"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - August 2005

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally and Happy Hanna: Reducing Travel Time
  2. More Time for Dads
  3. Vouchers for Father's Day
  4. Bonus Competitions: Father's Day, Wedding Preparations
  5. Cheap Activities for Dads and Kids
  6. Penny's Blog
  7. $210 Solved Learning Problems
  8. From Last Month: Living on $50 Per Week
  9. This Month's Help Requests: Line of Credit and Vacuum Cleaners
  10. SAVING Story: Scrapping Non-Essentials
  11. Finding $3000


How are you doing? This month I would like to give an extra special Congratulations to Lachlan Murdoch. We think it is fantastic that he quit News Limited to return to Sydney with his family. I'm sure he is going to be a fantastic dad.

Quite a few people have been asking about the new product we have been working on. The good news is half of it is at the manufacturer and the bad news is other half is still in development so it is still a secret. We should be able to tell you all about it this time next month when *cross fingers* we are ready to start pre-sales. If you are the sort of person who would like to plan ahead. We are going to start selling them for $27. There will be more details closer to the launch.

Thank you for your absolutely fantastic emails. They make me grin. It is beyond wonderful.

"Thanks to everyone who helps, it really is such a great site for keeping us positive about life and achieving our goals. It can be so depressing if you try and live your life looking at the social 'norm' but Simple Savings creates a wonderful, edifying community of people who are trying to help their families. It's encouraging to know there are other people out there who are like-minded. Thanks!" (Bindi Brien)

"Thanks for a great site. My husband and I are really struggling to figure out how to save money and how to budget. We have two children and seem to spend more than he earns. I find the hints on this site really helpful and am already seeing differences in the shopping costs and improvements in the bank balance. Thanks for a life saving site!" (Kathleen Smith)

"I wanted to tell you that I joined last night and stayed up reading the Vault until 2.20am! It is most interesting and I wish I had joined a lot earlier." (Vivien Wakefield)

"This afternoon:
- I became a member of 'Simple Savings' and had a quick browse through your site.
- Dirty glass on fireplace - fixed
- Smelly cupboard - fixed
- Effective, cheap air freshener - done
- Buying ingredients to make some household cleaners.
- Going back in to do some more browsing!
Thanks for the site. I should have joined ages ago." (Vivien Lunt)

"I have been receiving your free newsletters for over a year now and have never bothered to join the vault - with the price rise I decided to join (at the 11th hour) and can't believe how good this site is. I have been on the net now for over 3 hours and have only just scratched the surface. Wow - I look forward to all the money I am going to save for our family trip at the end of the year." (Marelle Titerington)

Wow! If you would like to preview the Savings Vault go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/vault/?preview=1

If you would like to buy a Savings Vault membership go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/order

Have a wonderful month!
Many grins,


Just a reminder: If you think any of your friends would enjoy or benefit from this newsletter. Please forward them this email or go to the 3 Months Free form. You may just change their life. The URL is:- www.simplesavings.com.au/threemonthsfree/

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Reducing Travel Time

"Look at this poor guy" said Sad Sally, pointing to her newspaper as Happy Hanna bounced into the coffee room. "He spends 17 and a half hours driving to and from work each week!"

Happy Hanna looked stunned, "Really? No way!"

"Yep", Sad Sally went on "...and he has a six month old baby who wakes up after he leaves in the morning and is in bed before he gets home at night."

"That is terrible! Poor thing, I wonder what he could do to change it", Hanna wondered aloud.

"What do you mean, change it? Don't be silly Hanna. You can't change something like that! He is the bread winner. Someone has to pay the bills."

Happy Hanna looked a little taken back, "Well, he could look for a new job closer to home."

"Not an option", said Sally dismissively. "He lives on the outskirts. He would have to drop his income by $10,000 a year."

Happy Hanna grinned "Well. That is easy."

"Come off it!" scoffed Sally, rustling her paper.

"Seriously, think about it. He would save at least $60 per week in petrol, another $20 per week wear and tear on the car. He could shave $60 a week off his grocery bills, get rid of his mobile phone for $20 per week and he would pay $60 per week less tax. Then he will have lowered his bills by more than $10,000 a year. And gained 14 hours a week to share with his new daughter and wife."

