31 December 2009

Tip of the Day 31 December 2009

The January sales

It seems ridiculous to be thinking ahead to next Christmas when last Christmas was only a week ago. But a little forethought and planning ahead can save you hundreds of dollars. The January sales are a great time to buy presents for upcoming birthdays, Mother's and Father's Day and of course next Christmas. Make a list and keep it with you so that when you see a bargain you can buy if the next gift-giving occasion. By doing this you can reduce your spending by at least 50 per cent. Most people these days are reported to spend on average $3,000 at Christmas time alone, so the savings are huge.

30 December 2009

Packing and storing Christmas baubles

Approximate $ Savings: $20

If you save your egg cartons, come Christmas time you can place all your fragile Christmas baubles in the egg spots once you remove them from the tree. Paint or wrap the egg cartons to indicate which baubles they house. Egg cartons are surprisingly strong and stable, especially when stacked for long-term storage.

29 December 2009

Tip of the Day 29 December 2009

Make the switch to a cash only lifestyle

It may not be possible for you to switch entirely to cash only but you can easily switch back to cash for your day to day purchases and many of your bills and ditch the credit card. It is madness to use a credit card for day to day expenses unless you can pay the balance in full every month. Try it for a month. Use cash for every expense and purchase you would normally put on your card. If you don't have the cash don't buy the item. Living with cash will quickly make you realise just what you need and what you think you need.

28 December 2009

Tip of the Day 28 December 2009

Buy your classic clothes in the January sales

Instead of rushing out and buying clothes when you need them, think ahead and plan to do your summer clothes shopping during the January sales. With our temperate climate you can wear summer clothes most of the year, with the addition of a cardigan or lightweight jumper during spring and autumn, leaving heavy woollies and coats for mid-winter. Take advantage of the percentage off sales and stock up on the classics (colour and style), then use trendy accessories to keep them up to date. You'll get better value for your dollar and lower your cost per wear.

27 December 2009

Tip of the Day 27 December 2009

Wonderful wicker

When I was a little girl I had a wicker chair. It was child size and suited me perfectly. Of course as I grew older the chair became too small and I didn't use it. As a teenager I thought it was old fashioned and totally useless. Thank goodness my mother saw the value in it, even if it is only sentimental, and put the chair away for me. When I had my first baby that wicker chair came out of storage to be put to use in the nursery. Storage hadn't done much for the chair, it was dirty and yellowed and needed a good clean. Mum knew just what to do and she showed me. The life of wicker patio furniture, baskets or other wicker items can be extended by using salt to clean and whiten it. To clean and prevent yellowing, dust off with a soft brush and then scrub wicker furniture with a stiff brush moistened with warm saltwater and allow it to dry in the sun. Choose a nice hot day and never, ever soak your wicker furniture or baskets or you run the risk of it drying out of shape. Wipe over with a damp cloth between cleanings to keep it spic'n'span.

26 December 2009

What to do With the Christmas Dinner Leftovers

The big day is over but you wouldn't know it to look at the fridge. It is bursting with leftovers and they all have to be used up. Try some of these ideas and get some time off from kitchen duty.

Freeze them. Freezing means that you can enjoy your Christmas fare at anytime. You can freeze sliced meats in gravy, and have a ready made roast for later on. Dice the vegetables and combine to use as fillings for pies, crepes and casseroles. If you use plastic storage bags, make sure that they are freezer bags and write the contents date of freezing on the outside (masking tape is good for this). Freeze in portion sizes or meal sizes and then you can thaw out only what you need and not the lot.

Make up some doggy bags and send guests home with food. Why keep all the bounty to yourself? Load up on disposable plates and bowls (in festive colours) so that each guest can take home some food for later.

Make a gourmet salad. Green salads can be so boring sometimes. Add a slice or two of turkey, beef, chicken or ham to spice it up. Dice or crumble the meat and use as a salad topper. Cold peas, carrots, corn, broccoli, cauliflower etc can all be added to a green salad for colour and texture.

