"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - September 2005
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally and Happy Hanna: Changing Habits
- Bad Habits and Sinkholes
- Competition Winners: Father's Day and Wedding Preparations
- Penny's Blog: Retail Therapy
- Fran's Homeopath Article: Sinuses cleared for $230
- Simple Saving Recommends: Wuggle Wear
- From Last Month: Line of Credit and Vacuum Cleaners
- This Month's Help Request: Activities for large groups
How are you doing? What a month! We have tried really hard to get our new product ready to release this month. We got so close... and then the goal posts moved. A little leprechaun snuck in during the middle of the night, ripped the posts out of the ground and planted them 100 metres away. This means I still can't tell you what the new product is.
It has been such a big month. Thank you for your astounding emails.
"I just had to write and say a big THANK YOU for this amazing website. We are a single-income family and I am a stay-at-home mum. My husband works so hard so I can be home full time and I want so much to better manage our money. Since becoming a member of Simple Savings two months ago, it has totally changed my perspective on things - I cannot BELIEVE I used to spend $4 for a pack of 8 lousy cheese sticks because they had 'Shrek' on them!!! I also no longer feel the need to 'do something' with my 21 month old son all the time - constantly buying kids DVDs and 'little' toys really adds up, and a trip to an indoor play centre costs $20+ once we pay for entry, food and drinks. We still go, but not every week like we used to! Now our days are filled by walks and picnics of fruit and vegemite sandwiches in the park, feeding ducks and birds at the reserve, riding our bikes, visiting friends more often, and playing with plastic containers and water jugs in our backyard!
"I usually spend between $330 and $350 on a fortnightly shop at Woolies. Last week I got organised, asked my sister to baby-sit for a couple of hours, packed an esky in the back of the car and did a split shop between Aldi and Woolies... and I spent a total of $214 !! I cannot believe I saved at least $119 just by doing this. That's a saving of at least $238 PER MONTH! I think my membership fee *maybe* paid for itself!!!
"For my son's 2nd birthday this year we have decided to have an afternoon tea of coffee and cakes (that I will make) as opposed to the huge monstrosity of a party I had planned. We will also ask our guests to make a donation to the Children's Hospital rather than bringing a gift for our son - he will still receive presents from us and his grandparents, and with Christmas only 3 weeks after his birthday he won't want for gifts! I can't thank you enough for opening my eyes and I hope to one day include my own money-saving tip like the other fabulous members on this site!!!" (Lisa Robertson)
"Wow!! I visited one of your recommended sites, Social Club Books and was completely thrilled to see a book I had been contemplating buying for $29.95 on sale for $11! I've now saved scb.com.au in my favourites as I am a keen reader but am often put off by the prices of new books. Thanks once again, Simple Savings." (Kim Spooner)
"Going online was the best thing I have ever done. Buying a membership in the Vault was the second best thing that I have done as I am now saving a lot of money. Firstly I'm saving around $500 a year in bank fees and charges as I now do internet banking, which is wonderful. Secondly I'm saving around $600 a year on my phone bills as I now email everyone and I have been able to change to a lower line rental. That saving is after I deduct my internet charges per month. This is already a saving of $750 alone on these two things. Thank you 'Simple Savings' for helping me become aware of every cent I spend. This is just the beginning of my saving money." (Pam Floyd)
"Thank you so much! I joined Simple Savings last night - what a fantastic site! Within one hour of being a member I had decided, no more Chrisco vouchers - I will get vouchers from Coles, Kmart etc every shopping day valid for 12 months instead. And definitely no more credit card which is yet again at its limit. After reading your site I have decided to pay it off and get a Visa debit card straight away! Just on interest alone I will be saving $500 per year and not to mention a lot of stress. I know I am going to get a lot of good ideas from your site and save a lot of money. The $47 was well worth every cent and I will be telling all of my friends and family about your site. Thanks again!" (Mrs Marin)
Have a wonderful month!
PS. This month we hit two new milestones! This newsletter now goes to 42,235 Australian families and we also recently passed a new monthly record of 2,000,000 hits on the website in September!
