Most Popular Hints

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Here are the ten highest voted hints from the Vault:

Save money by ignoring pamphlets

People are constantly amazed when we tell them that we have managed to whittle down our weekly grocery bill to just $100 for our family of four. Our income may not be all that we would wish, but with a little dedication, we have made a huge difference.

For example, in recent months, we have saved $50 per week on our grocery bill, since we have started throwing away our supermarket circulars! For years, I eagerly awaited the arrival each Sunday of the supermarket 'junk' mail. I would plan our eating to a large extent on the weekly specials, and would stock up on a few of them, believing it was saving me money.

However, once I began throwing them away without even a glance, it had an unbelievable effect! Not only did it cut down on the clutter in the house, but amazingly my grocery bill plummeted. I now buy only what I need - as opposed to what the stores want me to buy - and the benefit is showing. By throwing out the junk mail alone, our weekly grocery shop reduced from $150 per week to around $100, saving $2,600 per year!

I still use a menu plan to help me stick to my budget, but now it is food of my choice, rather than being influenced by supermarket advertising. A typical weekly menu might look like:

Monday - Baked chicken and salad (whole chicken $2.50 from local butcher)
Tuesday - Fish and chips (fish $2.00 per pack at ALDI, I use potato gems or
chips about $2.00)
Wednesday - Pasta bake & salad
Thursday - Taco's
Friday - Baked beans (ALDI's are really cheap at around $0.40c for two cans)
Saturday - Chicken legs, pasta and salad (chicken legs $2.00 per kilo)
Sunday - Quiche & salad

I usually have all the meat I need already available, as I buy in bulk, so all I need to buy for the week are any other items to complete the meals. I buy salads and vegetables on alternate weeks - one week we have salad with everything, the next week I buy vegetables for all our meals. It may sound an unusual way of shopping, but this way there is no wastage; unlike when I used to buy both.

I don’t buy everything in bulk, but some items work out more economical, such as:
Bread - I buy bread from Coles after 6pm to take advantage of the markdowns - for example, $0.50c for a packet of bread rolls, or a loaf of bread.
Chickens - Patton’s, our local butcher have many great specials, including chickens for $2.50 each. I buy ten at a time and freeze them; they may not be huge, but plenty enough for a family meal, plus leftovers for sandwiches.
Fish - ALDI have oven bake fish for $2.00 per packet (the cheaper of the two
versions). They are like large fish fingers, and perfect for us. Combined
with the chips or potato gems, the whole meal for a family of four comes to $4.00.
This is a standard meal for us, and I make sure I buy plenty to last between ALDI visits. Ice cream - I wait for special offers so I can purchase five litres for $5.00 and buy in bulk.
It also pays to buy washing powder and toilet paper in bulk when on special, as they don't go off and you will always need them!

When I was planning my meals around the supermarket brochures, my shopping list was actually doubling - that was without any impulse buying as well! Another thing I also now do to cut down costs, is alternate a meat meal, with a non-meat meal. You will see from the menu plan above how we eat meat and vegetables one night, baked beans the next, or pasta bake and so on. We enjoy our meat, but find we can cope with every second meal being meat based, and it really keeps costs down.

We don’t eat cereal every day for breakfast, it works out too expensive - it’s actually more expensive to eat than steak! We have toast, eggs or grilled tomatoes. With the children, lunches are mainly sandwiches; the kids like their Vegemite, peanut butter and Nutella; the adults make use of any leftover meat. For school lunches, I dropped most of the expensive packaged goods (for example, Rollups) in favour of two sandwiches and a piece of fruit. They still have a lunchbox treat now and then, but it’s sometimes, not everyday.

One tip I have learned which has really helped me is that the family actually prefers me to cook from their range of ‘family favourites’, rather than consulting cookbooks or fancy magazines. If this is what they enjoy - stick to it and save yourself the time and money!

by: Kerry Robinson 14 responses in the members' forum

Don't lose sight of your goal

I am 22 years old and on a low income, but am well on the way to saving for my first house! I developed a simple system that keeps my savings goal at the forefront of my mind and encourages the support of those around me.

I've always found it hard to save, but one day I got a big piece of cardboard and wrote 'My House Deposit' at the top. On the right hand side I cut out images of a house, a kitchen and a loungeroom that I would love to own one day. On the left hand side I drew a giant thermometer and on the side wrote the figures $0 to $40 000 ascending, just like on a real thermometer. Whether or not I need $40 000 is irrelevant; I look at this table every day and whenever I save another $500, I colour in with a red crayon up to the amount on the tally. I use hints from Simple Savings, such as making my own lunch every day and not buying clothes if I don't need them and now whenever I make a purchase I think of my house deposit and how much I want it far more than a coffee or new shoes!