Breakfast additions. Omelettes are fun to make. Even more fun than making them is adding different ingredients to them to see what kind of combinations you can come up with. Use leftover Christmas dinner fare to decorate your omelette. Ham, chicken or turkey can be diced to use as an omelette add-in. Leftover vegetables can also be cut up to sprinkle inside an omelette.

Turn it into a stir-fry. Cut the leftover chicken, turkey, beef or pork into thin strips. With a few stir-fry vegetables you have created a new dinner meal. If stir fry is not your cup of tea, you can make lo mien, fried rice and other Asian dishes that include meat. Or if you had the traditional turkey and there's still a lot left, go wild with turkey chow mein.

Create a pie. Turkey or chicken and even beef can be placed inside a crust with tons of delicious veggies to make a pot pie your family will love. Use a basic white or cheese sauce as the binder (or even a can of cream of something soup - chicken, mushroom, asparagus etc) and let your imagination run wild with the combinations. If you have a pie maker you can whip up a batch of gourmet pies in no time and freeze them, ready for a grab and heat lunch. Use bought pastry sheets if you're not a pastry maker, or give Elaine's Easy Pastry a try.

It can be overwhelming when faced with all that leftover food, and it's tempting to just ignore it until it goes furry and then you can throw it out, but I'm hoping that some of these ideas will inspire you to use up those leftovers and save your grocery budget.

The Great Restaurant Competition

Dining out is fun but it can be costly. Get together with your friends for regular get-togethers and try different restaurants at the same time. Simply take it in turns to choose the restaurant with these guidelines in mind:
1.It must be cheap
2.It must be good
3.To be fair, everyone pays their own way
3.It must be within a 30 minute drive of home (unless you arrange to carpool)

Keep a record of where you go and how much the total bill costs each time and at the end of the year whoever has chosen the cheapest and best restaurant wins the prize (the group can choose the prize at the first dinner).

25 December 2009

Tip of the Day 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

On this beautiful Christmas morning I pray that your Christmas day will be blessed with family, friends and loved ones and wish you hope, peace and joy.

Merry Christmas,


Boxing Day Shopping Tips

It's the best day of the year for shopping. Whether you get to line up early on the 26th or you have to wait until the 27th, hitting the Boxing Day sales is great fun and a great opportunity to pick up some fantastic bargains....and get a head start on next Christmas!

Before shopping:

*Check to see what you already have.

*Make a list of the things you want to buy. Prepare your list around what you already have and what's on sale.

*Plan your spending to avoid impulse buys. Don't spend money on things you don't need.

*Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, take a bottle of water and remember to have fun.

24 December 2009

Tip of the Day 24 December 2009

Pairs of Ornaments Make Great Gifts

After each Christmas all the beautiful Christmas decorations (e.g.: glass, china, decoupage etc) go on sale. I buy them in pairs and the following Christmas I wrap them in material and ribbon instead of paper, which makes them even more lovely. Great for the hard to buy for women or office gift. For gift cards I do hand or foot prints (ink pad from $2 shop) of my kids on coloured paper and cut out around the shape. Fun for the kids.

Contributed by Susie, 18th October 2007

23 December 2009

Free Christmas Eve Fun

Christmas activities can be very expensive but there are plenty of things you can do that won't cost a small fortune and many of them are even free so if you've been wondering what you can do with your family tomorrow night here are a couple of totally free ideas.

A great way to tire out excited little ones on Christmas Eve is to wait until dusk and then take them for a walk around your local area to see the Christmas lights. It's much more exciting to be walking in the dark and the lights and displays are just lovely. Children are entranced and grown-ups are thrilled by their excitement. And after an hour or so of walking around they are well and truly ready for bed so Santa can visit.

If you aren't up to fighting the mozzies to see the lights, have your very own carols by candlelight concert at home. You can watch the carols on TV (Channel 9 show the Christmas Eve carol concert from Melbourne) or you can put on a CD and sing along. Turn the lights out and give the kids a torch each (safer than candles for little ones) and have some fun. The singing and the candlelight will relax them and put them off to sleep, but not before they've left a slice of cake and a glass of milk for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer!

