"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - December 2010

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Can I Help?
  2. January is No Screens Month!
  3. Aussie Street Party Update!
  4. Best Member's Blog: This Month's Winner
  5. Best of the Forum: Square Eyes
  6. Best of the Vault: We Love No Screens!
  7. $21 Challenge Update
  8. Cooking with Mimi
  9. Penny's Blog: Tough Love
  10. Homeopathy Corner: A Day in the Life
  11. From Last Month: Singles Need Help Too!
  12. This Month's Help Request: Holiday Food for Hungry Teens


Happy New Year! I hope you are having a fantastic holiday and are ready for 2011. We have spent the holiday chilling out at home and have been having a lot of fun cooking, reading and playing together. It has been wonderful. I even like the rain because it means we are all inside in the one room bonding together. One day we entertained ourselves by making one of Oprah Winfrey's video assignments. It was so much fun! Tristan loves the video so much he has watched it at least eighty times! You can find out more about that in the $21 Challenge Update below.

Also, if you haven't got your 2011 War on Debt calendar yet, it's not too late! We will be following it all year, so download and print your copy here to get started.

We're really looking forward to hearing all about your savings successes this year. Letters like these ones really make our day!

"I just wanted to share the success in my financial situation with you. As of this week the personal loan - which I had started to regard as a regular bill - has finally been paid off! The Mastercard limit has been reduced from $1900 to $1000 (the lowest limit I could get). The cash advance will be finished in six more payments and Radio Rentals will be done by the end of March. This has taken me two years of hard work and budgeting but I am so close now to being debt free, it's thrilling. On remembering your advice to shop around and consider carefully, I found a second hand lap top with a large screen for $200 cheaper than the smaller, brand new mini laptop. With the money I have free now I will be starting a freelance journalism course by correspondence. If it wasn't for the help I have gotten from your newsletters and book I would still be struggling to get by. Now, no bill I get will ever be a problem to take care of. Thanks ever so much!" (Beverley Allen)

"After receiving your regular emails I was finally tempted to subscribe - great decision - I saved my subscription with one hint! Will recommend you to all my friends. Thank you!" (Carol Turnbull)

"I have been a fan of your site for a long time now and often direct people to you but it has taken me until now to try the $21 Challenge. Well, this week I did it. I fed my family of six for just $20.60. I was so excited that I told everyone! No one believed it would work and they thought I must have had ample supplies in my kitchen already. On the contrary, I had minimal amounts of several things but it forced me to be creative. My husband was skeptical (yet quite impressed) that I had spent such a small amount. But I could tell by the look on his face that he was doubtful that he'd be happily fed! Well, I have surprised everyone, including myself. We have had square, nutritionally sound meals, plus snacks every day for the week. Now for once I actually truly NEED to go grocery shopping. But it means I can include Christmas meals in my fortnightly budget this time and come out on top!" (Rebecca Zahra)

"I just had to write and tell you. Your $21 Challenge book saved me money even before I opened it! I have a loyalty card with Dymocks and as luck would have it, as I purchased your book I had earned enough credits to receive $6.00 off my purchase. I thought how apt it was that it was your book that I saved on. So I thought to myself that this must be an omen. For the next two days I sat and read it from cover to cover. My first real saving directly from the book was last night's dinner. I had forgotten to get any meat out and normally this would have me running to the closest take away. But remembering what I had read, I did a quick stocktake of my fridge and found that I had enough vegetables to make a stir fry. Having no sauce was not a problem, I made my own. Then to top that off, the apples I was about to throw away because they were past their best, I made into an apple and blueberry crumble. The kids thought I was the best cook out! Not only did they get a yummy and nutritious dinner, but dessert too. Now I have proved to myself that your system works, it is now time to do a serious stocktake and get down to business." (Narelle Fasulo)

Happy New Year!
All the best,
Fiona Lippey

PS: Fly with Simple Savings! Well kind of *grin*. If you happen to be travelling with Virgin Blue, you can read all about us in their current Voyeur magazine for all in-flight passengers. If you're not flying on holiday anywhere, however, you can still read the fantastic article by Alix Clark online at http://new.simplesavings.com.au/downloads/189/

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Can I Help?

"Thanks for the cuppa, I'd better be on my way," Sally smiled as she made her way to Hanna's door. "Oh - thank you!" she said in surprise as a small hand quickly grabbed her empty cup, popped it into the dishwasher and turned it on. "Hey, I was going to do that!" came another voice in loud protest. "Mum can I empty the dishwasher when it's finished? She did it last time!"

