"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - August 2010
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: A Place for Everything
- September is 100 Item Challenge
- Fiona's Fab FREE Lippey Labels!
- Father's Day Gifts
- Best of the Forum: Declutter Your Life
- Best of the Vault: Clever Cleanout Tips
- $21 Challenge Confession
- Cooking with Mimi
- Penny's Blog: Great Expectations
- Homeopathy Corner: Jump Start Your Mind
- From Last Month: Affordable Office Furniture
- This Month's Help Request: Whittling Away Our Inheritance
- Savings Story: Confessions of a Stay at Home Mum
How are you doing? It's been an exciting month in our house. Tristan turned three and Elora had her first day at child care! Forgive me for sounding like a bad mummy but I am really relishing my one day of solitude a week. It's heaven!
Decluttering Month couldn't have come at a better time for me. Now I can sort through the house on my own (MWUHAAHAAA!) and clash and bang my way through boxes to my heart's content without fear of waking the baby (DOUBLE MWUHAHAAAA!).
How did you go with last month's From The Yard Challenge? We had a ball in the garden and ate something we grew ourselves almost every day. How cool is that?
Speaking of cool, a little while back we had the pleasure of meeting a very nice journalist called Fenella Souter. She stayed with us for a couple of days and got to experience living the Simple Savings way first hand. The result was a magnificent article which was featured in last week's Good Weekend.
There is one thing Fenella wrote that really stuck in my mind, "the shop 'til you drop philosophy is like fiddling while Rome burns" and this is so true. It made me realise how important Simple Savings is and how important YOU are. So thank you, Fenella for reminding Matt and I that Simple Savings really is about so much more than just saving money!
"I have just read through the latest newsletter with gusto as we are moving into our new house in November where I am planning on starting my first vegie patch. I also wanted to have a few chickens. My husband, however, thought this was crazy and impossible in a normal western suburb of Perth (rather than a large property/farm/rural area). Well! Have I got some news for him! Not only can we have chickens but he will never have to buy fertiliser for his beloved new lawn either! I've also always wanted my children to see where fresh food really comes from and I now feel I can give them that, along with a fun Sunday project building a chicken tractor with Mum and their first ever pets!
"All I can think now is 'Why ever did I let my membership lapse?' I must have been crazy. I love SS and thank you for such a timely reminder of how valuable you were in my life before, and still are now." (Tanya Dell)
"I just had to tell you a story which really made me laugh. I have five children, we shop only once a month and am careful to space all our food and treats out over the month. Whenever the whinging starts, that 'there are no biscuits, school snacks' and so on, I just tell the kids, 'we will just have to make do'. One day I arrived home to find my daughter (12) had been baking biscuits. They smelled delicious and I asked what they were. She said they were 'Doos'. 'What?' I asked. 'Doos!' she repeated. 'You always said if there was nothing in the cupboard, to 'make do', so I made Doos!' she told me. We now call these humble biscuits 'Doos' and I couldn't have been prouder. Whenever we think our parenting has a lot to be desired, remember - good things do rub off too!" (Jenny Cuffe)
"I was so excited to see Mimi in the newsletter as the new Simple Savings cook. I have always loved her recipes (I am a poached chicken fanatic) and have been an avid reader of her Fabulous at 50 thread in the Forum. Now I have seen Mimi's picture (in last month's newsletter), I don't consider that she needs any help in being fabulous - she is beautiful from her bright shining eyes to her gorgeous smile and I just love her hair! It's so lovely to put a face to a name and I'm really looking forward to reading more recipes in the coming newsletters." (Clover)
All the best, Fiona Lippey
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: A Place for Everything
Sally was glad to be home. It had been such a hectic day at work! She couldn't wait to get dinner out of the way and curl up on the couch. The kids were home; she knew that by the pile of shoes and school bags she had almost tripped over when she came in. That, along with the puddle of orange juice and the jar of peanut butter with the knife still sticking out of it on the kitchen bench.
It was the same every day. Sally knew what she would find. Towels strewn across the bathroom floor. Beds unmade. Dirty cups, plates and glasses all over the house. Toys and games never put away - and the washing! What did it take to get everyone to put their own clothes away? Sally didn't need this after the day she'd had. It was time to let them have it!
She found Pete and the kids in the lounge, surrounded by clutter. 'THIS PLACE IS A PIGSTY!' she shouted. 'Why can't you clear up after yourselves? Why do I have to do everything MYSELF?' 'Hey, calm down, love!' Pete put down his newspaper. 'You don't have to do everything! We'll clean up. Come on kids, quick smart!' he jumped up. 'Now Sarah, where does this go?' 'I don't know Dad!' she said. 'James, do you know where this goes?' 'Nope!' came the reply. Pete gazed at his children in alarm. 'Do you two know where ANYTHING is supposed to go?'