Sally shook her head. "Life just doesn't work that way. Anyway, what are the chances of getting a decent job out in the sticks? He might end up working in a fish and chip shop, or as a road worker - or even worse, cleaning toilets! Poor Hanna, you are so naive sometimes," she finished, getting up and rinsing out her coffee cup before flouncing out.

Happy Hanna quietly sipped her cuppa, thinking "So what if he is cleaning toilets. Kids don't care about job titles. All they want are parents who love them enough to make time to play with them."

Who are you most like, Sally or Hanna? Who would you rather be?

2. More Time for Dads

It's a sad fact that many husbands and fathers feel stuck in jobs they find mundane, unrewarding and even soul destroying, but as the 'breadwinner' of the family, they are resigned to keep showing up in order to pay the bills.

Why should fathers be expected to stick at horrible jobs? The only reason people work in jobs they don't like is money. By reducing the amount of money the family spends, you will reduce the amount of pressure placed on the bread winner. Then just like Lachlan Murdoch they can find a different job with more freedom, closer to home, allowing them to spend more time with their loved ones.

So sit down and work out how much money you would have to save each week for your husband to be able to have one extra day off a fortnight, or so he can switch jobs completely.

Let's look at ways you can lower your bills to improve their lives. The Savings Vault is overflowing with great ideas. There are too many to include in this newsletter, so we have provided some links to other great favourites. You and your partner can make a great team effort!

Go to Motormouth and save on petrol

I go to (motormouth.com.au) and save money by finding where the cheapest petrol is. It costs nothing to join and they send you emails to let you know where you can find the cheapest petrol. You can save anywhere from a cent to 10 cents per litre.

Contributed by: Samantha Wiesman

Get a detailed quote first

I saved $207 on a full service and timing belt replacement on my car recently. When my car was due for its service, I took it to the dealer service department and asked for a detailed quote of exactly what parts would be needed, plus the cost of labour.

The list I received from the service department was very detailed, right down to the part numbers for the 'genuine' brand parts! I then was able to shop around my local mechanics to see who would give me the most competitive price. One mechanic was very surprised when I was able to quote genuine part numbers, and from those he could give me an exact price for the whole job, using 'non-genuine' parts where possible.

A great saving, and if you're not worried about using 'non-genuine' parts, you can save even more. What are non-genuine parts anyway? Certainly not plastic copies!

Contributed by: Hazel Mann

Help your partner quit smoking

My partner used to smoke and it cost us about $60 per week, or over $3,000 per year! Here are a few tips to help your partner to quit: I put aside an equal amount ($60 per week) in a savings account. At the end of every month I showed my partner the balance, and the bigger it got the more eager he was to quit. I would also write the yearly amount on his cigarette packet, so he was reminded every time he took a cigarette out. He has wanted to purchase a dirt bike for a long time and I told him if he quit smoking he could. He has since quit and is saving for his dirt bike with his cigarette money (halfway there). To keep the motivation up he subscribed to a motorbike magazine for $5.80 per month, which he also pays with his cigarette money.

Contributed by: Tammy Gallagher

Please note:

The website we mentioned in this week's "Hint of the Week" email (www.whyquit.com) has been having some outages. If you tried it during the last few days and couldn't get access, please try again now, as it is back online.

Negotiate a deal with your mobile provider

Today I saved over $157 over the next six months by staying with my current mobile phone service provider. I was 'cold called' by another provider offering very discounted mobile call rates - particularly to land line phones - on a two-year contract. I agreed to have a driver deliver a new phone and explain the deal to me later the same evening. A few hours later, and an hour before my new phone was to arrive, I felt a little uneasy, because I have three teenagers who are on prepaid, also with my current provider, and I have a cheap call rate to them. Although a new phone would be nice, I really didn't need a new handset. I rang my current provider and explained my dilemma. They were very helpful, and because I have been with this provider for quite a few years I now have $20 per month off my phone bill for the next six months and have cancelled my insurance on my handset (saving another $6.30 per month). That's $157.80. I was thrilled to be able to tell the 'cold call' company that I had negotiated a better deal with my current provider. Another reason for staying with my current handset is that I have a 'plug in' car kit I'm quite happy with and I am in my car quite a bit. A new phone would mean the added expense of a new car kit!

