"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - October 2006

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Little Bits Add Up
  2. The Save-O-Meter
  3. Out of the Cold with Sophie Gray (includes FREE tip sheet)
  4. Penny's Blog: Forum Therapy
  5. Homeopathy Corner: Tutorial No. 3
  6. From Last Month: Comfy Pet Beds
  7. This Month's Help Request: CSIRO and Child Proofing Products
  8. Savings Story: Saved $39,400 on Fencing


How are you doing? I hope you have had a great month. Things have been busy around here. Matt has been doing a lot of work on the Forum this month and we have another special surprise for you: The Save-O-Meter. I'm so excited about the Save-O-Meter. It is brilliant! It is fabby-tastic!!! You are going to love it.

It's great to see so many new names on the site lately! A big welcome to all our 'newbie' members. I hope you are enjoying being part of our savings community. We love hearing your feedback, especially letters like these!

"Thank you - a thousand, trillion thank you's! I can't tell you how sick I feel, but how relieved at the same time! Having found your site and spent some time reading everything that I could access, I decided to join the Savings Vault and really put things to the test. Having read some bits and pieces (and I plan to read it ALL!), I sat down and started an Excel budget spreadsheet. I logged on to every one of my bank and credit card accounts and jotted down my limits, balances and totals, my repayments, the lot. I knew that I was struggling and having just taken a lower paying job (that I am much happier in, and closer to home), I knew that I was living above my means. However, I was in denial and hadn't actually sat down and worked out by HOW MUCH. Ouch! Without even adding in my frivolous day to day spending, I have a deficit of $65 a week. I have been looking for an extra weekend job to help ease the strain, but I now know that this is not the only way I can make things better!! Though I might still seek that option for a while, just to get myself back on my feet quicker - I can now apply the new tricks I am learning from your site and so it will make getting out of debt that much quicker and easier! It has been such a wake up call, and I know I would have just stayed in denial until it was too late if you hadn't opened my eyes. Keep up the fantastic work, you have given me something to work towards, and inspired me to change my terrible habits for the better." (L.K. - new Vault member)

"I came across this wonderful website a few weeks ago by accident when I was looking for ways to save money for my well deserved weekend away with my husband. I briefly looked at the Bill Payment System and figured it's EXACTLY what we need. After being married for 10 years and getting into a lot of debt, things just do not seem to be getting any better for us. I sat here two weeks later on a Sunday morning and printed a whole bunch of very useful information to help take control of our life and money. Admittedly I am extremely nervous and do not know where to start but I am excited at the possibility that life around here can get better financially. This would have to be the BEST website I have ever come across by far! I just wanted to send you a note saying thank you, thank you, and thank you for taking the time to have such an informative website for us struggling families. I feel like I stumbled across a heaven sent life saver." (Jacqueline Zanetta)

"I just had to let you know about my recent savings thanks to your website. I was never one to ask a salesman 'how much for cash?', but recently my 16 year old front loading washing machine died and I had to buy a new one. I did the rounds of the electrical retailers, comparing the same machine as I knew what I wanted. Our local Betta Electrical store were renovating and wanting to move floor stock. I took a deep breath and asked 'how much for cash?' and I paid $770 for a machine that normally retails for $999! I then asked how much delivery was and was told between $15 and $30, depending on whether I wanted the new one set up and the old one taken away. I knew my husband could install the new machine so I insisted that the delivery charge be dropped. I saved $214 in just five minutes! The following week our vacuum cleaner of 12 years died, so I did my research and decided on a Samsung upright bagless model which retails for $499. Again I asked 'how much for cash?' and the reply was $420, saving me $79 with those four little words. Thank you for giving me the courage to have a go at haggling with a salesman!" (Tracey Kellock)

It's fantastic to hear updates on how some of the members who have been with us a while are progressing too. Your emails just blow me away!

