31 August 2010

Make your first stop the clearance rack

Always head straight for the clearance rack where you can find amazing bargains. Sometimes you may have to dig a little to find the right item, but the savings will be well-worth your time. Most clearance racks offer variety, current trends, and great value. For example, most Kmart stores have a clearance section where you can find all kinds of wonderful household items for a fraction of the original cost, most in brand new condition and just with torn or missing packaging.

30 August 2010

Get on mailing lists

Sign up for the mailing list at your favourite craft stores. Look for both email and snail mail versions. Many include coupons you can use to get extra discounts on already on sale items. I use my coupons to buy the more expensive craft items, like a package of blades for my rotary cutter or machine embroidery threads that are normally out of my craft budget range. They are also great resources for crafting ideas and tips, and keep you up to date with current craft trends. Two of my favourites are Spotlight (www.spotlight.com.au) and Lincraft (www.lincraft.com.au).

29 August 2010

Have a home and garden maintenance schedule

Make a list of all annual maintenance items for your home such as the air conditioner, heater, hot water service, etc. Include appliances such as the lawn mower, barbecue, and so on. Being prepared and working in a proactive manner can save you unnecessary expenses. If you take care of your air conditioner by performing basic maintenance yourself and getting a regular service call to tune it up then you lower the risk of something going wrong during the hot summer months when it will be quite costly to repair. Just as your car needs regular maintenance to keep it running in peak performance, so to do your household appliances.

28 August 2010

Once a Water Watcher, Always a Water Watcher

I have cabin fever, and I live in the 'burbs!  It has been weeks since I've done more than race out the back and pick spinach and silverbeet or pull a cauli or cabbage for dinner.  I haven't even had to water.  Goodness I thought we would always be on water restrictions, but apparently not.  Our state government, in it's wisdom, had decided that now our water stocks are back up to a smidge over 40% they can ease water restrictions.

From the 1st September Melbournians will be able to use a hose with a trigger nozzle, bucket or watering can to water their gardens at any time. We will also be able to wash our cars at home with a bucket or a high pressure water saving device.  It has been four years since we have been able to do these things.

And you know what? I am used to watering early in the morning twice a week. I love to get up early during spring and summer and spend some quiet time in the garden, tending our veggies and the ferns. For four years my garden has flourished. Yes, keeping the water up to the veggies has required a little effort, but I have managed (with help of course from Wayne).

We have had green lawns, front and back, during the worst of the summer thanks to our water recycling regime. It takes less than five minutes each morning to move the soaker hoses around the lawn before I start the washing machine.

My concern with the easing of water restrictions is that once again we will become complacent with our water use.  One long, hot, very dry spring, summer and autumn and our water storages will be down to critical levels again.

It has been said that the increase in water rates will keep waste under control but I'm not convinced. Conditioning is insidious, and if bills rise a little each quarter, most people won't even realise they are paying more, let alone that they are paying more because they are using more.

One thing I am going to do after the 1st September though, is wash the outside of the windows with a bucket, broom and hose. Wayne has been doing them with an ice cream container of water and rags for the last few years, which makes them a huge job. We have 26 windows around our house, with the front ones being colonial. A hose will definitely make this chore easier.

With all the rain we've had recently the tanks are full, so I plan to maintain that 124 litres during summer, even with the bigger veggie garden.  According to our bill we only use 124 litres per person per day, down 31 litres from the 155 a day suggested as a target.

We still need to be conscious of how much water we use and just what we use good drinking water for. The target of 155 litres of water a day per person hasn't changed, just when and what we can do with it.

27 August 2010

Double check

If you were to check your grocery or department store receipts regularly, chances are you will eventually find an overcharge.

This happens all the time and in some cases, the charge can be substantial. The same is true for credit card statements, bank statements, phone bills, etc. Check the detail because it is quite common to find errors.

These mistakes can easily be corrected simply by asking for the overcharge to be refunded and providing a copy of the receipt or statement.

26 August 2010

Don't need it anymore?

