31 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 31, 2009

I love the fact that most primary schools include swimming lessons as a part of the curriculum for students. What I don't like is the cost of swimming bags or the inconvenience of finding a spare plastic bag for the kids to put their wet things in each week. Today's tip solves that problem once and for all and at a budget price too.

Make a $3 Swimming Bag from a Shower Curtain

My daughter's school sells swimming bags for $12. They are made out of royal blue showerproof nylon with a drawstring at the top and stamped with the school logo. Apart from being overpriced, they are not really waterproof and with swimming in the morning, her school bag was getting wet before she arrived home. This year I have made her a swimming bag out of a $3 nylon shower curtain. I simply measured her bag and then for added water resistance I doubled it so it is two layers thick. A casing hem at the top and I re-cycled the cord out of her old one. It dries quickly and I can even put it in the washing machine with the towels without a problem. I have enough of the material left to make at least one other bag and a couple of small purses. All for just $3! - Contributed by Jan, Glenelg

30 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 30, 2009

Warm Weather Lunches

When you're packing the lunches think about the weather, how it's going to be transported, how long it will have to sit until it's eaten and whether or not you want the packaging back.

In warmer weather making sandwiches and rolls up ahead of time and freezing them will keep them fresh until lunchtime. Ditto for yoghurts, custards and fruit tubs. They'll thaw in the lunch box ready to be eaten. And on a hot, humid day a nice cool lunch will encourage a lagging appetite. If you are going to freeze sandwiches and rolls, double wrap them or put them into the ziplock sandwich bags (they can be washed and re-used) and then into another air tight container. This will ensure that any extra moisture stays out and discourage freezer burn and soggy sandwiches when thawed.

29 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 29, 2009

Anybodys School Stuff

If you have more than one child, buy school needs such as drink bottles, lunchboxes, swimming bags, book bags etc in gender-neutral colours. Label backpacks and lunch boxes with your last name only (our labels say "Armstrong family"). This way you can pass the items from child to child without having the wrong name on them!

28 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 28, 2009

Covering School Books

Every parent’s back to school nightmare but it’s a good idea to help protect your children's’ schoolbooks from a year of abuse by making covers out of a durable material, such as brown paper and strong plastic book covering. Using brown paper is much easier than using contact, saving time and a lot of frustration. You can buy rolls of brown paper for bookcovering from newsagents and office supply stores. One roll is usually enough for a couple of years, depending of course on the number of books you have to cover.

1. Measure the height of the book you want to cover. Then measure the distance from the front to back covers. Add 15cm to the two measurements (to create the inside flaps), and cut a piece of paper to this size.

2. Open the book, and place it face down in the centre of the paper. To accommodate the spine,
make two vertical cuts on the excess paper at the top and bottom of the book, creating a flap. Fold the flap down and behind the spine, creating two notches. If this isn’t possible, carefully trim the flap level with the bottom of the spine.

3. Wrap the paper around the book, making sure the inside flaps are equal sizes. Fold top and bottom flaps over the side flaps and tape in place.

27 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 27, 2009

It's Back to School Week!

The summer has flown and now it's time for kids all over Australia to head back to school. The uniforms have been washed and ironed and the shoes polished to an outstanding sheen. Backpacks are loaded up with books and pencils and bright new lunchboxes and drink bottles stand ready on the bench to be packed with a tasty, nutritious lunch.

Save yourself some angst and gather those shirts, dresses and polo shirts and put a dab of clear nail polish on the front and back of each button before they are worn for the first time. This will help to anchor those loose threads and stop the buttons from falling off. It will also save you having to buy a card of 5 buttons when you only need 4 or having to buy two cards because you need 6. And of course those pricked fingers, sewing on buttons can be dangerous work!

You can do this to all shirt and dress buttons, not just school uniforms.

26 January 2009

Celebrating the Australian Way

Today is 26th January, Australia Day. On our national day I thought it would be nice to share with you two emails that characterize Australians (and they're good tips on attitude too).

Be happy with what you have
I think this is the most important tip of all... in this age of consumerism and indulgence we all too often lose sight of what really matters for a good life .... good health, solid, happy and supportive relationships, a good sense of humour and the gratitude for the things we DO have , as opposed to wanting what we don't have (both material and emotional ). Caz R

We're All in This Together
Our local convenience store has always been the hub of our little hills suburb, and the new owners have made a particular effort to ensure that this continues. To them it's not just a matter of running a business - we always stay for a few extra words and leave with a big smile. We have a policy of buying something there each week - they try to keep the costs down, so the extra we are paying would be less than $1 (often only a few cents) and while I realise that $1 a week could allow a nice little treat at the end of the year, I think the feeling of fun, friendship and wellbeing is worth far more!

I see Cheapskating in terms of "we're all in this together" - being frugal is not the same as being mean, and if everyone in the community were to buy something from their local convenience store on a regular basis, perhaps we can ensure that these small businesses don't succumb to the big businesses which, let's face it, are more interested in the shareholders than the customers! Alison Campbell

25 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 25, 2009

Grow Your Own Greens

When I was growing up my mother had a huge vegetable garden, it took up more than half the back yard so it seemed normal to me to have a veggie garden when we moved into our first house. It paled in comparison to mum's, for starters it was only 3m x 1.5m. And of course I didn't inherit her green thumbs either.

