31 January 2018

Our Tight Budget Holiday

Melinda wrote that she would love to hear about our holiday this year, and how we are going to do it as Cheapskates.

First, let me clarify: we have always enjoyed holidays, and, even before disaster struck, we enjoyed them on a budget.

Where are we going?

Back to Cape York! Yes, we were there two years ago, but we only managed to see a fraction of the area and decided back then that we'd be back this year.

How do we get so much leave? 

This year we will be away for six weeks.

Wayne will have four weeks annual leave owing to him, and he will take two weeks as long service leave. This means that we will still get a wage while we are away and our spending plan will just roll along just as if we were home.

I, of course, am my own boss, so getting time off wasn't that hard - I just had to convince myself it was a good thing (absolutely not hard, I love spending time with my husband).

How will we get there?

We will be driving. Our 4WD is fully set up for off-road adventures, and we can be self-sufficient for up to two weeks if we can't get fresh water, longer if we have access to fresh water.

Driving means no fares, but we will have fuel costs. On our last trip the most we paid for fuel was $2.63/litre at Bamaga, otherwise it wasn't too much more than we were paying here at home.

The Patrol carries 227L of fuel (70L in the main tank and a 157 in the long-range tank, so filling up hurts when prices are high. I will start tracking fuel prices in mid-April so we'll have a rough idea of how much it's going to cost.

Right now I'm budgeting 10 fill-ups. We probably won't need that many, but it gives me wriggle room. I'm also working on an average of $2 per litre for fuel at the moment, giving me a fuel budget of $4,500. Last trip we came home with fuel money, and I'm certain we will this time, but I'd rather leave home with more than have to come up with it if we under-budget.

Where will we stay?

We will have seven nights in caravan parks while we are away. We always aim for and plan one night a week in a caravan park so we can have real showers, although our camp shower is lovely and works really well, and to have access to a washing machine. The budget for accommodation on this trip is $700. Again, we'll probably come home with some left.

The rest of the time we will camp, and we always choose free camps, and not just because they are free. They are usually off the beaten track, quiet and in beautiful spots. We're hoping to go back to a few we loved last trip. Free camping isn't a problem for us, as I mentioned above we are self-sufficient for food, water, cooking, showering, sleeping and yes, even toileting. Some campsites will have toilets - they are checked and if not up to snuff then we don't bother with them. In the box of goodies under the back seat is a can of surface spray, a can of Glen20 (it's the only reason I buy it), a brush, a bottle of Miracle Spray, paper towel and disposable rubber gloves. They are used if the toilet isn't completely gross - it may look clean, but it has to be clean if you get my drift.

What will we eat?

There isn't much of a budget for food, it's covered in the monthly grocery budget. Just like at home, we have a meal plan, and while it may get moved around a bit, we pretty much stick to it.  Between now and when we leave I'll be vac sealing meat, chicken and ready made meals and freezing them. I'll also add UHT milk to the monthly shopping list, and that's about the only extra grocery item we use when we're camping.

I'll also make up crumble, custard, donut and damper kits, vac seal and freeze them ready to take with us.

Vegetables are easy to take with us when they're vac sealed. We tend to have lots of camp oven roasts, so I make up packs of roasting veggies: potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, onion, carrots. Because they're vacuum sealed they last for weeks in the fridge and we get to eat fresh veggies. As a side, I do this at home too - a whole pumpkin can take a long time to get through, prepping it and vac sealing means I can keep the packs in the crisper for weeks - no more mildewed pumpkin.

Bread is very expensive and is usually frozen, so instead we take wraps, Mountain Bread and English muffins.

We usually eat out once or twice while we're away, so we put aside $200 for meals and another $100 for treats - coffee, ice- creams etc.

One of traditions we have on any of our trips is to always stop and buy something - fuel, and ice-cream or a cold drink or sometimes a meal - at the small towns and communities we visit. It's one way we can treat ourselves and support these remote communities. They need all the support they can get, this is our way of helping keep them in business, and it blesses everyone - these little stores and roadhouses and cafes stay open and support locals, and they're there when visitors and travellers need them.


With this trip there will be the ferry fee to cross the Jardine, although we're not sure we'll actually cross - we've been to the Tip, taken the obligatory photos, done the walks, driven the Five Beaches (and found eight!), spent some time on Thursday Island (a highlight of the last trip - glorious spot), looked at the WWII memorials and spent a lot of time walking and exploring around them, so for me I'd rather spend time exploring spots we haven't seen yet. We'll see. I've budgeted $130 for the return ferry fee - right now I can't find an accurate cost. The National Parks fee is included in the ferry fee, so for parks on the Cape we won't need to pay extra.

