"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - January 2007

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: The Last Straw?
  2. Guard Your Wallet
  3. Sophie Gray: Little Suckers!
  4. Money Saving Tricks for Uni Students
  5. Have a Frugal Valentine
  6. Penny's Blog: Keeping Things in Perspective
  7. Homeopathy Corner: Tutorial No. 6 - Provings
  8. From Last Month: Cleaning a Wedding Dress
  9. This Month's Help Request: Cheap Shampoo and First Time Overseas
  10. Savings Story: We have saved $161,000!

Happy New Year!

I hope you have had a fantastic holiday with your family and friends!! Life has been busy in our new home and Sam starts school this week. He keeps putting his school uniform on and strutting around the house. He is so proud of himself. It is hard to believe this site's proper launch was on Sam's first birthday and now he is off to school. Wow! Time really flies!! This newsletter now goes to over 59,208 families!

Thank you for your fantastic emails. They really inspire us to try harder to find new ways to make your life easier.

"Thank you so much for all of the wonderful ideas on this website. I could not believe how money was falling through our fingers before. By changing a few habits we now save at least $10,920 a year - that's $210 a week! We will be able to pay our mortgage off in less than six years and live debt-free. This certainly makes the annual cost of membership worthwhile.

"P.S. I calculated it again using submissions to the Save-O-Meter and it's more like $284 a week I save, which is $14,767 a year. How cool is that? I'm saving even more than I thought!" (Donna)

"Thank you for your wonderful site. My husband just found out that he doesn't have a job to come back to after New Year's Eve (this was three days before Christmas!) but we sat down and took the knowledge that we had learnt from Simple Savings and we have worked out how we make a few simple changes to our lifestyle to cover the difference in household income. We will also remember to include plenty of low cost or free treats for us to do so that we don't feel like we're on a dollar diet! We will definitely be using the Wealthy Habits Planner this year! Thanks once again." (Catherine)

"Oh my God! I sat down with the planner last night and realised that by changing basic habits I could potentially save $14,000 in just 12 months. These were just basic habits that with a little organisation would be easy to change. I cannot wait to look into the household expenses and find ways to cut back and save here as well. THANK YOU. I think I have found my financial lifeline." (Penelope Buckley)

"Thank you so much for the perfume tip in the 10th December newsletter. I made some bottles up for my son's kindy teachers and they absolutely LOVED them. For me, it was a much easier alternative than making biscuits or risking melted chocolates, so thank you very much!" (Kym Pitcher)

"I am a bad shopaholic - I just love spending money! I make good money, but I just spend it! I came across your website and the calendar is fantastic. I feel this was a sign for me to wake up to myself and make some goals. I have two children and have been recently married. We are still renting and my goal in two years' is to get a house. I really feel that thanks to you and your calendar I can do this! I am wasting my money on clothes for myself and my children, on the best brand foods and don't think when I spend. If it's in my purse, then I spend it, but with the money I earn we could be rich! It's time to stop these bad habits and begin anew. I will let you know my progress and I thank you for your fun and enjoyable website." (Tanya)

"From January 2006 to June we had gone backwards by $23,000 by spending more than we earned. Last June/July we started really putting all the Simple Savings tips to use, particularly paying in cash (only getting out a certain amount each week and making it last). From June to November 2006 we have gone forwards and managed to save $1,700. We are not extravagant people and we hardly ever eat out, buy CD's or take lavish holidays, but we weren't thinking about how we were spending our money, and frittered it away. We also had huge medical bills in the first half of the year, so this made up part of the expense, but we honestly don't know what the rest of the $23,000 was spent on - how sad is that! We knew we were doing better on the Simple Savings plans, but didn't realise how much - we got a HUGE shock when we sat down last night and did the sums. Thank you so very, very much - we are NEVER going back to the old ways!" (Nikki Coleman)

"We have been able to turn our lives around thanks to the wonderful job you do with this site. We have gone from spending all the loan money we got for an extension in the first seven months of baby Joe's birth and not being able to see a way to 'live within our means' to now having $17,000 in the bank - and we've been paying extra on our loans! We are currently in the process of selling our unit and have put an offer on a house - something we could not have done if we had continued as we were. The plan is to start trying for another baby very shortly after getting a house. This is now a realistic goal and I know we can do it easily, thanks to all the fantastic tips and support we've found on this site. I had tried to budget several times in the past and could never stick to it. But now I have it sussed and I know if I'm having a weak moment or something unexpected comes up, I can come here and ask for help, or just read the Forum posts and the Vault and be re-energised. Thankyou for all your hard work - you've helped to enrich our lives." (Katrina)

I hope you have a great month!

P.S. GUESS WHAT!!! Together we have saved $1,046,494. Yep, that is right the Save-O-Meter has hit the $1 million mark. Good work guys!! Well done.

We have also added version two of the Save-O-Meter to the site last week so Vault members can check their totals, edit their entries and view all their personal results in one list. Find it here.

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: The Last Straw?

"You wouldn't believe the bargains I've found today, Pete!" beamed Sally. "I've saved a fortune shopping at the sales - you'll be so proud of me!" she staggered towards him in an effort to hold on to all her bags. Pete said nothing, but watched in stunned silence, mouth agape while Sally retrieved yet more bags from the car and heaved them inside.

