"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - September 2014

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Save Our Stuff!
  2. September: Declutter!
  3. Shoppe Super Specials!
  4. Penny Wise: The World is (sort of) My Oyster!
  5. Best of the Vault: It's Time to Get Serious
  6. Best of the Forum: ClutterBusters to the Rescue!
  7. Best Members' Blog: Thanks Gumtree - 30 Minutes of My Time = $150
  8. Mimi's Protein Balls
  9. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Repurposing for the Patch and Some Great Free Gardening Help
  10. From Last Month: Purchasing Safely Online
  11. This Month's Help Request: I Want to Work From Home


How are you going? I hope you are well. We have been making a lot of decisions in Simple Savings land and this year is going to be the last that we run the Simple Savings Ye Olde Shoppe. We are planning on closing the shop at the end of November. This means you are going to see all the products on special between now and then - starting this week!

If you would like to order Christmas presents early, here are the prices:-

  • Ice-block moulds $4 per set (saving $21 per set, original price $25 per set)
  • Macadamia oil 1L $9 per litre (saving $11.50 per litre, original price $20.50 per litre)
  • GameTag $4 per set (saving $16, original price $20)
  • "A Pressure Cooker Saved My Life" books $20 per book (saving $10, original price $30)
  • Grunge-free sponges $3 each (saving $1, original price $4)
  • Lunette cups $35 (saving $13, original price $48)
  • BluApple refills $8 (saving $2, original price $9.95)
  • "The $21 Challenge" books $10 (saving $15, original price $25)
  • CreaClip $25 (saving $15, original price $39.95)

Once these items run out we will not be ordering any new stock. My health means we need to re-evaluate things and the Ye Olde Shoppe has to go.

Otherwise, it is business as usual! We love hearing from you - your savings stories and tips make my day! Here are some of my favourites this month:

"After all these years, I finally bought a copy of The $21 Challenge. I had never really understood the concept of 'shopping from your pantry' so I wasn't quite sure what I would find when I started reading. Well, I couldn't put it down and saved $200 the first week! I know I can't do that every week, but I can certainly do it once every couple of months. Thank you!" (Gwen)

"I love your newsletters! I love catching up with Mimi, Rob and Penny and seeing what has been happening with Fiona. Keep up the great work and savings tips." (Chrissie)

Have a great month!
All the best,
Fiona Lippey

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Save Our Stuff!

"Uh-oh, I think I hear trouble in paradise!" chuckled Pete, nodding his head towards the raised voices coming from next door. "Chloe and Tom?" Sally asked, concerned. "That's no good, they're supposed to be getting ready for their garage sale tomorrow. Maybe we should go and see if they need any help?" "Go and be a couple of nosy parkers, you mean?" laughed Pete. "Come on then!"

"How's the garage sale coming along?" Sally smiled brightly as she and Pete strolled into Chloe's yard. "Hmph, we'll be lucky if we even have one," grumbled Tom. "Miss Super Hoarder here doesn't want to get rid of anything!" "Er - excuse me?! You're just as bad!" Chloe retorted. "Honestly, we're supposed to be having this garage sale to kick start our travel fund but at this rate we'll be going nowhere!" she sighed.

"Well none of this stuff is ever going to do you any good if you don't use or appreciate it," reasoned Pete. "Surely the money you'd get from this lot is more valuable in your travel kitty?" "Yes!" agreed Sally. "Aunt Edna always says, if you wouldn't bother saving it in a house fire, you probably don't need it at all. Tell you what, why don't we have a combined garage sale? Come on Pete, let's go and have a sort out!" Pete looked at Sally in alarm and immediately took off up the driveway. "That's a great idea, thanks Sally! Er, is Pete OK?" asked Chloe. "Oh yes, don't mind him," giggled Sally. "He's just off to hide his horrendous Hawaiian shirt he saved from our LAST garage sale!"

2. September: Declutter!

Whilst Sally may have a vastly different opinion, Pete is obviously VERY attached to his Hawaiian shirt - and that's fine! Decluttering is not about depriving yourself of the things you love or truly cannot function without. It's about ridding your life and space of the things that you don't use and never will use; things which mean nothing to you and will not affect your life in any way should you no longer have them. For many of us, these can add up to a LOT of things!

