27 February 2008

Today's bits and bobs

We didn’t tell Hannah what we'd done to her bedroom, just picked up one very tired girl and brought her home. She walked down the hall and went straight past her room without even a glance to tell the boys about her weekend. They were in on the surprise so in true brotherly fashion Tom told her to get away and have a shower because she smelled! I'm sure he was only trying to be helpful but obviously diplomacy is something he hasn't acquired yet. My little girl was not impressed, to say the very least, and stomped back down to her room. There was silence for a few seconds and then I was almost knocked over she flew at me so fast. Lots of hugs, kisses and thank you's later I just had to ask her if she liked it. Can you guess what she said? :)

It was the kid's swimming carnival today and normally it's an expensive day out because they buy their lunch from the pool kiosk. This morning I suggested that they take their lunch, snacks and drinks with them and I'd split the savings between then and put it into their bank accounts. They were all happy to do that and their bank balances have grown by $5 each. I was happy to do that because I'm sure it would have cost more than $5 each for the day.

Filled up with petrol on this morning, all figures dutifully recorded in the notebook. I was so annoyed with myself, I drove past one petrol station to go to my usual and when I put the nozzle in the hole I noticed that the fuel was 2c a litre more expensive. Same brand - Shell - just 2 kilometres further down the road. I mentioned it to the girl when I paid and let her know that next time if I get there and they are more expensive I will be turning around and going back to the other one.

I've noticed this happening with milk and bread too lately. We live about 2 minutes from a large Coles supermarket in one direction but it gets very busy so occasionally I'll go the other way, about 5 minutes drive, to another large Coles. Only difference is the second supermarket is always more expensive than the closer one. I noticed it with bread - 18c a loaf more expensive than the closer store, and with milk - 20c more expensive than the closer store. When I asked why the difference no one could tell me so I went to the Coles website and filled out a feedback form. I received an email to say that someone would call me but I'm still waiting. These two stores are only 3 kilometres apart so surely they're not going to tell me delivery charges are the reason!

24 February 2008

We dropped Hannah at church on Friday night to go on a waterski camp with the youth club. She was so excited to be going I thought she was going to push me out the door. We only live about 5 minutes from the church and she didn't have to be there until 6pm but from 5.30 on she was asking if it was time to leave so I finally gave in and we left home at 5.40. We were the first ones there of course and then she had to sit and wait. Waiting can be agony for a 12 year old, especially one who can't wait to get together with her friends. After all it had been 2 1/2 hours since they'd seen each other!

I had to really think about letting her go on the camp. After all it wasn't an essential expense but we did have to pay for it. As it turned out she had some Christmas money left that she was happy to use and as they were all contributing to the food she only had to take a bottle of tomato sauce for a pasta dish. That was easy, it came out of the store cupboard and I'm pretty sure we had the cheapest contribution to the menu. The pasta sauce was bought on sale for just 99c/750ml bottle last year. I stocked up at that price and bought 4 cartons of the stuff. I make pasta sauce during summer when we have a glut of tomatoes but towards the end of each year we run out and we are back to the bought product so getting it on such a special was perfect timing.

While the girl was away I had a lovely time in her room. I spent a couple of hours in there this morning, sorting out clothes, tidying books and toys and changing things around for her. I even washed the curtains and windows and wiped over all the woodwork. All in all the room had a really good "summer" clean (it's way to late to be called a spring clean) and it looked so nice and smelled so fresh. The best part was a little surprise I've had for her: an new quilt cover and valance with matching cushions and a gorgeous fluffy throw to go on the end of the bed. It's bright pink with purple and blue butterflies on it and has splashes of lime green to break it up. Very girly without being babyish - just right for a 12 year old who has started high school. Best of all was the price - $17.99 at a Target sale in January. I found it on the clearance shelf and couldn't find anything wrong with it and it's so cute I knew she'd love it.

