14 March 2008

How embarrassment!

I noticed earlier in the week that Kmart had a 25% off sale on clothing so I took a quick look through the wardrobes and decided that the men of the family - all three of them really needed reasonably decent going out clothes. I had a look through our local op shops and found some jumpers and a couple of really nice shirts for the boys (total spend $16.20 for two dress shirts and four jumpers/windcheaters) but I didn't find a thing for Wayne and unfortunately he's the one who really needs some good clothes.

So, yesterday afternoon, armed with a list of what he needs in what colour and size, off I went to Kmart to have a look. It felt a little odd looking at jumpers and long sleeved shirts and long pants when it was topping 40 degrees outside but I do like to get a bargain and I was on a mission. I looked and compared and picked things up to compare against other things and finally decided on a jumper (down to $9.95) a t-shirt for $5.95 and two pairs of pants for $13.95 each and off I went to pay for them. Imagine my embarrassment when I opened my purse to pull out the $50 note I knew was in there only to find that it had vanished! I had no cash on me apart from about $5 in change and I'd left the cards at home on the desk where I'd been working during the morning. I apologised profusely to the woman on the checkout and she very kindly said it happened all the time (just not to me!) and not to worry, she'd get someone to put the things back. And I left.

Panic set in, with me thinking I'd lot the $50. A quick phone call to Wayne sorted that out. Apparently he'd taken it as he left for work and had sung out to me that he was taking it. I was in the shower at the time. With the water running and the door shut. It appears my super human hearing just didn't work as he called out from the other end of the house.

By this time it was getting late so off to school I went, ready to pick up my three happy cherubs. Two were happy. One was definitely not happy and quickly lost her cherub ranking. Apparently I had overwritten her homework on the memory stick and when she went to do her presentation it was only a lot of my notes. I did point out that it was my memory stick and was she sure she had used that one? Yes, she was sure. All the way home she was sure. Absolutely positive she told me in between the tears and the growling. All the way home I apologised and offered to help her re-do it and write a note for her, telling myself off for not checking what was on the stick before I used it. All this in the confined space of my car for 25 minutes on a really hot day.

We were home less than five minutes when she came out all smiles, oops, it seems she had picked up the wrong memory stick after all. I was off the hook. She wanted her cherub ranking re-instated, after all it was just a little mistake. This mother isn't that kind, I didn't let her off the hook so easily. After an apology and a little talk about getting all the facts before accusing someone I did reinstate her cherub ranking. After all she makes a great cup of coffee and folds the washing as she takes it off the line. And she gives great kisses and hugs. I don't even have to ask for.

But sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I'd stayed single and childless.

11 March 2008

In the right spot at the right time

It's not often that I find myself at the supermarket just as they are doing the markdowns but I did this morning. It's a bit of the old "I'm just going to get a loaf of bread" and I walked out with 4 green bags of marked down chicken, steak, sausages, chops, schnitzels and mince. There's enough meat there to feed us for a month (about 6 weeks if we have fish and meatless meals occasionally) for the grand total of $86.78. What made it even more of a bargain was the gift cards I used to pay for it. I had five Coles gift cards that had to be used up within the next couple of months (you have to watch these cards, they do expire), all with about $10 on them so I used them to pay for the meat and I only had to hand over $31.30 in cash. The gift cards were freebies from a couple of surveys I completed so I was more than happy to use them to pay for the meat. And I'll confess that I had a lot of fun digging through the meat fridge looking for the markdowns and then working out if it was a good deal or not. My little handbag calculator had a real workout.

I've had an update on Nick's Challenge too. The website www.nickschallenge.com is up and running and businesses are already submitting their discounts so if you're a business or know of a business that wants to take up Nick's Challenge and help those in need please go to www.nickschallenge.com and register now. AND if you are a pensioner and looking for discounted goods and services, please go to the website to view the free discount listing.

I am so pleased too that the Cheapskates Club has taken up the challenge and from today we have a concession membership available all the time, not just as a special offer.

