Recent Hints & Tips

Full access to the Vault of Hints is for members only, but here's a taste! Hints are contributed by both staff and members.

Minimum fuss haircut you can do yourself!
updated 4 hr ago
'Do It Yourself' free, layered haircuts are possible for those with medium to long hair! Try this, it does work (and as a student married to a student, I can vouch for it):

It's best to wrap a towel around your shoulders before you do this; that way you can just shake the towel outside to get rid of the excess hair.

Turn your head upside down and make a ponytail with your hand about 3-5 cm from your front hair line.

Tie a hairband around the ponytail, keeping your head upside down.

Then tie another hairband every 5 cm up the rest of the hair until you can't go any further and trim 2-4 cm of your hair (to get rid of split ends) with very sharp scissors.

Undo the hair bands and brush. There you have it - a new layered hairstyle with minimum fuss and no cost!
A variety of uses for empty biscuit tins
updated 21 Jul 2017
I have found a great and super cheap resource for my baking and craft supplies. Many of us are given or buy the tins of short bread or butter biscuits, particularly at Christmas. Inside these tins the biscuits sit in patty pans. I rescue the patty pans from dirty fingers and keep them to use them for art and crafts or baking cupcakes. At just 4c per patty pan that is a saving of 80c per tin!
Solar power can be addictive!
updated 19 Jul 2017
I'm saving $400 a year on power and aiming for more! I had solar panels installed early this year and I have been looking for ways to reduce my electricity consumption even more, using solar. I have purchased solar lights from the Internet. The ones I have are like a light globe and give off as much light as a 60 watt globe. Fully charged they last about five hours and cost me $8 each (I have three). I have a bedside lamp for reading in bed and the solar light is brighter. All I do is plug them in to their charger and leave it outside all day to recharge. Even if it's a cloudy day they still have a reasonable amount of charge in them. My last power bill dropped by almost $100, which adds up to a $400 a year saving. I'm so pleased I've ordered two more solar lights!
Easy peasy three ingredient fruity cake
updated 18 Jul 2017
Fruity Cake

2 cups cold tea
2 cups mixed dried fruit
2 cups SR flour

Soak fruit in cold tea for 10 minutes, then beat in SR flour.
Pour into a greased and lined baking tin. Bake 180C for 30 to 35 minutes.

You can substitute dry ginger ale for the tea. The cake is moist with a hint of ginger
$15 gluten-free recipe book from Coeliac Society
updated 17 Jul 2017
Having been diagnosed as being gluten-intolerant, I shopped around for a good gluten-free cookbook but found most books are $30 to $40 in the major bookstores. Then I looked online and found my local Coeliac Society who sell a gluten-free recipe book for just $15! You can order it online at and have it posted out for just $19, or you can pick it up from their Newmarket office.
Save money and learn new skills at the Repair Cafe
updated 14 Jul 2017
I have discovered a great way to save money, learn new skills and meet wonderful people at my local Repair Café!
My nearest is Lane Cove North, Sydney but there are lots of others around the country and more than 1300 worldwide. It's wonderful to be able to learn how to fix things for myself and be sustainable - my shoes, clothes, knife sharpening, jewellery and gadget fixing too, all for a donation. They also have a swap table so I can leave things I no longer use there and they find a new home! Repair Cafes have prevented over 250,000 kilos of waste in the last year alone! For more information, visit
My 'out of sight, out of mind' purse works for me!
updated 14 Jul 2017
I have found the most effective way for me to grow my savings is to do it in my own purse! Every time I break a $10 or $20 out of my budgeted spending money (which I keep in my purse) and am given a $5 back I put it in a hidden section of that purse. Then I forget about it! I then work at living off what's left in my purse for the rest of the week.

It's amazing how much money accumulates in that little hidden section of the purse. So far I've made it to $45.
This has really come in handy when there are surprise expenses, such as the kids bringing home excursion notes at the last minute that have travel costs attached. I am aiming to get to enough money in the hidden part of my purse to pay for a massage. A well-earned reward for being so disciplined and diligent with my spending!
Mimi's Chicken Roll
updated 12 Jul 2017
You will give the deli people a run for their money with this rolled chicken meatloaf. It's cheap, relatively easy, and everyone loves it. I even did it for Christmas lunch one year when we had a picnic in the park instead of the traditional lunch.

2 chicken breasts, minced or ready-made chicken mince (500gm total)
2 eggs
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (plus 1 cup extra)
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp chopped dried fruit (raisins, apricots, mango or pistachio nuts or macadamias if you prefer - or even both!)
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (chives, parsley, thyme)
Baking paper

Mix the mince, 1 egg, the milk, 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, and the fresh herbs.