2. September is 100 Item Challenge
Parents are always growling at their kids to 'clean up after themselves' and 'put this or that away'. It's frustrating when they don't put things back exactly where we want but think about it for a minute. Do they actually know where their things belong? Have you ever shown them? Or like Sally, do you fly around like a whirlwind cleaning up after everyone else and just expect them to KNOW where you want everything to go? If you're nodding your head while you're reading this, maybe you need a new cleaning system!
Before I explain how this new system works I need to tell you about an argument my husband Matt and I have had for many years. And how, after many years of telling him he is wrong, I have to eat humble pie and finally admit he was right. There, I said it!
You see, time and time again, Matt said that we had too much stuff in our house and the best way to clean it was with a mini skip. He said we should jack the house up on one end and shake it so that all the stuff falls out the window and lands straight in the skip. I told him that he was wrong and that his expectations were simply too high. After all, we have four children and live in a two bedroom house. As far as I was concerned the amount of stuff we had was not to blame for our domestic chaos. The problem was that we hadn't done a good enough job of teaching the children how to clean up after themselves.
Which is where my argument came unstuck. The reason the kids were lousy at cleaning up after themselves is they got confused because - as Matt said all along - we had too much stuff! (I hate it when my husband is right.) I have watched the kids try to clean, they start by picking up an item and then stare around blankly trying to figure out where it should go. Before long the stress of this freezes their brains and icicles start dangling from the end of their noses!
Matt also says that the problem isn't just that we had too much stuff; it was also that every item needed to have a place. Whilst I did agree, I had tried doing this in the past to no avail. I would try giving items a 'place', only to find as soon as it was taken out someone else would spy a blank spot on the shelf and quickly fill it with something else.
But no more! Welcome to Matt's favourite month of the whole year - Decluttering Month! You see, Matt has the librarian gene. He grew up in an ordered and structured home. His mum is even a librarian! So for decluttering month, I have made a system to turn my house into a library. Just like a library, every shelf, box and drawer is being labelled. Everything will have a place. If anything doesn't have a place in the home, it will be given a place in our wheelie bin, or sold or given away. And, just like a library, we will set up and teach the kids a system everyone can follow. Labelling every shelf in our house seems so anal. But, I have started doing it. Because I love Matt and (on this occasion anyway) he is right.
If you would like to join us on this mission to regain control of the house and teaching other householders to clean up after themselves. This is what we are doing.
- Label every shelf, drawer and box. I went and bought myself a Dymo label maker from Officeworks on special for $39.
- Label items with labels EVERYONE in the household can understand. You will learn more about this in the next article.
- Show the kids how the labels work. The kids need to understand what is happening and why. You need to teach them how to put away just one item or one simple instruction at a time. Baby steps are the key here.
- Refuse to put other people's things away. This is very important. You see in the past, I used to pick up the kids' things and put them on the shelf. This taught the kids that they could be slobs without any consequences. Well, no more. We have introduced consequences! Now I simply stand next to the item, call the child, interrupt their day the way their mess is interrupting mine, make them come over, pick up the item and put it where it belongs. If the child refuses, I then give them the following explanation. 'By leaving the item on the floor you are telling me that it is not valuable to you and you are happy for me to find a new home for it'. (Code for Mum sends it to the op shop or wheelie bin. TRIPLE MWUHAHAAAA!) The first time I took an item and found it a new home it was VERY NOISY. Three children came to their item's defence! But the wonderful thing about children is they are fast learners and the second time I asked them to put an item away, they did it.
So this is how it is done. If you would like to start librarising your home we have made you some cool labels. So even the smallest munchkins can help clean up.
3. Fiona's Fab FREE Lippey Labels!
One of my important jobs as a mother is to teach my kids how to clean. Luckily I learned some very handy tips from a Montessori school, where my kids spent two years. The first is that youth is no excuse. Children as young as 12 months can clean. A two-year-old can put their own clothes away, empty the dishwasher and tidy up their toys if you make it easy for them. To make it easy for your children we have made you some free labels that the kids will be able to read and understand to attach to their toy boxes and clothes drawers. To help build your child's self esteem it is important to help them feel in control of their own room and of the cleaning process. So we have made them sheets of cool looking printable labels which they can colour in however they like. This way they can put their own personal stamp on the boxes, so it is not just you as a parent forcing cleanliness and order into their room. The labels we have created here have been dreamed up by the Simple Savings staff and their children. If you think we are missing any and you want others, please write in and tell us. Creating these labels was a pretty expensive exercise, so if you like them please tell your friends about them and how cool the Simple Savings Vault is. If enough people tell their friends and buy a Vault membership we will be able to pay for an illustrator to do more cool labels!
Here are the ones we have so far:
Kids' clothing drawer labels
I love these labels because they have trained my children into putting away their own clothes. Even tiny Tristan puts his clothes away. I put a label on the front of the drawer and another inside the drawer. This way, even when the drawer is empty he can still follow the system!
