Simple Savings Newsletter - June 2018

  1. Ultimate Gift Planner
  2. Our Screens Off Month
  3. Getting Unstuck on Gift Ideas
  4. Calendar Challenge Reminder: Gift Planning
  5. Savings Brilliance: Ideas are Free
  6. Hint of the Week Competition: Gift Planning
  7. New Competition: Warming up for Winter
  8. May Competition Winners!


We're coming into the halfway mark for 2018 and here is your June Simple Savings Newsletter packed with hints, tips and inspiration.

This month has been really busy. Our new site is almost ready to go. The mammoth task of re-building Simple Savings from the inside out is so close to completion, it is tormenting me. I'm like a little kid harassing their parent, "How much longer?" and "Are we there yet?". The waiting is killing me.

Hopefully, a couple of weeks from now we will have something to show you.

In the meantime, I'm going to help you get ready for Christmas. Yes, Christmas :-)


1. Ultimate Gift Planner

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Mother was swearing and cursing her spouse.
The children were hung from the chimney with care,
As Mother went mental with Christmas despair.

Christmas is supposed to be a happy and relaxed time, but there is so much to do in December that some years I spend Christmas Eve huddled in my room wrapping presents till 1am. Well, not this year. This year I have a plan. This year I am going to be super organised and it starts with a printer and a cup of tea. Would you like to join me?

Before that cup of tea, I'm going to explain to you what I am NOT going to do this year. This year I am not going to buy any Christmas presents in December. Because December is the worst time of year to go shopping for anything. The shops are packed, the queues are huge, everything takes twice as long, the car-parks are torture and the shelves in Kmart are close to empty.

Instead, I made myself the Ultimate Gift Planner. Would you like to have a look at it?

It is free to download until Wednesday, June the 13th. Then it will be a Vault members only treat.

The Ultimate Gift Planner works by showing you the who, when and what of your year ahead. First, you figure out all the people you give gifts to in a year. From this, you can estimate how many gifts you wish to give. Then the fun part; thinking of some great gift ideas. By taking a photo of your completed planner with your phone, any time you are shopping, you will have everything you need to get the perfect gift at the perfect price.

No more Christmas rushes, no more getting caught unprepared, no more Christmas queues. Because you will have everything under control.

Our Ultimate Gift Planner is free for you to download until Wednesday, June the 13th. After this it will be a members only printable.

2. Our Screens Off Month

I love Screens Off Month!! We had the best month!! Homework was completed quickly, the bedrooms were clean (mostly), wardrobes were sorted, weeding happened, presents were made, Tristan baked cookies, fudge and even made his friend a chocolate gun.

Tristan's chocolate gun looked so good, I took a photo.

If you would like to make one for a gift, the box is an old cutlery canteen we found at the op shop. We bought the chocolate gun mould on Etsy. Tristan gave the gift to his 12 year old mate who ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!

3. Getting Unstuck on Gift Ideas

We've all heard the saying, 'If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.' Planning ahead is one of the pillars of strength for Simple Savers. If we know what time and money demands are heading our way, we can plan to meet them without hassle. We can even plan for unexpected things by making sure we factor in a bit of wiggle room.

Birthdays, Anniversaries, Baby Showers, Valentines, Christmas are probably going to roll around this year much like they did last time round. Talk Like a Pirate Day, International Sardine Day, Harmony Day, Book Week, International Women's Day, Winter Solstice will all roll our way too. (By the way, 14 June is International Bath Day.)

You're not alone in this. Thousands of members have reached out for ideas on what to give in the forum. There are many helpful threads tailored to specific people, occasions, and budgets. For example, in the forum, member *~.Liz.~* needed ideas for end of year $10 gifts for teachers. Suggestions included sharing a family recipe, giving home-grown dried herbs & spices, giving a green gift like a pot plant or seed packet, and gathering a gift hamper for all staff to share. Another idea was to write a letter telling an exceptional teacher how grateful you are for their extraordinary teaching. Jump into a forum thread for more, or to share your own present know-how.

Some of the forum discussion about gift ideas for teachers are here:

Teacher Presents?

Ideas needed for teacher Xmas gifts

School teacher gifts

The forum is part of our paid members' area. You can get a membership here.

4. Calendar Challenge Reminder: Gift Planning

Imagine if you could give yourself any gift at all. Any beautiful present, just for you. Would it be a yacht? Cartier diamonds? A stable of thoroughbreds?

Of course not.

Simple Savers know the biggest gift you can give yourself is free-time. This month, by planning all the presents you want to give to people for the next 12 months, you will be giving to yourself too. You will be gifting yourself time by not having to dash to the shops for last minute purchases. You will be gifting yourself tranquillity by knowing, in advance, what, when, who and how. And, you will be gifting yourself cash savings that can really add up. No wrapping required!

