Simple Savings Newsletter - May 2018

  1. Congratulations, Facebook Volunteers
  2. $21 Challenge Applause
  3. What Could You Do With A Spare 3,796 Hours?
  4. Calendar Challenge Reminder: Screens Off
  5. How To Switch Off The Screens
  6. Hint Of The Week Competition: Screens Off
  7. New Competition: Screen Tantrums
  8. Competitions: March Winners!


Welcome to the May 2018 edition of your Simple Savings newsletter.

At Simple Savings we believe in all types of saving. This month we are saving time. May is ‘Screens Off’ month. This is your month for regaining control of your time and household by switching off the screens, big and small. It doesn't matter if you are at the Beginner, Intermediate or Expert level at taming the screen; the article below has lots of specifics to help and challenge you.

Screens Off month for me is going to be cruel. No computer games. No Candy Crush. No Clash Royale. No watching 30 Rock (I'll miss you Liz Lemon). No Audio books. And no hanging out in non-work-related Facebook groups. This is going to be tough.

There are two competitions open this month. Firstly, the hint of the week competition is calling for entries about saving time by turning off the screens. Second, this month’s new competition is a chance to share your funny story about hitting the wall with screens and declaring "Enough is enough!" Read on below for more information about both of these contests.

To encourage you to send us your stories we are giving away $200 in prizes. As always, entry to the competitions is open to everyone and completely free.

Happy saving,

1. Congratulations, Facebook Volunteers

We have great news! Our Simple Savers Facebook group grew to 100,000 members this month and it is all due to the incredible work of our fantastic Facebook Volunteers Sandra, Jan, Mark, Bec, Danen, Vanessa, Bev, Melissa, Taylor, Meg, Jules, Tameka, Kirsty, Kate and Victoria. Thank you for all your work! Many Australians can now pay the bills and have food on the table thanks to your tireless generosity. Thank you for your selfless work.

2. $21 Challenge Applause

Please give an extra special round of applause for Judy M. In April, Judy spent only $3.46 on food. Well done Judy!! Here is Judy's tale:

I started out in April with one hope - to succeed at the $21 Challenge, but to do it 'Extreme'. My wish was to spend no more than $10 for the whole thirty days of April. There are two in our house and we often have friends over for coffee or a meal. When I took stock of everything in the pantry and freezer I was amazed by how much food was there ready and in reserve. I thought maybe we needed some powdered milk to get through the month so I spent $3.46 on milk.

After I set myself the 'Extreme' $21 Challenge I made sure to keep the freezer at full capacity. Each time I took something out of the freezer I restocked with more food from the garden. I froze fruit, veggies etc. so there would always be something on hand. The pantry was full too. I made scones and baked other treats for morning tea. We had Impossible Pie and soup for lunch. We even enjoyed a roast for dinner.

We had 10 people for lunch one day. Then visitors came for dinner that same night to help eat the leftovers. Even after those two big meals, with guests, there was still heaps of food left. I had stored extra food in March as we had visitors staying. But even with that, and visitors staying in May, the only extra thing I will have to buy is milk.

By the end of April, all I'd spent was $3.46 on milk. That was my entire food spend for the whole month. It is amazing what you can do with what you have. The money saved from our $21 Challenge 'Extreme' is going to be bonus spending money when we take a holiday later in the year.

3. What Could You Do With A Spare 3,796 Hours?

How many times have you heard someone say, "...but I don't have time" ?

  • I would love to go to the gym, but I don't have time
  • I would love to start a Certificate course, but I don't have time
  • I would love to lose weight, but I don't have time
  • I would love to write a menu plan, but I don't have time
  • I would love to renovate, but I don't have time
  • I would love a clean home, but I don't have time
  • I would love to save money, but I don't have time

I hear these phrases so often and I wonder, where has all the time gone? Where was it spent?

