Most Popular Hints

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Here are the ten highest voted hints from the Vault:

Doona dollar saver

Instead of paying for one expensive doona, and the dry cleaning costs that come with it, buy two or three cheap doonas, pin them together at the corners, and put them into the same doona cover.

Because cheap doonas are thinner, you can wash them one at a time in your washing machine, and you can also adjust the warmth. When the weather starts getting warmer, just take one doona out of the cover and put it away in the cupboard.

by: shamaroo 14 responses in the members' forum

A savings success story

Three weeks ago we ended up without a cent to spend on groceries and the money situation for the following week was only slightly better. We had to eat, of course, so I raided the pantry and freezer and managed to get by on what we had. We were also running out of laundry powder and toilet paper so I rationed out these things to make sure we made it through until we could afford to stock up. It meant using less laundry powder per wash and a few less squares of toilet paper each visit, but we got through the week without having to buy anything, saving around $300.

The following week we had only $30 for food shopping. I still had things I could use up in the pantry and fridge/freezer, and the rationing of the laundry powder and toilet paper meant we wouldn't need to buy more until the next week. So I spent our $30 surplus for that week on milk, fruit and vegetables.

Last week we were back to normal but my two weeks of poverty made me realise just how much money I can save each week by using less of everything and trying to use up what I already have in the fridge and pantry. Over two weeks I had managed to NOT spend about $570 and I had also cleared out a stack of canned beans, canned tuna and sardines, frozen vegetables, frozen meat and frozen loaves of bread that were taking up space in my pantry and freezer.

by: Caroline Cuccovia 3 responses in the members' forum

Declare war on the mortgage

We decided to get rid of the $96,000 mortgage on our home within three years. The massive load of interest we would pay to the bank was over the top and we felt that the bank owned us. The entire family bought into the project one hundred percent.

1) We replaced the nice modern cars with older, less costly ones. The net difference and any savings we had and $700 from a garage sale were paid off the mortgage.

2) We agreed to budget as if we were in a life and death war and the war had to be won in three years. I developed an Excel budget spreadsheet and we tweaked the numbers until we had a 'do-able' weekly saving of $220 extra to pay off the mortgage. Clothes purchases would be done exclusively at 'Harrods', our Salvation Army shop, until the war was over.

We decided to run any item not budgeted for over three 'hurdles'.

The first hurdle was 'could it shorten the mortgage war?'

The second hurdle was 'is it a health issue?' and if so what was the least-cost workable solution?

The third hurdle was 'could it wait until the end of the three years?'

3) As time progressed we became pretty smart at reassigning money to reward ourselves for enduring the war. This meant we could have a low cost take away sometimes, or spend on an out of budget item we had set our hearts on.

It took nearly four years to knock off the mortgage. Yes, we won the war a little later than hoped, but we won. If it had taken eight or nine years to win, it would still have been worth it.

The legacy of our war against the mortgage is that we have developed great money saving skills for life. And life is great.

by: Colin Cook 35 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

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 7 responses in the members' forum

Debt free and never happier

Over the past four years I have been fighting my way out of debt. I was left with a large amount of debt when my marriage ended and it seemed I would never find a way out, working nights to support myself and five children and trying to reduce the debt in some way. Then, instead of just reading Simple Savings I began implementing as much of it as I could. Along the way I found that things I previously thought were impossible are just every day now!

Two of my children have now left home and are independent and I have three daughters still living with me. I have found new ways to feed them and where once they would have baulked if I offered them home-made soup after school, they now eat it with relish. A home-made frappe was dessert last night and they were happy and satisfied with that. Fruit jellies, home-made scrolls and calzone along with the batch of cake and muffins or bikkies I make are average snacks and lunches. School lunch today was home-made soup with home-made pizza scrolls. It certainly took a while to change their views from believing that everything had to be store bought and chips were the afternoon snack.

I am now debt free and have savings - something I never thought I would have! Bulk toilet paper, bulk washing powder, skim milk powder, and bulk meat buys at a discount butcher and fruit from the growers has saved me a small fortune.

I recently moved in with my partner to his home with the girls and together we have been able to make more and more changes which once would have not been thought possible but with small steps we have cut out television unless it is a special documentary or one of the two shows per week we deem suitable. The girls now play outside or garden, or read and do homework after school instead of being glued to the 'box' and they haven't asked to play Nintendo for weeks now. Water or weak cordial is the staple drink, with the occasional juice for a treat.

I am now a stay at home mum and as long as I can feed this family, pay for petrol in my car and keep the girls clothed for under $500 per fortnight it will stay that way. I am working hard to make sure these dreams come true.

In reality there is no sacrifice - you just need to know what you want and aim for it every day.

by: Mona 22 responses in the members' forum

A wee piece of good advice

Toilet cleaning, deodorising and water conservation has never been easier.

You can kill three birds with one stone by piercing a few holes through the lid of a bottle of vinegar and putting the bottle in your toilet cistern. The weight of the bottle displaces the water meaning you use less water with each flush. The vinegar will slowly seep out, leaving your loo smelling nice and making cleaning easier. When the bottle is empty, simply refill it with homemade vinegar which is simply half a bottle of cheap white vinegar topped with rainwater. Leave for 24 hours and it will be full strength and ready to use.

Now, if we could only get men to leave the toilet seat down...

by: Kelly Patrick 33 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

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.

by: Cynthia Perez 7 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