"Yes, alright," Hanna rolled her eyes and grinned at Sally, who stood frozen in the doorway, mouth agape. "Did I just hear right?' she asked in disbelief. "Your kids actually WANT to empty the dishwasher? Are they sick?" "No!" laughed Hanna. "They just want to play computer games. They're earning screen time!"

"I told the kids there was no way they were spending the summer holidays glued to computer and video games," Hanna explained. "So we struck a deal. If they want to use them, first they have to help around the house. Emptying the dishwasher entitles them to 30 minutes screen time, taking the rubbish out gets them 10 minutes and so on." "Aha, now I see why they're so keen to do it!" laughed Sally. "Thank you, Hanna, I think you've given me the perfect cure for our family's square eyes. I really must be going!"

2. January is No Screens Month!

If you are wondering where the inspiration for this month's Sally and Hanna story comes from, it comes from my house. At the moment it is MY kids who are begging and squabbling over who gets to empty the dishwasher. Yes - they actually beg to empty it and think I am the best mother in the world if I sneak up behind one of them, quietly tap them on the shoulder and whisper. "The dishwasher is ready!" Then the lucky chosen child quietly stops what they are doing and sneaks over to empty the dishwasher before any of their siblings notice. I am not joking. This is really what happens! My children beg to do chores and I have last year's No Screen Month and my mother to thank for it.

You see, No Screens Month in the Lippey household last January was a disaster. My mum was visiting for the whole month and thought it was mean that her grandchildren were banned from watching screens. So, she ignored Matt's and my wishes and brought her laptop, a handful of 'new' DVD's and an iPhone and plonked my children in front of the screens for hours and hours and hours on end. After several weeks of this, I confess to having a little tantrum. OK - I had a BIG tantrum.

Luckily for my family, it was a very productive tantrum. After the steam coming out of my ears had cooled a bit I sat and thought, "Right - how can I make this work? How can I work out a system that will appease my mother, suit my kids, my husband, me and the rest of society before my cup of tea cools?" (OK I made up the bit about the cup of tea...)

The biggest problem last January was that Mum thought I was depriving my children by not letting them watch TV or play computer games for hours on end. However, I think leaving children in front of screens for hours on end is depriving them of life skills and vital experiences. We both want what is best for my children, so Mum and I came to a compromise. The kids could enjoy their screen time - as long as they EARNED it. If they wanted to spend half an hour playing a computer game or watching a DVD they had to do something to earn it first. We started by doing half an hour of writing practice to earn half an hour of screen time but over the past 11 months we have moved on from there and now live by the following rules:

  1. The house must be clean before anyone is allowed to use their screen time. (The reason for this is if the kids get settled in and start watching a movie I have no chance of getting them to clean up their mess. And, I am not going to scurry around them cleaning the house while they sit on their butts watching a movie. The house must be cleaned first.)
  2. If you want to use screen time before school, everything must be done. Breakfast eaten, lunch made, teeth clean, shoes on, hat in car, bag packed, homework finished and so on.
  3. If you want use your screen time in the afternoon, you must first have emptied your school bag, put it away and done your homework.
  4. Screen time for education or work purposes is free. Screen time for entertainment (games, movies, playing and so on) must be earned.
  5. If the children share the task, they have to share the time allocated to that task depending on how much of the actual work they did.

Here is how my children earn their screen time:

  • Emptying the dishwasher = 30 minutes screen time
  • Cooking dinner = 30 minutes
  • Making everyone's lunch = 30 minutes
  • Sweeping the floor = 30 minutes
  • Folding a basket of washing = 30 minutes
  • Bringing in the washing = 15 minutes
  • Cleaning and setting the table = 20 minutes

This system works brilliantly for us but you are welcome to work out different pay rates for your household. You may like to include screen payments for doing homework or taking out the rubbish, whatever applies to your family. The things you need to think about when creating your screen payment list is how much screen time you want your children to have and how many tasks you want them to be doing around the home, then work backwards from there.

Our new screen currency system has been fantastic, but it has had a few teething problems. You may find you experience the same when you first introduce it into your household. You may face some tough opposition from your loved ones; especially if they have taken their screens, Xboxes, computers and you for granted until now. To help with this period of transition we have started a Forum thread for advice and support. This is a place where you can share your frustrations and triumphs and ask Fiona and other members for help so we can band together and convert your resident couch potatoes into helpful house potatoes!