I had to go looking for another lamp for the bedside table. The lamp that was there was apricot with an apricot shade and it looked wrong. I didn’t want to spend any money on a new lamp and it is still Essential Spending month so in the end I found some butterfly and flower stickers and stuck them all over the base. Then I used a piece of white sheeting and some pink crystal organza I found in the material stash to cover the lamp shade. I hot glued a length of beads around the top and bottom of the shade and it looks quite nice. Total cost absolutely nothing , everything I used was leftover from other projects. Gotta love free decorating.

I just know my girl is going to be so surprised and so excited to have a nice new bedroom and it's been so much fun doing it. Even Wayne likes the way it's turned out, even if he did huff and puff when I had him moving furniture around for me. I'll try to take some photos in the daylight and you can see just how pretty it's turned out.

We had a lovely piece of roast beef tonight, I know it's not what was on the menu, but I found it lurking at the bottom of the freezer and decided to cook it instead. I made a crust from plain flour, mustard, ground pepper and garlic and spread it over the meat. Then Wayne put it on the spit and cooked it over the bbq for me. The crust keeps the meat so moist and the mustard and garlic flavour it beautifully. Considering it was only a small piece of bolar it was delicious and there were no leftovers! Best of all was no cleaning up for me. Wayne and I have a deal, he cooks outside, he cleans up. If I cook inside then I clean up. I love barbecues, we have them all summer long and if I could figure out how to convince him that winter is the ideal time to be barbecuing then he'd be cooking outside all year round.

With all the roadworks going on around us at the moment the dust is just terrible and my poor car was looking particularly sad and uncared for this morning so I took the micro fibre glass cloth and a bucket of water and washed all the windows inside and out and the mirrors and it looks much better. It will be safer to drive too now I can see where I'm going. When I was finished I used the water to wipe down the sidelights at the front door and they're sparkly again too. Then it went onto the garden. It's still so dry it just disappeared. I sure wish some of that rain up north would find it's way down south.

14 February 2008

Love is in the air

Happy Valentine's day!

We don’t do expensive Valentine's gifts at all, just something fun and a bit special so I surprised everyone with yummy pink pancakes this morning :) We had raspberry jam to have on them and Hannah took some of the leftovers to school to share at lunchtime. I also bought Wayne a packet of Chocolate Royals (they are his very favourite biscuit) and slipped them onto his bedside table as a surprise. I found a block of Lindt Coffee Intense under my pillow when I made the bed this morning. Neither gift was expensive, under $3 each, but worth so much more than that because we both thought about what the other really loved and went with that.

The kids were in stitches telling me about the school fundraiser. The Year 12 class were selling roses for $2.50 each to raise money for their end of year formal. Apparently kids were going crazy trying to decide who they'd buy a rose for or how many they'd need to buy. One group of girls cornered a poor, defenceless young man and demanded he buy them one each, which he did! Obviously he has more pocket money than my kids because not one of them bought one. As Hannah said, if she wanted to give anyone a rose she'd just take one from the garden because they are bigger and nicer than the ones from school and they're free.

09 February 2008

Day to day happenings

The car was filled with petrol on Tuesday afternoon. I almost died of shock as I was watching the bowser tick over. Normally an expensive week for me would be between $75-$78. The bowser reached $75 and kept going. I was sure it was going to stop soon. $78. I just looked at it. $80. I started shaking my head. $82.37. A week's worth of groceries. Ouch. Mind you I've never bought petrol at 130.9 cents per litre before. I put off buying it until Wednesday morning in the hope that it would drop a little more. No such luck and I am glad I didn't wait because by the time I was on my way home it had jumped up again. All the figures have been entered into my little notebook so I can keep track of this challenge.

I have noticed that driving to keep the revs under 2000 seems slower but I'm still getting to where I want to be in around the same time. I've been laughing this week at the rev heads who sit at the traffic lights and creep forward every few seconds and then take off in a burst of speed, only to arrive at the next red light with me right behind them. Then they start the process all over again. The only thing they are gaining is a bigger petrol bill and a whole lot of stress. All that impatience can't be good for them.