Click the image to download a 200Kb PDF
Kids' toy box labels
These are a lifesaver! We have tried to include a good range of generic toy labels so that they will work in everyone's home.
Click the image to download a 470Kb PDF
Just download the PDFs, print them off, get the kids to colour them in and put them up. Goodbye messy madness, hello easy-clean house!
4. Father's Day Gifts
Father's Day is just a few days away! Since it is Decluttering Month, the kids and I have made Matt something consumable that he will enjoy, consume and not need to find a place on the shelf for.
Here are some simple gifts the kids can make that Daddy will really appreciate.
This recipe was originally supposed to be a 'sophisticated' adult, 'after dinner' type treat for my brother-in-law. However, when Jacqui and Tristan caught me making them they insisted on adding 'sprinkles', turning this recipe into a perfect Father's Day gift! It's easy for the kids to make, looks fantastic and has a tasty twist to wake up Dad on Father's Day morning!
- Biscuit tray
- Grease proof paper
- 250g block dark chocolate
- 1 tsp vegetable oil (Macadamia is my favourite)
- 1 tbsp finely ground coffee
- 1/4 cup sprinkles
Start by putting your grease proof paper on your biscuit tray. Then grab yourself a bowl, break up the chocolate and throw it in the bowl with the oil. Melt the chocolate and oil in the microwave by cooking for 30 seconds at a time and stirring in between. When the chocolate is melted, stir in your ground coffee. Place dollops of mixture onto the lined baking tray. Sprinkle with sprinkles and pop in the fridge to set. Once set, put them in a container and HIDE THEM!
DIY gift bags
We also made little bags for the chocolates to go in. The recipe above will give you enough chocolates to fill three bags. Enough for Dad and both grandfathers.
Click the image to download a 20Kb PDF
As before, just print, colour, cut, fold and glue. Be sure to glue the flaps to the inside of the bag so no one can see them!
5. Best of the Forum: Declutter Your Life
We've said it before and we'll say it again, one of the biggest keys to saving money is organisation - and with organisation comes less clutter! Simple Savings members are wonderful declutterers. Check out some of these great Forum discussions to get in the mood for bringing a little order back into your home!
Welcome fellow chucker outers, recyclers, Freecyclers and obsessive cleaner outers! Join GoGo Goanna, Mrs Wez and many other enthusiastic members as they clean up a storm!
As Rickety points out in this interesting discussion, there is decluttering (such as getting rid of five pairs of shoes when there are still 17 pairs left in the cupboard) - and then there is DECLUTTERING! As she and others learn in this thread, it is definitely possible to live with the bare minimum.
Want to declutter but don't know where to start? This thread will help you on your way! There's never been a more fun way to get organized!
Once you start decluttering you not only get to enjoy a tidier home but you can also uncover lots of long forgotten wee gems, as Northen Gal and her hubby found out!
Why do people spend so much time worrying about having too much stuff? How much is really too much? And is it really worth getting rid of the stuff you have? All these questions and more are answered here!
6. Best of the Vault: Clever Cleanout Tips
Don't let clutter get you down! These brilliant tips from the Vault will help you make some serious headway in your decluttering - as well as deter you from acquiring any more!
Clutter-free home will stop you acquiring more
Curb your spending and spend less time shopping by focussing on decluttering your home instead. It will really show up how much you already have, and that you probably don't need to acquire more. Here are some tips that helped me:
- Don't buy anything non-essential until you have dealt with what you already have. When you do buy something, throw out or give away another item of equal size.
- Imagine what you want each room in your house to look like, and the life you want to live. Every time you want to buy something, ask yourself if it fits this image.
- Start by clearing away surface clutter. Set a timer for five minutes a day of high-speed tidying where you grab a bag and fill it with things you don't need, like unopened junk mail, empty containers etc. Set yourself a challenge to find at least 20 items.
- You can't own more than will fit in the space you have, so balance what you own with what room you have.
- Set yourself a decluttering plan, working through your house room by room, cupboard by cupboard. Try to set a little time aside for this every day for a month, and don't pull out more than you can sort through and put away within an hour unless you have more time set aside.
- Get your family to help with harder areas, such as the garage, and help each other sort your own personal areas.
- Once you have cleared the clutter, maintain this on a weekly basis.
Online help for new declutterers
For those who are new to decluttering, free expert help is at hand! Decluttering comes naturally to some people, but to some it does NOT. Even thinking about tackling the big mess that is our home is enough to bring out a panic attack! However, a few years back, I bought a book called 'The New Messies Manual' by Sandra Felton. I learned all about 'messies' and 'cleanies' and strategies for how a messie like me can not only organise the home but KEEP it organised. I have since discovered they have a website (http://www.messies.com) with all sorts of links to other helpful decluttering and organisation sites too. Check it out!
100% effective 'No More Clutter' deterrent!