These days I have a small veggie garden but it produces all the greens my family of 5 needs for the year. It's in a nice sunny spot, gets well watered (I use the tank water) and I add compost to the soil each time I plant something new.

So, regardless of the size of your backyard or your lack of green thumbs you can grow at least some of your food and save yourself a fortune.

Pick a nice sunny spot, it will need at least 6 hours of full sun each day.
Decide what you are going to grow. There's no point in planting zucchini if you only eat eggplant. Start with the easy to grow veggies - lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower, peas and beans. As you become more confident you can add eggplant, squash, carrots, radishes, beetroot etc
Water and weed regularly and enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labour.

24 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 24, 2009

Parents, Keep Those Receipts!

Schools all over Australia are gearing up for another year and that means that parents and carers are out shopping for school supplies.

On 30th June 2008, the Federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, announced the Education Tax Refund. This is to assist parents and carers with Education expenses with refunds of 50% of allowable education expenses. The maximum refund is :
  • $375 per primary school student
  • $750 per secondary school student

The example given in the press release is:
"Sarah and Michael have two children, Petra, in secondary school and Jack, in grade three. The Education Tax Refund will allow Sarah and Michael to claim 50% of the cost of a $1,500 laptop computer they bought for Petra, a refund of $750. They will also be able to claim Jack's education software and school textbooks up to teh value of $750, receiving a refund of $375."

Eligible expenses for the Education Tax Refund include:

  • Laptops;
  • Education software;
  • Home computers and associated costs;
  • Trade tools for use at school;
  • Home Internet connections;
  • School text books;
  • Printers; and
  • Stationery.

Parents entitled to Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A for children in primary or secondary school for the relevant financial year are eligible for the Education Tax Refund. It can be claimed through their tax return at the end of the financial year.

So, parents and carers of school kids, KEEP THOSE RECEIPTS!

For more information go to: http://www.treasurer.gov.au

23 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 23, 2009

The Frugal Face

We all like to look good, but do you really need to buy those expensive brand name skin care and cosmetic products? And do you really need to buy them from the cosmetics counter at DJs or Myer? If money is tight you can still look great without taking out a second mortgage on the house and you won't end up looking like a well weathered crocodile either.

There are any number of good skin care and cosmetic products readily available at budget prices that make excellent alternatives to those brand names. Aldi have a range of make-up that sells for between $2.95 and $5.95 per item and they are fantastic. If you don't have an Aldi close by, go to elf.com.au where you will find everything the image conscious female (or male) needs to look fabulous everyday. Budget department stores and pharmacies have extensive cosmetic departments with brand names often selling for 20% less than department stores.

And as fashions change so quickly, why would you pay $25 for a lipstick from a department store when you can get one that's just as pretty and does just as good a job at keeping those lips moisturised for $5?

22 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 22, 2009

Have a Mufti Meal Once a Week

One way to easily keep your grocery bill down is to have a mufti meal once a week to use up the leftover single serves and odd spoonfuls of foods you have lurking in the fridge at the end of the week, don't throw them out or add them to the dog food. To make it an easy meal set the food out buffet style and let everyone help themselves. Put out some tortillas or rolls, condiments and a plate of fruit to round out the meal (and clean out the fruit bowl and bread bin). To avoid arguments over favourite foods, make a 'first in line, first served' rule. It's like getting a free meal once a week.

21 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 21, 2009

Finding Alternatives to Bought Items

Just because you've handed over your hard earned cash to a checkout operator doesn't necessarily mean that what you've bought is great, or even good or that it will serve it's purpose better than an alternative item you already have at home or can create quickly from items or ingredients you have at hand.

Homemade ideas are often better for you, your family, your home and the environment than the often more expensive bought goods. Whether you're looking for an alternative for a food item, a gift idea, or even home maintenance, shopping at home first and putting your creativity to good use can save you a lot of money.

20 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 20, 2009

Learn from Byron's mistake

Byron learnt the hard way not to cancel insurance policies early. He had sold his cute little red Mercedes convertible and taken a cash deposit. Being confident that the sale would proceed, he rang up and cancelled his insurance policy on the car two days before it was to be picked up and paid for. Driving home from work that day he was in a three car pile-up on the Harbour Bridge and managed to write the car off - along with the cash deposit! He was left with no car, no sale and no insurance. Thankfully in this instance the car was fully paid for.

Never, ever, cancel an insurance policy until you have a permanent replacement policy in place (and a cover note just won't cut it). There are any number of reasons for insurance claims to be denied so you need to have proof that the policy has been accepted and a receipt number for the payment firmly in your hot little hands (or neatly filed away in the insurance sleeve of your Bill folder). This applies to car, health, life, home and contents - any insurance you may have.

