"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - May 2012

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Chocolate Heals All
  2. June is 50c Indulgences Month!
  3. Toycott Competition Winners: Making Our Kids Grin
  4. Hidden Gems Competition Winner
  5. Best Member's Blog: This Month's Winner
  6. Best of the Forum: Enjoy Every Day!
  7. Best of the Vault: Inexpensive Indulgences
  8. Cooking with Mimi: Pan-fried Peppered Fetta and Posh Pâté
  9. Penny's Blog: It's Now or Never
  10. Lin's Garden Diary: More Surprises
  11. Homeopathy Corner: The Court of King Caractacus
  12. From Last Month: Where Do I Start?
  13. This Month's Help Request: Gluten-free Diet
  14. Savings Story: SS Newsletter Got Us Back on Track
  15. Goodbye for now


We have sad news for you this month. Our beloved, fantastic, wonderful Jackie Gower AKA Penny Wise has resigned. People often congratulate me on the $21 Challenge book but few realise the $21 Challenge book was never really my book. It was Jackie's. It was her dream, her baby and I only helped her make it happen. She was the drive behind the $21 Challenge. Jackie deserves the credit and the applause. None of us want her to go, but her choices are hers and it is something we have to accept.

We can't stop her from going, but we can give her a big, huge, loud, cheery send off! If Jackie has helped you turn your life around now is the time to speak up! If Jackie's book (and it really is Jackie's book) has saved you money, say it loud and say it proud! Please let the world know. Go to sites such as Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Womo and Facebook and tell Jackie how cool you think she is and how she has made a difference in your life.

Three cheers for Jackie Gower. Hip-pip! Hooray! Hip-pip! Hooray! Hip-pip Hooray!

Good luck Jack. I hope your next adventure is a huge success!

We are going to miss you!


P.S. Jackie's final blog is below.

P.P.S. The price of renewals was due to go up on 31 May. We have extended it for a week till 8 June in case anyone has missed out and wants to renew early at the lower rate. To renew early click here.

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Chocolate Heals All

Hanna was preparing for her savings group meeting when Sally walked through the door in tears. Sally had been beating herself up the entire way there. How could she have been so stupid? In one afternoon she had spent two month's savings at the toy sales. She felt sick to the stomach when she thought about how well she had done to save so much, only to blow it all! "It was such a dumb thing to do!" Sally cried to Hanna. "Please don't tell Chloe, she looks up to me and I'd feel so bad if she knew. I don't want anyone to know - please Hanna, I want it to be a secret!" she pleaded.

Hanna poured Sal a cup of tea and sat down to listen. Her friend was so sad, but how could she help her? Sally was sobbing, "Oh Hanna, please, please don't tell Pete," she begged. "I don't want ANYONE to know! NO ONE!" Hanna sighed and took a deep breath. "Oh Sally, it's OK. It was just a toy sale."NO! IT ISN'T" yelled Sally through her sobs.

Hanna was at a loss, how could she cheer Sally up? Just then she remembered her 50 cent goodies. She had brought a stash of chocolates, teas and soaps to show the girls. She might not know what to say, but she knew something that might make Sally smile. She grabbed some chocolate from the table and offered it to Sal. "Thanks Hanna, but even chocolate won't help me this time!"

2. June is 50c Indulgences month!

At the end of the day I doubt Pete or Chloe truly care about how much Sally did or didn't spend at the toy sales. They love her for her, but Sally can't see that at the moment. She is scared, insecure and in need of a giant hug. And, I don't think she is the only one needing a hug. We all do, we all need to be reminded that we are special and loved.

It is 50 Cent Indulgences Month, which means your task is to spoil yourself at least once a day. Do you think you can do it? Each day we want you to take some time out just for you and indulge yourself while only spending $0.50c. Let's have a look at some of the gorgeous things you can do:

  • Eat a small piece of chocolate.
  • Have a shower by candle light.
  • Go out to the yard and smell the roses.
  • Have a cup of tea without interruption.
  • Go to the toilet on your own. *wink* (I have four kids.)
  • Turn your boring soup into a cafe-style meal with a swirl of cream and some parmesan.
  • Dress up and look stunning.
  • Soak in a bath with macadamia oil (all the premium beauty products contain macadamia oil).
  • Lock yourself in your room and read a good book.
  • Switch off the computers and enjoy the silence. Bliss!
  • Add some ice cream to your coffee. Yum!
  • Look through old photos

Those are just some ideas but the Forum and this newsletter are packed with many more. For the last two years the wonderful Helen and Annabel have been encouraging members in the Forum to feel good about themselves. Feeling good about yourself is so important that Helen will be giving us regular monthly updates. We don't want you to spoil yourself only during 50 Cent Indulgences Month; we want it to become such a regular habit that you spoil yourself all year long.

