"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - December 2003

This issue includes:-

  1. Christmas presents under $1
  2. How to make your tree look beautiful
  3. Feeding the Christmas hordes for less
  4. Simple Savings Recommends Fuelwatch.com.au
  5. Saving story: Saved $10,000 in six months
  6. From last month: Gluten-free Flour, Building a Fence and Budget Holidays to Fraser Island
  7. Help needed: House Sitting, Discount Outlets in Tasmania and Travel Backpacks

Merry Christmas!

I hope you have a great month and get to spend some relaxing time with friends and relatives. We have been busy preparing lots of surprises for you this month. I hope you enjoy them.

It's really nice being able to help people improve their lives. Thank you for your compliments - they make me grin from ear to ear.

"After a year, your site gives me all sorts of great information, awesome tips on savings, little things that mean a lot and most of all we have learnt how we can save money on everything. Thanks a bunch!" Mel Aganon

Wow! That is pretty nice, isn't it?

Have a great Christmas!

P.S. It is now really easy to buy memberships for your friends as presents. Just go to the normal order page and tick the gift membership box. If any of your friends have poor shopping skills you can change their life by buying them a membership - and it only costs $47 for 12 months. To order a membership go to:


1. Christmas presents under $1

We have made up some special treats for all our subscribers – gifts you can print and give to your friends, flatmates and relatives for under $1 (just the cost of printing). You don't need to be a member of the Savings Vault to access them. They are our present to you.

NOTE: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer to read these files. It is a free program and you can download it from:


Simple Savings 2004 calendar

This A4 calendar is filled with hints from the Savings Vault. You can print it on a full colour or black and white printer. Both look pretty good. All you have to do is click the link, download the PDF file onto your computer, print it out and then bind/staple it together.

To download or view the calendar, go to:

30 Free "I promise to" vouchers

We have made 30 free vouchers for you to print and give to your loved ones.

The first 10 are new and ideal to give to your partner or family members. They say, when you give someone this voucher, I promise to ...fix the computer, ...baby sit for an evening, ...do the shopping, ...bake a cake, ...vacuum the house, ...defrost the fridge, ...clean the toilet, ...cook you dinner, ...fix your clothes, ...call once a week.

The second 10 are the kind you would give to your mum. We have improved the vouchers from last Mothers Day so you can now give them to anyone at any time of the year.

The third 10 are a perfect present for your dad. We have modified the vouchers from last Fathers Day so they are now great gifts for Grandparents and siblings as well as dad.

To view or download any of the vouchers go to:-

Free tips sheets

If any of your friends are about to move house, struggling with their grocery bills or about to have a baby, they will really enjoy the How to Host a Garage Sale, Beginners Guide to Aldi and Shopping Tips for New Mothers tip sheets. They are great to pop in Christmas cards or to add to an existing gift.

NOTE: If you haven't heard of Aldi, they are a high-quality, low-cost supermarket chain rapidly spreading throughout Australia. At the moment they have stores in New South Wales, ACT and Victoria. To find out if there is a store near you or your friends go to www.aldi.com.au

To view or download any of the tipsheets go to:-

2. How to make your tree look beautiful

I have always wanted a tree like those in David Jones and now I have one. Here is how we did it.

Decorate your Christmas tree beautifully for $30

To make your tree look fantastic on a budget buy $20 worth of tinsel (10 strands or 20 metres), $4 worth of candy canes (two packets), $4 worth of baubles (one packet) and $2 worth of icicles (two packets) from a discount store. When you are choosing the tinsel, buy two complimentary colours, for example, $10 worth of purple and $10 worth of pink. Make sure the colours of the baubles match the tinsel. Then choose two different complimentary colours in the icicles.

Buy decorations on sale

In two weeks time most decorations will be half price. So now is the time to buy for next year. Take a couple of strands from your tinsel and a few baubles from home to the shops. Then compare your existing decorations with those in the store before buying any of them.