Even one small accident can wipe out an entire emergency fund and more so don't take the chance.

19 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 19, 2009

A Non-stick Solution

The advent of non-stick cooking utensils has made food preparation so much easier for the busy cook. Teflon revolutionised milk pans and these days there are any number of different non stick surfaces on pots and pans. Unfortunately they have a tendency to stain quite easily, making them look dirty and dingy before their time. Good quality, non-stick cookware isn't cheap so knowing how to care for it properly will ensure that you get the full life-time out of your pots and pans and enjoy cooking with them.

  • Never use metal utensils in non-stick cookware (and yes, I've seen the ads and read the literature stating that some non-stick surfaces can take metal utensils).There are plenty of soft utensils around, suitable for all kinds of stirring, lifting, whisking etc that won't harm the surface of your non-stick pans.
  • Always wipe out with a soft cloth before washing and then wash in hot, soapy water with a soft cloth. Gently rubbing any stubborn spots with the cloth should shift them quite easily.
  • Remove stains from non-stick pans by sprinkling the surface with bicarb soda. Place a sliced lemon over the bicarb soda in a single layer. Add enough water to just cover the lemons, then simmer until the stain goes away. If the stain proves to be stubborn, remove from heat and allow the pan to soak overnight. Rinse and wipe over, the stain should be gone. If it's not, repeat the process.
  • If you have a non-stick pan that has started to peel - stop using it! The risk of some of the coating getting into your food and through that into your body is too high to chance it.

18 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 18, 2009

Seven and a half cents doesn't mean a heck of a lot...

As the old Doris Day song goes "but give it to me every minute of every hour of everyday…."

Sometimes it's easy to think that $1 here and $5 there isn't much but all those small amounts can add up to quite a lot very quickly. Frittering away $5 a day is a whopping $35 a week! That casual attitude to small amounts really does add up. Keep the carefree attitude and before too long you could end up in big trouble.

So, instead of frittering away small amounts, stash the cash instead. Put it into a jar (or the Milo tin)or your secret cash stash and when you have $20 bank it into your savings account and watch that add up.

Oh, and seven and a half cents of every minute of every day adds up to $39,312 in a year! Doris sure knew what she was singing about.

17 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 17, 2009

Skip those ad breaks

We all like to relax, and watching a good show on TV can be a great way to relax. But you need to tune out when the ad breaks appear, even those short ones. Research indicates that couch potatoes (even ones who just relax of an evening) are much more likely to overspend when they are shopping for each 1 minute ad they watch due to the truly powerful effects of this marketing medium. Because TV advertising is made up of words and pictures (with pictures being the most powerful) every time the couch potato sees a commercial they are psychologically reminded of their desire to have it. As soon as they see it in the shop the desire returns and the impulse buying begins. Turn off the ads, get up and have a glass of water or record your favourite programs and fast forward through them. If you really need to research a product then you can do it in your own time and in your own way.

16 January 2009

Loathsome firebugs

Oh my! I am in a state of shock at the moment. If you follow my calendar you will know that I was scheduled to speak with James Lush on ABC Radio Perth at noon today.

Unfortunately we've had to postpone the chat until early next week because some senseless fool has set fire to Kings Park. The temperature in Perth is expected to reach 40 today and Rosemary tells me the winds are blowing a gale so the fire has just taken off.

To anyone who knows Perth, you'll understand just how devastating this is. Kings Park is just glorious and I have spent many hours wandering through on my visits to WA. I am so saddened at such a stupid and senseless act.

Our gorgeous Australian landscape is so volatile, especially at this time of year. Just this week Adelaide and Port Lincoln have suffered through bush fires, even Sydney, a huge city, hasn't been immune with fire racing through the bush at Killara, a suburb just 11 kilometres from the CBD.

We have bush behind us and I love it. I look out the kitchen and family room windows straight onto majestic gums and spectacular wattle trees and I can tell you that my greatest fear is that some fool will set fire to it.

So, to ease my mind, we have a fire plan for the family and house, even though we are in the suburbs. With the bush so close to our home we have always felt that a simple and easy to remember fire plan is essential. Each summer I pray we don't have to use it. My in-laws live close to Galston Gorge in Sydney and they have a fire plan too. They have even had to use it a couple of times in recent years due to loathsome firebugs.

Even in suburbia you are not immune to the threat of bush and scrub fires so please take some time to work out a fire plan for your family. Fire plans should have been done months ago but it's not too late. If you don't have one you should do one now. You don't need to live in the bush or the mountains to be caught in a fire either - there are hundreds of housefires every year from something as simple as a pot catching fire in the kitchen.

You can get a sample plan from the NSW Rural Fire Service. This website has a number of different fact sheets you can download to help you get started.

And if you at least have a plan in place it will make the firebug's life that little bit more difficult.

Tip of the Day January 16, 2009

You Need a Plan to Get out of Debt

If you have decided 2009 is the year you are going to get rid of that credit card debt, then, before they year gets too much older, you need a plan. Without a plan all you've done is made a decision. To get rid of that debt completely you need to act on that decision and you need a plan to do that.

