30 November 2010

Christmas Truffles

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.

29 November 2010

Beautiful designer Christmas baubles

Decorated baubles for the Christmas tree, either glass or plastic, are quick and easy to make. You can get boxes of twelve plain baubles in all colours from discount shops. Depending on the size they range in price from $2 - $7 for twelve.  Decorate with stickers and decals rather than paints. Use sheets of gold, silver and rainbow coloured stickers ($2.95/sheet) Each sheet does at least the twelve baubles, if not more. If you choose a coloured ball all you need to do is stick on your Merry Christmas decal. Add the year in glitter glue is a coordinating colour under the Merry Christmas. Or use double sided tape wrapped around the bauble lengthways and then sprinkled with fine glitter in gold, silver or a coordinating colour. You can make these personalized and unique baubles for around 65c each and they make lovely gifts wrapped in cellophane and tied with curling ribbon.

28 November 2010

A simple, economical flea shampoo that works

Keep fleas away and your dog healthy and comfortable with this dog wash mix. Mix one part Dettol, two parts dishwashing liquid and three parts water together. Store in a labelled bottle for future use. To use, thoroughly wet your dog's coat and then use enough of the mixture to get a good lather. Massage in well, and rinse off thoroughly.

27 November 2010

Old fashioned games

These are great for a really hot day when the kids can't play outside or on those really, long and boring wet days.

  • Dominoes
  • Old Maid
  • Snap
  • Draughts
  • Charades - they love acting out the answers to this one
  • Monopoly
  • Scrabble

Try playing a marathon with any or all of these games and see who the family game champion is.

26 November 2010

Successful price negotiating

When you're looking to negotiate a bargain basement price for that item you want, there are some simple things you can do to for a successful outcome:

  • Be friendly, not aggressive or grumpy
  • Get the salesperson on side (tell a chatty story for instance)
  • Tell them your budget range
  • Ask if they guarantee their prices
  • Mention that you are a loyal customer (I always tell them I must own the company with the amount of shopping done at their store)
  • Offer to pay cash
  • Be prepared to buy when your deal goes through
  • Be discreet!

25 November 2010

Budget All Purpose Cleaner

Buy a 1-litre no frills shampoo from a local not-quite-right or two-dollar shop for use in the bathroom. It will cost around $1.99 and last for months.  Dilute it 50 - 50 with water and use this mixture to clean baths, basins, showers, floors, woodwork, doors and the toilet. You'll find it easily lifts grease and grimy soap sludge and as a bonus your bathroom will have a lovely scent too.

24 November 2010

Be a great money manager - change your attitude

I haven't always been great at budgeting and saving. A family crisis changed my attitude and put me on the path to a debt-free life and a secure financial future.

If your goal is financial freedom and control of your money, there are five characteristics you need to develop:
1.Paying  your bills when they are due
2.Ensuring your assets exceed your liabilities
3.Not incurring any new debt
4.Sticking to your Payment Push to reduce debt

5.Being content with what you have right now and saving for what you want in the future.

23 November 2010

Sun Dried Tomato Dip

Try this simple but very tasty dip next time you have company over, it's just delicious.

250g tub spreadable cream cheese or 250g block cream cheese that has been softened
250ml sour cream
100g sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced (white and green)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
Salt and black pepper to taste

Beat cream cheese and sour cream together. Stir in sun dried tomatoes, green onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Chill in refrigerator before serving. Serve with pita chips.

22 November 2010

Christmas Card Tree Ball

This is a lovely way to use last year's Christmas cards to decorate this year's tree and it's simple, quick and so easy a child can do it.

You will need:

Last year's Christmas cards
Coloured paper fasteners (from a stationers, the are the type the split-pin type)
Coloured string or fishing line

Using last years Christmas cards, cut the fronts off. Cut each front into between 10 and 20 narrow strips. The width and number of strips will determine the spacing between each strip on the ball.

Stack the strips on top of each other and punch a hole through each end with a hole punch. If the pile is too thick, do a few strips at a time, making sure to line up the hole.

