"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - January 2014

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Bring on the Bargains!
  2. January: Get into Gear!
  3. Ye Olde Shoppe: Simply Budgets Make it Simple
  4. Penny Wise: What Are You So Afraid Of?
  5. Best of the Vault: Hello 2014!
  6. Best of the Forum: May the Forum Be With You!
  7. Best Members' Blog: Loving My New Simple Life
  8. Cooking with Mimi: Golden Dream (Vanilla + Orange) Cheesecake
  9. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Air Pruning Barrel for Trees
  10. From Last Month: Christmas Sales Savvy!
  11. This Month's Help Request: Party Time!


Happy 2014! How are you going? We hope you have had a wonderful Christmas and started the New Year with a bang - we can't wait to see what 2014 brings!

We love hearing from you - here are our favourite emails this month:

"Thank you for your fantastic newsletters. My Christmas present this year was a Vault membership for myself! I am loving the Forum and dipping into the hints." (Val)

"Please thank Mimi for her decadent coconut ice recipe in the December newsletter. It made a very special Christmas present for a lot of my friends and family who couldn't quite believe I made it. Thanks Mimi." (Bree)

Have a great month!
All the best,
Fiona Lippey

P.S. If all goes well, we'll be showing a great, funny, slightly scary (for me) way to save money on haircuts at the end of January. Keep your fingers and toes crossed.

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Bring on the Bargains!

"I'm so looking forward to this! Thanks for keeping me company, Sal!" beamed Chloe excitedly as they got into the car. "You're welcome!" smiled Sally. "That's all I'm doing, mind! I won't be doing any shopping myself; I've got to be REALLY good this year if we're going to make any headway on our mortgage. But I'm happy to come and help you find the best deals - any idea what you want to buy?" "Not really," giggled Chloe, "but I'm sure I'll find something. You can't beat the January sales for a bargain and I don't want to miss out. Let's go!"

"Do you mind if we grab a quick coffee? My feet are killing me!" groaned Sally four hours later. "Of course! It's been such fun - I'm so happy with all my bargains!" Chloe smiled, laden with bags. "I could never have found all these without you, Sal; you know just where to look!" "Years of practice," grinned Sally. "You've been so good though - you haven't spent a cent!" Chloe pointed out. "I just want to pop into Henry Newman's before we go if that's OK. Last one, I promise!" "Come on then," groaned Sally, rubbing her feet. "I think I can manage ONE more!"

"Wow, these deals are unbelievable!" gasped Chloe as the pair of them wandered round Henry Newman's. Sally nodded. 50% off this, 40% off that - and no need to pay until February! Come to think of it there WERE a few things she needed. The vacuum cleaner had been playing up, she could do with a new phone - and that pink hair straightener she'd been wanting forever was a ridiculous price! By the time the pair of them left the store, Sally was carrying as many bags as her friend. "That was brilliant!" she said. "And we didn't even pay for a single thing!" "We do still have to pay for them though," pointed out Chloe. "Yes - but not until February," came Sally's laughing reply. "That's AGES away!"

2. January: Get into Gear!

Sally may not have to pay for her goodies until February - but does she even know for certain she will have the money to pay for them then? If her past form is anything to go by, we seriously doubt it! But that's not the only concern. In addition to paying for her splurge, she and Pete have a goal this year to reduce the size of their debt. The thing is, how do you know what you shouldn't spend if you don't know how much you have to start with?

Many people shop blindly like Sally. They see money in their bank account and think 'Yay, that's mine! I can spend that!' But if you're serious about getting/staying out of debt and reaching your savings goals, you need to know exactly where your finances are at. You need to know to the nearest few dollars what you can and can't spend. You need a budget.

The theme of our 2014 Wealthy Habits calendar is 'Show Us the Money!' and right here is where it starts. We want you to be able to see the results of your efforts at the end of the year and say 'Look at what we achieved! We did that!' But in order for you to be able to do that you need to work out where you are financially right now and that is what Get into Gear Month is all about. This month is for determining how much money you have and how much you need to get where you want to be. Trust us, it's easy! All you need to do is a little homework. It doesn't take long but the results are well worth it and as soon as you have done it, you'll be glad you did.