Here are my rules for the Payment Push (the fastest way to get out of debt that I know):

1. Stop using that card. Put it away, somewhere safe. You are not going to be using it.
2. Make this month's payment every month. You are going to keep on paying this month's payment every month and ignore the minimum required payment on your statement. This month's payment is now the fixed monthly payment for that account.
3. Make a list. Get all your credit cards and other debts and make a list of them, from smallest to largest.
4. Keep on paying. Once you have finally paid off the credit card, add the payment to the fixed payment for your next smallest debt and keep on paying. When that one is gone for good, add the payment to the next smallest debt and keep on paying. Do you see the pattern here?

Keep repeating this process until you are totally debt free.

15 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 15, 2009

Dig out of Debt

Yesterday's tip was to spend more wisely and I suggested you physically put the money you weren't spending in a piggybank. Today we are going to move that tip up a notch. At the end of the month you are going to empty the piggybank (or jam jar or Milo tin or whatever) and take that money, as it is, and pay it straight off your smallest debt. It may be your credit card or a personal loan or even your mortgage. You are going to pay that money, no matter how small the total, off that debt. Then you are going to keep doing this until that debt is completely cleared. Of course you'll still be making your regular payments on it, but this extra boost should see it disappear even more quickly. When this debt is gone you can start on the next smallest. And best of all is you won't be missing the extra payments.

14 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 14, 2009

Spend more wisely

We all have our own ways of wasting money. Now see how you can eliminate the ones that you wouldn't miss. Just saving the dollar you would normally spend on the newspaper each day adds up. When you've decided what to eliminate, pay yourself for it each time you would have normally bought it. Put the money in a piggy bank or a separate purse, somewhere you can't get at it. At the end of the month how much money have you kept?

13 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 13, 2009

Don’t Leave the TV on Just to “Have Noise”

When we were first married Wayne would walk into the lounge, turn on the TV, and walk straight back out again! I was going mad, following behind to turn it off. He had become so used to the TV being on and the constant droning noise that turning it on was automatic, he didn't realize until I pointed out (a few times) what he was doing. What a waste of power. If you are in this habit, then get out of it. You'll come to enjoy the quiet and the sense of peace and find it easier to relax. Your day will be far less stressful and depending on how many TVs you have on your power bill will drop considerably.

12 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 12, 2009

Use Tea Towels, Not Paper Towels

If you keep a tea towel near the sink that’s only to be used for drying hands and a supply of others that are just for wiping up spills and cleaning then you’ll find your paper towel usage diminish severely. We go through a roll of paper towels every 6 weeks at the fastest, unless we host a party or do a lot of frying. Recycle old, worn towels for this purpose before putting them in the rag bag.

11 January 2009

Good food, good friends, good fun!

From the start of Daylight Saving until the end, we cook outside. A few years ago we invested (and yes, I consider the purchase an investment) in a good bbq, complete with side burners, rotisserie and roasting hood. If only the stove inside was as good! I love it, the house stays cool, the kitchen stays clean and there are usually no pots to clean up!

We usually have friends or family or both over at least one night during the week to share a bbq with us. It's a simple meal of meat and salad and maybe bread, eaten outside. Very relaxed and casual. Perfect Aussie summer entertaining.

We had friends over last night for a bbq and it was a beautiful night. Warm enough to sit outside until late (it was after 11pm when we came in) and just talk and laugh and enjoy each other's company. The thing that made it extra nice for me was the fact that the kids didn't leave the table either. They all played on the wii before we ate, and I fully expected them to jump up and go back to it when they had finished but they didn't. They sat and joined in the conversation and laughed and made jokes and even had some interesting points of view. It was so nice to have all the kids - 8 of them aged between 13 and 18 - share so much time with us.

I very rarely vary the menu for a barbecue. Tossed salad, coleslaw, potato salad, buttered bread, sausages and burgers. Nibblies are a dip and crackers, cheese cubes, pickled onions, diced sausage, carrot and celery straws. Simple and easy to prepare and I always have all the ingredients in the house, so I don't need to run out and buy anything. For dessert I usually just bring out the fruit bowl and everyone helps themselves. Last night we had watermelon and fresh pineapple, sliced and arranged on a platter as well as the fruit bowl of apples, oranges, bananas and mandarins to finish off.

While we were talking the subject back to school supplies came up. All the kids had ideas about what they needed and what they should have and I was thrilled to see that they were all happy to keep what they had and just replenish to fill in the gaps. The three girls have planned an afternoon to get together and cover last year's folders so they can use them again, but have them looking fresh. They tried to talk the boys into it, but it was no go. Oh well. They've asked us Mums to keep the junk mail for them and warned us that they'll need glue and contact and that they'll probably make a terrible mess. I'm pretty sure they'll clean it up and if it gives them an afternoon of fun and friendship and saves a few dollars I'm all for it. I'll print off the instructions for covering books for them and while they have the contact out they can cover the textbooks that need doing too. That will save me doing a job I loathe - I always end up with just one bubble that won't go away and it annoys me for days.