Here is a link to the thread: Creating Helpful House Potatoes

The Savings Forum is a members-only feature. If you would like to become a member and gain instant access to this and thousands of other threads in the Forum, it costs $47 to join for the first year and just $21 to renew each year. As an extra bonus for Vault members, we have also introduced gift memberships at a special price. From now on, if you are a current Vault member you can give your friends or family a full year of membership for just $21! Click here to order.

3. Aussie Street Party Update!

We had a fantastic response to our very first Street Party campaign, reaching a grand total of 112 parties registered to take place on December 5th! Thank you to everyone who supported us, we hope you had a fantastic street party. Don't forget to write in and tell us all about it! Kirstin from the SS staff was one of the first to register her street party and was really pleased with the results:

"When my neighbour responded to her street party invitation with 'But, I don't know anyone,' I knew we were doing the right thing. Even though there are only a handful of families in the street, we didn't all know each other. The Aussie Street Party was the perfect opportunity, and something I'd wanted to do ever since we moved into this new street five years ago.

"We all brought a plate to share and our own chairs and drinks and chatted about all kinds of things, from which lawn was being grown, our families, successes and failures in the garden and to the shared issue we all have with the drainage system in the street. It really was a chance to get to know each other and have a good natter.

"Since then, Brett has helped a neighbour with his computer and he gave us a bunch of garlic chives for our vegie patch. Now, when we greet each other we use names, it's not just a polite wave. As the spare blocks fill up over the years it will be terrific to see our neighbourhood grow. We're all looking forward to next year's street party and wonder how many more families will join our neighbourhood."

If you haven't entered the competition yet, don't panic! There is still time. You have until January 7th to tell us all about your party AND maybe win a cash prize! Simple Savings and That's Life! are giving away $1000 in prizes. All you have to do is tell us in as much detail as you can about your street party - before, during and after. How did you feel handing out your invitations? Were you nervous? How many people came to your party? What funny things happened? Has anything changed for the better in your neighbourhood since your street party? Feel free to send in photos too - the more the merrier! As a reward for your efforts in helping us to bring back the good old days, one lucky winner will get $500 cash, with five runner up prizes of $100. Simply email your party stories to tl.greataussiestreetparty@pacificmags.com.au. Good luck and thanks for entering!

4. Best Member's Blog: This Month's Winner

Don't forget, if you're a Vault member you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Naomi D for her post "It's beginning to feel a lot like..." taken from her blog "A soft place to fall". Naomi has been busy this month getting her family ready for Christmas. We love her festive photos and will definitely be putting some of them into practice for next Christmas.


Long time no blog - where have I been? Enjoying life with my babies and all that comes with it!

Decorating the house...

Making a family activity advent calendar...

Front view:

Back view - excuse the flash!

Baking stained glass cookies...

Smelling the scent of Christmas from our pomanders...

And kissing the gorgeous husband because the moustache he grew for Movember is finally gone and he raised $400!

Love and light to you all at Christmas!

Congratulations Naomi, we wish you and your family a wonderful 2011! To read more from Naomi, or any of our other members' blogs, click here

5. Best of the Forum: Square Eyes

Just in case you need any further reason to restrict the screen time in your household, here are some great discussions on the topic in the Savings Forum!

Consuming Kids - The Commercialisation of Childhood

The best way to explain this thread is to watch the TV link given at the start! Compelling viewing.

War on Debt 2010 - January No Screen Challenge

You can always count on Claire M to keep our Forum members organised and on track with their calendar challenges! This thread is from last year's No Screens Month but is well worth revisiting.

How much television does YOUR child watch?

Princess Pauper asks the question and receives some quite varied answers in this interesting and thought provoking thread!

Television and children

If the much loved children's author Roald Dahl were still here, he would be right behind our No Screens Month! His poem 'Television' reproduced in this thread will soon have you reaching for the 'off' button on your TV! A must-read.

Playstation and a 4 year old

How young is too young for a Playstation? And once they get one, how the heck do you get them off it? If your child is obsessed with video games, you won't want to miss this discussion!

Nintendo games causing eye strain?

Are your kids too 'wired' to sleep? Read this thread and put an end to the headaches!

6. Best of the Vault: We Love No Screens!

Do you think you can't live without TV and video games? Think again! Here is a selection of some Vault tips from members who have discovered they can live very happily without screens!

Organise your life and save - turn off the TV!