I have come up with a simple yet super effective way of making sure I never waste any more money on clutter! I'm a sucker for buying toys for my children. Consequently I am now drowning in broken toys, clutter and debt. But now when I'm in the department stores and see something on special or think, 'my girls would love that', I open up my bag and get out my deterrent! I look at the photos I have taken of my lounge covered in toys and clutter and remember that not am I only saving money by not buying more, I am also saving the planet - and my sanity! Works every time!
Unnecessary kitchen appliances
Do you really need these house-cluttering, money-wasting, used once in a lifetime kitchen appliances?
- Pie maker
- Popcorn maker
- Hotdog maker
- Sandwich press
Of course you don't! Our mothers and grandmothers didn't have these appliances yet they still managed to make all of these things. Pies in the oven. Popcorn in the microwave or on the stove. Hotdogs in a pot. Toasted sandwiches grilled in the oven.
If you have already bought the kitchen appliances on my list, cut the clutter and earn a few bucks by selling them in a garage sale. Then, get back to real cooking!
I am busy decluttering the toys and clothing that belong to my four daughters and, at the same time, I am thinking how I can avoid re-cluttering!
With Christmas approaching, I have begun to compile a list of appropriate gifts that we and our relatives can give to the kids. Included on my list are gift ideas that are more than just 'stuff'. For example, we are heading to the Gold Coast for a family holiday next year, so we have asked relatives for tickets to Sea World. This will save us admission prices of $324!
I have also suggested vouchers for painting lessons from a talented grandmother. Ideas like this use the resources and talents in our family, and helps avoid dreaded re-clutter!
Clutter-free and organised
I have found a way to reduce clutter, which allows me to find exactly what I'm looking for in a moment.
I have assigned an A4 ring binder to each of my four children, and myself. The binder has about 20 plastic sleeves; in these I place paper work associated with the corresponding person. It could be things like bank accounts, medical or dental history and important school information. The older children and I also keep car registration details and insurance documents in the binder, as well as employment and taxation details.
The binders are filed away in a safe but accessible location, so everyone knows where to find their personal information. For tidy filing, I recommend cardboard cabinets which are sold at major retailers like Kmart.
7. $21 Challenge Confession
This month I have a bit of an embarrassing confession to make. I love our local library and confess to recently looking on their website to see if they had bought a copy of The $21 Challenge and if anyone borrowed it. You see, I had been secretly tossing and turning at night, convinced that if the library had bought one it was probably just sitting on the shelf unloved and unused, soon to head to the bargain sale table.
So you have no idea how relieved I was when I discovered our local libraries had bought six copies and they were all out on loan - with another six people waiting for the copies to be returned!
I can hardly believe that 12 months after the launch of the $21 Challenge book, every copy in the library is still out. That is pretty cool! And, very hard to believe.
If you don't want to wait in the library queue please ask your local library to order more, or ask one of your friends to buy it for you as a present. If you would like a signed copy please order it from here a week or two before you need it because with four kiddies in tow it is hard to sign books every day.
P.S. Two chapters of the $21 Challenge book are still available to read on the Simple Savings site, or you can also read them on our Facebook page. Check it out and tell your friends too!
8. Cooking with Mimi
This month Mimi has been busy decluttering her pantry and look what fabulous goodies she has created! It's time to stick your head in the pantry door and follow in her footsteps.
Prune and chocolate truffle slice
A decadent dessert or treat from prunes and daggy bananas? Impossible you say? Well try this one! This is rich and delicious. The fruit gives the slice a rich and fudgy texture which is complimented beautifully by the smooth, glossy chocolate ganache topping.
Serves 8 as a dessert. Must be started the night before you need it.
- Food processor
- Mixing bowl
- Container with lid
- Measuring cups
- 20cm square cake tin
- Large saucepan
- Large bowl to sit on top of saucepan
- Flat boxes lined with tissue paper if using as a gift
- 275g prunes (to yield 235g prune flesh)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 3 small or 2 large overripe bananas, mashed
- 2 eggs
- 100g butter, chopped
- 75g plain flour
- 50g cocoa
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 150 ml cream
- 150g chocolate melts
The night before you want to bake this slice, put the prunes in an airtight container with a lid, and pour over one cup of boiling water. Seal the container and leave the prunes to plump overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180C fan forced. Line the tin with baking paper.
Using clean hands, squeeze the pips from the prunes, retaining as much flesh as possible. If this is too messy, you can skip this step by using pitted prunes. You need 235g of prune flesh for this recipe.
Put the prunes into a food processor and add the butter. Process until well combined and as smooth as possible. Add the banana and vanilla essence and pulse until mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, pulsing until smooth. Add the plain flour and cocoa all at once and process until the batter looks like a thick cake mixture.
Pour the batter into the lined tin. Bake for 30 minutes or until there is no 'give' in the centre of the slice.
Remove and cool.
While cooling, bring a saucepan of water to the boil, turn down to a simmer. Put a bowl on the top of the saucepan, ensuring that it's large enough to sit safely, but not deep enough to be touching the simmering water. Put the cream and the chocolate melts into the bowl, and stir constantly until the chocolate has completely melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Carefully remove from heat.
