30 November 2012
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
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
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.
Contributed by Erica Avenell
27 November 2012
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.
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
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
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.
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 OrnamentsYou will need:
Packets of Christmas (red & green) M&Ms
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 WreathYou will need:
Packets of Christmas (red & green) M&Ms
Curling ribbon in Christmas colours
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
Contributed by Tanya
22 November 2012
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
13 November 2012
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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.