31 December 2012

Make a Party Hat

To make a New Year’s party hat, all you need is a half circle of card stock with a 6-9 inch radius, depending on how large you want it. Form the half circle into a cone and staple it at the base and seam. Decorate with glitter, foil, feathers or whatever you’d like. String with elastic thread to keep it in place. 



28 December 2012

Sunday Night Ritual Saves Money at Dinnertime

Approximate $ Savings: $40 per week

Menu planning saves me about $40 per week on groceries and even more on takeaway. I write out a plan of weekly meals on a Sunday night, checking what I have in the freezer and pantry whilst I go. This enables me to make use of what I have and saves on groceries as I usually only need to grab bread or milk through the week. By having a menu plan and making a habit of taking the meat out the night before I am rarely lazy enough to buy take away anymore. I can also mix the meals around if I did forget to take something out of the freezer.
Contributed by Dayna

27 December 2012

Wonderful Air Freshener

Keep your home scented and fresh all year round with a beautiful homemade air freshener.

You will need:
6 Drops Eucalyptus Oil,
10 Drops Rose Oil,
10 Drops Lavender Oil
A small dish or bowl, about 1 cup capacity

Half fill the dish with boiling water.  Add the oils and stir. The heat from the water will warm the oils and your home will smell absolutely wonderful.
Contributed by Elizabeth

26 December 2012

Examining Spending Habits Finds Savings

The challenging economic times have forced our family to examine EVERYTHING we spend our money on, to see where savings can be made. For instance:
1. Instead of buying meat from the supermarket every week, we're making a monthly trip to Victoria Market, about an hour before closing time, to snaffle the best bargains and the best quality meat.

2. Instead of buying coffee and a muffin every day, we're using the coffee machines at the office and baking our own muffins.

3. In this sizzling Melbourne summer heat, I carry a reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go (it stays in the work fridge during the day), to avoid buying drinks as I wait for the trains - when they decide to show up!

4. Before leaving home for work, we turn all appliances off at the wall except for the fridge/freezer.

5. I avoid taking my purse with me if I'm going for a walk at lunchtime or popping out to a meeting - I can't be tempted to buy anything if I don't have any money/cards on me!

Challenge yourself to examine EVERY way you spend money to find savings. As Cath says, we don't have to go without if we implement practical changes and plan ahead! :o)

Contributed by Kate Ashmore

25 December 2012

Toasty Spiced Rosemary Cashews


Ingredients:

750g roasted cashews
3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp melted butter

Method:
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Evenly spread cashews on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake in pre-heated oven for 8 to 10 minutes until just fragrant and warm. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt and butter, stirring very well. When cashews are warm, remove them from the oven and add them immediately to the bowl and toss to coat well.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

24 December 2012

Markers Drying Out?

Try just a drop of vinegar to bring them back to life. Then store markers horizontally, this keeps them from drying out.

21 December 2012

Make a Lovely Ice Bowl Centrepiece

To make a beautiful table decoration, which can be adjusted to complement different themes, make an ice bowl with flowers frozen in it (or anything you think will look good). Get 2 bowls of same shape 1 smaller than other with approximately 10-15mm space between the two. Arrange flowers, leaves, herb sprigs or citrus slices, maybe lollies etc. around the inside of the larger bowl and place the smaller bowl inside. Tape the two bowls together so they are flush and will not move apart. Gently pour cooled boiled water into the gap between the bowls to about 1cm from the top, (cooled boiled water gives a clearer, more sparkling ice bowl). Add some more flowers or other decorations, if needed, arranging them with a skewer. Freeze overnight. Next day, remove the bowls from freezer and stand at room temperature on a plate or tea towel for 10-20 minutes, or until they separate easily. There you have it, a beautiful ice bowl. Return this to freezer until needed.
Contributed by Barbara

20 December 2012

Simple Steps to a Beautiful Christmas Table

Setting the Christmas table is easy. First pick a colour theme. Everyone usually has a white table cloth, if not, a white sheet does the trick for table. So this is the base.

Go to any Reject/cheap shop and buy a beautiful roll of Christmas paper...use this as the table runner. Advantage of this, besides looking gorgeous...it just has to be thrown out of the meal! No soaking out gravy stains or ironing the good table cloth.

Prior to the day get the kids involved by making the place-cards. You can just buy a piece of coloured cardboard and let the kids use their imagination. Red or green glitter, Christmas stickers and write names in gold/silver pen or any colour that suits. These become treasured keepsakes and can be re-used or replaced each year.

Napkins, if you don't like the lovely paper ones that are at the Reject/cheap shop...go to Spotlight and buy a piece of Christmas material and make your own...again these can be used each year. Even if you aren't a sewer...squares are usually achievable or the 15 year old may love to do this!

If you are not using your best crystal glasses for drinking, put them in the middle of the table and fill with cheap coloured balls or candles from the cheap shops. Check your cupboards for ideas. Christmas ribbon also is great around the napkins. Gold stars, glitter or Christmas sprinkles also look great on the table.

There is so much good stuff at the Reject/cheap shops...just make time to go and check out what they have on the shelves. The kids will love helping you.

Don't forget as an added touch...all your guests will love the Christmas toilet paper ($2 at the Reject Shop), its a great talking point.
Contributed by Karen

19 December 2012

The Benefits of Being Financially Responsible

Approximate $ Savings: A lifetime of savings & no financial stress

This isn't so much a tip. I just wanted to share an unexpected discovery with fellow Cheapskaters. To explain : 14 years ago our financial circumstances were bad. To keep within our limited income we had to stick to a strict budget, and it was difficult for me. At first I hated it, my husband was the driving force who kept us on track. Thankfully, we were able to survive and recover. Then recently, a financial windfall allowed our family to enjoy an overseas holiday (we were very responsible with the rest of the money!). We did not have a budget for this holiday! For the first week, we didn't know ourselves - we splashed out on whatever we wanted, HOWEVER, by the third week, we were actually back to our usual cautious spending pattern - even the kids! To our surprise, we found we just didn't have it in us to waste money! Being financially responsible becomes a way of life. Who'd have thought it?
Contributed by Ann

18 December 2012

Company Ready Devilled Eggs


Ingredients:
12 large eggs, hard boiled
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cayenne
1 tbsp capers, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
finely chopped flat leaf parsley and paprika for garnish

Method:
Peel the eggs, then cut in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks to a bowl and set the whites on a nice platter or plate. Add diced avocado, lime zest and lime juice to the yolks and mash together with a fork or a pastry cutter. When mixture is pretty smooth (you really don't want this to be chunky) add the mayo, mustard, cumin, cayenne and capers and mix together until smooth again. Spoon or pipe this mixture into the egg white halves on the platter. Sprinkle the chopped parsley and paprika over each one for garnish and colour.  Makes 24 appetizers.

17 December 2012

Easy Wrapping with Oven Bags

Approximate $ Savings: $5-$7
  
I have discovered oven bags for gift wrapping. I recently gave mugs with Minties and chocolates to teachers for Christmas. To buy cellophane by the sheet is a dollar or more. A generic brand of oven bags costs under $3 for a pack of 10. For a much cheaper price I was able to wrap the mug filled with goodies and tie it with curling ribbon. It was easier to put together than juggling four corners of cellophane and looks great. This would work well for any combination pack gift you want to put together. What about a bag full of baking goodies with a recipe! A selection of toiletries or stationery, bagged up and tied with inexpensive ribbon. Once you start, the possibilities are endless.
Contributed by Julie

14 December 2012

Two Sensational Secret Santa Gift Ideas


The Write Stuff

Stationery makes a great stocking stuffer or secret santa gift idea. You can get neat little fountain pens for $1.95 from Smiggles. They also have a range of gel pens from $1.50 each and they come in gorgeous colours. Match a fountain pen and a notebook (they start at $1.50 too) and you can have a great and really trendy gift for under $3.00. I know teenage girls love this range of stationery, my daughter just about lives in the shop and I have a fountain pen and it's lovely to write with so I can recommend Smiggles.
Contributed by Margaret, Knoxfield

Mini Rocky Road Chocolates

Ingredients:
375g dark chocolate
1 cup mixed fruit
1pkt marshmallows
1 pkt raspberries (lollies)
½ cup mixed nuts (almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts,
walnuts)

Method:
Roughly chop marshmallows, nuts and raspberries. Add mixed fruit and stir thoroughly. Melt chocolate over low heat. Add to other ingredients and stir to mix through. Drop teaspoonfuls onto a tray lined with baking paper. Refrigerate until set. Wrap in cellophane bags and tie with Christmas ribbon. Add a gift tag.