Today I'd like to get some more cordial made and another lot of ginger beer started. I'm still amazed at how much cheaper it is to make drinks from scratch. I saw ginger beer in the supermarket (on sale too!) for $1 a 375ml bottle! I get 24 600ml bottles for around $5, sometimes less, depending on the price of the ginger. For about a half an hour of my time and very little effort I am not spending around $33 on soft drink!

That's a fair whack of anyone's grocery budget. How much do you spend on beverages for your family? Have you ever worked it out? If you drink Coke for instance (it's just an example, and believe me there are more Coke drinkers out there than will admit to it or it would've disappeared years ago), and have a 1.5l bottle a day you're spending $19.46 a week just on one drink. If you are having trouble keeping your supermarket bill down, look at how much you are spending on drinks and try to find alternatives.

One thing that helps keep the drink bill down for us is a simple rule: no softdrinks before noon, only water and milk. After noon drinks must be cycled: a drink of water, then of milk, then of water then a softdrink, then water, then milk, then water, then a softdrink. Fizzy only for afternoon tea and with dinner. It works, believe me. Even Wayne sticks to the drink rule, bless him!

In our house softdrinks include fruit juice, cordial, magic cordial and fizzy drinks. Keeping a jug of water in the fridge encourages drinking during summer. Float some lemon or lime slices in the top, they scent the water and make it more refreshing on a boiling summers day.

Leftovers for dinner tonight, rather than our usual Sunday roast. There are sausages, burgers and salad left from last night's bbq so we'll finish those off and save the roast for another night. I'm going to make a dessert tonight too - shock, horror, I don't often make desserts - there are some berries to use up and some cream and there's a pavlova in the pantry that needs to be used up so we'll have a decadent end to our leftover dinner, the perfect end to a lovely Sunday.

Get Prepared and Slash That Grocery Bill

Take the time to write up a grocery list and go through the supermarket junk mail. Start this week by being prepared with enough food to make quick meals at home. Take the time to walk through the supermarket to compare brands and prices. Make notes on the back of your shopping list so you can update your Price Book when you get home. You can easily save $20 or more each week by shopping the sales at the stores. As soon as you've put the groceries away, update your Grocery Tracking Spreadsheet. Seeing just how much you are spending in each category can be just the thing you need to rein in the food budget.

10 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 10, 2009


There is a certain romance to the “simplify your life” movement. The thought of having just enough, without any clutter around, can be very appealing. And having too much stuff really does weigh us down. Take a look at everything in your home. If it does not add joy, beauty, meaning, or usefulness to your life, give it away. And when you are tempted to buy something new, ask yourself: does it make me smile? Do I need it? Will I really use it/wear it/read it/listen to it? If the answer is yes and you have the cash to buy it, without hurting your budget then go ahead.

Then, on a quarterly basis (monthly if you have a lot of 'stuff'), go through your house and ask yourself these same questions again. Go through your wardrobe, linen cupboard, kitchen cupboards, garden sheds and garage and get rid of those things that do not add genuine joy, beauty, meaning or usefulness to your everyday life.

For Advanced Cheapskates: After purging excess stuff instigate a "one thing in, one thing out rule". No one can bring an item into the house unless they first remove one. This way you'll maintain your simplified and de-cluttered environment and you won't be doubling up on purchases.

09 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 9, 2009

Diarise Gift Giving

It's never too early to buy gifts. In fact right now is a great time to start shopping for next Christmas and any birthdays etc you have through the year. To keep track of when a gift is required make a note of it in your diary or on your family calendar. I also keep a list of gift needs in the back of my purse so I can check what's needed when I find those fantastic bargains. Then if you pick up the perfect gift at a clearance sale or factory outlet you can mark it off. Being organized with gift giving can save you an amazing amount of money (50% and often more). Wrap and label as soon as you get it home and it's ready to go, a great money saver if you need to post or courier gifts, there'll be no need for express post.

08 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 8, 2009

Budget Buster No. 2 - The Impulse Buy

We all get them - impulses that make us reach out and pick up the chocolate or pair of shoes or even buy a new car. That sudden and unexplained craving that makes you just have to have whatever. One of the best ways to overcome these impulse tendencies is the $100/24 Hour Rule. It's quite simple: if the thing that catches your eye, that you just have to have, costs more than $100 then you wait 24 hours before buying it. You can adapt the rule to any amount: for lesser valued items perhaps wait 2 hours. If, after this time, you still want it, need it and have the cash to pay for it without hurting your budget then go ahead and buy it. I think you'll find that after waiting, even as little as 2 hours, you'll decide you don't really want or need it after all and keep your money.

07 January 2009

Staying cool and doing chores

When did shopping centres become the place to keep cool? "I'm thinking of hitting the shops today to beat the heat" was just said to me by an acquaintance in Sydney. Now I now it's hot - very hot - in Sydney today and perhaps it's just me but is it really going to be any cooler in a shopping centre?