So let's start putting some wheels in motion! We would love for you to join us in the following tasks this month:

Work out a budget. There are countless ways you can do this; there is no right or wrong way! You can use a system recommended by a friend or fellow member, you can hop on your bank's website and use their budgeting tools or you can visit our Simple Savings shop and take advantage of the brilliant Simply Budgets software we have on offer. It doesn't matter which you choose - but make sure you do it!

Open a savings account. If you don't already have one, open a bank account dedicated solely to saving. Shop around for an account with the highest interest rate that will grow your savings and with minimum fees, or better still, no fees at all!

Print out and fill in our free Bill Payment System. Technology is brilliant for showing you where your money is at but so is good old-fashioned pen and paper! With our Bill Payment System you can see exactly which bills come out on which day, so you'll always know how much money you need to have on hand from week to week. Better still, you'll never get stung with late payment fees again! You can find this in the Downloads area here.

Start keeping your Savings Diary. Right now, today! This is a brilliant free tool that you fill in at the end of each day to keep a record of how much money you spent and what it went on. Don't worry about forgetting, we can even email you a daily reminder if you like! The great thing about this diary is that it makes you accountable for every dollar you spend. It asks you to fill in how much of your daily spend went on essentials - and how much got wasted on impulse buys and rubbish. It's quite an eye opener and you may not always like what you see! But it will keep you on track as long as you use it. This is simply your own personal spending tally, we ask for no bank information whatsoever and nobody can see your diary but you. Start filling it in here.

Stick up your Save-O-Meter. You'll find this in your free 2014 Wealthy Habits Calendar. Put it up in a prominent place and fill it in as your savings grow and you get closer to your goal. It's great for keeping the younger family members on track too!

The above may all sound like a lot of work but it really isn't. They are all very, very easy and while doing a budget may be hard for some people to face, even if the results don't fill you with joy, at least you will know exactly what you need to do to get out of that hole and start moving in the right direction. Whatever your situation, even if you have a mountain of debt, getting your finances in order feels GREAT! But it doesn't end there - you need motivation to stay on track. Especially if your budget has left you a little on the depressed side! So use us this month to help keep your spirits and your savings high. If you are a Forum member, follow our Get into Gear challenge threads. We will all be there to help you, supporting, advising, (and sympathising where needed!) and cheering each other on. Simple Savings is a wonderful community of like-minded people who all genuinely want and love to see each other succeed. Join us this month and let's get into gear so we can all enjoy a fantastic and prosperous 2014!

January 2014 Calendar Challenge in the forum: Get Into Gear

3. Ye Olde Shoppe: Simply Budgets Make it Simple

If you want to create a budget that will set you up for life (we mean it!) then this is the software for you. Simply Budgets software was created by David Wright who worked out that having a budget was the first step - the second was making sure you had enough money in your account on any given day to meet all your needs. We love it and we know it works. You can find out more here.

4. Penny Wise: What Are You So Afraid Of?

Greetings! My name is Penny Wise and I have an embarrassing confession to make. I am 40 years old (for two more days). I have been a Simple Savings member for nine years - and have never, ever done a budget. Why? Two reasons really, the first being it's all just too hard. I never seemed to find (or make) the time to get all that pesky paperwork together. I don't like spreadsheets, they're too complicated (or that's the excuse I make, probably because I am rubbish at using Excel myself so have always convinced myself I don't understand them) which leads me to the next point, understanding. I failed maths twice at school, therefore I have always believed I don't 'do' number crunching and hence am far too thick to possibly understand a budget. But the main reason I have never done a budget is due to something else - fear. I am Penny, Queen of Ostriches. I don't want to know how little I have in the bank. I don't want to know where all my money has gone. I don't want to know what a rubbish job I've been doing or face all the silly mistakes I have made. I mean, who wants to be depressed? For many of us, just getting through each day is hard enough!