There are three levels of challenge. Choose one that you think you can do and have fun by experimenting with gift planning.

  • Beginner level - Make a list of all the people you need to get gifts for over the next 12 months.
  • Moderate level - Make a list of people and choose gifts.
  • Hard core level - Arrange and wrap all gifts for the next 12 months.

Drop us a note! Write in with your plans, discoveries and breakthroughs! Sharing our innovations makes us all stronger savers.

5. Savings Brilliance: Ideas are Free

Sometimes the hardest part of gift giving is thinking up what present to give! We've given you a few starters here with these brilliant member ideas from the Vault.

Give the gift of history for under $5.00

Stuck for a unique gift? Try digging into history at the library!

I was looking for an affordable yet special gift for my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. I went to the State Library and used the microfiche to look up the newspaper containing their wedding announcement from all those years ago.

For just $2.00 I printed pages of the newspaper, including the front page. I also printed the top 20 songs, movies and major events of the year, all sourced from the web. I arranged the pages in a display folder. My gift was a great talking point at the anniversary party and it cost less than $5.00.

Contributed by: Annette Comiskey

Grandma's calendar gift that gives year round

For the past few years I have been giving my married children a large wall calendar for Christmas. But it is no ordinary calendar!

First of all, I find an organiser-type calendar with plenty of space on each day to fit lots of information. The ones with half of the space taken up with a picture, or where the date almost fills the whole square are not suitable.

I fill in each calendar with all the important family dates such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries, family holidays, national and school holidays, community events, All Blacks games and so on. My sister (a great doodle artist) makes me a set of personalised labels for all the special occasions. She does this each year as her present to me. The family loves to see their special artwork on their birthday space. So the calendar is a work of art to start with and a great family organising tool.

Then I place coloured dots on spaces where they will receive a gift and what it will be. I have a theme for the year and everyone gets the same gift. Last year everyone got movie tickets for their birthday.

My husband and I also plan a family outing. We pay entry fees and accommodation and the children provide their own spending money. They all race to hunt through the calendar to find out when, where and what it will be. I also add in babysitting days, a Grandchildren's Day each holidays, mother/son and mother/daughter outings, a spring-clean day, the odd grocery voucher and a few other things.

The calendar keeps on giving throughout the year. I can budget for a whole year at a time and the expense is spread throughout the year.

Contributed by: Lynette Cassidy

It's the thought that counts not the $ spent

When purchasing gifts (for Christmas in particular) concentrate on the gift rather than the 'amount' spent. Too often I hear, 'Oh I spent $25 on my mum and I have to spend the same on my mother-in-law'. If you find the 'perfect gift' for your mum, for example, and it cost $5.00 and the next gift for someone else costs $15, don't worry about it. It is the thought that goes into the gift that counts. One Christmas I received two bags of soil from my daughter's friend's family farm. Better than potting mix, and a lovely gift for me to make up some pots of strawberries. It cost her nothing in dollars but it was a gift full of thought.

Contributed by: Anne Hockings

Gift tags from pretty tissue boxes

This tip is a great way to make good use of something pretty instead of throwing it away. Rather than recycling or burning old tissue boxes with decorative patterns, simply cut out a gift tag shape, punch a hole in one corner, thread with recycled twine or ribbon and you have a pretty gift tag to attach to your next home-made gift. It's decorative on one side and blank on the reverse for your message. Simple, effective and free!

Contributed by: Susan A

Handmade gifts for under $2.00

This tip is from my Mum!

We love Christmas and everyone loves giving and receiving presents. When my mum told me that she had to buy a gift for each of the eight women in her craft group I nearly died! I couldn't understand why they didn't each buy one gift and each receive one random gift.

But was I surprised: they have rules. The gift must be kept to $1.00 and under no circumstances is it to exceed $2.00. You would not believe some of the beautiful gifts that my mother received - handmade decorations for the tree and house that would have cost $20 or more if bought at a shop and an inexpensive hand towel trimmed with a strip of delicate, intricate quilting that used up the creator's scraps.

And there was more. My mum was lucky enough to stumble onto a Royal Doulton sale where she picked up eight tiny dishes, all different and delightful for $1.00 each. She made shortbread biscuits in star shapes and tied them together in pairs like buttons. Wrapped in Cellophane, they made another fabulous gift.