Once they have all been punched, insert a paper pin through each end and open out. Spread the strips evenly around the pin so they form a ball. Gently press the ball down between your hands to give it a rounded shape.

To hang, tie some coloured thread or fishing line under the head of one of the paper pins, knotting it tightly so it doesn't come undone.

21 November 2010

Paw it forward

If your beloved pet is a rescued, former pound puppy or kitten, occasionally buy an extra bag of treats or a toy or bed and donate it to the shelter where you found your pet. If you're not sure what to get, give them a call and ask, they will have a list of things they need. Old blankets and quilts and sheeting are also always needed. Just remember, if it's already full of holes and you think it's useless, then it probably is just good for rags. Don't use donating as a way to dump rubbish. It's a nice way to help other animals and their carers, and it doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming.

20 November 2010

Have an emergency gift stash

Sometimes invitations to parties, dinners etc are spontaneous or arrive at the last minute, leaving you no time to shop for a gift. Rather than having to run out and pay full price for something, buy gifts specifically to be used in such emergencies at sales throughout the year.  If you choose fairly generic and practical items you'll be able to use them yourself if they are not gifted in a reasonable time. Things like wine, nice books (buy from book club or any of the book retailers during their sales) or gourmet type jams and sauces are ideal. To build a small stash of gifts suitable for children look for coloured pencils, textas and pens, packs of coloured paper, small craft sets, hair accessories, DVDs on sale etc.  If you don't have children who will use these things if they are not gifted they can be donated to your local charity op shop. Clean your gift stash out once a year to make sure you're not holding onto anything out of date or stale.

19 November 2010

Make a deal

The age old art of haggling seems to have been lost in our day-to-day shopping. Somehow, somewhere we stopped asking for the best deal and it is costing us all money. Shopkeepers have to make money to stay in business, but depending on the items the mark-up can be up to 200 per cent. This means that often there is a reasonable profit margin and for those who ask, they can receive discounts and bargain prices for the goods and services they want to buy. You wouldn't buy a house without making an offer so why buy anything else? Remember, it's just a question and the worst thing that can happen in the seller says "no" and you walk away.

17 November 2010

Make some withdrawal rules

1. Decide on a minimum amount of cash you need for the week
2. Withdraw that amount on Monday and do not make another cash withdrawal until the following Monday.
3. If something important comes up, use your credit or debit card if you absolutely have to - just remember that  you have to pay that bill in full at the end of the month.
4. Keep saving for your goals. Every little bit adds up. When you get a windfall - for example a tax refund or a bonus at work - add it to your savings (after you have a fully funded emergency fund and are debt free of course!).

16 November 2010

Easy Rocky Road

With only five and a half weeks until Christmas, it's not too early to start planning for those homemade, edible gifts. This Easy Rocky Road looks fabulous broken into chunks and wrapped in clear cellophane, tied with red, green and silver curling ribbons.

500g chocolate (milk or dark)
1pkt raspberries (the jube-type lolly)
1 cup mini marshmallows - choose the coloured ones
1 cup chopped nuts - your choice of walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, peanuts

Butter a lamington tray. Melt chocolate. Stir in mini marshmallows and chopped nuts. Spoon into lamington tray. Mark into squares. Set in fridge.

15 November 2010

Keep Kitty healthy and happy with this homemade dinner

I am often asked for a recipe for cat food so when you feel like spoiling your kitty a little, try this feline delight.

1 cup water
1/3 cup raw brown rice
2 tsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup ground turkey* or chicken
2 tbsp chopped liver (lambs fry)

Bring the water to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. Stir in the rice and oil and reduce the heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.  Add the ground turkey and chopped liver and continue to cook for another 20 minutes. Cool before dishing up to your cat.

*Turkey is becoming more and more readily available in most supermarkets. Look for the purple trays in the poultry/meat cabinet. Also ask at the deli counter for any scraps, sometimes they will sell them in bags for around $2 each.