Contributed by: Annie McGrath

Here are some links to more super savings ideas in the Vault:

Using premium unleaded saves on fuel costs Contributed by: Andreas Kiermeier

Simple alternative to buying a bigger car Contributed by: Susie Moen

Fix a cracked windscreen for less Contributed by: Melanie Clarke

10 minute phone call saved $300 Contributed by: Debbie Mowatt

Replace 4WD universal joints cost effectively Contributed by: Nicole Luxton

Allow your partner weekly spending money Contributed by: Romee Baker

Challenge your partner to a friendly competition Contributed by: Donna Wright

Of all the categories in the Vault, the groceries category is the largest. It is fabulous!

Save money by brewing beer at home Contributed by: Tina Horton

How to save $3000 a year on groceries Contributed by: Tonia Griffith-Jones

Save over $100 per week on lunches Contributed by: Catherine Adler

Cutting phone bill costs Contributed by: Naomi Hood

Forced saving through tax Contributed by: Sue Heath

Huge reduction in mortgage from not claiming benefit Contributed by: Melissa Fraser

Stop being ripped off with household repairs Contributed by: Rachel Calcagno

3. Vouchers for Father's Day

Father's Day is just around the corner and we have designed another great range of free vouchers for you to print off and give to Dad. If the kids are about to empty their piggy banks on yet another pair of socks for Dad, chances are he'll appreciate these far more!

Go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/freestuff to print them off and make his day extra special!

4. Bonus Competitions: Father's Day Ideas, Wedding Preparations

This month we are giving away an extra FIVE Gold Memberships to the Savings Vault (Total value $235). Both competitions end on 30th August 2005.

Father's Day - Three Gold Memberships up for grabs!

Would you believe there are now over 7,000 hints in the Vault? It just keeps getting bigger, thanks to you! However, we've noticed that the Mums are getting far more attention in the Vault when it comes to the gifts and special occasions than the poor Dads. Let's not leave them out any more! We want to hear your favourite gift and activity ideas for a memorable Father's Day. We know there are some fantastic ideas out there. Writers of the best three tips will each win a Gold 12 month Membership to the Vault. Click here to enter.

Wedding Preparations - Two Gold Memberships to Be Won

We want to prove that you can have a fantastic wedding for very little money. This competition is open to people who are planning their wedding at the moment. Write in and tell us how you are creating a fantastic and affordable wedding. The best two entrants will each win a 12 month Gold Membership to the Savings Vault. Click here to enter.

5. Cheap Activities for Dads and Kids

As parents, we often feel guilty for not spending enough time with our children, which can result in us heading straight to the nearest McDonalds or toy store in order to 'make it up to them' and make ourselves feel better. Quality time doesn't have to mean blowing the budget! For long lasting fun and activities (that are enjoyable for Dad as well as the kids!), try some of these ideas:

Pull out the board games

Strapped for cash and needing to entertain the kids while spending quality time together as a family? It's simple! Rediscover board games like 'Trouble', 'Monopoly', 'Wheel of Fortune' and 'Hang on Harry'. Card games are great too - 'Snap', 'Pairs' and 'Uno'.

Contributed by: Maureen Lesjak

Take Kids to Watch the Planes

Taking children to the airport to view the planes flying above is a cheap way to entertain the children. We sometimes take our kids to the Melbourne Airport. We park at the free viewing car parks that are located at different sides of the airport (you do not have to go into the airport). Children love to hear and see the aeroplanes fly overhead. It is also nice to take a picnic lunch. Another option is to go into the airport; you can either park in the car park for a few hours for about $10 or park outside the airport and walk. We go up to the observation deck where the planes can be seen up close.

Contributed by: Jackie Phillips

Fish for a fun, cheap family outing

Fishing is a great and cheap family outing. Catching or collecting your own bait can be fun. Everyone can forage on the rocks for periwinkles and cockles (great bait, and pickled they taste pretty good too), or make sandcastles and collect shells on the beach. Lots of healthy exercise!!

Contributed by: Jenni Putzke

Frisbee in the Park

Take a ball or frisbee and go with your kids to the park or the beach. If you're not near a beach or park and live in the bush, go to a large outdoor area and have fun kicking the ball around, or throwing the frisbee, with the kids. It's absolutely free and the looks of joy on your kids' faces are priceless!