There will also be the ferry fee to cross the Daintree, at least one way. At the moment the fee is $24 return, so that's what I've budgeted.

I mentioned washing - it is so expensive at coin laundries - around $4 a load. Over the six weeks I've budgeted for 10 loads - so I've already saved $40 in $1 and $2 coins and they are safely in a zippy bag, ready to go into the laundry box.  I take washing powder, stain removing soap, a nail brush and pegs - I flatly refuse to pay for drying too.

National Park fees - there will be some fees to pay to visit National Parks. They vary, depending on the park. I've allowed $100 for park fees.

RACV Total Care - we don't leave home without it, ever. Yes, it is expensive, but absolutely, totally, completely and utterly worth it. You only need to use it once to recoup the cost and save a bundle.  I am a gold member, so it costs $200.60 a year. The benefits have changed since we first took this cover out, but for us and the travelling we do, it is not only good value, but great peace of mind. And yes, we have used it, twice in the last six years! This isn't really a holiday expense, we take it out every year, but it is worth mentioning if you don't have it. As a bonus there are other benefits to RACV membership, such as discounts to attractions, accommodation and so on.

How much is all this going to cost?

Our budget for this trip is $6,500.

We have been saving and planning and budgeting for two years for this trip, and we're not going to skimp on anything. There most likely will be money left in the holiday fund  when we get home, and if there is it will roll over to start the next holiday fund - and we'll start planning another trip.

I'll share how we saved, made or found the money next Wednesday.

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30 January 2018

Plum Jam and Lemon Butter

We were blessed with free fruit last week, plums and lemons, two of my favourite foods for preserving.

Hannah was given a big bag of plum by a client (thank you, whoever you are!) and a friend very kindly dropped off a bag of lemons. I was excited, free food is good, but free food we enjoy all the time is even better.

The plums became plum jam. Yum! It's easy to make, tastes great on toast or scones or pancakes or in muffins and is a lovely gift.

The lemons became lemon butter. Another yum! We love it on toast and on crepes, and I use this particular recipe as a filling for lemon meringue pies and tarts. It's also divine as a filling in muffins - especially coconut muffins. I add half the batter to each muffin pan, add a dollop of lemon butter and top with the rest of the batter. I add about 5 minutes to the baking time and they are just delicious.

Here's my plum jam recipe:

 Plum Jam

1kg plums, stones removed
1kg white sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Cut the plums into small chunks - about 3cm (I usually just quarter them, then cut the quarters in half).

Warm the jam in the microwave for 1 minute (it dissolves faster).

Add the sugar, plums and lemon juice to a large saucepan.

Bring to a boil, stirring all the time. Brush down the sides of the pot with a wet pastry brush to make sure all the sugar is dissolved.

Once the mixture is boiling, turn the heat down low enough to maintain a rolling boil.

Continue to cook, stirring often, so the jam doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

Test after 20 minutes for setting point. If not ready, continue to cook, testing every five minutes until setting point is reached.

Remove from heat and pour into hot, sterilised jars. Seal immediately and set aside until cool.

Six Minute Lemon Butter

125g butter (real butter please, not margarine in this recipe)
1 cup castor sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice

Using an electric mixer beat the eggs until they are light and fluffy. If you don't have an electric mixer you can use a stick blender or a large balloon whisk.

Add the sugar to the eggs in two parts and continue beating until the sugar has dissolved. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and fluffy.

Stir in the lemon juice.

Melt the butter.

Carefully pour the melted butter into the egg mixture and whisk well.

Pour mixture into a microwave safe jug or bowl. Cook on high for two minutes. Beat well.

Cook another two minutes. By now the mixture will be starting to thicken. Make sure you beat it well to make it smooth.

Cook a further two minutes. Beat well, breaking up any lumps. The mixture should be thick, a similar texture to a pouring custard.

Whisk well between cooking spurts. The mixture will change colour and texture as it cooks.

Pour your lovely, hot lemon butter into hot, sterilised jars.  Seal immediately. Once cool place in fridge. The lemon butter will set as it cools. Keep refrigerated. This lemon butter will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.

This recipe makes 3 cups of lemon butter. Keep in the fridge for up to three weeks.

I sterilise the jars in the oven and leave them there until the lemon butter is ready so they stay hot.

