31 October 2012

Time Makes Money

If you set aside a chunk of time and plan properly, you will reap the rewards of saving a substantial amount of money on your holiday shopping. We have all seen the ads and the flyers in our mailboxes as well as in our inboxes that tell us to shop now and save. If you stop for a moment and think about it, you will probably purchase these items anyway so why not do so now and save now?

As companies begin to vie for their share of holiday sales, these companies begin to bombard us with deals and steals. If you are like most individuals, the mere thought of spending any more money is painful. However, whether you buy that toy or electronic gizmo now or you buy it later, chances are you are still going to buy it.

Sign up at as many websites as you can stand receiving emails from – a great tip on this is to create a separate email account just for this purpose. Thereafter you can delete the account as opposed to unsubscribing to all those retailers.

30 October 2012

Roasted Beetroot In Rosemary Dijon Dressing

Beetroot doesn't always come sliced in tins, ready to put on a salad sandwich.  Whole baby beetroot are just delicious when they are roasted. If you aren't a tinned beetroot fan, try them prepared this way, they are divine and nothing like the briny tinned version.

1.5kg small beetroots
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 orange, juiced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Scrub the beetroot well and trim leaving 2cmh stem and root intact. Place beetroot in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, add all the salt and pepper, then toss together to coat well. Place beets in a shallow roasting pan or baking sheet in a single layer, put in preheated oven and roast 40 to 45 minutes or until beets are tender; remove and set aside while you prepare the dressing.

Make the dressing by putting whisking together the mustard, orange juice, sugar, and red wine vinegar in a large bowl.  When combined, keep whisking while slowly drizzling in the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Whisk until dressing thickens, then add rosemary, stir, and set aside.

Now that the beetroot are cool enough to handle rub them with paper towels to remove the skins.

Cut the beets into quarters and put them in the bowl with the dressing, then toss to combine. Let the mixture stay out at room temperature for about 30 minutes so flavours combine.

Serve at room temperature as a side dish or as a salad by spooning over mixed lettuce greens. Serves 4 to 6.

29 October 2012

Fairytale Placemats

These are so cute, and so easy to make - placemats made from old storybooks. We have dozens of storybooks, relics of the kids' early childhood. Some of them are a little worse for the wear. These were their favourites, the books that have been read and read so often that we can all still recite the stories from memory. Sadly though, some of the most loved books are really beyond being useful as books. They are falling apart, some have torn pages and others have missing pages.

These are the books that can be turned into fairytale placemats. Using pages from old books, a sheet of plain paper and a laminator you can create beautiful children's placemats. Personalize them with the child's name and give them as gifts - perhaps with a copy of the actual story.

You will need:
Pages from an old story book - make sure the pages face each other so the sentences make sense
A Stanley knife
1 sheet A 3 craft paper
Glue dots
1 A3 laminating sheet

Step 1.  Select the two pages that you want on your placemat.  Carefully cut them out using a Stanley knife. Make sure to cut right down the binding so that you don’t lose any of your picture. Trim the edges to make them even.

Step 2.  On the piece of A3 paper, add a border and the child's name. You can do the design on the computer and have it printed at an office supply store or print shop, but that will cost a few dollars. Use stencils and stickers to create a suitable design yourself.

Step 3.  Centre the storybook pages in the centre of the design. When you have them exactly right, use a drop of glue or a glue tab in each corner to hold them in place on the paper.

Step 4.  Place the paper in the laminating sheets and run them through the laminator.

Don't have a laminator? That's OK, print shops and office supply stores will laminate an A3 sheet for just a couple of dollars. 

Don't want to go out? DIY laminating is easy - just lay your sheets between two layers of clear contact, sticky sides together and gently press down. Then put the laminated sheet on a firm surface and run over it with a rolling pin.

If you don't have a large sheet of card or paper, just laminate the storybook pages. They look just as cute and kids will love them.