Contributed by: Lexie Walker

Nature Walking and Drawing

I arm my kids with pencils and pads and take them nature walking. We discover, draw and write about all the treasures in the bush or on the beach. They love it and we all learn lots! Also we play games on the sand, with the dogs or without them and maybe wrap it up with an ice cream or drink afterwards.

Contributed by: Glenda Booth

The Savings Vault is full of great ideas for families to have fun without the expense. Check out these links:

Ferry Ride Contributed by: Debbie Jones

Making a Pinata Contributed by: Jo-Ann Green

Feeding birds leftovers Contributed by: Lexie Walker

14 Free Magic Tricks Contributed by: Fiona Lippey

Paper Airplanes Contributed by: Fiona Lippey

6. Penny's Blog

It's great that so many of you are enjoying reading Penny's Blog. For those of you who have not checked it out yet, member letters such as this one can vouch it's well worth a look!

"To save money generally and while shopping, read Penny's Blog! The encouragement gained from the Simple Savings site and Penny is so worth the money spent to join. I print out Penny's Blog every few weeks and read it in bed. I haven't had a lot of time to read much of the Vault, but reading what I have and Penny's blog is encouraging me to try harder to reduce my spending. Penny sometimes mentions things that she has found helpful and I am able to use the same tip without the time having to scour the vault. If Penny can do it, I can too. Sometimes I've even felt a bit proud (and just a little better than Penny) for resisting something that she had not been able to like an unplanned stopover at the coffee shop. I am learning to walk out of shops with only what I came for or maybe 1-2 things extra. That has been a huge improvement for me, our teenage daughters used to wait in the car while I ducked into Woolies for 1-2 things and have guessing competitions about how many bags of 'stuff' I would walk out with. I'm so proud of myself when I now walk out with 1-2 things; I'm not blowing the food budget every payday." (Donna Gleeson)

Penny's Blog is a special treat for Vault members and is updated a couple of times a week. It is so much fun, we are making at least one full entry a month available to everyone. You can read it by going to: www.simplesavings.com.au/pennywise

Here is a short snippet from this month's adventures.

Tuesday August 9

Have been shopping around for some new lino for our bathroom and laundry. If you think that buying a whole new floor is a bit excessive for someone trying to transform into a Happy Hanna, you should see the floor as it is now. It has never, ever had a proper covering; it has always been nothing but concrete, which the previous owners thought would look delightful painted a sickly green.

To cut a long story short, the best price I could find for the lino was $500 - plus I also discovered that the floor would need sanding first at a cost of $250 - slightly more than I had first anticipated. I was now committed to getting my new floor, but the problem was, I didn't want to eat into my bank balance. There had to be another way to raise that $750 myself - online auctions to the rescue! I am eternally grateful to the geniuses who invented eBay, Trade Me and the like. Last year, when I decided to strip back the floors of two huge rooms into their former wooden glory, I vowed to raise the $1263 needed by selling some of my worldly goods online. I raised the entire amount in ten days, much to Noel's astonishment (not to mention my relief!). So technically, coming up with $750 the same way shouldn't be a problem this time, should it? As I look around the house it often occurs to me that if I never bought another thing to fit inside it, it wouldn't matter; it's bursting with stuff as it is, so there must be plenty of saleable things I no longer need. Time to dig out those exercise videos, the computer games the kids no longer play with and the pots of miracle skin creams I got sucked into buying from the telly. At long last, I'm going to make my Sad Sally purchases work for me!

7. $210 Solved Learning Problems

Mitchell was a 9 year old boy who hated school. He had learning problems, lacked confidence, was dyslexic, had a lazy eye, was tired all the time and still wet his bed. His parents had tried everything they could think of to help. They saw a GP, a chiropractor, a behavioural optometrist, and an occupational therapist, but progress was very slow - and VERY expensive - until he saw Fran. In just three appointments for $210 Mitchell turned into a happy and confident young boy.

To read the full article, go to: homeopathyplus.com.au/cases/lackofconfidence.html

Please remember; not all homeopaths are equal. While good homeopaths are astounding, bad homeopaths can be dangerous. Make sure your homeopath is registered with the Australian Homeopathic Association. (http://www.homeopathyoz.org/) These remedies are very powerful and can do remarkable things in the right hands but if misused can create some bizarre results!