But you can't put off the inevitable forever. There have been many times this year I've just had to pull on my big girl Bridget Jones knickers and deal with things I haven't wanted to. Even so, I have managed to successfully put off doing a budget since I bought my house back in July. Little old me, a solo home owner! Still can't believe it! But jings, what a big commitment it is. I'm stuck with this mortgage now until I'm 70! I find that rather a daunting thought but I love my house with all my heart. It's mine - well, mine and the bank's - and I will do whatever it takes to keep up that mortgage and provide a secure roof over my boys' heads. And that means finally doing a budget.

I had planned to procrastinate for just a little longer - after all, January is Get into Gear Month on the new 2014 Simple Savings calendar. Surely I could just wait until then and get stuck in to this budgeting lark along with everyone else? Unfortunately not, according to the bank manager. I gave in the other day and went to see her to ask for an overdraft - just a small one to get me through Christmas and the next couple of months. I didn't like doing it; I hate overdrafts with a passion as from experience I have learned that once you have one, you tend to live in one. But I wanted some peace of mind, just so I could give my boys a good Christmas. Hopefully I wouldn't need to use it, but at least I had it. I didn't even expect the bank to agree to give me one but they did - although it soon became clear to both me and the manager I had some work to do. 'I've got so many bills, there's just no end to them!' I wailed. 'There's this, and that, and then this happened and I need to pay this...' 'OK so what's your income?' the bank manager smiled, preparing to punch in the figures. 'Er... not entirely sure, around this much?' I told her. 'OK - and what are your outgoings?' 'Er...' I replied. Where did I start? I had no idea! All I knew was there were heaps! 'Penny my dear, you need to do a budget,' she laughed. 'OK, I'll go away and do one and bring it back to you,' I offered. 'Not for me - for you!' the manager replied. 'You can't just keep treading water and crossing your fingers, you need to know what you're dealing with. It doesn't take long,' she said, 'just use the one on our website'. 'You have a budgeting tool on your website?' I said. I had no idea! 'Yes we do, it's as basic as it comes but it will give you an idea. Have a go, when you get home.'

So I did. And she was right; it didn't take long, even with the mountain of bills I had to put in. Thanks to Internet banking the paperwork was minimal and I was able to track down all my monthly, weekly and fortnightly bills in minutes. Then I hit 'calculate', held my breath and waited. It came up that I was $200 a fortnight short of where I needed to be. I wasn't too phased by that, I had been pretty conservative on my income and some of my predicted expenses (she said it was better to underestimate income than overestimate) so I was pretty confident that the difference would make up the shortfall. What was a concern was that I had still left out at least another $600 worth of bills - all unexpected or leftover expenses from the house buying and selling, rates and so forth. I knew I was going to have these expenses for the next three months at least. And that was without any other expenses - no sooner had I finished my budget there was a knock on the door and the school bus driver presented me with a bill for $140 which he needed paying as soon as possible. I hadn't been expecting that for another month - all of a sudden I was very glad of that overdraft!

OK, so my first budgeting experience didn't exactly leave me wanting to throw a party. In fact it made me cancel my planned birthday party as I obviously couldn't afford it! But there was no point getting down about it. I couldn't help any of these bills and they weren't going to go away. There was only one person who could deal with the situation and that was me. I was proud I had finally faced my budget phobia and while it showed I was far from being in the black, at least now I knew for certain where I was at and what I needed to do. I now know that it's going to be a good few months before I start making any headway whatsoever and I'm prepared to deal with it because it's not going to last forever and I'm going to feel good about every single bill I clear. It also made me take a good look at where I could cut expenses such as my mobile phone and insurance by getting in touch with them and asking about how I could get a better deal. All in all, it was a very positive experience and I'm glad I finally did it; I won't be scared to do it again. My boys have both got summer jobs starting next week and that's going to be an enormous help now they'll be able to afford their own clothes, petrol and so on. Guess we've got an early start for Get into Gear Month! I may be late joining the legions of savvy SS budgeters but for anyone else like me who has been putting it off, or sticking their head in the sand, bite the bullet and just do it! If I can do it, anyone can!

You can get updates on Penny's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

5. Best of the Vault: Hello 2014!

We hope you had a Happy New Year! There is something wonderful about the chance to wipe the slate clean and start again and now's the perfect time to do it! We hope 2014 will bring you everything you want, but first you have to start planning, set some goals and get yourself organised. Here are some great tips to get you started.

