30 November 2013

How One Person with a Small Voice Can Change the World

Those who know me personally know that I am naturally quiet. I don't go around all day preaching my beliefs about frugal living or the environment or food security or financial responsibility or even just responsibility or the lack thereof.

I can't be the person who turns a blind eye, accepting without question everything I'm told, that the economy isn't really struggling, that global warming is just a whole lot of propaganda spread by greenies, that the things that are happening in this world aren't really happening.

Until someone says something or something happens and then I know I can't just sit back and say or do nothing. I am just one person, with one small voice, and perhaps on my own I can't make huge changes, but I can encourage others to make a stand for what's right and true.

I believe that even though I am just one person, I have the ability to make a difference in my children's' lives, to make the future a little better and a little easier for them. I believe that I've been given a gift in the Cheapskates Club where I can spread the word about living the Cheapskates way. 

And so I talk about what I am cooking and share what is growing in the garden, how my family is living, where I've found great bargains, the things that we enjoy and sometimes even the things I think are just plain ridiculous. I speak up when I think someone could be saving money or time or energy by changing their attitude or actions. I talk to the people around me.

Just about every time I go out, whether it's just to the Post Office or the bank or shopping or for lunch with friends (yes, even I splurge on lunch out occasionally) the conversation will turn to frugal living or affordability or budgets and I sit and nod, throwing in the odd comment here and there.  It seems that everyone desperately wants to save money or time or energy and so I share the few changes I made way back when that started this crazy journey and leave hoping that perhaps my words have been just the incentive they needed to make better choices for themselves and their families.

I don't wear rose coloured glasses. I know that the world will never be populated just by Cheapskates and that's OK. We are all individuals with the ability to make choices for ourselves (yes, you can make up your own mind, you don't need to be told what to think or believe). I just want to encourage everyone to take back the responsibility for the way they live and make their own choices based on their personal needs and wants. 

To be more aware of the things that are really important to them, and the things they do because "everyone does it" or "everyone has one" or "everyone goes there". To realise that to be truly happy and content, whether they live the Cheapskates way or not, they need to be true to themselves and ditch the unimportant stuff, that they don't have to play "keeping up with the Joneses".

I want to encourage everyone to explore new options and realize just how many good choices there are for them. 

And most importantly I want to encourage them to spread the word and share this thinking with the folk around them. To encourage others to change their thinking, to ditch the things that aren't important to them so they can enjoy the things that are.

Share what you believe in. Stand for something. Take back responsibility. Let others hear your small voice.

And one small voice by one small voice, we can change the world.

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29 November 2013

Two interesting articles you may be interested in

In my day-to-day research for Cheapskates I come across all kinds of interesting websites, blogs, articles and so on.

Today I came across two that I thought you might be interested in - one about Thanksgiving, which we could translate to the way we celebrate Christmas and the other on a blog I love to read, Vegetable Vagabond, about a rather unique business based in Tasmania.

Worlds Most Expensive Thanksgiving

Re-inventing the art of sock making, in Tasmania

Have a nice weekend everyone.

28 November 2013

Do It Yourself Household Cleaning Solutions

As I was whizzing through the checkout at my local supermarket recently I was astounded to hear the fellow on the checkout telling the lady in front of me that she must have the cleanest house around because she had so many different cleaning products in her trolley.

She had a multi-purpose spray, window cleaner, a gel cleaner, another gel bathroom cleaner, a bleach, a box of washing powder, a spray bottle of ironing aid, a spray can of furniture polish, a shower cleaner and two bottles of toilet cleaners. Brother what a load of money she was about to pour down the drain! I couldn't help myself and joined the conversation when it became a "but I have to have them or I just can't keep the house clean" talk.  I politely pointed out that a bottle of vinegar, a box of bicarb, a jar of borax, a bar of soap and perhaps a little elbow grease would do the same job as all these cleaners for a fraction of the price and damage to the environment.

I was very excited when she decided I was right and she didn't want all those cleaners. I did feel a little sorry for the people behind us as she had them taken off her bill, but I was so proud of her, especially when she said she already had everything she needed to clean the Cheapskates way in her cleaning cupboard.