I have discovered that pressing one little button is the key to a calmer, more productive life and is saving me heaps of money. All this has been achieved since I made the decision to turn off my TV! The TV used to suck up an extraordinary amount of time, but now we ONLY have the TV on if there is something scheduled we specifically want to watch. This means that evenings are no longer spent on the couch. Instead, the house is clean and tidy, there are home-made snacks in the cupboard and extra meals in the freezer. This has also put a stop to emergency trips for takeaway or grabbing something quick from the supermarket. I estimate that over the last year this has saved around $30 per week in junk food ($1560 per year) and living stress-free is nothing short of priceless!

Contributed by: Diane

'No screen' for 20 years

When our children were still young, our TV stopped working and we decided not to replace it. Instead the children got to enjoy more play time after school and we also took them to the library on a regular basis to borrow books.

On one occasion, in order to get through a mountain of ironing, I borrowed a combined TV/video player and watched videos while ironing. The children also got to watch something after school. After the video, they said they were going to go and play, but to their dismay they found out that the time allocated for playtime had been taken up with watching the 'box'. They were not happy!

It's been 20 years since we had a TV and our children have grown up. They are determined that when they have children, their kids will not have a TV either.

Contributed by: Galligina

A decade of 'No Screen'

My family has been involved in 'No Screen' sessions for the last 10 years! As my four kids are all still at school, we have no screens from Monday to Thursday, unless it is specific to homework, at which stage it becomes a half hour session. This ensures there is time for afternoon tea, playtime, music practice and homework. On weekends and school holidays, the screen times are limited to a half hour computer session for each child per day, while the TV is turned off at 10 in the morning and doesn't come on again until after dinner.

There are no complaints, as we've been doing this for so long. We borrow DVD's from the library, which cost us nothing to rent, rather than watch the commercial channels. The kids don't know what they are missing as we don't get a TV guide either!

Contributed by: Bronwyn Cartledge

Ban the gadgets and get your kids back!

I have saved on electricity and restored some balance in our house by banning the electrical gadgets! The habitual scene in our house when the kids came home from school was becoming a concern to us. As soon as they'd dropped their school bags the kids plugged themselves into the TV, computer, stereo or iPods; conversation died and activity was nil! So I took control back and put a ban on anything electrical being turned on within 15 minutes of returning from school. Wow! By the time 15 minutes was up, they were reading books, outside playing or helping me in the kitchen and had all but forgotten about the electrical items. I am not sure exactly how much we have saved, but the kids have definitely benefited from this. Being outside running around, sharing books or playing games together has made for a much, happier household and conversation is back! I look forward to seeing our next electricity bill because I know, even if it is just a little bit smaller, we are all richer.

Contributed by: Sharee Breed

Ditch the TV

One of the best things I have ever done is ditch my television. Here's why you should do it too!

  • You can earn some extra cash by selling your TV.
  • You no longer waste time sitting in front of the box every night. You can use the extra time to invest in personal development or to do things you enjoy. Save some cash by starting a home vegetable patch or free up your weekend by doing household chores at night, instead of watching television.
  • You are no longer bombarded by advertisements which make you want to buy more than you actually need.

Forgetting about the television has been a win-win-win for me!

Contributed by: Kendall Hurren

Pay TV takes a permanent holiday

We are planning a holiday so I phoned Foxtel and found out that you can take a break from your contract once a year, for a period of one week to three months, and only pay $5.00 per month.

We have decided to go one step further and use these three months as a saving, and then cancel the contract. We are currently paying $88 per month for Foxtel; this will save us $1056 per year. $88 pays for four tickets to the cinema every month or a live play every two months. We decided our money was best spent on quality rather than quantity, so we're happy to cancel our contract. We also found that we were searching for things to watch on Foxtel just because we had paid for it, and this was not a very good use of our time. Now we are eagerly planning our holiday with the spare time we have from not watching TV!

Contributed by: Denise Pastor

More hints for Vault members:

'No Screen' is a relaxing money saver Contributed by: Marie Chandler

'No Screen', no big loss Contributed by: Vicky Booth

A big yes to 'No Screen' Contributed by: June Davies

Changing children's TV watching habits Contributed by: Rosemary Downs

DVD rental money put to better use Contributed by: Jenny Davidson

7. $21 Challenge Update

This month the $21 Challenge book has been helping some lucky bank customers on their way to an even more prosperous New Year! The lovely ladies at a branch of the BNZ bank in New Zealand has been merrily handing out copies of The $21 Challenge as a special Christmas gift to selected customers in recognition of their sterling efforts to save all year. Good on you BNZ!