Positive thinking lifts pressure

My husband and I are soon to become parents and our income has been cut in half. Now that we're on a tighter budget, I have realised how much we were caving in to outside financial influence from friends and family. From innocent dinner invitations to suggestions on 'must-have' products for the new baby, the dollars were being seduced right out of our pockets. At the same time, it quickly became uncomfortable saying 'We'd love to, but it's not in our budget' in almost every conversation. It made me feel constantly deprived and I would actually end up spending money to make myself feel better. My husband stopped wanting to talk about our finances at all because he felt stressed out.

After thinking long and hard about our spending habits, I decided there were three main ways that outside influences were sabotaging our budget: social invitations, gift giving and pressure to buy. Once I specifically identified these influences, it became so much easier to combat them.

Instead of declining every dinner invitation and feeling bad about constantly telling our friends we didn't have the money, we organised a monthly dinner party for the entire group. We rotate hosting duties, and guests just bring a bottle of wine. Instead of eating out once a week with one or two friends, we now have a festive gathering once a month with everyone all at once - but only pay for a home-cooked dinner a couple of times a year! It puts us back in control of how much we spend. I've also realised that people essentially just want to spend time with you, so you can feel free to counter suggest a cheaper and more creative option than going out to dinner. Instead of 'it's not in our budget', I now say 'Would you be up for a picnic on the beach instead? The weather is supposed to be beautiful'. If the plans are set in stone, I say 'We already have a commitment for dinner, but can we meet up with you all for a drink afterwards?'

I also noticed that giving gifts was really adding up. It was so simple to start making my own gifts instead. My favourite is to make chocolate covered strawberries and wrap them up in a beautiful gift box.

To stop caving in to pressure to buy, I've had to change the way I go shopping. It used to be a leisure activity to go with friends on the weekends, but I know I am too easy to influence. It's just inevitable that they will say, 'You look great in that, you should buy it', or 'I had this with my first baby, you definitely need it'. Now I shop alone, with a list! I've also stopped taking the bait in conversations. If someone is recommending a $700 mountain buggy stroller, I ask if they know of a more economical brand of similar quality.

The most important way I've stopped outside influence from wrecking our budget is to talk openly about things with friends and family. Through this I've learned that most people are in the same situation. A friend confided that she was deeply in credit card debt and didn't know what she was going to do. Now instead of meeting her for a weekly manicure and lunch date that costs at least $60, we have opened up and become a real support system to each other for reaching our financial goals. It's often perceived as taboo to talk about money with people, but I think our friends have been just as relieved as we are!

Contributed by: J.C.

Cash flow budget stops bill panic

I save the stress of knowing whether there will be enough in my account on the days my bills get paid by setting up a cash flow budget on an Excel spreadsheet. This is in addition to my normal budget. Across the top of the spreadsheet I allocated one column for each day of the month. The first row going down is the item, followed by a row for the cost of that item. You might need to create a few of those as you may have more than one outgoing in a day.

I filled in the cells, making sure to put a plus sign in front of every amount going in and a minus sign in front of every amount going out (for example, item: pay, cost: +$1500, or item: loan, cost: -$400). The last row indicates your balance at the end of each day.

I run my cash flow budget forward a couple of months ahead so I can see any potential hot spots as well as days when I will have extra money in my account that I can transfer to my savings. Previously I was caught out a few times and did not have enough in my account to pay that day's bill, so I had to shuffle money around my accounts or dip into my Visa card. Not anymore!

Contributed by: Sharon G.

Vision board achieves dreams

My husband was dumbstruck when I asked Santa for two whiteboards for Christmas! I explained to him how I hoped this unusual gift would help us all achieve our dreams.

The first board is for the pantry - it hangs inside the door and every time we finish something or take something out of the pantry/fridge that needs replacing we write it on the board and that is what goes on the shopping list. (Hence, I now have a shopping list - not just going to the supermarket without one and winging it which winds up costing a fortune and I come home without half the stuff I needed.)