"I love your site and still find it so helpful! Don't know what I would have done without it, thanks for all the wonderful work you do. You really do make all the difference when it comes to saving those pennies." (Bec Rover)

"Today my husband and I made our final payment on our now extinct personal loan. Two years ago, we married, consolidated our debt, had a baby, and I started a university degree. You can well imagine that on one income with a young family, cash has been tight. We have repaid $20,000 plus interest in two years, rather than over the five year loan term. We now have a grand total of ZERO dollars debt and from this day forth, EVERY CENT IN OUR BANK ACCOUNTS IS OURS! We have been in love with Simple Savings over that time, and I'd like to thank you for the support, ideas and encouragement you give all your readers. I think the best thing is that now we don't have to make loan payments, we will be applying our saving discipline to saving for ourselves, not for paying the bank! I am so excited and I thought you would probably appreciate that better than most! Thank you so much." (Erin, Dion and Billie Sanderson)

"I have just realised how much Simple Savings has changed my attitude towards spending. I had been browsing through the latest toy catalogue, you know - the pre-Christmas ones which entice you into spending way too much money on games and toys which find their way to the back of the wardrobe by the next Christmas. I realised that I am already prepared for Christmas! Over the past six months I have visited op shops and restored toys to almost their original condition. I got a Fisher Price castle for $2, a shopping trolley for $1 and filled it with toy groceries for $4. I bought and restored bikes from the local market so they are like new for $20 and all kinds of stocking fillers ranging from 50c to $2. This time last year I was frantically thumbing through the toy catalogue, queuing for the "bargain" sales and spending way over the budget. Thank you Simple Savings." (Clodagh O'Grady)

"I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the wonderful service you provide with Simple Savings. To cut a long story short, I have just cut my working week from 24 hours per week to 11 and STILL have more money at the end of the week than when I was working more (all thanks to the wonderful people and hints available on the Discussion Forum and in the Vault!) This big, big thank you comes not only from me but from the three sweet darlings in my home (husband and two sons) who are very happy to have me home more and not stressed about money!" (Kylie Carter)

Newsflash! - First Group Meeting Photo

Here is our first photo from a Simple Savings Group meeting at Bendigo. The ladies met at Lake Weeroona in Bendigo with good intentions of a cheap Simple Savings style picnic in beautiful surroundings. Unfortunately the weather picked that one day to be cold, wet and windy and they had no option but to head for the protection of the Boardwalk Café, where they all ordered the cheapest thing on the menu - soup. For three and a half hours they talked like old friends about all things Simple Savings.

From Left to Right: Tania S, Kirstin Nicholson, Kristen and Barb

If you would like to send in your photo from a group meeting please forward to this address - just be sure to ask permission from the members in the photo first!


We couldn't resist showing you this photo of Kirstin's husband Brett. They have just built a new house and Brett is breaking up the soil to sow seeds for a new lawn, saving over $3,000 in turf. Well done Brett!

Have a great month!
All the best,

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Little Bits Add Up

"Off to another Savings Group meeting?" asked Pete. "What's with the long face?" "'Oh - I don't know," replied Sally glumly. "It's just all these things we've been trying out to save money - it feels like a lot of work for little reward. I know I'm saving on buying my lunch and that sort of thing, but does it really make that much difference? I just feel like I'm not getting anywhere." "Of course you are love!" reassured Pete. "It took a good few years to rack up all those debts in the first place, remember? They're not just going to disappear overnight. You've got to take it one step at a time, Sal. Just keep doing what you're doing - see you later."

Sally's mood hadn't improved by the time she reached Hanna's and she actually let out a groan when Hanna proudly displayed her new savings calendar to the group. "Ugh - do we really have to do that again? I for one didn't get anywhere with it last year," she scowled. "Is that what you think, Sally?" Hanna couldn't help looking a little hurt. "OK, well before we make any decisions, let's put it to the test! We'll add up all of our results from last year's calendar, then we can see what kind of effect it's had - how does that sound?"

The others agreed and over the next hour Hanna's lounge became a hive of activity as they all compared notes. "Are we done?" asked Hanna. "Right, Sal. You saved $20 per week on groceries, $15 on lunch, $60 on take-away and $20 on late fees, so that's a total saving of $115 a week. Multiply that by 52 and - wow! Sally, you saved $5,830 last year!"

"Is that right?" retorted Sally. "Well how come I don't have that kind of money on me now?" "Just wait a minute Sal," Hanna continued, "Right - my total is $1,900, Susan's is $2,900 and Jack's is $4,200, so between us we saved $14,830!" The group gasped and broke into cheers and at last Sally understood what it was all about. She couldn't wait to tell Pete! "Ahem," she said loudly. "I believe $6,000 of that total is mine? I saved three times as much as you Hanna!" she gloated. "Who would have thought?"

2. The Save-O-Meter

Isn't it amazing what happens when you add everyone's results together? There are only four people in their group and they managed to save $14,830 in one year. Let's see what we can do?