This heat is really getting me down. I must be getting old I think, anything over about 34 and I just lose all my energy. With days of 35,39 and 40 coming up I've been on a get cool crusade. There are some great ways to keep cool and to keep your house cool and comfortable in the Tip Store if you're in need of help. I've already trawled through them and put a few new strategies into place around here, including moving from the office into the family room. My office is at the front of the house and it gets the full mid-day sun and becomes unbearably hot, even with good insulation and fans. The family room on the other hand is smack bang in the middle of the house and so stays pleasantly cool all day. Thank goodness for laptops and extension leads is all I say.

10 March 2008

Nick's challenge

I was so disappointed last week when I was invited to be a guest on Sunrise and had to decline (AJ had an appointment around the same time I would have been on air) because the topic was grocer Nick Duggan and the discount he is offering to pensioners who shop at his IGA supermarket in Maroochydore. As it turned out I was able to get in a plug for Nick this morning on The Morning Show, so I'm feeling much happier.

Nick owns a 24 hour IGA supermarket in Maroochydore and he has taken it upon himself to offer his pensioner customers a 10% discount on their groceries and it's available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Nick was distressed by just how tough some of members of his local community were finding it and even more distressed when Prime Minister Rudd admitted that there is indeed a problem expecting someone to live on $260 a week but that he didn't have any answers to offer.

It was after this that he decided to lift the existing discount from 5% to 10%. It didn't take him long, overnight he had some banners and flyers explaining the deal printed and the staff alerted and the registers adjusted.

And now he is challenging all business owners to offer at least a 5% discount to pensioners. I'm always up for a discount so I've agreed to help Nick with his challenge. We are in the process of nutting out the finer details so watch this space. Good things are happening!

The fuel gauge in my car is stuck. On full. I thought I was doing so well, driving very carefully, smooth takeoffs and stops, checking the tyres, keeping the boot empty. I was so thrilled with myself for a couple of days last week. Then I realised the gauge hadn't moved at all. Not even a fraction of a centimetre. Ooops. I quickly pushed the trip metre and yes, I had travelled 308km. That gauge should have moved at least a little. So I'm not quite so smug right now. But the fuel economy has improved since I started this challenge, even with increase in petrol prices.

That 308km has been a fair bit of freeway and highway driving so the cruise control has come in handy. It does improve efficiency and certainly makes driving easier. If you have cruise, then use it. But only on the open highway or freeway please. I really don't think it's safe to use in city traffic, even in the middle of the day. There's only one day to go till I fill up again, I'll have to be sure and write all the figures down carefully. I can't wait until the end of the month to see just how much money and fuel has been saved.

09 March 2008

The five year cycle

I've had to replace face washers, bath mats and towels recently. And the sheets for our bed are almost see-through in spots so they'll be next on the agenda. It can't possibly be five years since all the linen was replaced but if we've been married almost 20 years then the fourth round of the five year cycle is almost over so they are due.

The five year cycle was described to me by my sister-in-law just after we were married. She told me that every five years tea towels, bed linen, face washers, towels etc would need to be replaced because they just wear out. I scoffed at the time but five years later as I was cutting bath towels into hand towels I remembered what she had said. It’s true, I can't get any linen or manchester to last more than five years before it needs to be recycled into something else.

This week 15 face washers have been turned into dusters and laundry rags and 15 nice new face washers have replaced them in the bathrooms. This means of course that for the last four nights crochet has been the TV watching task of choice. A crocheted edge around the face washers looks pretty. It also extends the life of the flannel by preventing the edges from fraying and getting scraggy. A ball of crochet cotton costs around $3.50 and I can usually stretch it out to 6 or 7 flannels if I don't get too fancy and do lacy edges. I buy packs of 10 face washers for $5 on sale so they end up costing about 85 cents each and take about an hour each to do. They make good gifts for fetes and stalls too if you need an easy idea. And we have started our fifth five year cycle! Where does time go?

Wayne cooked the leg of lamb on the bbq tonight and it was superb. He's getting quite adventurous with his cooking. With this leg he cut slits into it and then pushed in slivers of garlic, rubbed it over with olive oil and lemon juice and then rubbed in rosemary. Then he basted it with lemon juice while it was cooking. The backyard smelled incredible while it was cooking and it tasted even better with the vegetables. It was a huge joint, over 2 kilos, so there is plenty left for lunches. The boys are off to a train exhibition at Sandown racecourse tomorrow and they requested lamb sandwiches for lunch so I've just put a loaf of bread in the bread maker for them. Fresh bread and cold roast lamb - costs almost nothing, compared to $8 for a hamburger from the kiosk. I kid you not, a hamburger is really $8 at this exhibition! Thankfully my Cheapskate family are more than happy to pack an esky with sandwiches, fruit and drinks from home and keep their hard earned money for more worthwhile purchases.