26 October 2012

Easy Clean Concrete

At the end of winter, concrete paths, terraces and driveways can often be stained by winter mold, leaves and moss. An easy way to clean them is to sprinkle them with old fashioned Ajax powder (yes, you can still get it), dampen with the hose and scrub with a stiff yard broom. Let it sit for a few hours and rinse for nice clean concrete.

25 October 2012

Energize Your Body Wash

Add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to your bottle of body wash. The vinegar will help remove soap residue and make your skin silky soft. After you add the vinegar, give the bottle a good shake to make sure it is completely mixed through.  While you have the vinegar bottle out, add 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of bicarb soda to 2 cups of hot water and wash your shower puffs and sponges in the solution to clean and freshen them.

24 October 2012

The Emergency Only Credit Card

If you like to carry a credit card with you all the time for emergencies, but find yourself tempted to use it for spontaneous purchases try this little trick. Get a small envelope. Take a red pen and on the front write "FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY" in big letters. Underneath write "If I don't have the cash, I can't afford it".  Slip the credit card in the envelope, seal it and put it at the back of your purse or wallet.  When you are tempted to use that emergency card for anything other than a real emergency you'll see the warning, in your own handwriting and hopefully it will be enough to encourage you to put the envelope away.

23 October 2012

Island Grilled Chicken

1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup pineapple juice
3 tbsp diced red capsicum
1 small chili, finely diced
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 small onion, diced
1kg chicken pieces

Place all ingredients, including chicken in a large ziploc bag.  Seal and put in refrigerator overnight. When ready to cook, preheat barbecue to medium.
Take chicken out of marinade and place, skin side down, on barbecue grates on indirect heat; close lid. When the skin crisps, turn and grill until meat is cooked through; about 15 to 25 minutes depending on the cuts of chicken.

22 October 2012

Simple Christmas Baubles

You can make really pretty and unique baubles for your Christmas tree with just sewing thread, paperclips and two or three different, recycled gaudy necklaces made of large beads.  Just string one large bead with two, three or five large ones and use a paperclip to hang them on the Christmas tree. You'll find a wonderful assortment of necklaces at any op shop for just $1 or $2 each and you'll get a lot of ornaments from one necklace.

19 October 2012

When to Buy Small Appliances

Timing your purchases can save you up to 50% (or more) off the ticketed price of small appliance. Late April/early May is a good time to buy kitchen and beauty appliances, as they are often on sale for Mother's Day. The same applies to late August/early September for garden tool and hardware as they come on sale in time for Father's Day.  November and December you will find appliances on sale for Christmas.  There are plenty of chances to buy on sale and save, so put off buying that appliance until the sale cycle comes around if you possibly can.

18 October 2012

Throw a Christmas Party on a Shoestring

Everyone wants to make merry during the holidays. But, you don’t have to break the bank to have a good time. Want to save on money? Start planning your party now (if you haven't already) and try these frugal party ideas for a fabulous party.

Whether you are hosting the party in your home or at an outside venue, the name of the game is “fabulous.” And you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give your guests that feeling. You’d be surprised how a little can go a long way.

Send email invitations.  Want to invite people to your Christmas party? Create a catchy invitation online to let everyone know when and where. There are free programs such as Evite to invite your guests. If you are brave enough create an event on Facebook!

Decorate your place.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot to decorate your home. And with these party ideas, you can keep the decorations in place to enjoy yourself for the rest of the holiday season. Here are some tips: Fill clear plastic bowls with large Christmas ornaments ($5 a pack from discount stores). Add a string of battery powered lights ($2 at discount stores) to jars of potpourri for a bright aromatic decoration. Use gold spray paint to add a bit of bling to gumnuts and pine cones and pile them in the centre of your table. 

Have an afternoon affair.  Somewhere between lunch and dinner, say 2.30 pm to 4 pm, invite friends to come over and celebrate the holidays with a beautiful afternoon tea. Set your table with appetizers. Because they've already had lunch and dinner is coming up, people will eat less. Also, mingling means that they will graze a little but not get too full.