The Save-O-Meter is set up so we can all enter our individual results and combine them together. It is exciting!! What do you think the total is going to be? *giant grin*

The best bit about it is as the total climbs we will all be able to say, "Look at that number. I had a part in that. I made a difference!"

To give you an idea how fast things can add up. Here are some examples:-

my old habitcost/weekmy new habitcost/weeksaving/week
Drinking alcohol$50Drinking ALDI lemonade$3$47
Impulse shopping$40Sticking to a plan$5$35
Take-away meals$40Hot chips only$5$35
Pre-packaged food$60Make my own$20$40
Driving kids to sleep$35Making up stories$0$35
Buying Huggies$30Changed brands$8$22
Cleaning products$5Vinegar, bi-carb, etc$1$4
Buying meat retail$60Buying meat wholesale$30$30
STD calls$25Phonecard$5$20
Using clothes dryer$10Using clothes line$0$10
Online shopping$25De-cluttering$0$25
Pokies$20Playing games with family$0$20
Paid parking$40Park further away for free$0$40
Extra trips to the shop$50Make snacks from pantry$0$50
Take-away lunch daily$40Taking frozen sandwich$12$28
Credit card late fees$20Pay bill on time$0$20
Take-away 3 nights$110Cooking at home$30$80
Second car$110Push bike$5$105
Quit smoking$36Cold turkey$0$36

When you look at this tiny list the yearly saving is $35,464. So imagine how big the total is going to be when all fifty thousand of us are working together.

What are you waiting for? Quick go and check it out. The URL is:-


3. Out of the Cold - with Sophie Gray

If you want to spend less on groceries then a home freezer is one of your greatest assets.

Intended to enable the consumer to store a wide range of foods safely for a long period of time, this appliance, while one of the most common in the western world, is also one of the most under utilised. In fact many people use their freezer for the barest selection of foods, maybe a tub of ice cream, a bag of peas and a frozen chicken. For others the freezer is simply a staging post between the oven and the bin - "ooh, don't throw that out, we'll pop it in the freezer", only to throw it out anyway when the freezer door no longer closes.

In my distant past I worked for a wholesale frozen food distributor and all the staff dreaded doing stock take - spending a whole day in a commercial freezer counting the stock was a hazardous occupation with a high risk of frostbite and hypothermia and believe me, one lump of frozen food looks much like another after a month or so in the deep freeze. A labelling system is really helpful.

Getting the best out of the freezer is much easier than most other methods of food storage like drying, salting and bottling and is way cheaper than just buying what you need when you need it, so why not review your freezing habits? See if you can make better use of your freezer and reduce your weekly grocery budget - leaving more money to spend on the important things in life!

What happens when you freeze food?

Freezing involves changing the liquid content in a food to ice. Freezing slows the process that causes food to breakdown, holding it in suspension and retaining the colour, flavour and nutritional content of the food.

The freezing process may affect the texture of foods. Fruits or vegetables with high water content or a delicate cell structure do not freeze well. These include lettuce, tomatoes, watermelon, citrus fruit sections and cucumbers. Most other foods can be frozen with varying degrees of success, some foods will change in texture but are still very much useable - tomatoes and frozen capsicum halves for example will be soggy when defrosted but are excellent in pasta sauces, goulash on pizzas and so on. Potato soup may be gluey when defrosted but mashed potato on top of cottage pies is fine - go figure!

Sauces and gravies thickened with flour or cornstarch frequently separate and break down when frozen. Modified starches used in commercial frozen foods are not generally available in retail form so for best results, freeze the stock for gravy unthickened and add thickener when you reheat it.

Cooked egg whites tend to get rubbery when you freeze them, if you want to freeze a mixture containing cooked egg white chop it finely.

Mayonnaise breaks down when frozen so use a salad dressing instead if making sandwiches for freezing (jam soaks into the bread - frozen jam sandwiches are nasty).

Cakes iced with butter icing freeze well but whisked egg-white based icings do not.

Milk freezes well and so do most natural cheeses but they may crumble more when you thaw them.

Yoghurt may destabilise and lose its creamy texture, if so, excess whey can be poured off or stirred in. I just freeze the yoghurt in Popsicle moulds and the kids eat it frozen, that way there are no detectible changes and surplus yoghurt doesn't go to waste.

Do I have to blanch food for freezing?