13 December 2012

Great Paintings for Wall Display for Under $75

Approximate $ Savings: At least $200 per display

We have recently bought our first home after learning so much from all the cashed-up tips available on the website. We bought a slightly older property and used our savings to 'splurge' on renovating the kitchen and bathroom. I love having paintings or wall art on display but could not justify paying over $275 for an abstract riot of colours I had seen at Ikea. Wanting to spruce up the lounge and master bedroom, I went to the gift shop at the Art Gallery of WA and picked up large art prints for around $20 - $25 each. I did end up paying $49 for each frame but I had 2 lovely art displays for under $75 each and these are beautiful landscapes by well known Australian artists, not just a random mix of brush strokes that is passed off as 'modern art' these days. I could have saved more by buying frames from op shops or garage sales but my lounge looks so homely now.
Contributed by Amy

12 December 2012

Christmas Gifts for $3.33 each

Yesterday I invested $40.00 on seeds, pots, hanging baskets, two bags of potting mix, which I bought from the Reject Shop, and potting mix from Safeway (Homebrand). I will plant them now for Christmas. I will have twelve presents for a total of  $40.00. For $3.33 each these will be gifts for mum, family and friends.
Contributed by Cathrene, Melbourne

11 December 2012

Apple Berry Salad


This is a delicious take on fruit salad and is a refreshing way to either start a meal as an appetizer or end a meal as a dessert.

Ingredients:
2 medium size Granny Smith or other tart apples
1 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp currants
2 tbsp dried craisins
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp plain yogurt
2 tbsp chopped walnuts

Method:
Wash and core apples. Do not peel. Dice apples into bite size pieces and put in large salad bowl, add lime juice toss well. Add currants, craisins, honey and yogurt to the bowl and toss to coat well. Put walnuts in a small, dry (no oil) frypan over medium heat and toast lightly, just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the toasted nuts to the salad and serve immediately.

10 December 2012

Christmas Pot-Pourri

Leave bowls of this lovely Australian pot pourri throughout your home and fill it with the scents of Christmas or package it up in cellophane bags or small glass bowls to give to friends and family.

Ingredients:
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup of dried cloves
2 cups gum nuts
1 cup mistletoe leaves (from a florist or dried flower supplier, use eucalyptus leaves if you can’t easily find mistletoe)
A few drops of your favourite essential oil to sprinkle on gum nuts
Dried petals for colour

Method:
Gently toss all the ingredients together and package. Use pretty jars or cellophane bags to package the pot pourri.

07 December 2012

Balloon Bouquets


If you have kids that are hard to buy for and a gift card seems old hat try this. If your budget is $20 a gift, roll up a $5 note and gently push it into a red or green balloon. Blow up the balloon and tie it off. Repeat with another three $5 notes. Tie the balloons together into a bouquet. Add streamers of Christmas coloured curling ribbon to finish it off.

06 December 2012

The Secret to a Designer Table

Those fancy professionally decorated table settings always look so beautiful, but they need not be out of reach for the rest of us. The secret to the designer look is a very limited colour scheme - e.g. gold or silver plus one or two other colours ONLY. With a simple colour palette and found or made objects you can create a decorator look on a budget. Start with the tablecloth, plain white is perfect or if you have a colour, let that dictate your colour scheme e.g. royal blue cloth with all silver decorations. The colour doesn't have to be a traditional Christmas colour. Add paper doilies for placemats, plain white or sprayed gold or silver.

Then add your chosen decorations:
Idea 1: Natural theme. Send the kids to the backyard, park or nature reserve to find gumnuts, seed casings, pine cones etc. Lightly spray with your choice of gold or silver spray paint (from a cheap shop) and allow to dry. I think a light 'dusting' of the paint looks nice and lets the natural beauty of your found objects shine through, and when spraying anything paper make sure to use a number of very light coats of spray to build up the colour, rather than one thick coat which will make the paper wrinkle. Scatter gumnuts over the table top, glue to homemade napkin rings (cut from cardboard tube and also sprayed)or glue around the perimeter of a cardboard circle to make a wreath candle centrepiece.

Idea 2: Miniature gifts - scout around the house to find as many little boxes or box shapes as possible - matchboxes, ring boxes, kids' building blocks, pieces of styrofoam etc. Have the kids wrap them up in Christmas paper and ribbons as though they are presents - great for using up little scraps of paper and ribbon leftovers. Use a theme colour and scatter over the table, use to fill a pretty glass bowl etc. Don't forget to retrieve your objects when Christmas is over, or you could store them to be used again next year! These also make great tree ornaments, hung by their ribbons.

Idea 3: Mix up a batch of air-drying modelling dough, roll it out like biscuit dough and use your Christmas cookie cutters to cut designs. Have the kids paint them and use to scatter over the table, glue to homemade napkin rings or bonbons (crepe paper wrapped around toilet rolls and tied at each end with ribbon), glue to candles etc. A theme works well with this, e.g. stars in various sizes. All of these ideas are minimal in cost - a can of spray paint at the cheap shop, paper doilies from the paper plate aisle at the supermarket, crepe paper from the newsagents. They are also fantastic fun, and great boredom busters for the kids in the days leading up to Christmas when mum is so busy and the kids need entertaining.

Air Drying Modelling Dough Recipe: 2 cups salt 1/2 cup water 1 cup cornflour Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring continuously, until a smooth dough forms. Use as soon as cool enough to handle. Will harden at room temperature in 2 days. Can be painted or varnished. (Recipe provided by my child health centre, as provided by the Play and Learning Program, WA Department of Health) Have a wonderful Christmas with your new family!
Contributed by Margaret

05 December 2012

How to Avoid Impulse Spending

When you get catalogues in the mail, you don't have to look through them. Put them in the recycle bin or turn them into kitty litter immediately. Better still, put a "no junk mail" sticker on your letterbox and remove the temptation altogether. If you need to see if something is on special, look up the relevant website.

When you get those emails from retailers letting you in on the latest sales just delete them. Unless you need something and have been waiting for it to go on sale, don't even open the email. You can't miss what you don't know about right?

Avoiding temptation is a key in avoiding impulse purchases. Remove your name from mailing lists and you will save yourself time, stress and money. Every few months I go through my emails one by one and unsubscribe to anything I can. It frees up so much of my time each day, AND I avoid those emails advertising the latest, greatest deal I shouldn't miss

04 December 2012

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

Ingredients:
2 cups plain flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tsp orange zest
3/4 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp melted butter
1 egg, beaten
2 cups craisins* chopped roughly
1 cup chopped walnuts

Method:
Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.  Grease and flour a 9x5x3 loaf pan.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and bicarb soda  into a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the orange zest, orange juice, melted butter, and beaten egg. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined - do not over stir. Add the craisins and the walnuts and fold in until combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand in loaf pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and let rest for several hours before serving. Makes 1 loaf.

*Craisins are dried cranberries and are available in the dried fruit aisle of your supermarket.