And some fun for mum and dad: sprinkle some chocolate coated sultanas around the base of the Christmas tree (not where it can be walked into the floor) or on the front verandah - instant reindeer poop! What better way to prove Santa really did come on Christmas Eve than a little gift from Rudolph!

22 December 2009

Mini Christmas Puddings

If you are looking for a way to use up leftover Christmas cake or pudding (and there's bound to be leftovers after Christmas dinner) or a way to use up a not-so-nice cake or pudding, then these mini Christmas puddings are just the thing. Make them bite size and serve them on a plate with a dish of whipped cream or thick custard for dipping.

Mini Christmas Puddings

A cheap Christmas pudding or fruitcake
icing sugar
lolly snakes

Crumble the pudding or cake in a bowl. Add a small amount of brandy at a time and mix up until you have a playdough consistency. Roll into balls the size of a 10 or 20-cent piece. With a teaspoon dribble some icing on each ball to look like custard. Cut up some red and green snakes to look like holly leaves and berries and place on top of each "pudding". This is so quick and easy and you can even involve the kids. If the kids are too young to help - keep them amused with the leftover orange and yellow snakes.

Contributed by Emmalee, St. Kilda East

21 December 2009

Tip of the Day 21 December 2009

The great family road trip

If you're planning a family road trip these school holidays plan ahead and pack drinks and snacks. Stop at roadside rest areas rather than crowded roadhouses and enjoy a thermos of tea or coffee, some cold drinks and a sandwich or piece of cake in peace and quiet. The kids can have a run around and use up some energy and everyone will get back into the car refreshed and ready for the next leg of the journey. Your pocket will also benefit, packing your food and drinks will save you a fortune.

20 December 2009

Tip of the Day 20 December 2009

A Garden on Wheels

Instead of a hanging basket why not try an old wheelbarrow for planting vegies? I have strawberries in mine. It is up off the ground so slaters can't get to it, you can put it under a basket to catch any water from them, you don't have to bend to far to pick them. Mine is in the front garden in between my roses and other plants. Put a couple of holes in the bottom, fill it with good soil or potting mix and away you go.

Contributed by Kerry, Mandurah

19 December 2009

Create a Calming Bath

There are any number of bath solutions you can buy that claim to be soothing and calming to children (and adults) and of course they are quite pricey. You can easily create a bath solution that really works yourself, for just a few cents per bath. To calm a toddler (or an adult!) buy (from the chemist) Epsom salts. Use the recommended amount in a warm bath. Add 10 drops of lavender essential oil (from chemists or health food shops) and let baby enjoy his bath. It is so calming, great for a before bed bath for a fractious toddler or a grown up with a headache or upset mood. Enjoy and relax!

18 December 2009

Tip of the Day 18 December 2009

Lettuce Storage

Save washing time and have fresh lettuce on hand ready for immediate use.

Rather than storing your lettuce whole, consider washing, cutting it and storing it in a salad spinner. This way it is ready for immediate use and you are more inclined to use it when needing a quick snack. Washing once rather than each time you need lettuce will save you time. Encourage the whole family to grab a salad snack and have a tasty dressing handy.

17 December 2009

Tip of the Day 17 December 2009

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, Waterford

16 December 2009

Last Minute Gift Ideas

I’ve never been one to leave my Christmas shopping to the last minute, I like to be able to take my time searching for the perfect gift for everyone, even if it does take me the whole year. But statistics show that for all the talking about starting early, most of us don't. We wait until the very last minute and then hit the shops in a frantic rush.

So, if you are one of the many who wait until the very last minute to hit the shopping centres, you’re probably headed for some aggravation and disappointment and possibly some big bills in January (OK, it's almost a surety that there will be some big bills in January).

Use some of my tips for last-minute Christmas shopping and it will be much more pleasurable, possibly a lot cheaper and the recipients of your gifts will probably pretty happy too.

