>> Get Growing in February! <<
- Growing Online
- How to Make Soap at Home
- Recipe: Lazy 'Everything at Once' Soap
- Save-O-Meter: Watching Your Savings Grow
- New Competition: Criticise and Win $50
- Competition Winners: Inspiring Others
- New: Tools and Downloads Area
- Learning With the Lippeys
I hope you have been having a fantastic February; learning new things and growing your brain. We have taken "Grow Your Brain" month seriously in the Lippey household and February has been filled with lessons from library books, online videos and articles and offline workshops. We have learned how to make soap, improve the Save-O-Meter, edit video, and we've discovered lots of ways Simple Savings members have been improving themselves.
Keep up the great work! Remember to stay in touch and tell us what you've been up to.
My kids will tell you the best part of the internet is the games. For me it is learning new things.
I love how easy it is to learn online.
Two months ago I had no idea how to make soap. None!! Soap was this magical thing that appeared in the shops. The trouble is my kids have super sensitive, 'peel off in large chunks' skin and we live in the bacteria-laden sub-tropics. This means we need hypoallergenic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial soap, which is really expensive.
So I hopped on to Google, checked out a few recipes and watched some YouTube videos to learn the basics of soap making. From there I created my own soap recipe from cosmetic grade macadamia oil, olive oil, neem oil and caustic soda.
The results were brilliant. It is the best soap I have ever used. It cleans, moisturises, disinfects and kills fungus.
With the help of YouTube, online blogs and my local library I have learned how to make a 1.4kg batch of incredible soap in an hour, which is fantastic. The best part, though, is what I found after doing some more research. I discovered soap similar to mine sells for $89.95 per kilo. This means the retail value of my hand made soap is about $125. Yet I had only spent $21 on ingredients. This means I had saved myself $104 making soap. How brilliant is that?
If you would like to learn how to make soap watch this series of videos from Liz from Night Owl Crafts. In it she will show you everything you need to know to make hot or cold process soap.
In Liz's video she talks about Hot Process and Cold Process soaps. Here are the advantages and disadvantages I found with each method.
- Easier to make. You only need to raise the temperature to 40 degrees, stir it together and pour into the mould
- Good for beginners
- It is easier to pour into moulds because it is runny
- Soap must sit for 6-8 weeks before you can use it to allow the caustic soda and oil to turn to soap
- The effectiveness of essential oils is reduced as they interact with the caustic soda
- Takes about an hour to make
- It can be used the same day
- Essential oils are more effective because they are added after the caustic soda and oils have reacted with each other
- It is hard to stir because it sets
- It is hard to put in the mould
Let's move onto the soap recipe...
It is time for a confession: When it comes to beauty, I'm really lazy. I don't want to have to cleanse, rinse, scrub, rinse, moisturise and then oil my skin. I wanted a product that does all those things in one go. I also want it to kill all the germs, treat dandruff, tinea, thrush and BO at the same.
This soap recipe does all those things, which is why I call it my Lazy 'Everything at Once' soap.
- Protective gloves
- Eye protection
- Slow cooker
- Stick blender
- Stainless steel mixing spoon
- Candy thermometer
- Glass jug
WARNING!! The caustic soda is dangerous. Do not get it on your skin. Wear eye protection and gloves. Work in a well ventilated area.
- 120g Caustic Soda (Lye) from Bunnings
- 750g Cosmetic grade macadamia oil
- 260ml Distilled water
- 200g olive oil
- 50 drops neem oil
Put on your gloves, eye protection and a long sleeve shirt.
Then take the caustic soda and water to a well ventilated, pet and child free area.
The order you do this is important: Do not pour water into the caustic soda! Mix the caustic soda and water in a glass jug by slowly adding the caustic soda to the water while you stir. It will froth and heat itself up.
Let it cool down while you prepare other things.
Put all oil in a slow cooker and heat it to 40 degrees.
Pour the caustic soda into the oil. Mix with a stick blender.
Put the slow cooker on low and stir with a wooden spoon every ten minutes.
When the soap has thickened how long?, stir in the neem oil.
Place soap in moulds and leave overnight.
Empty soap from moulds.
Cut up soap.
Store it in a sealed container.
When you have been frugal for a long time it is easy to take your savings for granted. It is easy to forget that when you are saving money you are doing something AMAZING!! That is why I love the Save-O-Meter.
The Save-O-Meter reminds me that my decisions - learn how to make soap; make school lunches instead of buying them; learn how to film and edit our own videos; mend and keep instead of throwing and buying; learn how to cut our own hair; shop at the factory outlet instead of the supermarket; and cook instead of take away - all make a difference. It reminds me these little savings are valuable and I am valuable.
