Most Popular Hints

Vault members get access to more than 18,000 hints in the Vault, plus hundreds of recipes, a very friendly forum, heaps of downloadable tools, and thousands of blog posts by hundreds of authors.

Get your membership here!


Here are the ten highest voted hints from the Vault:

Sometimes we all have to just make do!

At 12 years old, my daughter is already helping our family save money on snacks using her Simple Savings skills! With five children in the house, we do a big shop just once a month and are careful to make our food and treats last until the next shop. Recently we were nearing the end of the month and getting low on food. I arrived home one day to find my daughter baking biscuits. 'They're Doos!' she told me. 'You always said if there was nothing in the cupboard, we had to make do, so I made Doos!'

The name has stuck in our house and now whenever we have 'nothing' in the house for lunch boxes, snacks or afternoon tea, she just makes a batch of 'Doos' using whatever she can find in the pantry to 'make do' with. She is proving to be very inventive with her recipes and is turning out to be a real baker. She'll turn out simple but delicious treats such as honey joys, choc chip biscuits, Anzac biscuits, pikelets and pancakes in no time at all! She really has shown that you can make something from almost anything in the pantry and would be wonderful at the $21 Challenge! Here is the recipe for her latest creation, called 'Sort of Scones!'

1 cup oats
1 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup sugar
125g butter
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

Mix all ingredients together, then roll into balls and place on a greased baking tray. Bake in a moderate oven (around 180C) for 10 minutes.

I couldn't be prouder of my daughter's efforts to help us save money and keep everyone well fed. Whenever we think our parenting has a lot to be desired, it's moments like this which prove we have to be doing something right - good things do rub off too!

by: Jenny Cuffe 34 responses in the members' forum

14 meals from one chicken!

Imagine getting 14 meals out of a single cooked chicken! It's my biggest food saving and this is how I do it.

Buy a whole chicken (on special of course)! Get a large pot. Place chicken in it and add chunky chopped carrot, onion, celery and mixed herbs (I grow my own so save more money here)!

Boil until the meat is starting to fall off the bone (I have a wood heater so I cook on that, saving gas in winter) Take the meat and vegetables out, reserving the liquid. Serve some of the meat and all the vegetables with mashed potato and white sauce.

With leftover meat, make up some chicken sandwiches and freeze them for quick lunches. Use the rest in curries or whatever other suitable recipes you have.

Back to the liquid. Add a little more water, chop up whatever soup vegetables you have or add lots of lentils, a dash of paprika and salt and slowly simmer to make a few meals of wonderful thick soup. This way, I feed two of us 14 meals out of the one chicken! Not only is it cheap, it is good for you and has helped the purse strings through many tight times over the years.

by: Caroline Casey 38 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

'Amazing Race' party impresses older kids

I held a very successful and inexpensive party for my daughter and her 12-year-old friends by doing my own version of the 'Amazing Race'! When sending out invitations, each person was allocated a team colour and asked to wear clothing in that colour. On arrival they were given a back pack containing water bottles, maps of the town (we live in a small town and had all activities within a few blocks of home) dry biscuits to snack on, a list and bag for a scavenger hunt to find things on their travels, a dictionary, sunscreen and their first clue.

I had friends in the area lined up with different tasks to be completed (these included windows to be washed, shooting a set amount of goals at a basketball court, sorting books into alphabetical order, separating peas and corn with chopsticks and many other easy to prepare tasks). Each team had a passport to be stamped when each task was completed and the next clue was handed over at each destination. For the final clue, they had to use the dictionary to work out the coded directions to their final destination - our local swimming pool where they spent a couple of hours playing around before heading back to our place for the party food!

This party really didn't take much to organise once I got into it; just a few friends willing to give up a little time for each task and some imagination. I used items from home to make up the challenges, such as books, jigsaws, basketballs and frozen vegies. It was talked about for weeks afterwards and I used photos from the day to make a photo slide show, which I burnt onto discs for everyone who came!

by: Donna Lavery 6 responses in the members' forum

Live smart and have it all

Our wonderful daughter is a saver on the grandest scale. At 29 years old and earning a modest wage, she is building her first mortgage free home on five acres; as well as flying out to Bali for a holiday! She has had several serious health problems but is amazing in her efforts to follow her plan, thanks to the support of her equally admirable husband. Their two horses and two dogs are greatly loved and their lifestyle is totally free of unnecessary expenditure. They own their block of land, furniture and vehicles as they need them to drive to work.

To save rent while rebuilding they bought a duplex then removed junk, scrubbed, painted and renovated by finding the best way to build fences, roof a pergola and fix the faults. Meanwhile they have fenced their own block of land, installed gates, had a bore sunk, built open stables themselves with salvaged material and negotiated the big expenses of shed, driveway and site costs.

They are not without experience as she purchased her first property at 19, a unit which she and her father gutted and renovated. Her husband joined in and renovated a property, then they renovated a joint property before they purchased five acres, built a house and developed it for resale so that they could buy their current land. Recycling has included rescuing old baths for horse water troughs, finding a kitchen sink for a fish cleaning bench and rebuilding an old horse float. They planted and watered tube stock trees, had family members grow cuttings and even used the horses to mow the lawns. In fact one horse was purchased for the knacker's fee and the other was free.

No, she hasn't benefitted from a first home buyer's grant as she was too young at the time of her first unit, or from family gifts. Just planning, following her dream and sticking to the budget. It works!

by: Marg. Mansfield 6 responses in the members' forum

Break your expensive shopping habits

We've saved at least $10,000 this year alone, simply by changing our shopping habits!
 