This experience had me thinking: just how many of us have never tried to clean using cheaper alternatives because we didn't know there were any or we weren't sure how to use them? You can make your own household cleaners easily and best of all cheaply using these tried and true recipes. As well as saving you money, these cleaners will save you time and effort and rid your home of some nasty chemicals too.

If you were to make all the recipes below you would have a cleaning solution for just about every household cleaning problem for the grand total of $6.72! If you were to add the equivalent of these products to your shopping trolley you would add another $44.50 to your grocery bill. By making them yourself you are saving around $37.80!  What an incredible saving!

By keeping some very inexpensive and basic supplies in your cleaning cupboard you can clean your whole house for just a few cents rather than hundreds of dollars.

Bi-carbonate Soda (bi-carb or baking soda) – is a powerful cleaning agent on its own, even more powerful when combined with other materials.

Borax - found in the cleaning aisle, usually next to the Drano. I use Harpers, in a white tub with a red lid. It's usually on the bottom  shelf.

Vinegar – is made from fermented apples, grapes, sugar cane, malt or wine. It is an acid and a mild

Washing Soda – buy it in the supermarket under the brand name Lectric Soda. It is a good water softener.

Eucalyptus Oil –can be bought at supermarkets, chemists, health food and hardware stores. Use eucalyptus oil to remove sticky residue, as an inhalant and a disinfectant or a cleaner. It is toxic, so keep it away from children and pets. It will also damage plants, so beware when using it in the garden.

Window Cleaner

Cost: $0.10 for 250ml extra strong window cleaner

1/2 tsp washing up detergent
3 tbsp vinegar
2 cups water
1 drop blue food colouring (optional)

Blend well and store in spray bottle.

Scouring Powder

Cost: $1.89 for 600g scouring powder

1 cup bi-carb soda
1 cup borax
1 cup salt

Blend and store in container.

Furniture Polish

This is so easy to make, and it works!
Cost: $1.13 for 375ml furniture polish

1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup lemon juice

Pour oil and lemon juice into a squirt bottle or jar. Stir to combine. To use, dip dust cloth or rag into oil, blot the oil by folding the cloth together, and then dust your furniture. Leaves a beautiful finish!

Washing Powder

Cost: $1.88 for 90 washes

1 bar laundry soap
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax.

Grate soap. Add washing soda and borax. Use 3 teaspoons per load for top loading machine, 2 teaspoons per load for front loader.

Super Effective Weed Spray

Cost: $0.40 for 4 litres weed spray

4 litres white vinegar
1 cup salt
1 tbsp washing up detergent.

Mix well. Spray on weeds to kill them. This is a very effective weed spray so only spray it on the things you want to kill. It is excellent for weeding paths and pavers and along the edges of garden beds.

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22 November 2013

I Think Its Interesting

I think it's interesting that so often people equate living the Cheapskates way with spending hours and hours shopping, cooking from scratch and cleaning. They think that to save money, you need to work hard and go without the luxuries in life.

Well I am here, along with my family, to prove them wrong.

Grocery shopping is not one of my favourite things to do so it's a certainty that I would spend less time than the average Australian in a supermarket or shopping centre. I spend less than 2 hours a month on grocery shopping and probably less than another two hours a month on any other kind of shopping.

When it comes to cooking well lets face it, Gordon Ramsay would probably turn his nose up at my gastronomical delights, but even I can whip up a couple of pizzas in less time than it takes to get them delivered, for about half the price of one from the pizza shop! In fact we can have a cooked from scratch meal on the table in under 30 minutes, even if we've just walked in the door after a long day at work, school and sport. It can take that long to decided between pizza, Chinese or fish and chips if you are really tired. By the time you've rung and placed your order we are sitting down to a freshly prepared and cooked meal. The difference is that we have saved around $25 and get to sit down to eat exactly what we want.

While a cleaning fairy is on my 'one day' wish list simply because there are other things I would rather be doing (like working on Cheapskates) you can be pretty sure that I don't spend any longer cleaning our home than most working mothers do. It's no harder to clean with water and a micro fibre cloth or a splash of vinegar and a sprinkle of bi-carb than it is to use an all in one spray cleaner. It takes me around 5 minutes every three months or so to make a batch of washing powder at a saving of around $20 and the plus is I am not lugging home a heavy box of laundry detergent every fortnight.