"Phew - I could have used some help, you know!" she puffed. "What's with the stunned mullet face?" she asked, catching sight of her husband's expression. "Oh, I know - you can't believe I actually went shopping at the sales! Silly old Sally, who always pays full price for everything, I know what you're thinking! Well I did - and I can't wait to show you all my bargains!" "No Sal, that is NOT what I'm thinking!" Pete finally spoke, struggling to keep his voice calm. "What I'm thinking is how the heck did you pay for all this? We don't have any money, remember? Don't tell me you used the overdraft again?" "Of course, silly! How else could I have taken advantage of so many fantastic discounts? Oh come on, Dear," Sally tutted impatiently, "surely you don't really expect us to miss out on these kind of prices? Before you say anything, there are no exchanges or refunds on most of them, so I can't take them back. But that doesn't matter because I know you're going to love my bargains when you see them for yourself!"

"Forget it, Sally - I don't want to see them EVER," Pete growled, his temples flushing bright red. "Oh honestly - what have I done now?" Sally rolled her eyes dramatically. "OK, I'm sorry, I should have consulted you first and told you I was going shopping, but you'll get over it - you always do!" she smiled sheepishly.

"Not this time, Sal," Pete paused for a long moment while he swallowed his anger, before announcing calmly, "I think we should separate our finances". Sally's eyes popped out of her head, "What do you mean? Are you leaving? Don't you love me any more? Oh, Pete, don't go! I - I'll change, I promise..." "Don't be daft - I'm not leaving you!" Pete tried his best to reassure her. "But I am sick and tired of being in debt. How else am I supposed to stop you from spending MY money?" Sally burst into tears.

2. Guard Your Wallet

This month Sally made some classic errors. She went shopping at the post Christmas sales when she didn't have any money to spend.

It is a very easy mistake to make. The post Christmas sales are there for one reason. It makes retailers lots of money. Yes, you can most certainly pick up the odd bargain if you are very, very careful. But if you are trying to reduce your spending be wary, be very, very wary.

The only way Sally is going to turn her finances around is to start guarding her wallet and stop buying luxury goods. This covers new clothes, trinkets around the house, new appliances, semi-prepared food, new lunch boxes and school bags, beauty products, 'feel good items', anything that isn't necessary for survival.

If she is going to change her current situation then she has to stop buying things. Credit companies will tell you it's okay to buy things when you haven't got the money or you already have massive debt. It's not! You are only digging your hole deeper.

To get ahead you need to learn how to protect your wallet. Here are eight steps I use to stop myself from unnecessary spending. We call them the Eight Steps to Happiness.

Step 1 - Guard your wallet!

Guard your wallet from attack. A marketer or salesperson's job is to make you think you need something that five minutes earlier you didn't know existed. They have many ingenious ways to get you hooked. To help you defend your wallet, buy some memory triggers and plaster them all over your wallet. Seeing the sticker will trigger your internal alarm bell, so you can STOP, break the marketer's spell and move on to Step 2.

Step 2 - Are you hungry?

If your belly is empty then your decision making is impaired. All sorts of strange clutter will seem essential. Our bodies get confused between the desire for food and inedible objects. So if you are hungry, eat an apple, a bread roll, some chips, anything. Then wait for fifteen minutes before moving on to Step 3.

Step 3 - Is there something else?

There are so many other things you could buy. Is this item really the one you want to spend your hard-earned money on? Can you think of something else you would rather have? There are so many other things you could achieve with this money! How about reducing your home loan, rewarding yourself with a holiday, showering your loved ones with presents, saving the world? Who knows? There are so many other possibilities. Will you be limiting yourself by making the purchase? If you have decided that this is the only thing you want, go to Step 4.

Step 4 - Is it worth the bother?

Every time you reach for your wallet, purse or credit card, ask yourself if it is really worth the effort. Every $15 you spend is an hour you are going to have to work. Is it really worth the bother? Just leave your money in your wallet - it's so much easier! If you leave the money in your wallet, you won't have to make any decisions, work overtime, and so on. By training yourself into thinking that spending money is a real hassle, you will be protecting your family, building an oasis and only buying items that will improve the overall quality of your life. Now, if you have decided it really is worth it, move on to Step 5.

Step 5 - What will you gain?

Now, work out what you or your family will gain by buying the item. What are the long-term consequences? Will it improve your health and happiness or genuinely give you more free time? How? If you cannot answer these questions positively, then leave your money in your wallet. It is important that you are really sceptical. Now move on to Step 6.

Step 6 - What will you lose?

Every time you buy an item, you both gain something and lose something. If you are lucky, the only thing you lose is cash, and the time it took you to earn that money. But this is not always the case. A great example of this is a computer game. You gain entertainment, but you lose quality time with your family. If you buy an electric mixer, you gain a faster way to make cakes, but lose the exercise and arm tone you would have got by hand-beating it. So before buying, ask yourself 'What will I have to give up in order to have this?' Once you are certain you have worked out everything you will lose, move on to Step 7.

Step 7 - Is there a better way?

Now it is time to shop around for a good price and work out the smartest way to buy it. How can you get the best value for your dollar in the minimum time possible? Go to the Vault and see if there is a shortcut. Otherwise you will have to figure it out for yourself. Occasionally, working it out for yourself will take more time than you save, but you will get satisfaction in knowing that you have NOT been tricked and are doing the best for your family. Looking for a better way is the key to being lazy and successful. Once you have researched your purchase and found the best way to buy it, move on to Step 8.

Step 8 - Do you have the spare cash?