The second is my 'vision' board - I have listed a few items that are my goals or rewards. This could also be a picture of something I'd like. The vision board can change as required but I believe we all need our dreams to keep us motivated and this is my way of being motivated. Things I have on my board are obviously - pay the mortgage off, a newer car, a holiday for my family and so on. To add to this I have diligently been filling out my Savings Diary daily so can see exactly where my money is going. I'm quite surprised how quickly everything totals up even when you are conscious of spending. Any extra overtime or additional pay my husband and I have been earning, we are putting into our progress saver account. We have provided ourselves with a nice little buffer now in case of tough times ahead.

Santa did bring me my whiteboards, he even hung them for me and the whole family is using them as they were intended!

Contributed by: Jodi Squires

6. Best of the Forum: May the Forum Be With You!

The hardest part of achieving goals, sticking to your budget and saving money is staying motivated. Look no further as the Forum is the perfect place to find inspiration, support and encouragement. Some of these threads have been running for a number of years but in true Simple Savings spirit, everyone is always welcome.

Home, Health and Heart - On the road to happiness January 2014

Nik C and her go-getting goal-setters know how to get what they want! New people are always welcome so jump in and start chatting.

Share your weekly menu plans (2014)

Planning your weekly menus is one of the best ways to curb your grocery and fast food spending. You'll find some great ideas here to help curb those expensive takeaways!

59 Sunbeams - Summer 2014

Join Lorax and members in their daily endeavour to 'get just one thing done'! Motivation, madness and milestones abound in this great thread to help get your life more organised.

Frugal '14

The title of this thread says it all! Chat and share ways to get the most out of your money in 2014 with Persephone and friends.

Grocery Challenge - January 2014

Start 2014 with a bang - and lots of savings - with Claire M and her amazing list of $21 Challenge ideas. Now is the perfect time to clean out those cupboards, freezers and fridges and get rid of Christmas leftovers.

7. Best Members' Blog: Loving My New Simple Life

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win $100 store credit in Ye Olde Shoppe or $100 cash 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 Blog winner is Murazaki who is doing big things on a small budget!

It's been over a year since I was last on this wonderful site but as I'm a full-time student now and on a small budget, I found myself thinking back to all of the inspiration, advice and encouragement I used to get here.

Looking back at my previous blog posts, I realise how far I've come. Things really hit rock bottom around the beginning of the year when I had to move back in with my parents. Since then though, I've started full-time study and recently moved into a beautiful share-house with some great people in a location that is really convenient for me. Despite (or perhaps because of) my small income, I am feeling very blessed right now. I have great people around me and I get to work towards my goals every day. I think that having a limited income means that I appreciate and value everything that I have. I am back into the swing of budgeting and looking for ways to live well and spend less, and I'm really enjoying it! My earlier blog posts were very much cries for help, and now that my life is back on track, I hope that this blog can be uplifting and give me the chance to share the different things I'm doing to reduce my expenses, and the joy that this is bringing me.

One thing I do to save money is do my grocery shopping at the markets. I love going out on a Sunday morning and seeing all of the fresh produce and freshly-caught fish out for sale. I love cooking at home, so it really is a pleasure for me to come up with creative ways to use whatever whole foods I find at a good price. At the moment my budget for groceries is $80 per fortnight, which is challenging but manageable.

Since I've moved to my new area, I'm enjoying taking public transport too. There are direct buses to TAFE and the city and everything else I need is either within walking distance or a short drive. I am really appreciating the student concession rates, as I can now ride the buses or trains from as little as $0.87c per trip during off-peak hours! I know that these details may seem boring to some, but I am deriving immense satisfaction from these simple little actions I can take to spend less money.

Another area where I'm saving is on skin-care, hair-care and cosmetics. Since moving house, I've realised how much skin- and hair-care products, as well as fragrances and cosmetics I've accumulated - four full green shopping bags of product! I've decided not to buy any more of this stuff unless I've searched through my whole stock-pile and made sure that I don't already have something that I can use! It can be too easy to just relegate everything to the bathroom cupboard and buy something that you want instead of looking to see if you already have it!

Well done Murazaki - we look forward to following the rest of your adventures!

You can read more of our Members' blogs here.