The point I am trying to make, in this twisted and convoluted way, is that the spendthrifts have it all wrong.

Cheapskates don't spend hours and hours trolling the shopping centres. We know what we want and where to get it at the cheapest possible price. Our trusty price books save us money and hours searching for the best bargains.

We don't spend hundreds of dollars on takeaway and home delivery meals. We have homemade takeaway, save a fortune and teach our children that you can have fun and save money at the same time.

We are not polluting our homes and our bodies with supposedly fast cleaning products. We use one or two multi-purpose products that do an excellent job and are budget priced.

We live within our budget, regularly adding to our PoM accounts and emergency funds.
We eat tasty, freshly prepared meals with our families.
We spend time doing the things we enjoy with our families and friends.
Our homes are clean (tidy may be another matter, especially if we have kids!).
We wear fashionable clothes and dress our children well on our budgets.

As Cheapskates we choose to spend our money, time and energy on the things that are important to us and not waste them on the unimportant stuff.

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21 November 2013

The Perfect Pantry

To me a perfect pantry isn't one where all the canister match, have beautiful labels, with cans all stacked by size, contents and use by. A perfect pantry is one that has the basic staples I need to prepare nutritious and tasty meals for my family without going over the grocery budget.

I can tell you that my pantry doesn't have wall to wall matching canisters, that the tins are not stored in alphabetical order and while some containers have bought labels, many of them have handwritten, sticky-taped on pieces of paper that act as labels. It may not look like something out of Better Homes and Gardens but it works, and that is what counts when it's 5.30pm and the hungry hoards are about to descend.

Getting your pantry to the perfect pantry stage takes time, especially if you are starting from scratch. It takes time to work out which pantry staples you use regularly, which ones you use occasionally and which ones you rarely, if ever use. It also takes a couple of months to determine quantities. If you only eat rice once or twice a year then keeping 20 kilos in the pantry isn't practical. If you eat rice three or four times a week then a 20 kilo bag is a good idea, if you have the room for it!

As you get started keep a list of the ingredients you use when you prepare meals. Write down the flours, sugars, cereals, grains, herbs and spices, sauces, pastas, tins and packets you use and how often you use them. Don't forget to list the things you keep in your freezer too. In most Australian homes these days a freezer forms a part of the pantry too. Use our Pantry Inventory to help you keep track of what you have on hand or need to buy. Hint: this will help you get your pricebook established too.

As you make up your list think about the things your family likes to eat and how you prepare them. Do you use many packets/tins/pre-prepared ingredients? If so think about how you make these foods from scratch using the ingredients you keep in your pantry.

When you do the grocery shopping each week or fortnight start building your pantry, starting with the things that you use the most often. Think about quantities for these ingredients: is it cheaper to buy in bulk? Do you have the room to store larger quantities of these ingredients? Can you afford to buy larger quantities? And most importantly, if you buy larger quantities, will you be able to use it up before the best before or use by dates?

When you get the shopping home update your pantry inventory as you put it away. Then as you plan your meals you can refer to the inventory and use what you have on hand along with whatever fresh food you have in the fridge.

Having a stocked up pantry allows me to shop for groceries once a month (although lately I have been stretching this out to 6 weeks). Combining a well-stocked pantry with menu planning ensures that we eat well-balanced, tasty meals and I don't go over our grocery budget. It also ensures that during the odd week or two when we want to save a little extra we can do a pantry challenge and still eat good food.

For me this is the perfect pantry: flexible enough for variety and frugal – perfect for living the Cheapskates way.

