"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - June 2004
This issue includes:-
- Avoiding queues and Christmas debt
- Gifts you can make for next to nothing
- Staying healthy this winter
- From last month: Cheapest ways to keep chickens
- Help request: Too shy to ask for a discount
- Special competition: Budget recipes with wine
- Saving Story: Saved $550 on brand new carpet
- What is the Savings Vault?
How are things? *grin* What a busy month! Baby Jacqueline is six weeks old and starting to smile. She's so cute! She sleeps on my lap while I read your emails.
"I love Simple Savings. I have used some of the suggestions I have found here, particularly (www.vetstop.com.au), which has saved me heaps in buying stuff for my cats. I have also sent the website to a friend who has a menagerie of animals and she is grateful for the discovery. Thanks again and keep up the great work." (Kylie Steinbeck)
"Congratulations on your new bub. I am a first-time mother to a 5½-month-old girl named Hailee. She was born five weeks early and is my pride and joy. Since reading about your site in That’s Life, I have found myself looking to it daily for handy hints, which are so helpful now that I am not working. Congratulations on a fantastic site to help others." (Shara Louise Eley)
It's wonderful to be able to help so many people.
Have a great month!
1. Avoiding queues and Christmas debt
If you want a fantastic, low-cost, stress free Christmas it is too late to start planning it in December. You need to start preparing now. The first thing you need to do is to write a plan.
Writing a plan
Sit down now (in June) and write a list of everyone you would like to give a present to if Christmas were tomorrow. Write next to each name what you think they would like and how you would like to show your love for that person. Once you have worked out everything you would like to give, your next task is to find a way of paying for everything without going into debt or even noticing that the money is missing.
Here are some of the clever things our subscribers do so that they can give great gifts without becoming bogged down in queues and credit card debt.
Starting a Christmas hamper in June
Set aside a large container, cardboard box or part of a cupboard. Whenever you do grocery shopping from June onwards, buy something for the Christmas period. Check the use by date on perishable items before storing. If it's a transparent plastic crate, line it with paper to keep out little prying eyes.
I keep a list of what I have collected, and get most of my Christmas shopping done before December. I also collect my decorating items throughout the year, bring them out in early December and start making them up. It keeps the kids busy and I don't have to go near the shops until the after-Christmas sales.
After a couple of years you will become efficient enough to have next year's shopping list prepared just after Christmas based on what worked well.
Buying presents early
I buy my Christmas gifts during the year. I have a list of people, friends, relatives, the cleaning lady, etc. for whom I need to buy gifts. Around Christmas time all prices are inflated, so instead I look around at sales during the year. This way I can buy a $30 book for half the price, a CD of my nephew’s favourite artist at a discount, a great bottle of wine for a friend, and give them something of greater value than they would otherwise receive.
I now always update the list when I've bought something for someone because one year I bought three gifts for the same person at different book sales!
Putting aside $5 a week for Christmas groceries
Last year I enquired about the Chrisco hampers for Christmas and was astonished at the huge mark-up on the items included. The plans start at around $6 a week, depending on the hamper you are saving for. I did a rough estimate of the cost of the items in the hamper and realised that it was worth only just over half the money I would have to contribute ($6 over 50 weeks, or $300). I was certain that the money needed to purchase the same items from my regular supermarket would be in the region of $160–$180, depending on specials. I realised that this was false economy – saving for a Christmas parcel but paying more than was really needed.
So I decided I would put aside $5 a week for 50 weeks and just before Christmas I would have $250 to spend at Christmas time. Not only was I putting aside the $5 easily, but I was able to buy $250 worth of goods instead of $160 worth.
Making gifts when it is cold and you are stuck indoors
I love to make things for my friends each year but life gets really busy in November. So I have started making my gifts now in winter when I'm snuggled in front of the heater. It works really well. I even wrap them in Christmas paper bought from the January sales so at Christmas I have plenty of time to enjoy the company of my friends and family.
2. Gifts you can make for next to nothing
There are loads and loads of gift ideas in the Vault. Here are some crafty tips to get you started that are great value and do not require any special skill.
Make your own luxurious bath bombs
You can make magnificent bath bombs for $1 each. These are great to give to your friends as a little something to say Thanks, Happy Birthday or Merry Christmas. They are quite easy to make with cornflour, bi-carb soda, citric acid and oils. We found a great recipe and instructions with pictures at: www.ncf.ca/~aj471/BathBombs.html It is really detailed. One of the main ingredients - citric acid - sells at the supermarket for $24 per kilo in 75gm containers, which is a bit expensive. You can buy it for $5 per kilo from www.newdirections.com.au.
Laminated hand-decorated placemats
A great gift for Christmas, birthdays or any other time of year is to have drawings or pictures laminated and used as placemats. My three children personalise Christmas placemats for family for Christmas lunch and have them laminated at a pharmacy for $1 a placemat. You can make a collage using old Christmas wrapping, cards or even photos.
Painted terracotta pots
Buy some terracotta pots from your local nursery. These come in a range of sizes and are usually priced from around 50 cents upwards, depending on the size. Paint a design or a message on the pots. You can pot herbs and paint the name of the herb in fancy letters on the pot or plant flowers in them or fill them with lollies and cover with cellophane. Some other uses are pen holders, tea light candle holders, or even a unique baby gift with the baby’s name painted on the side and filled with various small baby items. I have given away many as special personalised presents.
3. Staying healthy this winter
Here are some tips to help you beat winter colds and flu. Remember: these tips are not to be used in place of a doctor or pharmacist's advice. If you are sick see a health professional.
Tea tree oil and vaseline
My little son used to suffer from a lot of colds. Every time I put Vicks, or anything similar, on his chest he used to break out in a large, red rash. This is how I solved the problem.
Melt the contents of a jar of Vaseline by sitting it in some hot water, add a few drops of natural tea tree oil, stir and allow to set again.
This works wonders on babies, small children and anyone who has sensitive skin. So far it has worked for me, and I have five children of my own.
Immune boosting chicken soup
Because my Mum has an auto-immune disease, she is prone to colds, flu and pneumonia and takes an average of 12–18 tablets a day. As I didn’t want Mum to get sick or have to take more tablets, I needed to think up a way of boosting her immune system. So I started to make ordinary chicken soup, but it wasn’t potent enough. That’s when I came up with this recipe. I think it tastes delicious.
Becky's Kill-Anything Chicken Soup
- 8 - 9 chicken lovely legs, skinless
- 8 - 10 chopped cloves of garlic
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 - 3 small red chillies (Remove the seeds if you don't like it too hot as they're the hottest part, or just use one chilli. But you must use small chillies because they loosen mucus.)
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 2 litres chicken stock
- 2 finely chopped carrots
- 1 - 2 handfuls corn
- 1 cup macaroni pasta
- 2 - 3 handfuls baby spinach
Heat the oil in a stock pot and brown the chicken, garlic, onion, chilli and ginger. Add the chicken stock, carrots and corn. Bring to the boil, and if needed add water. Simmer for 15 - 30 minutes. Take out the chicken, pull the meat off the bone, break meat into small pieces and put back in the pot. Add macaroni and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes or until pasta is cooked. Add baby spinach, taste, add salt and pepper if needed, then serve.
Since I've started to make this recipe, my mother has had fewer colds. When she has been sick it has not been for as long and has meant fewer hospital visits - not to mention fewer doctor's visits. Between the savings on medical bills, doctor's bills and hospital visits, I cannot begin to imagine what our savings have been but I don't doubt that they have been in the thousands of dollars.
Cold sore remedy
An effective way to get rid of cold sores is to apply ice! When you feel a cold sore coming, or even if you already have one, stop it in its tracks by holding an ice cube (wrapped in fabric so you don't damage your skin) on it until the area is numb. Ice seems to kill the virus inside the sore - and it really works! This means that you don't need to spend $10 - $12 on Zovirax (the only other thing that ever worked on my cold sores).
Grow echinacea to counter colds
A common treatment for colds is the purple coneflower known as echinacea. With the onset of symptoms, drink one cup of tea four times a day. (To make: Pour a cup of boiling water over the leaves, roots and flowers, let stand for five minutes, strain and drink.)
A bottle of Cenovis echinacea containing approximately 60 tablets can cost you anywhere from $16.35 at your local chemist. A small echinacea plant costs $2 from your local nursery. Echinacea is also an extremely hardy, fast-growing plant. Before you buy it ask the nursery staff for growing instructions to make sure it will suit your garden.
Combat the sniffles with ginger
Ginger contains nearly a dozen antiviral compounds. To treat a case of the sniffles, pour a cup of boiling water over a couple of tablespoons of fresh shredded ginger root; add lemon and honey for taste. Or, instead of buying ginger tea at around $3.10 for a 30 gram packet, buy large bags of powdered ginger from a bulk health food shop or Asian grocery store for as little as $1.50 per 100 grams.
Homebrand Chest Rub
The Home Brand 'Chest Rub' is almost exactly the same and is $9 cheaper than Vicks Vaporub. 100gms of Vicks Vaporub is $10.99 and Home Brand Chest rub from Woolworths is $1.94. Home Brand Chest Rub is made in Australia but Vicks Vaporub is made in India. Comparing the ingredient lists was a little difficult, so I asked our local pharmacist to compare them. He said the only difference is that the Homebrand will have a slightly stronger Eucalyptus smell.
4. From last month: Cheapest ways to keep chickens
Last month Nicole Kenny asked:
"We go through lots of eggs every week and because I only buy free-range eggs it can become pretty expensive. I would like to keep some laying hens, but I don't know how to go about it in the most cost-effective way, so I would like to request information from other people about this topic."
We received some great responses that were very detailed and full of helpful ideas for Nicole. We have included 38 of them in the 'Pets -> Chickens' section of the vault. Here are some extracts:
Buy ex-battery hens and build a run from scraps
I went to a battery hen shed and purchased my chickens. You can usually purchase them for between $2 and $5.
The best way to start keeping chickens is to build a run that you can keep about eight hens in, ensuring that you will get a good supply of eggs. The run will need to be a good size but you can make it economically with some chook wire and old wood. You can sometimes pick up both from a wrecking yard. Be careful that the wire is small enough so that snakes and other creatures can't get in and eat your chickens or their eggs. A good tip is to make sure that the roof is wired in.
Grow plants to feed the chickens
Chickens love silverbeet. I have found that growing a few plants of silverbeet does wonders - the chickens love it and it makes the yolks of the eggs very yellow. Silverbeet is rich in vitamins and also very inexpensive. A packet of silverbeet seeds will cost you $3 (or $1 if you like to shop at The Warehouse). For two chickens I would grow around eight plants and just give them a few leaves each day.
Let the chickens eat from the garden
The most cost-effective way my husband and I have found to keep our six chickens is to let them out of their pen very early every morning so they can free range for insects, grasshoppers, worms and pick at green grass all day until they put themselves to bed, and then we lock them in securely for the night. We also grate up vegetable scraps (except potato peelings and onion), freeze them and defrost when required. The chickens also eat organic laying grain from a suspended automatic feeder when they are in their pen.
Free chook food
We feed our chickens for free, and here's how: 1) We found a couple of sources for day-old bread. 2) I sweep around the grain storage area, the guinea pig/rabbit, bird and rat cages at my local Pet Stock (with the Owner's permission). 3) We get free "dead veg." from a wonderful local greengrocers and milkbar, so the chickens get plenty of this.
This is a very short summary of Leonie's fantastic and very detailed hint. The rest is stored in the "Pets -> Chickens" section of the Savings Vault.
5. Help needed: Too shy to ask for a discount
This month, Naomi Robinson asked:
"Everyone always says that to get great bargains, ask for a discount while shopping. The problem is I am too embarrassed and shy. The thought of asking for discounts makes me cringe. I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds this too daunting and embarrassing. Can anyone offer any helpful advice or hints for turning my embarrassment into successful discounts?"
To help Naomi, go to www.simplesavings.com.au/donatehints/
6. Special competition: Budget recipes with wine
This month, in addition to the usual 'Hint of the Week', Simple Savings has teamed up with Cleanskins.com to run a special competition: Send in your best low-cost recipes using wine, and the team from Cleanskins.com will judge them. The best recipes will be published on the Simple Savings and Cleanskins.com sites and the winner will receive a case of Frontignac 2003 white wine from the Rutherglen Region. This wine was the cleanskins.com "Panel's Choice" white for 2004. It was the best wine of over 30 whites tried by the group.
To enter the competition go to www.simplesavings.com.au/donatehints/
7. Saving Story
Saved $550 on brand new carpet
My brother, his wife and their two kids recently moved into a 3 bedroom unit which had bare concrete floors. I helped them contact a number of carpet companies for quotes on floor coverings and the cheapest quote we received was around $600 fully laid for the absolute cheapest carpet they had available. Unfortunately that was far out of my brother's price range and they resigned themselves to having cold bare concrete floors until they could afford some second hand carpet. I had a brainstorm and contacted the carpet company who'd given the cheapest quote. I explained that my brother couldn't possibly afford that and would be happy with second hand carpet if they had any from somewhere else they had recarpeted recently. Amazingly, they gave us their carpet-layer's direct contact number so we could discuss it with him. He was incredibly helpful and told us he could actually get some BRAND NEW carpet that had only just been laid a month before, but was being replaced under an insurance claim because it had been damaged in one small area. He gave the carpet to us for FREE and we only had to pay delivery costs of $50! My brother laid the carpet himself and they are thrilled. They got to carpet their entire unit with BRAND NEW good quality carpet for only $50!!! That's a saving of $550 on the cheapest original quote, and this is far better carpet.
When I asked the carpet company how they could give us such a great deal, they explained that they are frequently required to re-lay carpet for insurance jobs and the carpet they rip up would only be thrown away, so they are more than happy to give it away provided you pay for the delivery. What a great deal!
Thank you Julianne for sharing your inspiring story with us. It is great to hear. If you have a great saving story please send it in by going to our donate hints page. The URL is www.simplesavings.com.au/donatehints/
8. What is the Savings Vault?
The Savings Vault is our paid members area. It is an online archive crammed full of saving hints. (4236 hints to be exact.) The Savings Vault is really huge. We have three part time editors continually working on the vault. It costs $47 per year to join and has a 100% no questions asked guarantee. The joining details are at: www.simplesavings.com.au/order/
The free areas of the site are a great place to start learning how to save money, but by becmoing a paid member and joining the Vault, you will gain more control. If you are just a free subscriber you only get to read the hints we choose for you which may or may not be relevant to you. This really limits the amount of money you can save. But if you are a Vault member and you want to start learning how to lower your electricity bill for example you can go to that section of the Vault this evening rather than wait till we include a couple of hints on electricity in the newsletter.
Preview the Savings Vault
To give you an idea of how many bills you could cut and how many ways you can save money by becoming a member here is a link to the Savings Vault preview page: www.simplesavings.com.au/vault/?preview=1
To become a member go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/order/
If you have encountered a problem with our newsletter, please email me. I will give your comments immediate attention.
© 2004 AL Consulting Pty Ltd. This publication may be freely redistributed if copied in its entirety. Portions of this newsletter may be reprinted with written permission.