03 December 2012

Beautifully Wrapped Gifts with Amazing, Cheap Bows


Approximate $ Savings: $50
  
I love Christmas, and I love have beautifully wrapped Christmas presents; I have always bought ribbon to wrap my Christmas gifts in a traditional style, visiting numerous $2 shops etc to stock up on ribbon and every year I have a different theme. Last year however, I noticed that number of metres of ribbon per roll had dropped significantly, with rolls of only 1-2 metres costing a minimum of $2 each- that length would have only done one, maybe two gifts and with a very large extended family, it was fast adding up- what was I going to do? Then it came to me, crepe paper streamers. You can buy these in all different colours, I bought purple as we were having a purple and silver theme that year, and with four streamers each 25m long in a packet for $2 (from my local $2 shop) I only need 1 packet! I added in a roll of silver curling ribbon (90m at $2) to help tie it all together. I put the streamer around each gift in a cross fashion and fixed with sticky tape, and then cut 6 10cm strips of crepe paper, laid them on top of each other and tied them in the middle with curling ribbon, fanned out the crepe paper and hey presto- a bow. I fixed this to the gift with a little for curling ribbon and the gift was done. They purple colour really jumped out, and all the family commented on how great the gifts looked. I managed to keep up my Christmas traditions, and saved a fortune.
Contributed by Shea

30 November 2012

Gingerbread Shed Kits

Approximate $ Savings: $20 per child
  
This Christmas, I plan on creating gingerbread house kits for my primary school age nieces and nephews. Using information from marthastewart.com, I've created a cardboard mock-up of their grandfather's shed. I then used the cardboard pieces to cut gingerbread dough to size. I baked the gingerbread and will now build and decorate the shed. I'll then take a photo of the final product and put that, with the cooked gingerbread slabs, decorating lollies and the ingredients for the icing 'glue' in a box. They can then have fun assembling and eating their own gingerbread shed. Choose a simple structure (like a shed), rather than the traditional peaked roof gingerbread house as assembling a gingerbread house takes some skill. I'm even going to put a toy tractor in the box that they can park in the shed.

Contributed by Michelle

29 November 2012

The Parts Are Out the Back

Approximate $ Savings: $73+
  
When something around you house is in need of repair, often the first thought for a Cheapskater is to fix it ourselves. Instead of running off to the hardware store to buy the spare parts required, first try a specialised retailer of the item requiring repair. They often have spare parts in boxes 'out the back' which they are happy to give away. We have just bought a house and the shower screen didn't open and close easily. A shower screen shop quoted a call-out fee of $65 plus parts. The spare parts we required to fix it ourselves added up to $65 from Bunnings. My husband, keen to avoid either of those costs, removed the screen and took it into the screen retailer. They rummaged through their box of parts and gave us all we needed for free. We tried the same when the castor on a bed broke. Castors were $8 for two at Bunnings. A major bedding retailer gave us the one we needed plus a spare for free. Finally, a couple of the small fixings from an old, second hand Ikea bookshelf were lost in the move. Today, I visited Ikea and was given the missing parts for nothing (and I had a lovely, cheap lunch in their cafe). As we're now renovating our new house, we'll be trying this tactic for many of the fiddly bits we discover we need along the way.

Contributed by Deborah Cooper

28 November 2012

Stop Procrastinating and Just Do It!

Approximate $ Savings: Will vary - in my case $500

It's really great to set aside a couple of hours every now and then to do all those things you've been meaning to get around to. This week I've:
  • investigated health and car insurance options to find a better deal (saved $200 year on car insurance and about $25/month on health insurance)
  • looked into our life insurance policies to make sure we have enough cover
  • filled in a form for the tax office
  • written a (long overdue) letter. 
It's these things that are very important, but not necessarily urgent that it's easy to procrastinate on. By just setting aside a couple of hours and getting through it, it sure has taken a weight off my mind and it's already saved me money. FYI If anyone is interested, I found in my case that NRMA had the best value for money car insurance and NIB had the best health insurance plan.

Contributed by Erica Avenell

27 November 2012

Ginger Sage Pumpkin Risotto

Ingredients:2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped leek
3 cups diced pumpkin
1 tbsp minced ginger (fresh or from a jar)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice.
1/2 water
5 cups vegetable stock, heated and kept warm
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
sea salt and black pepper to taste
freshly chopped parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Method:
In large frypan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add leek, pumpkin and ginger and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Add the sage and Arborio rice, stir and cook until the rice starts to become translucent. Add the water and stir, cooking until the water is fully absorbed. Now start adding the warmed vegetable stock a ladle at a time, stirring and cooking each ladle full until absorbed, then adding another ladle and cooking until absorbed, adding another and continuing in this fashion until the rice gets creamy but still al dente; this will take about 20 minutes, more or less. Don't rush this process.  You want the rice to absorb the stock slowly. Add the butter to the rice, stir, and heat through for 1 minute.  Add the Parmesan cheese, stir, then remove from heat and let rest a couple minutes before serving. Salt and pepper to taste, stir, and garnish with parsley and pumpkin seeds. Serve warm or room temperature.  Serves 4.

26 November 2012

Finding Time


You all know what I do for a living, it's no secret. I write about living the Cheapskates way, and talk about the dozens of different ways we save money without compromising our lifestyle.

And I love it. I love finding new ways to get the things we need for less and I love the challenge of hunting for new ideas I can try. Which takes a lot of time. In my ignorance I assumed that to make life easier I'd subscribe to newsletters. Lots and lots of newsletters.

Newsletters about shopping, newsletters with special offers, newsletters about finances, newsletters about kids and gardens and homes and cooking and so many other topics.

Funny thing is though that I set up filters for those newsletters, because I like to be organized, and when they come in they go straight to their respective folder. And there they stay. Because I don't have the time - or rather I really don't want to make the time - to read them.  And this has been bothering me, annoying me every time I check email. I see all those unread newsletters waiting for me, and it is stressful. I feel as though I'm skipping out on a job I should be doing.

So today, in the interests of my sanity, and my inbox, I took half an hour and I unsubscribed. I unsubscribed from Big W and Target, from Deals Direct and Travelzoo and from all the other newsletters that I just don't want to find the time to read.

No more folders full of emails waiting to be read and no more guilt.

If I want to research something in the future then I can; I don't need to be subscribed to hundreds of newsletters on the off-chance that I may one day want some information.

My email is surprisingly light - and so is my spirit.

If you get newsletters and notices and they sit unread in your inbox, think about clicking unsubscribe. It's painless and very, very freeing.

Christmas Ornaments Good Enough to Eat

Each year for Christmas you'll see packets of red and green M&Ms in the stores. They're a short, special run, done just for Christmas, which makes them kind of special. It also makes them just right for making edible Christmas ornaments.

Edible ornaments not only decorate your home, but they are a treat to offer visitors during the holiday period too.

Here are two types of "ornaments" you can make. Both are quick and easy enough for primary school aged children to make too.

Tree Ornaments

You will need:
Clingwrap
Packets of Christmas (red & green) M&Ms
Pipe cleaners
Curling ribbon in Christmas colours

To make the tree ornaments:
Cut plastic wrap into 15cm squares. Place a tablespoon of M&Ms in the centre. Gather the corners and twist tightly. Secure with a pipe cleaner. Cluster individual balls into one large one, connecting each ball with the adjoining pipe cleaner. Tie curling ribbon around the cluster to form a loop at the tops. Tie two 10-inch strands of ribbon at the bottom and curl. Hang on the tree with the loop ends.

Christmas Wreath

You will need:
Clingwrap
Packets of Christmas (red & green) M&Ms
Pipe cleaners
Curling ribbon in Christmas colours
1wire coathanger
 
To make the M&M Christmas wreath:
Make cluster balls the same way as the tree ornament clusters, using plain or peanut M&M's. Form a circle from a wire coat hanger, the hook forms the hanging loop. Attach cluster balls to the hanger with pipe cleaners. Tie a large bow at the top of the wreath.


Note: You can use Smarties or Beanies instead of M&Ms and reduce the cost. 

23 November 2012

Stocking Fillers That Make Kids and Mum Happy

I fill my children's Christmas stockings with useful things like novelty toothbrushes and toothpaste, reams of coloured paper, bubbles, play doh, bubble bath. I try and buy for example a large bottle of bubble bath for each of them so three big bottles of bubble bath lasts us the year. I don't give them these types of things during the year so they are a treat at Christmas time. I always check the clearance tables at the supermarkets and departments stores and find I can pick them up cheaply through the year. Their stockings are full and they feel like they have lots of presents and I am happy because most of it is consumables that we use!

Contributed by Tanya

22 November 2012

Light Bulb Moment Saves Money on Christmas Lights


Approximate $ Savings: $100-150

Instead of buying replacement globes for the fairy lights for the Christmas tree (at any where from $2 - $3 a packet for about 5 light globes) I just buy another box of lights for $12 and that gives me 200 - 250 bulbs that I know will fit. I have been doing this for the last 3 years and am still going on that same box and I have lots of fairy lights. Also if you have wiring problems with a set in use just transfer the bulbs to the replacement set and problem solved.