Visit the party supply store.  Plastic drink cups that look great for your party don’t cost a lot when bought in bulk and they can be washed and put away for future parties, you don't need to throw them out. Plastic "glassware" means breakages don't matter and you and your guests can relax. One bag of seasonal confetti can cover your entire food and drink table and costs around $2.50!

Create your own mini meal creations.  Everything doesn’t have to be made from scratch. Take some crackers and top with pepperoni and a sliced olive. Buy a slab chocolate cake and decorate with festive coloured icing and sprinkles. Buy a bulk bag of nuts and spice them yourself.

Make party favours for your guests.  This doesn’t have to be hard or expensive either. Give everyone a souvenir from your party by decorating plastic wine glasses or water goblets with glass safe acrylic paints. Fill each with a simple ornament and ribbon streamers. Decorate glass votive holders and add an aromatic candle to each.

Bring out the CDs.  No need for an expensive DJ. Spin a few Christmas CDs. Get a karaoke game going.

Fun doesn’t have to be expensive? Use any one or more of these ideas for a Christmas Party your guests will remember.

17 October 2012

The Top Seven Money-Saving Mistakes - Part 7

Is it possible to make mistakes in saving money? Unfortunately yes, it is. The good news is we can learn from the mistakes of others and apply them to our own situations. This is Part Three in the Finance Tip of the Day series covering the seven money saving mistakes.

The Long Term
Don't make the mistake of putting your money where "introductory rates" sound good. Nothing lasts forever, and after a short time, those rates will change. Some promotional deals are excellent - the key is to do your homework and find out what the promotional deal really involves in the long run. For instance, a promotional mortgage rate that's rock-bottom low may sound great, but only if it's fixed-rate for the long term would it be worth it. 

16 October 2012

Night Before Apricot Breakfast Muffins

Doing the prep work for these delicious and healthy muffins the night before saves the measuring and mess in the morning.  Just combine wet and dry ingredients, pour and bake and breakfast is done! Piping hot, fresh muffins in around 25 minutes.

3/4 cup wholemeal flour (I use spelt)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1 tbsp flax seed
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup buttermilk

Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Cover and set aside until morning.  Mix wet ingredients and store, covered, in the fridge until the morning. At breakfast time, pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.  Combine the wet and the dry ingredients, and stir just until blended. Pour mixture into greased 6 cup muffin tin, sprinkle a few oats over the top and bake for about 20 minutes.

15 October 2012

Make a Crunchy Caterpillar

You don't need to buy the latest toy, that requires batteries, and not imagination, to keep baby happy. This caterpillar will keep little ones happy and amused for hours and it costs almost nothing to make. Best of all, because it's so easy and frugal, when it gets grotty, make a new one!

You will need:

Brightly coloured tights - baby, child or adult depending on how big you want your caterpillar to be.
1 packet of cellophane
1m narrow ribbon in a contrasting colour
Sharp scissors

Step 1. If you are using old tights, make sure they are washed and clean.

Step 2.
Snip off  one leg. If using baby tights cut the leg off at the top. If you are using children's or adult's tights, cut them off 45cm or 75cm above the toe.

Step 3. Cut the packet of cellophane into 5 strips. Unfold each strip and scrunch it loosely. Stuff the 5 strips into the stocking. Tie a knot in the end.

Step 4.
Cut the ribbon into 20cm lengths. Tie a piece of ribbon between each ball of cellophane. Secure ribbon with a double knot.

Step 5. Name your bug and give it to baby to play.

12 October 2012

Don't Get Sucked into the Sale!