It proved to me that gift giving is not about the cost of the gift, but how hard you make the money work that you have worked for. In years gone by I used to do my Christmas shopping for family and friends on a budget of between $2.00 and $5.00 a person, and I never left anyone out and everyone appreciated their gifts because a lot of thought went into them. I think those gifts meant more than an expensive item bought on Christmas Eve as an afterthought.

Contributed by: Michelle Quinsee

There are 1233 hints in the Vault to help you buy cheap, affordable and fantastic presents for your friends. If you are a Vault member, login and have a read through them. If not, get a Vault membership. It is a tiny $21 per year.

6. Hint of the Week Competition: Gift Planning

What gets you motivated to write out your present plan for the year? How do you plan? How do you fulfil your plan? What great things have changed in your life since planning your gifts and presents for the year? Please send your best hints in to our Hint of the Week competition.

Giving presents is an important way to express our thanks and care for those around us. Write in and share how gift planning has given more value to the gifts you give. By sharing our know-how with each other, we all become better Savers.

7. New Competition: Warming up for Winter

As we move into the colder months, one of the most costly day to day expenses can be heating our home. This month we have a new competition for your most savvy winter warming innovations. How do you keep your home warm without a rocketing electric or gas bill? What are your best tips for staying cosy and snug? What is your most proficient know-how for keeping Jack Frost at bay? Your stories really do warm my heart. Please send them to me at

The winning entry will be judged the most entertaining and informative story. We are giving away a $100 main prize and two $50 prizes for runners up.

To enter, send in your story by 20 June. Email your entries to:

8. May Competition Winners!

Thanks to everyone who sent in their inventive and useful tips about getting and staying off the screens. There were good entries into the Screen Tantrum competition too. Last month's competition winner, Mary Galea, used her rose-coloured glasses to get in touch with her no-screen habits from the past. Member Nicky Allouche found an app to support her family's need for change. And Moni C. used her screen tantrum to find inspiration in the frustration by inventing iPad Library.

Twenty years ago

Winner Screen Tantrum: Mary Galea

I had an 'Enough is enough' moment when the ball tampering issue was on every single media outlet in Australia every single day. When the moment hit me, it was a bolt from the blue, a strike of lightning, a flash of enlightenment.

Twenty years ago I didn't even know how to type. I wasn't glued to every news outlet waiting to hear more. Twenty years ago I was reading books. Going to the library. Watching television shows. There was sport too. But I was playing sport. Having fun with a club and being out in the fresh air on weekends and at training. I was sewing. Making clothes for myself and the kids. I was writing letters, on paper! And getting lots of pretty envelopes with gorgeous stamps from all round the world. I had penfriends, about 15, and that's now dwindled to 3.

Then screens happened. Years ago we had one TV in the house, for all the family. Then there was a TV in the corner of the bedroom when I was confined to bed for 3 months. Only a little one, but it was a second one. Then we bought a family computer. The kids started leaving home. And we upgraded the bedroom TV. And laptop computers appeared. An iPad, a Kindle, and two mobile phones too.

I needed to say enough is enough. So I did. I switched off the TVs. I switched off my iPad. I switched off my laptop. I deactivated my Facebook account. I read real books before bed. I've been going to the library again. It's fun! And I'm sleeping better.

Needed change supported by Our Pact

Winner Screen Tantrum: Nicky Allouche

I was shocked! My family spends so much time on screens. I realised I needed to do something to change our ways. I discovered the app, Our Pact. It allows parents to set times when linked devices can be used. Outside set times all apps disappear from the screen of the device. At an approved screen time, the apps reappear. With a flick of a button on my phone, I can turn all apps on or off from a particular device outside of the set time schedule. This works for us, as my kids can still have their phones to use them as a phone, but don't have all the other distractions that come with devices these days.

iPad Library

Winner Screen Tantrum: Moni C

You know those moments when you've asked your kids for the fifth time to do their music practice, pick up their socks or feed the cat? And they say nothing, nada, because they're sucked into the Land of Screens? You know what I mean, those days where you've been at work, picked up one kid from karate, helped another with high school maths (was maths always this hard??) and now you're cooking dinner while organising something on the phone for the Saturday soccer game?

When it gets like this, I crack! The first time it happened out of my mouth came, 'Right! That's it! iPad Library!' Of course no one paid any attention. They stayed forehead deep in YouTube, Minecraft, and something with cute cats who have to be fed a lot.

From that tantrum we invented iPad Library. It's just like a regular book library, but with iPads. I take the machines and put them, spine out, on a bookshelf. After they've made their contributions to keeping the house running smooth, they can check out an iPad for a limited amount of time. Who knows, maybe one day they'll pull a book off the shelf by mistake!

Till We Meet Again...

That's all I have for you this month. Good luck with the challenges. See you in July.

All the best,