To make that happen get out your Wealthy Habits calendar. On your calendar, write down how you are going to spoil yourself each and every day this month. Make a list of all the wonderful things you can do and tick off each day that you indulge yourself.

If you need help there are loads of people ready to support you in our members' area and on our Facebook page. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we may even have a free App for you later in the month to help you look and feel stunning.

I'm really looking forward to this month. It is going to be INDULGENT!

3. Toycott Competition Winners: Making Our Kids Grin

We have been inundated with over 300 entries for how you put smiles on your children's faces without buying them new toys. Thanks to everyone who sent in their stories and suggestions. They were great!

The top suggestions included getting crafty with cardboard boxes and other household recyclables, cooking favourite dishes, gardening together, toy libraries, face pulling games, lounge room discos, family movie nights, treasure hunts, outdoor activities like bird watching, bike riding, ball kicking and even dog barking impressions!

Here are our favourite four - congratulations to all our $50 winners.

GoGo Goanna: My children and I have a nightly routine that involves reading in my bed. It makes them smile more than any toy and it's simple and free! We choose our books together and everyone has at least one choice each. We take turns reading and the kids take great delight in using their voices expressively, asking the meaning of words and discussing the illustrations and how they are drawn. I compliment them on their reading - such as, 'Hey great scary monster voice!' and they now do the same for me. After reading time it's cuddle and tickle time. They love to say, 'Mum, raise your arms! Go on, we are not going to tickle you. Giggle, giggle!' Then it is all on with tickles all round!

This is when I most often hear that I'm the best mum in the world and they hear that they're the best children, and of course, in my world they are! It's also the time when they tell me their worries and fears, the news of the school day or anything else on their minds. After all this, which only takes 30 minutes to an hour depending on how many books we read, they are relaxed and happy to go to sleep - as am I!

MannaMamma: Realising that what our kids wanted was our time, not toys, we started making the time to take each of the kids out on '$5.00 dates' where they get our undivided attention. They choose where we go and what we do, as long as it's in the $5.00 budget. That's enough to get a milkshake or a doughnut, or they can save up their money and buy or do something special.

They love the time we spend together and feel really special, not because of the money we've spent, but because we've taken an hour out of our time just to be with them. We turn off our mobile phones, and it's just us for a whole hour - no sharing (unless they want to). Our relationship with our kids has improved out of sight, as has their behaviour! And as they're growing up, they know that if they need to talk to us about anything, ever, we will make special time for them. Anything they say is OK. Nothing is judged or criticised.

Our eldest is about to hit the teenage years and this has helped tremendously already. I hope it will change his experience of being a teenager and likewise with our other kids as they grow. As an added bonus, they're also treating each other and other people as unique and precious too! Sometimes they even want to go on 'double dates' with their siblings because they don't want each other to miss out! What I would have given to have thought about my sister like that when I was growing up!

Mary B.: My 23-month-old grandson and I have a wonderful evening ritual that makes us both smile. After his bath at night, he is dressed warmly and we go outside to see if the moon is out. If it is, we talk about what shape it is - full, half and he even knows crescent now. We look for the moon's face - the eyes, nose and mouth. And if it is covered by clouds that means it is hiding from us! We also look at the stars and spot the Big Dipper and then we look for planes overhead. It is a beautiful way to connect and is part of his bedtime routine. I'm not sure who smiles more - him or his granny!

Pat Sneath: My children are now grown but when I was a single parent with little extra money for toys, these are some of the things I did that my girls really enjoyed:

  • During the school holidays we would walk to the library where the girls would each pick out a book. We'd then have an hour each day for quiet reading time. I would always read them a book each night after their bath and before they went to sleep. They loved it and still talk about it - they both now do this with their own children!
  • Together we'd learn about new countries. We'd go to the library and get free videos, books and cookbooks about the country we wanted to learn about. We'd spend an evening watching the video and cooking something from the cookbook! Sometimes we'd also make crafts from that country using recycled items.
  • We had themed video nights where we got into our pyjamas early and would watch our videos with home-made popcorn. We had a lot of fun and laughs, those nights were never serious, but I sure learnt a lot about what they were thinking and what was happening in their lives!
  • When I began working full time and once they were in school I would take each girl out of school for one day every other month and have a 'mother-daughter day'. I always wrote a note to the teacher and told them this was our bi-monthly TLC day. Not one teacher ever complained that they should have been in school; in fact more than one teacher told me they wished more parents would have personal one-on-one days with their children! I'm proud that the girls both loved having time just with me; sometimes all we did was shop for groceries and then go home to do laundry and play the board games they got as Christmas presents.
  • We used to dye white t-shirts, jeans and sneakers bright orange using clothing dye! My daughter's friends all wanted to know where she got her neat set of clothes!

I never had a lot of money to spend on them, but I did spend as much time as I could with them. They still remember and talk about our fun times. My eldest daughter is now going on 45 and she still remembers how we used to sing all the way to the library (which I had forgotten!). So time is what they ultimately enjoy; your time and full attention!