Gift cards. It seems like such a small present, but it is quite a popular gift. Do you know how many people pack the stores the day after Christmas just to return gifted items? A gift card avoids all of that. Have the kids put together some festive wrapping or decorate and envelope for a personal touch.

Charitable gifts. These gifts put others first and help great causes at the same time. Perfect for the person who ALREADY has everything, you can make a donation to various international charities (wildlife foundations, disaster relief, medical missions, peace keeping efforts and more) in the name of your gift recipient. They will receive a letter thanking them for their donation.


Food gifts. Before toys and technology, people gave what they had and that was usually some sort of food item. Sweet breads in decorative loaf pans, cakes, biscuits and cupcakes still make great gifts for teachers, grandparents, neighbours and friends. Give the delectable offerings time to cool sufficiently before wrapping them. If you're stuck for ideas, make up "Cake in a Cup" packages using the Cheapskates Club How To..... sheet. They are really cute, very affordable and take only a few minutes to put together.

Memberships/Subscriptions. Has one of the people on your list been meaning to join a gym? You can gift them a membership for Christmas. When money gets tight, memberships and subscriptions are usually the first to go. Renew a subscription to their favourite magazine or a service like the RACV (or the equivalent for their state).

Gift baskets. Most shops have them on display at Christmas time. You can buy one that is already made if you see one that fits your recipient’s tastes and your budget. For teachers and co-workers, baskets with mugs and coffee or hot chocolate are a safe bet. Or better yet, create your own with a basket and small items that reflect the recipient. Movie tickets and popcorn, pancake mix and a bottle of homemade pancake syrup, a washing powder tin and the ingredients to make their own washing powder (and of course the Cheapskates Club tip sheet with instructions), there are any number of fantastic gift basket ideas that are quick, easy and frugal.

Overall…have fun. Dress your presents up, make your own gift cards and tie them up with a bow or raffia or even strips of wool plaited into lengths. The personal touch will always go a long way.

Tip of the Day 16 December 2009

Santa Gives Vouchers to Save the Budget During the Holidays

I buy entertainment vouchers for the kids during the year e.g. movie vouchers, Hard Rock ice cream, McDonalds etc and Santa gives them in their Christmas stockings. Then during the school holidays paid entertainment is already there waiting to use and it doesn't strain the budget.

Contributed by Liz, Gladstone

15 December 2009

Christmas Truffles

1 heaped dessertspoon 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.

14 December 2009

Tip of the Day 14 December 2009

Permanent Patterns

I do a lot of sewing and make a lot of crafts and as a result I have a lot of money sitting in patterns. As I tend to choose a basic pattern and adapt it to suit whatever I'm making, I like to trace my patterns onto cardboard (if it's a craft pattern) or lightweight interfacing (for dressmaking) for longevity. As most of my craft patterns are for small items empty cereal boxes do the job perfectly. Just slit the sides and open them out flat then draw the pattern onto the inside. Cut them out, label the pieces and they are easy to work with and long lasting. For dressmaking patterns, tracing off the tissue paper pattern onto interfacing keeps the original intact for future use. This is particularly useful for the multi-size patterns. The interfacing makes cutting the pattern off the fabric a breeze as it stays put when it's laid out, helping with cutting accuracy.

13 December 2009

The Beauty of Cleopatra

History tells us that Cleopatra bathed in milk and was the most beautiful woman of her time. You can use milk for your skin too, and it's much easier and cheaper than bathing in it. Keep a small supply of powdered milk in a jar in the bathroom to use as a facial cleanser at night. Just put a small amount in the palm of your hand, add enough water to get the consistency you want, and wash. You won't believe how soft your face feels afterwards.