We all know the immediate benefits of decluttering. More space and a more organised home for starters, don't we all love that feeling! Then there are the financial and goodwill benefits. Selling your unwanted goods is a brilliant way to make cash fast and put it towards something more important, such as paying a debt off or more desirable, such as a travel fund in Tom and Chloe's case. Many of us can't be bothered with all the listing, waiting, packing and posting and simply want to give things away to get rid of them and that's terrific too. There's nothing more rewarding than donating goods to people who really need them.

But have you ever thought about the other positive effects decluttering can have? Sorting out the good from the bad, the wanted from unwanted not only gives you the opportunity to get your life in order, but also to evaluate your spending habits and past mistakes. What on earth did I buy THAT for? What was I thinking?! Why didn't I take that back at the time? How much of our money has been spent on stuff we just didn't need? Whilst this can be a confronting exercise, now is not the time to dwell on mistakes that have been. Now is the time to suss out what you can and cannot live without. Now is the time to think about where you want to be and how you will get there by making the most meaningful use of your money in future, rather than frittering it away on stuff.

Nothing boosts your armour like a good declutter!

Best of all, decluttering can turn you into a smarter, better informed consumer! It teaches you to think differently next time you are tempted in the shops. You already know now from your decluttering what your household will and won't use; what does and doesn't work. Next time you pick up an item with a view to purchase, think to yourself, "Hmm, how long would it be before I would throw it out if I bought it? How much use will I really get out of it?"

A great example is children's toys. Each time you look at that shiny toy and think how much little Junior would love it, remember that in a couple of days half those pieces will be lost and strewn around the house. Remember that in a couple of years (at the most) that lovely new toy will also end up getting thrown out just like all the others. Decluttering is a great way to protect you from future mistakes. Sure, you can always sell stuff on, but you won't get the price you paid for it. Best not to buy it in the first place!

September is Decluttering Month and we want everyone to join in! Some people are regular declutterers, while others really struggle. If this sounds like you, start with putting one item at a time in a bag for the op shop. Op shops are a great start for novice or emotional declutterers because it doesn't feel as though you're getting rid of it; you're simply finding a new home for it. Or if you're feeling brave and motivated, you could make it your mission to declutter 100 items from your household - you'll be amazed at how easy it is once you start having a really good look at everything in your home! If you would like to join us, be sure to visit the Forum as we all declutter together and cheer each other on! Or check out our Ultimate Guide to Decluttering. If that doesn't get you in the mood to clear the clutter, nothing will!

However you do it, give decluttering a go this month. Enjoy the rewards and give your shopping armour a great big boost in the process!

3. Shoppe Super Specials!

We are closing the Ye Olde Shoppe at the end of November. Everything is on sale and once it runs out, we do not plan to order any more stock. Here are the prices.

  • Ice-block moulds $4 per set (saving $21 per set, original price $25 per set)
  • Macadamia oil 1L $9 per litre (saving $11.50 per litre, original price $20.50 per litre)
  • GameTag $4 per set (saving $16, original price $20)
  • "A Pressure Cooker Saved My Life" books $20 per book (saving $10, original price $30)
  • Grunge-free sponges $3 each (saving $1, original price $4)
  • Lunette cups $35 (saving $13, original price $48)
  • BluApple refills $8 (saving $2, original price $9.95)
  • "The $21 Challenge" books $10 (saving $15, original price $25)
  • CreaClip $25 (saving $15, original price $39.95)

4. Penny Wise: The World is (sort of) My Oyster!

What a productive week it's been! Whilst I have yet to secure a new vocation, I can honestly say I've been using the extra time on my hands to great advantage. The budgeting ladies and I have been scrutinising my budget every week and racking our brains to see how we can reduce the outgoings further. In all honesty there wasn't a huge amount we could do as almost every bill is static BUT I did manage to reduce my mobile bill by $30 a month and our landline/Internet bill by a whopping $75 a month! I was really surprised at this as it was literally only a few months ago that I last rang around to try and get a better deal but the woman told me that we were paying far too much for Internet we were not using. As huge Internet users we had previously been told we needed 150GB to avoid going over a smaller limit and getting a nasty surprise when the bill came, so we duly did as recommended; however the whole time we had never used more than 45GB! Just goes to show that a lot of things can change in a few short months. The budgeting ladies were so impressed with my Telecom savings they were going to ring and check their own too! We also have no television at all now, which the boys funnily enough didn't give a stuff about. Mind you, who needs to pay to watch your favourite TV shows these days when you can watch most of them for free online at your own convenience? We just hook our laptop up to the TV with an HDMI cord and watch our Internet programme of choice on the big screen! It's actually much better, as you only watch what you want, when you want, rather than just mindlessly sitting in front of the regular TV watching whatever rubbish happens to be on.