Warning - Super Cute Video Alert!

Last month we shared some adorable photos of three-year-old Master Tristan Lippey making his favourite jelly ice blocks. This month the whole family has been busy making the fantastic home-made pizza recipe from page 161 of the $21 Challenge book. If you thought making your own pizza bases was too hard, you've obviously never tried this recipe! It's so easy and delicious, once you give it a go, you'll never want to buy pizza again!

Fiona and the kids enjoy making pizzas so much they even made up a song about it! In fact, they went one better and made a video of them all singing it and sent it to Oprah Winfrey, so she could see how cooking brings their family together! If you would like to see the video, you can watch it on Oprah's brand new OWN channel here:


To view the video click the link or the image above.

They all loved making the video and hope you enjoy watching it too. If you like the video, please tell your friends, click the 'like' button on Facebook and pass it on! When you do this, you will be doing something really important. You will be helping us to get the $21 Challenge book into America. We hear so much about the poor eating habits in the US and know that we can help families over there learn to cook and eat cheaper, healthier food just as we have done in Australia and NZ. But it's hard to get noticed when you're half a world away. For the past year we have been trying to get a copy of the book to Oprah but so far it has proved impossible; nobody even responds to our emails *pout*. Making videos like these is about as close as we can get to getting noticed in the US, so if you like our video and the $21 Challenge, please help us by sharing it with everyone you know. The more people who hear about us, the sooner we can start doing in the US what we do best - helping people!

Also, mark your War on Debt calendars for February because Fiona is doing a library tour of the Sunshine Coast! She will be talking at the following libraries and would love to see you there:

IMPORTANT: Although they are free to attend, these are booked events. You will need to ring the library and reserve a seat.

  • Cooroy Library, Thursday 3rd Feb, 6pm - 40 seats - (07) 5454 9000
  • Coolum Library, Tuesday 15th Feb, 10am - 25 seats - (07) 5343 2000
  • Kawana Library, Thursday 17th Feb, 10am - 30 seats - (07) 5458 6500
  • Maroochydore Library, Thursday 17th Feb, 2.30pm - 40 seats - (07) 5475 8900
  • Caloundra Library, Monday 21st Feb, 10am - 30 seats - (07) 5499 5444
  • Nambour Library, Tuesday 22nd Feb, 10am - 35 seats - (07) 5441 8332
  • Noosa Library, Thursday 24th Feb, 10am - 25 seats - (07) 5442 4411

You can also book your tickets online from the calendar page of the Sunshine Coast Libriaries website. Here is the link:
Sunshine Coast Libraries Events Calendar.

8. Cooking with Mimi

Fiona and the kids have been having a ball these holidays cooking Mimi's recipes. Take the time this No Screens Month to get cooking in the kitchen with your children. These recipes are heaps of fun to make and delicious too!


This is very similar to the wicked looking slushies that kids love but much cheaper and far healthier. They won't believe how simple it is to make their own!


  • Food processor or blender
  • Sharp knife
  • Medium saucepan
  • Loaf pan
  • Fork


  • 600g fruit, chopped coarsely
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Blend or process your fruit until smooth. Place juice and sugar in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Stir in the fruit puree. Pour the mixture into a loaf pan and cover with foil. Freeze for two hours. Remove from the freezer, and using the fork, scrape to roughen and loosen the ice crystals. Cover and return to the freezer for around six hours. Stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before scooping into small bowls or cups to serve.

Twice Baked Potatoes

When you mention the title of this recipe to your kids, you'll see their brains going into overdrive trying to imagine what this could possibly be. One try and you'll have a hard time convincing them to eat potatoes any other way!


  • Baking tray
  • Large bowl
  • Potato masher


  • Sufficient large potatoes to allow one or two halves per person, scrubbed well until clean
  • Milk
  • Butter if desired
  • Selection of add-ins e.g. cheese, diced ham or bacon, corn kernels or creamed corn, baked beans

Wrap the cleaned potatoes in foil and bake at 180C for up to one hour or until a skewer goes in easily.

Remove the potatoes and allow to cool. Refrigerate if necessary.

Halve the potatoes lengthwise, and scoop out the cooked flesh, leaving enough clinging to the peel to form a little 'bowl'.

Mash the removed potato flesh with your add-ins.

Scoop the mixture back into the shells of the potatoes, piling it up generously.

Return to the oven to bake for a further 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve as a main with a side salad, or on its own as a snack or side dish.