Go through your house, garage and garden shed and pull together all the items you no longer use or need. These can include small or large kitchen appliances, gardening tools, clothing (baby, child and adult), makeup, and sporting equipment, furniture, whatever you have that you don't want or need.  Then list them on eBay or gumtree.com.au. Take the money earned from these sales and put it in your emergency fund not to be touched unless it's for a genuine emergency expense.

25 August 2010

Get Organized and Pay on Time

For every payment you pay late, you are charged a late fee, which can be up to  $50 depending on the company. Late fees are not budgeted for (or they shouldn't be!), so if you are constantly paying them you are going to have trouble balancing your budget. Not only that, with extra fees being constantly added to the debt it is going to take longer to get it paid off, as well as paying extra interest just because you weren't organized enough to pay your bills on time. To avoid spending unnecessary money, be sure you make your bill payments in time to avoid these fees.

24 August 2010

Meet the Bargain Bunch

I've been called lots of things since I began Cheapskating, but I have never been called Queen of Cheap. Until tonight that is. Tonight I became a member of the Bargain Bunch, along with five other Australian Bargain Queens: Fiona Lippey, Pamm Durkin, Anita Bell, Cynthia Mayne and Michelle House.

I had a lot of fun yesterday with the crew from A Current Affair. They are the most patient people, never rushing me and never, ever complaining (within hearing distance anyway) about how many times I muddle and mix my words or talk to quickly or forget what I was going to say (it's happening already!).

So, with all the fun and frivolity, I just knew the story would be a good one and it was fantastic.  Five other fabulous Australian women and myself all had the opportunity to share our ideas for living the Cheapskates way.

If you didn't get to see the story, you can watch the video here: http://aca.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=7950206

My top five ways to save money are:

1.Look high, look low. Skip the middle of the shelves - eye level. That's where you'll find the most popular and expensive branded products.

2.Stick to cash. Go to the bank or ATM once a week, withdraw all the cash you need for the coming week and put it in your purse or wallet.

3.Don't be afraid to haggle. You wouldn't pay sticker price for a car or asking price for a house. It's just a question "is this your best price?". You can haggle for just about anything including white goods, furniture and jewellery.

4.Stick to your budget. That means sticking to the allocated amounts for each category. If your weekly petrol budget is $60 and you put $65 worth of petrol in your car, that category is $5 in the red and you need to find the deficit somewhere else in your budget.  Be aware of how much is allocated to each category as well as your budget total and you'll find it much easier to stick to the allocated amounts.

5.Be organized. Know what you need to spend your money on and only spend it on those things.

Saving money is easy. You just need to do it.

Golden Syrup Dumplings

Cath is appearing on A Current Affair tonight, 24th August.  Tune in to Channel 9 at 6.30pm AEST to see Cath, Australia's bargain Queen in action.

Golden Syrup Dumplings
This old fashioned dessert is the ideal end to a winter dinner. Serve them with custard or ice- cream and watch them disappear. They'll soon be a family favourite.

2 cups hot water
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups self raising flour
2 tbsp butter, extra

Rub extra two tablespoons butter into flour to resemble breadcrumbs. Add just enough milk to make a soft dough. Roll into dessertspoon sized balls. Combine hot water, golden syrup, one tablespoon butter and white sugar in a saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar.  Once boiling, carefully drop dumplings into syrup, turn heat down and simmer for twenty minutes.

23 August 2010

Homemade White Oil

With spring just around the corner, thoughts are turning to gardening again. With gardens come pests. Oil based sprays are very effective at controlling a wide range of plant and garden pests such as aphids, scale, smooth skinned caterpillars and even young grasshoppers.

 It is easy, and much cheaper, to make your own white oil from vegetable oil and liquid soap. Prepare the concentrate using the proportions below. Store in a suitable container. Label the container, making sure to include the dilution rate on the label for quick reference.