Contributed by Vickii

21 November 2012

The Forty Percent Christmas Club


Approximate $ Savings: 40% off Groceries
  
Each week in our grocery catalogues we see lots of items on special at half price, so my best friend and I came up with an idea to capitalise on those special prices. We each put aside $10 a week towards our own Christmas grocery shopping club. For the first few months or so we just bank the money. Then, towards the middle of the year, when we see a half price special we purchase those items and put them aside for Christmas.

We start by purchasing the items which have the longest shelf life first: tinned food, deodorants, washing powder, shampoos, oil etc. As Christmas gets closer we start buying items that have a shorter self life e.g. chips, biscuits, sweets etc. We take it in turns to shop each week and there is only one rule we follow - find the best bargains from our weekly catalogues and try to save at least on average 40% off the original price.

We are lucky that we share the same interest and likes, so if we see for example red wine on special, and then a further 30% off catalogue special, plus my friend's daughter works for a leading store so she gets a further 5% off - that's when we buy it.

We worked out that if we put $10 aside each week for forty-five weeks a year (allowing for a break over Christmas) we would have $450 to spend on our Christmas period groceries. And if we could save close to 40% on average off our Christmas shopping that's around $180 saved. The best part is that it is a lot of fun. The kids get in on it too, they keep an eye out for the best specials, and let us know about them.

Contributed by Fiona

20 November 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Ornaments


Ingredients:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
250g package cream cheese, softened
15 vanilla wafers with creme, crushed
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
Finely chopped toasted almonds
Toasted coconut

Method:
Melt chocolate chips until completely melted and smooth.  Allow to cool a little. Place cream cheese in a large mixing bowl.  Pour melted chocolate over cream cheese and raspberry jam and beat together until very smooth.  Fold in vanilla wafer crumbs, being sure to cover all the crumbs with the chocolate mixture.  Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours or until the chocolate mixture is firm.  Once firm, shape teaspoonfuls of the chocolate mixture into balls.  Roll half the chocolate balls in the toasted almonds and the other half in the toasted coconut.  Store in the refrigerator to keep them from becoming too soft.

19 November 2012

Fun with Sequins


For a fun Christmas ornament, get a Styrofoam ball and using dressmaking pins attach sequin a variety of colors. A bobbypin or paperclip stuck at the top makes it easy to hang on your tree.

You can get styrofoam balls in different sizes at craft stores like Spotlight and Lincraft and from $2 shops.

Look for sequins in different sizes and colours at $2 shops rather than paying a small fortune for them at craft stores. Alternatively, visit your local op shop and hunt out sequined tops and bags and carefully undo them to reuse on your decorations.

16 November 2012

Freezing Saves Time and Money


A lot of lunch staples can be prepared ahead of time and frozen, saving money, time and energy.  Preparing lunch basics ahead of time avoids having to buy lunches because you didn't have anything to pack in a lunchbox. And coming into summer, having frozen food in lunchboxes helps to keep things fresh and cool.

Some tasty lunch foods that freeze (and thaw) well are:

$ 1/2 cup fruit salad, 1 tbsp sour cream and 1/2 cup MOO vanilla yoghurt for a sweet dessert treat.

$ MOO yoghurt with mix-ins like dried fruits (chopped apricots, pawpaw and mango are nice) or muesli, toasted coconut etc

$ Tortilla pinwheels made with MOO cream cheese, grated carrot and finely diced lunch meats (or leftover steak, sausage, roast meats, silverside etc).

$ Pasta salad with diced leftover meat, sliced pepperoni or salami and cubed cheese.

15 November 2012

How to Slow Down and Enjoy the Simple Life

Wanting to slow down and enjoy the simple life is half the battle. Knowing how to slow down and enjoy the simple life is the other, and probably most important, half. When going about the “how to” part of enjoying the simple life, turn to your senses. Your sense of sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch all come into play when you are about to embrace the joy of the simple life.

Slowing down and enjoying the simple life could be as simple as being and not doing. The old saying "stop and smell the roses" becomes your mantra when you want to simplify and slow down. Stop and take a deep breath before you react to your surroundings. It will calm and relax you, and give you time to think about your actions.

When you stop and take a moment to look at the awful mess your family has made, take a deep breath before you react. Recognize and realize that you are blessed to have that family and their mess is a result of that. When you look through eyes of gratitude, you can see simple joys. Then gather your family and in a firm but positive manner ask them to each to clean up their individual messes. Seeing the blessings in your life before you react can help you to react to the whirlwind in a more positive manner. Nine times out of ten when you confront someone (even if they are wrong) you will be met with defensiveness. That takes time, effort, and energy out of your already busy schedule.

Feeling is believing, especially when it comes to the simple life. The next time you are tempted to load the dishwasher to full capacity and run it only to find that you have to run it again because you overloaded it, try this simple trick. Take some of the dishes, glasses, and utensils out of the dishwasher, fill the sink with warm, soapy water and begin to wash them by hand. As you are washing them by hand, feel the warmth of the water, inhale the scent of the soap and concentrate on the task at hand. Enjoy the feeling of doing one thing at a time. Not only will you be enjoying the simple life while you hand wash, you will save energy by not running water excessively and using your dishwasher a little less each time.

Many, if not most, of us multi-task while cooking. Try taking one meal a week, perhaps a Sunday, and just enjoy the art of cooking. Try something new or be creative with some leftovers. If you are simply focusing on preparing a wonderful meal for your family and utilizing leftovers to create something new, you will be enjoying the simple life and saving money. Take time to savour the aromas and taste along the way. Invite a family member in to sample. You could fill your home with the aroma of a simple baked bread that requires very few ingredients and cost. The aroma of baking bread is warm and welcoming, and will set the tone while costing next to nothing.

Take time to smell a flower before entering your car or looking at your surroundings as you drive instead of thinking about your to do list. Small changes such as these can help you slow down and enjoy the simple life that was given to you.

14 November 2012

You Lose Nothing by Asking

When you're getting quotes from your mechanic or plumber or electrician, or from any other service, politely ask if you qualify for a discount. Seniors, health care card holders, students, even for paying cash may qualify you for a 5% - 10% discount. You'll be surprised how often the answer is yes, just because you asked. If the answer is no, you haven't lost anything.

13 November 2012

White Christmas Cups


Ingredients:
2 cups rice bubbles
2 cups full cream powdered milk
1 cup desiccated coconut
1cup icing sugar
180g melted Copha
120g chopped glace cherries (use the mixed packet for colour)
200g block white chocolate, melted

Method:
Mix all the ingredients, except the white chocolate, together in a large bowl. Take teaspoonfuls and drop into mini foil chocolate cases. Set in fridge at least 30 minutes. Drizzle white chocolate over the top of each cup and put back into fridge to set.

You can buy mini foil chocolate cups in Christmas colours at Big W and Kmart in the kitchenware department. You may also find them at larger supermarkets and of course home- and kitchenware stores.

12 November 2012

Turn Cards into Ornaments


Old Christmas cards can be turned into great ornaments. Just some ribbon and glitter is all that’s required. Punch a whole in the top and you’re ready to go.

Use glitter pens, glitter glue, sequins and cotton wool to embellish the designs on the Christmas cards. 

You can then cut around the designs to make beautiful hanging ornaments, reminiscent of Victorian paper ornaments.

Or you can centre each design in the centre of a circle and cut around it. Then cut a slit from the top to the centre in one circle and from the bottom to the centre in the other. Slide the circles over each other to form a 3D ornament. Punch a hole in the top and thread with a ribbon hanger.

09 November 2012

Stock Up on Christmas Candles Before the Holidays

For Christmas I like to have the table set with my best dishes and glassware. I use my best linen tablecloths and serviettes and I bring out the crystal candelabra and fill it with beautiful scented candles. Sometimes, if the day is cool enough, we even light them. Usually they just look pretty on the table.

So how frustrating is it to plan the perfect holiday and get ready to purchase a sought after item like Christmas candles and you can’t find the scent you want because all of the good ones are gone?