Most of the time, buying things on credit is stupid. So if you don't have the cash, remain free, walk away and live happily ever after. Nothing is worth burdening yourself with debt for. This means you should avoid credit cards, lay bys, interest free loans, mortgage redraw facilities, etc. Only buy something if you have the spare cash - and if you don't, go home and save until you do. There are very few exceptions to this rule (an example is borrowing for a car in order to get a job), but it does apply to 99 per cent of purchases. If you don't have the cash, then you just don't need it.

3. Sophie Gray: Little Suckers!

Summer wouldn't feel like summer for the kids without the refreshing sticky, sweet chill of a frozen Popsicle or icy pole on a hot afternoon. The supermarkets offer a raft of readymade varieties to choose from, but most are replete with E numbers, Franken-flavours and other artificial stuff, guaranteed to have the little people swinging happily from the rafters for hours afterwards.

We make our own colouring and additive free icy pops, using real fruit purées; yoghurt - which has a lovely tang and nice ice creamy texture; jelly - the ultimate non drip popsicle, great for the real littlies; and frozen choc dipped bananas.

Our home-made icy poles really taste of fruit, and can be a great way of using up left over or surplus ingredients. The secret to a really delicious icy pole is 'simple syrup'. While frozen juices look gorgeous, without a syrup base, the frozen water in the juice or puree melts, or is sucked away very quickly leaving the kids to contend with gooey chunks of defrosting fruit or puree and thin, watery flavours.

It's all about ice crystals; the simple syrup combined with the fruit puree alters the size of the ice crystals and intensifies the flavour which is dulled by freezing. Simple syrup is just sugar and water boiled together and then cooled, stir in the prepared fruit puree, some lemon or lime juice for tang and you are good to go.

What you need:

Icy pole or Popsicle moulds - I'm afraid to say it but I think the Tupperware ones are the best, I know they're pricey, but the little moulds have a rack to sit in, then each can be removed from the rack and gently eased out of its plastic casing individually, so there is much less likelihood of pulling the stick out and leaving the popsicle behind or defrosting the whole tray-full trying to get one out of the rack! Look out for them in garage sales and charity shops.

Wooden ice block sticks - you can make little serves in ice cube trays or small yoghurt pots, cut a slot in a piece of paper, lie it over the filled container, slip the wooden stick through the slot and into the liquid. The paper will hold the stick in an upright position until the liquid is frozen.

Fruit - use fresh, frozen or canned fruit. Puree the fruit then push through a sieve to remove seeds and fibres (sieving is optional- you may want to retain the texture).

Sugar - caster or superfine sugar is ideal as it dissolves quickly and easily but I frequently use ordinary granulated sugar if it's all I have.

Real Fruit Icy Pops

All the flavour of real fruit, even the grown ups will want one!

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 500g fruit - fresh, frozen or canned
  • A squeeze of lemon or lime juice
  1. Dissolve the sugar in the water and simmer for 2-3 minutes then cool. Puree the fruit and push it through a sieve to remove seeds and fibres.
  2. Mix the fruit puree into the syrup and add a squeeze of lemon juice or lime juice.
  3. Fill Popsicle moulds, insert sticks and freeze.
  4. For stripy icy pops, divide the syrup between different varieties of fruit puree. Spoon a small quantity into each popsicle mould and freeze till nearly solid then add a layer of a different fruit variety freezing partially after each addition.

Jelly Pops

Jelly pops are easy to make and fun to eat and they don't drip, so even littlies can enjoy them without a big sticky mess.

  • 1 quantity of jelly, bought or home-made
  • Popsicle moulds and sticks
  1. Pour liquid jelly into moulds and insert sticks.
  2. Freeze until jelly is set.
  3. To serve, run the mould under warm water until the jelly pop releases from the mould and eat immediately.

Stripy Jelly Pops

Made in layers with jelly and yoghurt these are more fun and as good as any store bought treat!

If you don't have yoghurt you could use flavoured milk.

  • Liquid jelly as above
  • Flavoured yoghurt
  • Popsicle moulds and sticks
  1. Make up the jelly - I use 1/2 hot water and 1/2 cold to speed up the setting process. (Dissolve the jelly in the hot water first, and then add cold.)
  2. 1/3 fill moulds with the jelly and freeze for half an hour or until jelly is set. Gently spoon in 1/3 yoghurt and freeze again. When yoghurt is just frozen, top up with another layer of jelly and gently insert the sticks.

It sounds a bit fiddly but the small quantities actually freeze quite quickly so you should get them all filled and in the freezer before the jelly sets in the bowl.

Run the moulds under warm water to loosen the stripy jelly pops and eat.

Chocolate Banana Pops

Frozen bananas have an ice cream like consistency; dipped in crisp layer of chocolate they become a delicious and refreshing treat.

  • 250g chocolate melts - compounded cooking chocolate - see cook's tips below
  • 2 tbsp Copha or Kremelta - a solid vegetable fat sold in supermarkets
  • 8-10 small ripe bananas
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Chopped nuts, desiccated coconut or crushed lollies (optional)
  1. Peel the bananas and gently insert a Popsicle stick into the straightest end of each one. Place the bananas in the freezer until frozen.
  2. Melt the chocolate melts according to the packet then stir in the 2 tbsp of vegetable fat; this will thin the chocolate to a manageable consistency without altering the flavour or mouth feel of the chocolate too much.
  3. Dunk a frozen banana in the chocolate mixture - use a spoon to completely coat it if necessary then hold it upside down and let the excess drip off. The chocolate will harden quite quickly, so if you want to add a coating of chopped nuts, coconut or crushed lollies such as smarties or M&M's - you will need to work quickly!
  4. When the chocolate coating has set, wrap each banana pop in a plastic bag and store in the freezer till needed.
  5. If the bananas are very big or the eaters are very little cut the bananas into halves before putting the sticks in.