500ml vegetable oil (any brand)
1/2 cup Sunlight dish washing liquid

Dilution:  Dilute the above mix by placing 1 tablespoon into a litre of water. Mix well and spray thoroughly over both sides of the foliage and onto the offending pest. The contents of the stored concentrate will separate over time. Simply ensure that the concentrate is well mixed each time before you attempt to dilute it for use. Spray as often as required.

Always follow the dilution rate to avoid burning plants and don't spray in hot weather. Also avoid spraying on plants with hairy foliage and ferns, palms and cycads as they will suffer leaf burn too.

21 August 2010

The Circle of Life

When I'm old and grey I hope my children look after me. I hope that I will have raised them to understand old age and it's eccentricities and want and be happy to look after me.

What brought thoughts of old age to mind was my three children, who are almost grown up. AJ is nineteen, Tom is about to turn eighteen and Hannah is fifteen. We are a large, extended family, on both sides.

I grew up with grandparents and a great-grandma, great aunties and uncles, second and third cousins as well as more immediate family. Birthdays, Christmas, weddings, christenings and funerals are all family occasions, where everyone comes together to celebrate, laugh and cry together. Wayne's family is pretty much the same and as a result our children have grown up with lots of cousins, grand-parents, aunties and uncles and great aunties and uncles of all ages surrounding them.

Now my children are growing up and becoming independent, I find that I don't have the spare time I was looking forward to.  I had grand plans to sew more, work a few more tapestries, extend the veggie beds, travel more, even keep the house a little tidier.

Instead, my days are filled with appointments - doctors, shopping, physio, even the  odd cleaning job. My mother is getting on in years and now instead of my  children depending on me to care for them I am doing more for this woman who did so much for me when I needed help.

When I was little it was my mother who made sure I had food to eat, and a warm, clean bed to sleep in. It was Mum who took me wherever I had to go, and sat up on Saturday nights to make sure I came home safe and sound (and on time).  Mum looked after me when I was sick, or hurt, or just hungry. 

After my father died it was mum who held our little family unit together, working four jobs to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table and my brother and me in school.

She did these things without being asked and without complaint, never once asking for anything in return. She did these things with love.

And now the circle is almost complete. It is my time to take care of mum now she needs a little help, just as she cared for me.  My mother is a proud and independent woman and she loves me enough to let me.

It is this understanding of the circle of life that I hope to pass on to my children, by example, showing them how to care for our elderly, so that when it's my time to need help again they will know I love them enough to let them help me.

20 August 2010

Suit or Separates?

Rather than buying a suit for $250 or more, buy the pieces as separates. This can save you $100 to $150. Additionally, buy several pieces that can be mixed and matched. A good quality matching jacket, trousers and skirt (for the ladies!) can be co-ordinated with shirts, t-shirts, jumpers and cardigans to easily increase the number of outfits in your wardrobe.

19 August 2010


The next time you plan a holiday, consider off-season. Generally, the prices for airfare, hotel, and cars are substantially lower than travelling during peak time. If you look at all your options, you will find that in many cases, you can come close to the date you would like to travel. Peak times in Australia are generally considered to be Easter, school holidays and from mid-December until after the Australia Day holiday in January. Choose your travel dates carefully, just one day can make a huge difference in price.

18 August 2010

Family Haircuts

Look for hairdressers and barbers that offer family deals or even better learn how to cut hair yourself. Many families take care of their own haircuts and put the money they would have spent aside as a holiday fund or to pay down debt. You can buy a home hair cut kit for under $100 (for a deluxe, super dooper kit, under $50 for a basic budget kit) and they all come with instructions. As with all things practice makes perfect, so the more hair cuts you do the better you get at it and the more you save.

There's nothing like the scent of baking to say welcome

We are having visitors tomorrow, and they will be staying with us until early next week.  So, instead of putting the newsletter together today, I have been happily and busily making up beds, fluffing pillows, chasing dust bunnies from under the spare beds and baking.

The house smells divine. There truly is nothing quite like the scent of baking to say "home" or "welcome".  I've made a double batch of Lunchbox Cookies. One lot are white chocolate and cranberry, the other are choc chip. And they are big!