If you wait, you’ll get stuck with the leftovers - the ones that have been picked over and no one else wanted.

Why do people put off buying what they need until the last minute? Until they have join the herd of people trying to shop? It’s certainly not fun, especially when it's hot and humid. Part of the reason why we put off shopping (besides those of us who are procrastinators at heart) is because we fall into line and we follow tradition. What’s so great about a tradition that raises your blood pressure and creates mass clouds of rudeness? Nothing.

If, like me, you like candles on your Christmas table, don’t wait until the holidays are right in front of you to stock up on your Christmas candles. Don’t put yourself in the stressful position where you must get the candles. Get them early so you can relax.

I never spend more than $5 on the Christmas candles. Sometimes I find the perfect candle at the market, other times it will be a department store like Myer or even a discount store like the Reject Shop. I've even found beautiful candles at fetes.  I've never bought one from specialist boutique, they are usually way out of my price range and I've found the scents are really overpowering. I like a hint of scent, not an overwhelming cloud of cinnamon or cranberry while we're eating.

To keep your candles burning longer, and to help stop them dripping (you can also get dripless candles) put them in the freezer for a couple of hours before you light them. They'll burn true and bright, without dripping for hours.

Did you know the symbolism behind having candles at Christmastime? Years ago, candles were said to give light in order to keep bad things at bay. They were given as gifts to symbolize new beginnings and they were used as a symbol of bringing families together - hence the marriage unity candle you see in some wedding ceremonies.

You can see candles glowing in windows in some of the beautiful Christmas paintings we have today. The candles in the window symbolize welcoming loved ones home and giving light to help the lost on their way.

Candles lend an elegant touch to warm family gatherings as you dine for holiday dinners. You don’t want to have to settle for just any old candle when you go to purchase yours for this season of celebration. Go ahead and get yours now so that you can get the best of the selection before the crowds hit the shopping circuit and get all the best Christmas candles, not to mention the best buys!

08 November 2012

Chores for Sale

Decades ago if a child said that he or she was bored, their parents would be ready with a response such as, “I have plenty for you to do.” This would always send a child back to his or her imagination to rely on for entertainment lest they would be given chores.

At weekends and during school holidays, getting your children to do chores for a reward is a great way to get things done, keep them busy, and teach them something good. Make up a chart with a monetary award next to each chore. Check off each chore as they go along and, at the end of the day, tally up their earnings.

Allow them to pick an outing such as a movie the next day or a trip to their favourite ice cream shop. The incentive of money and a day out will keep them busy while gaining pride.
This is a win-win situation for all involved.

07 November 2012

Ten Great Vegetables for Home Vegetable Gardens

It’s sometimes recommended that you don’t try to grow vegetables that are readily available at your local supermarket.  If a particular vegetable is inexpensive, you might want to skip growing it and just purchase it. 

Of course, it can be difficult to find good quality in some types of vegetables, so if there is a big difference in quality, that could be a great reason for growing that type.

Tomatoes – Although technically a fruit, its savory nature leads to this little beauty being considered a vegetable by most people.  Tomatoes found in stores are usually picked nearly green and then ripened artificially. 

This is done to ensure they are tough enough to survive shipping without being smashed, and so they last longer on the shelves.  Since tomato quality can be really poor in stores, this is a very good choice.  Tomatoes are the most popular choice for vegetable gardeners, because they probably have the most noticeable difference over store bought.

Lettuce – Although iceberg lettuce doesn’t vary that much from store to home, leaf lettuces and other fancy lettuces can taste much sweeter and crisper if grown at home.  Plus, exotic lettuces can often be very expensive. Lettuce is one of the easiest of all the vegetables to grow. Grow it in the garden, in pots, in bags, even in guttering on a fence.

Peas – Peas can be very hard to find fresh.  Canned peas are often mushy, and although frozen peas are certainly better than canned, they still pale in comparison to fresh peas.  Tiny baby peas are sweet, delicate, and delicious, making them well worth the effort. Peas grow easily from seed and are a nice crop for children to look after so they can eat them straight off the vine.

Carrots – Store bought carrots are often woody, tough, and bitter.  Even organic carrots often carry a strong bitterness caused by being kept at temperatures that are too cool for too long.  Fresh carrots are generally very sweet and delicious. Grow carrots from seed, not seedlings. Root vegetables don't like to be disturbed. Try the cute little round carrots or one of the coloured varieties to keep the family interested.

Radishes – Radishes are cheap and easy to find in stores, but most store bought radishes are already turning pithy.  If you’ve ever bitten into a radish that was dry and spongy inside, you’ll understand how bad pithy radishes are.  Fresh radishes are delightful and grow easily and quickly - in about six weeks you'll be picking sweet baby radishes!

Asparagus – Fresh asparagus is often ridiculously expensive, and canned asparagus is mushy and horrible!  The only way to get affordable asparagus that isn’t mushy and bland is to grow it yourself. Unfortunately asparagus isn't a quick crop, it takes a few years to get a decent return on your investment, but once the crowns are established they'll give for years.

Capsicums – Capsicum in stores are often shriveled and pathetic.  Plus, capsicum that aren’t the standard green can often be very expensive.  My local store has sold red capsicums for as much as $2.99 each, which is crazy!  Grow your own and save money.

Cucumbers – Store bought cucumbers are often bitter and dry.  If you’ve ever had a dried out, semi-hollow cucumber, you’ll understand the importance of growing your own!

Corn – Sweet corn is a delight to eat when it’s freshly picked.  Corn is extremely sensitive to being off the stalk.  Once it’s been off the stalk for 6 hours, it starts to deteriorate rapidly.  You’ve never had corn until you’ve eaten it cooked fresh.

06 November 2012

Christmas Truffles

Ingredients:
1 heaped dessert spoon cocoa
180g Copha, melted
1 egg, beaten
250g pure icing sugar
½ cup coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tablespoons rum essence
2 pkts chocolate slivers

Method:
Mix together dry ingredients. Melt Copha, add vanilla essence. Add to dry ingredients and mix. Add beaten egg and mix well. Roll teaspoonfuls into balls and roll in chocolate slivers. Set in fridge for at least 1 hour before serving.

05 November 2012

On Being a Crafty Shopper

Even if you are not a super-crafty person, there are hundreds of websites that offer up ideas for making crafts from beginner to craft connoisseur. Before you venture out, make it a family endeavor. A trip to the library is always a fun venture for young children.  Stop at your local library and have the children pick out some books on crafts or simple knitting and crocheting projects that they can begin. Beautifully made bracelets crafted from yarn are easy enough to start out with and can then later on include symbols such as hearts or even a recipient’s initials.

Next, surf the web and have the children incorporate their opinions on what they would like to make and what they think they can handle.

Some good websites for craft inspiration are:

www.marthastewart.com
www.tipnut.com
www.lincraft.com.au
www.spotlight.com.au
www.lionbrand.com

The preparation in craft making is exciting as everyone can anticipate what his or her finished product will look like. Moreover, surfing the web together, visiting the library, and shopping the sale bins at your local craft store are all endeavors that a family can add to their list of things to do.

You will save money on future holiday gifts, spend time with your family in search of the perfect holiday gift for someone, all the while being creative and frugal at the same time.

This is a situation where parents, children and the gift recipients will all be smiling.

02 November 2012

Look for a Great Christmas Sale Online

Every holiday season, retailers compete with one another to draw in the shoppers. They’ll advertise in newspapers, television and on the radio for percentages off certain items or they’ll give additional discounts off things that are already marked down. More and more, consumers are hoping to find a great Christmas sale online.

Online shopping stores are not really that much different than those housed in buildings that you can go to. Just like retail stores, they have to offer sales to make their merchandise more enticing for you to buy than their competition’s merchandise. Now more than ever is the best time to look for great Christmas sales online.

You can shop for what you want for every single person on your shopping list. From babies to tweens, teenagers to adults - there’s something online that’ll satisfy everyone. To get the best deals in online shops, you don’t have to spread a bunch of newspaper ads out all over your kitchen table trying to figure out which one has the best sale when you shop online.

You can do your comparison shopping by pulling up multiple store sites and checking the prices. If you’re shopping for clothing, you’ll be able to follow a size chart and pick out the size and colour you’d like.