Cook's Tips:

For home chocolate moulding the most commonly used chocolate is compounded coverture, (sold in retail form as chocolate melts). Made with vegetable fat instead of cocoa butter, compound chocolate is more heat stable than true chocolate. Compound chocolate doesn't require 'tempering' and can be refrigerated or frozen without causing the fat solids to rise to the surface and create a bloom (the white powdery look you sometimes see on real chocolate products that have melted and then hardened again).

Compound definitely loses something of the flavour of real chocolate and has very little aftertaste so personally I never use melts in a recipe that requires chocolate. If I'm eating all those calories I want every molecule of chocolate flavour going, but compound has its place! It's easy and fun to work with and when melted it can be thinned with a little Copha or Kremelta if it is too thick for your purposes, so it's ideal for chocolate dipping bananas which will be stored in the freezer until required.

Sophie is the author of the Destitute Gourmet range of cook books. Her website is www.destitutegourmet.com.

4. Money Saving Tricks for Uni Students

Your first year at University marks the start of a huge learning curve - in more ways than one! Embarking on the path to your chosen career is a daunting enough commitment without adding unnecessary financial burden to it. There are many clever ways for students to save money on food, books, transport, entertainment, accommodation, travel, music and all sorts of things - all you need is a little know-how! Learning to live and shop smart during your first year will not only ease the pressure financially for the duration of your studies; it will continue to stand you in good stead years after you graduate. Here are some great basic tips shared from our Vault for those starting out their first year at Uni, to help you avoid making some costly common mistakes and needlessly wasting that limited student income!

Wholesale computers for Uni students

If you are a university student and are looking at buying a computer or computer equipment, it is worth looking up the computer wholesalers in your area. Many will sell to you at wholesale prices if you tell them that you are a university student. I suppose the sellers feel that if they support you, you will support them in the future. I have saved hundreds of dollars by buying computer equipment in this way.

Contributed by: Matthew Bishop

Search and sell textbooks online

I am a university student and have recently discovered a website called (www.textbookexchange.com.au). This site offers students the opportunity to search for and sell textbooks. All you are required to do is become a member of the site, which is completely free. This has saved me a fortune. I am able to buy second hand textbooks at half the price and the savings from this are being put to other uses.

Contributed by: William Bramwell

Save $3,000 per year on food at University

I have saved $3,000 a year, just by cutting down on the food I buy at Uni. As a student, I was buying almost all my food there, spending up to $20 a day. This equates to $160 a fortnight for me, just on Uni food! I now take my own snacks from home and I buy lunch OR a drink at Uni, not both. This costs me just $3.00 a day, or $24 a fortnight. That's a saving of $136 every two weeks and over $3,000 a year!

Contributed by: Shellie Whitham

Buy Uni textbooks through eBay

I saved $800 on buying a whole year's worth of textbooks for my Uni course! As a first year student I was horrified that my text books were all $100 or more - each! and with a couple for each subject that turns into quite a headache. Luckily I managed to find all the books I needed through eBay for at least half the price - some as little as $15. I ended up spending a grand total of $200 for all my textbooks instead of $1,000!

Contributed by: Jade Thomas

Orientation programs offer valuable discounts

For those starting university in the coming month (or year), make sure you attend any orientation programs offered. The benefits of these programs include not only meeting teaching staff early but often you will receive a small showbag with discount vouchers for everything from pizza to furniture and appliance rental from the Student Guild. Also, student discount cards are given away at this time, and most of these last for the following 12 months!

It also gives you first pick of any second hand textbooks advertised on campus. When I was a student I was scared of buying an older edition of a textbook we were asked to use. It took me three years to discover that often the difference between two editions is often cosmetic only! Now I not only encourage all my students to investigate second hand texts on sale around the campus, but I am selling many of my old textbooks (and getting some of my dollars back)!

For students on a tight budget who still want a social life, find out about the events held by your local Student Guild. At a lot of universities the Student Guild offers winery tours, ski trips, warehouse shopping tours, camping, sports, music concerts and so on free or at discounted prices! Also, the guilds are a great cheap alternative to campus cafes when buying coffee, drinks and snacks. Sometimes there is a gym or lounge available too. And they normally release a free magazine and newspaper.

Contributed by: Erin O'Connor

Free textbooks for Uni studies

I save hundreds by planning ahead on all my university textbook needs. I wait until the first or second week of semester, then when the lecturer has told us what the prescribed text is, I go to the library and find the edition BEFORE the one they have recommended.

With medical science, this has worked so far, because most of the concepts haven't changed much in the last 10 years, so the earlier edition is fine. Also, because it's an older edition, nobody puts it on hold, so RMIT lets me keep renewing my books all semester giving me unbroken access to the information.

My course has had three academic years and one work experience year and I estimate that by borrowing the older editions of books from the library I have saved about $1,500 total in three years - while still having access to the course information at all times.

I'm now in my final year of Laboratory Medicine at RMIT and in second year I got top marks - so my system works!

Contributed by: Rhonda Pratt

Art pieces from postcards

I frequently go to the art gallery to check out anything new and to look at old favourites. Being a full-time uni student and art lover however, I am not able to afford expensive art. A friend advised me that most major art galleries have postcards of the more popular pieces of work. So I just purchased a couple of the larger postcards, bought cheap wooden frames from the Warehouse or Crazy Clarks, and hey presto! A work of art in my house.