4. Hidden Gems Competition Winner

Our Hidden Gems directory is designed to help members source the best deals in their area. Whenever you come across a real gem of a business, enter it in our Hidden Gems directory and you will be in the draw to win our monthly prize of $100 cash! This is our way of saying thank you for sharing your knowledge and helping other members save. The more information you can give us about your special store or business, the better.

This month's winner is Ned's at McLaren Mall, Mt. Barker, South Australia as nominated by Sandra R.

"I absolutely love shopping at Ned's in Mt. Barker! Everything is fairly priced and there is truly something for everyone - kids, collectors, interior decorators on a budget, teenagers, and even grannies who just want to treat someone or themselves!

"It's perfect for people who don't have the cash to buy expensive goods, but still want something that looks nice. There are even display stands with quirky things such as grinning dragons, fishing frogs or weird masks. It's like an Aladdin's cave every day of the week. The last thing I bought there was a ceramic candle holder (with candle) to sit on my new kitchen desk for just $3.00!

"Ned's is a family-run business that began with one small shop in rural South Australia around 15 years ago. The owner then opened a shop in Mt. Barker and there are many more locations now. The girls who run the shop are extremely helpful and interested. Whenever I ring and ask if they will hold something I've seen it's never a problem. Sharon seems to have been there forever!

"This shop has been challenged by bigger stores in Mt. Barker such as Cheap as Chips, The Reject Shop and such, but they've adapted and kept themselves unique. From a single shop, they've done so well to grow and expand around the Adelaide metro area and rural S.A. They are even able to advertise on T.V. nowadays!

"What makes Ned's in Mt. Barker so amazing for me is their brilliant displays - with something for everyone. The girls work hard to make colour-coordinated displays throughout the shop. These have become a must-see when shopping for groceries each week. I don't need much these days with both children grown up and independent, but I go if only to see what the displays are this week."

Congratulations on sending in this month's winning entry Sandra R. and a big shout out to Ned's for providing wonderful, courteous service and a vast array of budget-friendly products.

If you know somewhere special you'd like to recommend, please write in and tell us. Send in your Hidden Gem here and you could be scooping the prize money. Thank you and good luck!

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

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that 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 Gemma Appleby for her inspirational savings adventure 'How Simple Savings got me to LONDON!':

When I was younger I never imagined I'd get the travel bug, but I did! It's been a year this weekend since I first jumped on a plane at 22 years old to start travelling the world, and it's a big thanks to Simple Savings for getting me there!

I discovered Simple Savings when I was reading a magazine article about 'The $21 Challenge'. It really intrigued me, so I jumped on the website and signed up to start receiving the regular emails. I was a bit dubious at first, but as the tips started rolling in it really got me thinking about how I was spending my money. After a big life change, I decided I'd love to travel the world, so I started a savings plan that would allow me to live in London!

I needed to save about $12,000 in total, and starting from zero that seemed like a huge challenge! I had only just started my career as a radiographer and I also had a $17,000 student loan that I wanted to pay off. I started by writing down every little thing I spent my money on - from bars of chocolate to clothing purchases and car expenses. I soon knew exactly where my money was going - and how much I was spending unnecessarily. I kept track of my spending on an Excel document and updated my income and expenses every day. At the end of each month I tallied up the totals and challenged myself - how could I do better this month?

I eventually joined Simple Savings and discovered the Vault which really inspired me with so many great hints and tips on how to save money! Before I knew it I had bought my plane tickets and had registered with the Health Professionals Council in the UK. I had my visa processed with my savings in the bank and within six months of leaving New Zealand I had paid off my student loan (with a bit of help from my wonderful parents). And I did it all within just one and a half years!

Since then I've been living in London and have seen so much of the world! I've been to five cities in France, spent a week in Hong Kong, travelled to the Oktoberfest, visited Spain and Ireland, and have even managed a trip home for a wedding and a holiday in Australia. I'm looking forward to the trips I already have planned for this year - a weekend in Malta, a week in LA and Vegas, a weekend in Croatia and Venice, and many trips around the UK! What a savvy saver I have become!

Congratulations Gemma on making your dreams come true. To read any of our members' blogs, click here

6. Best of the Forum: Enjoy Every Day!

Many of us live life at full speed, making each day a multi-tasking marathon! Why not slow down and take time out to enjoy the simple pleasures. Indulge yourself every day with ideas like these - you deserve it!

Gratitude is an everyday thing - May 2012 :) - #2

Enrich your life by recording and reflecting on all the great things you are thankful for. Why not join the SS Forum gratitude group here.

Suggestions to make life more fun and interesting and give me some purpose

Perhaps you too are lacking some inspiration in your daily life. Well who better to turn to than our helpful Forum members! This thread is brimming full of ideas to inject some spice into your life - go for it!

