Monday, August 29, 2011

Put the cash back in your wallet

Objects are closer than they appear... 

We actually have some savings...

And I am wondering if it is better to put an extra $1000 onto the VISA or keep the $1200 as 'emergency money' and keep putting on an extra $100 per week to all the interest accumulating accounts. Ahhh - the dilemma.

As things have been SO stretched finanically in the past, the security conscious part of me would rather keep the savings in the online account, continue adding $15 each week and leave it be. The money conscious part of me says if the VISA is reduced by $1000, the limit can also be reduced thus lowering the interest. The flippy-floppy part of me says keep half, put half on the VISA - or maybe its better on the personal loan - or perhaps the line of credit - or put a bit on each...

I posed this question on the Mands On A Mission facebook page and got a great response from the author of 365 Ways to Make Money and 26 Ingredients, Kylie Ofiu. Before stating her opinion, Kylie mentioned the choice depends on other information ~ are the bills being paid, has there been any discussions or arrangements made with the financial institutions involved and was more than then minimum repayments now required? 

Once I clarified that all the regular expenses are covered, our debts/loans are getting a little more than the minimums each month (some more than others) and we are looking at getting the VISA onto a lower rate or zero rate card ~ but with nothing as back up if (say) car repairs were required its VISA (which we want to avoid) if we put our savings on to the debts.  Kylie offered the following opinion:

"If you are covering everything, keep the $1,000 aside for emergencies (like car repairs, insurance excess, health problems). It will stop the need for the Visa and will be easier to pay off that debt..."
She also suggested putting half on to one of the debts and keeping $500 as an emergency fund to avoid additional credit card debt.  Kylie also recommended looking for ways to make extra money and it might be time to get moving on setting up selling Tupperware again. I do so love the product and will be quite happy to potter through a party or three each week ~ must think seriously about that.

Of course, Hubby is about to look for work ~ even part time to start but we need to hear what the therapist says about my requirements and what abilities I should be strengthening. Especially as my neck now appears to be next on the chopping block (and I don't mean off ~ just need to have surgery to remove spurs and stop the nerve compression).

Our Little Mantras

This past week, we have set up some really fantastic habits and - while still new and practising - its not only lowering our spending, it is increasing our debt reductions as we issue 'penance' when temptation almost wins with a sneaky purchase or totally unnecessary spend.

Everyday he's "shuffling" 
On Thursday, I needed to get milk and onions which I did . . . and picked up two magazines . . . and put them back, thus "saving" $14.90. As penance, I put $10 onto the VISA and only $2.89 was spent on the required items. 

On Wednesday, I saw the nicest skirt ~ $15 ~ and even went so far as to browsed online to see if I could get it cheaper. Then moved away from the computer... Didn't buy anything and put $10 onto the LOC as 'penance' for evil thoughts *grins*  I figure if I felt like I had the funds for such 'extravagances' then I have the funds to pay a little extra onto our debt. 

So we have made some little mantra's and tips to help us not to spend just because... I have enough clothes, food, shoes, cleaning items to last a month and can spend that time looking for food, cleaners and REQUIRED purchases as they come on special. There is nothing I need urgently tomorrow.

I'd rather save for a "___ house/car/holiday ___" than buy another new shirt / skirt / jumper
$20 is better put onto the credit card than taken off.
If you 'want it' ~ put it back. If you decide you 'need it' come back tomorrow and think about it some more.

Other Reminders
Take a pic of your wardrobe, dresser drawers or shoe pile (your weakness) ~ keep it in your wallet IN FRONT of the card or cash ~ Look at the item you really don't need, look at the picture, look at the price and put it back... Even at the op shop. I carry around a picture of all the boxes of clothes we had at the garage sale and it reminds me I never EVER want to get to that amount again!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Saving - not Spending

SmallBoy enjoying a winter swim... 
We are finally back on the no/low spend trail ~ aiming to not spend anything until the end of the month. This is the fourth day with no spending. Of course there are things that are best described as 'required' spending. Things like the electricity or gas bill, the rent or mortgage, those types of expenses are always needed.  However, we don't need to use the car - we can (and do) walk to school, walk up to the fruit & veg shop, walk to the doctors. We don't need to use the home phone - the mobile has calls and text included in the monthly charge, we can sent an email or pop over to someone's home for a chat. 