Contributed by: Belinda Armstrong

Share-housing makes renting cheaper

Among uni students in Brisbane, one of the most popular ways to reduce rent is share-housing: two or more people living in the same place and splitting rent and bills. This can work well, but only if you and your housemates have worked out mutual expectations beforehand regarding finances and lifestyles. It also helps if your proposed housemates have similar interests or temperaments. It makes renting considerably cheaper, but you need to plan ahead carefully.

Contributed by: Kylie Fisher

Students and home-leavers guide to saving Contributed by: Megan Feeney

Top campus tips for poor students Contributed by: Rachael Doyle

Watch your electricity with a Cent-A-Meter Contributed by: Elise Hutley

Use Google Talk for free calls Contributed by: Smitha A

Lunchtime music on campus Contributed by: Andrew Pitt

Free sci-fi book downloads Contributed by: Sarah DeBellis

Become a student host and save on books Contributed by: Aiza Rusli

5. Have a Frugal Valentine

One of the reasons we like Valentine's Day so much is because you can make somebody feel good and share your love without going into debt.

If the price of a dozen red roses has you dashing out of the nearest florist in horror, don't panic! There are many thoughtful romantic gift ideas you can try this year, that your loved one will adore just as much, even though they may not cost you a cent. Get creative! Here are a couple of our favourites from the Vault to give you an idea:

Simple Saver Valentine

I saved $50 on Valentine's Day this year, by thinking like a Simple Saver! Earlier this week, I went to the shops and got caught up in all the Valentine's Day hype. I picked out about $50 worth of 'stuff' for my kids and husband. But something stopped me from buying it just in time! I thought to myself 'what would the Simple Savers do?' - and I put it all back! Instead, I'll bake a Valentine cake (I already have the heart shaped tin), and make a little card for each member of my family, telling them all the things that I love about them. The children will get a lovely surprise when they get home from school and find I have put up some balloons especially for them to make their day extra special.

So now our family Valentine's Day will only cost me the price of a cake mix, and my time. I'm sure it will be appreciated far more than the $50 worth of 'stuff' that would just be opened and forgotten about later!

Contributed by: Mimi

A rose for every year

My husband and I are still enjoying the Valentine's gift I gave him 45 years ago! It cost so little, yet means so much. When we got married, like most young couples we were unable to purchase luxuries. This included roses on Valentine's Day. So all those years ago, I purchased a beautifully crafted red silk rose and gave it to my husband.

Over the years, I couldn't see the point in spending the money on real roses as they die anyway. To this day, I still give him a beautiful silk red rose (real roses today can be up to $180 a dozen, a shocking waster as far as I'm concerned!). We have a lovely Waterford Crystal vase and this year the 45th red rose is being put into it!

Contributed by: Carol Moore

Be a little cheeky

My cheeky Valentine's gift didn't cost a thing! I gave my husband a little box I had saved from another item, all wrapped prettily with paper and ribbon. I had a home-made 'clothing tag' which read: 'Valentine's Night Pyjamas - just your size - can't wait to see you try them on!'. Of course, the box was empty and the tag was attached to... nothing!

Contributed by: Jennifer Martin

You get the idea! Now if you'd like to catch up on some more frugal ways to plan some romance in your life this February, go to these links from our previous newsletters for a long-overdue burst of warm fuzzies!

January 2006

February 2005

February 2004

And for some more dating ideas that will make your date grin from ear to ear, check out Entertainment -> Dating in the Vault.

6. Penny's Blog: Keeping Things in Perspective

Jan 17, 2007

It seems I am not quite the outstanding pillar of self-sufficiency I thought I was - not now, and I probably never will be, in one area at least. Apparently I need to 'harden up', just like Linda Cockburn had to in 'Living the Good Life', Noel informs me. By this he means that not only are we supposed to be eating our home grown garden produce, but our home grown livestock as well. I know it makes sense - and let's face it, being vegetarian it's not as though I ever have to eat them myself, but walking through the orchard every day without being jumped on by Friday or baa'ed at by Bob is just not the same any more. Yes, our two much-loved (by me, anyway) sheep finally overstepped the mark. We tried everything to ensure they stayed out of trouble; really we did, but it did no good. Friday still managed to find a way to climb up seven foot high netting to strip every fruit tree in the orchard and Bob, who had always been so well behaved sealed his fate by taking a flying leap into the vegetable garden - while Noel was still in it. Bad move. Right up until the end I thought Noel would change his mind. I certainly did my best to change it for him, but no amount of wide-eyed pleas and sticking out my bottom lip would sway him. Deep down I knew he was right - what was the point of putting time, money and effort into creating a productive orchard and vege garden for our two fleecy delinquents to wreck it time and time again? Still, it didn't stop me from bawling my eyes out for half the weekend. The freezer may be full now, but if he thinks I'm cooking any of it he's got another think coming. Noel thinks in time I'll forget about it and change my mind but you'll never catch me serving up Roast Friday or Leg of Bob, it's just too familiar! RIP boys.