How to look expensive on a shoestring budget - #2

Our marvellous Mimi leads the charge on indulging ourselves in the fashion stakes. Follow her tips on keeping your wardrobe up to date, at minimal charge.

How to meet new people and make new friends

There must be something in the air. Everyone wants to get out, meet new folk and bring interest and pizzazz into their lives.

Your SS successes. Positive celebration and motivator

Now is a great time to take pride in your achievements so far on the road to financial freedom. Celebrate your successes and be motivated to keep going! This Forum thread will get you on the right track.

7. Best of the Vault: Inexpensive Indulgences

50 cent Indulgences Month is the perfect time to spoil and pamper yourself. No excuse needed! Just head to our Vault which is jam-packed full of super suggestions to give you a little luxury every day.

55 cent birthday gift

I have just given someone a birthday gift which cost $0.55c and I am quite proud of myself.

My new year's resolution is not to be wasteful with money. Normally I buy a cheap card for $1.00 and then buy a cheap $10 gift. Not bad. This year I purchased a $0.55c pink refillable display book (on special from newsagents) and filled it with all my favourite secret recipes. The front page contained the birthday wishes. I did it all on a computer, with some simple graphics. The recipient is a mother of three boys on a budget, and all the recipes were simple, quick and economical. She was thrilled!

Contributed by: Kath J

D.I.Y. bath bombs

These are great to give to your friends as a little something to say thanks, happy birthday or merry Christmas. They are especially ideal for the ladies.

All you need are the following:

  • 1 1/2 cups bi-carb soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • Scent or fragrance of your choice (you can use essential oils if you have them)
  • Food colouring of your choice
  • Sweet almond oil or any cooking type oil
  • Flower petals if desired

NOTE: Make sure everything is dry. Even the smallest hint of moisture will make the ingredients fizz.

Sift the bi-carb and citric acid into a large bowl; add petals if desired then divide mix into four separate batches.

In another bowl, mix one tablespoon of oil, enough fragrance to suit you and enough food colouring to get the desired colour. Mix well. This mix is enough for one of your small batches of dry mix.

Add the colour and fragrance mix to a batch of dry mix and mix in with fingers very quickly, making sure that it does not fizz. Mix well to make sure the colour and fragrance are distributed evenly.

Press firmly into lightly oiled moulds. You can use just about anything as a mould. Try using the plastic lid from a can of hairspray or jelly moulds if you have some. You can buy bath bomb moulds from some craft shops. Make sure that you press the mix firmly into the mould, otherwise it will crumble.

Leave in a dry spot for about 24 hours, then gently press them out.

Bi-carb is approx $2.10 for 500g. Citric acid is approximately $1.70 (not sure of the size) and food colouring is approximately $0.85c. These are available from the baking section of the supermarket.

You can use your favourite perfume as a scent or essential oils. I buy oils from a $2 shop as they are not too expensive and it doesn't matter how much you put in.

You can use fresh petals or potpourri if you like, but these can be left out if you wish.

How many should it make? It all depends on the size of the mould you use. The smaller the mould the more you get but you should get at least four to five good sized bombs. Depending on how many you make, these can cost about $1.00 each to make.

For gift giving, package in some cellophane or tissue paper and festive ribbon.

Contributed by: Ellen Gush

50c holiday fund saves $1200!

I have saved enough money for a holiday entirely in 50 cent coins! Over the years I have tried the old $2 Shop money box tins but I always seem to have to break into them with a can opener! Instead, I got a catering size coffee tin and made a hole in the lid big enough to put 50 cent coins through. I taped the lid with enough tape to make it a pain in the butt to open, then printed off an A4 piece of paper with the words '50c holiday fund, donations gratefully accepted' and taped it to the front of the tin. I then put it in the lounge room and added every 50c coin I had to it. As it became a habit I actually made a point of paying for things in a way that would probably get me a 50c coin! Those coins were taboo for using EVER and even visitors would see my tin and rummage for 50c coins to add. Recently I counted up my tally and WOW! I have $1,238.50! Now when can I take that holiday?!

Contributed by: Wise Owl

Frame colourful cards

Framed paintings and prints on the walls can give much pleasure and add warmth, colour and character to a home. These can be out of reach of the budget of many people.

Why not keep colourful or beautiful birthday cards, Christmas cards, notes or postcards that you particularly like. You might want to dig out any special ones you have kept over the years. Look in opportunity shops for old picture frames which will be much cheaper than those even in bargain shops.

Cut a piece of heavy cardboard to fit the back of the frame. Stick the backs of the cards to the cardboard so that the card can still be opened. Clean the glass, and scrub or paint the frame. Place your cards (stuck on the cardboard) behind the glass. The cardboard can be held in place with a few small holders (bought inexpensively from a hardware shop) that can be bent or turned so that the cardboard may be removed easily and you are still able to read the messages if you want to.