12 December 2009

Tip of the Day 12 December 2009

A Fun Way to Start a Christmas Party

Approximate $ Savings: $20 is a cheap Christmas present

My children taught me this method of making Christmas cheap and fun. Every guest brings a gift worth $20 which is placed under the tree and then they receive a number. When everybody has arrived, draw the numbers out of a hat. The first person chooses a gift from under the tree and has to open it, then the second person drawn can either choose from under the tree or the one gift that has already been opened. If you lose your gift you get to choose either from under the tree or from one of the other opened gifts. We have played this game for a few years and every body seems to enjoy it especially if you are one of the last numbers drawn. It is fun and only $20 per person it is really quite reasonable.

Contributed by Maggie, Holt

11 December 2009

Tip of the Day 11 December 2009

Nicer Teacher Gifts for Less

I wanted to buy my daughter's childcare teachers something special and individual for Christmas - rather than the boxes of chocolates that usually get eaten too quickly, melt or are given away to someone else. Throughout the year I would check the clearance rack at our local department store, and was able to pick up lovely tops, blouses and candles for between $2-$3. As I had to buy for 9 girls, this saved over a hundred dollars and they were all thrilled with their individual gifts (which I bought over several months, spending just $2 or $3 a month rather than rushing out and having to spend a heap all in one go.

Contributed by Ella, Salamander Bay

10 December 2009

Tip of the Day 10 December 2009

'Merry Christmas' Painted 'Glass' Baubles

These are so easy to make. And they are quick and cheap too. You can buy boxes of twelve baubles in all colours from dollar shops such as GoLo, Reject Shop, The Warehouse, even Spotlight and Lincraft. Depending on the size they range in price from $2 - $6.95 for 12.

To make these decorations you don't need paints - you use stickers and decals! The stickers I used are available in sheets of gold, silver and rainbow colours for $2.95 a sheet. Each sheet makes at least twelve, if not more, ornaments. If you choose a coloured ball, all you need to do is stick on your Merry Christmas decal. If you want to add the year, use glitter glue in a coordinating colour under the 'Merry Christmas'. Instead of $6.95 each, you can make these gorgeous baubles for around 65 cents each!

09 December 2009

Tip of the Day 9 December 2009

Paying Off the Credit Card

If you can only make the minimum payment on your credit cards then pay it on a weekly basis. For example if the minimum payment for the month is $100, make weekly payments of $25, just double check due dates to make sure you will have paid the minimum required on time. One week you may need to make the payment a day early. You could even set it up to be an automatic payment from your account each week. Then ignore the minimum balance on your next statement and keep on paying the $25 (or whatever amount it was) a week and watch the balance disappear.

08 December 2009

Tip of the Day 8 December 2009


It's not a a $2 Dinner but it is a $2 gift and it is spectacular. Done up in a jar with a handmade label it looks fantastic. You can make a batch in around five minutes. One batch is enough to fill at least four large coffee jars so it is economical too. Once you start nibbling on nuts'n'bolts you won't be able to stop!

500g Nutrigrain (generic equivalent works just as well)
375g salted peanuts
375g pretzels (broken into small pieces)
100g pumpkin seeds
1 packet Cream of Chicken soup mix
1 packet French Onion soup mix (generic works just as well)
3 tsp curry powder
Pinch chilli powder
1/2 cup currants (or sultanas)
3/4 cup olive oil, heated

Combine all ingredients except oil in a large bowl. Mix well to make sure everything is coated with the seasonings. Warm the oil and stir through the dry ingredients, making sure they are all coated completely. Store in a large, air tight bowl. If you are going to jar it up for gifts, wait two days. Stir the mix completely each day then on the third day pour into jars and label. This mix looks great in nut dishes on the Christmas table too.

07 December 2009

Tip of the Day 7 December 2009

Christmas Pot-Pourri

This is kind of like cooking but also crafty. 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.

2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup of dried cloves
2 cups gum nuts
1 cup mistletoe leaves
A few drops of your favourite essential oil to sprinkle on gum nuts
Dried petals for colour

Gently toss all the ingredients together and package.