Give yourself a pat on the back, because you have a lot to do with it. Every time you read this newsletter, use a hint, forward on an email or tell your friends about a hint you are contributing. You are part of the site's success.
1. Sad Sally and Happy Hanna: Changing Habits
Happy Hanna stuck her head in the office door with a cheery smile "Hi Sal!"
"Oh blast!" Sally jumped up with a start as her hot takeaway coffee spilt over her desk "What a waste of a perfectly good coffee! What am I going to do now?"
"Oops! I didn't mean to startle you." Hanna grinned.
"Drat. I had just got it from Jimmy's cafe." grumbled Sally as she mopped up the mess.
"Yeah - they are really nice" agreed Hanna. "Sorry I made you spill it. Would you like me to make you a plunger of coffee?"
"Yeah, thanks." Sally smiled. "While you do that I'll run down and get a choccie to go with it!" Sad Sally grabbed her wallet and scurried out the door.
Hanna made the coffee from her stash and had just finished unpacking her sandwiches and chocolate from her lunch box when Sally arrived back, mouth full and chomping on a chocolate bar.
"Feel better?" asked Hanna.
"Mmmpf...yes. That vending machine is my best friend. We chat every day." Sally said as she eyed Hanna's lunch, "Mmm...that looks delicious. I really should have packed my own lunch today, but who has the time to do such mundane things?"
Happy Hanna smiled politely and Sad Sally steamrolled on. "Can you believe Peter actually had a go at me about it last night? He reckons I spend $60 a week on food at work! What a joke! I only buy coffee, chocolate and sandwiches."
"Well maybe he is right Sal. That is $12 per day or $3000 per year. Imagine what you could do with $3000 at Christmas time!" Happy Hanna smiled.
Sad Sally rolled her eyes. "Not you too! I'm being attacked by tightwads everywhere I go. All you want to do is spoil my fun. I work hard for my money and if I want to spend it at the vending machine I can."
Who are you most like, Sally or Hanna? Who would you rather be?
2. Bad Habits and Sinkholes
Bad habits gobble up huge quantities of money. It is common for people to throw away $100-200 each week without even realising it. If you earn $500 cash (after tax) each week, every $100 you waste is an entire day of your life lost. It means that you are spending one day each week working to pay for that habit instead of relaxing.
Adopting cheaper habits is probably the easiest way to save stacks of money without affecting your lifestyle, but identifying the bad habit can be hard. Some bad habits are very obvious like smoking cigarettes, but others sneak under the radar. These are luxury items which have become so commonplace that they are taken for granted.
To help you lower your bills and improve your quality of life. Here is a quick list of bad habits and some simple ways to fatten your wallet.
Wasting money on soft drinks
Trips to shops, doctors, dentists, school pick-ups or other short outings often end up costing you money having to buy drinks when out.
I now make it a habit to always take a full water bottle with me, even for short outings. By doing this I am never caught out needing to spend on drinks if delayed.
To save even more, take one bottle for each person travelling. At $2.00 for a bottle of water from the shop I am saving a minimum of $2.00 a day for myself alone, plus the saving for each extra person. Always have some water handy and you will never need to waste any more money on drinks!
Buying biscuits and cakes
I bake everyday because I enjoy baking and my family (5) enjoy eating. This has saved us thousands over 11 years. We have paid cash for 2 new cars and own our house outright after only 5 years of mortgage. Shop for specials and buy in bulk but not so much that it expires before you can use it.
My husband and I had a life changing experience. We went bushwalking through the Tasmanian wilderness in January for 6 days. It was hard work but the scenery was awesome and the natural beauty all around made us all realise how insignificant, shallow and overly complicated our lives back in the city were. This experience really got my husband motivated to live a simpler lifestyle (I had already seen the benefits of this) and now we track all our expenditure and really think and plan before we spend money on anything other than essentials.
Forgetting your feet
I have worked out how to save almost $700 travelling to and from work. I commute on Sydney State Transit buses and thought I was saving money by buying a Brown TravelTen (saving about $3.30 a week), but I discovered a way to save even more money.