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29 January 2018


Sorry I'm late posting this week, the hot weather left me with a migraine, and then Hannah left yesterday so we were in an (very organised) uproar, getting her packed, checking she had everything she needs, that we had copies of everything just in case, and finally getting her out the door.

This is what we spent:

Aldi: $19.63
Coles: $3.60
Petrol: $65.72
Pellegrino's: $14.35

This is what we didn't spend (and what was moved into savings/slush fund/holiday fund):

Coffee: Those Keep Cups really are keepers! He's still very happily taking the coffee I make him every morning. He didn't spend $21.35.

Petrol: Moved the leftover petrol money to the holiday fund - $14.38

Greeting cards: While the card making things were out I used those odd 15 minutes of time between other jobs to make more cards.

Cooking:  Made a batch of bread'n'butter cucumbers. Coles sells them for $3.91 a jar, mine worked out to under 50 cents a jar - most of the cost was the vinegar and sugar! I didn't spend $20.46 on bread'n'butter cucumbers to stock our pantry and enjoy  during the year (they're delicious on crackers with a slice of cheese for a quick lunch or supper).

Meals: Last week I calculated how much takeaway would cost us as a family if we  were the average and had it three times a week.  All our meals were cooked at home, using ingredients on hand. We didn't spend $376 again on takeaway this week - I'm going to continue to track how much we don't spend by cooking at home. At the end of the year, it could be a very nice $19,552! No wonder folk who eat out or have takeaway regularly complain they're broke!

Hairdressing: Hannah cut my hair for me. At her salon a wash, style cut and blow dry costs $65.  I budget $30.33 a month for hairdressing, so $65 has been moved to savings, from the hairdressing account.

Gardening: This week, before it became too hot, I planted eight iceberg lettuce seedlings I grew from seed, into the veggie garden. I also transplanted two white cucumbers and two zucchini, also grown from seed. To buy them from the nursery would have cost $21! Growing from seed, they cost under 20 cents, and that was for the lettuce. I saved the seed from the cucumbers and zucchini last year, so they were free. The holiday fund was boosted by $21, from the gardening account.

Total spent this week: $103.39
Total not spent this week: $518.19
And moved to savings: $124.53 (haircut, gardening, petrol)

Remember, money isn't saved until it is safely in the bank. Until then it is just not spent - hence my "what we didn't spend" list and making sure I move money from the relevant categories into our savings accounts.

26 January 2018

Meal Plan Week 5, 2018

Greek Yoghurt Raspberry Muffins
This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: Schnitzels, potato bake

Tuesday: Gnocchi & garlic bread

Wednesday: Lemon Avocado Chicken

Thursday: Moo Pizza

Friday: BBQ Hot Dogs with MOO Sweet Relish

Saturday: Enchiladas

In the fruit bowl:  watermelon, strawberries, bananas

In the cake tin: Raspberry muffins

Greek Yogurt Raspberry Muffins 

5 tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup Greek yoghurt
1-1/2 cups SR flour
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
3/4 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and prepare a muffin pan, either with olive oil spray or paper liners. Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat with electric mixer until just combined.  Add the Greek yoghurt, and beat again until just combined. Sift the flour and bicarb soda. With electric mixer running slowly, carefully add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing until just combined - do not over-mix. With a rubber spatula, fold in the raspberries, being sure to carefully get the berries distributed evenly through the batter, but not over-mixing.  The batter should remain thick and not get runny by over-mixing. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the edges brown a bit and a toothpick poked in the middle comes out dry. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, then remove from the muffin pan to a cooling rack.

What's on the menu at your place this week?

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25 January 2018

Happiness Homemade

This past week has been busy, busy, busy. I shouldn't be surprised, every day of every week is busy, there's always something to do.

Here's my list of homemade happiness for the week:

Last Saturday was the monthly Cheapskates Club card making group, the first for the year. It was only a month since the last get-together, but it felt a lot longer. Pamela and Carol managed to inspire us and I finished seven lovely cards, learnt three new techniques and I've already put them into practice to build my card stash.
With the price of nice cards being upwards of $8 being able to create them myself saves a fortune.

The weather finally cooled down enough that I could get into the garden and do more than just water and pull the odd weed. Working in the garden makes me happy, I smile the whole time I'm out there. This week I planted more lettuce, and cucumbers and zucchini. The cucumbers and zucchini should be fruiting mid-March, and that will take us through to winter with those veggies.

The rhubarb was looking a little sad - not sure why. It had a drink of worm tea, hopefully that will give it a boost. We love rhubarb so I don't want to lose it.
The hydrangeas are blooming, they are such a vibrant pink. I've been moving them under the verandah on very hot days so they don't burn, then putting them out again at night.