In an attempt to make a dent in a few more bills, I also finally stopped procrastinating and had a good old sort out of the house and the sheds to see what we could sell on Trade Me and through our local Buy Sell and Swap page on Facebook. It probably took about 4 hours to unearth and list everything but I made $150 on the first day! At the moment I'm up to $230 but I have a lot more auctions which finish tomorrow and a load more to list after that. I had totally forgotten how exciting it is watching all the views and the bidding go up and up! And it always makes me laugh how often the things you don't anticipate anyone is going to want in a million years are the items which generate the most interest. Take my bright pink sneakers for example. These shoes were famous in my Zumba class a few years ago! Eye catching and fun they certainly were, but for a woman of my mature years they were a bit too garish to wear anywhere else! Still, I thought someone might like them so chucked them on Trade Me for $5. More than 340 views later they have reached $32 and still climbing!

I haven't done any 'serious' trading for a good couple of years (in fact I only just got around to listing two boxes of stuff that we didn't get around to selling from the last time!) I told the boys they should sort their stuff out too and see if we can declutter 100 items. At which they spluttered and looked at me like I was mad, but I was amazed to find I had listed 60 items in one sitting just of my own stuff - and I still have a load more to list when the first lot of auctions have finished! I kid you not, this is coming from someone who has lived in three different houses in the past four years and hence has VERY little clutter, yet still I have found this many things which I am able to remove from my home and which mean absolutely nothing to me. I have been pretty ruthless - I can't afford not to be but I think you know in your heart whether you're really going to use or wear something. It has become pretty easy for me to evaluate my possessions. Take my pink sneakers for example. Even though I only listed them for $5 and didn't expect to get more than that; it was more valuable to me to get the $5 and use it to put towards food or paying a bill than have those shoes sitting there for two years unworn. Bit of a no-brainer really and I never dreamed they would become worth so much more to me online! It honestly felt so good to finally list all those items I had been putting off for so long. My sheds are spotless and both they and my home truly are free of clutter - and, because of the super SS'er I now am, I never have to worry about filling it with rubbish again!

After such a lengthy spell away from the trading 'scene' I have noticed a few changes. Things which used to sell like crazy such as books, DVD's and CD's don't really sell much any more, with the exception of cook books. People have found cheaper or more convenient alternatives with the advances in technology. After all, that's why I was able to sell so many of my cook books; with the exception of my own recipe folder I've compiled over the years and tried and true favourites such as the $21 Challenge book I don't use recipe books much any more. If I want to make something more often than not it's something that's caught my eye in the Forum or I'll look up a recipe online on websites such as Yummly to use up the ingredients I have in mind. Out of the 60-odd items I've listed so far, I'm having the most success with clothes and shoes, perhaps beauty items too. This got me thinking, do you think that's because people have less money to treat themselves these days? Has the price of everyday living has gone up so much they don't have enough left for new clothes and shoes so take the 'skint but stylish' route? Whatever the reason, I can't put into words the feeling of relief that someone is buying my stuff. It's so exciting in a strange way because I have so many people I owe money to I don't know what to do with it first. Even $50 feels like the world is my oyster! Do I pay $10 on 5 bills? Or $25 on two bills? Or go the whole hog and put all $50 on one bill? So funny but at least it feels as though I'm making a difference and doing something to gain a little control over the current shambles which is my life.

And it's been a nice little hiatus too, I have to admit. As of next week, as my kids would say, things are 'gonna get crazy'. If nothing comes up for me job-wise I'm not too sure what is going to happen. One thing is for sure, we are not going to be able to pay almost all of our bills and I'm not sure what happens when you can't but I'm sure the budgeting ladies will advise me. There isn't too much else we can do now apart from cancel the contents insurance on my house, which isn't huge anyway (and I'm rather reluctant to do that as knowing my luck I'll end up flooding the bath or setting the kitchen on fire or something)! The only other thing we can do is change Ali back to his old school. This will save $320 a month on sending him on the bus - but I think changing schools would be a lot more costly in other ways. Ali is doing so well academically and is so happy at his current school; he left the other one two years ago because he was so miserable. Why should his schooling suffer? It's not like I'm forking out thousands for private education, it's for a blooming mini-bus! We have discussed it and while Ali would much rather stay at his current school, he is willing to make the change if it helps get us to keep our house. But I really don't think I could forgive myself if I had to do that to him. There must be another way, think positive Penny!