Take a sheet of baking paper and spread the mixture over the paper in a large rectangle about 20cm x 30cm.

Mix the other cup of breadcrumbs, the dried fruit and/or nuts, and the second egg. Spread this down the long side of the mince rectangle, closest to you.

Using the baking paper to start the roll, enclose the stuffing and then roll into a long sausage shape, finishing with the 'seam' underneath (it's a bit like rolling sushi or a swiss roll sponge). Press the ends together.

Place, seam down on a baking sheet, and bake covered for 45 minutes, then remove cover and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Serve sliced with relish or sweet chilli sauce, salad and crunchy bread.
Dishwashing liquid lasts longer with pump dispenser
updated 12 Jul 2017
This tip is a super easy way to make dishwashing liquid go further! In our large household, we go through a lot of dishwashing liquid as it always seems to come out of the bottle so fast - especially when the kids help out! Since I don't want to discourage the kids from doing dishes, I have come up with a handy solution.
I just swapped the lid on the dishwashing bottle with the screw-top pump dispenser from an empty liquid hand soap bottle! These days we use so much less and the dishes still get just as clean!
How to avoid temptation
updated 10 Jul 2017
A great way to stop buying things you don't really need is to unsubscribe from online store newsletters. It can be cheaper to shop at home, and you have more time to compare prices, but the problem is you are bombarded with deals on an almost daily basis. It can be hard to resist the specials that are sent to you, so by unsubscribing you won't fall into temptation!
Tasty lunch on a 50c roll
updated 10 Jul 2017
I regularly enjoy eating my lunch out for only $0.70c plus the cost of a small tin of tuna! My local bakery sells all sorts of breads, biscuits and so on and you can either eat inside, outside at the tables, or takeaway.

I buy a Finnin roll for $0.50c and ask for some butter ($0.20c) and to eat in. They serve it on a plate for me and cutlery is provided. Then I open up my roll, butter it and put my 100g can of tuna onto it.

Nobody seems to mind when I do this as I am still buying food from them, and it means as a student, I can eat lunch out for less than a dollar!
Mortgage savings you can 'see' with simple system
1 comment
updated 9 Jul 2017
If you want to pay off your mortgage faster but like to 'see' your savings, I can really recommend this idea! We reset up our mortgage with an offset account a few years ago and I love it as we are getting ahead on our mortgage. The one issue was that my hubby couldn't 'see' our savings as I put all extra cash into the offset. He prefers a savings account but I want the extra interest benefit working on our mortgage.

So I set up an amortization account (explanation of how they work here and a downloadable spreadsheet here

I then set the table to our 'comfortable' level of payments and the time I wanted to pay it off in and printed it out. Now I can just look at the payment schedule and the difference to where we 'should' be at and where our payment level is equals our savings.

As an example (I have rounded these numbers), our last payment was on the 8/6/17 and our loan should have been $231,000 but after our payment went in we are sitting at $225,000 which means we have $6,000 in 'savings'. My husband finds this system easy to understand, I hope it might help others who's partners like to 'see' their savings!
Priceless 'leaving home' gift for teenagers
updated 7 Jul 2017
My idea for a 'leaving home' gift for teenagers costs nothing but time, yet is priceless and can last a lifetime!

It all stemmed from a comment my 12 year-old daughter made when she asked, "When I leave home can you give me your recipe for hamburgers?" Ever since then, I have been compiling a family recipe book which I'm going to give both my kids when they get close to leaving home. The book will include recipes for meals and baking that our family loved and have grown up with, along with family photos taken over the years of family gatherings where food played a part. I've even got photos from over the years of the kids and I in the kitchen cooking. Recipes include recipes from some of my favourite recipe books, handwritten recipes given to me by my Mum, grandparents and good family friends, along with photos of those people. I've even included sayings, family quotes, jokes and memories of family occasions that we all still laugh about. I feel I'm creating a cheap and practical but precious family heirloom that both kids will cherish over the years and maybe one day pass onto their own kids!
Getting creative saves $100 on family passport pics
updated 5 Jul 2017
We learned how we could save an easy $100 on renewing our passport photos! Our family of five needed to change our passports and were told to get a new photo at the Post Shop would be $20 each. We were looking at an investment of $100 for the photos alone - as if the cost of five new passports wasn't enough!

So we put our thinking caps on and approached this job creatively. Here's what we did - you can do it too!