An unexpected bonus of having this chart is that I've found my family and boyfriend have become aware of my goals and I get lots of support along the way. This visualisation technique really does wonders, and most importantly you are making a concrete agreement with yourself and you stop losing sight of your goals. I'm already a quarter of the way to reaching mine!

by: Mookiyum 3 responses in the members' forum

Grandma's promising gift

My grandson turned six on Boxing Day, and I came up with a new idea for a birthday present that will bring him lots of fun over the next six months. It's called a 'Promise Photo Frame'; here's how it works.
I bought a large photo frame with spaces for six different photos. I then downloaded ClipArt pictures of various activities and put them in the spaces with the following captions:
Trip to Beach with Grandma
Trip to Zoo with Grandma
Train ride with Grandma
Trip to playground with Grandma
Dinner out with Grandma
Movies with Grandma
My Grandson can choose one activity to do with me each month, and when we go out, we'll take a photo of the actual event to put in the space on the frame. This gift, and the activities, can be modified to suit all children, and even adults.

by: Woolfie 29 responses in the members' forum

100 book covers for $1.50 

As school has gone back, and exercise books need covering, I thought I'd share this money and time saving tip.

I bought a box of 100 plastic sleeves, just like the ones you clip into ring binders. These cost me just $1.50. I then cut off the spine and the bottom of each sleeve, leaving me with a piece of plastic that is the perfect size for covering exercise books. The spine of the book fits and holds neatly in the crease, and the overhang is the perfect width for folding over the edge and sticking down. So simple, and at $1.50 to cover 100 books, so economical too.

by: Lorax 25 responses in the members' forum

Give a bag full of happiness

For a super, low-cost, personal and heartfelt gift, why not give someone a Happy Bag? All you need is a plastic 'loot bag' such as those given away at children's birthday parties, and fill with the following:

*An eraser - so that you can make your mistakes disappear.

*Five cents - so you can never say that you're broke.

*A marble - in case someone says you've lost yours.

*A rubber band - to stretch yourself beyond your limits.

*A piece of string - to tie yourself together when things fall apart.

*A bear hug (cut out teddy bear picture or motif) - to remind you that someone cares.

by: Ann Westerman 6 responses in the members' forum

I improved my rent to suit the budget

I moved to Perth a couple of years ago with very few possessions, two young children and a dog. I stayed with friends for a couple of weeks and really liked the area they lived in.

I set my rent limit to $150 (cheap for city living - but necessary for the budget) and put my name down on the huge waiting list for government housing. I looked at many places - most out of financial reach. The ones I could afford looked (and smelled) bad. I decided I could 'change' the appearance and the smells - but not the budget.

So, I rented the 'worst house in the best street'. I went through a real estate agent and asked if I could meet with the owner. When he came around (which most don't do regularly with managed properties), he was the first to admit the place needed work (mostly cosmetic).

I suggested to him that I would spruce the place up a bit and in return my rent would not go up while I lived there, plus we agreed that I would be entitled to two weeks rent free over Christmas!

I have painted the entire inside of the house for about $200 (including feature walls, and old laminated cupboards) by buying mis-tinted paints and laybying paint specials. I ripped up the old carpets and polished the floor boards (about $150 in equipment hire and food for my 'helpers') I also got second hand carpet for free from the local paper and replaced the old stuff in the kids bedrooms. I got curtains and blinds from the op-shop and sale tables (about $50 in total)

As for the outside - my place looks better than most of the privately owned homes now! A few boxes of lawn seed (about $3.00 from supermarkets), a bit of hand watering and weed pulling and I have a great front lawn.

I built flower beds with bulk seedlings ($0.45c per punnet from the local nursery - discontinued or 'sick' stock). People in the street are always telling me how great the house looks and they can't believe its the same place!

I work and go to university, as well as look after my children - so all this has been achieved over the last two years. My landlord is happy, we are happy and the money I save weekly in rent (between $50 - $60 per week) allows us to go on holidays once a year and have a few extras!

by: Julieanne Barrett 5 responses in the members' forum

$150,000 paid off mortgage in under 6 years

Simple Savings has become a way of life. I don't have to think about saving or spending now - it just comes naturally. In the past five and a half years, we have managed to pay a whopping $150,000 (principal) plus interest off our mortgage and still live happily and comfortably. This is all due to Simple Savings.