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: It's Time To Get Serious

We need to have a talk. It's time to get serious about sorting out your stuff. You know what we mean - the boxes under the stairs, the bags of clothes in the cupboard, the piles taking over your spare room - it has all got to find a new home. You either love it or shove it - it's that simple. Are you ready?

Save the important things in life

I live in an area that was recently hit by floods. While we rushed to try to save everything from the water, I was amazed as to how much 'stuff' we had that we just didn't need. Being surrounded by all these items actually made saving the 'important' stuff so much harder. I thought I had already decluttered my home, but I was wrong. The flood has made my whole family more aware of how we accumulate 'things' through our lives - some of which are important and others which are not. As people we tend to hold onto things that we 'might use one day'. I found, however, that it was these items that just got in the way in an emergency. When disaster strikes you need to be able to save your family, then if you have time, the important 'things' in your life. In the coming weeks, we will be having a massive garage sale to clean out our home and sheds and we won't be keeping anything that has not been used in the past two years. Not only will we be able to clear out the unused, non-essential things, we'll also be able to make some money to replace some of the important items that we lost in the flood. Decluttering for me came in the form of a flood - don't wait for Mother Nature to help, she'll only make it harder. Be pro-active and start sorting the things that really matter from the things that don't.

Contributed by: Ros Plunkett

Unnecessary kitchen appliances

Do you really need these house-cluttering, money-wasting, used once in a lifetime kitchen appliances?

  • Pie maker
  • Popcorn maker
  • Hotdog maker
  • Sandwich press

Of course you don't! Our mothers and grandmothers didn't have these appliances yet they still managed to make all of these things. Pies in the oven, popcorn on the stove or in the microwave, hotdogs in a pot and toasted sandwiches grilled in the oven.

If you have already bought the kitchen appliances on my list, cut the clutter and earn a few bucks by selling them in a garage sale. Then, get back to real cooking!

Contributed by: Kimberley Headford

A reformed shopaholic speaks

As a reformed shopaholic, I have accumulated many, many items that I have never used including lots of cookbooks. So, I have started to bring cookbooks as a gift, instead of wine, whenever my foodie friends invite me for dinner at their house.

My friends will enjoy these books a lot more than me and on top of that I don't need to buy wines when I go to their house. I am also gifting other items I have collected such as gadgets, clothes and cosmetics. It's a nice way to declutter!

Contributed by: Shop Fairy

Eliminate clutter with this helpful website

If you need to declutter your home, this website is for you! I have been visiting 365lessthings.com. This website is great for anyone interested in decluttering and reducing over-consumption and their impact on the planet. Some of the psychological aspects of clutter and clutter reduction are also reviewed in the blog which is helpful. Reducing over-consumption of course reduces spending. If some of the decluttered items are sold on eBay or at a garage sale then there is income produced too! I would have trouble quantifying how much this site has saved me but I can list some of the ways it has helped:

  • Now that I am decluttering on average at least one item a day I am much more thoughtful about what I buy as I don't want to declutter it later.
  • We will hopefully avoid the cost of house extensions and the loss of potential productive garden space by decluttering.
  • I am using up the 'second favourites' saving money in replacement creams and pantry products.
  • It has given me a forum to talk to family about clutter and help us select more helpful gifts.
  • I can find things easier allowing me more time to save money in other ways.
  • The house is easier to clean which saves time too.
  • I have been able to identify where most of the items coming in are coming from and address this.

Check out the website and you too will be inspired!

Contributed by: Esther

Be organised for your garage sale

I have held many garage sales both in Australia and in Canada - usually at the time of moving house. The biggest tips for having a garage sale are to be organised and to have help at hand on the day so that items do not walk out the door for free; it should be your choice to give items away. Preparation is the key; start collecting supermarket bags and small coins weeks in advance.

To maximise the money you can earn, clean up (wash and polish) all items, and present them in the best way. You should price all items in advance. I have found that masking tape is best as it is easy to peel off without damaging the surface.

Setting your desired price in advance means that helpers won't dither - and you can always lower the price for people who want to bargain (a common practice among people who do the garage sale trail on Saturday mornings). Also, be prepared to offer discounts to people who buy more than one item (sell magazines, for example, for $0.50c each or three for a dollar).

Go to a couple of garage sales in advance to see what prices goodies sell for in your area, and to see how to do things better. (However, don't be like me and bring home more goodies; you are supposed to be eliminating 'stuff'.)