1) Choose a plain off white background (we even used off white painted shop wall!) either indoors opposite a large window, or outdoors in a shady area,or on an overcast day. It is important that there are no shadows around the person on the photo. Take a photo from the chest of the person up, leave lots of space around the head.

2) Download the photos on a computer. Go to and follow the instructions on the website. Basically, you select your country, upload your photo, adjust the photo by fitting the head into an outlined frame to get the proportions right and download a JPEG image of 8 passport photos!

3) Copy the JPEG onto a USB stick and print your photo for around 20c at your nearest photo printing outlet.

Remember to do a little research of the passport photo guidelines: facial expressions, hats, glasses and so on. It can take some time but if you need a number of passport photos for a family, this will save you money. Well worth the effort!
Recycle your old washing basket
updated 4 Jul 2017
The next time your oval or square plastic washing basket falls apart, cut all the sides away. You will be left with just the base of the basket and so many ways to use it!

- Cover the base in foil and use as a large platter.
- Use as a tray under car seats
- Use as a drip tray in the pantry
- As a tray for children's crafts, as the sides will prevent items rolling away

There are four ideas for you. How many can you come up with?
Try Bendigo Bank for kids accounts
updated 4 Jul 2017
We've just opened piggy bank accounts for our twins with Bendigo Bank. There are no fees and you only need $1.00 to open it. They also give the kids their own piggy money box! My boys love putting their money in the piggy and giving it a shake. As they are only two and a half years old we bank all their money. As they get older and start wanting to spend, we will be teaching them about saving, spending and giving money.
Start a non-perishable 'Emergency Pantry'
updated 4 Jul 2017
This simple tip saves me a fortune when times are lean and I have extra people to feed! With extra family members coming to stay and only my pension to live on, I was worried how on earth I was going to feed five people. So I created an emergency storage cupboard to help ease the financial burden. Every fortnight I put several items in the storage cupboard; tinned tomatoes, pasta, long-life milk, a spare packet of biscuits, lentils - anything that won't 'go off'. I don't notice these few little additions in my usual grocery bill but it's surprising how it all adds up in my cupboard. Lo and behold I soon find that I have enough to make it through the lean days! It's important to remember to rotate and use the old and replace with the new but my storage cupboard is now well stocked and used only in emergencies. I don't worry anymore!
You CAN get bulk billing on gynaecologist visits!
updated 2 Jul 2017
I managed to save up to $200 on my gynaecologist visit, thanks to a little asking around! Before that, the last time I went to see one was several years ago, to have a pelvic ultrasound. That visit cost me around $230 with very little rebate from Medicare. Fast forward a few years and I have to go for the same test. I have not worked for 18 months. I rang my female GP's surgery and asked 'Is it possible to have this done on bulk billing anywhere?' The receptionist said 'Oh no, you have to go to a specialist and as you know, specialists don't bulk bill you have to pay'. Somehow intuitively I felt this COULD be done at a bulk billing ultrasound place however, so the following week when I went to my male GP for something else (I have two different doctors) I asked him the same question. He said of course and wrote me a referral for one 10 minutes away! It took me all of 30 seconds to ask and resulted in a total saving around $150-$200. Moral of the story - always use your intuition and make your own enquiries. If you have to go for a special ultrasound with a surgeon check if you can get it done at a bulk billing clinic and the results sent to your GP.
Plus size clothing at the right price - made just for you!
updated 2 Jul 2017
Plus sized fashions are difficult to find in shops and are quite hit and miss for online purchases. However I've discovered a great website called eShakti ( which caters for sizes 0 to 36. My figure is very thick waisted and I find it difficult to find clothing in shops and almost impossible in second hand clothing stores.

eShakti create designs (dresses, skirts, tops, jumpsuits, pants and denim). You select a design and for a single extra charge of $9.95 USD, you can choose to customise the style (alter the neckline, sleeve length and/or hem length) and if you wish, you can input your specific height and body measurements from which the company will adjust their patterns to tailor the garment to be more suitable for you.

Based in Delhi, they claim to operate their work spaces under fair and secure conditions. The cost isn't bargain basement (particularly with the USD-AUD exchange rate), but the items are really great quality - usually better than 'bricks and mortar' shop clothing. eShakti only constructs items once orders have been placed, which means the item can take more than one month to arrive on your doorstep but is worth the wait. They have regular sales (minimum 10% off or greater) and if you purchase a few items, or delivery is delayed, they offer gift coupons, which results in 'covering' customised alteration and delivery costs on subsequent orders.