Lunchbox cookies are usually small biscuits when I make them, but tonight I have made lovely big cookies, very much like the giant biscuits you buy from Mrs Fields or coffee shops.  The boys' eye almost popped out of their heads when they saw them on the cooling racks. I gave in and let them try one each. And promptly put the others away.

Our visitors are due to arrive about afternoon tea time tomorrow, so I've put a log of choc chip dough in the fridge. I'm planning on putting a tray of biscuits in the oven a few minutes before they arrive so they'll smell the welcome when they come in the door. Then we can enjoy freshly baked cookies and a cup of tea together while we catch up and wait for everyone else to get home.

I love having visitors. Having a full to overflowing house makes me smile. Don't get me wrong, it's a lot of work with extra meals and washing and bed making but I love the conversations and laughter and the change in routine.

Thomas has very generously given up his bedroom. He'll sleep on the family room floor and he's very happy about it, he'll have a TV in his bedroom - albeit temporary (we don't allow TVs in the kids' bedrooms).  And he's decided he's going to park his mattress in front of the fire so he'll be toasty warm all night long.  Sounds like a good plan to me.

17 August 2010

Freeze Foods

When you are doing your grocery shopping, don't for get to look for bargains on items that can be frozen. Even if you have a tiny freezer you can still save a lot of money by freezing bargains. Most people automatically think freezing for bread and meat, poultry and fish, but do not even think about grating a block cheese and freezing it.  You can save up to twenty-five percent on buying grated cheese, and if you buy on sale you'll save even more. For each cup of grated cheese add one teaspoon of cornflour and mix it through. This will stop the shards sticking together and clumping when freezing. And did you know that you can freeze eggs? You can as long as you give them a little room to expand. Crack them into ice cube trays or small containers and freeze. Once frozen, pop them out and wrap in cling wrap and then in freezer bags. When ready to use, simply let them thaw for a few minutes at room temperature. If you find apples on sale, make your own apple pies and freeze them or make applesauce or stew them to use on cereal or in puddings later. Many food items can be frozen with no problem. Therefore, the next time you see a great bargain think about freezing. (Dairy products other than hard cheeses do not generally freeze well).

15 August 2010

Beat bindii the easy way

On my way to the letterbox the other day I noticed a patch of bindii in the front lawn.  It's been so cold and wet that they took me by surprise, but they won't be there for long.  To rid your lawn of bindii use a solution of two tablespoons iron sulphate to four litres of water. Spray liberally. The weeds will die and your lawn should start to look lush and green, growing over the bare patch left by the dead bindii. Where gloves and old clothes as iron sulphate will stain anything it comes in contact with.

13 August 2010

Be a Label Reader

Reading the product label is the best way to find out more than what is advertised on the box. Ingredients are listed in order by the quantity actually used when making the product. The ingredients used in the highest quantity are listed first. For example, if you are looking for avocado dip you will want to see avocadoes listed in the first part of the ingredient list, not the last part.  Reading the ingredients list gives you a good idea of what you need to make that particular food item yourself too. Remember, if you are cooking and consuming at home, you don't need to fill up with preservatives and artificial food colours. If you are looking to cut fat from your diet, be careful of words such as "lite" or "fat-free" which can have broad definitions. By reading the label you can get a better idea of what the fat-to-calorie ratio is as well as other valuable nutritional information.

12 August 2010

No mess frying

A splatter guard is so handy, keeping splashes and splatters to a minimum when you are frying. If you don't have one you can use a large strainer. Simply place it top down over the cooking food. Just be sure that it is metal and has metal mesh, and not plastic.

11 August 2010

Charity begins at home

Now more than ever before we are being asked to donate to charity - money, blankets and food are just a few of the things I've been asked to donate in recent weeks.  Part of the Cheapskate philosophy is generosity and giving. Rather than just giving ad hoc to whoever asks, choose the three or four charities that are closest to your heart and share the giving ten percent of your spending plan to them on a regular basis. You can schedule an automatic payment to make sure you don't forget them.