There are no worries if you happen to receive an item and decide it’s not right for you. All you have to do is return the item back to the online store and many stores even provide free return shipping. As for coupons, online stores offer these as well.

And at this time of year when the weather is hot and sticky, you get the added bonus of not having to go out and do battle with other hot, frazzled shoppers. You can shop sitting in the comfort of your home with a nice, cool drink at hand.

Like retail stores, online stores have great bargains and the savvy shopper will be on the lookout for those deals. Make sure you’re constantly watching for sales and paying attention when the prices are good.

With the money you’ll save finding a great Christmas sale online, you can boost your Emergency Fund or Peace of Mind account, or even splurge on a treat for yourself. Once you’re done with your shopping, all you have to do is wait for the delivery truck to arrive!

01 November 2012

3 Tips and Ideas to Streamline Your Life


Running your home is comparable to being a manager of a major corporation. There is a head of household who is responsible for the running and maintenance of its family members, much like a supervisor is responsible for the safety, happiness, and overall performance of his or her employees.

In order to get your family members to be productive, there are several techniques and tools that must be implemented and used for the family as a whole to run efficiently and correctly.

Chart Up the Chores

On a Sunday evening, perhaps after dinner, sit down with your family members and bring your chart with you in order to organize your week as a family and a team. Doing so during dessert or ice cream will make this task less painful and more productive. Decide on who is going where and how they will get there. Incorporate carpooling into the equation and do not forget to delegate.

For families with younger children, using a chart system with stars and stickers or even a small monetary token will give them a sense of pride and a desire for accomplishment. By utilizing a chart, no one can say that he or she didn't know something was his or her responsibility. Place the chart on the fridge if there is room. The refrigerator is one of the surest spots in the house where it will be in full view.

Note the Date

If you like, you can keep the chart only for chores and tasks and use a magnetic calendar with a dry erase board for keeping count of appointments and meetings. By delineating your chart for tasks and chores and placing your calendar with play dates, meetings, and dental appointments, you create a clear, concise, and separate view, not only of what needs to be done but also where everyone needs to be.

You can buy family calendars, with a spot for each member of the family. Or you can search online and find one that suits you. I like the family calendars, and even though the kids are independent, we all write our dates on the calendar just so everyone knows who is where when. It really helps with organizing family get-togethers and events.

Practice Time Management

Organizing your time cannot be stressed enough. In order to streamline your life, you must pick a certain day of the week for certain chores and stick to that schedule. Creating a schedule is imperative to streamlining your life.

For example, choose Monday to be the day in which you make all phone calls and do all paperwork. Choose Thursday afternoon for your food-shopping day. This way you avoid the crowds and cut your food shopping time in half. Schedule in Saturday early morning for your basic cleaning and Friday after work for your banking run. Whatever chore you decide to do on whichever day is irrelevant. What is imperative, however, is that you pick a day for a particular chore and stick with that day. After a few weeks, it will become second nature.

Charts, calendars, and organizing your time are the three most productive ways to streamline your routine. Streamlining your routine means you can enjoy more of the simple things in life.

31 October 2012

Time Makes Money

If you set aside a chunk of time and plan properly, you will reap the rewards of saving a substantial amount of money on your holiday shopping. We have all seen the ads and the flyers in our mailboxes as well as in our inboxes that tell us to shop now and save. If you stop for a moment and think about it, you will probably purchase these items anyway so why not do so now and save now?

As companies begin to vie for their share of holiday sales, these companies begin to bombard us with deals and steals. If you are like most individuals, the mere thought of spending any more money is painful. However, whether you buy that toy or electronic gizmo now or you buy it later, chances are you are still going to buy it.

Sign up at as many websites as you can stand receiving emails from – a great tip on this is to create a separate email account just for this purpose. Thereafter you can delete the account as opposed to unsubscribing to all those retailers.

30 October 2012

Roasted Beetroot In Rosemary Dijon Dressing


Beetroot doesn't always come sliced in tins, ready to put on a salad sandwich.  Whole baby beetroot are just delicious when they are roasted. If you aren't a tinned beetroot fan, try them prepared this way, they are divine and nothing like the briny tinned version.

Ingredients:
1.5kg small beetroots
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 orange, juiced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Method:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Scrub the beetroot well and trim leaving 2cmh stem and root intact. Place beetroot in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, add all the salt and pepper, then toss together to coat well. Place beets in a shallow roasting pan or baking sheet in a single layer, put in preheated oven and roast 40 to 45 minutes or until beets are tender; remove and set aside while you prepare the dressing.

Make the dressing by putting whisking together the mustard, orange juice, sugar, and red wine vinegar in a large bowl.  When combined, keep whisking while slowly drizzling in the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Whisk until dressing thickens, then add rosemary, stir, and set aside.

Now that the beetroot are cool enough to handle rub them with paper towels to remove the skins.

Cut the beets into quarters and put them in the bowl with the dressing, then toss to combine. Let the mixture stay out at room temperature for about 30 minutes so flavours combine.

Serve at room temperature as a side dish or as a salad by spooning over mixed lettuce greens. Serves 4 to 6.

29 October 2012

Fairytale Placemats


These are so cute, and so easy to make - placemats made from old storybooks. We have dozens of storybooks, relics of the kids' early childhood. Some of them are a little worse for the wear. These were their favourites, the books that have been read and read so often that we can all still recite the stories from memory. Sadly though, some of the most loved books are really beyond being useful as books. They are falling apart, some have torn pages and others have missing pages.

These are the books that can be turned into fairytale placemats. Using pages from old books, a sheet of plain paper and a laminator you can create beautiful children's placemats. Personalize them with the child's name and give them as gifts - perhaps with a copy of the actual story.

You will need:
Pages from an old story book - make sure the pages face each other so the sentences make sense
A Stanley knife
1 sheet A 3 craft paper
Glue dots
1 A3 laminating sheet
laminator


Step 1.  Select the two pages that you want on your placemat.  Carefully cut them out using a Stanley knife. Make sure to cut right down the binding so that you don’t lose any of your picture. Trim the edges to make them even.

Step 2.  On the piece of A3 paper, add a border and the child's name. You can do the design on the computer and have it printed at an office supply store or print shop, but that will cost a few dollars. Use stencils and stickers to create a suitable design yourself.

Step 3.  Centre the storybook pages in the centre of the design. When you have them exactly right, use a drop of glue or a glue tab in each corner to hold them in place on the paper.

Step 4.  Place the paper in the laminating sheets and run them through the laminator.

Don't have a laminator? That's OK, print shops and office supply stores will laminate an A3 sheet for just a couple of dollars. 

Don't want to go out? DIY laminating is easy - just lay your sheets between two layers of clear contact, sticky sides together and gently press down. Then put the laminated sheet on a firm surface and run over it with a rolling pin.

If you don't have a large sheet of card or paper, just laminate the storybook pages. They look just as cute and kids will love them.

26 October 2012

Easy Clean Concrete

At the end of winter, concrete paths, terraces and driveways can often be stained by winter mold, leaves and moss. An easy way to clean them is to sprinkle them with old fashioned Ajax powder (yes, you can still get it), dampen with the hose and scrub with a stiff yard broom. Let it sit for a few hours and rinse for nice clean concrete.

25 October 2012

Energize Your Body Wash

Add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to your bottle of body wash. The vinegar will help remove soap residue and make your skin silky soft. After you add the vinegar, give the bottle a good shake to make sure it is completely mixed through.  While you have the vinegar bottle out, add 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of bicarb soda to 2 cups of hot water and wash your shower puffs and sponges in the solution to clean and freshen them.

24 October 2012

The Emergency Only Credit Card

If you like to carry a credit card with you all the time for emergencies, but find yourself tempted to use it for spontaneous purchases try this little trick. Get a small envelope. Take a red pen and on the front write "FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY" in big letters. Underneath write "If I don't have the cash, I can't afford it".  Slip the credit card in the envelope, seal it and put it at the back of your purse or wallet.  When you are tempted to use that emergency card for anything other than a real emergency you'll see the warning, in your own handwriting and hopefully it will be enough to encourage you to put the envelope away.