Spend only $30 a year on decorations

There is no need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on decorations in one go. Start small - set yourself a budget of $30 per year. I have been buying decorations for half price in sales and at discount shops for five years. Now the tree is drowning in decorations! My childhood fantasy has finally come true.

Make a tree of happy memories

Scour your house for happy photos - photos of enjoyable past Christmases, birthday celebrations, images that make you, your friends and your visitors smile. Then stick these photos on pieces of cardboard, punch a hole through the top and hang them in the tree with curly ribbon. You can make them look extra glitzy by gluing on pieces of tinsel, stickers or wrapping paper.

Help the kids make play-dough decorations

You can entertain the kids for a day and make an entire treeful of decorations for under $10. First you will need to buy Christmas cookie cutters ($2 from discount shops), 1 kilogram of plain flour, 1 kilogram of salt, 1 packet of glitter pens ($2 from discount shops), some paint ($2 from discount shops) and ribbon or string (whatever you have around the house).


  • 3 cups of plain flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1-1/3 cups of water


Mix flour, salt and water together. Squeeze the clay-dough with your hands until it is smooth (if clay-dough starts to crumble, wet with a little water). Roll the dough until it is about 6 mm thick. Use cookie cutters or other kitchen utensils to make shapes. Remember to poke a hole in the top of the decorations so that you can hang them with string. Place on a greased tray and oven-dry for at least one hour at 110 degrees C. Take the shapes out of the oven when they are hard. (I made mine 10 mm thick and they took three hours to bake in the oven.)

When they are ready, paint the decorations on one side and on the edges. Allow them to dry. Paint the other side. Allow them to dry. Cover decorations with glitter glue from pens.

Savings Vault

For more tips on decorating your tree go to the Christmas Section of the Savings Vault.

3. Feeding the Christmas hordes for less

Here are some tips to reduce your Christmas food bill.

Serve the cheaper foods first

When you bring the main feast to the table, subtly serve up the salads and vegetables first so that there is little room on people's plates by the time the turkey and meats arrive. This way everyone gets to eat a huge healthy meal rather than just gorging themselves on the first and most expensive thing they see.

No-one needs to know what you are up to. There are several ways NOT to be noticed. When you are working in the kitchen, prepare the salads first and then procrastinate when cutting the meat. You can delay the expensive foods by sharpening the knife before cutting the meat, putting extra garnish on the meat, rearranging it on the plate so that it looks attractive or pretending to be baking the meat for just a bit longer.

The dinner table at Christmas is pretty crowded. You can use this to your advantage, help by serving the food, taking out the salad/vegetables first, and then passing them around the table and asking people to serve themselves now so that you can take the bowl away and make room for more food. This method will make you look good, ensure there is plenty of room at the table and help your budget.

If you are having a buffet, lay out the table so that people reach the salads, potatoes and pastas first, and the turkey, ham and prawns last. Catering companies use this trick a lot.

Make a Christmas Chocolate Log

This is one of my favourite recipes. I have used it to impress people for years and it is super cheap. You need generic chocolate biscuits, a carton of cream, cocoa and sugar. Mix the cocoa, sugar and cream till it tastes delicious. Beat till light and fluffy. Butter biscuits with the chocolate cream and stick together on a serving plate as a log. Cover the log with leftover cream and store in the fridge overnight.

Serve Buttered Popcorn as nibbles

Everyone loves buttered popcorn and it is dirt cheap to make. So buy yourself a bag of unpopped corn, cook it on the stove or in the microwave, drizzle melted butter over the top and sprinkle with salt. A 375 gram bag of corn costs only 84 cents and it will last you all of the holidays.

Seafood feast for $10 each

Here's a great idea for a Christmas party: For about five years we have been holding a pre-Christmas party for friends and relatives in the form of a crab and prawn night. Each person pays $10 and our local fish shop gets in fresh crabs and prawns from the trawlers (ordered in advance). There is one sand crab per person and however many prawns the rest of the money buys (always more than enough). Each family brings a dessert or a bowl of salad and I provide punch, bread and butter, nibblies, etc.