And the white geranium cuttings I took a while back are doing OK. They're in a pot at the moment. When they get a little bigger and the weather cools a bit I'll move them to the garden. Right now I have them planned to go into the new rockery in the backyard, but that may change.

There are mandarins on the tree - little, tiny green ones at the moment. The last lot were so juicy, and the tree just kept producing for months, so I'm hoping it will do that again this year.

The birds are getting the top apples on the tree. That's OK, we're getting the ones from the lower branches, a bucketful every couple of days. They've been sliced and stewed and frozen for winter pies and crumbles and apple slice.

Joy was able to get me a bag of onions for $2.99. Some have been diced, some have been sliced, some have been frozen whole and I have 3kg left to make pickled onions - that's the job for tomorrow. All those jars in the shed are being put to use - some of them will be for gifts, some will be for our pantry.  For a couple of hours in the kitchen now, cooking will be so much easier, especially on extra busy days. And I won't need to dice or slice an onion for about six months!
The heat is back today, and will just get worse over the weekend. Yesterday I boiled a dozen eggs and put them in the fridge. Then I made a huge container of potato salad and another of pasta salad. I used a small cabbage, a couple of carrots, some spring onion greens from the freezer and a couple of sticks of celery I sliced on the mandolin to make a giant container of coleslaw, without the dressing, and put it in the fridge too.  They're all in oblong Lock'n'Lock containers I bought specifically for this purpose - they fit properly in the fridge and are air and liquid tight. I'll add the dressings to the salads as we need to, that way they keep well for at least five days, long enough for the heat to pass.

I love getting ahead when I can. My mother used to say I was ready for tomorrow yesterday, and it's almost true. When I have a few spare minutes I do as much as I can to get ahead. It makes life so much easier and our home runs much more smoothly when we're prepared.

That's it for this week - I think!

Lots of little things, and they all made me happy. And not one of them cost a lot of money either. You don't need to be spending, buying, shopping all the time to be happy.

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24 January 2018


Wednesday is finance day here on Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing and in our home.

It's the day of the week I do our family finances. I get out my bill folder and update the various sheets, check the bank balances against my ATM receipts and then check my spending notes against the receipts. Wednesday is the day I transfer money to the various accounts, make sure the bill accounts are topped up and update our Spending Plan. I stop at the ATM in the morning and withdraw the cash I need for the next seven days.

Wow, but that sounds like a lot of work. It's not really, about 15 minutes at my desk and it's done, and I can relax for another week.

And this year Wednesday is going to be my only spending day - the day I hit Aldi and Pellegrino's, and perhaps Coles and/or Woolworths to pick up the few groceries we need to get us through the week.

Changing shopping day to Wednesday for this year (there are a whole host of reasons - I go past Aldi, Coles, Woolworths and Pellegrino's, all three service stations; it's the day of the week I have the most "spare" time this year; it's a quieter day at the shops to list some) isn't a huge change for me, but I'm also challenging myself to make it the only day of the week I spend any money.

That means for the remaining six days, no spending.

Every week.

For a whole year.

No picking up specials.

No calling in to the op shop to see what's new (or no buying anyway!).

No online shopping.

No morning tea or lunch out.

2018 is three and a bit weeks in and so far, so good. I've just come in from my weekly banking and shopping expedition and it feels good. The fridge is restocked, the pantry topped up. I put a little petrol in the car (at $1.50/L I wasn't going to fill it up). I spent some of my Christmas money on some stationery that I really wanted and have been eyeing off for months - and it was 66% off, saved myself $10, that I still have to spend on something else later in the year.

My plan is to make a note in my diary of things I may want to buy - not the normal groceries, medicines and so on, but the things like stationery, books (my weakness!), clothes etc. with the price, and when spending day comes around, I'll add it to my "money we didn't spend" list.

Of course, If it's something I really want, will use, or need and it's within our budget, then I may buy it.

This week I needed some new refills for my planner. Now normally I would wait until they were on half-price sale and buy them, then go back to add the missing info. Instead, because I wanted them *right now* and didn't want to wait until today, I sat down with last year's and used them as templates to MOO them. I didn't spend $14.95, and I have forms that suit exactly what I want to use them for (I usually adjust the bought refills).

It's kind of like a version of the $100/24 Hour Rule supercharged.

So, who's up for the challenge? You don't need to have six no spend days, try one no spend day a week and see how much you haven't spent at the end of the year.

