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.

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Here are the ten highest voted hints from the Vault:

Use it or lose it

As part of my $21 Challenge to use all the food in the pantry, I have set up a 'use up soon' basket containing items getting close to their use-by date. This way, I will remember to use things before I have to throw them out.

by: Justme 1 response in the members' forum

120 bickies for $4!

Make over 120 bickies for just $4.00! This fantastic basic bickie recipe is terrific value, makes loads and has lots of room for variations:

500g margarine
1 tin condensed milk
1 cup sugar
5 cups self-raising flour

Cream sugar and margarine. Add condensed milk and flour. Roll into teaspoon sized balls and press down with a fork. Place on greased trays and bake in moderate oven until golden brown (approximately 10-15 minutes).

Before baking I divide the mixture into five and add the following ingredients for different flavoured bickies:
1. Chocolate chips and glace cherries (chopped)
2. Cornflakes and sultanas
3. Hundreds and Thousands
4. Jam drops
5. Milo and coconut

You could add any number of other things like Rice Bubbles, Smarties, nuts, cinnamon and other spices and so on. The raw mixture can be frozen in balls, just thaw slightly before baking.

From this one batch we made 123 bickies and by my calculations using the cheapest possible ingredients, the whole batch cost just over $4.00 to make!

by: Kristy Frahm 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) 19 responses in the members' forum

Wonder cleaner for the stove

I had moved into a home with an old kitchen and the stovetop needed a really good clean. I tried everything to shift the baked on grease from the rings that surrounded the coil hotplates but to no avail.

My friend suggested removing the rings and soaking them in Napisan and hot water. I actually used a generic brand nappy cleaner and it worked just as well. To my utter surprise, it removed what must have been 20 years of baked on grease. The stove looks brand new! I then did the same with the grill and oven racks, and they too came up sparkling and shiny.

For maintenance, some vinegar in a spray bottle cuts through any grease or grime left on a stovetop after cooking. But beware of vinegar on or near marble, as it eats right through it!

I thought this hint would be particularly useful for anyone moving into a rental property or having to clean their rental property before they move out. You'll save on cleaning products and get your bond back! And don't throw out pots and pans covered with grease or grime. Give them a Napisan treatment and save dollars.

by: Mamma Dani 19 responses in the members' forum

Greener household cleaners

Making our own cleaners has saved us a fortune over the years and we have saved the environment a little too. '1001 Greener Household Hints' by John Schluter is full of simple household cleaning ideas and we went straight out and bought some five litre bottles, spray bottles and some of the suggested basic cleaning ingredients. The following instructions are from the book:

Air freshener: Mix one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda with one tablespoon of white vinegar. Add two cups of water. Store the mixture in a pump spray bottle. Add scented oils for fragrance.

Spray and wipe cleaner: Mix two tablespoons of cloudy ammonia, a half cup of white vinegar, two tablespoons of washing-up detergent and four litres of warm water. We stored this in large labelled bottles and used in spray bottles as needed.

Bathroom disinfectant liquid: Dissolve 12 drops of eucalyptus oil in 1ml of methylated spirits and then add eight cups of warm water. We used this in spray bottles also.

We paid $5.00 for the book but have saved hundreds in the years since we began making our own cleaning products.

by: Elizabeth Carpenter 21 responses in the members' forum

A simple journey to a better life

I live with my husband and 4 year old twin boys in a unit and we discovered Simple Savings at a time that was very difficult in the life of our family. I wanted to share a bit of our journey that led to saving money and an improvement of our quality of life.

When I discovered Simple Savings my husband was a self employed contractor who was in between jobs and our income became more limited as I work part time and we have many fixed expenses including a large mortgage and preschool fees.

We were feeling very stressed emotionally as well and finding daily living difficult to manage. I pored over the Savings Vault and found a wealth of information so assist us in reducing our expenses. As we were feeling quite vulnerable and finding change a struggle we picked one tip a week to research or implement and we started with the simplest first so we could experience enough success to motivate us to continue.

So the first week my husband put his razor in a small glass of olive oil (to prevent rust and make the blade last longer). Then we replaced our fabric softner with 1/4 cup of vinegar and put vinegar in a pump spray pack to clean our benches. We also used vinegar to clean our floors. As we "succeeded" we began to feel better about life as we were exercising the control we could to improve our situation and it felt creative.

We also:

Researched car/house/contents insurance for the best deal

Started to shop at Aldi regularly, knowing from other Simple Savings users which were the best value products

We found a wholesale butcher (Elvy's Wholesale Meats 2/19 Norman St, Peakhurst tel: 9153 6656)

We started cleaning our dishwasher with citric acid

We gave homemade gingerbread houses and biscuits as Christmas gifts

Our children made gift wrap (painted and glittered) from a roll of butchers paper bought for $10 at IKEA which is very personal and inexpensive.

We joined 3 different DVD clubs and got a free month from each before cancelling which gave us great free entertainment over the Christmas months.

We found websites for children's activites, and a recipe for homemade playdoh that we love and have given to other children as gifts.

We also bought $8 worth of alphabet and flower beads and bracelet elastic from The Reject Shop and made 13 name bracelets for preschool teachers and friends. My boys really knew the joy of giving something that they had helped choose and make. The recipients were joyous at the personal nature of the gift.

I now make my own bath products for our family and for gifts from the recipes and websites reccommended by Simple Savings subscribers.

We are adding to our life routine regularly and we are loving our life. This week I have taken my first week of unpaid leave from work to be with my cherubs during the school holidays and it is such a priceless and precious gift.