It does this by adding up every cent saved. Here are my savings I have recorded in the last month.
How cool are they?
Looking at my savings from the last month makes me feel fantastic. I hope this time next month you will be able to look at your Save-O-Meter results and say "Wow! The things I do make a difference!"
This month we want you to criticise us. Really, I mean it. I want the Save-O-Meter to be brilliant! I want it to inspire, motivate and teach people how to save money. Not just frugal people, but spendthrifts as well and people who would like to lower their bills but don't know where to begin.
I want all this, but I designed the Save-O-Meter and I have stared at it for too long. I need fresh eyes to see the things we have missed. That is why this month we are giving away 4 prizes of $50 to people who send in the best criticism.
When I say criticism we are open to all types of criticism, such as:-
- I think it is crap because...
- I would never use it because...
- It really needs to be...
- You can improve it by...
Send your criticism to email@example.com by March 20th to be in the competition.
This month we were blown away by members' fantastic stories. From Veronica who turned her life around after reading The $21 Challenge, to Alison who has been learning new languages, Melanie who has learned how to re-organised her whole home, Leah who started with a second hand book found while out walking and Jane who is completing entire courses online.
(This month we increased the number of prizes to five because these are all brilliant.)
I have learnt so much from Simple Savings book which I bought many years ago and continue to pick up and re-read at times.
Over the years we have made big savings on our gas, power, Sky TV, mobile phone, home phone and internet accounts, grocery purchases and rubbish collections to name a few.
In 2012 we were putting out a rubbish bag on a weekly basis, now we're lucky to put one out every four to five weeks and I am sure we could get that down to once every 6 weeks if we tried harder. We do recycling which has helped a lot plus I shred any papers for use in my compost bins of which I have 10.
We cancelled our subscriptions to newspapers - 2 a day, and have saved over $1000.00 per year. I stopped buying magazines on a regular basis. I used to get Lucky Break and That's Life delivered weekly to do the competitions and those two alone made a savings of $6.60 per week. Yearly that is a saving of $343.20. As well I also regularly bought some other magazines - NZ Gardener, Woman's Weekly, Australian Woman's Weekly to name a few. That also ceased from 2012. I then occasionally bought magazines, usually 3 for $15.00, to read when I was flying to Australia or back but I don't even do that now.
We have made a big dent in our grocery bill over the last 7 years going from spending $10,000 per year to $6,000 per year. I started a spreadsheet in which I write down everything we buy. It includes EVERYTHING for the house, not just edible stuff!! The year I started was the "wake up call". We changed our purchasing and made a special effort NOT to buy what I could make at home as in jams, relishes, sauces, dressings, pesto, biscuits, yoghurt, and occasionally bread. We have a vegetable garden so the produce was at my fingertips!! As well we made a conscious effort to eat out of the fridge, freezer and pantry and it was amazing how long we could survive without a trip to the supermarket. We now do this on a regular basis.
We have also made big savings with our power account going from $1,589 per year in 2012 to $433.20 after discounts and savings in 2018. We just became aware of what was using power and stopped using them - dryer, dishwasher, heated towel rails, and wall heaters. I also do a spreadsheet for the power we use on a daily basis and I am able to accurately work out our bill each month.
Sky TV has been clawed back by $700 by cancelling our sky box when we head away for five months and cancelling programmes we weren't using.
After retiring we had a major revamp of our landline phone, internet and mobile phones packages. The landline phone and internet package has been cancelled saving $89 per month. Now we pay $39 for our wifi per month and can stop it when we head overseas. The cost has gone from $1,736 in 2012 to $463 in 2018 and this year will be less again. I would expect 2019 to cost us $273
Our mobile phones went from being on account to using prepay and we wonder why we took so long to make the change as the savings are huge. We're not big mobile phone users so don't need lots of data, etc. We've clawed that back from $1,000 per year in 2012 to $400 in 2018. Again this year will be less as we change our plan regularly.
My vegetable garden for the last 2 years has cost nothing as I have saved up and converted Westpac Hotpoints, Flybuys points and Perceptive points into Mitre 10 and / or Warehouse vouchers to buy my gardening requirements.
Every little bit helps and we are continuing to try and make changes on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.
I have always enjoyed learning languages and one of my goals I set in my twenties was to learn more languages but I never got seriously stuck into this goal. I would dabble now and then but did not keep it up. Then in 2015 I started learning Spanish on a whim when it was offered by someone locally. At this time I realised that the internet has allowed language learning lovers to come together, to blog, to share information and provides free or cheap learning opportunities and dictionaries! Now it's easier than ever to learn a language!