05 March 2008

Those haggling skills have paid off

All that honing has paid off. We've lashed out and bought a new lounge suite - a brand new lounge suite. We did take a couple of afternoons and shopped around, going to anywhere that was advertising a sale and ending up at the clearance centres. The suite we decided on was at a clearance centre and was already discounted $500 (according to the price tag) because it was the end of that particular design. After a little haggling the price came down another $50 and they threw in the Scotchguard treatment and delivery (another $210). I think they were glad to get us out of the place. So sometime next week a brand, spanking new three piece lounge suite will be delivered. I'm kind of excited simply because we have only bought a couple of things new in the last 20 years - our bed, the lounge suite in the loungeroom and our new fridge. Everything else we own has been a gift, bought second hand, given to us second hand or scrounged from hard rubbish. Now the kids are older I'm seriously hoping that the risk of accidental spills and marks will be almost nil. I may have to instigate some new rules for the family room.

Next job is to list find a home for the sofas we have at the moment. Thinking of donating them to the Year 12 common room at school. They are sturdy and strong, just look untidy with the loose covers. I don't think teenagers are going to worry too much about how they look. I'll ask at school tomorrow and if the answer is yes Wayne can drop them off next week on his day off. I'm handing them on rather than sending them to the tip because I actually feel a little guilty at spending money on new furniture just because I don't like the look of what we have. I know I shouldn't feel guilty at moving something that doesn't make me smile on, it's just that I'm still in Essential Spending mode and struggling to spend any money at the moment. I dare say this moment will pass :)

At lunchtime today I met some Cheapskates Club members for a chat and 3 hours later I left, and the only reason I left then was to pick the kids up from school. Boy can those girls talk! We had an absolute blast getting to know each other and sharing ideas and best of all it didn't cost us anything. We all took our lunch and drinks and happily sat and gossiped and compared sandwich fillings. Thanks so much for your time Sandra and Debbie and for inviting me to have lunch with you both, I love that I can read your tips and forum messages and be able to put a face to them. If there are any members in Melbourne who'd like to get together just let me know, I'm always ready for a coffee and a natter as Keren knows too and I'd really like to meet every single one of you if I could.

Thankfully dinner was organized before I left to meet the ladies. Potatoes were cooked and cooling in the fridge for potato salad, coleslaw just needed the dressing and the slice was made early this morning before the kitchen became too hot to bear so even though we were late home from school, I wasn't even tempted to order pizza or chips much to the kids' disgust.

01 March 2008

It's time to retire the sofas

Our family room sofas have had it. They've had a hard life but it's really time to retire them. Not only have they stood up to the daily abuse handed out by three boisterous children (and at times various other kids) for 15 years but they were second hand when they were given to us. The covers have been washed and dried and washed and dried until they are now so faded the pattern is a different colour and the fabric is so thin it has begun to split.

This time last year I lashed out and bought two of those loose throw over covers from Target during a sale simply because they were getting me down they looked so old and horrible. The covers have been an ok stop gap but they are loose and so they always look messy (can you tell my perfectionism is showing here) and I spend all day straightening them up and begging the kids not to sit on them. Not a nice way for any of us to live so I looked into getting them recovered and it's going to cost more than it will to buy two new sofas!

So the options are:
getting them reupholstered
putting up with the slip covers
buying a new loungesuite or two new sofas

Keeping the slip covers is the cheapest option, then new sofas then re-upholstering. The constant straightening up will drive me nuts so now that Essential Spending month is over (how did you go by the way?) we are off to look at new furniture tomorrow. Brand new furniture! Although I have a couple of outlets to look at so it may well end up being a brand new discontinued/seconds/cancelled order :) Either way we are looking for a good deal so I've been honing my haggling skills this week :)