23 October 2012

Island Grilled Chicken


Ingredients:
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup pineapple juice
3 tbsp diced red capsicum
1 small chili, finely diced
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 small onion, diced
1kg chicken pieces

Method:
Place all ingredients, including chicken in a large ziploc bag.  Seal and put in refrigerator overnight. When ready to cook, preheat barbecue to medium.
Take chicken out of marinade and place, skin side down, on barbecue grates on indirect heat; close lid. When the skin crisps, turn and grill until meat is cooked through; about 15 to 25 minutes depending on the cuts of chicken.

22 October 2012

Simple Christmas Baubles


You can make really pretty and unique baubles for your Christmas tree with just sewing thread, paperclips and two or three different, recycled gaudy necklaces made of large beads.  Just string one large bead with two, three or five large ones and use a paperclip to hang them on the Christmas tree. You'll find a wonderful assortment of necklaces at any op shop for just $1 or $2 each and you'll get a lot of ornaments from one necklace.

19 October 2012

When to Buy Small Appliances

Timing your purchases can save you up to 50% (or more) off the ticketed price of small appliance. Late April/early May is a good time to buy kitchen and beauty appliances, as they are often on sale for Mother's Day. The same applies to late August/early September for garden tool and hardware as they come on sale in time for Father's Day.  November and December you will find appliances on sale for Christmas.  There are plenty of chances to buy on sale and save, so put off buying that appliance until the sale cycle comes around if you possibly can.

18 October 2012

Throw a Christmas Party on a Shoestring

Everyone wants to make merry during the holidays. But, you don’t have to break the bank to have a good time. Want to save on money? Start planning your party now (if you haven't already) and try these frugal party ideas for a fabulous party.

Whether you are hosting the party in your home or at an outside venue, the name of the game is “fabulous.” And you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give your guests that feeling. You’d be surprised how a little can go a long way.

Send email invitations.  Want to invite people to your Christmas party? Create a catchy invitation online to let everyone know when and where. There are free programs such as Evite to invite your guests. If you are brave enough create an event on Facebook!

Decorate your place.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot to decorate your home. And with these party ideas, you can keep the decorations in place to enjoy yourself for the rest of the holiday season. Here are some tips: Fill clear plastic bowls with large Christmas ornaments ($5 a pack from discount stores). Add a string of battery powered lights ($2 at discount stores) to jars of potpourri for a bright aromatic decoration. Use gold spray paint to add a bit of bling to gumnuts and pine cones and pile them in the centre of your table. 

Have an afternoon affair.  Somewhere between lunch and dinner, say 2.30 pm to 4 pm, invite friends to come over and celebrate the holidays with a beautiful afternoon tea. Set your table with appetizers. Because they've already had lunch and dinner is coming up, people will eat less. Also, mingling means that they will graze a little but not get too full.

Visit the party supply store.  Plastic drink cups that look great for your party don’t cost a lot when bought in bulk and they can be washed and put away for future parties, you don't need to throw them out. Plastic "glassware" means breakages don't matter and you and your guests can relax. One bag of seasonal confetti can cover your entire food and drink table and costs around $2.50!

Create your own mini meal creations.  Everything doesn’t have to be made from scratch. Take some crackers and top with pepperoni and a sliced olive. Buy a slab chocolate cake and decorate with festive coloured icing and sprinkles. Buy a bulk bag of nuts and spice them yourself.

Make party favours for your guests.  This doesn’t have to be hard or expensive either. Give everyone a souvenir from your party by decorating plastic wine glasses or water goblets with glass safe acrylic paints. Fill each with a simple ornament and ribbon streamers. Decorate glass votive holders and add an aromatic candle to each.

Bring out the CDs.  No need for an expensive DJ. Spin a few Christmas CDs. Get a karaoke game going.

Fun doesn’t have to be expensive? Use any one or more of these ideas for a Christmas Party your guests will remember.

17 October 2012

The Top Seven Money-Saving Mistakes - Part 7

Is it possible to make mistakes in saving money? Unfortunately yes, it is. The good news is we can learn from the mistakes of others and apply them to our own situations. This is Part Three in the Finance Tip of the Day series covering the seven money saving mistakes.

The Long Term
Don't make the mistake of putting your money where "introductory rates" sound good. Nothing lasts forever, and after a short time, those rates will change. Some promotional deals are excellent - the key is to do your homework and find out what the promotional deal really involves in the long run. For instance, a promotional mortgage rate that's rock-bottom low may sound great, but only if it's fixed-rate for the long term would it be worth it. 

16 October 2012

Night Before Apricot Breakfast Muffins


Doing the prep work for these delicious and healthy muffins the night before saves the measuring and mess in the morning.  Just combine wet and dry ingredients, pour and bake and breakfast is done! Piping hot, fresh muffins in around 25 minutes.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup wholemeal flour (I use spelt)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1 tbsp flax seed
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup buttermilk

Method:
Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Cover and set aside until morning.  Mix wet ingredients and store, covered, in the fridge until the morning. At breakfast time, pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.  Combine the wet and the dry ingredients, and stir just until blended. Pour mixture into greased 6 cup muffin tin, sprinkle a few oats over the top and bake for about 20 minutes.

15 October 2012

Make a Crunchy Caterpillar


You don't need to buy the latest toy, that requires batteries, and not imagination, to keep baby happy. This caterpillar will keep little ones happy and amused for hours and it costs almost nothing to make. Best of all, because it's so easy and frugal, when it gets grotty, make a new one!

You will need:

Brightly coloured tights - baby, child or adult depending on how big you want your caterpillar to be.
1 packet of cellophane
1m narrow ribbon in a contrasting colour
Sharp scissors

Step 1. If you are using old tights, make sure they are washed and clean.

Step 2.
Snip off  one leg. If using baby tights cut the leg off at the top. If you are using children's or adult's tights, cut them off 45cm or 75cm above the toe.

Step 3. Cut the packet of cellophane into 5 strips. Unfold each strip and scrunch it loosely. Stuff the 5 strips into the stocking. Tie a knot in the end.

Step 4.
Cut the ribbon into 20cm lengths. Tie a piece of ribbon between each ball of cellophane. Secure ribbon with a double knot.

Step 5. Name your bug and give it to baby to play.

12 October 2012

Don't Get Sucked into the Sale!

So often when I see a bargain I am tempted to buy two or more of the great buy. At this point it is important to stop and think about how much money I was planning on spending on this item. If this amount is less than what I am about to spend for this fantastic buy then I need to put the extras down so that I don't blow my budget. I need to remember that the shops are trying to get me to blow my budget and spend, spend, spend; they are not ultimately interested in me getting a good buy, but in me spending my money. Also, I find it helpful to remember that there will always be another sale, this is not my only chance to get a fantastic buy. Don't let the sale suck you in and lose all sense of reason, stop and think about your choices before you get to the checkout!
Contributed by Ashleigh Holmes

11 October 2012

A 15 Minute Emergency Kitchen Clean-up

How many times have you had a call from friends or your mother-in-law, checking to see if you were home so they could come over in just a few minutes, but your kitchen was a mess and you don’t feel comfortable with them seeing it like that? Sometimes I think the only time we get visitors is when the house is trashed!  Here are some tips to help you organize your kitchen in a matter of minutes.

1.  If you have a dishwasher full of clean dishes, leave it. Stack the dirty ones neatly in the sink, as if you were just about to unload it, otherwise, place the dirty dishes in the dishwasher…even if it’s not neatly, for now.

2.  Instead of sweeping with a broom and dustpan, vacuum your kitchen floor. It will pick up the dust, crumbs and dog hair much quicker than sweeping.

3.  Spot clean your benchtops with a microfibre cloth and Miracle Spray. If you’re out the wet cloth and elbow grease will do. Also wipe down the front of the microwave, stove and fridge.

6. If you have other clutter lying around, pitch what you can. If it’s dishes, stack them neatly, as if they’re supposed to go on the bench, or fill them with fruit and use as a decoration. If you have cupboard space, quickly place any items in there you don’t know what to do with for now.

7.  If your rubbish bin sits out in the open, empty it and replace with a new bag.

8.  Quickly spray your home with a nice air freshener. A nice scent when entering the home is always a good first impression and tricks your brain into thinking “clean”.