14 November 2010

Starting a garden on a budget

If you are thinking of starting a garden for the first time, go slowly. Think about what you want to do, where the beds will go and what you want to grow. Do some planning and research before you rush out and start buying. It is very easy when you first start to be sold lots of things you may not need or even use. Instead talk to experienced gardeners, read the Gardening Tip Store and get online. Learn about your climate zone and the soil quality in your area and you'll find what works and what doesn't, avoiding costly mistakes. Just because the garden centre is selling a particular plant does not mean it will do well in your area. Enthusiasm is good, spending money for nothing isn't.

13 November 2010

Save eating out for a special occasion

When you fall into the habit of eating out often you tend to lose the enjoyment of the occasion. It becomes just another humdrum experience. Don't just go out for dinner. Great restaurants don't have to be expensive either. One of our favourite restaurants serves the best steak I have ever eaten accompanied by fantastic homemade chips and salad. We visit two or three times a year with friends and the four of us can have dinner and drinks for around $80.  Save up and enjoy the anticipation of a special experience that creates memories for years to come.

12 November 2010

Small appliance investment

Most kitchens are full of appliances and tools bought on a whim, or given as "useful" gifts.  Before buying any new appliances, big or small, for your kitchen consider carefully whether it will be used to it's full potential.  Think about your family's eating habits and your cooking habits and plan your appliance purchases around them. A yoghurt maker is wasted on the family who would never eat it, giving it a cost per use of it's full price. But it may well be ideal for the family who goes through two or three litres of yoghurt each week, bringing the cost per use down to just cents, making it a worthwhile investment.   Handy though appliances may seem, think carefully before you part with your cash or they may just end up taking up bench space as wasted money.

11 November 2010

Easy clean lampshades

A soft, natural bristle paintbrush, kept just for this purpose, works sonders on lampshades. Be sure never to use this brush for any other purpose. Always brush from the top to the bottom of the shade. A weekly dusting will keep your lampshades looking brand-new for years and years. And while you have the brush handy, give the light globe a quick dust too. It will shine much brighter if it's not covered in dust.

From Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing

10 November 2010

Visit manufacturer websites

Don't forget to visit the manufacturer websites of brands you buy regularly for promotions, free samples, special offers and discount coupons. If they have a mailing list sign up for early notification of upcoming specials, newsletter only special offers etc .

09 November 2010

Tabbouli Salad

This is a lovely, light salad, just perfect for these mild spring days. Serve it with grilled stead or chicken or on it's own with chunks of bread.

1 cup chicken stock
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup couscous
2 cups chopped mixed fresh veggies (tomato, cucumber, grated carrot, broccoli florets etc)
1 spring onion, finely sliced including some of the green
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
3 tbsp lime juice, fresh with grated lime zest (zest is optional)
1 tsp chilli powder (more or less to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce pan bring stock to a boil and slowly add eggs while whisking continuously. Cook until eggs are set. Remove from heat and stir in couscous – let stand 5 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients and toss with couscous mixture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve or at least 30 minutes.

07 November 2010

Share the bounty and cut the costs

When you buy a packet of seeds, you'll almost always end up with more than you need. Instead of storing them until next planting season, share them with others by having a seed exchange.  You could also include garden equipment with members of the exchange, sharing the cost amongst everyone.  Then you can share the harvest, keeping gardening costs down for everyone.

06 November 2010

Herbal tea anyone?

Tea drinking has had a resurgence in recent years, with herbal teas being more popular than ever before. Tea boutiques have sprung up all over the country, selling delightfully packaged flavoured teas, which might lead you to believe that tea-blending is some kind of science, requiring years of practise and study. Herbal tea is, literally, just a concoction of dried herbs steeped in hot water.  Whether you use your own home-grown herbs or supplement them with some you have bought, you can easily make your own herbal tea blends. Simply combine equal quantities of each ingredient, adjusting to taste. To make them giftable, present them in a small jar with a gift tag and a tea ball.  Some delicious blends are:

Rosemary and lavender
Dried orange or lemon zest and aniseed
Hibiscus petals, rose hips and lemon verbena
Lavender flowers, rosemary, lemon balm, spearmint and cloves
Dried lemon zest and ginger

05 November 2010

Keep them apart

Ethylene is a natural gas emitted by fruits and vegetables and aids in the ripening process.  It can also lead to spoilage too. Fruits generally give off more ethylene than vegetables, which are more sensitive to it.