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20 November 2013

Trade a Skill

Approximate $ Savings:    $5 up

If you have a skill why not offer it to a friend or colleague that has a skill you need? My colleagues at work do just this: one was a hairdresser and the other a costume designer. The hairdresser cuts the costume designer's hair in return for any sewing that needs to be done. This includes making an outfit from scratch. Huge savings all round!
Contributed by Christelle Buckschun

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19 November 2013

Summer Berry Slice

OK, this isn't really a slice, it's more a tray bake, but it's delicious whatever you call it. I've made it with blueberries, raspberries, mixed berries and strawberries and have never had to worry about it going stale. There's no chance of leftovers when you serve this cake for afternoon tea or dessert (it goes very well with whipped cream and/or ice cream).

100g butter
200g caster sugar
1 tbsp caster sugar, extra (try raw sugar or coffee crystals for a change)
Finely grated zest of  one lemon
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
300g fresh soft berries (or 300g frozen berries, thawed and drained overnight)
140ml buttermilk (MOO it!)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper.  Cream butter, lemon zest and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Gently toss the fruit in two tablespoons of the flour (this stops the fruit sinking to the bottom of the cake).  Mix the remaining flour and baking powder together; add to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Gently fold in the berries. Spoon the cake mix into the prepared cake tin and sprinkle the extra sugar over the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before lifting the cake out onto a cooling rack.

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18 November 2013

How to Choose the Right Perfume

Wearing the right perfume can make you happy or beautiful. We've moved on from Great-Grandma's favourite Apple Blossom or Lavender. Today our perfumes become our Romance, our Passion or even our Obsession. Your perfume gives you confidence or glamour or sophistication. It reflects your personality or your mood: sporty or romantic or lighthearted.

Good perfumes are expensive but they shouldn't be a luxury and they don't have to be expensive either. So how do we find the right perfume for us without going bankrupt? But how do you choose which fragrance is the right one for you? With thousands and thousands of perfumes available selecting the perfect scent is a challenge.

There are some simple guidelines that will ensure you get the perfect fragrance for you.

1. Test. That's what those testers are for.
2. Start with clean skin – no other perfumes, scented lotions etc
3. Don't try more than 4 or 5 at a time.
4. Wait about 30 minutes before evaluating it. Let is warm on your skin.
5. Give your nose a chance to develop the scent. Let the fragrance develop before you make your decision.

Once you've found your favourite perfume, wear it. It won't last forever and it's meant to be enjoyed. If you don't wear it and love it is really is expensive.

Tips for using the fragrance of your choice:

·Wear lighter scents during the days especially if the weather is hot or humid. Bolder fragrances should be saved for evening wear.
·Be consistent with the scent of your perfume, body wash and lotion.
·Apply perfume to pulse points such as wrists, behind ears, crook of elbow, ears, base of throat, behind knees and inside ankles. Try putting on perfume before getting dressed to avoid perfume stains on clothing.
·Keep fragrances out of direct sunlight and discard unused perfumes after one year.
·Remember, the key to smelling incredible is finding a fragrance you enjoy.

If you are buying a perfume for someone else find out what they like. Do a “scent profile”. Find out what flowers they love, are they sporty or romantic? Do they like light, floral scents or the heavier woody or musk perfumes? Find out when they will be wearing the fragrance – mornings are generally lighter, evening into night can be a heavier scent.

Perfumes don't have to be expensive. Look around for sales and bonus offers. Here in Melbourne, David Jones, Myer and Harris Scarfe often have great perfumes at fabulous prices. You can pick up bonus offers from their catalogue sales, so keep an eye out. Or try chemistwarehouse.com.au or your local pharmacy for great bargains.  I've just picked up my mother's favourite perfume, Blue Grass by Elizabeth Arden, and it was only $14.99 (RRP $39.99, I usually manage to find it for around $30). She'll love it for her birthday in a couple of weeks.

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15 November 2013

MOO Gloverlies

I used to buy 'Gloverlies' rubber gloves. These are cotton lined rubber gloves that I do not think are still on the market. For many years now I use cheap cotton gloves from the supermarket together with large rubber gloves to achieve the same. These can easily be washed and re-used. I use hot water straight from the tap for washing dishes, so the cotton gloves give extra protection.

I also put hand cream on before I wash up therefore using the heat in the water to make the hand cream dissolve on my hands.
Contributed by Lesley J.