We don't need to go shopping - there is enough in the pantry, the freezer and fridge. A regular shop is often a habit which only brings you to the supermarket by force of habit. This is another reason why menu planning helps keep the costs down.  The only 'required' spends are $50 on electricity, $3 for school sports, $3 for milk over the weekend, maybe a few dollars on some veggies and fruit.

But that should be IT.

I am doing up our new budget now that we are settling in to a bit of a routine in our house-sit in Bundaberg. Restocking the pantry and fridge/freezer has been a bit of an expense but we have kept it to a minimum and put 'wants' on the shopping list and wait to find them on special. We've got all the essentials, its sufficient for now.

A big 'no spend' goal for the next 12 months is that of no new clothes. Seriously ~ having culled thousands of items to hundreds, left a few boxes in the shed in Ballarat and brought a suitcase (or three) here to Bundaberg which I cannot hang or store anywhere, if I buy one item ~ be it op shop, co-op, or some discount superstore ~ I will donate it AND three additional pieces to charity. Seriously, I have three times the amount of clothing than the boys combined. 

Husband is not really going to need anything either - perhaps shoes but probably not even them. SmallBoy will require new clothes over the year ~ strangely enough he keeps growing (or his clothes keep shrinking) and there will be new school uniform requirements in the new year.  
Clothes no longer possessed... *sobs*
This alone will make a huge dent in the outgoings ~ although I did see a really nice dress advertised for $15 today (stop it *smack* bad Mands). 

Today was actually a great day, involving no spending or money at all! The house is tidy, all benches and tables are wiped (with fresh lemon juice in the water too boot!), all dishes done & laundry away. The garden was watered, weeded and a trashy novel got read out in the sunshine. I went to school in the afternoon to walk home with the SmallBoy ~ thus meeting up with a fellow gardener/mum on the main road (who I met on Freecycle a few weeks ago), met her mum from Melbourne, checked out the vegetables growing and got an invitation to dinner on Saturday. Bonus! You can't buy a day like today *grins*

The veggies are starting to grow *yummo*

Monday, August 22, 2011

Time just flies...

When you are making a new house into a home *grins*

Big apologies for the lack of updates this past week. Life is busy and semi-active and by the end of the day, I am in agony ~ a bundle of oww's and ohhh's. The new pain meds are a wee bit strong (considering I was off them 2-3 months ago) but I am getting a decent sleep. 

It's taking a little time, but house-sitting a fully furnished place takes a little longer to set up and make into your own. Especially when you are going to be living in it for about five years! So why have we decided to house-sit.

Back in 1997, Hubby and I agreed we would move interstate within 5-10 years to enjoy warmer weather and fulfil our dreams. The location was not determined at that time - he wanted to be in the Coffs Harbour region, I wanted to be in the Sunshine Coast or higher. Neither of us were insistent on either location, we just knew we were looking for a place warm with oceans and/or mountains to provide us with a true sea/tree change.

When SmallBoy came along in 1999, we'd made the move to Ballarat ~ close enough to family to be some distance away. In a nice way. *grins*  We had mountains, wildlife, bushland - but could still get to family within an hour or two, and have them visit if they chose. While this was not too often (aside from Hubby's mum on regular welcomed occasions) - we were fortunate to rent a farm house with an acre to ourselves for $120pw - a pittance in any climate. This allowed us to save for a home, more when we both worked but cope when neither were employed.

Bought the house mid 2006, and less that a year later I was off work - and discovering there were fractures in my spine from a car accident a decade earlier. Oh the joys! Had to wait a year but had a spinal fusion, laminectomy and bone grafting. Sadly the graft failed - but the rest has been progressing exactly in the time frame the surgeon advised. Add in a blot clot, some severe depression and anxiety, its amazing things have progressed on track.  

There were a few who felt they knew more that the Head of Orthopaedics at RMH which did nothing for my mental health ~ imagine being told you're wallowing in a disability which isn't there. Personally I think a little encouragement, some helpful phone calls and lots of cheers at milestones would have done me 100 times more good boosting my depressed, loss state of mind than pathetic put downs. I learnt who my true, honest friends are through this experience ~ the result surprised me. Those who have helped me through - especially with spiritual, helpful friends in those first months post op and the caring, motivational friends during the last six/eight months - you have been so special to me and always will be regardless of the distance. I have even gained weight and in twelve months have put on twelve kilos - from 45kg to 57kgs - gee I am so please and proud of me (and grateful for support of friends).