I think I'm all pickled out at the moment. The store cupboard is full of zucchini pickles and pickled cucumbers and now the apple tree is starting to drop apples so it's time to stock the freezer with stewed apple for winter. Just the thought of homemade apple pies and yummy apple sponge is making me long for cold weather. And free fruit is always a good thing :)

With the weather cooling down a little we haven't been going through quite so much drink but the ginger beer is almost at an end and the lemonade is finished. I made some lemon barley water up the other day, mainly because it is quick and I had the lemons and pearl barley on hand. It's ages since I've made it and I had forgotten just how refreshing it is. And easy and cheap too.

Thomas is feeling very flush at the moment. He has been doing some surveys for an educational study and they sent him a $50 Coles gift voucher last week as a thank you. He's really excited because there are some wii games he's been hoping will come on sale and now he has an extra $50 he's hoping they'll come on sale and he won't need to add too much of his savings to buy them. All junk mail is being pored through at the moment in anticipation. He's so determined to get the best value for his dollar that he doesn’t mind waiting and Cheapskate that he is he's worked a deal with me where if they come on sale somewhere he can't use the gift card I'll give him the cash for the card.

05 February 2008

Goal: cut petrol consumption by 7%

Still no spending in the Armstrong household. We didn't even get the Sunday paper this week and that is one thing I would have thought Wayne believed an absolute essential :) I will need petrol sometime this week so as today is Tuesday and petrol is cheap I'll fill up on my way to pick the kids up after school. I do need to get petrol. We only have the one car and as we live 11km from school and there's no public transport close by I have to fill it up to get the kids to and from school each day. I'm going to try an experiment and keep the revs under 2,000 and see if I do actually get more mileage from a tank of petrol. According to the experts I should increase fuel efficiency by at least 7% and that equates to around $7.22 on a tank or $375.65 a year (based on 80 litres/week @128.9c/litre). I can't wait to see if it really works.

I've gone back through the Tip Store and the Article Archive and read up on all the tips to save petrol. The boot has been emptied of everything bar the spare tyre and the jack. The tyres have been checked to make sure they are properly inflated. I've been practicing smooth take-offs and braking and anticipating the traffic ahead. All these things should help increase fuel efficiency. Now if only I could arrange to get the kids to school after peak hour the fuel used sitting in traffic would disappear.

Hannah has ruled up an old notebook for us to use to track petrol consumption, cost and savings. She has put a bulldog clip in the car to put the receipts on so they don't get lost and to keep track of any petrol discount vouchers we get. As this is going to be a low spend month we may do trolley crawl and see if we can find any lying around. That could be job to keep the boys busy while I'm getting essentials if they come with me.

So my goal for this week is to reduce petrol consumption by 7% and not spend any non-essential money.

01 February 2008

Essential Spending February

Way, way back in 2002 it struck me that for most of December and January all I did was spend. There was Christmas to cover, umpteen birthdays (we have 14 birthdays in December/January) and then to top it all off the back to school costs. Two solid months of money just leaping out of my purse and bank account. While it was all budgeted for it sure did make our bank balance look poor.

I put a challenge in the Newsletter to make February a month of essential spending only. I knew Cheapskates would rise to the challenge. That very first Essential Spending February Cheapskaters shared their successes and so February became our annual essential spending only month. Since then it's grown and grown and now it's time to take control of our spending and saving with the 2008 Essential Spending February.

I will admit to doing some shopping yesterday after I picked the kids up from school in anticipation of not shopping for the next 29 days (it's a leap year!). I found chocolate on sale and as coffee and chocolate are my indulgences I kinda stocked up on a few blocks. Luckily I still had some flutter money left.

For this year's challenge I am hoping to only have to buy fresh milk, fruit and veg and then pay the phone bill. All the others have been paid and there isn't anything else that we should need that can't be found at home. I hope. Anyway today is the first day and so far so good. No spending, either essential or non-essential :)

You can join the challenge here, the more who join in the bigger the savings will be so just jump in, we'd love to have you.