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23 January 2018

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake  - a quick, inexpensive cake to make

Allie requested my recipe for chocolate slab cake - well this is it.

This is the chocolate cake I learnt to make in cooking in Form 1 (yep, I'm that old - we still had Forms when I was in high school).

To make the slab cake that fits my baking dish, I quadruple the recipe.

Chocolate Cake

1 cup SR flour
1 cup sugar
3tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1tsp vanilla extract
3tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line either a lamington tin or a round cake tin. Mix all ingredients together until combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake 30 - 35 minutes until cooked. Let sit in tin a few minutes before turning out to cool.

Now to make this a bigger cake, I simply double, triple or quadruple the recipe and extend the baking time accordingly.

Someone has asked if the cake can be frozen - of course it can! It's a simple version of a butter cake, and freezes very well. Iced or plain, it can be frozen whole or sliced.

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21 January 2018


This is what we spent:

Petrol:  $36.65
Onions: $2.99
Aldi: $5.98
Ceiling Fans: $408

Petrol: Prices around here are crazy, with as much as 16c/litre difference. Even with the 4c/litre discount and any possible Flybuys/Rewards points, our local 7Eleven has been the cheapest petrol this week @$123.9/L.  Filled my car, cost $36.65 - a saving of $5.12 over Woolworths, which was again cheaper than Coles this week. Shifted $23.35 to holiday petrol account and $5.12 to savings.

Onions: Joy was able to get me a 10 kilo bag of onions for $2.99, which is my buy now price of 30c/kg. The cheapest I've been able to get them locally is 80c/kg, so a 50c/kg saving. $5.00 doesn't sound like much on its own, but when it's added to all the other savings we make, it adds up to a lot over a year. Watching the small spends has a big impact on overall savings.

Aldi: Milk, $2.99 and I splurged and bought a box of icy poles on Thursday, when it was so hot. Yes, I could've made them, but freezer space is at a premium so 20 for $2.99 made them 15 cents each, and I used my pocket money to buy them (and we all enjoyed them).

Ceiling fans: This was  a planned and saved for expense. We are gradually updating all the ceiling fans in our home. This week we replaced two in the family room and one in our bedroom. After spending hours online and even more hours tramping from store to store, taking photos and sending them to Wayne to approve or ignore (that means he didn't like it, but if it was what I wanted he'd be OK with it - he's a keeper!), I finally chose the two styles. Cost for the three fans came from the home maintenance account, for a total of $408, a saving of $429 (it really pays to shop around and compare prices online and instore before buying. Yes, I had to go to two different stores but the saving was over 50% - well worth it!).

This is what we didn't spend (and what was moved into savings/slush fund/holiday fund):

Meals: All our meals were cooked at home, using ingredients from the pantry, fridge and freezer. According to a survey (Eating Out in Australia 2017)  http://www.the-drop.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/EatingOutinAustralia_2017_Respondent-Summary.compressed.pdf, Australians spend an average of $94 a week on eating out and takeaway meals, and that's per person. Using this as a guide, we've saved $376 by eating homecooked meals! That's a month's grocery budget for my family, for just three meals! So glad I cook at home.

Lunches: Packed Wayne's lunch and snacks every day this week. He's still taking a MOO latte every morning in his keep cup. Saved $21.35 on lattes ($24, the cost of five large lattes, less  $2.65, the cost of five MOO lattes). Saved $60 on lunches and another $30 on snacks.

Baking: This week was card making week, so I made a batch of vanilla slices to take for afternoon tea. Because it was hot, they were my favourite no-bake style. The batch cost  $7.50 to make (a little more expensive than usual because I used biscuits for the base rather than pastry - it was just too hot to put the oven on). Vanilla slices sell for $3.20 each at our local bakery. My batch made 24 for $7.50 or 31 cents each; a few minutes in the kitchen filled the cake container and I didn't spend $69.30  ($76.80 less the cost of ingredients, $7.50) on vanilla slices!

Nails: Years ago I used to splurge and get my nails done at a salon. It was so long ago it only cost $10. This week I did my nails myself, using tools and nail polishes and hand cream I already had. I didn't spend $60 on a set of gel nails.

Made a batch of Miracle Spray. This filled the dispenser for a cost of $1.75, or 87 cents per litre. I didn't spent $9.90 per litre, a saving of $9.03 per litre or $18.06 for the batch.