Then I notice my children, at home, jumping from screen to screen. They skip from one screen to another to another. Flicking from Overwatch to YouTube and back again. Seeing this, it is easy to figure out where all the times goes: It is spent staring at screens.

In fact, the average Australian spends 2 hours and 27 minutes per day watching screens. And, a staggering 10 hours and 24 minutes per day engaging with internet connected devices.

That works out as 899 hours (equivalent to 23.7 working weeks) staring at a screens and 3,796 hours (yes, nearly a hundred 38 hour work weeks) on internet connected devices per year.

I want to repeat that last calculation: 3,796 hours, every year, spent on internet connected devices.

The good news is that reclaiming your time is simple. All you have to do is to set yourself some boundaries, and now is the month to do it because May is 'Screens Off' month. Now is the time to regain control of your household by switching off the screens. These are my four boundaries:-

  1. I will not watch 30 Rock all month
  2. I will not play any games including Candy Crush and Clash Royale all month
  3. I will not spend time on Facebook unless it's related to Simple Savings
  4. I will not listen to BorrowBox (audio books) or podcasts all month

What will your boundaries be?

Please drop into our forum and share your journey with us in Claire's thread:

2018 May - Screens Off - SS Calendar Challenge

(The forum is part of our paid members area. If you would like a membership click here)

4. Calendar Challenge Reminder: Screens Off

Time is a precious resource. We all have a finite amount. Save time and regain control of your household with the Simple Savings Calendar Challenge for May: Screens Off. There are three levels of the Challenge to choose from, Beginner, Moderate and Hard Core.

Which one will you do this month?

  • Beginner: All screens off for one day a week
  • Moderate: One week screen-free
  • Hard Core: The whole month screen-free

Please write in and tell us what you are planning and how it is going. I love getting your emails. They make me smile.

5. How To Switch Off The Screens

I was chatting with my kids about writing this month's newsletter. "I've told everyone, in writing, that I'm not playing Candy Crush or watching 30 Rock this month." I said.

"Can you write in the newsletter," asked Jacqui, my 14 year old, "that when you told us you were giving up Candy Crush and 30 Rock, we snorted with laughter?" Jacqui smiled and emphasised, "SNORTED with laughter..."

She doesn't think I can survive without Candy Crush, or Liz Lemon. Nonetheless, the kids have chosen to support me by switching off their screens as well. All of May will be a Screens Off month in the Lippey household.

The kids have chosen to not play games, to not watch online streaming, and to not listen to audio books. They will only use constructive and creative computer programs, such as Adobe Photoshop and Open Office. (Minecraft is off-limits).

Jacqui and Sam negotiated some concessions. Jacqui still gets to watch 30 Rock on iView and Sam is allowed to chat to his friends and look at funny memes.

If you would love to do a Screens Off month but have never done one before, below are some tips to get you started:

  • Tip 1: Give advance notice - Some kids need time to come to the party on new ideas. Several days before you begin, alert them that you are planning a Screens Off day/week/month.
  • Tip 2: Pretend you are camping - When you go camping you are without electricity. Usually by the second day of a trip all the devices are dead and everyone finds other things to do. A Screens Off month is like camping but without dirty feet and sand in your bed.
  • Tip 3: Screens Off Sunday - If a Screens Off month or week is too difficult start with Screens Off Sunday. We love Screens Off Sunday and do it most weeks.
  • Tip 4: Swap screens for other things - What if the kids find entertaining themselves for a whole month too hard? Compromise by allowing them to listen to audio books while they are exercising or doing chores. You could say, "Let's listen to Rangers Apprentice on Borrowbox while we fold clothes."
  • Tip 5: Arrange activities - At first, when kids go without screens they are lost. You can prepare activities for them until they have re-learned how to entertain themselves. Some of our activites are: playing UNO, playing Dixit, making up stories, colouring in, painting, baking cakes, cooking and inventing new recipes, word games, playing guitar, playing piano, walking and playing with the dogs, cleaning races (the first one to pick up ten items, etc), trampolineing, pool noodle battles, role-playing computer games (instead of playing the games, they pretend they are the characters and imagine they are in the game).
  • Tip 6: Write detailed rules - It is important that everyone understands the rules. The best way to do this is to write the rules down and stick them to the fridge. Rules can include (a) the length of time you plan to be screen free, and (b) what 'screen free' means for individual family members
  • Tip 7: Sliding scale - There is an old saying that states, if you need to cut off someone's foot, tell them you are taking the whole leg. Once they see only their foot is gone, they will be grateful. This means if you are planning a Screens Off week, manage expectations by telling your children you would like a Screens Off month and allow them to negotiate you down to a week.
  • Tip 8: Minor hurdles - Often one or two families members are so addicted to their screens they will try everything to avoid giving it up. (A bit like your Minor Hurdles on the $21 Challenge) They will come up with every excuse possible. In this case, do your best. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. But, whatever you do, don't let their negativity hold you back.