Ensuring that the slice is cooled, pour the chocolate and cream mixture (ganache) over the slice while still in the tin. Refrigerate until cool and firm.
When cool, slice into thin wedges and serve with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.
This is also delicious cut into squares and boxed as a gift, but requires refrigeration to retain the ganache topping.
Creamy risotto cake
You can use any rice, any sort of soup, and whatever other ingredients you like for this great versatile risotto cake. A fantastic frugal family meal that can be jazzed up for guests. Hot or cold, this one's a winner!
- 20cm round cake tin lined with baking paper
- Non-stick frypan
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- Measuring cups
- Large mixing bowl
- Serving platter
- 1 1/2 cups long grain rice
- 2 cups water
- 2 rashers bacon, trimmed of rind and diced
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 large zucchini, grated
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 tin cream of chicken soup
- 250g grated tasty cheese
Line the cake tin and preheat the oven to 180C.
Put the rice and the water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
When boiling, cover and switch off, but leave on the cooling hotplate. Do not peek for 20 minutes or the rice will not cook. After 20 minutes, remove the lid, fluff the rice, and tip into a large bowl. Allow to cool slightly.
While the rice is cooking, heat the frypan, spray with cooking spray (oil), and fry the diced bacon and onion until the bacon is lightly browned and the onion is translucent.
Add the bacon, onion, zucchini, eggs, soup and cheese to the rice. Mix well until combined thoroughly.
Tip into the lined cake tin, and press firmly to compact the mixture. The tin will be very full.
Bake for one hour. Test for doneness by inserting a knife into the centre. If the knife comes out clean, it's ready. If there is any wet mixture sticking to the knife, pop it back in for another 10 minutes.
When done, remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Run a knife carefully around the edge of the tin to loosen the risotto cake. Invert onto the serving platter by putting the plate on top of the cake tin, and quickly flipping it over so that the tin is upside down and the risotto cake falls from the tin onto the platter. Shake gently if it sticks a little, but it should just plop out. Gently ease the tin away from the cake.
Serve cut into wedges like a cake, with a green salad on the side.
This reheats well and is just as delicious cold, making it an ideal lunch or dinner.
Vary this recipe by using different types of cheese, grated vegetables, steamed frozen vegetables and other diced deli meat such as chorizo or ham.
Luxe version: Use shredded poached chicken and a round of camembert cheese instead of deli meat and grated tasty cheese.
Fragrant Middle Eastern rice
Serves 4 as a meal or 6-8 as a side dish
This is a great pantry clean-out dish. You can use any legumes, any rice, and the herbs and spices will bring it to life. I particularly love to use the yellow split peas as there are always some left over at the end of winter... one can only eat so much pea and ham soup, however lovingly prepared! They taste completely different this way and have a gorgeous more-ish nutty flavour.
- 1/2 cup yellow split peas
- 1/2 cup rice
- 1/2 tsp dried chilli seeds or equivalent minced or fresh
- 3 tbsp lemon juice (juice of one fresh lemon)
- 700 ml boiling water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 heaped tsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tin diced tomatoes or 8-10 cherry tomatoes (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole (optional)
- Chopped nuts and fresh coriander to garnish
- Measuring jug
- Large non-stick frypan or wok with a lid
- Measuring spoons
METHOD: Put the peas into a large bowl and cover with 6 cups of boiling water. Cover and put aside for one hour. Strain after one hour and rinse until they stop foaming. Using a large non-stick frypan or wok, heat the oil and fry the onions and spices until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the drained split peas and rice. Stir thoroughly to coat the rice and peas with the spice mixture. It should be making your mouth water already. Measure the boiling water into a jug, and pour it over the rice mixture. Add the lemon juice. Mix thoroughly. Cover and allow to simmer gently over a low heat for 35-45 minutes. Check and stir occasionally to prevent it sticking to the base of the pan. Taste and season if necessary with salt and pepper.
You can serve this dish now and it will be a sort of Middle Eastern version of fried rice, or if you prefer, add the tinned diced tomatoes and garlic 10 minutes before the full cooking time. Stir well, and remove the garlic cloves before serving. This gives a more delicate flavour and texture. Turn your rice into a dish worthy of a dinner party by omitting the tinned tomatoes and garlic, and garnishing with roasted baby cherry tomatoes instead. While your rice is cooking, line a baking tray with baking paper, and spread the cherry tomatoes over it. Sprinkle with olive oil and season well. Roast at 200C for 20 minutes. Garnish your rice with the roasted cherry tomatoes, chopped nuts and fresh coriander, and wait for the compliments.
This looks spectacular heaped on to a large serving platter, steaming, sprinkled with nuts, and decorated with large sprigs of fresh coriander. It's equally colourful and appetising served individually in bowls. Delicious reheated the next day too!