Total spent this week: $453.63
Total not spent this week: $1070.71
And moved to savings: $452.35 (leftover petrol money  and saving on ceiling fans moved from house maintenance account)

Remember, money isn't saved until it is safely in the bank. Until then it is just not spent - hence my "what we didn't spend" list and making sure I move money from the relevant categories into our savings accounts.

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19 January 2018

Meal Plan Week 4, 2018

This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Beef

Monday: Fish cakes, wedges, salad

Tuesday: Pasta bake, salad, garlic bread

Wednesday: Quiche, salad

Thursday: Moo Pizza

Friday: Australia Day BBQ

Saturday: Hamburgers

Fish Cakes

1 x 425g can of salmon or tuna
2 cups of cooked, mashed potatoes
1 tablespoon parsley
1 onion, chopped
1 egg
salt & pepper
Flour, egg for glazing & breadcrumbs.

Mix together fish, potatoes, parsley, onion & egg. Add seasonings and form into small round cakes. Using flour on board and hands, coat the balls with egg glazing and toss in breadcrumbs until well covered. Fry in fat or oil until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper.

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18 January 2018

Handmade Christmas

This last week I noticed my dishcloths in the kitchen were getting very raggy, so three new ones came out of the linen cupboard and I spent a couple of nights knitting replacements for them.
While I was in the linen cupboard I pulled out some knitting needle containers and covered them in pretty tissue paper that I had in the craft drawer. They are so pretty and much nicer than the plain, boring plastic they were.
I also had a few minutes here and there this week so I set up my card making supplies and when I had a few minutes I'd sit down and work on a card. It may not be as time efficient as the production line I usually do, but by the end of the week I had some lovely cards to add to the stash.

Such a productive week, all done in grabs when I had a few minutes. And I'm very happy with the additions to the present box.


The knitting needle containers cost $2.99 each. I had the materials needed to cover them, leftover from other projects, so the cost for the three knitting needle containers was $9.99. I've seen them for sale from $19 up to $64! There's no way I'd ever pay $19, let alone $64, for a knitting needle case, so the calculations are worked on the $19 version; that means I could move $47 to the savings account to pay for these gifts. As there is no way I'd every pay $19 each for them, I've paid myself (via the holiday account this week) $24, because $8 each doesn't sound too bad and it's still under my gift budget of $10 per gift.

Only two weeks into this year's handmade Christmas challenge and the present box is looking rather healthy, and I've been able to tick a couple of presents off my gift list already!

Are you going to make gifts this year? Have you started yet? Do you have a plan of things to make, or are you just making as the fancy takes you? 

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Happiness Homemade

 This is the title of a little book I was given before we were married, and I've referred back to it many times since then, for encouragement, wisdom and old fashioned advice.

When Hannah was three and four, if you'd asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she'd happily tell you she wanted to be a shopper (I know - she's my daughter!). When I was little, then as I grew older, if you'd asked me what I truly wanted to be when I grew up I'd have told you wife, mother and homemaker. They were the jobs I wanted most of all, everything else came second in my career choices.
As it turned out I met, then re-met quite a few years later, my sweetheart.  We fell in love, married (and in 12 days we'll be celebrating our 29th wedding anniversary) and started our life together.

But before we were married we talked (a lot) about our future dreams and goals, and how they'd work in our marriage. Both of us came from somewhat traditional homes, with two parents: working father and homemaker mother, and that was the style of home we both wanted. We both wanted our children to have a parent at home with them, and we both wanted to raise our children ourselves; we wanted to be the main influence in our children's lives. We wanted to have the traditional home we'd both grown-up in.

It hasn't been quite that, though: we do live in the modern world and Disaster did Strike. I've worked both within and outside our home and now my "outside" work means I am able to fit it in around my work at home.
This is a big thing for me, because it means that I can still have my first career choice of wife, mother and homemaker, yet still "work" and contribute in more ways to our home.

But wife, mother and homemaker is still my first career, one I take very seriously, and one I'm not going to give up.

Caring for my family and our home is important to me and I'm proud to be able to do it.
I could work more hours and bring more cash into our household, although in reality that wouldn't necessarily be the case (working outside the home may bring in a wage, but there are costs associated with that wage, often costing almost as much or even more than you are earning - truly!).

I like doing my housework, I've never thought of caring for my family by caring for our home as drudgery, or a chore or a waste of my time or talents. It's something I take pride in, and an important part of my career.