06 December 2009

Tip of the Day 6 December 2009

Christmas Gifts for $3.33 each

Yesterday when I received my disability pension I invested $40.00 on seeds, pots, hanging baskets, two bags of potting mix, which I bought from the Reject Shop, potting mix from Safeway (Homebrand). I will plant them now for Christmas. I will have twelve presents for $40.00. I will wrap them in cellophane. For under $3.33 each these will be gifts for mum, family and friends and it will be something they can watch grow and remember me.

Contributed by Cathrene, Melbourne

05 December 2009

Decorating the Christmas tree

Plastic covered paper clips make perfect hangers for your Christmas tree decorations. They are easy to clip onto the tops of the decorations and slip nicely onto the branches. They stay on the branches too, so that little fingers can't accidentally pull precious ornaments off the tree.

04 December 2009

Tip of the Day 4 December 2009

Online Shopping Saves Postage

If you have to send birthday or Christmas presents interstate, check out the prices of online shopping sites. The advantages include:
1) Often lower freight charges than the postage you would pay.
2) Some offer free gift wrapping.
3) They have specials which regular shops can't beat because of the lower online overheads
4) You don't waste petrol and wear and tear on your vehicle driving to the shops and post office
5) You can shop any time of the day or night
6) They usually guarantee delivery before Christmas.
7) They usually have a free newsletter which emails you about their latest specials.

03 December 2009

Tip of the Day 3 December 2009

Lolly Topiary Trees

These are sold in Target and the large ones I looked at were $24.95 each.

I bought a terracotta pot for $1. I hunted round the back yard for a strong, rustic looking twig to use as the stem. I stuck the stem in the pot using 15-minute quick set cement, because we had some in the garage. You could use plaster. When it was set and the stem was firm I sprayed the pot and stem gold. Then I stuck a large foam ball ($2.00 from the market) onto the top of the stem. The most expensive part of this decoration was the lollies. I chose to use Columbines because of the pretty colours. The topiaries I saw in target were covered in silver and green wrapped toffees. I just stuck the toffees to the foam fall with a little blob of blu-tack until it was completely covered. It looks like it has blue and purple flowers all over it.

I’m going to sit this on our lamp table and let visitors pull off a toffee to have with their coffee. I can easily replace the missing sweets until Christmas to keep it looking good. I estimate that it will have cost less than $10 by Christmas, even with replacing the lollies.

02 December 2009

Tip of the Day 2 December 2009

Cath’s Top Tips for a Cash Christmas

1. Make a budget.
2. Start saving now - shop sales and lay-by, time is on your side.
3. Track your Christmas spending, just as you do regular spending. Keep track of how much you spend on presents, decorations, postage, food, clothes, parties etc.
4. Also the track savings i.e if you budget $10 for a gift, and find on sale for $8, that's a $2 saving. Put that money straight into your Emergency Fund.
5. Use cash - make it a priority to use cash for all your Christmas spending. Go to the ATM and make a cash withdrawal, don't use the credit card or eftpos, it's too easy to lose track of what you are spending. Having cash, you see exactly how much you've spent and how much you have left to spend. When it's gone, it's gone.
6. As you collect gifts, wrap and label them immediately. Then make a note on your gift list so you know where you've stashed it and mark it as finished.

01 December 2009

Tip of the Day 1 December 2009

Homemade Ferrero Rocher Style Chocolates

Stuck for something for a secret santa? Anything to eat is always a winning gift and this recipe for homemade Ferro Rochers style truffles from Angie of East Ringwood is very easy and they are so good they may not last until it's time to hand the gift over!

You will need:
375 g melting chocolate
1 tbsp copha
1 jar hazelnut spread
Crushed nuts
1 cup Rice Bubbles
Mini paper or foil chocolate cups

Melt chocolate with copha over low heat. Add Rice Bubbles and mix gently. Put a little of the mixture in the bottom of each chocolate cup. Place half a teaspoon of hazelnut spread on top. Drop a whole hazelnut on top of spread. Cover with melted chocolate mixture to top of cup. Sprinkle with crushed nuts before freezing for at least an hour.