Fruity Pancake Sauce and Syrupy Stewed Fruit

This is a great frugal recipe and yields two yummy dishes in one! Kids and grown ups alike will love this fruity sauce for pancakes, filled with the stewed fruit or over ice cream. Both fruit and syrup will last up to two weeks if kept in the fridge.


  • Sharp knife
  • Medium saucepan
  • Bottles with lids
  • Airtight containers


  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 250g fruit, washed and diced. Any overly soft fruit is great.

Place your sugar and water in the saucepan over a low heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the syrup to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from the heat. Add your diced fruit and return to a simmer on a medium heat. Reduce to low and cook for three minutes or until the syrup assumes the colour of the fruit.

Strain the syrup and bottle, then store in the refrigerator.

Place the fruit in airtight containers and swirl through muffin batter to make delicious fruit muffins, or serve with softened ice cream. Refrigerate until ready to use.

9. Penny's Blog: Tough Love

December 20th

It definitely pays to live in the middle of nowhere! I can hardly believe it but I've made it to Christmas without experiencing an ounce of stress! No crowded shopping malls, no impulse buys, no standing fuming in queues or swearing under my breath at other fraught shoppers as we bash baskets and trolleys into each other. Almost every purchase has been carefully thought out from the comfort of my own home and personally delivered there too! Even the items I put on lay-by months before we moved were picked up without having to travel to the city. I just rang the stores, explained I had moved and asked if I could complete my order over the phone using my Visa Debit card. They happily agreed to post them out for a fraction of the price it would have taken for me to drive two hours to pick them up!

Speaking of which, I haven't put any petrol in my car for longer than I can remember! I'm not sure when I will get around to filling it up either, thanks to the fantastic birthday present I received from Noel and the boys. Check this out, is this the coolest bike in the world or what!

It's so sturdy I should never need to buy another one and will pay for itself in no time with the amount it will save me on petrol. I absolutely adore my bike! And, with its flowery design I don't have to worry about the boys pinching it either! So if you ever happen to be in Whangamata and see someone whizzing past, madly ringing her 'ding-dong' bell like an Avon lady, it will be me!

Obviously I can't reveal what Noel and the boys are getting for Christmas but one thing's for sure; they won't be sitting inside this summer. If Liam thinks he's getting a new swag of Playstation games he is sorely mistaken! We made an early start to No Screens Month by putting his Playstation away under lock and key. From now on he is only allowed to play it on rainy days when there is not much outside he can do. When we first moved here Noel and I were delighted to see that he was so busy having fun in the great outdoors that he didn't even turn his Playstation on for the first few weeks. However once the boys made new friends and they all started hanging out at our place, things changed. The Playstation would go on and they would waste away day after scorching hot day holed up in Liam's room trying to beat each other at being soldiers, zombies and goodness knows what else.

The thing I hate about Liam using his Playstation for long periods of time is that you can actually see the changes in him. He loses all motivation and you can actually see him withdraw into himself as he becomes lost in his own little world where nothing else matters except scoring a century or beating the bad guy. Conversation gets replaced by grunts and he just about needs a rocket under his backside to get him to actually do anything. The only way to get my big, beautiful boy back was to take the blasted thing off him.

When he first realised his beloved games were no longer accessible 24/7 he was far from impressed. He saw it as punishment - I saw it as helping him. 'I want a son, not a cabbage!' I pleaded. 'There's a big world out there - we live at the BEACH for goodness sake! Go and find something else to do!' And he did. And when his friends came round and discovered the Playstation was out of bounds, they all found something else to do too. The backyard cricket came back, the tent went up in the garden, they started going to the pool and the beach again and their laughter could be heard late into the night as they raced around the neighbourhood playing Spotlight, which is basically a game of hide and seek in the dark. The different was marked and no one was happier than Ali, who had also had enough of having a cabbage for a brother and a bunch of couch potatoes as friends.

Ali loathes video games. As far as he's concerned, they actually STOP people having fun when they could be doing much cooler stuff outside. Like catching fish on a hand line from the wharf or exploring the big hill at the end of the road. Or earning money. Back where we used to live, jobs for kids their age were hard to come by but when we moved here the boys saw that many of their friends had jobs. As soon as Ali spotted an ad for newspaper delivery contracts in his school newsletter, he picked up the phone. Five minutes later he proudly told me 'I've got a job! I have to deliver 135 newspapers twice a week'. Next thing we know Liam is also dialling the number and securing a job for himself too! The money isn't huge but as Ali says, at least they're not stuck inside. They get to ride their bikes around the neighbourhood and once all their papers are delivered, the rest of the day is theirs. The first day they got to grips with their delivery route, they were touched at the number of elderly people who came out to thank them and help them by telling them who lives where, which houses were empty and so on. 'It's fun!' said Liam. 'Yeah - better than playing Playstation', Ali said pointedly at his brother. 'And you don't get paid for doing that!'