9. Penny's Blog: Great Expectations
Aug 25, 2010
I am now the proud mother of a 14-year-old! Who has spent every day since his birthday bouncing around the house singing at the top of his voice in between telling me how mature he now is! Unfortunately for Liam his birthday was quieter than planned. Ali came down with swine flu so all visitors and outings had to be postponed! Whilst poor Liam was less than impressed, he still had an enjoyable day. As he headed off to bed that night he said 'Thanks heaps for my presents, Mum, they're really cool. This is the second year I haven't had any toys though!' To which I replied, 'Well, you're 14 now! What toys was I supposed to get you? I didn't realise you wanted any!' 'I know, I don't!' he chuckled. 'It's just when you're small you can get heaps of stuff for less money. When I was little I could get five action figures for $100. Now I'm lucky if I can get one pair of running shoes for that much!' I had to agree - but I can't say I miss the clutter that every birthday used to bring. All those new toys with a thousand detachable pieces which would inevitably get lost - or worse, tripped over or impaled in someone's feet!
Particularly at the moment, while it's so important to keep the house tidy. I shouldn't say it but it's lovely to have a few days' respite from people passing through. The last few weeks have been manic; almost every day we have had agents coming through or house hunters. Everybody says how much they like the place but we're still waiting for the right person. Lovely as the people are who we have met, they have all been retired couples or single women. What our house needs is a family! It needs kids running up and down the stairs and playing in the tree hut. It needs a pony or two or a couple of pet lambs. Our place is just too big for one or two people to rattle around in, but there's nothing we can do except sit tight and wait for our dream family to come along. I think we could be waiting a while though. From what I've seen so far, families just aren't buying at the moment. They're all too scared to move until the market changes. Everyone's waiting for everybody else.
Still, we'll do our best to be patient and in the meantime just keep up with the constant tidying! As anyone who has ever sold a place will know, it's a never ending battle - especially if you have kids! Liam, to his credit makes very little mess. The items he brings out of his room are minimal and he always likes his room to be tidy, with everything in its place. Ali, on the other hand is a nightmare. A hilarious nightmare, but nonetheless a nightmare! Always busy and moving on from one activity to the next, he leaves a constant trail of destruction in his wake. DVDs are watched and never put back. He's always making up some game or another and there are always BITS everywhere. Bits of paper, cardboard soccer players, imaginary rugby tournaments - and the latest is attaching his dad's new fishing reel to whatever takes his fancy (usually a bar stool or something equally large) and 'reeling' it in, pretending there's a huge fish at the end of it! I've lost count of how many times one of us has almost tripped and broken a leg on the blasted thing!
The other day I told them I had had enough and that all pocket money was going to be stopped until they lifted their game. With people coming through every day, the house needed to be spotless, yet I was finding I was doing the same chores and picking up the same things as the previous day and the day before that - just silly little things such as picking wet towels off the boys' bedroom floors or ridding the kitchen bench of cornflakes or coffee granules. 'A good chef always cleans up after himself!' I grumbled to the kids for what seemed like the hundredth time. Several years ago I thought I had the answer. I bought both the boys a 'mess basket' and every time I was tidying downstairs and came across something belonging to them that wasn't supposed to be there, I would put it in the appropriate mess basket and present it to them for emptying. There was just one problem. The mess basket never got emptied and the boys could never find anything because they would always forget about the mess basket!
Liam, having the misfortune of being both 14 AND six feet tall was read the riot act. 'Liam, you're a big - make that VERY big - boy. Now I KNOW you make your bed religiously every morning and I KNOW you fill up the wheelbarrow with firewood every day for me but for goodness sake could you try hanging your towel up for once when you've had a shower?! And why do you never EVER put your phone/book/school books/calculator/dirty dishes/contact lens solution/video games away?! Can you please help me out here? We're trying to sell the place for goodness sake!' I pleaded. ' 'FINE!' he retorted. 'I'll put them all away! Jeez! If it bothers you that much! Just tell me where you want me to put them!
And it was then I realised. All these years I have expected my children to be psychic. Every time we have acquired anything, whether it be for them personally or for the family, or for the house, have I ever once said to them 'Right, this is a good place to keep the thingummy-wotsit! From now on, it goes here?' Well have I? Er, no. Being a 'there's a place for everything and everything in its place' sort of person, I have simply taken it upon myself to find the new thingummy-wotsit a nice wee nook in our home, then expected everyone else in the family to know EXACTLY where it's supposed to go from this day forth into eternity, without ever actually telling them. And why on earth should they be remotely bothered about asking where things are supposed to go, when I'm so hell bent on putting things away first in my constant quest for perfection? I can't believe it's taken me 14 years as a mother to work this out but it has!