I really appreciate the invaluable life tools that I have gained from your website and value sharing this way of life with my children. And I encourage the overwhelmed to add one tip a week to your life...they all add up to big change.

by: Beth P 19 responses in the members' forum

One tablespoon only per wash

Slash your washing powder costs by using a tablespoon of washing powder in your machine instead of a scoop. It works just as well! My sister was learning about budgeting and the speaker mentioned that you could get the same wash results by using one flat tablespoon of washing powder as you could if you used a whole scoop. I decided to test this theory and found that even with a full load of washing this proved to be true. I buy a top brand washing powder that costs around $10 per two kilo box and it contains around 148 tablespoons. I used to go through a two kilo box of powder every four to six weeks when I was using a scoop. Generally I do a load of washing every second day, so using one tablespoon per wash, my box of washing powder should now last me nearly 10 months! Just changing this small habit will save me $90 every 10 months on washing powder!

by: Bec C 73 responses in the members' forum

Less time at supermarket for richer lifestyle

Watching my 'non-Simple Savings' sister unpack her groceries this week made me realise how much my shopping habits have changed in the year since I discovered Simple Savings. I used to love supermarket shopping, wandering the aisles for hours, one of this, one of that.

Some products I just don't buy anymore include:

  • Liquid handsoap - I now make my own (my first SS project from the Vault). Saves $40/year.

  • Spray and cooking oil - I buy 4L of good olive oil on special for about $20 and use a refillable hand pumped spray container (from House, $15 - will last years). I used to buy cans of olive oil spray at about $3.50 each and by changing how I buy oil, I am saving $100 per year.

  • Cleaning products - are now missing from my list - we use bi-carb and vinegar and other simple Vault tips.

  • Dishwashing cleaner - has gone too. We use citric acid, which I normally keep for my yearly lemon cordial making.

  • Soft drinks and cordials - are rarely bought now - we use juice as you would cordial, and have changed our habits in favour of water.

  • Yoghurt - we make EasiYo using packets bought in bulk from GoldenGlow online. Saves about $150 a year.

  • Eggs and vegies - in the back yard!

  • Condensed milk, Yogo, cake and pancake mixes - we M.O.O. ('make our own') using Vault tips.

  • Icypoles - M.O.O. using tinned fruit juice or other - search the Vault!

  • Magazines - I never buy new, just pick up the free supermarket recipe brochures or occasionally buy some gardening ones from the op shop.

  • Junk and pre-prepared foods - we buy a lot less in favour of having our own 'sausage roll make-athons' or other baking with the kids.

As well as noticing the presence of many of the above things in my sister's shopping, I also noticed she buys small quantities of lots of items I now buy in bulk. Each week she has to mentally or physically check if she 'needs another of...', where I buy large amounts from the supermarket and other cheaper sources - and then don't need to think about it again for at least six months. These types of products include:

Washing powder (I'll never buy less than 20kg, and with the Vault advice to reduce our amount per load, this is lasting ages!), teabags, coffee, shampoo, dog and chook food (from pet supplier every six months), ham and meats(buy large piece of ham and store in ham bag per Vault tip - saves at least $50 a year over my previous habit of buying little cute packets of 50g each), bacon (buy from ALDI and freeze), dishwashing powder (ALDI brand is MUCH cheaper than the Finish tablets we were using - saves us $150 a year at least. I buy 12 months supply on one of my ALDI runs), cheese (buy larger amounts less often and freeze if necessary), rice (10kg bag much cheaper), jelly crystals (I bought 5kg bag at IGA last week - makes 20 serves for same cost as three individual packets), tinned fruit, soup, tomatoes and other products (from SPC outlet), nappies, paper towel and toilet paper (I buy lots when on a fabulous special). Fruit and veg I buy from the greengrocer, the market or grow my own. Meat is from the butcher, chicken from the poultry shop and fish from the fishmonger once every three months.

I could go on for every grocery item - nearly everything has changed in 12 months. This is even without noting the savings from changing products - for example, I used to think myself very clever if I bought my Uncle Toby's quick oats on super special for $2.00 per kg box - until I discovered I can buy Home Brand, which I cannot fault, for $1.00 a kilo all the time. Same for most basic products.

With changes like these to my grocery shop and to our home loan, insurance, shopping habits and so on, Simple Savings has saved us thousands of dollars in our first year of membership. Our lifestyle has actually been RICHER since SS. I didn't set out to change my shopping habits - I just started by making handsoap and buying Home Brand porridge oats - but suddenly I have realised how large this change has been. If I see you at the supermarket with your milk, bread, 8 large packets of toilet paper, 6kg of the super special meat, 10kg of rice and three-litre containers of vinegar, I'll know you caught the bug too!

by: Allison 13 responses in the members' forum

Dishcloths that last for months

I no longer use disposable cloths to wash the dishes and wipe down benches.
I recently bought two bulk packets of face cloths, giving me eight cloths. Each cloth is the perfect size and thickness for washing dishes and wiping down benches. I use a cloth for a day or two and then throw it into the wash with the tea towels.
I have been reusing the same cloths for over a year – just think of the savings now that I'm not buying disposable kitchen cloths every month!

by: Claire 25 responses in the members' forum

Exercise has financial rewards

I pay myself to exercise! Now, you may wonder how that actually saves me money. Because my exercise is free, usually walking with a friend or working out to DVDs I've received as gifts, I don’t have to buy expensive exercise clothes or pay for a gym membership. And paying myself to exercise? That gives me motivation. I started with $1.00 for every day I exercised, and increased it to $2.00 a day - still cheaper per week than a single exercise class or gym membership! I wait until I have enough money for a facial or massage, and treat myself.

I find that the end goal of some pampering really works as an incentive to keep exercising. Prior to this, I never let myself splurge on those sort of things. I am now happier, healthier and far more relaxed!

by: Jo Hardy