Ethylene producing fruits and vegetables are apricots, avocadoes, bananas, cantaloupes, honeydew melons, kiwi fruit, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pawpaw, pears, plums and tomatoes.

Ethylene sensitive fruits and vegetables are apples, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, egg plant, green beans, lettuce and other salad greens, potatoes, zucchini and watermelons.

Store your fruits and vegetables in separate crisper drawers or veggie containers to keep them fresher longer.

04 November 2010

This is Exactly what an Emergency Fund is for!

So often new Cheapskates ask why they need to have an emergency fund when they still have debt. They don't see the necessity for it.

Well, this morning as I was taking Hannah to school I could smell a strange odour. Now the kids laugh at me when I tell them I can smell something strange, because I am always sniffing at "strange" odours in the house or the car or the garden or wherever we are, so I kept my mouth shut.

Until we were stopped at a level crossing and the odour was stronger and then I heard the noise - a gentle hissing sound. Off went the radio and down went my window. Yes, I could definitely hear something. And then as I turned my head the temperature gauge almost blew it's needle off!

To cut a long story short (I could tell you all about the frantic phone call to Wayne, the 35 minute wait for the RACV - he was so nice and very helpful, learning to use my mobile to find a phone number, driving to the radiator place and getting the bus home) two hoses from the radiator to the heater core had split and drained the radiator - onto my feet!

There were a couple of frantic phone calls while Mark (the mechanic) figured out what the problem was and when he could fix it. Thankfully he was able to fix it for me today, we picked the car up when Wayne came home from work. Best of all, because we have an emergency fund, we were able to pay for the repairs immediately, without resorting to credit and going into debt.

When you are carrying debt and don't have an emergency fund, when life happens, and it will, you'll have to resort to credit to get through, and you'll be right back where you started, in debt, paying it off and adding interest too. An emergency fund, no matter how small, helps you avoid the debt trap. When disaster strikes you can cope with the help of your emergency fund. You won't need to resort to credit and your debt load won't increase at all.

So that's why you need an emergency fund, even while you are paying off debt. Because life is uncertain and you never know when you're going to blow a couple of heater hoses (or worse) and need to pay for them.

A DIY Instant facelift

Everyone likes to look their best all the time, but there are the odd extra special occasions when looking better than ever before is important. You can give yourself an almost instant facelift, at home in your own bathroom. All you need to do is beat an egg white with a fork until it is frothy. Then apply it to your face and throat, avoiding your eye area. Leave it for five minutes. During this time the mask will tighten, you'll be able to feel it happening. Rinse off thoroughly with warm water, followed by a cool water splash. Not quite Botox, but it's cheaper and it works!

03 November 2010

Control impulse spending

It can be very easy to overspend, especially when using a credit card, but these three simple tips will help you control those urges to "put it on the card":

1.Think about the real cost of what you are buying - how many hours will you need to work to pay for what you are buying? If you can't pay it when the balance is due, how long will it take and how much more will it cost you?

2.Before you buy it, think about where you are going to put it and how often you are going to use it . If you can't think of where to put it or will only use it once don't buy it.

3.Use cash. Withdraw the cash you need for the week and use that for all your shopping. Once it's gone, you can't get anymore until next week. To stop impulse buying, leave your credit cards at home.

02 November 2010

Chocolate Peanut Slice

1 pkt Anzac biscuits (or 200g homemade)
125g butter
375g milk chocolate
150g smooth peanut butter

Line a slice tray with baking paper. Roughly crush Anzac biscuits with a rolling pin. Place butter, broken chocolate and peanut butter in a microwave safe dish and cook on high 1 minute. Stir to combine. Continue cooking in 30 second bursts, stirring well between each one, until everything is melted and well combined. Stir in the crushed biscuits  Pour into a lamington tray lined with baking paper and place into the fridge for 30 minutes to set. Cut into small slices to serve.