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14 November 2013

Bathroom Cleaning Quickies

The bathroom seems to be the room that gets the messiest and is the hardest to clean. Well I am here to tell you that it may get messy, but it's not hard to clean. Less than 5 minutes a day will keep your bathroom sparkling and visitor ready all the time.

Teach the kids (young and old) to hang up their towels and the bath mat when they are finished and to either put dirty laundry in the hamper or straight into the washing machine. It's amazing how these two simple things can make your bathroom look great.

Want more ideas to keep your bathroom spotless? Read on!

Keep a tub of baby wipes in the bathroom...swipe the benches, basin and taps each day. Not only handy for the baby's bottom...but they keep your bathroom smelling fresh and clean.

"You can make your own baby wipes and save a fortune. In an ice-cream container mix 2 tablespoons baby bath/wash, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 cups water. You can use paper towel in this mix if you like. I used face washers I bought from The Warehouse, 10 for $5. I bought 3 packs, all white so I knew they were the wipes. Being white they were easy to soak and launder with the nappies."
Contributed by Sharon, Box Hill

Wet a microfibre cloth and run it over your shower door, walls and floor. Not only does it remove the scum but it removes it easily. Sabco make a great microfibre bathroom mitt that sells for around $8.00 and you'll find it in the cleaning aisle of your supermarket. It will last for at least twelve months and save you a fortune on chemical cleaners.

Cleaning grout can be done with a paste made from mixing bicarb soda and peroxide. Let sit on the grout for 30 minutes…scrub with a toothbrush.

The toilet...not a pleasant task. Easy clean the bowl with a spray of vinegar and scrub with the toilet brush. If you have tough stains try a couple cups of vinegar allowed to sit a couple hours. This should help minimize scrubbing. Before you go away on holidays throw a couple of Steradent tablets into the toilet bowl to prevent staining while you're away.
And for everyone with bubs in nappies, or those of us who seem to have a lot of whites to soak, this is a simple tip too:

"My toilets have never been so clean. I tip the nappy soaker solution into the toilets after I've soaked the nappies and let it sit for a while. A quick brush and flush and they are sparkling clean and bright and I'm not wasting the solution in the nappy bucket either."
Contributed by Kelly, Hurstville

Just a few tips....hope they help.

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13 November 2013

The State of Your Economy

In simple terms, you don't need to worry about the national and international economies, you need to worry about your own personal economy. Worrying about what we have no control over is a waste of energy. Worrying about what you can fix - your money, your financial situation, your lives, your personal economies - is energy well spent. There is so much you can do to reach financial freedom, even in economically challenging times.

It is time to save yourself and you can do that by saving. If you have never saved before (and there are many, many people who haven't) you'll need a plan. Without a plan all your good intentions will be just good intentions and you won't ever reach your goal of saving.

Funny thing is when we all, as individuals, look after our personal economies, then our national economy will look and be a whole lot better too.

Step one is to choose your goal. You need a reason to start saving.

Step two is to break your main goal down into smaller goals. For example if your main goal is to save six months of living expenses, your first smaller goal could be to save $500 in six months. Don't leave it there. Break it down into a more specific and measurable goal. "I am going to save $500 in six months by transferring $20 each week to my savings account." This is a measurable goal. You can look at the balance of your savings account any time and see just how well you are doing and how close you are to achieving your goal.

Step three is to pay yourself first. This is the hardest part of saving for most of us to understand. It is very hard to reconcile paying yourself and saving as important when you have debts that need to be paid. Honestly, developing the habit of paying yourself first is the smartest habit you can develop. You need to be building your savings so that you won't ever have to rely on credit again, this is the most important thing you can do for your own economy. I am not telling you to stop paying your debts. I am telling you to re-prioritise the order you pay them in. Until you have at least 6 months worth of living expenses saved in the bank, paying yourself is the number one debt you have.

Step four
, and this is the fun one, is to watch your savings grow. It is so exciting to see your goal get closer and closer. When you check your savings account balance and see that money mount up you'll feel a sense of pride in your accomplishments and you'll find your attitude towards money changing for the better. Having money in the bank will no longer be something that only "rich" people have.

If you are not convinced that a measly $20 a week can add up to anything substantial, take a look at these figures.