If you are selling electrical items, have a long extension cord and a power board available so that you can prove that the items are in working order. I also usually have a coffee pot/urn on and a radio playing to keep the atmosphere inviting and festive. When people linger, they buy more.

Set out a chair or two (with signs that they are not for sale); people often bring someone else along such as an older parent or a husband who may not be interested. If that person is comfortable, they won't drag the buying partner away too soon.

I also like to have a 'freebie' box that usually contains things such as old travel maps from overseas, brochures/magazines unlikely to be paid for, broken toys (which 'handy people' can restore), and really old jewellery (broken or totally out of date). People love a 'find', and will often buy something extra because you were generous.

I have found that things sell much better when organised into groups of similar items; categories can include kitchen, garden, tools, toys, clothes, jewellery and books. Instead of dumping books/videos in a box, I have displayed them in a small, old bookcase; this style of presentation has been more successful for me.

Use trestle tables or set up some garden tables and the biggest boxes you can find; drape them with butcher paper for a uniform look. Borrow tables from neighbours and friends.

Only think of going into a joint sale with neighbours and friends if you all agree on how to hold the garage sale and to pre-price. Remember to keep your takings separate.

I have found that it works well to loop a canvas sausage bag (like what you'd store plastic bags in) over my wrist to give people a bag to cart their 'buys' home. Also, have some newspaper in which to wrap breakables.

You will need a good supply of change, especially coins. I have found that it works well for each helper to wear a bumbag with a 'float' of change. Don't be surprised how many people want to buy a $2 item and only have $20 to pay. Also, when you start to get a lot of cash, take some inside and lock it up - don't be seen flashing too much money.

Most importantly, advertise in as many spots as possible - the garage sales section of the local paper as well as the city paper. Ask shop owners if you can put a poster in their street a day or two before. Put big posters on telegraph poles - tie with a balloon (or use coloured poster board) to catch the eye of passing motorists. Remember that you are holding a garage sale to make money, so don't overspend on the preparation!

Get a lot of sleep the night before and be up at dawn to display everything. Don't be afraid to be rude to the professional garage sale hunters who will arrive at about 7am and try to force their way on to your property. Threaten them with trespassing if you have to as your advertisement should have stated something like 'Sale Saturday/Sunday 8am - 2pm'.

Contributed by: Joy Dixon

6. Best of the Forum: ClutterBusters to the Rescue!

Clutter has a sneaky way of stealing our time, our money and our sanity! When it seems too hard to take that first small step, you need some support from the ClutterBusters! Fortunately, the Forum is full of them and they have some wonderful ideas to get you started.

Simple Savings classified ads

There might be a new home for Aunt Peg's tea set a lot closer than you think!

Organised chaos

Join this dedicate group of clutter hounds led by ClutterCath as they storm through each week making changes in their homes and lives. This is a fantastic way to make, and keep, yourself accountable.

Hop's decluttering threads

There might be a new home for Aunt Peg's tea set a lot closer than you think!
Hop doesn't stop. No really, she doesn't!

7. Best Members' Blog: Thanks Gumtree

   30 Minutes of My Time = $150

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a $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 winner is Rachel for sharing her 'win' on Gumtree and getting a job done!

"As a past hobby I used to sell clothing on eBay - and made a small but steady amount of cash doing this for about two years. I soon found that the niche-market I'd cornered became flooded with other sellers - who had serious capital behind them, sold easily ten times the volume I could overnight at near half my cost.

This was probably inevitable and I was okay with wrapping up that small venture, happy that it had run its course and provided around $50 or so per week for my family while I was being a SAHM with my three kids. My husband was a uni student at the time and I wasn't working... outside the home that is :) so $50 was a great little top-up to our weekly income.

Well, about a year ago when we moved house, I found a carefully packed box of stock that I'd forgotten about! Meaning to 'get around to selling it one day', it had sat in the corner of my bedroom since we moved. Well today, mark the calendar - it's finally gone and I'm $150 richer!

Yesterday I took four photos and pulled together a snappy description - listed it on Gumtree as a box of stuff that other sellers could re-sell. It took me less than 30 minutes to quit procrastinating and get it done. The cash dropped off today and the sad, worn box - filled with amazing treasure as far as the purchaser is concerned :) is gone - and I feel so fabulous!

You just never know who out in the big wide world will want the exact thing you can't bear to look at any longer - I am convinced it's worth the 30 minutes to list something online and just see what happens. If no-one wants it, donate or ditch it, but since it cost me $0 to sell it, I feel like I just had the most financially productive 30 minutes of my life this week and has caused me to see dollar signs on every possession in my home... my family's suspicious looks not withstanding. :)

Well done Rachel - we hope your blog will motivate others to start sorting out their stuff - and even make some money!