So now we've got to the root of the problem, the question is how to fix it? One of the main problems is washing. Dirty or clean, it gets everywhere. If Liam so much as dries his face with a bath towel it goes straight in the washing basket. Ali, being the active wee chap he is always goes through twice as many clothes as everyone else but I realised even he was going to extremes when we were going out for Liam's birthday dinner the other night. When I commented that his rugby jersey had got a bit shabby to wear out to dinner, he obediently went and changed. And put the aforementioned rugby jersey straight in the dirty washing basket, after he'd worn it for precisely 30 seconds! This led me to two conclusions - the first being that I was sick and tired of being overloaded with washing and realised the only way to cure them of this was to make them do their own. The next day I presented them with their own laundry basket each. When it's full, they have to take it to be washed and be responsible for drying it and putting it away. The second conclusion I came to was actually the same one I had come to previously - that my children are not psychic. Kids need instructions. Mine have been doing what they were told all along - the problem was that I was only giving them half the instructions. 'Put your dirty ice cream bowls on the bench when you've finished' does not mean the same as 'Put your dirty ice cream bowls on the bench, then rinse them out and put them in the dishwasher!' That may be what I want them to do and is what I am thinking - but it's not what I'm saying!
So it seems that I am no longer able to lay the blame for having a less than spotless home wholly with my children. On the whole they are pretty darn good. It's me who needs to clean up my act, if you'll pardon the pun! From now on I need to make my instructions clear and show or tell them where things need to go. I have a feeling the Vault can help me with this too. Have you checked out the Cleaning section lately? There are TONS of brilliant ideas and so simple too! One tip that jumped out at me and made me think 'that's what we need!' is this one, titled 'Hang the washing! Let's save it instead'. I think there's going to be an awful lot of new hooks being put up in our house!
2nd - Are youse fullas rich?
4th - Against the grain
10th - Gut instinct
19th - Serendipity
10. Homeopathy Corner: Jump Start Your Mind
If your mind is foggy and you're finding it hard to think clearly and make decisions then decluttering is going to be a struggle. So this month Fran shows us some simple exercises and homeopathic remedies to clear your mind and give it a jump start.
Fran's article is here: http://homeopathyplus.com.au/increase-your-focus-and-improve-your-memory/
11. From Last Month: Affordable Office Furniture
Last month Ros asked:
"I am looking for affordable office furniture. We have a small business that we run from a single bedroom flat, but we need to move for more room. Does anyone know where I can get good office size desks at great prices? Student desks are just not big enough for what I need."
According to members there are more than a few ways to create or find wonderful office furniture to suit every budget. Here are some of the most interesting ideas we hope will help!
Custom-built desks for less
If you are looking to save on custom built desks, try asking your local kitchen/cabinet maker. They will cut a piece of Melteca to the size you require and edge it for you. All you would then need are some legs or existing desk ends to attach to the top. An additional space saving idea is to put filing cabinets underneath the desk (so remember to have the dimensions in mind when ordering your desk.)
Great desks going, going, GONE!
You can find lots of cheap office furniture at auction houses. Sometimes you can get desks for just $10 or filing cabinets for as little as $5.00! Just make sure you inspect the goods properly before bidding. They are usually sold 'as is' and once you buy it, they don't accept returns. There are a number of auction houses out there and you really can grab some great bargains.
One man's trash is another man's treasure!
I got a fantastic desk for home which cost absolutely nothing. I contacted a number of large businesses in my area and discovered one that was being refurbished. Because they were upgrading to newer desks they were keen to find homes for all their 'old' ones and were more than happy for me to take one off their hands! I am delighted with my fabulous find!
Total office makeover for an unbelievable price!
A friend recently outfitted her home office with near-new office furniture purchased at very low prices from a Trading Post ad. The furniture included a large desk and return, filing cabinet, storage unit and shelves. It all looks brand new and is hard to believe it has been used before. She also got a computer, paper shredder and photocopier, all for ridiculously low prices, from the same ad and is now grinning from ear to ear!
Recycled door + filing cabinets = fab new desk!
For a funky, original and retro look for your desk that won't break the bank, use two drawer filing cabinets as bases and span the gap with lengths of plywood or recycled doors. If the plywood sags over a long span simply screw a pine stud underneath for plenty of support. The plywood can be stained, painted or just left unfinished.
IKEA offers great deals on desks
I have found the best prices for new office furniture are Ikea and Officeworks. I have just moved interstate and need to start over and have been doing a lot of research into where I can find the best deals as my funds are very limited. I only have a laptop and so have purchased, new, a great little desk for just $29. Officeworks have a range of larger desks for just over $100.
Ex-government furniture at excellent prices
I bought a drawer unit and a filing drawer from an ex-government furniture place for just $50, when they are often almost $300 new! Ex-office or ex-government furniture places are full of perfectly usable office furniture that has come from government and large corporations after a refurbishment. They get rid of all their furniture and it ends up in these outfits to be sold for very reasonable prices, second hand.
Dining tables are the new desks!