Because seafood is messy, I have bought two dozen face washers from Best and Less in Christmas designs to use instead of serviettes. These cost 99 cents each and are really colourful and, over time, cheaper and more serviceable than serviettes. Each person is provided with a finger bowl (reusable and $1.00 for four from Crazy Clarks in really bright festive colours). I put a large bowl/saucepan lined with a plastic bag for shells at strategic places on each table.

We remove the undershell and wash the crab in advance and provide an assortment of well-washed hammers, pliers and chopping boards for breaking up the nippers.

My costs include about $4.00 for bread, 50 cents for butter, $12 for punch, $20 for nibblies and about $5.00 for ice. For about a $50 cost to me, we have a fantastic meal for about 24 people who are more than happy to pay $10 a head for more beautiful food than they can eat. Having additional people costs little extra because they each pay and bring something - I just run out of room and chairs.

This year I bought disposable plates at a cost of $12.95 for 40 large, firm dinner plates and three packets of eight dessert plates at $2.95 for each pack.

Contributed by: Shirley Martin

4. Simple Savings Recommends Fuelwatch.com.au

Fuelwatch is a brilliant site. You can find out the cheapest place to buy fuel on your way to work in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. You can register for free, log into their site three times a day and save around $4–$8 per tank. There are other bonuses, such as their free monthly newsletter containing tips on how to lower your fuel bill. The Fuelwatch readers send in their tips and the best tip each month wins a $25 fuel voucher.

Fuelwatch also has paid services, which are fantastic if you drive a lot, wish to monitor several service stations by email or want fuel prices sent to your mobile phone on your way home from work. It costs only $4.95 for three months email subscription and about 30c for an SMS. Now that is great value!

Here are some examples of tips in Fuelwatch's free monthly newsletter:

  • When filling up your car, keep the hose in the tank until after the pump shuts off. As much as half a cup of petrol is in the hose after the pump stops and you've already paid for this petrol!
  • When sitting at a set of traffic lights or in traffic for an extended length of time, put your car into neutral or park. This can save a significant amount of fuel.
  • Don't wait until the fuel tank is empty before you buy petrol. If you do, you will find yourself at the mercy of service station pricing policies. Fill up more often so you can buy at the best price.
  • Don't carry unnecessary loads around in the car. Carrying around heavy materials that you're not using just wastes fuel. Keep the vehicle as lightly loaded as possible

We highly recommend Fuelwatch. They are well worth checking out. The URL is:

To be included in our Simple Savings Recommends program, your website must provide genuine, foolproof savings, 24 hours a day, and a secure order process, and help people save money and relieve long-term pressure on the family budget.

To learn more about the Simple Savings Recommends program go to:

5. Saving story: Saved $10,000 in six months

I had no money six months ago and now I have $10,000, even though I'm only on an average wage. My tip: consistency!

Despite how much you want to/can/should put away into a savings account, ensure it happens by having a certain amount taken out of your pay every week and put straight into a term deposit. Before you know it, you will be living on a lot less and saving a lot more. Then if things go wrong and you are spending your money, you will still have this amount available when the bad times are over.

Contributed by: Amanda Northridge

Saving stories in the Vault

There are now 50 different savings stories in the Vault, describing how normal people have been reaching their saving goals. They are great to read.

To order a membership go to:-

6. From last month: Gluten-free Flour, Building a Fence and Budget Holidays to Fraser Island

Gluten-free flour

We had a great response to Sarah De Bellis' request for ways to save money on gluten-free flour in Brisbane. Here are some of my favourites. The rest are stored in the Savings Vault. Just type "gluten" in the search field and you will get some great ideas.