8. From Last Month: Living on $50 Per Week

Last month Leah Johnson-Makin asked:

"This site is all about being frugal and saving money. Well I'd like you to do a feature on how Centrelink recipients can live on the money they receive. My mother receives a Widow Allowance, and the only concession she's entitled to is medical. She doesn't even get a Travel concession. She lives in Housing Department accommodation and has her rent deducted automatically each fortnight. She leaves $20 in her bank account each fortnight for Christmas, then pays money towards her electricity and phone, and puts away an amount for repaying her Bankcard. She also has to save $50 a fortnight towards registration of her car, and find a bit of money for petrol. The car is needed to take my children to and from school each day. Public transport is way too expensive. As a result of this she has the grand total of $100 to live on for a fortnight. This is for everything (e.g. food, clothes, household upkeep), other than the things stated above. Now I'd like some clever people to tell me what quality of life she can have on that tiny amount of money."

Once again, our savvy saving members have come to the rescue! We received a huge response, thank you for all your suggestions. Due to the specific nature of this hint, not all responses will go on to appear in the Vault, as many of them are targeted at this individual request only. The majority of those who responded felt that Leah should be contributing to the running costs of her mother's car; however we also include some varied ideas below:

Living On A Budget Doesn't Mean You Aren't Living!

If you are on a limited income you should check out the Vault! There are tons of ideas there! $500 is a lot of money to put away for Christmas, there are plenty of savings to be had by layby-ing when sales are on and stocking up on tinned food and cans during the year. Also perhaps your kids could catch a school bus. They should be free if you are too far away to walk, or maybe there is a school that is closer. The best advice for food I can give is for her to menu plan, buy fresh food and cook from scratch. For clothes; well now you know what SHE wants for Christmas! A gift voucher would be fantastic for those after Christmas sales. Volunteering is a great way to get out and about. Volunteering at lunch time for meals on wheels or at an aged care facility for example can get you a free meal as well as some great company. Doing surveys on line can reward her with movie tickets. Good luck for your mum, not having much money can be frustrating, but living on a budget doesn't mean you aren't living!

Contributed by: Karen McCabe

Dollar Stretching For Meals

In response to Leah's request for help in living cheaply, here are a couple of mine, plus some recipes. Firstly, buy things which are on a good special, particularly fruit and vegetables and then use in recipes. Also, make larger quantities and freeze as this is more economical. I recently made the following recipes but doubled the quantity of the soup. I costed it all out and made the double quantity of soup (carrots and oranges were on special), a wholemeal pasta and apple dessert all for less than $10. The wholemeal pasta is more expensive but far more nutritious. Hope this helps.

Carrot and Orange Soup

1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
600g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
600ml chicken/vegetable stock
Zest and juice of 3 large oranges
Sea salt and black pepper
1 carrot, peeled and grated
Fresh coriander to garnish

Heat oil in large saucepan, add onion and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add carrot and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, orange zest and juice and seasoning. Bring to boil then reduce heat and cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until carrots are soft. Cool slightly then process in blender or with stick blender until smooth. Return to pan, add grated carrot and heat through. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with warm crusty bread.

Wholemeal Pasta and Pineapple

250g wholemeal pasta
2 tablespoons butter
60g chopped ham
2-1/2 tablespoons plain flour
2-1/2 cups pineapple juice and hot water, mixed
1 teaspoon instant chicken stock
1 cup pineapple pieces
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
(Note: Drain pineapple juice from can and make up to quantity with water)

Cook pasta as directed on packet. Drain well. Melt butter in saucepan, add chopped ham and cook lightly for 3 minutes. Add flour and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken stock, gradually pour in juice and water stirring well. Bring to boil. Add pineapple pieces and 1 cup only of cheese. Simmer for 3 minutes. Fold in pasta and season to taste. Place in greased casserole dish and sprinkle with remainder of cheese. Dot with butter. Bake in preheated over at 210-220 deg. for approx. 15 minutes or until golden.

Apple Surprise

1 cup SR flour
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 large Granny Smith apple
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter/margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups boiling water

Sift flour and salt into bowl, add sugar and peeled, cored and finely chopped apple. Add milk and mix to a soft dough. A little extra milk may be needed if mixture is too dry. Press into a greased casserole dish (needs to be fairly deep). Combine butter, brown sugar and boiling water. Stir until butter melts. Pour over apple dough. Bake in moderate over for approx 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with custard or ice cream. May also be cooked in microwave for approx 10 minutes on High. Leftovers can also be reheated in microwave.