10 August 2010

Mum's Spaghetti and Meatballs

This is just one of the many recipes in the Recipe File. It has become a favourite with the kids and me. I love the fact that it is quick and easy and can be on the table in under 30 minutes.

500g beef mince
2 large eggs
1/3 cup minced fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs (add Italian seasoning or mixed herbs to crumbs)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
olive oil
1 jar pasta sauce
500g spaghetti

Cook spaghetti according to directions on packet. In a medium bowl, combine mince, basil, eggs, cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper until well mixed. In a large frying pan heat 1/4-inch olive oil. Roll teaspoons of meat mixture into balls, and add to hot oil in batches. Fry 3 to 4 minutes, turning until meatballs are brown. Move meatballs to a paper towel on a plate to drain when they are done. When all the meatballs are cooked, add spaghetti sauce to frypan. Put meatballs into spaghetti sauce and heat. Serve over cooked spaghetti.

Contributed by Rena, North Bayswater

09 August 2010

Easy to Use Oven Cleaner

It’s easier to clean the oven regularly than waiting until the gunk has become baked on and the shelves are enamelled, not silver. Oven cleaners are expensive, toxic and horrible to use.  Use this mixture once a month and keep on top of the gunk.

You will need:
125 ml Cloudy Ammonia
250 ml cool water

To use:
Mix in a small, heatproof bowl and place in a warm oven with the power off for 10 - 15 minutes. Wipe off gunk with a damp cloth.

07 August 2010

Wash sports stains away

It's winter and with the cold, wet weather comes winter sports and all the inground dirt on sports clothes.  To get rid of those stains rinse off loose dirt, then rub the stain with a bar of laundry soap. Then wash normally.  If the stain is persistent, soak it overnight in warm, soapy water and give it a gently rub before putting it into the washing machine.

06 August 2010

Clean nails and soft hands

To avoid fingernails getting grimy and gritty during messy work, apply some petroleum jelly or Vaseline generously all over the hands, especially under fingernails.  Then put on some cotton gloves and let the magic begin.  When you've finished your hands will be clean and soft and your nails will not have horrid, dark lines under them.

05 August 2010

Loose change from the laundry

Keep a jar in the laundry - to stash all that loose cash that floats around the bottom of the washing machine!  In our house we have a rule - if you don't empty your pockets, then any change in the bottom of the washing machine goes to the kitty.  When the jar is full, we put it into our holiday fund.

04 August 2010

Gorgeous window dressings

The difference between custom drapes and plain drapes is often nothing more than the details. One way to make plain drapes look elegant is by adding trims.  These are easily sewn or glued (use a hot glue gun) to the edge of the fabric. There are so many choices these days. Use those 40% off or free make coupons you get in the letterbox or newspaper or keep an eye out for bargains when you do your thrift shopping.  Add your own personal touch, and have elegant drapes for less.  And don't think it's hard - you can buy a pattern and instructions for making soft furnishings from your local sewing store.  Simplicity, Butterick and McCalls all have a great range if you need instructions.

03 August 2010

Beat the Fridge Fairy

How many times have you opened the fridge only to find the key ingredient for the next meal missing, stolen by the fridge fairy? To save the meal, the day and your nerves, try using red dots as a warning. Any food you want to save should have one of these attention grabbing self-sticking red dots on it before it goes into the fridge.

02 August 2010

Teach them young

Teach your children the value of saving and investing from as young an age as possible.  Let them start with their pocket money - saving 10% to start, then moving to investing as the savings grow.  Savings habits learnt young, even with just pocket money, tend to stick for a lifetime.

01 August 2010

Using Up Everything, Even Potting Mix Bags

Don't throw out your old potting mix bags. Cut to size, they make good liners for terracotta pots and planters, and if you cut a bag into strips, they make fantastic plant ties. The other thing I like to do with them is to make them into mini composting units. Just poke some holes in the bottom and sides and fill with your garden waste to begin breaking down. In fact, with a bit of imagination you could turn them into just about anything.

Contributed by Lyndall