I smile when I remember that when I clean our home, I'm saving at least $25 an hour for a cleaner. IIt doesn't take long, about an hour a day, usually in the mornings, every morning from Monday through Friday doing housework (I've put my daily routines here) keeps our home tidy and clean and comfortable. And by doing it myself, I've saved $125 a week from leaving our household budget and saved my husband from having to work an extra six hours. I'd much rather do the cleaning and have those six hours with him.
Working in the garden, ironing (although I try not to, it's not my favourite chore), baking our bread, making jam and marmalade, cooking our meals from scratch, shopping wisely to get the most from our money, are all things I do as a part of my job. And all these things make our home a happier, nicer environment for our family.

Taking the time to sew on a button or restitch a downed hem makes the garment owner feel loved and special, and that flows forward to making our home a happier, nicer place, somewhere we all want to be.
Looking for the best deals on the things we need, making gifts instead of buying them, DIYing instead of paying someone else to paint or make curtains or repair something all save us spending money, so we can use it for the things we really enjoy.

My days are busy and sometimes they are non-stop and I get tired, but they are always fulfilling. At the end of each day I look back at what's been accomplished and smile, knowing that I've done my job to the best of my ability, that my family is happy and that my happiness truly is homemade.

Thursdays have always been household day here on the blog, and 2018 isn't going to change that.

What will change is the type of post on a Thursday. This year they'll focus on how we can make our homes happy, sometimes using old-fashioned methods, tips and tricks and sometimes using more modern ways.

And how a happy home can change your financial life, without you feeling deprived or poor.

I hope you'll join me, and enjoy finding that your happiness can be homemade too.

14 January 2018


This is what we spent:

Groceries: $4.99 (milk, plain yoghurt)
Household: $260.00 (new mattress)
Chemist: $40.12 (vitamins)
Kmart: $3 (t-shirt)

Yoghurt: NQR had  1 kilo tubs of Greek yoghurt for 99 cents so I bought two and froze them in ice cube trays. The yoghurt cubes will be used as starter for MOO yoghurt and to add to curries and sauces.

We came home on Sunday to a damp bed. We have a water bed and it sprung a leak sometime between Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Ho hum. We  (read: Wayne) tried to patch it. We have a super-strength patch kit with amazingly strong and fast drying glue. After pulling the bed apart and hunting for the leak, we thought we'd found it, so it was patched. And we thought that was the end of it. Nope. There was still a leak, a sneaky, hidden, impossible to find no matter how hard we searched leak.

After a night in the spare bed we both woke up cramped and cranky. After a discussion on the merits of buying a new mattress over hunting for the leak, we chose the new mattress. Then came the searching for a replacement at a price we could afford and were prepared to pay. We found it, with same day delivery if ordered before 2pm. Yes! So I rang first thing, had a chat to the fellow to make sure what I was ordering was the equivalent replacement of what we had and handed over $260 (this included a new liner, water conditioner and delivery). This came out of the household account, which is where I stash the cash to cover replacement furniture etc.

This is what we didn't spend (and what was moved into savings/slush fund/holiday fund):

Yoghurt: Made two kilos MOO yoghurt. Cost: 12 cents for yoghurt (it was 99c/kg!) and $2.88 for milk powder. Plain Greek yoghurt costs $5.30 per kilo. My MOO yoghurt cost $3 for two kilos, leaving my grocery budget $7.60 better off.

Coffee: Wayne is still using his keep cup - and I'm loving the saving.  $21.35 moved to savings from Entertainment.

Lunches: Packed lunches every day, along with morning and afternoon tea. This week I made a batch of scrolls, a large chocolate slab cake and two dozen mini fruit cakes, as well as two dozen sausage rolls for lunches. Our local bakery sells coffee/cinnamon scrolls for $4.80 each. The batch made 14 really big scrolls and cost $6.10 to make; that equates to just  44 cents per scroll, or $61.10 I didn't spend on scrolls (not that I would - we can't afford to spend a week's grocery money on cinnamon scrolls!).

The chocolate slab cake cost $6.20 to make and it filled my large Corningware baking dish (I made four times the recipe). This gave me 60 large slices of chocolate cake. At $2 a slice, I didn't spend $113.80 on cake for morning/afternoon teas and lunches.
Sausage rolls are $3.30 each at the same bakery (and it's not even a particularly trendy bakery). The cost of making sausage rolls has gone up, as sausage mince has doubled in price in the last 12 months. It now costs $4 for a roll of sausage mince, $2.50 for pastry, 30c for onion, 30c for breadcrumbs, 20c for herbs and 25c for egg, for a total of $7.75; that equates to 32c/sausage roll or $71.45 I didn't spend on sausage rolls (and mine are so much nicer, better flavour and not as much grease). Again, I would never buy two dozen sausage rolls from the bakery, we just couldn't afford it, but I can make them without hurting our grocery budget.