Some foods are significantly improved by blanching before freezing. In other words pop them into boiling water for two or three minutes to arrest the enzyme activity that causes food to ripen, then plunge the item into cold water and drain. The blanched food can them be spread out on a tray to freeze. When frozen, place into a clean bag or container and you have 'free-flow-frozens'

Blanch vegetables such as sweet corn, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas and beans.

Blanching is not required for foods such as berries, capsicums halved with the seeds removed and chillies.

Can I freeze cooked vegetables?

Semi preparing vegetables can save time and money. Sauté mushrooms or courgettes in butter and freeze, or mash avocado with lemon juice to use when they are out of season. Sauté onions and garlic and freeze, make pesto and freeze in ice cube trays and freeze surplus tomato paste so it doesn't go to waste.

Mash potatoes and freeze in small mounds, then you can use the individual mounds as required to top casseroles. Freeze stuffed jacket potatoes by wrapping tightly in cling film.

Can I freeze fruit?

Freezing is a great way to store surplus fruit. To freeze fruit prepare it quickly in small quantities, wash it in cold water, a little at a time, to avoid bruising; an antioxidant like lemon juice or ascorbic acid dissolved in water will help prevent discolouration. Prepare as you will require it for serving - stewed, sliced, mashed, whole, then pack in appropriate serving sizes and freeze promptly, or cover fruit in a sugar syrup made from one cup of sugar to three cups of water and freeze fruit in the syrup. If using rigid containers, allow room for expansion. You may get 'off' flavours when you use iron or chipped enamelware utensils, so use containers designed for freezer use.

What causes freezer burn?

Freezer burn is a brownish discolouration caused by moisture loss. It's not dangerous but does make the food less appetising. To avoid freezer burn, squeeze or suck (if you are brave enough) excess air out of plastic bags and seal them tightly. If using containers, eat the food within a reasonable time frame or freezer burn will occur on the surface.

How can I use my freezer more efficiently?

A full freezer uses less power than an empty one - pack empty space with plastic bottles filled with water, this will keep the power usage down and help keep everything frozen in the event of a power outage - a full freezer may remain frozen for two days or so, but a half-full freezer will start to defrost within 24 hours. In the event of a power outage, insulating the freezer with spare blankets and quilts will trap the cold inside, slowing down the defrosting process.

How long can I keep frozen foods for?

Frozen foods have a shelf life, these are approximate storage times. If you keep meats solidly frozen they will remain safe to eat well beyond the recommended time, however, they may show quality changes like rancid off-flavours in the fats or dryness from freezer burn.

  • Fruits can be stored for 12 months,
  • Vegetables six to 12 months.
  • Roasts and whole poultry six to 12 months
  • Steaks and chops four to six months
  • Minced or ground meats or stewing meats three to four months
  • Cured and processed meats lose quality more rapidly than fresh meats because of the presence of salts so don't store luncheon meats, franks, ham or sausage longer than one or two months. Thaw frozen meats in the fridge, thawing at room temperature gives surface bacteria a better chance to multiply.
  • Baked yeast bread, scones and rolls are best used within three months. Use unbaked yeast bread dough within one month or less - this may require more yeast than usual as freezing will damage some yeast cells.
  • Un-iced cakes also freeze well, but storage times vary. Store angel food, chiffon or sponge cake two months. Store cheesecake two to three months, chocolate four months, and fruit cake up to 12 months.
  • Nuts also freeze well; salted nuts from six to eight months and unsalted from nine to 12 months.

Feeling inspired by Sophie's brilliant freezing tips? Why not also read what our members are doing when they freeze food. Follow these links to the Discussion Forum:



FREE TIP SHEET: Tips for freezing food!

To complement the information provided by Sophie above, we have prepared a free tip sheet on freezing all kinds of foods, including a quick reference 'shelf life' guide and some great tips from the Vault. Download yours here.