I didn’t say anything to her comment (very unlike me), but I wonder just how much keeping cool in a shopping centre is going to cost her today? Petrol or fares to get there and no doubt some money will be spent during the stay, so perhaps $10? $20? Or more? At that price air conditioning at home would be cheaper or at least cost the same and far more pleasant than battling hundreds and hundreds of other hot and frazzled shoppers, all trying to stay cool in a confined space.

It's cool enough here today, and I am very grateful. The windows are open and the slight breeze is actually cold. But yesterday was a stinker, hot, humid and windy, but we still managed to stay cool at home.

When the alarm went off I jumped out of bed and ran around shutting the windows tight and closing all the blinds and drapes. Just that alone makes a huge difference to the temperature in the house. Then the ceiling fans went on and the doors to rooms not being used were closed. The house stayed a very comfortable 20 degrees all day, while outside it was 30. As soon as the sun was down the windows and doors were opened to let the cool air in and we were able to turn off the fans. And I didn't have to go to a shopping centre to stay cool!

Hannah and I are going to sort out the stationery drawer today and work out what she needs for school. The sales are on so if she needs anything now is the time to get it. I'm rather hoping that we will already have everything around the house. I know her pencil case just needs a soak and a rinse and it will look almost as good as new, so that's one expense avoided, it was a rather expensive gift last Christmas. Apparently in high school if it doesn't have a brand name on it then you are just plain dorky!

I also need to get out and pull some weeds and plant a few more lettuce and cabbages. The tomatoes are going great guns and the lettuce have been amazing. Just pulling a few leaves off each plant each day has kept them going for almost three months. I hope the next lot last as long.

While we were away I tried a delicious potato salad and it's so easy I couldn't wait to try it myself. We had it over the weekend and it's become a favourite so I'll make some more this afternoon and use up some potatoes. You simply steam one potato per person, skin on. When done, cool a few minutes and then cut into chunks. Fry an onion in a little olive oil until crisp (this takes a few minutes). Mix a good slurp of balsamic vinegar with a good egg mayonnaise and stir into the potato. Mix through the fried onion. Chill. You would not believe how nice this is. Not necessarily good for the figure but very tasty and a nice change to regular potato salad.

And then if I have time I need to clean the inside of the car. I had a little altercation with a cup of coffee while we were travelling on Friday night and the carpet needs to be shampooed. Warning: don't ever trust that the lid on a take-away coffee is actually on when you pick it up. Trust me on this: if it's not you could end up wearing it!

So this Wednesday is going to be busy, I'd better get to so I can cross some things off the list.

Tip of the Day January 7, 2009

A Simple Way to Avoid Budget Busters

Budget busters are those things that create debt and can cause a budget to spiral out of control with just the swipe of a card, literally a matter of seconds. Credit cards and the use of credit is the number one cause of budgetary failure. If you struggle to control spending then moving to a cash only budget is a simple way to keep control. The envelope system works. It may be old fashioned but it's easy to use, and being a physical system you are far more conscious of spending than you are when using cards (debit, credit or eftpos). Make a withdrawal of all the money you will need for the week, divide it up into the various envelopes (food, petrol, phone, lunch, entertainment etc) and when it's gone you have to wait until next week to spend from that envelope. A quick look in each envelope will let you know how you are going and remind you of your allocated spending amount.

06 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 6, 2009

Finding Real Entertainment

It may be old fashioned, but the simple things really are the best, and old fashioned or not, when it comes to entertainment they can also be the best value too. It's holiday time and true to form we are being bombarded with advertising telling us we need to see the latest movie, visit Dreamworld and Movie World and a myriad of other really expensive things to keep the kids (and ourselves) entertained during the holidays. We have to spend, spend, spend or we will be bored silly. Australians are working longer and harder so they can "afford" to buy entertainment and then what? It's never enough. These things leave us wanting more and more and don't satisfy. Until we learn to enjoy simple things, these expensive, supposedly more exciting things will continue to leave us wanting more. Learn to find enjoyment in simple things and pass this skill onto your children. A trip to the park (and you don't need kids to go to the park), a picnic on the beach (or in the backyard), even mowing the lawn, can provide entertainment and satisfaction. And these things don't cost a lot of money, there's no need to work longer and harder to pay for them.

Make a list of things you consider entertainment. Then choose one thing a day, that doesn't cost much but yields a feeling of satisfaction, and try to do it. You'll find that when you do spend money on entertainment, that you really will enjoy it and be happy with your choices.

If you need some inspiration for things to do, try our list of things to do when there's nothing to do.

05 January 2009

The shoe hunt was successful

I am now the proud owner of three lovely pairs of new shoes. They look good, they were great prices and best of all they are comfortable. I will be able to wear them all day and not grimace once. And I won't be hunting around for a marker to colour in the heels anymore either (unfortunately my favourite shoes have badly scuffed heels, hence the colouring in with a marker).

Hannah, Mum and I braved the early morning Sydney traffic and the crowds to hit David Jones as soon as the doors opened. What a crowd - more than I was expecting but probably not enough for management. Hundreds of women, all wanting shoes!