Once the unexpected guest has left, then you get to take the necessary time to put things away properly.

10 October 2012

The Top Seven Money-Saving Mistakes - Part 6

Is it possible to make mistakes in saving money? Unfortunately yes, it is. The good news is we can learn from the mistakes of others and apply them to our own situations. This is Part Six in the Finance Tip of the Day series covering the seven money saving mistakes.

Savings Follow Income
Another mistake to avoid is to keep your savings at the same level even if your income and standard of living go up. If those things go up, so should your savings.  A good rule of thumb is if you get a 5% increase in pay, then your savings get a 5% increase. In other words, how much your pay goes up, your savings go up.  This keeps your level of saving on par with your income and stops you from falling behind with your saving goal.

09 October 2012

Tangy Garlic Kale And Onion


Kale is becoming more popular as a vegetable and that's a great thing. Full of vitamins and minerals, it's easy to grown and tasty too. Use it in place of silverbeet to boost the  good food intake for your family.

Ingredients:
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 medium red onions, sliced in circles, then in half
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2kg fresh kale, stems removed, cut in strips, washed and dried well
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 to 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Method:
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy fry pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and just beginning to brown a little; remove from pan and set aside. Reduce the heat under the fry pan to medium-low, add the garlic, cooking just until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes; remove from pan and save with onion. Add the remaining oil and turn the heat back up to medium-high, then add the kale and cook, stirring frequently, until the kale just wilts. Add the cooked onion and garlic, then the salt and pepper. Reduce the heat again to medium-low and continue cooking, tossing the mixture occasionally, until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the balsamic vinegar into the mixture just before serving, toss and serve hot as a side dish for grilled, roasted, or barbecued meat, poultry, or fish. Serves 4.

08 October 2012

Make a Simple Bird Feeder


If your garden is full of birds (lucky you), keep them out of your garden by providing them with easy food.  You can recycle an empty soft drink bottle into a bird feeder in minutes. Hang it in a tree and watch the birds abandon your precious seedlings!

You will need:
1 empty soft drink bottle (size doesn't matter)
4 wooden spoons (again, size doesn't matter)
60cm wire
Bird seed (I use wild bird seed, from the supermarket)

Step 1. Poke three holes in the bottle, staggered around the width and down the length.

Step 2. Insert the handle of a wooden spoon into the first hole. Push it right in until it touches the other side of the bottle. Insert the other 3 spoons in the same manner.

Step 3. Fold the wire in half to form a loop. Twist the ends together for 2cm.

Step 4. Wrap the loop around the neck of the bottle and twist it tight, to form a hanger.

Step 5. Hang the bottle from a tree branch by the loop.

Step 6. Put some bird seed in the bowl of each spoon.

Step 7. Go inside, get out your binoculars and watch the birds have fun.

05 October 2012

Tactics to Accurately Track Your Spending


The first step to saving money is to know how much money you have to work with. Now, that doesn’t just mean how much money you make each month.  You also need to know how much you spend and what you spend it on.

Ask any expert (or me!) how to create a realistic and effective budget and they’ll tell you to first track your spending.

This is a big job, right? I mean you probably spend money every day. How do you track it all?

Here are a few tips and trick to accurately track your spending:

1. Keep all your receipts. Keeping your receipts is easy. Keeping them organized and recording the information isn’t as easy. Keep all of your receipts and file them at the end of each day or the end of each week. A simple expanding file folder will help you keep them organized.

At the end of the month calculate how much you spent on various categories. For example, how much did you spend on eating out? How much did you spend on groceries? How much did you spend on health care or pets?

2. Online bill pay. One of the challenges to tracking all your information is that you have cheques, ATM withdrawals, debit card charges, credit card charges and cash to track. Simplify it by eliminating some of your payment methods. Online bill pay is a great way to eliminate the need for cheques or standing in queues at the Post Office. It also helps you pay all of your bills on time (and helps with the budgeting too). Then much of your spending will be accounted for on your bank statement.

3. Embrace technology. This one could be a challenge for some people. There are many tools you can use to organize your expenses. For example, there are scanning and software devices. You can use an application for your mobile device. You can also use a personal accounting software program to help you track everything.

The key to tracking your expenses ultimately lies in your ability to follow through and create a system that works for you. Once you know how much you spend and what you spend it on you can begin to make adjustments. You can begin to save more money and achieve your financial goals and dreams.

04 October 2012

Cleaning Feather or Feather/Down Quilts

These can, indeed, be washed rather than dry cleaned and now is the ideal time to do this chore before you put quilts away for the summer.

Any stains, such as the grime on the cuffs of a jacket, should be spot-cleaned with a pre-wash treatment (such as the Cheapskates Stain Removing Soap) then rinsed with water.

Wash the item in the washing machine on the gentle cycle with 3 teaspoons of Cheapskates Washing Powder and 1/2 cup white vinegar in the rinse. The key is to ensure the down is rinsed extremely well so run an extra rinse cycle, then a gently spin.

Take the quilt and put it in the dryer rather than line drying (I know, I can hardly believe I'm telling you this either). This allows the feathers to plump up again. Place large knotted towels or tennis balls in the dryer to help fluff the down.

The only caution is if the item has weak seams or fragile fabric it could "explode" and leave you with a dryer full of feathers. Go over your quilt or jacket carefully before you attempt to wash it. If there is any doubt about the stitching or the fabric then reconsider - if you are prepared to risk a mess, go ahead. If not, pay for it to be professionally cleaned.

If there are stains remaining, place it (on a blanket) outside in full sunshine for a day or two. This often helps. If not, at least your doona will have that outdoor fresh smell.

03 October 2012

The Top Seven Money-Saving Mistakes - Part 4

Is it possible to make mistakes in saving money? Unfortunately yes, it is. The good news is we can learn from the mistakes of others and apply them to our own situations. This is Part Three in the Finance Tip of the Day series covering the seven money saving mistakes.

Money Saving Mistake No. 4: Random Saving

It's good to have savings goals. It can be a mistake to save randomly. Goalless saving also makes dipping into your savings for frivolous reasons a bit too tempting. Goals help you keep your hands off the savings unless it's really necessary.

Some tips for goal setting:

Choose one thing you can do to help your family finances, and set a realistic goal.

Make your goals as specific as possible. Break large goals down into smaller, more achievable goals. Remember, from little things big things grow - accomplish the small goals one at a time and it will be easy to accomplish the big goal.

Write your goals down and put them where you will see them often - on the fridge or the bathroom mirror or on a business card in your purse.

Become accountable. Choose someone you can report to, this will help to keep you on track. If you have to tell them whether or not you are on track, you are more likely to stay focused. The Member forum is perfect for this.

02 October 2012

Old Fashioned Pot Roast


Ingredients:
2 tbsp oil
1 beef chuck roast - about 1.5kg
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry red wine
4 cups beef stock
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp fresh black pepper
8 small red potatoes, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled, quartered
4 carrots, peeled, coarse cut
2 small turnips, peeled, quartered
2 small parsnips, peeled, coarse cut
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius. In a large Dutch oven or other oven-safe big pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the beef chuck roast and cook on both sides until browned very well. Remove the beef from the Dutch oven and set aside. Add the onion, rosemary and bay leaves to the Dutch oven and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for about 2 to 3 minutes or until herbs are fragrant. With the heat still on, add the wine and stir, loosening the brown bits.  Continue cooking and stirring until the liquid thickens and reduces. Pour in the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce and bring back to a simmer. Add the black pepper, then lay the roast in the Dutch oven and put the cover on. Bring to a boil. Put the Dutch oven in the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Remove and add the potatoes, onion, carrots, turnips, and parsnips; check the liquid and add more stock if necessary (there needs to be enough liquid to cook the vegetables and make a gravy) put cover back on and return to oven and continue cooking for 30 minutes more, or until the veggies are fork tender.


To serve: Remove the beef roast and vegetables from the Dutch oven and set aside, covering to keep warm. Add the dill and parsley to the Dutch oven, taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Warm through. Serve plates with meat, vegetables alongside, and spoon the sauce from the Dutch oven over everything.