If you save $20 a week at 5.25% interest until you retire in 30 years you will have a whopping $78,222.62 in the bank!

If you double the payments to $40 a week you will be retiring with $154,031.78.

Now increase the interest to 9% (interest rates will rise, have faith) and you'll have saved $327,296.90. Actually, you will only have contributed $62,900 to this amount. What you will have done, by regular saving, is earned a whopping $264,496.90 in interest, all because you saved a little regularly.

Now that's a stable economy!

Saving money is habit forming, and it's a good habit, a much better habit than spending constantly. The simple act of saving money gives you a sense of self-worth and an incredible peace of mind. Money in the bank gives you dignity and  a sense of satisfaction that outlasts any good feeling you get from compulsive spending.

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12 November 2013

Clean Out the Fridge Veggie Stir Fry

This is the dish I make when I find odd veggies languishing limply in the fridge. Not enough on their own for a meal, too limp to use in a salad, they are just right for a quick stir-fry.  The beauty of this stir-fry is that it's never the same. What goes into it depends on what's in the fridge, on the verge of dying. It's the best way to use up everything and waste nothing without eating scraps.

I usually start with whatever's looking limp. It could be a couple of carrots, a small zucchini, some cabbage, a broccoli floret or two, spring onions, bok choy that's on the verge of giving up the ghost - whatever is in the crisper calling out to be used up.

Then I fill it out with other veggies: capsicum, mushrooms, onion, peas, beans, snow peas, corn, squash (cut into quarters), to make about 7 - 8 cups of veggies and add about 3 cups of cooked rice.

When the vegetables have been sliced and/or diced, depending on what they are, I heat a little oil in the wok and throw them in. Toss them around for three or four minutes, until they are starting to soften. Tip them into a dish and set a side.

Beat up two or three eggs and pour them into the wok. Let them cook, scraping them from the sides occasionally until they are set. Tip it out onto a plate and cut it into strips. Set aside.

Add the rice to the wok along with 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 2 tablespoons tamari and the egg strips. Toss until heated through. Tip the rice into a bowl and set aside.

Put the wok back on the heat and add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, 1 tsp chilli paste, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and about 2cm of ginger (peeled and grated).  Tip the veggies into the wok and stir fry until they are tender and heated through.

Add the rice mixture and toss through the vegetables. Once everything is heated through, turn the heat off and let the dish sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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11 November 2013

Earring Canvas - Artwork or Clever Storage Idea!

This is a cute idea that decorates and is a practical storage solution for earrings. It's also a rather nice gift idea too. If you are working on the handmade Christmas challenge, this may be a gift idea you can create to suit the personality of the recipient. You could even include a cute pair of earrings to show them how to use their gift.

Earring Canvas
I am an avid beader and was finding that all my earrings were becoming tangled and mixed up, resulting in lost pairs etc. I needed a cheap and easy solution to store them all. I went to the reject shop and bought a medium size art canvas ($4) and used some poster paint I had at home, and some wire and screw hooks. After allowing the paint to dry, I screwed the hooks into either side and tied the wire between them. For a small cost of $4 and some time and effort, I now have a great looking hanging earring display! These also look great for gifts, I have made for friends and they all loved them.
Contributed by Megan-Rose

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08 November 2013

Get your green thumbs going

Grow your own. It's not really hard and can be so satisfying.  When tomatoes are $5/kg and you have bushels of them on your plants you'll have a smile on your face.  You don't need to have huge garden beds and spend hours and hours in the garden. You can start with a styro foam box (ask your greengrocer, just don't tell him you're going into the grow your own business). Plant lettuces, tomatoes, carrots, strawberries, silverbeet, capsicums, eggplant, parsley, mint, chives - whatever you eat in these boxes and sit back and watch your savings grow. Visit the Gardening Tips pages in the Menber's Centre to get some expert advice on just how to get started and then jump right in, just like Deb Parker did.