So often when I see a bargain I am tempted to buy two or more of the great buy. At this point it is important to stop and think about how much money I was planning on spending on this item. If this amount is less than what I am about to spend for this fantastic buy then I need to put the extras down so that I don't blow my budget. I need to remember that the shops are trying to get me to blow my budget and spend, spend, spend; they are not ultimately interested in me getting a good buy, but in me spending my money. Also, I find it helpful to remember that there will always be another sale, this is not my only chance to get a fantastic buy. Don't let the sale suck you in and lose all sense of reason, stop and think about your choices before you get to the checkout!
Contributed by Ashleigh Holmes

11 October 2012

A 15 Minute Emergency Kitchen Clean-up

How many times have you had a call from friends or your mother-in-law, checking to see if you were home so they could come over in just a few minutes, but your kitchen was a mess and you don’t feel comfortable with them seeing it like that? Sometimes I think the only time we get visitors is when the house is trashed!  Here are some tips to help you organize your kitchen in a matter of minutes.

1.  If you have a dishwasher full of clean dishes, leave it. Stack the dirty ones neatly in the sink, as if you were just about to unload it, otherwise, place the dirty dishes in the dishwasher…even if it’s not neatly, for now.

2.  Instead of sweeping with a broom and dustpan, vacuum your kitchen floor. It will pick up the dust, crumbs and dog hair much quicker than sweeping.

3.  Spot clean your benchtops with a microfibre cloth and Miracle Spray. If you’re out the wet cloth and elbow grease will do. Also wipe down the front of the microwave, stove and fridge.

6. If you have other clutter lying around, pitch what you can. If it’s dishes, stack them neatly, as if they’re supposed to go on the bench, or fill them with fruit and use as a decoration. If you have cupboard space, quickly place any items in there you don’t know what to do with for now.

7.  If your rubbish bin sits out in the open, empty it and replace with a new bag.

8.  Quickly spray your home with a nice air freshener. A nice scent when entering the home is always a good first impression and tricks your brain into thinking “clean”.

Once the unexpected guest has left, then you get to take the necessary time to put things away properly.

10 October 2012

The Top Seven Money-Saving Mistakes - Part 6

Is it possible to make mistakes in saving money? Unfortunately yes, it is. The good news is we can learn from the mistakes of others and apply them to our own situations. This is Part Six in the Finance Tip of the Day series covering the seven money saving mistakes.

Savings Follow Income
Another mistake to avoid is to keep your savings at the same level even if your income and standard of living go up. If those things go up, so should your savings.  A good rule of thumb is if you get a 5% increase in pay, then your savings get a 5% increase. In other words, how much your pay goes up, your savings go up.  This keeps your level of saving on par with your income and stops you from falling behind with your saving goal.

09 October 2012

Tangy Garlic Kale And Onion

Kale is becoming more popular as a vegetable and that's a great thing. Full of vitamins and minerals, it's easy to grown and tasty too. Use it in place of silverbeet to boost the  good food intake for your family.

5 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 medium red onions, sliced in circles, then in half
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2kg fresh kale, stems removed, cut in strips, washed and dried well
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 to 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy fry pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and just beginning to brown a little; remove from pan and set aside. Reduce the heat under the fry pan to medium-low, add the garlic, cooking just until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes; remove from pan and save with onion. Add the remaining oil and turn the heat back up to medium-high, then add the kale and cook, stirring frequently, until the kale just wilts. Add the cooked onion and garlic, then the salt and pepper. Reduce the heat again to medium-low and continue cooking, tossing the mixture occasionally, until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the balsamic vinegar into the mixture just before serving, toss and serve hot as a side dish for grilled, roasted, or barbecued meat, poultry, or fish. Serves 4.

08 October 2012

Make a Simple Bird Feeder

If your garden is full of birds (lucky you), keep them out of your garden by providing them with easy food.  You can recycle an empty soft drink bottle into a bird feeder in minutes. Hang it in a tree and watch the birds abandon your precious seedlings!