Since 2015 I have continued a habit of regular study of the languages I am learning (Maori, New Zealand Sign Language, Spanish and Hindi). Learning languages opens your mind and world. It enables you to have new experiences and meet people you would otherwise not have met and allows you to become more patient and understanding of other people learning your own native language!
If learning a new language is on your mind, I highly recommend reading the blog 'Fluent in 3 months' and considering applying for 'The #add1challenge' which is a three month language learning challenge that keeps you accountable. There is a cost to this but a little cost can keep one motivated to complete the challenge! Italki is a free to join site where you can find exchange partners and tutors for many many languages. Youtube is awesome to get you started on pretty much any language you want. If a rare language native to your country is what you are hoping to learn, you might have to visit a local cultural centre or talk to the local people who speak that language to find out how to learn. I can guarantee that it is well worth the effort.
If you are an SS member, maybe you can start a forum thread to find other SS members growing themselves through language learning to hold each other accountable.
Enjoy your language learning journey!
*please note that I get no rewards and have no affiliations with the links I have provided.
What and Why
Like most people, I and my family of four have too many possessions and we had reached the point where it was difficult to keep the house tidy due to the amount of clutter. Piles of random items - school bags, wet towels, water bottles, sunhats - would randomly sprout in (in)convenient places and it was rare to have a clear view of the skirting board in any room. Windowsills and any available horizontal spaces were littered with papers, empty snack packets, socks, you name it! Tired of this situation and faced with the opportunity of several child and husband free days, I planned a massive decluttering session.
How I Prepared
I started off by watching several Marie Kondo YouTube tutorials. Marie Kondo, or KonMarie, is a Japanese organization specialist who suggests that people use the question, 'Does this item spark joy?' when considering what to keep in your home. She has written several international bestsellers on organizing and decluttering homes, which will be available at your local library and which I had read previously. She advocates a specific way of folding clothing both to get full use out of your storage space and to easily see what you have available.
KonMarie suggests decluttering by 'type', ie if you want to streamline the amount of books you own, gather ALL your books, from all areas of the house where they may be found. This way, you can see what you are dealing with and gauge the size of the problem!
I also read a new book, 'Declutter Your Life: How Outer Order Leads to Inner Calm' by Gill Hasson, which discusses the physical and psychological barriers that can hold people back from streamlining their possessions. I didn't feel that any of this information applied to me; like most people, I am mainly time-poor, rather than holding on to items for sentimental reasons, but I am sure the information in this book will apply to some people.
In the days leading up to my free time, I made sure I had several cardboard boxes and a plan for the unwanted items. In my case, a friend wanted me to give her first dibs on any unwanted possessions and she would then pass on unwanted items to others or take to an op shop. This was ideal for me as she lives very close by and, each day, I was able to take items to her house to avoid 'stealth reclaiming' by my family, which is to be avoided at all costs!
After a week of decluttering in bursts of up to a couple of hours at a time, I am seeing some serious results and enjoying the oasis of calm created by removing unwanted clutter. I have spent approximately 20 hours decluttering and I have:
- Filled a large recycling bin twice over (paper, card and plastic mainly)
- Filled 2 rubbish bags with non-recyclable rubbish (hair encrusted 'slime' anyone?)
- Passed on to the friend 5 large bags and 4 large boxes of unwanted items, from clothes to games, DVDs, music, kitchen items, etc. She and her children have been delighted to receive new or hardly-worn items of clothing, lunch boxes, kitchen utensils, etc, that they can put to good use.
Tips for Decluttering
Make a list of the priority areas that are bothering you that you want to declutter. Start with these, ideally at a time when you can avoid distractions. Take before and after photos! You will reach a point, mid-decluttering session, when you are knee-deep in one hell of a mess. It's important that you only take on what you have the time and energy to finish in one session. Depending on what you have in your house, you may wish to assign boxes and bags as:
- Rubbish (bin at the end of each session)
- Recycle (put in recycling bins/stations at the end of each session)
- Return (to whoever it belongs to, or relocate to another part of the house at the end of each session, where possible. Put items that need to be returned to other people/organisations by your front door or in your car to remind you to do it)
- Sell (store these items away from prying eyes and make a time in your diary to list items for sale)
- Give away/op shop (action asap)
- Clean/fix/mend/replace batteries (attempt to resolve these items before you start your next decluttering session)
At the end of each decluttering session, cross the area off your list, give yourself a big pat on the back, make a cup of tea and be sure to skite (brag) to your friends! They will be impressed and encourage you to continue.