With all the rain we've been having this summer, Mum was shocked to receive notification of a total hose pipe ban for all residents in the district receiving town water supply last week. I realise this is an everyday occurrence in Australia, but in the nine years Mum has been living here, the water has never been so restricted. While she was rather perturbed about how she was going to keep her vege garden alive, I was quite excited to hear of the news, as I could share all kinds of water saving tips from the Vault with her. 'Lots of Simple Savers still manage to maintain amazing gardens using these hints!' I enthused, while reeling off all kinds of snippets from catching excess water in the shower to recycling grey water from the washing machine. The Vault has a whole section devoted to watering in the Garden category and I'm sure the boys will happily come and water Grandma's garden with their Super Soaker water pistols if she needs a little extra help! Being on farm water supply, we have never been affected by restrictions (except when there's a water leak somewhere!) but even Noel is a water saving convert since I showed him how much water gets wasted down the drain every time we wait for the cold water to run hot. He didn't believe it was that much until I managed to fill up an empty three litre milk bottle AND the two litre kettle before the water was hot enough to wash a few dishes! So these days we keep all our empty milk bottles handy. We always have one by the sink to fill up with excess water and use it for all kinds of things from watering plants to filling up the dogs' water bowl. If we find we have too many, we just put the full ones in the chest freezer to fill it up and help it run more efficiently. Noel thinks this is a particularly good idea as he is able to take the frozen bottles fishing with him and saves him buying ice to keep the catch of the day cool!

With things around here being so out of routine over the past couple of weeks, it feels like I have a lot of catching up to do. My menu planning went out the window when Liam got sick and my $21 Challenge took a hefty knock when Noel returned from a day's fishing with a bumper catch and unbeknown to me had invited his parents, brother and my mum over for dinner to help us eat it. An admirable gesture but by the time I found out it was 6.45pm and they were already here. 'What am I going to feed everyone?' I hissed. 'It's supposed to be $21 Challenge week, I haven't been food shopping in ages!' I had no choice at that late stage in the day but to dash into town to pick up $10 of hot chips from the takeaway, a loaf of garlic bread and a bottle of cooking oil, as we didn't even have any of that to cook the fish in. Noel's brother is currently visiting from England and Mum assured me that a spontaneous celebratory gathering did not come under the $21 Challenge, but it still felt like I was cheating.

Besides, I was still feeling cross with myself for my totally needless splurge from the day before. My neighbour Maxine called me and suggested we take the kids to one of the nearby beaches. 'We'll take a picnic, then it won't cost us anything!' she said. I thought it was a great idea and we agreed to meet at midday. I needed to get some work done in the morning and was confident I would finish in plenty of time to throw a picnic together, but the time just flew and at 11.30 I rang Maxine. 'Have you packed your picnic yet?' I asked cautiously and breathed a sigh of relief when she said she hadn't. 'Do you want to get fish and chips instead?' she asked. 'I'm such a Sad Sally!' I moaned. Maxine assured me it was no problem, so we decided to go to the fish and chip shop first. I must interject at this point that the fish and chip shop at Kaiaua beach is no ordinary takeaway - their locally caught fish and chips are out of this world! It's won more awards than you can count on one hand, so going there is a real treat. Anyway, we duly arrived and placed our orders. Marvellous Maxine had already been savvy enough to bring her drinks from home, all she needed to order was $5 worth of chips. I also ordered $5 chips, but Pathetic Penny succumbed to buying a vege burger for me and Ali asked if he could have some fish too, so I ordered two pieces of snapper. By the time we added three drinks to the bill, I was floored when the cashier told me my order came to $30 - eek! On checking the docket, I saw that Ali's fish alone had cost $10.40! Pathetic Penny hadn't even thought to check the price of the fish when she ordered and as it turned out, one piece of snapper would have been more than enough. Everyone else was too full to eat it, so to add insult to injury one of the $5.20 gold plated fish fillets was sadly thrown away. Marvellous Maxine and her boys were more than happy with their $5 chips and home made cordial and Penny the Plonker spent the rest of the day kicking herself for not being more savvy.

Honestly, lately it feels as though I couldn't organise a drinking contest in a pub. I only just avoided dashing to the Forum for support a few days ago - the title of my thread was going to be 'HELP! Save me from getting a cleaner!!!' I seriously considered advertising for a cleaner - the only two things which stopped me were Fiona's 'time is money' equation and the fact that I would be one of these people who would race around madly cleaning before the cleaner arrived. 'Look at this place, it's a pigsty - I never seem to get anywhere!' I wailed to Noel. 'It's not that bad, I can help you,' he consoled. He's very good like that, but I don't feel he should have to - I work from home for goodness sake, you'd think I could keep on top of the housework when I'm there all day! I wish Supernanny would appear and put one of her lovely big FAMILY ROUTINE boards up in our kitchen. Ever since we wound down at Christmas, we haven't managed to wind up again! I can start cooking dinner at six, we're still waiting for it at eight and the kids are still up at ten. Half the time I don't sit down until 11pm and the house is still a bombsite when I do! I hope it doesn't sound like I'm feeling sorry for myself - on the contrary, I'm really cross with myself for not being able to get things together. I tried the Flylady thing and it was brilliant for a week before the daily email reminders sent me insane. Does anyone remember what the Baby Steps are? I can't remember anything past the first two - well, that's only as far as I ever seem to get! I've been sorely tempted to join Carol's super motivated GO Crazy Clan in the Forum (GO = Get Organised) - the only thing is, I don't want to embarass myself by not being able to keep up with everyone else!