I don't believe in forcing a kid to do anything they don't want to do but there is one thing that we have really pushed the boys to do and that is surf life saving. Not that Ali needed any pushing. From the outset he loved heading out to the waves on his kneeboard, getting bowled around in the surf on giant tubes and working as a team in the rescue boat. Liam however needed a LOT of pushing. Even bribing didn't work! The reason? None of his mates at school did it. They all preferred hanging around town or playing video games. He didn't want them to tease him for being the only one who did it. That, coupled with an acute case of shyness. I thought we were fighting a losing battle until we went to his school prize giving, where the speaker was an inspirational young woman who had spent the last six years working for Surf Rescue. She spoke of how she was the only one in her year who did surf lifesaving when she was at school but she didn't care because the moment she joined up, she became part of a family. She told the kids not to be sheep and follow the rest of the crowd but to do what they wanted to do. To take every opportunity that was offered to them. All the things Noel and I had been trying to tell Liam for weeks - honestly, she couldn't have said it any better if we had been paying her to say it! Although I think it helped immensely that the girl who was speaking now was absolutely gorgeous and not fuddy duddy old Mum and Dad!

So that weekend the boys went along for the first time and received a warm welcome. 'You can't be shy around here!' they told Liam with a grin. Ali loved it instantly and whilst Liam was more reserved to start with, he's learning it's much more important to be happy than be cool. The stunning girl who spoke at prize giving is now their instructor and from Boxing Day they will be spending every day of the summer holidays at the beach training to be lifeguards. They'll be getting fit, healthy and sea savvy and learning vital First Aid skills. What with that and their newspaper round, I reckon Liam will be so busy having fun, he won't even miss his boring old Playstation!

December 2010

10. Homeopathy Corner: A Day in the Life

Have you ever wondered what a homeopath actually does? Well wonder no more! This month, our favourite homeopath Fran Sheffield shares a typical day, helping to treat a wide range of cases from psoriasis to asthma and everything in between!

Read the full story here.

11. From Last Month: Singles Need Help Too!

Last month Anna asked:

"I am REALLY, REALLY struggling, especially after a prolonged illness. Currently I am regretting 'doing the right thing', such as having a mortgage, paying for health insurance and so on.

"Independent singles are such a marginalized group that nobody seems to care about. We are not eligible for any support, tax benefits and so on, and other saving techniques such as buying in bulk are not practical. Please, please, please help."

Thank you to everyone who responded with such fantastic tips and advice! Whilst unfortunately we are unable to print them all, hopefully terrific ones like these will help Anna and other singles to feel more positive and get back on track.

A winning formula for singles

As a single in a similar position there are a few things you can try first - look at all your providers from electricity, gas, insurance even bank rates and try phoning them and asking for a better rate because you are thinking of signing up with their competition - this worked for me with phone and electricity. The unhelpful car insurance salesperson said they couldn't do a better deal, so I found a better one myself with a quote on the Net. Just doing this can get you some extra dollars monthly. Do you really need all the Internet access you're paying for and are you over-using your mobile phone? Take a good look at things like these and try and make some adjustments.

You don't have to buy bulk food, just buy reduced wherever you see and bag and freeze them in individual portions. Speak to friends, colleagues and relatives and you may find they would like to share some items. Start growing your own vegies - just a few of the things you like. Experiment with low-cost foods like noodles and rice where you don't need huge amounts of proteins to go with it. Think about any money you spend on restaurant/cafe/takeaway/coffee or snacks and imagine how many groceries you could get for the same amount. Oh - and read everything you can find on Simple Savings and you'll come out the winner!