You will have memories on the back, and bright, colourful pictures for your walls on the front! Other people will enjoy them too.

Contributed by: Donald Scott-Orr

$3 girl's night out

My friends and I save heaps on girls nights out with a special 'pamper' evening we hold at alternate houses every few months. We all bring clothing, accessories and make-up that we own but never use (because they were impulse buys, we changed our minds and so on) and start the evening by doing a clothes swap. We all then do each other's hair, make-up, nail polish and so on and we also invite the local Avon lady to come along and give us beauty tips. Most importantly, we each put in $3.00 that goes towards a couple of bottles of wine from the local supermarket. This usually leads us out for a night of boogying, so we end up getting pampered, feeling beautiful and getting an awesome dance work out for just $3.00 and a few supplies from our homes!

Contributed by: Samantha Cassidy

Extra tips for Vault members

Groovy cushions from old pillows Contributed by: A Mitchell

Maximum enjoyment and value from roses Contributed by: !Runt!

Candelight, wine and a picnic at dusk Contributed by: Rachael Wood

Holiday week without the expense Contributed by: Cathy Carige

8. Cooking with Mimi: Pan-fried Peppered Fetta and Posh Pâté

Affordable Indulgences

June is 50c indulgence month, so I thought I'd share a few indulgent ideas to get us going. Actually if it weren't for 50c indulgences, there'd be zero indulgences for me. My Pan-fried Peppered Fetta has all the elements of a true indulgence - inexpensive, gourmet-ish, and easy to replicate whenever you like. And you're sure to love my Posh Pâté. I've been making this one for 35 years. It's a special treat for my close friends and family at Christmas and now it can be your little indulgence.

Posh Pâté (makes three 100g serves)

I love pâté. There's something so earthy, mysterious and lush and luxurious about it; even more so when it's home-made and you know what the ingredients are. So if you've never made pâté before, I urge to you have a try. It's worth it, I promise.


  • Non-stick frying pan
  • Sharp knife
  • Large spoon
  • 3 x 150ml capacity ramekins or containers
  • Small microwave-safe jug
  • Food processor


  • 250g chicken livers
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 rashers bacon, diced
  • 3 tbsp port (you can also use sherry, wine, brandy or a mix of half orange juice and half chicken stock)
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • Cracked pepper, if desired

Place one tablespoon of butter into your pan and melt over a high hotplate. Add the chicken livers, onion, bacon, bay leaf and thyme. Let this sizzle away for seven to ten minutes, using your large spoon to stir regularly until nice and golden on all sides.

After about seven minutes, cut one of your livers (that is the chicken livers, not yours!) in half and check that it is browned all the way. Tip the contents of your pan into your food processor. Scrape all that yummy, crunchy, brown stuff on the bottom of your pan in there too. Add your cream and cracked pepper. Now pop your pan back on to your hotplate and pour in your alcohol or chosen liquid. Beware that alcohol will sizzle and hiss madly as the alcohol content burns off. Use your large spoon to scrape the pan and loosen any leftover crumbly bits. Add this to the mixture in the food processor. Process it all on the fastest setting for a minute or two until it looks really smooth and creamy.

Spoon your finished pâté into your ramekins and smooth the top well. Place the remaining two tablespoons of butter into a microwave-proof jug, cover and heat on 50% until melted. You'll notice the clarified butter rises to the top and the milk solids to the bottom. If possible it's the clarified butter you want to use so let the melted butter just sit for thirty seconds or so then carefully pour the clarified butter over the surface of the pâté until it is completely covered.

Chill your pâté for at least two hours before enjoying with slices of buttered toast, crackers or vegetable crudités. It will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Pan-fried Peppered Fetta with Roasted Pumpkin and Onion Confit

The trick to this recipe is to pepper the fetta first, then freeze it for a while. This means you end up with a warm, delectable slab of peppered fetta and not a gooey messy pile of fetta and pepper smeared over the bottom of your frying pan. For the side dish, I cook a whole pumpkin ahead of time, roasting the wedges and storing them in a lunch box in the freezer for snacks or to add to meals. Just cut a whole pumpkin into wedges (with the skin on), spray with cooking spray and roast at 200°C for about 30 minutes until tender.

Pan-fried Peppered Fetta (Serves 4)


  • Non-stick frying pan
  • Dinner plate
  • Sharp knife
  • Baking paper
  • Small shallow bowl
  • Metal spatula


  • 5cm thick (approx) block of fetta
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Flour for dusting
  • Oil for frying
  • Roasted pumpkin and onion confit or your favourite relish for serving

Slice your slab of fetta in half lengthwise giving two thinner slabs. Cut this into three or four fingers, crosswise. Place the fingers of fetta on your plate lined with baking paper. Sprinkle each piece of fetta generously with the cracked pepper, press the pepper gently into the surface of your fetta so that it's well embedded. Now pop your plate with the peppered fetta into the freezer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile set up your serving plates with your pumpkin drizzled with the onion confit (or your favourite relish) and spread some absorbent kitchen towels on the bench to drain the cheese once you have fried it.