Mini fruit cakes are an expensive treat for us. A batch costs $9.45 to make (I get 24 cupcake size from a single recipe). I use Aldi mixed dried fruit I buy for $4.95/kg before Christmas each year and freeze, and Aldi butter. I really noticed how the cost of butter increased the cost of Christmas cakes and puddings this last Christmas, and it has made me think about baking and how much butter is in a recipe. The 24 fruit cupcakes cost $9.45 to make, or 39 cents each. I've no idea how much they would sell for, but regular cupcakes are $1.50 at the bakery, I think fruit cakes would be more expensive, so I didn't spend at least $26.55.

Bread: I've been making our bread this week. Bread at Coles is $1.80 a loaf - my homemade bread costs around $1 a loaf. I've made 5 loaves of bread, not spending $4.00.

Household: My knitted dishcloths in the kitchen were starting to get very ragged so they've been shifted to the laundry and I knitted three new ones. These sell for $8+ each on Etsy, and they cost me approximately $3 each to knit, so I've moved $15 from the household account to the holiday fund.

Chemist: My doctor bulk bills (for which I am very grateful) but sadly medications cost a small fortune. Last week he ordered a bunch of vitamins and minerals for me, to balance the long-term effects of medication I'm on. Some time spent hunting for the best prices and I found them on half-price sale, saving $40.12.

Total spent this week: $308.11
Total not spent this week: $360.97
And moved to savings: $286.70*

*I didn't move the $26.55 for the fruit cakes, the $7.60 for the yoghurt or the $40.12 for vitamins

Remember, money isn't saved until it is safely in the bank. Until then it is just not spent - hence my "what we didn't spend" list and making sure I move money from the relevant categories into our savings accounts.

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12 January 2018

Meal Plan Week 3, 2018

Chicken Alfredo Roll-ups ready to go into the oven
This coming week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: Mini Meatloaf, salad

Tuesday:  Chicken Alfredo Roll-ups

Wednesday: BBQ sausages, salad

Thursday: Moo Pizza

Friday: Haystacks

Saturday: Toasted Sandwiches

In the fruit bowl: bananas

In the cake tin: Crackers, pita chips, chocolate cake, cinnamon scrolls

Chicken Alfredo Roll-Ups

12 uncooked lasagne sheets
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
450ml jar alfredo pasta sauce (or MOO it)
Salt and pepper
1-1/2 cups grated cheese (mozzarella is good if you have it)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Boil the lasagne noodles and rinse with cool water. Lay on a clean tea towel and pat dry. Add two tablespoons of sauce onto each noodle and spread evenly over each noodle. Add two tablespoons of shredded chicken onto the sauce on each noodle and spread out. Top with one tablespoon of shredded cheese. Add salt and pepper, as desired. Rollup each lasagne noodle and place into a well-oiled baking dish. Top with alfredo sauce, sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Finish with grated parmesan. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese has melted on top and is golden brown.

What's on your meal plan for the next week?

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10 January 2018

What are your top financial goals?

We have a strict policy of not going into debt for Anything. At. All.

If we want something, we do our research and save up until we can afford it.

If we need something, we either use budgeted monies or use our Emergency Fund (that's what it is for - emergencies!).

We haven't always been debt free, so our financial goals have changed a lot over the years. But right now, in January 2018, I can tell you that:

our immediate financial goals are:

  • to continue to save for our holiday later this year - it's another big one, six weeks of travelling.to rebuild the medical fund (it has been decimated the last two years with my medical bills)

our long-term financial goals are:

  • to increase our retirement savings (we are really hoping to not have to rely on an age pension, and I really don't want us to work until 70!)
  • to add to our retirement home savings (the aim is to pay cash for our retirement home)

So what are your financial goals?

  • Create a lifestyle where one parent can stay at home with the children full-time (or a lifestyle where you can share it - either way there will always be one parent at home for the kidlets)
  • Get out of credit card debt?
  • Start an education fund for said children?
  • Pay off your mortgage?
  • Create a 12-month emergency fund?
  • Pay off car loans?
  • Save the deposit on a house?
  • Pay off last year's Christmas bills?
  • Save for a self-funded retirement?

Whatever your goals, put a workable plan in place so your goals will be achievable - there's nothing quite as satisfying as reaching a goal you've planned and worked towards.

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