8. Cooking with Mimi: Golden Dream (Vanilla + Orange) Cheesecake

Before Vodka Cruisers, there were fruity cocktails.

Before fruity cocktails, there were decadent creamy cocktails.

And the first creamy cocktail I ever had, was a Golden Dream.

A lush mixture of Vanilla Galliano, Cointreau and Cream, dusted with nutmeg, it was more of a dessert than a drink!

This cheesecake takes me back to those days of creamy cocktails and all night dancing, and is a truly beautiful dessert for Christmas or any special occasion.

It's a little expensive, but once you have the liqueur, you can make a dozen of these. If you don't want the alcohol, simply replace it with orange juice for the Cointreau, and vanilla essence... about 1 teaspoon.

Very special indeed :)

You'll need:

  • 500gms cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 500mls thickened cream
  • 1 packet orange jelly crystals
  • 1/2 cup Vanilla (Yellow) Galliano
  • 1/4 cup Cointreau
  • 1 packet plain biscuits
  • 150gms unsalted butter
  • Springform cake tin

Then just:

Make up the orange jelly using 250mls of water, and put in to the fridge to make slushy, but not set, usually about two hours. Don't start the rest of the cheesecake filling until it's thick.

Make the crumb crust, by crushing the biscuits. We just do this by wrapping them in a clean teatowel, and bashing them for a few minutes with the meat mallet! But by all means use a food processor if you have one. Transfer them to a large bowl.

Melt the butter and mix it with the biscuit crumbs. Press them into the base of the springform pan, compacting them firmly with your hand or the bottom of a glass, and refrigerate it to firm it up.

Put the cream in one large bowl and the cream cheese and sugar in the other.

Beat the cream until firm peaks form and refrigerate it until you've finished with the cheese mixture.

Beat the cheese and sugar together until it's light and fluffy looking. About 3 minutes is right.

Add the thickened jelly and beat until smooth.

Add the Galliano and Cointreau and combine well.

Add the cream and combine well.

Pour the filling into the springform pan, and allow to chill and set overnight at least.

Garnish with cherries or toffee shards.

Cover with cling wrap, adhered gently to the surface to store. This will keep for up to a week, refrigerated.

You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

9. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Air Pruning Barrel for Trees

I have been interested in trying some air pruning gardening for a while now so decided to give it a whirl. Thanks to Better Days for starting the "Grow vegies in bags" thread on SS a while back & helping to get me started, Cheers :)»

Air pruning isn't a new idea & is used in the nursery trade to grow advanced trees for landscaping in relatively small pots. They are generally pots with holes all the way around the outside as well as in the base. Some are also made out of a thick polypropylene material, the same as the reusable shopping bags. In normal propagation pots the plants tend to become root bound as the roots slowly start to grow around the outer edge of the pot. These old roots are not very efficient at providing nutrients to the plant so the plant growth tends to become stunted. When the roots grow to the outside of an air pruning pot they hit the warmer, drier air from outside & tend to die off. This helps to prevent the roots wrapping around the pot becoming root bound & also sends a signal to the plant to send out more roots to replace the dying ones. These new roots will have more vigour & tend to be more efficient at absorbing nutrients, allowing the plant to grow larger in a smaller container.

I have played around with making up an air pruning bag out of a shopping bag before & it has gone really well so far although I don't think the material will hold up too long being exposed to the summer sun. I was also gifted some commercially available air pruning bags called "Smart pots" from a friend in the United States, Cheers Mr Dale, but unfortunately I haven't found the time to set these up as yet. I hope to have them set up around the "Simple Savings" bag shortly after the New Year and they will be home to some small bushes, veggies & herbs :)»

I decided to have a go at making up a larger air pruning barrel as a way to grow some fruiting trees rather than planting them in the ground. That way they can be moved around if need be in the future. The first guinea pig was to be our dwarf red paw paw/papaya. Here's my Youtube video of how it went:

I think that growing dwarf fruit trees in air pruning pots like this DIY barrel or a purchased version is a great idea for folks that only have a small yard or even only a balcony to grow on. It could be an ideal way for renters to grow some fruit trees as well I think.