Contributed by: Margaret Sisam

For more delicious cheap recipes go to the Cooking section of the Vault

Practical Gift Ideas From Mum

Instead of saving $20 per fortnight for Christmas, Mum could add this money to the amount she is already using to pay off her Bankcard. Get it paid off quickly then cut up the card. Christmas gifts and birthday don't have to be elaborate or expensive. Home-made gifts of food and clothing are very special and can be worked on during the year.

Contributed by: Renata Byra

A Different Kind of Wealth

I feel perhaps you're venting and while I understand your frustration I don't think one has to accept that excess money equates to quality of life. In case you're wondering, I do empathise as I receive a sole parent pension myself and live on a restricted income. There are many avenues to assistance other than government allowances.

All upkeep on your mother's house should be provided by the Housing Department, so she is not going to be hit with repair bills or maintenance cost and she has a secure place with a reasonable rent. Not being subject to the whims of a private rental market provides peace of mind. If your mother has been receiving her widow allowance for 9 months or more and is over 60 she actually may be entitled to a pensioner concession card. This would reduce her registration and provide travel and other concessions. Contacting your local Centrelink office with a positive attitude may elicit a better response. My favourite tip is to always wear your work uniform when you go to a Centrelink branch. I believe you tend to be heard a little better when the person behind the counter realises you also spend your day busy. Sometimes your State government will have concessions available that are not applied for through Centrelink such as the Queensland Seniors Card - your state may have a similar scheme.

I hope other members will contribute tips to help assist your mother in reaching a more enjoyable and peaceful life, but please remember that ultimately this comes from having healthy, loving family and friends, not from our wallet. It is of little use to put down the ideas of people on the Simple Savings site because you feel your mother is not being adequately provided for by our government services.

Contributed by: Louise Howard

Halve The Christmas Budget

In terms of the $20 put aside for Christmas every fortnight, perhaps she could halve that for starters. I am sure your family all know your mothers situation and would not expect lavish presents at Christmas time. Perhaps instead you could all make a decision as a family to start a new tradition like a Chris Kringle format where the adults pick a name out of a hat and each buy only the one gift for each other.

The next best thing is to get rid of the Bankcard. They are an absolute terror for interest and eat away money that you just don't have. If it is necessary to have the money on hand consider the option of a small overdraft instead. Also, if the car is only there for the purpose of taking your children to school why don't you organise a car pool for your neighbourhood instead? Or perhaps even look into the children using the bus. If your mother could get rid of the car altogether it would save her the approximately $450 in rego and the insurance and running costs also.

I fully appreciate how hard it must be to live on so little money per fortnight but I think that if you are a little more creative about the necessities then it will help too.

Contributed by: Chris Gray

Practical Gift Ideas For Mum

When my husband's Nan was alive she was in a similar financial situation, so we would put together gift baskets at her birthday, Mothers Day, Easter and Christmas. Some staples - tinned soups etc, and some luxuries, like chocolates and soft 3ply toilet paper. We were not the only ones who did this (and it wasn't the ONLY gift - if she needed a new jumper she got that instead... etc) - but she thought she had the world, and it made her life that little bit easier.

Contributed by: Michelle Quinsee

9. This Month's Help Requests: Line of Credit and Vacuum Cleaners

This month we have two help requests:

Jenni Whyte has asked:

"I have a question in regards to mortgages with a line of credit... We have had one now for approximately 3 years and are struggling to see any benefit. I think because you use your credit card for everything it is easy to OVERSPEND each month, there also seems to be a lot of fees and charges on this type of loan. we also need to withdraw cash for all of those unexpected things like sporting fees, school excursions etc. I just feel that no matter how good we try to be, we are still not getting ahead! Are there any readers who are on this type of loan and doing well on it??"