Pour about two tablespoons of oil into your frying pan and place it over a medium-high hotplate. Remove your well chilled fetta from the freezer. Spoon your flour over the fetta and toss carefully to coat before immediately placing in the frying pan. You'll probably need to cook these two or three at a time, topping the oil up a little for the second batch.

Pan-fry for about a minute on each side to brown and warm the cheese through. To flip your fetta, it's easiest to use a thin metal spatula. Once cooked, drain on your absorbent kitchen towel before transferring to your plate. Serve immediately and enjoy!

9. Penny's Blog: It's Now or Never

Well, I think this has to be a first, even for me. I know I can be slack but I don't think I've ever missed a whole MONTH of blogging before, have I? Apologies for my absence but I fear part of the reason for my tardiness is I've been putting it off because I know this one is going to be so blooming hard to write. I know, it's not often I'm lost for words, I've been writing since I was seven years old! I still vividly remember the very first time I saw my name in print; it was in 'Bunty' magazine and I won a prize for writing a poem about my dog. After that I plagued the poor editor with poems about my cat, my grandmother's budgie, whatever I could think of. Since then, I've never really stopped.

When I first started writing a blog, I didn't even really know what one was! But as a new member of Simple Savings and a Sad Sally of the highest order, I was being transformed into a Happy Hanna at an amazing rate. These tips REALLY worked! I wanted to shout it from the rooftops how good they were so that everyone who came to visit the website would give them a go and know SS really could help them. I tried nagging Fiona to write a blog but with two toddlers and a business to run she said she didn't have time - but I could if I wanted. So I did. I would never have dreamed that seven years later I would still be doing it, I've never managed to keep a diary longer than a couple of weeks before!

I also never dreamed that anybody would actually READ it. But people did and over the years it feels as though I've made a lot of wonderful friends. In fact, if you've read my blog you probably know me better than the majority of people who actually know me in real life! When Penny Wise first appeared on Simple Savings, my boys were just six and eight years old. Now they are 14 and 16. I have loved sharing the details of their growing up (although they would probably absolutely kill me if they knew some of the things I had told you!) I have been lucky enough to meet some of you in person and I have received many, many incredible emails but none so memorable or life changing as the one I received back in 2006 from Barb telling me of her very first $21 Challenge. Who could have possibly imagined where that would lead? It still never fails to blow me away just how many people the $21 Challenge has helped; just the other day I was sent a lovely letter from Work and Income NZ, telling me they have incorporated the $21 Challenge into their Smart Choices program with hugely successful results. Amazing!

I remember the very first time I went to Australia and met Matt and Fi in person. There we were, sitting in the lounge with a leisurely glass of wine and Matt said to me cheekily 'Now, you do know you're with Simple Savings until death now, don't you?!' I didn't have a problem with that, far from it! I could never imagine doing anything else. But writing the $21 Challenge book with Fiona made one of my dreams come true. Ever since my 'Bunty' days that is what I have wanted to do more than anything; write books. Everyone has a novel in them, so the saying goes and over the past couple of years I've realised I have at least three, all demanding to be let out. Whether any of them will actually be any good remains to be seen! But there's only one way to find out.

So I have made the decision to leave Simple Savings and see if I can write those books. I'm hoping this blog doesn't sound too stilted and impersonal but the truth is I don't want to stop and think too hard about the people I'm leaving behind or I'll turn into a big slushy mess. I have enjoyed every moment of being Penny Wise and I'm sure I will still get called Penny for a long time to come. I'm sure people will continue to quickly slam the doors on their pantries and try to hide the contents of their shopping trolleys when they see me too! But it's time to move on, if I don't do it now I never will.

Thank you to each and every one of you who has popped in to read about us over the years. It's been a wonderful ride and it has been a privilege to be able to share it with you. Thanks to you I have never felt alone or unsupported in our journey. I have learned an astonishing amount since joining Simple Savings. From the day I joined it really did change my life. For anyone who isn't familiar with our family, the house we are standing in front of in the photo is our dream house at the beach, where we moved 18 months ago. We are living proof that anything is possible!

From now on, I'll be leaving the money talk to Fiona and the team but if any of you are gluttons for punishment and would like to continue following our family you are very welcome to do so in my brand new blog! Yes, after all this time not waffling on about myself is proving a hard habit to break, so I have started a new blog called Laughing is Free (laughingisfree.blogspot.co.nz) and I would love for you to visit. I can't promise it will change your life and I can't promise it will save you money but it might give you the odd chuckle - and I CAN promise not to write any poems about my dog, cat or grandmother's budgie. You are also very welcome to check out my Facebook page (facebook.com/jackiegowernz), don't be strangers!