You can read more of our members' blogs here.

8. Mimi's Protein Balls

My 14-year-old daughter has a penchant for the protein balls on offer at cafes and juice bars these days and she adores the Bliss Balls from the health food store.

I often make her my Raw Chocolate Truffles I posted in the Forum a while back, but sometimes she doesn't feel chocolate-y.

So I came up with these. They are more of a caramel flavoured variation. I did a lot of research on the difference between whey protein powder and normal milk powder. Whey is a by-product of cheese or yoghurt making and is the liquid that we all see in our yoghurt that we stir back in or drain to make the yoghurt thicker. So in theory you could replace the liquid in these protein balls with that liquid for a better quality protein content. Other than that, as best as I can determine, there is no real benefit in using whey protein over milk powder, unless you are casein or lactose intolerant. Someone out there is making a lotta money out of that little bit of ignorance. I guess it's different if you're an athlete or body builder perhaps, but for us mere mortals, I'd use the milk powder, skimmed if you prefer.

Rice malt syrup is available in the health food aisle at the supermarket and is a great low GI alternative to honey or golden syrup.

These are a great no-bake treat if you're short on time too.

Mimi's Protein Balls

Makes 14

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp rice malt syrup (or honey or golden syrup)
  • 1/2 cup powdered milk powder
  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla or coconut essence
  • Water to form a thick paste, maybe 1-2 tablespoons

Stir all ingredients together with a spoon until crumbly, adding the liquid to form a thick paste, similar in texture to cookie dough.

Roll into large teaspoon sized balls and roll in coconut or almond meal before chilling. Today I rolled hers in almond meal and she particularly loves this.

These are very yummy and healthy and you can also use coconut oil, macadamia butter, tahini or almond butter instead of peanut butter, and for an evil half-healthy treat, dip them in melted chocolate.


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: Repurposing for the Patch and Some Great Free Gardening Help

Reusing rubbish and food 'waste' to save some coin

We are very conscious about recycling and reusing as many materials as we can around the patch and there are so many great materials we gardeners can use that businesses and others throw away daily. I'm always curious as to what's in skip bins at building sites or stockpiles of 'rubbish' behind businesses that have been earmarked for the landfill. It only takes a few seconds to ask those in charge and I am yet to be told I can't have something that is destined for the tip. We have received besser/cinder blocks, dining room chairs, bed frames, pallets and building materials that have not only been most useful to us but saved us a rather substantial amount of coin. Below are a few ways we have used repurposed 'rubbish' to give it another life.

The large wicking beds in the main vegie patch are all made from left over roofing tin, saved from a skip bin by a carpenter friend, as well as some angle iron salvaged from discarded bed frames. Not only did using these materials save them from going to landfill but it gave us some very cheap, termite proof garden beds.

The chicken pen was made from 99% recycled items we bartered for or saved from the landfill.

The fence panels used to make the chook pen cost us the few hours' labour it took to pull the fence down. The metal framing, bird wire and tin for the roof/walls came from scrap both of our fathers had lying around. The only real cost was the rivets, screws and wire needed to hold it all together with a few cans of drinks given as a 'thank you' to the folks who gave us the fence.

The bathtub worm farm is another build that was made from salvaged and recycled materials. The stand is made from an old lounge frame and bed rails, and the top being made from an old sliding door frame and some weed mat to block out the light for the worms. All these bits had been living under the house as I knew they would come in handy later. ;-)

The bathtub we used was sourced from a great worldwide online recycling site called Freecycle. It's a great service that lets you list goods that would normally end up in land fill so others can have a go at using or re purposing it.

Other ways we recycle around here include shredding paper to use as worm food and nesting box material for the 'girls'; bottles, jars and cans are also used around the patch for storage and other purposes. Bottles are also cut in half to act as rodent/frog covers on fill tubes in the wicking beds. Drink cans cut in half also serve the same purpose on smaller diameter pipes. Bottles cut in half also make great funnels. After realising we were wasting about two litres of water waiting for the hot water to make it to the kitchen tap we decided to collect it in a jug and use that to keep the Wetpot irrigation reservoir topped up.

To make this process easier we fitted a bottle funnel to a pipe that runs into the top of the reservoir under the house so we can easily add the saved water to it.