You will need:
1 empty soft drink bottle (size doesn't matter)
4 wooden spoons (again, size doesn't matter)
60cm wire
Bird seed (I use wild bird seed, from the supermarket)

Step 1. Poke three holes in the bottle, staggered around the width and down the length.

Step 2. Insert the handle of a wooden spoon into the first hole. Push it right in until it touches the other side of the bottle. Insert the other 3 spoons in the same manner.

Step 3. Fold the wire in half to form a loop. Twist the ends together for 2cm.

Step 4. Wrap the loop around the neck of the bottle and twist it tight, to form a hanger.

Step 5. Hang the bottle from a tree branch by the loop.

Step 6. Put some bird seed in the bowl of each spoon.

Step 7. Go inside, get out your binoculars and watch the birds have fun.

05 October 2012

Tactics to Accurately Track Your Spending

The first step to saving money is to know how much money you have to work with. Now, that doesn’t just mean how much money you make each month.  You also need to know how much you spend and what you spend it on.

Ask any expert (or me!) how to create a realistic and effective budget and they’ll tell you to first track your spending.

This is a big job, right? I mean you probably spend money every day. How do you track it all?

Here are a few tips and trick to accurately track your spending:

1. Keep all your receipts. Keeping your receipts is easy. Keeping them organized and recording the information isn’t as easy. Keep all of your receipts and file them at the end of each day or the end of each week. A simple expanding file folder will help you keep them organized.

At the end of the month calculate how much you spent on various categories. For example, how much did you spend on eating out? How much did you spend on groceries? How much did you spend on health care or pets?

2. Online bill pay. One of the challenges to tracking all your information is that you have cheques, ATM withdrawals, debit card charges, credit card charges and cash to track. Simplify it by eliminating some of your payment methods. Online bill pay is a great way to eliminate the need for cheques or standing in queues at the Post Office. It also helps you pay all of your bills on time (and helps with the budgeting too). Then much of your spending will be accounted for on your bank statement.

3. Embrace technology. This one could be a challenge for some people. There are many tools you can use to organize your expenses. For example, there are scanning and software devices. You can use an application for your mobile device. You can also use a personal accounting software program to help you track everything.

The key to tracking your expenses ultimately lies in your ability to follow through and create a system that works for you. Once you know how much you spend and what you spend it on you can begin to make adjustments. You can begin to save more money and achieve your financial goals and dreams.

04 October 2012

Cleaning Feather or Feather/Down Quilts

These can, indeed, be washed rather than dry cleaned and now is the ideal time to do this chore before you put quilts away for the summer.

Any stains, such as the grime on the cuffs of a jacket, should be spot-cleaned with a pre-wash treatment (such as the Cheapskates Stain Removing Soap) then rinsed with water.

Wash the item in the washing machine on the gentle cycle with 3 teaspoons of Cheapskates Washing Powder and 1/2 cup white vinegar in the rinse. The key is to ensure the down is rinsed extremely well so run an extra rinse cycle, then a gently spin.

Take the quilt and put it in the dryer rather than line drying (I know, I can hardly believe I'm telling you this either). This allows the feathers to plump up again. Place large knotted towels or tennis balls in the dryer to help fluff the down.

The only caution is if the item has weak seams or fragile fabric it could "explode" and leave you with a dryer full of feathers. Go over your quilt or jacket carefully before you attempt to wash it. If there is any doubt about the stitching or the fabric then reconsider - if you are prepared to risk a mess, go ahead. If not, pay for it to be professionally cleaned.

If there are stains remaining, place it (on a blanket) outside in full sunshine for a day or two. This often helps. If not, at least your doona will have that outdoor fresh smell.

03 October 2012

The Top Seven Money-Saving Mistakes - Part 4

Is it possible to make mistakes in saving money? Unfortunately yes, it is. The good news is we can learn from the mistakes of others and apply them to our own situations. This is Part Three in the Finance Tip of the Day series covering the seven money saving mistakes.