4. Penny's Blog

Forum therapy

Oct 18, 2006

I am just loving the Discussion Forum at the moment! I don't post comments on it myself very often as I reckon I get plenty of space to ramble on right here, but I am finding myself glued to it more and more lately reading all the amazing posts. I don't even listen to the news any more, the Forum keeps me up to date on all the current affairs - much less depressing too! My favourite threads at the moment are (in no particular order):

Sydney's pay-later poor - this discussion arose from an article Fiona found in the Daily Telegraph about the horrifying debt people put themselves in because they want everything now, when they don't have the money, so decide to put their extravagant purchases on credit and cripple themselves financially for years paying them off. Not that it just happens in Sydney of course! I can recall two couples - friends of ours who were just like this when Noel and I were starting out together. Although we were the same age as them and on similar incomes, their houses were filled with new furniture, decor and appliances, where everything Noel and I owned was second hand. The only time we ever replaced anything was when it gave up the ghost and that was some years down the track. I'll admit to being envious - why did they have such lovely homes and we didn't? In my naiveté it never occurred to me for a moment that they hadn't paid cash for anything - it was all being paid off. At least what little Noel and I had was 100% ours! It took me years to realise that that was how they achieved their impressive homes and both couples are now divorced. I'm really glad as 19 year olds that Noel and I started out with the basics, because we really appreciate what we have now - and it was a long time coming!

The comments that followed in this Forum thread made compelling reading and spoke such common sense. We all know people who are putting themselves in financial strife in their efforts to 'Keep up with the Joneses' and even if we couldn't see it before, as Simple Savings members we can now see what they're doing. I hate to see it, especially in people I care about. Not that I'm perfect, mind! We've made some mistakes too, but I'll get to that in a minute. One comment I read, which was spot on, is that just like my friends with the nice houses years ago, they give off the impression of having heaps of money, when in fact they have none. What's more, even after our humble start, Noel and I went on to fall into this trap, which brings me to another brilliant Forum thread currently doing the rounds:

Debt confession time (no peeking Fiona) - what a wonderful supportive and honest bunch SS members are. As a result of two and a half years as a Simple Savings member I am proud to say I now know exactly what all our debts are, but before then I wouldn't have been able to tell you, there were too many! Thanks to the perks of Noel's job, which provides him with a car and free petrol (for his vehicle only) not to mention hard slog on our part we are down to:
Mortgage - $170,000
My car - $8,039.80
Boat - $10,905.38

We had an overdraft facility for two weeks but are back on track now and have gone from having two maxed out credit cards to a zero balance. Thanks to Simple Savings we are more financially stable than we have been in many years, but the ironic thing is that five years ago, when everyone thought we had money, was when we had the least. It's not surprising the neighbourhood thought we were well off. We were living rent free as Noel worked on his parents' farm and we drove a brand new double-cab Nissan Navara ute, which was often seen towing a brand new boat. Everyone knows what a Sad Sally I used to be regarding my spending habits, but the car and the boat was Noel's contribution to our plummeting bank balance. I'm not trying to point the finger here, just telling it like it is! The car used to cost us almost $700 a month under a three-year 'lease to buy' agreement and he loved it. I didn't and was really glad when his new job required something more sedate - and much cheaper! He also caught the fishing bug and went from a half share in an $8,000 14ft boat to a whole share in a $25,000 16ft boat, paid off over five years. To me, that five years seemed like 20, but I was delighted when the final payment drew near. Until he announced that after five years, the boat really wasn't looking its best any more and arranged to go halves with his best mate on a $60,000 boat. Immediately on making the final payment, he traded it in and we were back to paying the new boat off over five years again. At least I can take comfort in the fact that this boat can't get any bigger as he wouldn't be able to tow it and would have to pay to moor it at a marina!

The awful thing is, in the bad old days I liked the fact that people thought we had money. I was quite happy to play along with that image and wasn't going to say anything to convince them otherwise! Although I must admit I really did have a problem with Noel buying the boat, which to many must seem like one heck of a luxury item. However, over the years I have come to appreciate his hobby. He never goes to the pub, rarely goes out and the fun and experiences it has provided our family with, particularly the kids are worth the monthly payments. Saying that, I still can't wait until we have a zero balance on the blasted thing!

I wonder if other Forum readers found their debt confessions as therapeutic as I just did? It's good to know where we're at and what we have to work towards. It's also good, not to mention valuable to clarify and reaffirm why we're doing it, as discussed in the Forum thread Why are you a Simple Saver?. I really admire all the members who make the decision to reduce their income in order to spend more time with their family. I would love to have made that choice years ago instead of putting Ali in day care five days a week from the age of two, but I didn't realise that I had a choice. As far as I was concerned, getting a job was the only way to keep our heads above water - I never considered that if only I could have learned to manage our money better, I could have stayed at home. I was fortunate in that Ali was a child who thrived in that environment, but I wonder how I would feel now if he hadn't. I found Fiona's interview with Linda Cockburn last week very thought provoking on that matter. In fact I found the interview very thought provoking on all kinds of subjects - what a fountain of information both women are. What an amazing transformation Linda has gone through too, from a petrol guzzling, fast food scoffing workaholic to the passionate environmentalist who has gone back to basics in order to do what's best for her family. I think Felicity Kendall may have a rival for my admiration at long last!