The best office desk I ever owned was a dining table I picked up really cheaply at an op shop. It was much sturdier than a flat-pack desk and, because it was slightly bigger than an office desk it had plenty of room. I gave mine a good scrub and polish, (sometimes they can be transformed with a quick coat of paint) and I had a desk that lasted me years, for a fantastic price.
Multiple options for outfitting a fabulous office
We have quite a large office and outfitted it all for around $1500. We are well known bargain hunters and have helped friends set up their offices as well! We set up our business with six desks my dad got us from an ex-government auction in Brisbane and were $1.00 each! They are great, solid, ex-drafting desks from a TAFE college. Equivalent office desks can be in excess of $500 each.
We also got some brand new, white, heavy duty metal shelving on eBay for $160 a bay. Sellers who are updating their office often have perfectly good furniture for sale that they just want rid of. We solved our filing cupboard problem (they are so pricey) by getting two four-drawer cabinets from the Salvation Army for $40 each. We then got them electro-coated for $200 for both. It may seem expensive, but good quality four-drawer filing cabinets are around $400 each.
A client of ours made their rows of desks from scaffolding framing and laminate tops (with black edging they ironed on). It suits them as they own a construction business and it saved them a lot of money. You can also use two-drawer filing cabinets as desk 'legs' and get tops made to fit, or large ply/MDF panels. (Ikea is great for home desks but we've found their office desks aren't sturdy enough for everyday use and are really not suitable for the work environment. I've had friends who had to replace their desks from Ikea within the year.) It also pays to broadcast your dilemma and make it clear what you're after. We asked everyone we knew whether they had any spare office furniture. We got given the names of a couple of office furniture places with second hand furniture (like Booths in Camperdown), and were given a board room table and some new office chairs!
12. This Month's Help Request: Whittling Away Our Inheritance
This month Catherine asks:
"This might sound a bit silly but I'm after some advice about how not to spend an inheritance. Whenever my husband and I use all our pay, we simply start using our inheritance money. Sometimes we just use the credit card as we know when we get home we can just transfer the money out of our savings account. Please help us to stop this nasty habit that will leave us with no more deposit for a house!"
If anyone has any suggestions or experiences which could help Catherine, please send them in to us here.
13. Savings Story: Confessions of a Stay at Home Mum
"I can hardly believe it but we have an extra $2000 sitting in our savings account! I have been a stay at home mum for 18 months. My husband earns a slightly above average salary, which allows me to stay at home with our son. We have a modest home, with modest furnishings and modest tastes. We haven't really had a financial plan since we got married two and a half years ago and have just been cruising along, saving a bit some months and spending it other months.
"When I first left work I had full intentions of making a budget, planning our meals, organising our lives and generally being on the ball with our finances. Each month when pay day rolled around, I would say 'this is the month where I get organised!' But it never happened. I am the first to admit that I have been lazy, unmotivated, complacent and ostrich-like. I have been a member of Simple Savings for over a year and always thought we were doing OK and didn't really need to know all these ways to save money. I had heard of The $21 Challenge but wasn't really motivated to try it and we were ticking along as usual - until last month.
"With baby number two arriving in three months, we needed extra storage space so we extended our garage to make room for all our stuff. This extension made a dent in the savings account which, although we knew it would, was quite depressing to see the balance dropping and dropping and not going back up. Lo and behold, motivation began creeping in!
"I downloaded all our bank transactions for the month and was horrified to find that I had spent an average of nearly $260 per week on groceries for two adults and one toddler. There were lots of other things I was also horrified to see but I started with the groceries as it seemed easiest. Motivation knocked harder. I decided to take charge!
"I read the first two chapters of The $21 Challenge on the website, put a copy of the book on my library request list and did a stocktake of my pantry, fridge and freezer. Imagine my shock when I discovered I had enough ingredients to plan meals for the next 19 days! That's not counting meals like scrambled eggs, pumpkin soup and the emergency baked beans on toast. We had enough food in the house to live on for over three weeks! We just needed fresh fruit and vegies and that was about it. I didn't quite make $21 but my first grocery shop after doing the stocktake came to $61, down from $258 per week the previous month.
"From then on I watched the bank account like a hawk and knew where every cent went. In previous months when the bank account got low, I would simply pull out the credit card and pay it off on pay day but not this month! This month it stayed in my wallet.
"It's pay day again tomorrow and guess what? I have spent an average of $160 per week on groceries, saving us nearly $100 per week. By being aware and thinking to myself 'do I really need that?' and deciding 'no', the savings account has increased by a whopping $2250! That figure makes me weak at the knees! I can't honestly say where the money has been going before now. We don't have the latest gadgets, appliances or clothing. I am truly at a loss BUT I have to say I'm pretty proud of myself right now! At the same time, I feel a bit sick that I didn't do this 18 months ago, or even 12 or 6 months ago, but I've done it now. I am motivated to change my ways. I have goals. I have the energy to do this and I have Simple Savings to thank for giving me the tools to continue saving!"