Picture it: trestle tables set out in squares, one per shoe size. Each table covered in shoe boxes stacked three deep. No particular order apart from this. And women, hundreds of women, trying to find the perfect pair of shoes. Talk about chaos!

It was actually a lot of fun. I found two pairs of heels - a lovely black pair with a very cute peep toe and a rather glamorous (for me anyway) pair of patent leather in a creamy beige. I wore the patent shoes last week and felt very well dressed. It's amazing how smart you feel when you wear something you like.

Paying for them was a challenge. Two registers, two rather frazzled cashiers and one long, long queue. I met some lovely ladies while we were waiting to pay and learned of a few more bargains that were around. I also saw the horrible side of human nature too. As I was waiting in the line, one of the store assistants walked past with an armful of shoe boxes - full of old shoes. People had taken the new shoes out of the boxes, replaced them with their old shoes and just walked out the door. If the old saying is true those shoes will squeak with every step taken until they are paid for.

After DJs we hit Colorado. Summer sandals were calling me, I could hear them loud and clear, and not wanting to disappoint them just had to pop in and try some on. A pair of nice black sandals now live in my wardrobe and boy are they comfortable.

None of these pairs of shoes were cheap, even on sale. I believe that if I am going to be wearing them for a long time then they need to be good quality, well made, good fitting and comfortable. I spent $139.95 on the three pairs of shoes and I've just calculated the per wear cost.

The heels will be worn at least once a week for at least three years (I am not hard on shoes at all, that's why I tend to buy classic styles rather than fashion shoes) and will cost 32 cents per wear. The sandals will be worn at least three days a week for three summers or about 4 months a year so 42 wears in total. The cost per wear for them is about 27 cents. I am very happy with that. And once they are no longer 'going out' presentable they will become yard shoes until they fall apart so in actual fact will end up costing much less per wear.

So now I've brought three new pairs of shoes into the house I am off to deposit three old pairs in the bin (they really are not fit to be worn!).

Tip of the Day January 5, 2009

25 Easy Ways to Save Cents

1. Recycle items for different uses.
2. Use newspaper for wrapping food scraps and as pedal bin liners.
3. Organize your house.
4. Buy energy efficient light bulbs.
5. Only run the dishwasher when it is full.
6. Wash dishes by hand to save even more money.
7. Use less laundry detergent than called for.
8. Wash clothes in cold water.
9. Don't overuse hot water.
10. Fix dripping taps.
11. Fix a constantly running toilet.
12. Consider fans instead of air conditioners.
13. Set your thermostat 3 degrees lower than usual for heating and cooling.
14. Use coupons - petrol dockets, two for one offers, discounts on car services etc.
15. Consider buying clothing at op shops or factory outlets.
16. Only shop once a week.
17. Don't go to the supermarket when you're hungry.
18. Do not shop at convenience stores.
19. Buy store brands and generics.
20. Stock up on items when they are on sale.
21. Buy items in bulk (if you can save money).
22. Buy used furniture.
23. Strip or recover furniture you already own.
24. Quit smoking.
25. ~~Be happy with what you have.~~

04 January 2009

Tip of the day January 4, 2009

Waste Not, Want Not

There's no easier way to waste money than by regularly throwing out old food that you never used. The best way to make your shopping list super-effective is by coming up with a meal plan for the week/fortnight/month. Look in the pantry, fridge and freezer to see what ingredients and meals you have and ask yourself "what can I make with it?".

You might think it takes ages to come up with a meal plan, but really it shouldn't take more than 10 or 15 minutes as you write out your shopping list. Work out what you're going to eat every day, incorporating the ingredients you already have. Stick it to the fridge or the pantry door and check it each morning. Half the battle of getting a meal on the table is won if you know what you have to prepare. And, knowing ahead that you have a meal planned really does stop those 5 o'clock "I can't be bothered cooking" moods. You can download a blank menu planner in the Menu Plan archives.

Menu planning can and will save you a small fortune - with fish and chips for four costing around $27, or pizza about $22.50, knowing you can put a meal on the table in under 30 minutes can save you between $15 - $20!

Challenge yourself to whip up a banquet with leftovers and food that's close to going off. Remember to understand what the different food labels mean too - so you don't throw away things that are still perfectly useable.

03 January 2009

Tip of the Day January 3, 2009

Save $6,000 this year!

Ever wondered how much you could save in a year if you really tried? Banking $115 a week sounds hard. But you can quite easily save over $6,000 this year if you follow these simple tips for saving money. They are small, painless changes in the way you spend your money, and they will stretch each dollar to the nth degree.

1. Set up a budget. The very first step is to create a budget. Write down your income and then work out ALL of your household expenses. A simple budget uses your pay period (weekly, fortnightly, monthly) to determine income and expenses. This gives you a clear view of what s coming in and what's going out. You can see where you can cut expenses.

2. Never shop without a list. And stick to it. Set up a basic shopping list (we generally buy the same items week after week). Look at ways to cut your supermarket bill - try generic brands, or multi-purpose products. This will save you at least $45 a week or $2340 a year.