On a more light hearted note, I have really enjoyed keeping up with the thread entitled What's your occupation - past, present or future. If you haven't seen it, go and have a look to learn more about some of our wonderful SS members. We have food technologists, teachers, nurses, accountants - even a professional ballet dancer! With so many diverse occupations I guess it shouldn't come as such as surprise that Forum users have something of value to share on pretty much every subject you can think of. The Forum is my favourite source of news, lifestyle information, family health and advice, sitcom and drama all rolled into one. Best of all, I get to learn how to save money with them all at the same time! If only someone would start a rugby thread, I could cancel our cable TV!

Penny's Blog is a special treat for Vault members and is updated a couple of times a week. You can drop Penny a line here - she loves to hear from other members!

5. Homeopathy Corner: Tutorial No. 3 - Potentisation

This month Fran explains how homeopathic remedies are made from crude materials and turned into extremely safe and very powerful medicines. To read this month's tutorial go to:


6. From Last Month: Comfy Dog Beds

Last month Stephanie Shiu asked:

"Does anyone have ideas on how to create a comfortable bed for a dog that can either be washed or doesn't attract fleas? My dog used to sleep on a large cushion - the problem with that was that only the cover could be washed. I've priced the flea free Snooza beds however they are very expensive at around $90 for a large dog."

What a lot of happy, pampered pooches there are! We have really enjoyed reading your ingenious tips for low cost, luxurious dog beds. Check out these ones for starters!

$1 doona dog bed

I made huge savings on a new shop-bought dog bed. Our dog grew too big for his existing one and I wanted an alternative that was easy to wash and dry and most of all, cheap! I scoured the op shops for a polyester doona and picked one up for a dollar. I folded that into half and half again and made two 'pillowcase style' covers from three metres of polar fleece on special at Spotlight for $4.99 a metre. It is easy to wash and even in winter it all dries inside within a day. I ended up with a fantastic bed with two covers for $16, a saving of at least $74!

Contributed by: Nicole Tournier

Comfy bed from shade cloth

The cheapest and most comfortable bed my dog has ever had is a home-made one made of shade cloth and a large bag of 'bean bag beans'. I bought a metre of shade cloth at my local discount warehouse (you can also pick it up cheaply on sale at Kmart, Mitre 10 and so on), and sewed it up on three sides, like a big cushion cover. Just leave a small hole to pour the beans into, remembering not to overfill it, then sew up the hole. The bed moulds to the dog's body shape, just like a bean bag and lasts for years. It is easy to clean and doesn't matter if it gets wet, as it dries in less than half an hour! I made my dog's in brown shade cloth, so it never looks dirty either!

Contributed by: Ginger

Make your own steel framed dog bed

Making a dog bed for your pet is easy and much cheaper than buying one. My parents made one with a frame on legs, (they used steel but you could use wood). For the main bed part, you can then use a Hessian bag or shade cloth, which is bought cheaply from discount stores. To secure to the frame, just hand stitch it around the edges with plastic twine. Easy to clean with a hose and leave out to dry, and add a blanket for extra comfort if liked.

Contributed by: Shari Mawson-Cannon

Free dog bed idea

We adapted a child's 'clamshell' plastic sandpit to make our dog's bed. You can buy these cheaply from various retailers but we picked ours up off the side of the road in a council pick up. When we got it home, we just cleaned it and put a couple of big old blankets in there to keep her warm and cosy. Our dog loves it and best of it, it was free!

Contributed by: Kimberley Reid

Super low-cost dog bed

I have made my own super low-cost dog beds for many years, which are perfect for large breed dogs but are suitable for any size. All you need to do is to find a strong, tear-proof canvas (or brattice style) bag, such as the one the industrial rags come in, or chaff, or stock feeds. You can also pick them up from rural supply stores or even garden centres; they are often given away free. Then go to your local tyre centre and ask them if they have any scrap inner tubes that they could inflate for you inside the bag. This makes a very good trampoline style bed which doesn't attract the fleas, is easy to wash and clean and just as easy to replace. Many tyre places are pleased to get rid of the scrap inner tubes, so if you are lucky the cost of the whole bed can be free!