 "Since I mastered the art of pot gardening last summer I have managed to keep my family (five of us) in vegetables all year. The only veggies I have bought for twelve months have been potatoes and onions.  I started with two concrete pots with tomatoes in them and have moved on. I now have 49 concrete pots of varying sizes placed around the sides of our house and each one has something growing in it. Oh, I didn't buy the pots. I looked up our council hard rubbish calendar and on the first day of each hard rubbish collection in our bordering areas I spent an hour driving around collecting pots. I haven't had to buy any. I cleaned them and painted them inside and out before planting, to help them retain the moisture. They look great and better still they are saving me money."
Deb Parker

07 November 2013

Free Learn to Sew Lessons

My mother is a beautiful seamstress, and self-taught too! Dad would draft the patterns and Mum did the cutting out, fitting and sewing. I was eleven years old before I owned a bought dress or top or trousers. Mum even made our overcoats. In fact the only bought thing we wore were socks - and she even managed to tizzy those up with lace or embroidery.

So you can imagine her disappointment when I didn't show an interest in sewing. That is until she paid for me to do a Knitwit course (anyone else old enough to remember Knitwit courses?) and I have been hooked ever since. These days sewing courses are expensive as Cheapskater Bernadette found out. She also found a Cheapskates work-around for them too, one that costs you absolutely nothing!

Free Sewing Lessons
Approximate $ Savings: Up to $890
I have been wanting to learn sewing for some time to polish up my skills and sew for myself and kids but found short courses were too expensive, around $295 at the Council for Adult Education and $53-$860 for Tafe courses (which charge per contact hour). So I searched the net and found www.burdastyle.com have FREE how to sew lessons, free forums, free tips, and FREE SEWING PATTERNS! The patterns are excellent for the latest fashions. I also found a site for fantastic modern sewing and craft ideas, www.onehourcraft.com for those challenged by less time. Now I can learn at my own pace from my own home. And no more paying through the nose for the latest fashions!
Contributed by Bernadette

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06 November 2013

Trimming the Fat

There comes a point in our journey to frugality where it seems as though there is nothing left to save money on. You're paying half what you used to pay for groceries, the electricity bill has been slashed and the phone bill is almost non-existent. In fact you only have a landline because it's a part of your Internet package. The problem is that the budget is still not working and you don't quite know why.

We all have extras that we spend money on, those things that we regard as essential, when they aren't really. They are optional extras, in which case we can trim these expenses and find some give in the budget.

Things like cable TV, monthly trips to the hairdresser, movie hire, car detailing (personally I love paying $28 twice a year to get my car detailed but I pay for it out of my mad money, it really makes me smile), and dry cleaning are not really essential to living. Just by trimming one or two optional expenses you are saving money, the savings if you can trim more is huge.

These could be the optional extras in your budget:

Cable TV
• Can you switch to a cheaper plan?
• Could you do away with cable entirely?
• Scale back to the basic channels?
• Do you need a set-top box or hook up in every room?

Phone Plans/Internet
• Do you need caller ID and call waiting?
• What about voice mail?
• Could you cancel your long distance, and use a phone card instead?
• Do you need a landline and a mobile phone?
• Are you on the best mobile plan for your usage? Do you get free time, text, sms etc?
• Could you switch to a cheaper mobile plan?
• Get rid of text messaging or other features?
• Can you bundle your landline and Internet connection?
• Do you need the Internet plan you are on at the moment? Can you switch to a less expensive plan?
• Is it possible to bundle landline, Internet and mobile phones to save money?

Eating Out
• Could you eat at home more often?
• Pack your lunch, instead of buying?
• Bring your coffee from home?
• Pack snacks when you know you'll be away from home for an extended period?
• Bring drinks and snacks to work, instead of relying on the local coffee shop?
• Can you dine out for lunch (often cheaper) or afternoon tea rather than the more expensive dinner time?
• Do you use vouchers, buy one get one free coupons etc when you do eat out?
• Could you set a clothing allowance or lower your existing allowance?
• Could you swap clothes with a friend?
• Shop second-hand?
• Repair clothes, instead of replacing them?
• Skip dry cleaning?
• Revamp what you have - dyeing, new buttons, shorten hemlines etc?
Subscriptions and Memberships
• Are there seldom read magazines that you could cancel?
• Do you need to get the paper delivered every day?
• Is your mail movie rental subscription a must?
• Do you have a gym membership that you aren't using?
• Could you cancel your membership to clubs that you no longer have time for?

