have all the numbers and information you need for reference handy - not with the thief!

by: Kitrina Harvey 13 responses in the members' forum

Freeze the price of 'gourmet' ice creams

I’ve saved countless dollars on expensive gourmet ice cream by getting creative with the cheaper varieties. My kids love it when I buy them what they call 'special' ice creams. These are the expensive varieties that come in exotic flavours and cost between $7.00 and $9.00 for a two-litre tub! Needless to say, they really are a rare treat. However, during the school holidays, my kids and I became gourmet ice cream chefs! Using a four-litre tub of Home Brand vanilla ice cream (that cost $4.59), we scooped it out of the tub and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Then we mixed green food colouring, a couple of drops of peppermint essence and some chocolate chips into the softened ice cream to create our very own Mint Choc Chip flavour! We placed it in an airtight container and popped it back in the freezer to enjoy later. The kids were so excited to have made their own special ice cream that we have since concocted many different ‘gourmet’ flavours just by adding ingredients from the pantry.

by: Rebecca Owers 13 responses in the members' forum

Baby oil keeps showers clean for months

Keep glass showers sparkling clean for months at a time by using baby oil. First, clean the glass on the inside of the shower well, then dry off. Next, take a soft cloth and smear a small amount of baby oil. I stress a SMALL amount to ensure no oil runs down to the base of the shower, creating a potential hazard. Pay extra attention to wiping the edges and bottom of the glass. Once you have done this, the glass will look smeary and quite awful really - until you have the next shower! The hot water heats the oil and smooths it out on the glass. I have never had the problem of any oil running down onto the floor, even after heating it. You'll find a very small amount goes a very long way. Basically, the soap scum cannot attach itself to the glass, which stays clean and clear for at least three months at a time. By needing to re-apply the baby oil only every few months, this adds up to a huge saving in expensive bathroom cleaners!

by: Nat 29 responses in the members' forum