Simply Good in Brisbane

There is a bulk food store at 9 Samford Road, Alderley, Brisbane called Simply Good. Their phone number is 3856 5000. Their gluten-free flour is $3.95 per kilogram. If you buy 10 kilograms or over, the price reduces to about $2.80-$3.00 a kilo. They also have a store at Shop 3, 156 Morayfield Road, Morayfield, phone 5498 3722, if that is any closer to you.

Contributed by: Gabriele Duffy

Breadmaking shops

Check out the breadmaking shops, as you can buy bulk rice flour, arrowroot, corn flour, maize flour, soy flour, potato flour, pea flours, etc. much cheaper than at the health food shops. If you are near a Chinese market or supermarket, they may sell cheap gluten-free flours too.

In Adelaide, I buy from Gagani Bros at Prospect, which is the cheapest source of rice flour, gluten-free baking powder and yellow maize flour I have found so far. They also offer cheap lentils, spices and imported goods.

My favourite gluten-free flour for muffins etc. is half yellow maize flour and half white rice flour. For biscuits, I like to use just rice flour.

Also, go to your local library and borrow coeliac and gluten-free recipe books. They all seem to offer different mixes of flours. You'll soon find out what flours work best for you. The Gluten Free Gourmet and More from the Gluten Free Gourmet are imaginitive cookbooks. You can also do a Google search for gluten-free recipes on the net. Once you've decided which flour you prefer, you can adapt most wheat flour recipes quite easily.

Contributed by: Jan Heinrich

Making your own flour

I usually buy two packets of McKenzies rice flour (the cost is 80 cents to $1 for 375 grams) and McKenzies arrowroot or Coles home brand pure cornflour (approx. $1). This makes 1 kilogram of gluten-free flour for less than $3.00. Then if I need self-raising flour I just add Wards baking powder.

Contributed by: Michelle Smith

Building a fence on a budget

There were 12 great hints for building fences added to the Savings Vault this month. To find them type "fence" into the search field on the top right-hand corner of the Savings Vault.

Second-hand planks and offcuts

The best way to build a fence cost effectively is to find fences that have blown down, are being replaced, etc. Sort out the rotted timber from the good planks and, of course, use only the good planks. Also, check friends and businesses that are throwing away offcuts. Planks and posts are the hardest to find, but you can try the tip, Bunnings, Mitre 10 etc. for offcuts. It is amazing what you can find at the tip. You can even try bartering to obtain what you need. Another idea is to put signs in your local shops asking if anyone has any fence palings they don't need.

Contributed by: Janet McCluskey

Used materials from builders

My suggestion would be to make a few phone calls to builders who advertise that they build fences and ask if they do anything with the fences they pull down. They may not deliver the used fence materials to you but, with the owner's permission, you may be able to collect them.

I live in an area of Brisbane where an old-style fence (galvanised pipes and chain wire) has been used a lot around the older properties but is gradually being replaced by timber fences. They are sturdy (otherwise they wouldn't have lasted so long). When our neighbours were going to throw theirs out, we got the roll of chain wire mesh, the posts, the fittings and the long top rails for nothing! It's all sitting in our backyard ready for refencing the chook pen. You just need to break off the old concrete from the bottoms of the posts or dig holes big enough to hold the old plus some new concrete.

Contributed by: Jennifer George

Second-hand materials at metal yard

We had to put up a new fence after we moved into our house because our dog kept jumping the fence. With only one of us working we had to construct a new fence as cheaply as we could. So we bought square metal poles and thin, round poles at a metal yard. (We bought seconds or thirds - you can't even tell the difference.) My husband then cut the round poles to size. We concreted the large ones in place and have the square ones running across the top and bottom of the fence and the round ones vertically - and a quick paint with a mis-tint to protect it all. It was extremely cheap - a couple of hundred dollars for the whole yard and our fence is 1.8 metres tall. Your 14-month-old will still be able to see what is going on in the street but won't be able to get out with this design!

Contributed by: Jaclyn Mate

Budget holidays to Fraser Island

Wow! There are a lot of people who have had a great time at Fraser Island on a tiny budget. To read through all the hints, type "Fraser" into the search field in the Savings Vault.