My husband and I have three young children and our combined income is only average, ranging between $50,000 - $70,000 per year. Readers may think 'I could never do that, I would have to go without too much' or 'that's impossible', but this is not true. We don't go without; in fact we feel we do pretty well! I cannot name just one single thing that has helped us to achieve this and still be happy - it is a multitude of tips and hints, all of which can be found on your site. I have always been a Simple Saver, so for me this was not hard, but my husband found not being able to spend money willy-nilly difficult at first. These days, I am proud to say he thinks before he spends and at times even proudly tells me of his smart purchase or why he didn't purchase!

I could go on and on giving examples on how to do what we have done, where we saved money and how we used it more wisely, but that would make a book and to be honest all people have to do is log on to your site, it's all there. Focus on your goals, walk hand in hand with Simple Savings and your dreams can come true.

by: Chris Floyd 231 responses in the members' forum

Insider tips for supermarket savings

Through my job working at one of the major supermarkets, I have learned all kinds of tips and tricks to save money! Next time you visit a supermarket, bear the following in mind:

  • You can save up to 50% on Sara Lee products by buying our house brand bakery items instead - they are made by exactly the same company.

  • The meat is no longer as good quality and has gone up slightly in price. I would suggest going to a butcher instead and paying less for better quality.

  • In-store baked items are marked down from 40-80% two days before their use-by date (this does not include bread or donuts)

  • Buy bulk and buy less often. For example, if you drink coffee, wait until the BIG tins are on special and buy three or four. This will last you for ages and save you $40 and upwards on coffee alone in the long run!

  • If an item seems a bit sparse towards the end of the week, chances are there is actually heaps out the back and it is going on special on the Monday, so wait to make your purchase then if possible.

  • For those living alone, take another look at those frozen meals. They may look expensive at first glance at between $4 and $6 but then go and price the meat and all the vegetables. Remember also to take into account how much you have to throw out after a few days through not using them!

  • If you want to see who makes what, look at the back of the pack to see which company owns it. Visit the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) website and find out which other 'mini-companies' it has under its belt. They often compete with their own brands!

by: Jadon Mintern 3 responses in the members' forum

Grandmotherly skill finds new purpose

A novel idea to help my Mum save on new ceiling fans has led to some fantastic and unexpected long-term savings! After being quoted a whopping $160 per unit (pensioner rate) to get ceiling fans installed, we took matters into our own hands and placed an advertisement on local notice boards. It read: 'Experienced licensed electrician required to install three ceiling fans. I would like to trade the costs by doing your washing and ironing for one month.’

Within a few days, Mum had received several enquiries and selected a nice, young single guy who needed a 'mother's touch' to some of his clothes - a lot of stain removal and buttons re-sewn. He installed the fans and dropped and picked the clothes up from her place on a weekly basis. To our surprise we learned he also had connections to plumbers and gardeners and she was soon able to have her bathroom wall retiled in exchange for scrubbing out an oven and re-organising a food pantry for a couple that were having a baby soon.

It didn’t stop there! Before long she was taking up hems, sewing on buttons and doing basic mending in exchange for garden maintenance and mowing lawns. These guys are ripping up old items from homes every day with their trades so these days they even search around to find her the cheapest - or even free - items if she needs them, as well as providing an oven door and dials on her heater for free. They often come across things that others could use but end up in the tip instead.

As a pensioner, Mum has time on her hands and is very experienced in household chores but has a limited income. This trade of skills and services means she can now carry out tasks within her ability and has made some fantastic friends. Her place looks amazing and is she even happy to do babysitting for the families. In turn they really appreciate having a cuddly grandmother figure around. She has a new purpose and a whole new social network too - in fact she looks 10 years younger!

by: Moo Moo 67 responses in the members' forum

Cheesy Ham and Corn Muffins

I make these Cheesy Ham and Corn muffins, which are delicious and at only $0.44 each to make, give me and my family something tasty, cheap and healthy in our lunchboxes. They are yummy cold, or heated up in the microwave.

Makes 12

1 x 310g can of corn (reserve can for measuring)
½ cup reduced fat milk (1/2 ‘can’)
2 eggs
2 cups of self raising flour - I use wholemeal (2 ‘cans’)
Pinch of salt
2 cups reduced fat grated Australian cheese (2 ‘cans’)
2 slices ham, cut into strips
2 teaspoons English mustard


Whisk together corn, milk and eggs in a large bowl until combined. Add remaining ingredients and stir until just combined.
Spoon mixture into non-stick ½ cup muffin tray.
Bake at 200c for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

by: Spud 43 responses in the members' forum