But for now I guess this is it. From all of us a fond farewell and all the best for a very prosperous future. Each and every one of us is incredibly lucky to have Simple Savings in our lives, so do make the most of it.

Ladies and gentlemen, Penny Wise has left the building :-)

10. Lin's Garden Diary: More Surprises

When it comes to gardening, our family has come a long way. In fact, you could say we've gone from complete gardening amateurs to having earned our 'green fingers badge' in less than a year. Something we're pretty proud of!

You may recall that Sebastian, Zoe and I began sharing our gardening journey in last September's newsletter. Having failed miserably in the past to grow even the simplest of vegetables, we decided it was time to learn a little more. So I started researching and reading everything I could about gardening, including all of the fantastic hints in The Vault. Then with our gumboots on and our sleeves pulled high, we got stuck in and created the most fantastic vegetable garden. The time the kids and I have spent together has been magic, not only have we grown lots of delicious fresh produce, but the kids now enjoy a wider variety of vegies and salads - which they love because they've grown them in their own garden.

And just like our thriving vegies, our gardening expertise keeps growing and growing. You may recall that over the past few months we've been saving hard for a worm farm. Well, we were thrilled to arrive home recently to find one sitting at the front door. It turned out to be a gift from our neighbour who knew that Seb and Zoe would enjoy it. So our next gardening adventure will involve learning how to be great 'worm farmers' - Zoe's kindy has even donated some worms to get us started.

We encourage you all to have a go at growing your own vegetables, it's extremely satisfying and once you know the basics, it's surprisingly easy. But if you're still a gardening amateur, like we were, and have no idea how to get started, why not take a look through the Simple Savings newsletter archives and follow Lin's Garden Diary. We'll teach you how to plan and build your garden, how to successfully sow seeds, the importance of having a gardening mentor, composting and more. We know you'll love it as much as we do and it's a great way to spend some fun family time together that the kids will always remember.

So whether you're a 'gardener in training' or you have earned your green fingers badge like we have, Sebastian, Zoe and I wish you all the best of luck with your growing endeavours. From now on I'm going to be working behind the scenes at Simple Savings and next month there will be a new gardening blogger to help inspire you on your way. I'm not saying who it is yet; Fiona is still working out the details. It will be a surprise.

11. Homeopathy Corner: The Court of King Caractacus

While trying to explain why I loved Fran's article, I thought of Rolf Harris's song "The Court of King Caractacus". Do you remember it, with its fascinating witches and their scintillating stitches? It is a great song; I love how the list just keeps getting longer and longer. Just like the list of medications some people take, such as one drug for their headaches, another for their rheumatism, another for their blood pressure and another to combat the side effects of the rheumatism medication. The list soon gets as long as the Court of King Caractacus's parade. Not long ago, when one of my friends went to hospital they were on 22 different medications. Luckily, homeopathy does not work that way. It is the opposite. One drug treats many illnesses so it is simpler, cheaper and there is no need for the Court of King Caractacus.

This month Fran gives examples so you can see how one remedy can treat a number of different conditions. So this means, no matter what the illness, a proper homeopath will only prescribe you one remedy at a time. To read Fran's article go here:-


12. From Last Month: Where Do I Start?

This is a query we regularly get from our new members. Last month Karen asked:

"I've been on SS for a few months now, so am relatively new and loving every minute. However, I tend to flick from one thing to another, spending valuable time and need more structure. Do you have any suggestions to new members where to start? For example, I have:-

  1. Mimi's recipes/other recipes on my Watch List.
  2. The $21 Challenge (read this book from the library).
  3. Hints & Tips (added to my Watch List).

"I desperately need to reduce my shopping bill and need to menu plan more often. Does anyone have any other suggestions? What do other members do to get the best out of SS?"

Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in to share their wisdom with Karen and all our new members. Here are the best of the bunch!

One step at a time...

Our family of four has been in financial crisis for quite some time and over the past three years Simple Savings has been a godsend! We've been through major illness, a significant accident and major surgery, not to mention being out of work. Thank goodness for the monthly 'how-to' emails full of great tips and reality stories about others in the same or worse situations and how they were coping. What I have learned is that I, and you, can do it! It just takes one small step at a time.

One of the biggest realities for me was going through my pantry and freezer and writing EVERYTHING down. From that list I managed to make 36 meals for my family. Of course I had to buy some extras along the way but the basic meals were planned from what we already had which made it easy. Every day I'd simply look at my list and choose what was for dinner. It really does take the hassle out of planning meals. Another helpful idea is to get other family members involved with planning; they can even choose a night they'd like to cook using the ingredient list.

Contributed by: Jo G.

Make the most of SS threads

I've found it really useful to start a thread with a specific question relating to what you want to know. You can also put your shopping list up for others to comment on and offer suggestions for reductions and substitutions. It also allows you to see examples of other Simple Savers' menu plans as well!