There's been ups and downs, rights and wrongs but overall - our little family unit is so strong and happy together, we knew we could and would cope with the decision to move to an area we knew no-one, with a campervan and the idea we would be able to get long term, low/no cost accommodation in return for work or caring for someone. We decided so long as it was between Buderim and Cairns (our choice of area since around 2004), it would work. We thought Gin Gin to Maryborough would be best, having looked at a few properties in Tin Can Bay, Kia Ora and Childers over the years.

And here we are ~ house-sitting a three bedroom place in the Bundaberg area for the next three-five years while the retired owners embark on their around Australia adventure. With our only expenses being electricity and communications, we hope to reduce our debt by half this year and then start saving for our own Queensland piece of paradise. 

More importantly for the short term is building a social/friendship base in the area. SmallBoy has settled into school brilliantly ~ proving to be quite popular with his classmates and even developing tanned legs. This we discovered when out on the weekend and his 'tan' was highlighted by the white 'socks' on his bare ankles. *chuckles* He has been put up a year academically and is coping with the extra workload and subjects. We are considering a tutor just to ensure no gaps in his learning will make things difficult in upper high school. 

Finally my therapies are set in place and I'll be starting hydrotherapy next week. I've got the homoeopathic work scheduled plus I am working with weights, magnets and yoga to get more movement into my right side (which is considerably weaker than the left side). Costs a damn fortune - seriously half our income is on therapy at the moment so I will have to cut back. Scarily, there is some bone spur and nerve blockage going on in my neck (nice to know I wasn't making that up either!) and it looks like my hips are not aligned, but this last issue should self correct as I strengthen my core muscles again. Being in tune with my body is helping and will be a lot easier once this run on pain relief has ended and the pain management clinic sessions start.

So ~ a little history, goals and plans. Much more interesting than hearing how we have unpacked suitcases, set up bedrooms and worked out where things are stored in a 'strange' house. Oh, but we have built our raised vegetable bed and hope to be enjoying lettuces and asian greens in the next few weeks. Can't wait.

This Week's Menu 

Sunday: Beef Stroganoff with beans
Monday: Pumpkin Soup and Pide bread
Tuesday: Nachos and salad
Wednesday: Chicken schnitzel and salad
Thursday: Spinach and ricotta pasta
Friday: Tuna Patties and chips
Saturday: home-made KFC
Sunday: Pork chops and veggies

Baking/Making: Pumpkin scones; Ham and cheese scrolls; Lemon meringue; home-made 'Savoury Shapes' 

Gosh I am loving life at the moment ~ for all the crap, I ain't dead yet and hope to be out in the ocean in summer and riding a pushbike again by the start of next year. The scars are fading (but I am so proud of the big one) but the mental scars are still healing. Its a journey. Thanks for sharing it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spending ~ to aid the children...

Yeah, I can justify $70 spent at the school fete. It's the other spending which is getting a bit ridiculous...

After twelve months of penny-pinching and stretching everything as far as possible (plus a little bit more), our move has resulted in an extra $100 a week available in our budget. And we've been using it on silly things, like $10+ bubbles, chocolate, new books (as in full price, not op shop) and take away coffee to the tune of $50 a week. Ridiculous and frivolous and not really within our spending/income capacity.

We knew upon arrival we would have some outstanding bills regarding the tenants and the need to restock the pantry ~ arriving with nothing food-wise meant a few hundred dollars would be required.

I think we are now at the point we can reign in the spending, return to a weekly budget of about $250 and use the rest to pay down the debts. Time to head back into the Simple Savings Vault and refresh ourselves on some of the great ways to make do without missing out. It's definitely time to get back into baking and making our own repairs on clothes. Most importantly, its time to get back on track with menu planning and grocery shops.
Our principal ~ the queue for this was enormous! 
(as for the $70 at the fete, no ~ I can't really justify $70. Had it stayed at the planned $30 it would have been reasonable, or if we'd won something in one of the raffles maybe, but as neither happened I guess I have to put it down to a 'we've never been able to do that before' experience and never do it again...)

Menu planning miracles 

I have been menu planning now for well over a year although I must admit to being a little lax over the last month while settling in often changing our minds on a whim, or even worse taking the lazy way and getting take-away. So its time to get back to the way I was before we left Victoria!

Meal planning has transformed the kitchen into an organised place where all kinds of delicious aromas float about and mouth-watering meals appear with minimum stress, fuss or panic. No 'its six o'clock and I have no idea what we are having for dinner' in this house.  Even better, they arrive on the table with little or no impact to the bank balance. I can't believe how much I can save on our food bill while our family get to eat better than some of the local restaurants and hotels. All it takes is a piece of paper stuck to my fridge!

I never thought I would be the kind of person to follow a meal regime having been an ad hoc dinner preparer for decades, but the results are so startling that I am a total convert. I've always enjoyed cooking; I just saw it as something I never had enough time to do for every meal, every day, especially when we all worked or studied full time. My collection of recipe books had been neglected, even those I picked up at the OpShop with good intentions of picking one new recipe to try every week. Tipping that goes for a lot of people :D

After stopping work and waiting for spinal surgery (and more so when back on my feet), there had to be a way to ensure good meals would be made, especially if I was to run out of oomfph and Hubby was picking up the slack. I reviewed what was on hand, had a look through my good old 'Cookery the Australian Way' school book and other simple meal type recipe books, drew up a menu plan and straight away couldn't believe how quick and easy it was to jot a menu plan to paper. Here's how I do it:

Step 1: Food on hand:
Have a look through the fridge, freezer and pantry. What staples are there? What meats are in the freezer? What vegetables have I got in the crisper (or garden) to use? Do these form an entire meal or what extras do I need to make the meal? Is there something here (say with mince, or chicken) that I can base a new/untried recipe around? Is there a recipe I have been wanting to try? Can you make one meal stretch out into two? Pies are our usual stretch meal ~ making the Sunday roast return later in the week. Or if there is only a little left over, its a pasta sauce or weekend toasties.

Step 2: Choose some recipes:
Check recipe books, go online, ask a friend for that delicious meal. No doubt you'll have your stock standards and your favourite weekly/fortnightly recipes, and a couple of bulk recipes that get made every few weeks to stock up ready for quick meals or lazy brain days (also known as 'ooops - forgot to take the meal out of the freezer' days).
When you find a recipe you'd like to add to the week's dinner repertoire, pick a day on your menu planner and write it down. I write the name of recipe book and page number, or the website address and recipe name on the menu plan. As well as making it easier to re-find when the time comes to cook, it ensures that Husband knows where to look in case I am having a 'medication' day, or muscle spasms and finding it hard to manage on the day.

Step 3: Check your schedule:
You do need to bear in mind what your commitments are for the week - if Tuesday night is training night meaning you're home later than usual, that is not the best night to schedule making roast pork marinaded in an orange and ginger demi-glaze, with perfectly crispy crackling for the first time! But its the perfect night to schedule the slow cooker meal this night, or use a portion of bulk cooked bolognese and simply prepare the pasta.

And menu planning is not just the dinner schedule, think about some baking to cut the cost of store bought snacks or work day muffins. I've got into the habit of adding one biscuit recipe and one cake, slice or muffin recipe to make per week and this gives us enough for the week's lunches and afternoon teas. Home baking alone has saved a small fortune on snacks and lunchtime treats.

Step 4: Write the shopping list.
While you're filling in your planner, write down any of the recipe ingredients you don't have or need to check the cupboards to see if you've got enough. While finalising your meal plan, you get to start your shopping list for the week. I try to have planned my menu on Sunday, buy everything on my shopping list on Monday or Tuesday when mark downs seem to more available and I'm done. Being prepared with the shopping means I don't end up popping back for 'one more thing' and walk out with 10 or so 'great buys'. It's not a great buy if it blows the shopping budget, is it?

Step 5: Put it up!
My planner is on the freezer or fridge where everyone can see it every time they go to the big white box in the kitchen. I look at it each morning and go straight to the freezer to take out any meat that needs defrosting and I am half way there to being ready. Hubby and I know exactly what is on for dinner and how long it will take. It really is that easy!

We eat consistently on time at a suitably appropriate hour because I'm not fluffing around trying to think what to cook. Being organised is much better than throwing any old thing together for the sake of a meal - dinner is a great time to sit talk, enjoy a meal and wind down after a busy day.

I'm enjoying cooking new things and the family is enjoying eating them. Because the meals are balanced, it's much easier to adapt them to suit everyone's preferences or tweak to work in with what we have on hand. It has also helping me to restock our pantry from scratch without the need to spend $100s immediately on all the herbs, spices, oils, flours, sugars and tinned items like tomatoes and tuna I had accumulated over the years for daily, weekly and occasional use. Meal planning ensures I know what is in the cupboards and I can get new, fresh goods as the need becomes apparent.

Use any recipes you like for your menu planner - you know what your family will eat! Our meals look as if you have spent ages preparing them but they are so quick! The meals look as good as those we've had at restaurants, often taste better and certainly cost a heck of a lot less.  With the majority of ingredients used being items you already have in the pantry,  primarily Home Brand and generic ingredients, I can usually have the evening meal budget come in around $2per head. It's sitting around $2.50 at the moment as we find all the bargain spots and wait for our first veggies to grow ~ but it means a weekly shop of $50 is not unrealistic and the odd bottle of bubbles can make it into the trolley. *grins*

This weeks menu is/was:

Sunday: Roast Chicken (Tandoori) and veg
Monday: BBQ T-Bone steak and salad
Tuesday: Veal Tortellini with tomato and basil sauce
Wednesday: Tandoori chicken and veg pie
Thursday: Roasted pumpkin soup with Turkish pida bread
Friday: Fish patties and chips
Saturday: Baked beans, Bacon and eggs on toasted grainy bread
Sunday: Roast something - probably lamb or chicken (in the freezer)

The tortellini was one of those fresh deli packs, servings for four, marked down to $3.03 from $5,90; bought 2 and froze them. I am making the soup this afternoon, using the remaining pumpkin bought for $2 from the Shalom Market trip 3-4 weeks ago, and will share the recipe on FaceBook. The fish patties will use up the left over rice frozen from last week's stir fry and a tin of homebrand tuna.

If you are interested in seeing and using the menu plan, or my shopping list / pantry stock take sheet ~ leave a comment and I'll work out how this can be made available for followers to use. I've used google docs previously, however any suggestions would be welcome.

Time to get ready for the school walk ~ hope to catch up with you all during the day and I'll get that pumpkin soup made and the recipe posted on FaceBook.  Enjoy your day and let's lower that debt and increase those savings together.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Six Truths in Life

Six Truths in Life ~

1. You cannot stick your tongue out and look up at the ceiling at the same time, a physical impossibility due to the tendons within your neck.

2. All idiots, after reading #1 will try it.

3. And discover #1 is a lie.

4. You are smiling now because you know you are an idiot.

5. You soon will share this with another idiot.

6. There is still a stupid smile on your face.

I sincerely apologize ~ I'm an idiot and I needed company...

TGIF ~ and thank goodness for that *grins*

Coz he's my husband 

Have a wonderful Friday everyone :D

12 Ways You Can Start Saving Today

Living on a Budget, Frugal living, Savings Year, Debt Reduction Year, No/Low Spend or whatever name you want to give to time spent living within particular cash constraints (because you're not using your credit card are you!) does not have to involve drastic changes. Just a few simple everyday alterations to habits can go a long way to removing debt and start to build savings.

Remember too ~ a savings plan does not mean hoard your money and never use it. I believe savings should have a goal or target amount ~ starting with an 'available when required' emergency fund of around three months income or $3000 (whichever is the greater). Savings should also have a purpose - be it a house deposit, a holiday fund, enough to get landscaping done or a water-tank installed. 

Bob Proctor, business man, life coach, author of six minutes to success, says: "Always remember, money is a servant; you are the master. Be very careful not to reverse that equation, because many people of high intelligence have already done so, to their great detriment. Unfortunately, many of these poor souls loved money and used people, which violated one of the most basic laws governing true financial success. You should always love people and use money, rather than the reverse!!"

Here are 12 changes you can make today to get your savings under way and start living a frugal life without taking the frugal life too far over the 'tight-arse' line.

1. Eliminate Daily 'Luxuries'
Stop buying sandwiches from the deli, bring food from home and enjoy lunch in the park; Borrow books from the library instead of buying magazines; Read the news online rather than grabbing the paper to read on the train ~ all those 'normal' daily habits which seem inconsequential as small individual purchases add up - costing you a fortune and not even be factored in your budget. There is nothing wrong with the occasional treat of lunch out, and we all should be able to treat ourselves every so often, but regular daily expenditures you can easily cut down without a dramatic impact on your life. Instead of buying a coffee every morning ($4 per cup = $20 per week), make it at home and save $1,000 annually on coffee.

2. Prevent Repair Costs
There should be no need to avoid spending on maintenance - without regular maintenance on equipment, home and personal health, the repair work may ultimately cost more. Keep up to date with your oil changes, water, plugs and tyre rotations on a regular basis to prevent expensive car breakdowns. Regular maintenance and repairs around your house; regular check ups at the doctor and the dentist; Cleaning out the filters of whitegoods will help reduce costly repairs creeping up on you. 

3. Share Kids' Stuff
Buying clothes, toys and baby equipment can be expensive and rarely is it all used to its full potential. Share your kids’ stuff with your family and friends. This allows your children to play with a variety of toys without the expense of buying each item ~ kids today seem to have too much 'stuff'. Sharing allows the variety to remain affordable. Those little baby clothes are outgrown so quickly - usually with minimal wear. Create a system that will allow multiple households to share in the fun and costs together. I've had several good quality pieces given to Mudguts, passed through 3 or 4 other homes and returned back in good nick for SmallBoy to wear.  Don't stop at the kids stuff ~ get together with a group of friends and swap the clothes you no longer where with those they no longer wear. Yes - sometimes its hard to find a group of people of similar shape, size and so forth. But it might also allow you to get something you might not usually purchase and discover it is just perfect for casual at home wear, the office or a special do where you had 'nothing to wear' and would end up shopping for something new. If you can, even borrowing between friends and family can work - although you may need to be prepared for repairs or replacement should something go wrong.

4. Shop on a Full Stomach
Shopping on an empty stomach encourages over spending - and usually on foods grabbed on a whim. Hunger makes you vulnerable and you end up purchasing what you crave at that moment, usually these some costly ready-to-eat snack full of empty calories, sugar and enhancers. With media reports of people being charged with stealing for eating while in the supermarket - eat a sandwich at home while writing your shopping list (after you've done your menu plan, of course *grins*). It's also better on the budget to shop generically as much as possible. $1.99 vs $4.89 for a kilo of wholemeal flour is a big difference in price. For those 'label' critics - decant your 'no-names' into a storage container and 'brand snobs' cant convince you the products are inferior. When you catch yourself initially choosing the premium brand and changing to the generic choice, consider adding the difference to your savings.

5. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is usually a great cost saving technique, more so now with unit pricing on shelf tickets. This is especially true for cleaning and daily use items such as paper towels, detergent, or bleach. Wait until they are on sale and buy enough to last you until the next sale rolls around. Try to ensure you buy things that can be stored for a long time without running the risk of waste due to expiry. Consider buying bulk items with friends or family ~ 20kg of rice is considerably cheaper per kilo than single packet buys, but many shoppers won't get through that amount within safe times or have room for appropriate storage. Dividing 20kg between 2-4 shoppers means you all get the necessary amount at a great price.

6. Turn off the Lights, Stand-by and Electric Blanket
Turn off your lights, shut the doors, put on a jumper, use a woollen blanket and minimalise the amount of appliances you have on stand-by just for convenience will provide an amazing impact on power usage. The same goes for water and other utilities. By changing your habits, reducing water and energy bills can be accomplished with ease. Depending on where you live might also allow options between several service providers and bundling services can result in discounts as high as 12%. Use websites that can help you find the best rates such as Energy Watch. A few hours of research and a couple of phone calls will save you money - hundreds, if not thousands - over the course a year.

7. Purchase Used Items
Sure, there are some items you would not purchase secondhand. But there are so many things one is better off buying used than new. Garage sales can often be a great money saver, especially if you haggle reasonable so both you (the buyer) and the seller feel its a good deal. Other items one can purchase used are home appliances, furniture and gardening tools. If the freezer is priced at $500 and you get $100 off, or find a second hand one for $200 ~ put the difference into your savings account (or put at least $100 into the bank). Cars are a depreciating asset, so buying a used car is usually much better savings value than a new one. Try to have someone who 'knows' cars available to come shopping with you, or at least give you a run down on what you should be looking for and when its best to walk away from a 'bargain'. 

8. Reduce Reoccurring Costs
Cut down on your internet, phone, credit card interest and other reoccuring costs by ringing around. Cancel your PayTV and magazine subscriptions and put the monthly/annual expense into an online savings account. You're already paying that $50 each month to "FoxStarNet" ~ pay it to your savings instead. And go play outside with the kids, walk the dog or potter in the garden. Small incremental amounts can end up taking a large chunk of your income. Review your internet and phone bills and start shopping for better plans using my pre-prepared script - it really works.

9. Save Your Spare Change
Set up a piggy bank or money box and start saving your spare change. You would not believe how much you can accumalte by saving small amounts of change throughout the year. This is a great way to add spending money to a holiday, upgrading to Gold Class for a romantic movie date or an unnecessary but truly desired item of choice. Prior to our wedding, Husband and I would empty all the coins from our wallets at the end of the week for 'restaurant' dinners while on our honeymoon. We expected to be able to eat out perhaps three or four times during our 10-day holiday. We ended up being able to eat out most nights and take a Great Barrier Reef cruise with a diving adventure. It all adds up if you stick to routine. 

10. Go Out ~ at Home
If you are planning on a Saturday night out and hitting the clubs, consider having a few pre-pub drinks at home before catching public transport into town. Instead of going out to a restaurant with friends each week, take it in turns dining in - where everyone brings or contributes to a course. If you have small children, set up a baby sitting network with friends in similar situations so you can each get the opportunity to see a movie, have a 'special' date night or romantic walk along the beach without kids in-tow and the expense of a sitter service. Just make sure you all repay the favour and it is possible to have 3-4 kid free excursions each year.  Ensure you have a designated driver, taxi money or be home before public transport stops running if you do plan to imbibe *be responsible with alcohol people*.

11. Start Bargaining and Haggling
Start bargaining and put every cent you get discounted into your savings account! Although you may not be able to bargain at Coles or Woolworths, you can do it at the local market, in the BBQ or whitegoods store, with your home and/or mobile phone provider, and many other purchases. Just ask! Actually, if truth be known - you can haggle with the big stoopermarkets. I do ~ often ~ noting the sales staff with the price gun in their hand and not so discretely stalk follow them through meat, dairy and other departments. Recently I even found meat on the shelf dated one day before use by and asked the meat manager to come and mark it down for me. Which she did. Almost by half. The meat went into the freezer and $7 went into the savings account. Actually, for us those "$7" go on to the VISA or Line of Credit at the moment, but you get the idea.

12. Do It Yourself
If you broke it you should be able to fix it ~ don't make calling 'someone' to get you out of a bind in the first instance. Fixing your broken items yourself can be a cost effective, so give it a go first. You can do your tax yourself and pay your 'accountancy fee' into your savings account - that can be $200 in the bank every July. With "my friend" Google and some amazing videos on YouTube you can virtually find the instructions for any job you need to do. Of course, be careful and make sure you have the right tools and skills for the job. Don't play with the electrical stuff or other work which needs to be done by a licensed tradesperson ~ and remember to get a few quotes and put the difference between the highest and the chosen quote into your savings.

I know this is not a debt reduction post ~ its about saving and creating some good habits, ones which are achievable and can be shared or taught to your children, siblings or parents. However paying off debt can never hurt. Often the goal of frugal living is to become financially independent. What better way to achieve that than by extinguishing debt. 

Below are some posts of old which might also be helpful to those wanting to save, get ideas which really do work or discover other ways to reduce debt. So please, read back and refresh your memory if you've been following for a while or enjoy the opportunity to see how far we've come with so little.

Savings Ideas Which Make Cents
Two Challenge Takers...
Changing Habits is Saving Money

Chat tomorrow ~ ideally with some action shots on our garden capers!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Rising Costs of Fresh Fruit & Veg

Oh what a beautiful morning... 
I don't think anyone hasn't been gob-smacked by the cost of bananas.

But $4 for a small capsicum? My youngest sister came to the conclusion its time to "drink more wine. It's cheaper, tastes better, and I look fantastic after a few!" after pondering if hers was a Magic capsicum. She decided it must be for such an insulting, exorbitant price. 

Most likely, this is the fall out from the crop poisonings last August which destroyed millions of tomato, capsicum, eggplant and other such produce when water was contaminated by unknown saboteurs. Another poisoning attempt was recently made on strawberry produces but thankfully that was stopped due to increased security against possible attacks.

Why are people at war with the farmers? It's not like farmers are the ones dictating prices at the supermarket and, from what I understand, they barely make enough profit to make ends meet themselves. Bananas for $15 per kilo ~ and I am positive the sellers would barely get a quarter that price. Especially know we have bought bananas for $4-$5 per kilo at the markets here in Bundy. 

It's been a tough year for our fruit and veg ~ hasn't it. There's been floods and cyclones, locusts and mice, and some parts of the country have had droughts for the past 10 years only to get washed away in the first year offering some opportunity to grow. Potato farmers striking, crops being poisoned, petrol/oil costs increasing and supermarkets bringing prices "down down, prices are down" ~ just not so much on the fresh, Australian grown goods.

What would life be like if we all had to buy locally. If the cost of transporting produce became so unreasonable that primary producers could not get their goods to buyers? Do you know how grow fruit and vegetables for your family if necessary? Can you milk a cow (if you had one), slaughter a chook, make yogurt or cheese, or savoury shapes? Imagine the cost of food doubled in September . . . and stayed at those prices for the next 12 months. Would you be able to afford your shopping habits as a consequence of economics ~ if you could afford to continue shopping the same way?

We've made our own bed... 
Making the Bed 

In light of that above, we have started to build our 'temporary' vegetable beds here. Mind you, the climate in Bundaberg is a mighty site different to that of freezing Ballarat. In fact, the veggie growing season appears to be coming to an end for the main bulk of crops. Things we plant now will be harvestable (if that is a word) around November and December with not a lot of the summer gardening we are used to - but I think we should be able to produce enough to freeze, pickle or preserve for the hot, wet, humid months to come.

We do already have basil, chives, oregano and parsley growing in a herb pot, plus some lettuce, strawberries and mulberry in other pots. We are about to fill a third pot (the old laundry sink actually) with some snow peas, wombok, coriander, mint and mustard greens. And, having met some wonderful local home growers, we've got ginger and yakon rhizomes to plant in next month.
The Laundry Tub ~ ready for herbs... 
Looking at Gardenate ~ there are quite a few of our favourite vegetables which can be planted over the next 4-6 weeks.  Vegetables like beetroot, celery, carrots, potatoes, onions, beans, lettuce, cucumber, pumpkin and radish. We can also start seed trays of leeks, capsicum, chilli, melons, cabbage, tomatoes and lots of different herbs.

Aside from building a raised garden bed and the laundry sink, we also have two concrete tubs and the inside barrel of a washing machine to use for growing produce in. Along with a few big pots and tubs, we hope to be able to share and exchange with others for things we don't have ~ like eggs. Oh we do miss our fresh laid googie eggs.
Miss my gerls...
Most of the manual work at the moment is being done by Husband, with a lot of advice, guidance and directions from moi! Our financial outlay so far has been zip and we hope to continue that way. Thanks to friendly local Freecyclers, we've also got some fresh, organic seaweed fertiliser - a wonderful surprise and a huge money saver.

We will be sharing the progress and hope to be able to get lots of personal tips from successful vegetable growers around the country. Saving money at the shopping end will mean more available to get rid of this debt and buy ourselves our own home here - ideally close to the high school SmallBoy will be attending for the next five years. Loving our new environment and already feeling part of a lovely community. *cheers*

Until tomorrow ~ keep that wallet closed (unless of course you want to contribute to our Spare Change Jar or Treasure Chest). All the little pennies add up and help us in more ways than you can imagine :D