Bottle funnels make the job of getting larger seeds into small storage bags a lot easier as well. This comes in handy when packaging up bulk lots of seeds for our seed sharing group.

Scraps from store-bought produce can also be recycled. The easiest way to do this is by feeding it to the chooks, tossing it into the compost heap, using it to feed compost worms or in the case of meat and leftover meals, black soldier flies. Another way to get some value from the scraps is to save the seeds to grow some for yourself. This is something we have done a bit with great success. Not every plant will give you seed that will grow true to type as they may be hybrids, so it is a good idea to buy named varieties that are heirloom.
Some of the easiest plants to do this with are capsicums, tomatoes, eggplants, melons and pumpkins.

We have saved seeds from chilli varieties like jalapeño and bird's eye, large white eggplants, toad skin melon, Kent pumpkin and bulls horn capsicum with all of them growing well for us.

Potato and sweet potatoes that have sprouted in the pantry are two other plants that you can make use of in the patch.

We plant potatoes directly into the soil while with sweet potato you can break off the vine-like growths (slips) and strike them in some water or plant them directly into the beds if their leaves are developed enough. The tubers are nearly always still firm enough to eat so don't get wasted either. ;-)

So there're a few ways we've reused reclaimed materials around the patch. It does pay to keep your eye out and mind open, as you never know where a good find will pop up and fit in well with your gardening methods.

Some helpful free gardening sites, groups and events

With winter winding down and spring around the corner, it's time to make decisions about what plants we will be growing as the weather warms up.

When it comes to new varieties of plants or growing methods I like to rely on books, sites and knowledgeable folk for guidance. I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the sources we have found useful.

I find free planting guides put out by the likes of Gardening Australia and Gardenate to be great resources, as well as a great jumping-off point when trying to work out what to grow. They will give you the heads-up on what plants are ready to sow, as well as growing notes. Gardenate is particularly useful for folks here and overseas as it also covers New Zealand, North America, UK and South Africa. I also like to go through online seed saving/trading groups as well as some seed retailers' sites as they quite often offer some great information on what is best to plant during the year and also have other helpful tips on how to grow your fruit and vegies. The retail sites can be a dangerous place to glean information from, as you are normally one click away from an impulse buy. :-/

I also really like sites like Facebook and G+ for picking up tips on gardening/backyard farming from specialised groups. There are all sorts of groups that specialise in particular subjects including seed saving, compost worms, backyard farming, aquaponics, animal husbandry and organic gardening. We have made some great friends through these groups, some of whom we have met up with to swap seed and ideas over a coffee or four.

Nothing beats local knowledge though. If you are starting out it might pay to make enquiries to see if there is a gardening group or community garden in your area. The folk there will be able to help you out with what grows well in your area and when is the best time to plant it. Many members will be only too happy to share their knowledge with others keen to start growing their own food.

Some local horticultural gurus also have websites where they offer up information relevant to your region. Annette McFarlane has a site packed full of useful growing tips, planting guides and organic growing methods. I've been back there more than once for DIY pest control recipes alone. ;-)

Some local government authorities will also put on free gardening related classes. As an example, Brisbane City Council offers courses that cover such things as plant propagation, growing in the subtropics, back yard chicken raising and more, all centred around growing/raising food in the suburbs.

For those just starting out, the Internet can be a wealth of knowledge but sometimes it can be a bit hard to know where to start. I hope that helps folks out with a few ideas on where you can source some helpful gardening information.

Pickings from the patch

I have been most chuffed with the harvests we have been getting this winter.

The cauliflower and broccoli have been fantastic this year and are still being harvested every second day.

We also picked our first ever 'edible' wombok cabbage which really had me stoked. Every other time we have tried to grow these they ended up being demolished by cabbage butterfly grubs.

Another first for us was Florence fennel. This is one plant we have never tried to grow for some reason. I think we let the first one go a bit too long and it ended up looking like some sort of cabaret head piece we thought. :-D

Last week I harvested some ginger, turmeric and yacon from the patch. I made a clip on the harvest results for anyone that's interested.

It was a great harvest considering that the ginger and yacon were nearly all lost due to me making up a poor soil mix for the beds.

Well that's about it for this blog. Shall see you in spring with an update on the aquaponics system and patch.

Cheers all,

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: Purchasing Safely Online

Last month Donna emailed us about ideas for purchasing safely online:

"How do people spend safely online? For the first time ever, my Visa was 'stung' when it was used on line for a very small transaction in Chinese currency. When I rang the bank, they cancelled it immediately and told me that one scam was to put through a few dollars and then if it goes unnoticed, put through a very large amount a couple of weeks later. I am very careful online - but obviously not careful enough. What kinds of things do people do to spend safely online?"