Contributed by: Penny Hughes

Recycle beds from child care for your pet Contributed by: Donna Coghlan

Easy travel dog bed Contributed by: Sylvie Munson

Super comfy bean bag bed Contributed by: Betty Seth

Budget pillow bed from discount shop Contributed by: Rhonda Graetz

Cheap enough to replace Contributed by: Debby Weedon

Mini-tramp makes great dog bed Contributed by: Natalie Hingee

Custom made bed for large dogs Contributed by: Marj Henderson

...or check out the whole Pets -> Dogs section in the Vault.

7. This Month's Help Requests: CSIRO Diet and Child Proofing Products

This month Kristy Ritchie asks:

"I am following the all famous CSIRO diet and love it because it's working for the hips but I'm not loving it for the pocket. My question is how can I continue the diet by buying the 'low kilojoule' products and not have my shopping come out as $250 for two people?"

Also this month Donna McShane has asked:

"We have a nine month old baby who has just started crawling around, and is getting into EVERYTHING. There are so many (expensive) child-proofing products on the market, I don't know where to start or if I really need them. Is it just good marketing (with a side dish of steaming hot guilt) or good sense? Can someone please help us find a budget-conscious and practical way of child-proofing our home?"

If you have any helpful suggestions which could help Kristy or Donna, please send them in to us at /donatehints/

8. Savings Story: Saved $39,600 on Fencing

We saved thousands of dollars in landscaping costs when we built our new house. Shortly before moving day we shopped around for some quotes on boundary fencing for our road frontage. We wanted to keep our fences in line with our architecture, so requested quotes for a rendered brick fence with wrought iron inserts to surround our 20m by 30m block. We almost died when the quotes come in at $40,000! Not only did this seem ridiculous to us, it was impossible as we had almost nothing left in our owner builder budget. I was so disappointed, as this did not fit in with our "dream house" plans and we didn't know what else to do to ensure privacy and security for our family. Instead of our hoped-for view of a walled-in English rambling cottage garden, we were looking at building rubble and a street full of other houses looking straight back at us!

In frustration I went to the library, borrowed all the books I could find on English gardens and did some more research on the style of garden I liked. To my surprise I saw picture after picture of walled-in gardens, without built walls as I thought I needed. These walls were GROWN, using box style hedges and other varieties. At last I had my answer, a beautiful evergreen hedge! So, armed with pictures of other gorgeous gardens, we began our search for hedging options. We looked online and found more ideas, located plant suppliers such as Hello Hello in Emerald and went to local nurseries, where we chatted with professionals about growing times and heights of each possible plant. In the end, after much searching my husband found the plant we had settled on, Luma Apiculata, which is a popular hedging shrub, for the best price at a wholesaler in Healesville in Victoria. We ended up buying the smallest size plants available to further keep down our costs. This meant we had 200 plants for $400, which was enough to plant up our whole boundary line and had a few left over for other areas too.



Our hedge is four years old now and looks fantastic! The variety of plant we chose is not as fast growing as some others but it is the right shade of green we wanted. It has given us the privacy we needed (yes, we had to be patient for this to happen) and another bonus is it encourages bird life. Every three months we trim the hedge and the trimmings are great shredded for the compost or used as mulch. They can also be used to strike new plants too! Every time I look at it I am amazed at the permanent green it injects into our garden landscape, but equally amazing are the savings. I love to tell people who admire our hedge that we saved $39,600 by planting our 'fence'!! We have photos of the site before planting, during planting (which was a family project) and many 'after' photos of us as a family in our beautifully enclosed and private English garden. Recently we decided to lift some pavers and turn a section of our garden into a 'potager' (fancy French name for a kitchen garden surrounded by a hedge) and what do you know, we already had the hedge there in place! Now I believe our hedge is a BETTER option to the fence in every way. We don't have to repaint any surfaces, the natural green colours enhance the look of the street as well as our yard, the same amount of water is used to maintain the hedge as we use on our garden anyway, and now that it is established we don't need to bother much with watering anyway.

In my search for the perfect 'fence' I learned a valuable lesson. I had set my heart on something I had seen others had, without first researching ALL the available options. These days I am far more likely to think outside the square when I need to 'feather my nest'!

Contributed by: Ruthy A