Check where your nearest 'section' ends, or where the fares change from one price to a cheaper price. I found out the closest bus stop to my house was one price, but by walking to the next bus stop along the street (not even five minutes away) I was in the next (and cheaper) section, and could use a Blue TravelTen. If I did this every day to and from work I would save $14.30 a week, or $686 a year! Even if I do it a few times, it saves me $1.43 each trip, which adds up over time. If I did it just once a day, it still adds up to about $343 a year - and I get exercise into the bargain as well!
Relying on credit cards
I have changed my spending habits this year, which seems to have worked nicely. Instead of putting my groceries on my credit card, with the intention of clearing my card by the due date, I now work out a weekly menu, buy only the ingredients I need that week from the amount I've allowed myself from our weekly pay, for example, $150 for a family of five, and pay for the groceries using that cash. If I have only $20 left from that week's groceries, I know I can only spend $20 until the next pay day, thus eliminating the urge to buy something I don't really need. If I don't have the cash, then basically I can't buy anything, so I do without rather than using my credit card for extras. This way I'm not putting new amounts onto my credit card, and I'm sticking to a great budget.
This newsletter is bursting at the seams. If you need more help identifying your habits please check out these tips in the Vault. If you aren't a Vault member it costs $47 per year to join. To order a membership go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/order
3. Competition Winners: Father's Day and Wedding Preparations
Thank you to everyone who has responded to our latest competition. As mentioned in our last newsletter, our Father's Day section of the Vault was decidedly lacking in hints compared to the Mother's Day one. We knew we could count on you to replenish this section with your ideas, and there have been some awesome ones! Make a note of some of these extra special ones for Dad next year!
Here are the winners who have each received a free year's membership to the Savings Vault, or an extension of their existing one:
Dad's Private Stash
You can spend as little or as much as you like on this gift idea!
I find that every week after grocery shopping, my hubby scrounges through the cupboards for any snacks that I may have bought for the kids. This wouldn't be so bad if he didn't almost eat all of it at the one sitting!
So I have been on the look out every week for specials on these snacks, buy them, and then hide them from hubby. On Father's Day the kids and I will place all these snacks, together with a hand made card in a reusable container. This gift will be called 'Dad's Private Stash'. I know that he will love the idea!
Father's Day tips
A great gift for Dad is to email friends and family who have children either at the same age or older and ask for them to give a short tip or piece of advice for surviving fatherhood in the upcoming year - I did this for my husband when we were expecting our first child. The responses were great - some funny, some serious. Our daughter is now three and we are expecting baby number two - I think it's time for some new tips for Dad! It's cheap to print out the replies, have children decorate them and either make into a book or slide into a plastic leaf file for a personal, entertaining and useful gift!
Kids in a box
Try this idea for a free, yet personal and special Father's Day present, that gives a chance for Dad to have a well deserved break!. All you need is a large cardboard box!
Place the box (for example you could get it from a supermarket for free) in the middle of the lounge room and wrap it in brown paper. Tie a ribbon around it and add a small hand made card cut out in the shape of a person. Inside the card write - 'To Dad/Grandpa for one day'. As they open the box, out jumps the child or grandchild!
The child's job is to do odd jobs for Dad for the day - these could include washing the car, weeding the garden, or just behaving! This could be the best present ever and is made with love.
We have also had a terrific response from all of you who are in the midst of planning a fantastic frugal wedding. We wish you a wonderful day and thank you for sharing your ideas. If marriage is on the cards for yourself, or anyone you know, the Vault is the perfect place to start when planning your special day - the thousands of dollars our members have saved on their weddings will amaze you!
Here are the winners who have each received a free year's membership to the Savings Vault, or an extension of their existing one:
$28 wedding dress
We are saving a minimum of $550 on wedding photography costs alone by choosing not to use a professional photographer. Instead we are providing several disposable cameras at the reception for our guests to take photos (maximum cost $50), and also will obtain digital images from guests for free. The costs of professional wedding photographers START at $600, so we have made a great saving here.
Instead of purchasing a wedding dress, I am making my own. I bought the pattern and material last week from Spotlight for $28!
We are self-catering for our wedding. Family are helping out with providing dishes, and we will employ two people on the night to serve and clean up. We have purposefully not booked a catered-for reception site also, as we don't want to pay for expensive wines and/or corkage costs. We have bought all our wedding wines at (www.graysonline.com.au) This is an absolutely awesome website, which does online auctions for all sorts of things - from wines, to office furniture, to TVs. We have bought labelled wine, that we know is of good quality for $5.00-$10 a bottle (including freight!). Now we just need to find wholesale beer!
I am not into jewellery, so we bought a nice plain ring that we used for our engagement and will also use for the wedding. We bought my partner some beautiful linen pants from one of Myer's huge sales. They were originally reduced, and then were 50% off the reduced price - what a bargain! My grandmother is doing all the flowers for the wedding and some friends and I are decorating the reception venue. I have collected seashells, and been getting ideas from various websites and magazines. My friends are doing my hair and makeup for the day, saving me a further $100.
A wedding costs $150 - the rest is garnish
Our friends are still talking about our awesome wedding - and the total cost to us was $750! Instead of an expensive wedding, we opted for a simple registry office wedding.
Nothing new there, but here's the catch - we only gave people one week's notice! Another condition on the invite was that you had to wear something you already have in your wardrobe; we didn't want anyone running out and spending a fortune on an outfit that they would only wear once.
We catered from a wholesaler and bought five kilos of lasagne, pies, pastry, sausage rolls and tonnes of nibbles, with BYO alcohol.
We had immediate family only at the wedding itself, and hosted about 45 people at our place in the afternoon. It might not seem like a lot of people; but remember with only one week's notification, there was no time or means to track down that long lost auntie, or other people we hadn't see for years. We just had the people that are important to us.
Registry office wedding - $148.50
Taxis to and fro - $24
Food for the party - $125
Engagement ring - $150
Wedding rings - $200
Boots (the only new thing I bought) - $100
Everyone had a great time, because there was no stress or hassle with wedding preparations and the inevitable quibbling that goes with it. As I proudly tell friends 'a wedding costs $150, the rest is garnish'.
With the money that we saved, we were able to renovate two rooms and get the backyard landscaped without going into debt!
4. Penny's Blog: Retail Therapy
We continue to follow our real life Simple Savings member Penny through her ups and downs.
"I just wanted to say thanks to Penny's Blog - she mentioned one of my hints - the one about turning your meatloaf mix into 'Mince Muffins'. It was a nice surprise to read that a simple hint was used by someone else. I love this site and have made many changes to our way of living and will continue to do so as long as this site is available. Keep it up!" (Joyce Maxwell)
Penny's blog is a members only treat. She writes around eight blog entries a month. We make the best entry each month available in this newsletter for all to share.
One of my vices that I had thought had been long buried and forgotten reared its ugly head - The Warehouse (discount outlet). I love The Warehouse and when my addiction was at its worst, I was spending anything up to $400 a month there - though I couldn't tell you what on! Just stuff really, and that's the whole problem; The Warehouse is full of so much stuff, that blissful hours pass by in what seems like minutes and before I know it, my trolley is full of 'must have' bargain items that I never knew I needed before, my bank account is significantly worse off as a result and all dockets must be meticulously destroyed before Noel gets home.
Since I began writing my blog, I had been so frugal that I had totally forgotten that The Warehouse had ever been a financial millstone around my neck. Don't get me wrong - I know as well as anyone else that it's also one of the first places a smart shopper should visit in order to get a bargain. For months I had been really proud of myself - I had survived my visits by writing a list beforehand and only heading for, and buying what was on that list. Some months I hadn't even set foot in there at all! So what went wrong? Call it retail therapy. Some people turn to chocolate when things go wrong; I turn to The Warehouse.
On visiting my GP last week, a suspicious lump was found and I was referred immediately for a mammogram. An appointment was made at the radiography clinic for the following day and I drove an hour to the city. On arriving at the clinic, I sat and waited for 45 minutes past my appointment time before someone appeared and advised me that they wouldn't be performing my mammogram after all, as they considered (in New Zealand) I was too young at 32. Never mind the fact that my mother has had breast cancer, with her first lump at age 27 and two aunts of mine have also passed away from it. I wonder if Kylie Minogue was given the same fob-off, was she considered too young as well? However, all was not lost, as I was cheerfully told that thanks to my appalling family history, I would qualify for regular mammograms in three years, when I hit 35. How reassuring. I was hacked off to say the least, but not being the most assertive person, my lump and I left the clinic without a word, before heading straight for the nearest Warehouse and spending up large.
I struggled with it, I really did! I trailed around the store for ages before putting the steam cleaner and the cordless vacuum cleaner back on the shelf (a sterling decision I felt, seeing as they both had over $25 off). I felt much better for exerting at least a little willpower but still managed to grab a dozen other items, including three music CD's and a kids' electronic game before heading off to the checkout and shelling out $178. Considering I was in such a miserable state of mind to begin with, my needless splurge did absolutely nothing to help the situation; of course it only made it worse. The sleepless night which followed was due more to me being racked with guilt about my silly spending than my dodgy lump.
Penny's Blog is a special treat for Vault members and is updated a couple of times a week. To read the rest of this month's entries go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/pennywise
5. Fran's Homeopath Article: Sinuses cleared for $230
Spring is finally here, but unfortunately for many it can bring misery in the form of sinusitis and similar allergic reactions. Madeleine's severe condition had played havoc for the last seven years - particularly affecting her career as a singer, until she paid a visit to our favourite Homeopath, Fran Sheffield. It took Fran 3 appointments (total cost $230) to solve Madeline's problem.
In this month's article, Fran demonstrates that sometimes, the very remedy needed to heal a condition can also be the one to put a patient back to square one, if not taken correctly. As always, it pays to read the label!
To read the latest go to: homeopathyplus.com.au/cases/caseofsinusitis.html
Why are stories about homeopathy included in the Simple Savings Newsletters? Because homeopathy is a cost-effective way to reduce your medical bills and keep your family healthy. Homeopathy is a system of medicine that works with your body rather than against it. As the underlying imbalance is corrected, symptoms disappear and so does the need for all those expensive medicines. Good health leads to big savings! Homeopathy is safe at any stage of life and is free from toxic side-effects.
When choosing a homeopath it is important to make sure they meet the minimum standards accredited by the Australian government. It is sad but true that some who prescribe homeopathic remedies have had little or no training in homeopathy. To check that your practitioner is qualified to government endorsed standards, go to: www.homeopathyoz.org or www.aroh.com.au
6. Simple Savings Recommends: Wuggle Wear
One thing our members can be assured of is that when a product comes personally recommended by us, you are guaranteed the best value for money every time. We are pleased to welcome another fantastic site to our Simple Savings Recommends Program this month. The Simple Savings Recommends Program includes companies that we have found to provide genuine savings, beneficial to all Australians.
The site below has just been awarded our stamp of approval.
Quality pre-loved clothing for your little one. Wuggle Wear was created by a stay-at-home Mum who found it difficult to shop with young children in tow, and found the rising postage prices on eBay and other shopping sites were not working for her. There are lots of lovely, pre loved clothes on the site and it is growing quickly. WuggleWear does the searching for you and finds the best, pre-loved items ready for you to buy straight away - no bidding required! Check out their website and we're sure you'll be as impressed as we are.
7. From Last Month: Line of Credit and Vacuum Cleaners
We have had a huge response to both our help requests from last month's newsletter.
Last month Jenni Whyte asked:
"I have a question in regards to mortgages with a line of credit... We have had one now for approximately 3 years and are struggling to see any benefit. I think because you use your credit card for everything it is easy to OVERSPEND each month, there also seems to be a lot of fees and charges on this type of loan. we also need to withdraw cash for all of those unexpected things like sporting fees, school excursions etc. I just feel that no matter how good we try to be, we are still not getting ahead! Are there any readers who are on this type of loan and doing well on it??"
We received a wide range of responses and it seems that most people who have used similar loans have found themselves in an identical situation to Jenni - or worse! It seems that discipline is the key to making these kind of loans work.
Line of Credit can be too tempting
I had a line of credit five years ago, and it caused me nothing but worry and stress. You have to be extremely disciplined, and buying with the credit card keeps you constantly in debt. It's just too tempting with such easy access to a large sum of money. Even those smaller purchases really add up each month. I went back to the old fashioned principle and interest loan, and will happily stay with that.
Offset mortgage to bring better savings
In just 12 months of having a line of credit loan, we were in very deep water. We changed to an offset mortgage and split the loan in two. The larger is on fixed rate with no redraw and the smaller is on variable with redraw for those unexpected things. We also have a bonus saver account where 10% of any income goes into.
In just under seven months we have been able to save $1200 and pay more than $7000 off our mortgage. We do still have a credit card, but with $1000 limit only.
Line of Credit works with a little logic
We have a line of credit mortgage and, unlike many, we find it works very well. We have changed our way of thinking, because every dollar you spend on your card comes out of your mortgage. With that logic, I remember if I spend $10 on something it's $10 that's not being paid off the house.
We also don't get cash out very often. It's funny how many times you don't buy something because you don't want to use you credit card for a small item. I included my car loan and we were able to get the balance back down in nine months. I would otherwise have being paying for my car for another two and a half years!
I find a weekly budget helps so you can see were you are going and we find it very important to pay off the credit card once a month. Waiting for the 55th day doesn't work as you always forget and end up paying more than you have saved. Our fees for being late were over $60.
Re-finance to a cheaper loan
I'm a book-keeper and have worked with finances and budgets all my life. It's my personal opinion that line of credit products are a trap. Over the years I've had a number of friends (some very wealthy ones) who tried to make a line of credit work and NOT ONE person I know has ever succeeded.
The theory is great, but the reality is if you don't see your money going out until the end of the month (not each time you use it) it's impossible to keep track of spending. Refinance to a cheaper loan (we've just locked in 6.8% with a Credit Union for three years - very easy to service this rate and I can strictly budget for the next three years - plus no ongoing fees) and realise that if you're withdrawing cash for 'unexpected' things all the time, then an amount needs to be budgeted for these situations.
Other great responses can be found in the Banks -> Home Loans section. Check out these titles:
Also from last month Pirjo Lam asked:
"Our 24 year old Electrolux Vacuum cleaner has developed an electrical fault and may not be worth fixing for $150 as it doesn't have the Hepa filter etc. New Electrolux vacuum cleaners cost around $2,500 and I'm wondering whether I really need to spend so much to get the required results. I would like to hear from others about their experiences with vacuum cleaners and what they can recommend. How much do you need to spend to get a decent vacuum cleaner that does both carpet and hard surfaces. We do have a big house, big family, an asthmatic son, lots of guests, so it'll need to be heavy duty and efficient with removing the dust mites etc. I have had a look at Harvey Norman where the sales person recommended the Dyson on sale for $799. Then at Big W I saw a Kambrook Jaguar "Twister" bagless vacuum cleaner for $250 that looked similar in construction. Are either of these are any good, or can anyone make another recommendation? With the purchase of vacuum cleaners, is it a case of 'you get what you pay for', or can great savings be made here with a bit of knowledge and by shopping around? I'd appreciate your feedback."
Wow, what a wealth of information we received on this subject! Most of our members have found that, no matter how tight the budget, a good vacuum cleaner is essential and well worth the money. Of course, that doesn't mean that you should be expected to pay full price, with some smart shopping skills in place!
The good and bad of Dyson
The bad news about Dyson vacuum cleaners is you have to pay more for them. The good news is you can get at least $100 off for paying cash at most electrical discount stores.
About $650 should secure one and you can expect it to last for many years. The Dyson is completely different to the Kambrook or any other lookalike vacuum cleaners - and far better. Dyson own the patent on the cyclone mechanism and jealously guard it. The others are designed to look similar but they don't work the same way.
Dysons really do work more effectively than other vacuum cleaners - you will be amazed at how much dirt you pick up - the price of their extra efficiency is they need emptying every time you use them, not once a fortnight like their competitors!
Best suction in 25 years
I shopped around for the best price when I bought my Dyson upright vacuum cleaner. I have had it for about three years and am very, very happy with its suction. My son has asthma, so it was important to get a good model. This is my seventh vacuum cleaner in 25 years and it has had the best suction of all. The best part about Dysons is that you don't need to buy vacuum cleaner bags, what a waste of money!
Wait for a special
My advice when buying vacuum cleaners is to wait for a special and grab a Dyson. I recently bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner from Harvey Norman in Adelaide. They were having a $100 off special (which they have quite regularly) and I only paid $499.
I can completely recommend my Dyson. I live on a farm, so dust and dirt is always getting in to my home. I also have a child with asthma so I know how important it is to eliminate as many nasties from my house as I can.
The Dyson is fantastic. I love the clear cylinder that shows how much dirt I've collected. It still amazes each time!
Before, I had a cheap plastic K-Mart thing which was useless. I definitely learned my lesson about buying inferior cheaper quality. It was less than six months old and I still had the receipt and original box, so I returned it - and got back my $129 that I paid. Total amount saved - $229 on a $599 vacuum cleaner!
Don't waste money on overpriced vacuum cleaners
I used to clean rental homes, and for deep vacuuming, all that is needed is a good vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. These filters remove almost 100% of dust mites.
My current machine cost less than US$130, which I purchased this year. By purchasing a more expensive model, all you will be doing is lining the pockets of the salesman!
Share between households
Our family was able to afford a top quality Dyson vacuum cleaner, by sharing the cost (and the cleaner!) between two households.
We bought a Dyson three years ago jointly with my then partner (now husband) and brother in law, for around $800. Sharing it between the two households and three incomes made it much cheaper for all of us.
We have found it very effective - it picks up extremely fine dust, and there are models with the hepa filter for extracting the microscopic dust that affects asthma sufferers. We had three cats at the time, so you can imagine the cat hair problem. The cyclonic vacuum system is mainly a benefit in not needing vacuum bags (a saving) and having fewer filters to clog up.
Get a good second hand Kirby
The mother of all vacuum cleaners is the Kirby brand, but don't pay thousands of dollars for them!
They are ridiculously overpriced when purchased new, so try shopping for a Kirby on e-Bay or Trading Post. They are typically sold door to door by hard pushing salesmen who just don't know how to take no for an answer. Good late model examples are selling for around $300-$400 second hand. This is a bargain, given that the 'retail' price is upwards of $3000! If the Trading Post or eBay seller was a real victim of the dreaded sales rep, then they will have also purchased lots of accessories that include spray guns, floor polishers and a carpet shampoo head.
You only need to ensure that the primary user in your household is able to comfortably negotiate the unit as they are not made of plastic. This said, they are built like a tank and replacement parts and service when rarely required is available.
A great bargain at $300-$400 but a real rip off at $3000-$4000!
For more great responses on vacuums go to House -> Appliances. Here are some links to get you started:
8. This Month's Help Request: Activities for large groups
This month Jill Hopgood-Clark asked:
"I work in Adelaide for the Mental Health Services for Older People. As you are aware the cuts in government budgets affect all of us, but the elderly find it really tough, especially those suffering from a mental illness. They are stuck home with nothing to do.
"We have converted a couple of rooms out the back of our office and have turned it into a homely atmosphere that these clients can come & have a chat and a cuppa. My question to you and your members:
"Do you have any ideas that this community can do in the way of crafts, entertainment, (cheap) gift making, something that we as staff can offer for a couple of hours a week just to brighten up their days. Does anyone know of any organisations that would be prepared to come and sing, play an instrument, give a talk... ANYTHING... we are desperate. Xmas is not far away. It would be great to see a smile on their faces. Thank you so much, a really fantastic site, I enjoy your emails. Cheers."
If you can help Jill brighten her customer's day please click here and tell us about it.