Ideally, in a family situation, you would include other family members and I did for items that belonged to them or their own spaces. For general household and kitchen purposes though, as the chief cook and bottle-washer (not the mention the person who mainly keeps things tidy), I just made executive decisions. I doubt that anyone will actually miss what I've decluttered as, by its nature, most possessions were stuffed in cupboards or drawers so hardly top of mind.
For a quick declutter, when you only have 5-10 minutes, clear and wipe down windowsills, counters or tabletops, for an instant calming result.
From this point, I am going to be very vigilant about what comes into the house, to avoid a slow return to our previous situation. I have also set up periodic diary reminders to declutter certain items, eg kids shoes and clothes, DVDs and games and books every school term or so.
Decluttering, especially with kids in the house, is an ongoing exercise and, luckily, something I'm usually itching to do along with spring cleaning so there will be a natural continuation of what I've started from this point.
I keep forgetting to take 'before' and 'after' photos but have attached some from when I remembered!
Last year I was out for my daily walk (aka free, easy, quick exercise), and I suddenly had a thought "what I really need is somebody to tell me how to live my life, like a general set of instructions/coaching for my entire life, that doesn't cost me hundreds of dollars per session."
I walked past a local op shop that had a free book bin outside. I had a quick glance and found three self-help books. Two of these, The Winners Bible and If It's Going To Be It's Up To Me, are books filled with an incredible amount of information which can be applied to anyone and any area of your life. I couldn't believe it. I walked home filled with excitement and planned to read a paragraph or two of one of these books every day. It's a whole year later and I am nearly at the end of If It's Going To Be It's Up To Me. I have grown and changed in so many ways, and I managed to fit in a big overseas trip which I previously thought I'd never be able to do because I wouldn't be able to afford it.
I would encourage anyone on a budget to look around at op shops for books that will help you change your life. Aside from the books mentioned previously, I have also found books about finances, running a business, relationships, and more.
I have found one of the best ways to keep on learning and growing is by taking MOOCs (massive open online courses). With MOOCs you can travel around the world and visit some of the best universities without having to leave your home, or spend a single cent!
I've taken courses on happiness, brain health, learning to learn, nutrition and mindfulness. These courses have completely changed the way I think and live.
I recently completed an online course on brain health and an online culinary course, both of which were life changing. The online culinary course cost me US$10 per month (the first week was free). In 3 months, I learnt how to chop, cook pasta to perfection and cook confidently with a range of plants and whole-foods. This really was the best defence against buying expensive take-away. Eating out at restaurants has gone right down and my nutrient intake has gone way up!
Compared to going to university, MOOCs are incredibly cheap (and usually free).
You will find MOOCs on lots of different platforms (e.g. Coursera, Udacity and edX). But a word of warning: it's easy to get lost on these sites and it's hard to know what's good and what's not so good.
This is why I recommend jumping on a site called class-central.com. This gives you reviews on each MOOC and compares the different MOOCs.
You've also got Degreed. This site is pretty amazing. You type in the topic you want to learn about and Degreed will serve up some great articles, books, videos, courses and people based on your interests and learning habits.
So if you want to learn about a new topic, I encourage you to enter the world of MOOCs. Don't be scared. There is no passing or failing. All you need is a computer and an internet connection!
Here is what I have found helps me to study MOOCs:
- Setting aside a couple of hours every week to work through the content
- Being organised: Keeping my notes in a file and regularly reviewing my notes
- Making sure I apply what I learn (otherwise what's the point?!)
- Connecting with others who are taking the MOOCs
- Clearing away distractions and closing distracting sites (e.g. Facebook and email) when I am studying
This month we redesigned the Tools and Downloads area. I hope you like it. If not, please write and tell us how you think we could improve it.
We have been very busy growing this month. To help Jacqui with her 3D pen videos we went to a full day workshop at the Noosa Film Academy. The workshop was run by Academy Award Winning cinematographer Greg Huglin and it was incredible!
It is really unusual for someone as skilled as Greg to run well priced*, beginner workshops. Which made me wonder, 'What is the catch?' The catch is, when Greg moved to Australia, the Immigration Department made it a condition that Greg teaches others how to become Academy Award Winning Cinematographers. It is called a Distinguished Skills Visa and I would like to thank the Immigration Department for giving us the chance to learn from a master.
Jacqui was so inspired after the workshop she started working on her next video. Here it is..
If you would like to see how much Jacqui learned from a one day workshop with Greg, here is Jacqui's 'Before Workshop' video. We still have a lot to learn, but it is great to see the improvement from a one day workshop.
*Greg's wife, Andrea, arranges the workshops and she does discount for groups of 10 or more.
"Get Moving" month begins tomorrow. What ways (or new ways) are you going to get moving in March? Let us know what you have planned.
All the best,