You can get updates on Rob Bob's new gardening adventure blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

10. From Last Month: Christmas Sales Savvy!

Last month Sophie emailed us asking for ideas to get the most out of the Christmas sales:

"I have gone to a few Christmas sales in the past but stopped going as there seemed to be more hype than bargains. How do you get good deals at the Christmas sales?"

We got some fantastic ideas for Sophie - here are some of our favourite replies:

Wait until the sales are over

The best time to go to the Christmas sales is after they are over! After Christmas is when you can pick up wrapping, cards, labels, and things like plastic plates and serviettes. I put them away in a plastic bin with a lid, ready for the next year. I also buy my presents throughout the year, rather than at the last minute. I have a list of who I give to and write in what I have bought. This way you can benefit from any cheap buys you find, and also find something that the person will really love. My mum is 91 and hard to buy for - but she loves Panache talcum powder, so I picked her up a set when it was on sale during the year, then added a packet of six stockinettes because she can't wear pantyhose any more. Most of my presents come from bargain shops. The main thing to remember is to try and buy something that the person will love, not spend a large amount!

Contributed by: Lesley Forster

Keep a wishlist and grab a bargain

The post-Christmas sales are a great time to make great savings on my wishlist! I make a list that I keep specifically for the Christmas sales and haven't paid full price yet. I always buy towels and sheets during this time and save a fortune!

Contributed by: Dolly Mixtures

Do your homework and shop alone

My best hints for getting the most out of Christmas sales are-

Research - Check online and in catalogues first before buying so you know you're actually getting a good deal. It's easy to price check anything these days but is it really a bargain?

Make a list - I take a list of items I would really like to buy and stick to it, as I find in the crowds I get distracted without one!

Shop the sales alone - I find I have a lot more success if I go it alone and it's much faster too!

Contributed by: Margaret Bell

Top tips for getting the best from sales shopping

Christmas sales are a great place to pick up a bargain if you do it right! Here are some tips I have learned:

  1. List what you NEED from the sale.
  2. List what you MAY LIKE (not need) from the sale and consider carefully - do I WANT this? Will I USE this? Will I WEAR this? Is this the PERFECT gift?
  3. Do the research on the Internet, ask friends, check the sales brochures, visit the store before sale time and ask questions. Know the prices, sizes, colours, measurements of furniture and so on and take the tape measure or photo to match colours or other requirements.
  4. Know additional charges such as delivery fees.
  5. Do not buy anything unless you 'love' it or unless it truly will do the job or fit the purpose and you can afford to buy it.
  6. Do not fall for sales pitches - know your stuff and ask the right questions.
  7. Shop with purpose. Remain focussed; there's no point paying for a bargain that you will never use or because your friend loves it but you are not sure!
  8. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. This way your energy is sustained and you think clearly and remain focussed on the job. Make sure you have the time to shop so decisions are not rushed.
  9. My rule now is if I bring something to the house something has to leave the house to keep clutter out, but then I am 59 years old and find I need less 'stuff' in my maturing years!

Contributed by: Anne H.

Keep a post-Christmas price book

There are heaps of places you can get good deals after Christmas. I go to the supermarket and buy two or three rolls of Christmas paper which I use for the coming year and to make gift tags from too. Check out the second hand shops for goodies as well. If you live in the city and have time to check prices a price book is good to have on hand. Also check your junk mail for good specials. Ask your friends to keep an eye out for good deals on their travels too!

Contributed by: Zellie Wills

11. This Month's Help Request: Party Time!

Petra has emailed asking for some help! She writes:

"My Dad's 60th birthday is coming up and although I don't have a lot of money to spend, I want to put on a really unique birthday party for him. I'm not very creative and would love some ideas about where and how to cater for about 50 people. We have a bit of money put aside to hire a hall if necessary but all the invitations, decorations and food will be 'home-made'. I really want this to be something he'll remember so need your help!"

If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Petra, please send them in to us here.

12. Goodbye for Now!

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for January 2014 and we hope you have enjoyed it. Don't forget to check the Forum and Facebook for challenges and inspiration to help you get there - we want 2014 to be YOUR year!

Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

Till next time...
All the best,