Money Saving Mistake No. 4: Random Saving

It's good to have savings goals. It can be a mistake to save randomly. Goalless saving also makes dipping into your savings for frivolous reasons a bit too tempting. Goals help you keep your hands off the savings unless it's really necessary.

Some tips for goal setting:

Choose one thing you can do to help your family finances, and set a realistic goal.

Make your goals as specific as possible. Break large goals down into smaller, more achievable goals. Remember, from little things big things grow - accomplish the small goals one at a time and it will be easy to accomplish the big goal.

Write your goals down and put them where you will see them often - on the fridge or the bathroom mirror or on a business card in your purse.

Become accountable. Choose someone you can report to, this will help to keep you on track. If you have to tell them whether or not you are on track, you are more likely to stay focused. The Member forum is perfect for this.

02 October 2012

Old Fashioned Pot Roast

2 tbsp oil
1 beef chuck roast - about 1.5kg
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry red wine
4 cups beef stock
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp fresh black pepper
8 small red potatoes, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled, quartered
4 carrots, peeled, coarse cut
2 small turnips, peeled, quartered
2 small parsnips, peeled, coarse cut
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius. In a large Dutch oven or other oven-safe big pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the beef chuck roast and cook on both sides until browned very well. Remove the beef from the Dutch oven and set aside. Add the onion, rosemary and bay leaves to the Dutch oven and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for about 2 to 3 minutes or until herbs are fragrant. With the heat still on, add the wine and stir, loosening the brown bits.  Continue cooking and stirring until the liquid thickens and reduces. Pour in the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce and bring back to a simmer. Add the black pepper, then lay the roast in the Dutch oven and put the cover on. Bring to a boil. Put the Dutch oven in the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Remove and add the potatoes, onion, carrots, turnips, and parsnips; check the liquid and add more stock if necessary (there needs to be enough liquid to cook the vegetables and make a gravy) put cover back on and return to oven and continue cooking for 30 minutes more, or until the veggies are fork tender.

To serve: Remove the beef roast and vegetables from the Dutch oven and set aside, covering to keep warm. Add the dill and parsley to the Dutch oven, taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Warm through. Serve plates with meat, vegetables alongside, and spoon the sauce from the Dutch oven over everything.

01 October 2012

Create a Message Centre

In a busy household keeping track of who is where can be downright hard. This simple message centre can be made in just a few minutes and provides the perfect place for scribbling messages to keep track of who is going to be home for dinner or who has gone where. You could even use it to keep a running shopping list or a "honey do" list.

I made this one from an old picture frame where the glass had broken, a tin of spray craft paint (because I didn't like the colour of the frame) and a spray tin of blackboard paint. I stuck sticky magnetic tape along the top and bottom edges on the back so it would stick to the fridge and stapled a length of string to the bottom righthand corner to hold the chalk.

You will need:
A photo frame - choose the size that suits your needs
Craft paint for the frame if you don't like the colour
Spray blackboard paint, available from craft shops and hardware stores

Step 1. Take the frame apart. If it has glass in it, remove it and dispose of it safely. Remove the backing from the frame.

Step 2. The backing will become the blackboard, so give it a light sand to remove any rough spots if necessary. Wipe over with a damp cloth.

Step 3. If you are going to paint the frame, do so now and put it aside to dry.

Step 4. This is best done outside.  Place the frame backing onto a sheet of newspaper, right side up. Give the blackboard paint a good shake. Lightly paint the backing board according to the directions on the can. Set aside to dry thoroughly.  Check to see if it needs another coat of paint.

Step 5. When the frame and backing are dry, reassemble them. You can decorate the blackboard with stickers or wooden embellishments if desired.

Step 6. Cut lengths of magnetic tape to fit the top and bottom edges of the frame and attach.

Step 7. Measure out 60cm of string or cord and staple it to the bottom right hand corner of the frame. Tie a piece of chalk to the loose end of the string.

Hang your message centre on your fridge.