Camp in Fraser Island National Parks

For holidays on Fraser Island, the barge will cost you up to $90 return, so if you can go with someone else in the car that will help you to save. Buy, borrow or hire a tent and gear because you can camp anywhere in the National Parks for a reasonable price. We stayed for two weeks and it cost us $254.80, including the permit. Book well in advance of the school holidays – there is a limited amount of camping.

Contributed by: Karin Jeffrey

Take 4WD and camp

Fraser Island is a great destination, though January is a pretty warm time of year to be there. I have spent a total of eight weeks on Fraser in the last 10 years and I love it enormously.

Here are a few things you need to consider if you want to take children to the island in January.

The cheapest way is of course to drive (that is, if you have a 4WD, as this is the only form of transport allowed on the island). Be sure you have a tyre gauge and compressor - you'll need it.

If you live in Victoria, travel up the Newell Highway and camp overnight in Dubbo, then on to Crows Nest, near Toowoomba, and camp there for night two. Travel through the hinterland to the coast and hit the Stuart Highway about Nambour. Follow the Stuart Highway to Gympie, then drive to Rainbow Beach, near Tin Can Bay, where you can catch a vehicular ferry to Fraser Island. The journey takes about 15-20 minutes and is much cheaper than accessing the island via Hervey Bay.

There are great camping spots on the island, which work out reasonably cheaply for a family. You will need to get permits to go on the island and permits to camp. These are available through the Queensland National Parks.

If you have a car fridge, this allows you to stock up every few days on milk, butter, meat, etc. on the island. Try to purchase most things you need before going onto the island - dry goods, batteries, fishing tackle, sun screen, first aid supplies, etc. They are costly to buy at the available locations on the island and there are only about four general stores, which are pretty spread out and not necessarily in walking distance when you run out of something.

If you don't have a 4WD, then you would need to go on a package trip to the island. This involves bus transport (4WD) and accommodation which can be fairly costly. Then you'll have meals on top of this initial outlay. Another disadvantage is that most of the package trips are much shorter in duration than self-drive/self-catering.

Contributed by: Rosie Williams

Fraser Island huts managed by National Parks

We had a great time on Fraser Island staying in the huts managed by the National Park Authority. The huts, of course, are more expensive than camping, but we had beds, a gas stove, electricity, a fridge, our own shower and toilet, flyscreens to keep out the mozzies and a door to close out the dingoes! (I'm serious, something as simple as the safety of four walls with young children is important.) We had our own 4WD as to hire one on the island can be costly. The cabins were great value at about $35 a night compared with accommodation at the resorts at hundreds of dollars a night.

You'd probably need to organise your accommodation in advance. Contact the park authorities for help.

Contributed by: Sue Pett

7. Help wanted: House Sitting, Discount Outlets in Tasmania, Travel Backpacks

House sitting or swapping

Alison Harrison has heard that house sitting is a great way to save on rent and would like more information:

"Has anyone had experience with house sitting? Apparently, you can join agencies for $50 and they will hook you up with people who want you to live in their house, feed their pets and water their gardens while they're away. Sounds like a great way to save money on rent if you can store your own stuff cheaply."

If you have ever used a house sitting or swapping agency, or been involved in house sitting or swapping, we would love to hear more about your experiences. How did it work? Was it easy? How much money did you save?

To help Alison go to:

Discount shops and factory outlets in Tasmania

Angie Watson is "Looking for discount shops or factory outlets in Tasmania." If you know of any great stores in Tasmania, Angie would really love your advice.

To help Angie go to:

Travel backpacks

Victoria Gardner is preparing to travel "...overseas early next year on a backpacking holiday around Europe. I am wanting to get a travel backpack for my luggage, which costs around $400, and was wondering if anyone knows of any factory outlets that specialise in this sort of luggage."

If you can help Victoria go to: