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.
Here are the ten highest voted hints from the Vault:
Colour coded pencil cases keep handbag organised
I saved the price of an expensive handbag organiser by using three $2 pencil cases instead. I have two handbags that I swap depending on whether I am working or with the kids, and always found it a pain to transfer essential items like my wallet and make-up and to quickly find what I need in a big bag. Now my colour coded pencil cases make it easy! The green one holds my full make-up, for the days I have to dash off and do make-up on the train. This stays at home when I'm not in a hurry. The black one holds pens, business cards, USB sticks and so on, and the blue one holds lip gloss, band-aids, paracetamol and post it notes. My items are now easy to swap between bags and I don't have to dig around for smaller items. All for $6.00 and a hunt through the bargain bin at Officeworks!
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.
Underbed storage from old bookcase
If you have an old bookcase that you no longer need, or is a little too unsteady to use as a bookcase you can transform it into a super cheap underbed storage container! All you need is to buy some castors from your local hardware store. Just screw the castors onto the back of the bookcase, lay it down on its back and roll it under the bed. We have one of these in our boys' room for all their toys and it really reduces all the visible clutter. It's lovely to walk in and all you see are their beds!
Cheap Challenge snack
Here's a great way to save heaps of money on popcorn.
I buy a packet of 200 Home Brand paper bags for about $3.00 from Woolworths and a 500g bag of No Frills popcorn kernels for $1.16 from Franklins. I smear some butter in the bottom of a bag and pour in about 100g of kernels. I then seal off the top of the bag by folding it over twice.
I set the microwave to cook on High for about three minutes but I always listen closely because the time it takes the kernels to pop depends on how much I have placed in the bag. When the frequency of the 'pops' slows to about three to five per second, I stop the microwave and let the remaining kernels stop popping before removing the bag from the microwave and adding salt.
For a healthier version, I simply cut out the butter and salt. I sometimes add chilli flakes or chicken salt, however, there's lots of room to experiment with a variety of flavours. Each bag of popcorn works out to about $0.25c per serve, a huge saving on the ready-made variety at the supermarket.
Healthy eating for less
I have finally convinced my three daughters that eating a healthy lunch, including sandwiches with salad, is not only good for them but tastes great too. However, soon after changing their lunch habits, I found that this method was taking a large chunk out of our budget.
Being a working mum, it was easier to stop at the supermarket on the way home and buy pre-packed salad ingredients, but I soon discovered it was adding around $55 to the weekly budget. Plus, buying cold meat to match everyone's tastes added another $40 per week. I decided it was time to cut down. After doing some homework looking for the best prices and quality, I now purchase a bag of carrots, a couple of fresh beetroot, some fresh bean sprouts and cucumbers and a variety of lettuce. I noticed that by purchasing these items late on Sunday afternoon, I can pick them up even cheaper.
I grate my own carrot, beetroot and cucumber, throw in the bean sprouts and store in the fridge in an airtight container. I tear up the lettuce leaves and mix together in a plastic shopping bag and store in the vegetable crisper where they stay fresh and crunchy all week. My salad ingredients now cost less than $10 per week and they last longer. Throw in a small portion of sundried tomatoes for my hubby and I add approx another $1.50 to my total.
Instead of buying cold meat from the supermarket deli, I now purchase a couple of extra chicken breast fillets from my Asian butchery for around $4.00; this is cheaper than ALDI or any other local fresh meat source. I cook and shred the chicken myself while tinned salmon and tuna add extra variety; a $0.69c tin of tuna covers two lunches when added to salad. I purchase mince when it is on special and make a large batch of meatballs, which are frozen and used over a period of weeks as another filling alternative. Another favourite is home cooked corn beef; rather than putting the leftovers in the fridge, I slice it thinly and freeze for another filling choice.
My three girls are now involved in the Sunday afternoon preparations. Whilst my eldest daughter is madly grating the salad items, I tear up the lettuce and my younger daughters have great fun mixing the meatball ingredients and rolling them ready to cook.
Our family of five is still eating yummy healthy lunches but for $70 to $75 a week less than before!
We also have the added bonus of spending time together while we prepare and my daughters are learning new skills too.
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
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!
'Nothing' feeds us for weeks
My husband is self-employed and over Christmas and New Year we were waiting on a payment that had been due in November. I had not done any shopping for over a month, and we felt like there was nothing in our pantry, especially my five kids who repeatedly moaned ' there's nothing in here!’
Of course, that wasn't the case. It's amazing what you have stashed away in containers or hiding at the back of each shelf. On a closer inspection, we found dried beans and lentils, flour, sugar, cous cous, rice and lots of other bits and pieces.
We managed to feed our family of seven on the 'nothing' in our pantry for another two weeks. We are lucky enough to keep chickens, and have a very basic vegetable garden, so all I really needed to purchase was milk. We made pancakes, pikelets and scones, and even a chocolate cake with the cocoa we found - these snacks kept the kids, and hubby, very happy!
We survived until our very overdue payment finally arrived. We have now decided that we will eat the cupboard clean every month, as this encourages us to save money by using what we already have and by not allowing things to go out of date.
Fresh fruit straps your kids will love
I have found a cheap and healthy way to make preservative free fruit straps that kids love. This works best with pears and apples, just boil them up, then puree them, making sure there isn't much water left.
Once you have done this, spread it out in equal portions onto baking paper and bake in the oven for a few minutes. Allow them to cool and there you have it! Freshly made fruit straps with no extra preservatives in them. Healthy and fun for the kids to help prepare. You may need to add a little sugar or sweetening agent if you are using more sour tasting fruit.
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.
1 x 310g can of corn (reserve can for measuring)
½ cup reduced fat milk (1/2 ‘can’)
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.
Tackling one bad habit a month
I am putting an end to my bad habits for good! I decided to give up one bad habit a month this year - something that costs me money and is not good for me. At the end of each month, I can reward myself have that thing again but I find after not having it for a month I no longer crave them any more!
For January I gave up chocolate. It was hard at first and each time I wanted a chocolate I had to deny my cravings. I also made sure that I did something positive, such as going for a walk until the craving passed. I also made sure that I didn't buy something more expensive to replace what I was giving up. The idea is to save money and look after my health.
When February came I allowed myself chocolate again but found I didn't want it any more! For this month I have given up fruit juice. I am finding that I actually enjoy drinking water and if I need more flavour I just squeeze some fresh juice into it.
In March I plan to stop catching the bus. Instead I am going to walk the 40 minute trip to and from work each day. Although it will take an extra 20 minutes of my time each trip, I will get 40 minutes of exercise for a cost of 20 minutes. Again I hope to continue this indefinitely.
In April I will give up alcohol. When I am out I will order a soft drink or lemon, lime and bitters, which will save me money and be good for me.
Each month I plan to give up something that is small but costly and not so good for my health. By the end of the year I should end up with a lot more money in my pocket and be far healthier too!
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