Contributed by: Squishy Squishy

Spread sheet your $21 Challenge stocktake

I thoroughly recommend The $21 Challenge - here's how I took it just a little bit further. After doing a stocktake of my fridge, freezer and cupboards, I entered everything on to a computer spread sheet. I listed the items in the different shelves in my freezer, did the same for the fridge and then the cupboard shelves. I then printed them off and attached them to the doors. Now I can tell at a glance what I have and where it is! If I use something, I cross it off the list and if I buy something I add it to the list where I've left a couple of spaces. Once a month I update my lists, which is always quick and easy since it is already on the computer!

Contributed by: Lesley Forster

Set goals, find support and trust you'll get there!

For those wanting to get started on The $21 Challenge, I recommend reading the book from cover to cover first to get an overall feel of it. Next work out how you can implement The Challenge and start saving that precious grocery money! Also, think about your goals and why you are doing this. Go beyond just paying the bills and think about what really floats your boat - it may be to buy your own house or to go on a holiday. Another tip is to read as many books about finances as possible. And finally, find support on the Forum and trust that you will get there!

Contributed by: Minister of war & Finance...

Manage savings ideas with Watch Lists

By using the Simple Savings' 'Watch List' function, I've found it really easy to keep up to date with everything I'm interested in! First of all, work out where in your household you'd like to make savings or improvements. For me it's de-cluttering, grocery shopping and gift buying! Next, search for these topics in the Simple Savings Blogs or savings Forum. When you find one you're interested in put it on your Watch List. This makes it easy to follow the updates and chat with others who may have hints and ideas on topics you're interested in.

A helpful tip is to keep a list of the topics you want to follow in a notebook or on a list. This way you can quickly pop ideas down as you think of them and when you have the time, you can go through the list, look everything up and add the threads to your Watch Lists.

A quick tip that I'd also like to share is to set the timer on your mobile phone to help you remember things that need to be done - like stopping for lunch and a cuppa! I'd also like to recommend buying The $21 Challenge book, or get someone to gift it to you. It's full of great ideas and will provide inspiration and motivation to make big savings!

Contributed by: Searock

Track savings ideas in a journal

You may find it useful to keep a journal of the savings ideas you put into place around your home. This way you can see just how much you have changed over time! It's also a great way to keep your favourite hints and tips together and you'll have ideas about what you want to do next as you read it. Start with one tip that saves you cash and you'll get instant rewards! Add in a tip that saves you time and you'll have more time for that hobby or to spend with your family! Find a tip that saves you energy and this will probably save you time and money in the long run.

Search for hints that suit your circumstances. For example, find lunchbox ideas for school kids and slow-cooker recipes to save time and money and help you enjoy a hot meal at night without much effort. Find ways to make home-made gifts for friends and family that will save you time whilst boosting those feel good vibes!

Contributed by: Clutterhen

13. This Month's Help Request: Gluten-free Diet

Wendy from Victoria asks:-

"My husband has recently been diagnosed with a rare auto-immune condition called 'Relapsing Polychondritis'. I have been told a gluten-free or wheat-free diet would help. Do you have any tips for gluten-free eating on a budget?"

If you have any tips which can help Wendy, please send them in to us here.

14. Savings Story: SS Newsletter Got Us Back on Track

When I first joined Simple Savings in 2010, my husband and I had a four month old baby and neither of us had a job as we had both been living in the Philippines (my home country) for eight months prior - using money from his redundancy in 2009. With $6.00 in our pockets and a shocking credit card debt of $35,000 (from three cards), we arrived back in Australia and had to stay with my husband's parents. We still had to pay weekly rent in the form of a loan, which is of course another form of debt. But to the credit of my in-laws, they did help us with food and provided dinner every night.

Thankfully, after three months my husband got a job. The tips from the SS free newsletter helped us pay off my husband's parents and we were able to rent a flat and start paying off the credit cards one by one. We now have only one card left to pay which has less than $10,000 owing on it and we haven't used it for more than a year. It's still a huge amount of debt but we consider that we've done really well to reduce our debt by $25,000. We've also been able to visit my family in the Philippines for three weeks for just $6000 including food, accommodation and treats. We called it our Simple Savings holiday!

We owe all of this to our SS newsletter. I learned to cook from scratch, I embraced the beauty of buying from op shops and learned to create and stick to a budget. And the best thing that I did was open a savings account for upcoming bills - I put money in every day and forget about it until the bills arrive. I always pay them as soon as they arrive rather than wait for the due date, this way I save any late payment fees and other charges.

Contributed by: SSbabyB3

15. Goodbye for now!

Phew! Well, that's a wrap on another Simple Savings newsletter. We hope you have enjoyed it and have been inspired by all the money saving tips. 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.

We hope you have an awesome month and make good use of your 50c indulgences - you deserve it!

Till next time...

All the best,