3. Give up smoking. Not only will you save at least $60 a week (if you smoke a pack a day), but you'll save on medical and dental bills as well. Look forward to saving about $3120 per year. If you can't stop, try to cut down by at least a pack a week. Save about $490 a year.

4. Try to have at least one meatless meal a week and cut your meat bill by at least $7 a week. Savings $364 a year.

5. Buy your meat from a wholesale butcher, or in bulk. A 60kg hindquarter costs about $300 and should keep a family of four in meat for about 6 months. At just $50 a month for meat instead of $50 per week, save $2000 a year.

6. Fix that dripping tap, install a low-flow shower head and reduce showers by 3 minutes. You'll not only be saving a precious resource, but about $125 if not more per year.

7. Turn off all power appliances at the wall socket. Even in standby mode, appliances are using electricity. Make sure you always turn your computer screen off when you shut down, it can really suck up power. Do these things and save about $120 per year.

8. Wash in cold water. You'll save on heating costs, and your clothes won't fade as readily. Save around $2.50 per week per family in heating costs or $130 per year.

9. Change light globes to compact fluorescents and save about $60 per year PLUS they last 8 times longer! They may be more expensive initially, so swap them one at a time, or as light bulbs blow.

10. Reduce bought lunches by at least one and save $6 per week and don't buy snacks and drinks at shopping trips for you or the kids and! save at least $10 per week, have the girls home for coffee instead of buying that cappuccino and save another $2.40 per week ...all together save at least $956 per year!

Total savings of $6585!

To make sure you reach your goal, open a separate bank account and arrange to have at least $115 a week directly deposited into this account. Then sit back and watch your savings grow, without any major lifestyle changes.

02 January 2009

This is your year

January pops up on our calendars and we immediately assume, “It’s time to get the finances organized.” I know this is true because of the website traffic I receive each January when the hits increase. Is it because January is traditionally holiday time, the Christmas rush is over and the sultry, summer heat slows us down a little? Or is January a good time to choose your goals, set a mission statement and start bringing in the New Year with new resolutions and good intentions?

Yes—IF your Christmas tree is taken down, the Christmas decorations are put away and the house is restored from holiday parties and family gatherings.

No—IF you are still promising yourself to send out Christmas cards, you are still buying gifts that you need to send to people and the kitchen countertop is full of unfinished projects.

In other words, are you ready to take on another major project—which is what you are doing when you decide to change your habits and get control of your money?

Setting up rules for your spending plan is quite simple. Anyone with a bank account and an income can pop off at least 10 things you should do to get your finances in order. The problem is it’s hard to stay on that path of 10 things as the year becomes April and then June and life has interfered with your well-intentioned plans to use 2009 to improve your money habits. After all, you're only human and doing the best you can!

Cheer up! In case you’ve made the decision to try to get organized in 2009, I’ll pop off about 10 things you can do to get your finances in order and I won’t elaborate on them. You understand the routine. In fact, I’m sure you could pop off these 10 items if you read any magazines with ideas about “how to organize your money.” And if you can't just go to the Article Archive and read up.

• Bring together thoughts and dreams about your life and where you want to go.
• Set written financial goals for the year—plan where you are going and what you want to achieve.
• Procrastination will keep you from working towards success in 2009. Work on these goals throughout the year and don’t quit. Keep checking in the Member's Centre for support and inspiration.
• Be flexible enough to change or revise these goals throughout the year.
• Reward yourself for successes in achieving your goals and in changing ingrained habits of the spendthrift kind.
• Keep visiting the Member's Centre. Sometimes you need a friend to help you over some obstacles and you'll find plenty of help there.
• Start by tracking your spending and recording it in your spending plan to keep you on track.
• Also keep a schedule or calendar to tell you where you need to be.
• And don’t worry if you don’t always follow through. Try again tomorrow.

Those are 9 things you can do to get your finances organized. Since I told you I’d come up with 10 things, here's the tenth. It’s good to leave yourself some wiggle room for human frailty. Does that bother you? Don't let it, be kind and encouraging to yourself.

I believe you have what it takes to succeed because you have taken the plunge and joined the Cheapskates Club. We are here to support you, to encourage you and yes, even to give you the proverbial kick in the behind if needed.

01 January 2009

Happy New Year

I wish you a very happy new year - 2009 is going to be a great year at the Cheapskates Club. And a very warm welcome to all our new members too. No matter where you are in your journey to frugality and living the Cheapskates way, the start of a new year is the perfect time to renew your commitment to living life debt free, cashed up and laughing.

Jump right on in and get started. The doom and gloom experts are predicting an even harder year than 2008 but for Cheapskates it is going to be a very, very good year.

To celebrate a new beginning, we are having an extra special event. For the first time ever we are giving away a Lifetime Membership to the Cheapskates Club. That means that as long as the Cheapskates Club is around (and I predict we have many, many years left) the lucky winner will enjoy all the benefits of membership without ever receiving a renewal notice! Not one, not ever! Click here to enter!

Good luck and I wish you all the very best of good things for 2009