We got some fantastic ideas - thank you for sharing your wisdom with Donna. Here are some of our favourite replies:

Have your credit card with a different bank

One way to protect your money when shopping online is to open a free or low-fee Visa debit account at a bank that you have no other connection with. Do not access this account via Internet banking to transfer deposits, so there is no connection whatsoever with your normal bank. Have only enough money in it to keep it open and make deposits immediately prior to any purchase. If you keep the balance at only one or two dollars, the hackers won't even be able to make that initial small sneaky purchase which inevitably leads to much larger ones!

Contributed by: Kathy Szalay

Convenient products from the Commonwealth and AusPost

To protect yourself when shopping online use a prepaid credit card available from Australia Post. They only cost $5.00 and you can reload them with more funds as needed. At least then you can only lose the amount you have loaded for the current transaction. The other way to protect yourself is with a new product from the Commonwealth Bank that allows you to place a stop on your credit card for transactions online. By using their dedicated app you can release the stop for an hour, do your transaction and then the stop automatically reinstates itself. If anyone tries to do a transaction online outside this time it is rejected and you receive an email advising you.

On one occasion I had forgotten that I had placed a stop but on the advice of my bank was able to remove the stop for an hour and make my purchase, all from my phone. That is convenient!

Contributed by: Cheryl H

Protect your money with PayPal!

I love to shop online but I am super careful. One way to shop online safely is with PayPal. Simply open a PayPal account with a separate bank account that is not linked to your other accounts and attach a debit/credit card. Put only the actual amount in to cover your purchases so that there is very little money in the account. I have never had any trouble and I have been doing this for years. By putting in the amount that just covers my purchases, it also makes me think about what I buy as I have to deposit the cash into the account before I am able to buy anything!

Contributed by: Sandra Latter

Vigilance is the key

After having problems with online security I have found the trick to keeping safe is to check bank statements regularly; this way any small sum that is foreign to you should raise immediate alarm bells! Do not click on links which are not from trusted sources or click into anything you are not sure of. Run good anti-virus programs - an anti-malware program called Malwarebytes worked for me, whereas the bank's McAfee program did not pick up the Bank Trojan Virus! You can download Malwarebytes for free online. For more information, Google 'How to spend safely online' and read up on all the tips.

Contributed by: Nadia L

Online safety tips from the experts

A very good article on safe purchasing online can be found by Googling online safety shopping tips - PC Magazine's 11 Tips for Safe Online Shopping. There are some other good articles in the list too.

Password security is one of their points, and on this topic, we have found a very good password management tool called KeePass (Google to find this, it is a free download). KeePass allows you to easily have different passwords for everything you use a password for, which is otherwise pretty well impossible for most of us. One of the most important things with passwords is to make them LONG. The longer the better. Using the first letter of words in a sentence that is relevant to you, using some capitals and numbers or special characters all help too. KeePass will make up passwords for you that are meaningless and difficult to crack.

Malware on your computer can be an issue, even if all your other online practices are as safe as you can make them. Be suspicious, don't open anything from people you don't know, and even if you DO know the sender, don't take something they've sent on to you as true - your friends can also be fooled! And, as the article says, have good software on your computer that protects against malware.

My own practice is also to check my Visa statement every week, which is part of my general household budgeting, but also has the side effect of making sure there are no unknown transactions.

Contributed by: Rosanne

Keep an 'online only' debit card

To keep my money safe when purchasing online I have a debit card specifically for this purpose. This debit card has a balance of only around $10 at any time. When I want to make a purchase I simply transfer the amount of money I intend to spend to that specific card. This way if my card is hacked then only about $10 is lost. Works like a charm to keep one from overspending too!

Contributed by: Margaret B

11. This Month's Help Request: I Want To Work From Home

Janine has emailed asking for some help! She writes:

"I am a struggling single mother, who only works two days a week and am trying to find more work. I have been trying for other jobs for the past seven months but am having no luck. I was wondering if you could ask your subscribers about jobs you can do from home with minimal start-up costs. I just need to find something that would be a good fit for me, and which would bring me in a consistent regular extra income."

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

12. Goodbye for Now!

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for September and we hope you have enjoyed it. We hope you'll get some of the unwanted 'stuff' out of your life this month - let us know how you go!

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,