Pirjo Lam asks:

"Our 24 year old Electrolux Vacuum cleaner has developed an electrical fault and may not be worth fixing for $150 as it doesn't have the Hepa filter etc. New Electrolux vacuum cleaners cost around $2,500 and I'm wondering whether I really need to spend so much to get the required results. I would like to hear from others about their experiences with vacuum cleaners and what they can recommend. How much do you need to spend to get a decent vacuum cleaner that does both carpet and hard surfaces. We do have a big house, big family, an asthmatic son, lots of guests, so it'll need to be heavy duty and efficient with removing the dust mites etc. I have had a look at Harvey Norman where the sales person recommended the Dyson on sale for $799. Then at Big W I saw a Kambrook Jaguar "Twister" bagless vacuum cleaner for $250 that looked similar in construction. Are either of these are any good, or can anyone make another recommendation? With the purchase of vacuum cleaners, is it a case of 'you get what you pay for', or can great savings be made here with a bit of knowledge and by shopping around? I'd appreciate your feedback."

If you would like to help Jenny or Pirjo with your advice or personal experience please go to www.simplesavings.com.au/donatehints

10. SAVINGS STORY: Scrapping Non-Essentials

Even though I am now earning a professional wage, I feel as though I actually had more money when I was a full time student happily living on my Centrelink payments of less than $290 a fortnight. This is how I achieved it. I scrapped EVERYTHING non essential to me. That included Pay TV, newspapers and so on. This was hard to do, but you must evaluate whether you REALLY need it. Newspapers, for example, were available at my university library for free, so it made no sense to buy them.

I had time, but no money. I used to do everything myself, right down to the last detail like making curtains, mowing or whatever. I used dishwashing liquid, disinfectant, baking soda, vinegar and domestic cleaner (aka Homebrand Domestos) for practically all cleaning. It is cheap and it definitely works. It is hard to do away with your favourite cleaning product, but it is only throwing money away buying a brand name cleaner when cheaper options work so well.

For washing powder, I would only ever buy when it was on special or in bulk. I had carpet, so a few times a year I hired the Britex machine from my supermarket (a carpet cleaner) and did it myself. I used cloths that could be re-used and not paper towel, you just throw out your money. Cleaning is such an expensive task that could be so much cheaper!

We made going out a special event and would only do it on rare occasions, and made sacrifices during the week to make sure we could afford it. For instance, eat a cheaper cut of meat each night. More often than not, we would entertain at our place, getting people to bring something each to spread out the cost. Roasts are great!

Before going shopping, I used to figure out meals for the week and only buy what I needed. Our butcher made a bulk pack for $30 and that would feed us both for a week; we'd portion it up and freeze it. Anything I could grow I would, like herbs, some vegetables, and so on. We had chooks too; they ate the scraps and gave us eggs in return. The supermarkets close on Sundays here, so there is often the opportunity to buy cheap vegetables, meat and bread that will expire soon. We had a big freezer and froze a lot of food. I always looked for the red and white 'Reduced to clear' stickers.

I had a car and lived about 10 minutes out of town - I drove for about an hour every day. I would limit where I went and only went out if it was a valid reason. I serviced my car myself. My car was not terribly valuable so third party property and fire and theft was a cheaper and adequate option, saving me heaps on comprehensive insurance.

Look at your bills carefully. Stop spending on non essentials like talking during the day on STD rates for instance. Evaluate the kind of phone plan (even for a regular land line phone) because it may be incorrect for your usage. See what other plans are available to you from other companies based on your current usage. Our electricity company gives us tips for saving by simply calling a toll free number - I encourage you to look in to that. We saved a lot of money by turning off lights and fans not in use, using energy efficient appliances and lights. We dropped our bill by about $100 a quarter, a HUGE saving when you are on such a little wage.

I only bought clothes a few times a year, when the sales were on. Kmart, Big W and Target have great clothes (fashionable too!) for a lot less, plus they reduce them as well. Look out for staple items like shorts, t-shirts and jumpers that are long wearing.

Credit cards are traps for those on a small income. Avoid them. If you don't have the money, you won't buy it. Centrelink can give small 'advances' (loans) for emergencies and you pay this back with no interest. Look in to that for your own circumstances.

The Health Care Card means a lot of medical procedures are covered, for example hospital glasses and lenses, and dental. Look into everything medical because you can get a lot for free or cheaper because of this card. For instance - lenses and frames for glasses can be replaced every two years from memory. I used to dislike the frames, but would get the lenses to put in my old glasses, with no cost to me.

Living like this might seem boring, but it seems I had more money then than I do now! I had plenty left for important nights out with my friends and I look on those times with fond memories. I think that it is easy to have fun with little money; you just need to have a little bit of will about you to not waste money anywhere.

Contributed by: Kim Lambert

11. Finding $3000

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