Liam is doing well, we still have the odd 'moment' - such as two days ago when he was supposed to be staying overnight at a friend's house, but was returned home unexpectedly at 9.30pm in a distressed state because he had inadvertently 'swallowed something' (such as an insect or piece of grass) while playing badminton outside and couldn't stop worrying about what it might have been. The poor chap was supposed to be going to the movies the next day, but he missed out once again, due to his worrying. It doesn't help that one of his greatest fears is having a blood test. He was supposed to be having it yesterday and was in a right old state. Maxine and I tried everything to persuade him, but nothing worked, not even bribery! He finally got his own way when his Dad returned home and said 'Look mate - you know how important this is - do it for me, please? If you go and have your blood test, I'll give up smoking, I promise.' At this revelation Liam snorted loudly and said 'No way - I don't trust you, you give up all the time and you can never do it!' No amount of assurance from Noel was going to do the trick and with a track record like his, who could blame Liam for not being convinced? Ten minutes later, Liam appeared with a contract neatly written out. 'I solemnly swear that if Dad manages to give up smoking FOR GOOD on January 18th, I will have my blood test, but Dad has to prove he can do it FIRST.' There followed a signed agreement by the pair of them which said that if Noel manages to successfully pass the week-long mark (he has never got past Day Three before), Liam will willingly go and have his blood test next Thursday'. 'You might be worried about me Dad, but I worry about you putting all that crap in your body too, you know?' he told his Dad. This could be just the motivation Noel needs to kick the habit once and for all - and I wouldn't mind the extra $4,500 a year we would save as a result either! Good on ya, kiddo!

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!

7. Homeopathy Corner: Tutorial No. 6 - Provings

It is hard to add up the savings I have made from the knowledge and remedies I have got from Fran. Every week I thank my lucky stars. Our lives are very different now and I am really looking forward to the time when Australian doctors prescribe homeopathic medicine the way their French counterparts do. This week Miss Jacqueline broke her arm again. Yep, again. The little dare devil fell off playground equipment and has two greenstick fractures. I knew it was broken straight away and started treating her homeopathically when we got home from the park. The next morning I arrived at the doctor's surgery with a happy, well slept, pain free 2 year old with no bruising and only minor swelling. The poor doctor only agreed to the X-ray because I insisted it was broken. When the doctor saw the X-Ray the look on his face was priceless. He kept staring at Jacqueline in amazement. He couldn't figure out why she wasn't in any pain. I told him about the remedies and how I had treated her and he smiled politely like he was talking to an alien. Then he just kept staring in puzzlement. He seemed unable to believe his eyes. Even though Matt and I thought it was pretty funny to watch, it is also very sad. One hundred years ago, Australian doctors knew how to prescribe homeopathically. We even had homeopathic hospitals - 'The Prince of Wales' in Melbourne was one of them - but that knowledge was lost and we are left with inferior treatment. If the doctor had trained in homeopathy he would not have been stunned by Jacqueline's results, he would have expected it. I really look forward to a time when Aussie doctors know how to prescribe basic homeopathic remedies, so remarkable recoveries such as Jacqueline's are within everyone's reach.

This month Fran is explaining how they test homeopathic remedies and collate the data for others to use. To read Fran's article, click here.

8. From Last Month: Cleaning a Wedding Dress

Last month Rebecca asked:

"I bought a wedding dress from an op shop trying to save some money. It has a stain on it which looks like it may come out if cleaned. I went to the local dry cleaners and was quoted that it would cost between $150 and $450 to dry clean, a cost that I cannot afford. (I originally thought it may be more like $75-$100 and was horrified)! Does anyone have suggestions on how to clean a wedding dress?"

It was remarkable to read all your ingenious advice and tips to help Rebecca with her special dress. We are yet again grateful to all those that wrote in. Here are some of your ideas:

Know your fabric before cleaning

When shopping around for dry cleaning quotes, take the type of fabric into consideration. It may be a fabric needing special care, such as a silk. You need to check the dress for any labelling that would assist you in identifying the fabric/fibre involved. Also, if the dress is heavily trimmed with something needing delicate handling - vintage lace, beading or embroidery, for instance - that could account for a 'higher than usual' dry cleaning quote as it will be a time consuming process to go over a complete dress inch by inch to achieve an even clean. If it is an older dress, spot cleaning, while it may not damage the fabric, could leave a 'clean spot'.

Before attempting to clean it yourself, you need to know what fabric you are cleaning. If there is no label identifying the material, but there is part of the dress where you could remove some fabric for testing, that would be best. You could then test the fabric referring to something like (www.ditzyprints.com/dpburnchart.html). Once you know what sort of fabric you have you can refer to any of the myriad sources of information for care of that fabric type, such as (www.ahrm.vt.edu/ct/fabric.htm). Whichever method you choose, the best bet is to proceed with caution!

Contributed by: Jennifer Martin

Dry cleaning savings at home

You can make huge savings on dry cleaning costs by doing your own version at home! All you need is a bottle of 'Dry Cleaning Fluid' from supermarkets for under $5.00. Just apply to any stains on the garment with a rag (preferably of the same or similar fabric as the clothing) and water, and follow the directions on the bottle to press/wash the stain out. A much cheaper option!

Contributed by: Emily Shaw

Remove stains naturally with Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil is an excellent, low cost stain remover. I once bought a white suit made of satin type material, only to find it had a stain on the skirt. I got it out successfully with Eucalyptus oil! Simply dab some on the stain, let it sit for a couple of minutes to let the stain 'loosen up' and dab again with a damp cloth. Repeat the process until it has disappeared. Gentle dabbing is the key - be sure not to rub, as you might increase the size of the stain instead!