Contributed by: Lisa Giselle Pastars

Tips from a happy SS single

I'm single, have a mortgage and a car loan and occasionally think 'What am I doing!?' Meanwhile all my 'couple-y' friends aren't quite sure what I'm so worried about! Some simple things I have done to cope include:

  1. Get a housemate! Not only does it take the weekly edge off your mortgage payment, but when those bills come around they can be halved - a whopping weight off your shoulders.
  2. Learn to love your freezer! Get some cheap takeaway containers and each weekend make up a batch of something and freeze into single portions. You will soon enough have a stock pile of foods so you can alternate meals for weeks. Think of meals that can be extended with sides of rice or pasta such as chilli con carne with extra kidney beans and beef stroganoff with extra mushrooms.
  3. Use eBay! Wait for the free listing weekends for smaller items and go for it. Be careful not to underestimate your postage costs though.
  4. Adopt a firm 'I can do it myself' attitude around the house, you can save a fortune on tradesman.
  5. Make a rule to never pay full price for any clothes or footwear. You'll save a fortune.
  6. Avoid hairstyles/colours and so on that need to be tended to every 6-8 weeks. Instead, choose ones that can be managed for a few months.

Stick at it and good luck; be proud of yourself for having a go on your own!

Contributed by: Afton Gooda

Speed up your mortgage payments and enjoy the rewards

I am a single independent female living on my own. I had a fairly large mortgage, but have mananged to pay it off. I realised that paying it weekly rather than monthly would save me lots as regards interest. I just switched my payment regime with my lender and treated the lesser amount I was paying each week like it was rent. Now I have no more 'rent' to pay I am saving the amount I used to pay for something I really want in the future!

Contributed by: Sally H

Tweak savings tips to suit singles

Singles, whether independent or not, need a support network. Friends, family and social/other organisations are vital. Immerse yourself with likeminded people, even if they are not single. You can make lots of savings; you just have to think outside the box - lose the 'I have to do everything myself' mindset and let your community or circle of friends help you.

Instead of looking at what you are not eligible for or can't do - look for what you ARE eligible for and CAN do. Look at each area in your life and make changes - make up a list or a picture board, whatever appeals to you to help organise your thoughts.

If you look at your mortgage, what can you come up with that is acceptable to you paying it off and what do you want out of life? For example you could sub rent out a section, take on an overseas independent student, a boarder, a working backpacker - not only will they help pay your mortgage but you can gain so much more. Community groups are great sources of help and you may well be able to help them at the same time. A lot of saving tips/techniques can be tweaked to suit you - you just have to be creative.

Contributed by: Angela Caballero

Make buying in bulk work for singles

Even if you are single you can still make buying in bulk work for you. The best way could be to get together with some other single friends or family members and go on a 'buy in bulk' shopping spree once a month or fortnight. You could try local markets where you can pick up boxes of fruit and veg cheaply and share the cost and the goodies. It could be a great day out with your friends while saving all some money too!

Contributed by: Deborah Jamieson

Get cooking with other singles

When I was a single, I got together with the other three singles in my apartment block and we took turns cooking meals once a week. Most nights were eat and run, or we would take our meals to our units to eat alone if busy with work. We each had a night to cook, and if people could not make it, we made up a takeaway for them!

Contributed by: Mel Smith

Use your single status to your advantage

Use the advantages independent singles DO have, such as being able to share accommodation costs in a way that families cannot. I suggest systematically eliminating all debt until you can once again position yourself financially strong and make headway. Although it may seem good, a mortgage can impoverish you if you can no longer easily afford it (after all, mortgage does mean 'death grip' in French!). A book called 'Total Money Makeover' by Dave Ramsay gives a good blueprint on going from financial mess to 'financially sound'. I found it a great help.

Contributed by: Sue Rumsley

Make individual food portions last longer

If buying in bulk wastes a lot of food through spoilage, then investing in a food saver could be a good idea. It is like vacuum packing all your foods into single meals/serves. The lack of oxygen available in the sealed bags means there are heavily reduced oxidation processes which are what spoils the food. A bonus of doing this is when these items are frozen, freezer burn doesn't take hold, but it can even lengthen the fridge life of an avocado by at least five more days!

Contributed by: Rebecca Skelding

12. This Month's Help Request: Holiday Food for Hungry Teens

This month Jennifer asks:

"Help! School holidays are here and I'm already being eaten out of house and home by hordes of active teenage boys! They are all great kids who love hanging out at our place and I don't want to make them feel unwelcome but constantly feeding extras is really hurting my food budget. I don't feel as though I can feed my own children and not the others when they are around so I always end up giving in and making food for everybody. If I tell them to fend for themselves for lunch they simply go into town and waste their money on takeaways, my kids included! Does anyone have any suggestions for cheap fillers I can have on hand or whip up quickly so we can all save money?"

If anyone has any advice which could help Jennifer, please send them in to us here.