Because their items are much more flattering and comfortable, I've found that I wear my eShakti items much more than other clothing in my wardrobe and I'm certainly getting my money's worth. I'd also like to mention that the majority of their skirts and dresses come with POCKETS as a standard feature!
A cheap mouse repellent not to be sneezed at!
updated 1 Jul 2017
I have stumbled across an unusual mouse deterrent which seems to really work! Mouse season is here, and as I live on the edge of the country, I tend to be popular as hostess of a mouse hotel. However I have been using pepper to deter them and it really seems to be doing the trick! I put generous amounts of it in places where they come in, like the bottom of the airing cupboard and in other places where I found mouse calling cards. A container of pepper is much cheaper than bait and is not cruel to the mice.
Re-live that 'brand new' feeling, with the stuff you have!
updated 30 Jun 2017
I have accidentally discovered I LOVE living with less stuff! It all started when I packed up my house to move, however the move was delayed. Rather than unpack I just left out enough stuff to last what I thought was a month, including clothes. Doing this soon made me realise that many things I had previously thought necessary were not! Since I began living this way I have so much time on my hands as I don't have stuff around. I'm also not buying anything new as the move could happen soon, so whenever I need something, I go 'shopping' in my boxes! It's made me see how much I already love the clothes I own and has got me thinking, rather than buying new clothes, what if we packed things away instead, so that we 'forgot' about them? That way, when you want something special, you can just go shopping in your stash, without spending a cent! We don't often really appreciate what we have - but when you take it away and then 'find' it again after living without it, it's like having that same good feeling you had when you first got it, all over again! Works great with children's toys too!
Cooking on our BBQ saves us $1000 a year on gas!
updated 30 Jun 2017
We are saving a fortune on our gas utility since we began using our BBQ to cook with instead of the oven. I was shocked to see our last gas bill had risen significantly - especially as there are only two adults in the household! I was determined to reduce it as much as possible. Our past gas bills were between $250 to $300 every three months, which worked out to an average daily cost of approximately $3.33. So I put my SS thinking cap on and decided to only cook on our gas BBQ from now on. At $20 for a 9kg cylinder this has been such a saving! It has made such a difference, we now only cook on the BBQ for all our meals, including cooking for our family and friends when they drop by. The BBQ is fully under cover so it doesn't matter if it's raining, we are still able to cook as usual. We get to cook our meals at a cheaper rate, whilst still maintaining our nutrients and the BBQ actually gets the job done faster too! Our 9kg gas cylinder lasts up to six weeks or longer. So at $40 for 12 weeks, we are saving up to $260 on our gas bill every three months or $1040 per year! Definitely well worth considering!
Only get what you need done at the dentist
updated 30 Jun 2017
Save money on dental fees by only being treated for what you actually need.

If you contact a dentist and ask for the cost of a 'scale and clean' they usually quote you a single figure (in the example below $120) which really covers three separate tasks;

1) Examination (typically $30)
2) Removal of calculus/scale (typically $60)
3) Polishing (typically $30)

However, if you know that you don't have any problems and don't think that the polishing adds any real value, then tell the dentist that you only want a code '114' - this is the code for step two of the above only (removal of calculus or scale). This way you will only be charged $60, and save 50%!

Check with your health fund as the code number may be different - but 114 is that standard for most funds that offer HICAPS.

Warning: Think carefully before dismissing your dentist's suggestion of further treatment for other problems such as fillings. Saving money is great, but not when your health is going to suffer.
Scotchguard uniforms for extra protection
updated 25 Jun 2017
Here's a tip to help protect school uniforms and keep them looking clean and tidy. As uniforms are so expensive, the last thing you want is for them to look shabby after just a few weeks back at school. So to help keep them looking clean, I use Scotchgard spray on all of my kids' uniforms. This helps prevent stains from food, painting etc. I keep the bottle in the laundry and periodically reapply when the uniforms come out of the washing.
Brush up your shower cleaning skills the easy way
1 comment
updated 25 Jun 2017
I have found the perfect low cost solution to cleaning the shower! I have always struggled to clean my shower and usually have to stand in it to reach all the areas on the walls. However I recently bought new toilet brushes for both my two bathrooms. While the downstairs bathroom was being used by a guest, I had a brainwave and decided to try out one of the new toilet brushes to clean the shower. It worked a treat! The long handle on it meant I did not physically have to stand in the shower to clean it. I was able to reach over and clean the walls as well as the floor very easily. Needless to say, I am now two toilet brushes short so will have to go and buy some more, one for the toilet AND the shower upstairs!

... and thousands more.

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