• Could you rent movies instead of watching them at the theatre?
• Go to free concerts and events, instead of paid events?
• Borrow books and movies from the library, instead of buying them?
• Listen to the radio instead of buying CDs or songs?
• Find a cheaper hobby?
• Scale back your holidays?

• Could you cancel your lawn mowing service?
• Change your own oil?
• Have your hair cut less often?
• Do your own waxing, manicures and pedicures?

Decide which optional extras are essential to you, worth keeping and make you happy. The leftovers are the ones that are keeping you in debt and they are the ones you can easily lose to save money. The money you won't be spending on these things can be put towards your payment push or to building an emergency fund or savings or….whatever you choose because you will have the money to be able to make the choice.

And you won't be paying for things that you don't really want either.

04 November 2013

Mini Knitted Christmas Stocking

I love these little Christmas stockings and over the years I've knitted hundreds of them, some for our Christmas tree, and others packaged in sets as gifts for friends, teachers, co-workers, neighbours and as my contribution to the school Christmas stall.

They knit up in no time and while the pattern indicates to use 5 ply yarn I have used whatever I had in my knitting bag - 8 ply, 4 ply and even 3 ply, adjusting the needle size to suit (and that will depend on whether you are a tight, average or loose knitter).

Even a beginner knitter could make these little stockings and they really are quick - about half an hour from start to finish!

These miniature Christmas stockings are just the right size to hold a packet of Lifesavers or Fruit Tingles and are perfect for children to add to Christmas cards as a little gift.

String 24 stockings along a length of tinsel, fill them with treats and use them as a cute Advent calendar.

Add a loop to the top of the stocking and it becomes a delightful tree ornament, especially if it contains a packet of lollies.

You will need:

Small quantities of 5 ply wool in main colour and white (I use Christmas red and green as the main colour but you can use any colour)
1 pair 3mm (no. 11) knitting needles

Row 1: Cast on 30 stitches in main colour
Knit 6 rows.
Row 7:  K14, K2 together, turn, slip 1, K4, K2 tog and turn.
Row 8:  K2 together, turn, slip 1, K4, K2 together, turn.
Repeat Row 8 until 17 stitches remain.

K20 rows in garter stitch in main colour.
Join in white wool and K6 rows.

Cast off leaving a long thread to make a loop for hanging. Sew up sole and side seams and fill with rolls of lollies (Lifesavers, Fruit Tingles, Fruit Pastilles, mints etc) or other miniature gifts.

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01 November 2013

The True Price of Meat

Sometimes those sale ads look too good to be true, so in true Cheapskate fashion we stock up. But how much are we really paying, especially when that meat is full of bones?

Bone-in or skin on chicken (breast or thigh fillets, whole chickens, wings, drumsticks, marylands etc.) is about one-third waste. Bone in red meat (steaks, chops etc.) is about one-fifth waste.  Minced beef is about 20% fat, unless you pay the premium for low-fat mince. You are paying for that waste, it's money in the bin unless you really are getting a great deal.

How do you calculate the true price of the meat?

The calculation is quite easy.
Chicken: multiply by 1.5 to get the boneless/skinless price
Beef: multiply by 1.25 to get the boneless price
Mince: multiply by 1.2 to account for the fat (you usually drain it off rather than eat it).

For example Store A has T-bone steak on sale for $7.99/kg while Store B has Porterhouse on sale for $8.99/kg. Which one is the best buy? Initially it looks like the T-bone as it's cheaper. But don't forget you are paying for the bone, and you can't eat bone so why pay for it?

To find the best buy do your sums:
Multiply the price of the T-bone by $7.99 x 1.25 = $9.99/kg

Looks, or rather price tags, can be deceiving. The porterhouse is actually the best buy with a saving of $1 per kilo.

Use the calculator on your phone to calculate the true cost of the meat you are buying (or carry a little calculator with you) to make sure that sale price really is going to give you more bang for your buck.

How do you save on meat? Share with us in the comments!

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