Contributed by: Isis Van Zonneveld

'Spotless' help from Shannon Lush

Before spending out on costly cleaning bills, check out a book called 'Spotless' by Shannon Lush. At $19.95 from the ABC shop, this may well be all you need! This book came about through James Valentine's radio program on 702 ABC Sydney. He asked listeners to ring in if they were having problems fixing a spill or stain around the house and then invited other listeners to give their solutions. One day Shannon rang in and answered every question. She became a regular guest on the show and is now heard on similar ABC Radio programs around the country. 'Spotless' was published in response to clamorous listener demand and can save you a fortune!

Contributed by: Robert Douglas

Hide stains with appliqué

If a stain cannot be removed from a particular garment, such as a wedding dress, you can still save it from being thrown out by covering it up instead! Depending where the stain is, you can apply a flower (or a trail of flowers) or some beautiful appliqué over it and another somewhere else to balance or complement your new design. You can pick up some useful ideas from books at the library, or ask at Spotlight or bridal outlets if they have any suitable remnants or accessories that would do the trick. You may find you can fix the problem for next to nothing!

Contributed by: Margaret McLeod

Soapy water cleans silk safely

I saved myself a huge dry cleaning bill on removing a stain from my silk wedding dress by cleaning it at home! I was horrified at the quote I received to clean my dress, which I had bought from an op shop. So I used a mixture of warm soapy water with a teaspoon of salt to clean the dress. This worked well and did not affect the fabric, but you should always test in an inconspicuous place first. If giving it a go yourself, place a clean towel under the stained area. Dab at the stain with a damp cloth, wiping towards the middle of the stain and lay flat to dry. Before wearing your dress, freshen and deodorise it by hanging it on a coat hanger on the washing line on a fine day. This simple method did the trick for me and didn't cost a cent!

Contributed by: Jeni Swanson

Wash delicate dresses inside out

The secret to keeping a wedding dress pristine is simple and super cheap! This tip was taught to me by the owner of the second hand bridal shop where I bought my wedding dress. At the back of the shop, there was a large washing machine, where all the dresses were washed before selling them. The secret is to turn the dress inside out and to use a warm setting on the 'delicates' cycle. Then hang them up to dry while still damp, to let the creases fall out. Of course, you should still always check the label on the dress before washing it, just in case it's an extremely delicate fabric. I took the lady's advice and washed my own pre-loved wedding dress in my machine before selling it on to someone else!

Contributed by: Linda McNulty

Cleaning costs vary according to suburb

I have found that dry cleaning costs vary greatly depending on where you live. Prices are far lower in lower income areas. For example, when shopping around for prices to clean my daughter's debutante dress, I was being quoted around $80-$90 and upwards. I decided to ask at the local dry cleaners where my mother lives, which is in a less affluent area. They did a beautiful job for $30. I take all my clothes that need dry cleaning there now and recommend them to everyone!

Contributed by: Olga Deltilgio

Gentle wash for wedding dresses Contributed by: Rebecca Lennard

Wash precious garments with wool mix Contributed by: Elizabeth Cowcill-Brown

Clean your wedding dress like the professionals Contributed by: Carol Slocombe

Soda water rubs stains out Contributed by: Debbie Comyns

Wash wedding gowns with enzymes Contributed by: Julie Bellino

9. This Month's Help Request: Cheap Shampoo and First Time Overseas

This month Janelle Downs asks:

"In an attempt to keep my bills down, I've reverted to trying some of the cheapest brands of shampoo and conditioner on the market; however I have to say that my hair is suffering because of it. It's dry and frizzy looking and generally not in very good condition. I was wondering if anyone could recommend something to ADD to the shampoo and conditioner that would make a cheap product better for my hair?"

Please send your helpful solutions to Janelle's hair problem to us here.

Also this month Janet Linsley-Noakes asks:

"I am about to embark on organising our first family overseas trip and am trying hard to make sure we get the best possible value for our money. My husband and I are planning to travel in December 2007 with our two teenage children. We will be going from Sydney to Johannesburg (South Africa) then flying on to London and Paris, with perhaps a one night stop-over in Hong Kong. I have gone through the Vault contents already and have taken a few helpful ideas, but I could still really do with some more advice. When should I buy tickets - the early bird way, or wait for specials to come along later? Who should I buy them from - travel agents or online? Where do I find the best deals for accommodation? I am really confused and would appreciate any tips you have in order to make the best frugal choices!"

If you have any tried and true travel tips which could help Janet and her family, please send them to us here.

10. SAVINGS STORY: We have saved $161,000!

"Since joining Simple Savings in 2005, my new husband and I have saved around $161,000! How? First of all, we paid out our car early instead of having a big wedding and saved $10,000 in interest. We then saved $6,000 on a scaled down intimate wedding and got married in a registry office for $135. Once we were ready to buy a house, we were initially looking at a loan of over $170,000 over 30 years. Instead, we first wrote a list about what we really wanted in a home, then started looking all around Australia. We found what we wanted for $70,000 in Tasmania and using our deposit we now have a mortgage costing us only $40 per week! We are paying it off faster at the rate we used to pay rent and will own our home outright in five years. We then saved $5,000 on our move from Queensland to Tasmania by getting a backload for $3,000 to move everything we owned. Everyday savings we make because of everyone's great hints are helping us to own our home sooner. I just want to say thank you for giving us financial independence and the inspiration to think outside the square and have what we wanted without the massive debts. What a way to start our married life together!"

Contributed by: Nasacha Buontempi