Pushing the buttons for screen time

Our family has found the perfect way to get the kids excited about saving money AND it has helped us save a bundle! I wanted to find a way of rewarding my children for completing their chores on time but didn't have money to pay them for every job they do. So, we set up a 'button currency' in our house. It is a fairly simple system but it allows us to teach them about income, budgeting and debt. Plus, it really motivates them to do work.

It goes like this; each button is worth 10 minutes of screen-time. A button is earned by completing a job but we can also give 'bonus' buttons for exceptional behaviour or negotiated extra work. At the end of the week they can trade up to five buttons for $5.00 allowance, some of which is to be saved. We also introduced 'red' buttons that are a way of borrowing screen-time. The kids can ask to borrow a button and we give them a red button and a black button. The black button can be spent as normal and the red one has to be paid back with two black ones. They can't have any buttons 'owing' if they want to collect pocket money.

As back to school time grew nearer, we told the kids that for every item on the school stationery list that they could find at home, they would earn a button. Yay! Recycling! The kids went running off to find bits of stationery that could be reused for the next school year. We saved approximately $200. We are busily saving for a house and this is one way we are choosing to get the kids 'excited' about our austerity measures.

Contributed by: Asher

6. Hint Of The Week Competition: Screens Off

What are your tips for reducing screen time in your household? Please send them in to our Hint of the Week competition.

Write in and share what you have found that works. We are all in the same boat and can learn from each other.

7. New Competition: Screen Tantrums

Have you ever reached the point where you wanted to throw every screen out the window? I have. And I'm sure many other people share this experience. This month we are asking you to write in and tell us about a time when you said, "Enough is enough!"

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 May 20th. Email your entries to:

8. Competitions: March Winners!

There were hundreds of inspiring entries in last month's competitions. We called for stories about how the $21 Challenge has affected your life and what has been your best moment on the Challenge. We also asked for stories about the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten on the $21 Challenge. A big congratulations to everyone in the $21 Challenge team and here's to continued success in the future! The winners of last month's competitions are: Robyn M, Sophie, Melanie, and Ingrid. Here are their entries:

How has the $21 Challenge affected my life? Story Winner: Robyn M

I was introduced to the $21 Challenge in February 2010. My husband and I were both in our fifties and working. I purchased the Challenge book at a Mount Isa bookstore when we were on a 6-week caravanning holiday. I bought the book to read for relaxation while on vacation. Although we both consider ourselves thrifty and practical when it comes to spending, this book changed the way we looked at things. After we returned home from our trip, several weeks passed before we started back at work. There was no pay coming in because we were both employed on casual rates. I began to take stock of everything left in my cupboards, fridge and freezer. And so our Challenge began! Eight years later, we have both retired and our 'Challenge' continues. These are some of the strategies we use on an aged pension and superannuation:

  • I get my husband to do as much shopping as possible when our local supermarket offers a 5% pensioners discount on full-price items.
  • If I want a particular item that is not on special, I ask myself if I really need it. Can I substitute with something else?
  • I plan for the specials. If bananas are a good price one week then I plan to buy apples next week because they will probably be on special. Most supermarkets rotate their specials from one week to another.
  • I have learnt to substitute well! We like curries and sometimes substitute dates for sultanas to avoid going out and buying sultanas.
  • When I bring refrigerated items home I put the already opened items at the front of the fridge where I can see it and use it first. The same goes for the freezer. New items go to the back of the freezer. I use the oldest item first. And in the pantry too - bring old stock to the front and use things close to their 'best before' date.
  • My crockpot is my biggest friend during winter. I cook double quantities and freeze the extra.
  • I make products from scratch. I make my own French onion soup mix and ricotta cheese; so easy and tastes better. I also grow my own sprouts in a jar (look up how online) and I recycle the water onto my lawn.
  • When cooking, I regularly substitute a quantity of meat ingredients for legumes, e.g. I use 250g of mince and a 400g tin of strained legumes.
  • I make my own eucalyptus laundry liquid. It takes very little time and costs 7 cents a wash (look up how online).
  • I've given the $21 Challenge book to all my children and their friends as birthday presents.
  • My husband brews his own ginger beer and beer. He gives bottles of them as Christmas and birthday presents.
  • I love making Easter eggs and chocolates for the grandchildren at Easter - so easy, tastier and cheaper.
  • On Christmas day I collect all wrapping paper, ribbons, bows etc. and carefully restore and re-use for next year.
  • I have a pod coffee machine, given to me as a present. Whenever I am tempted to stop for a coffee at the local shops, my husband reminds me that our coffee at home is nicer.

How has the $21 Challenge affected my life? Plus my best moment. Story Winner: Sophie, Sydney

The $21 Challenge has turned the impossible into the possible.

I started out worried that my meals in the Challenge would be a big flop. I didn't think my family would eat them as they would probably taste and look different to what they were used to. How wrong I was! In the past, I was well known for quick trips to the shops to buy an ingredient or two. I always bought what I 'needed' plus a few unnecessary extras. The most valuable skill I learnt on the Challenge was the art of substituting ingredients. With this skill, taste and appearance can stay the same. The Challenge has taught me new skills, saved on travel, and kept money in my pocket.

The best $21 Challenge moment was having family members, who used to refuse to eat any seafood, devour Jackie's salmon quiche (page 133 in The $21 Challenge book). I'm thrilled to say this 'moment' has no end! They continue to enjoy the quiche and, for many years now, are none the wiser.

Strangest Thing Ever Eaten on the $21 Challenge Winner: Melanie Fisher

When it's just me to cater for, this is a $21 Challenge favourite - a delicious creation of baked beans, grated cheese, cubed bread and butter, and peanuts or potato chips. I mix and gently warm the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan until the cheese has melted and the beans are hot. I stir in a small handful of peanuts or chips just before serving. Absolutely delicious eaten straight from the saucepan. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!

Strangest Thing Ever Eaten on the $21 Challenge Winner: Ingrid

Pineapple & Passionfruit Zucchini!

Summer has me saying, 'How many ways can you eat a zucchini?'. Usually the answers are of a savory variety but I found a way to make zucchini taste like fruit.

  1. Peel and cube raw zucchini to resemble pineapple chunks.
  2. Gently simmer the cubes in pineapple/orange cordial mixed as per the instructions.
  3. Cook until soft and slightly transparent.
  4. Splash in some (homemade) passionfruit pulp syrup.

There you have it! Extraordinary Pineapple & Passionfruit Zucchini.

Who needs to buy tins of fruit-salad when you have zucchinis coming out your ears?

Till We Meet Again...

It is time for me to go. I'm really looking forward to your tips and hearing about how you conquer the screens and save time. Goodbye for now.

All the best,