Almost every day, we'd stop at the supermarket on our way home to buy fresh ingredients for dinner – however, we'd also buy a couple of impulse items while there. The daily grocery bill was at least $30; an extra $150 each week on top of our weekly 'big' grocery shop!
 
To reduce the number of trips we made to the supermarket, we analysed our spending habits. We looked at all the grocery items we purchased and separated them into three categories:
 
1. Perishable items that need to be used within a week or so, for example, milk, bread and vegetables.
 
2. Items that had a longer shelf life or could be stored so they last longer, for example, meat that could be frozen, canned items, pasta and rice.
 
3. Items with an extended shelf-life such as toilet paper, detergent, toothbrushes and so on. We then estimated how much of each item we would use in a year.
 
We looked at what we could make or grow ourselves, for example, bread baked in the oven or herbs and vegetables grown in the garden. That left a limited number of items we needed to buy on a weekly basis including milk, fruit and vegetables; at least until the garden was established. These were all items we could buy from the local fresh food market, avoiding a trip to the supermarket, which meant lower prices and fewer impulse buys.
 
The next step was to develop a monthly meal planner - five meals per week with two nights of leftovers or 'invention' cooking using whatever was in the fridge, freezer and cupboard. We put all the recipes in a folder and worked out a monthly shopping list based on these recipes. All non-perishable ingredients are now purchased in this monthly shop. Meat is also purchased monthly from a butcher who offers bulk purchase discounts; the meat is frozen in meal lots ready to be thawed in advance for each meal.
 
We don't tend to cook in bulk, as we enjoy the process of creating fresh meals each day, but we do cook enough to provide the next day's lunch and occasionally cook a couple of casseroles or 'one pot' dishes at the same time and put them in the fridge - the flavour seems to build and is even nicer after a day or two.
 
Our menus also change depending on the season and what produce is available at that time. We're in the process of developing 'summer', 'autumn', 'winter' and 'spring' meal plans with enough recipes to get us through each season.
 
Finally, during each monthly shop we'd buy extended shelf-life items when they were on special until we had a year's worth. It takes up some extra cupboard space but we never run out of essentials and don't have to duck out to the supermarket.
 
Our ultimate goal is to reduce our 'big' shops to once a quarter rather than monthly – this will save us even more time and money by further reducing our exposure to the supermarket.
 
We have saved $150 a week by eliminating daily shops – this adds up to $7800 annually. We've saved even more by shopping at fruit wholesalers and butchers, buying in bulk or taking advantage of specials. By changing our shopping habits, we estimate we've saved at least $10,000 this year!

by: Paul Wallis 3 responses in the members' forum

Budgeting for all bills on a low income

I am on a very, very low income, so I budget for every bill and expense. I put away bill money every fortnight and that way I have all my bills covered as they arrive, and we seem to just spend the rest. Last year I decided to pay me as a bill, so every pay day I pay me first, just $50. I now have over $1200 in savings. I can't believe how easy it is; just pay yourself before everyone else. The first couple of pays it was an effort not to touch it, but as soon as I saw it mounting up, I got very excited. I tell myself all the time that money is power. While $1200 is not much to some people, to me it's a fortune. Try it - it empowers you.

by: Catherine Eve 7 responses in the members' forum

Home mixed household cleaner

My mother is chronically ill and disabled. She suffers from a rare type of auto-immune disease, called lupus, and is therefore allergic to most chemicals. This made cleaning difficult because she was allergic to most cleaning products, or those she wasn't allergic to were too expensive to buy on my carer's pension. Because Mum's disease is an auto-immune disease, I have to keep our house hospital-grade clean.

So I have come up with a fantastic recipe, and my house is spotless, smells great and is fresh and clean. The solution cleans and polishes everything, including windows. I have never seen glass and stainless steel taps look so clean.

This solution also lasts forever. Household cleaner used to cost me $80 per month, but now I buy detergent every three months, vinegar once a year at $1.50, washing soda every 18 months at $0.98c and eucalyptus oil once every eight months at $3.50 - a saving of $880 a year minus $20 for the few items I do buy. In total I've saved around $2640 over three years.

Household Cleaner

1 litre water
200ml vinegar
40ml detergent
40ml eucalyptus oil
2 dessertspoons of washing soda

Mix all ingredients together, and it's ready to use. Use 60ml of solution in warm water to wash your floors. Fill a spray bottle and use it to clean your table, benches and bathroom.

by: Becky-lee Taylor 433 responses in the members' forum

Simple equation helps pay mortgage

My husband and I have set a goal to pay off our mortgage within five years. We have a way to go, but keeping this goal in mind has helped us to curb our spending.

I worked out that any amount I put on our mortgage is actually worth five times that amount due to the saving in interest. So when I am thinking about spending $20 on a top, I multiply this amount by five and realise that I do not want to spend $100 on a $20 top! That $20 would be much better invested if it was put into our mortgage.

by: silky (Kylie) 7 responses in the members' forum

Bickies in a hurry

I have just read the recipe for nut and oatmeal bickies on this site. I have used a similar recipe many times and find that six dozen bickies in one baking session are just too many. So, I only bake one dozen, shape the rest of the batter into balls, lay them in a single layer on a plate or roasting dish and place in the freezer. Once frozen, I put them into plastic sealed bags so they are free-flow and I can cook as many or as few as I need at 18 minutes notice - a couple of extra minutes since they are frozen to start with.
 
This is great for unexpected visitors, kid’s afternoon teas or $21 Challenge weeks. My friends think I'm so clever!

by: Shelley Dudson 3 responses in the members' forum