"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - September 2010
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: What Took You So Long?
- Your Christmas Challenge!
- This Month's Competition: Preparing your Party
- Vault Update - New Features!
- Best of the Forum: Community Spirit
- Best of the Vault: Plan Ahead Gifts
- $21 Challenge: Inspiring Women and Helping Earthquake Survivors!
- Cooking with Mimi
- Penny's Blog: The King of Bonhomie
- Homeopathy Corner: Ear Aches
- From Last Month: Whittling Away Our Inheritance
- This Month's Help Request: Make-up for Teens
- Savings Story: Grow Your Calendar Savings
In this year's War on Debt Calendar, we declared October to be 'Plan, Make, Buy' month, which is a really daft name for a month! But, that happens sometimes. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We should have called it 'Prepare for Christmas Month', or 'Christmas Challenge Month' because that is what we want you to do.
You see, the best bit of Christmas is not the presents; it is coming together and having fun with your family, friends and neighbours. Most people still come together with their family and friends at Christmas time, but how many of us party with our neighbours? How many of us still have a good old fashioned neighbourhood Christmas party? We did some asking around and discovered that some streets still have an annual Christmas party. Some streets even have a monthly BBQ. However, most streets have stopped having Christmas parties and most people have lost contact with their neighbours. Even though many want to have a Christmas party, no one ever organises it in time. So this month, we are challenging you to bring back your neighbourhood's street party.
In true Simple Savings style we have made it easy for you. We have set the date and made the invites ready for you to download and print. All you have to do is fill them in and hand them around! But more about that later.
We want to inspire you. We want you to succeed. Check out some of this month's Simple Savings success stories to show some of the special things we have already accomplished together!
"Thanks so much for your beaut emails. I bought The $21 Challenge book, mostly because of its audacious challenge. The next week after doing the stocktake, I reduced our normal $240 food bill to $102 which delighted my husband. We live fairly frugally anyway but still had 'bonus meal' ingredients to use. Thanks for helping me get more organised. With two teen and one tweenie daughter I hope to instill some good housekeeping practices. Already our youngest daughter made her own scorched almonds for Father's Day!" (Tania Harvey)
"Thank you, Simple Savings for opening up my eyes and imagination. My three-year-old daughter loves to draw and colour in and I found myself spending $2.00-$8.00 on colouring books and cheap pencils every time I was out shopping. I was spending at least $40-$50 a month, only to realise that the colouring books and pencils didn't last long at all. I knew it was just wasting money and was feeling stressed. By subscribing and reading your newsletter it has now encouraged me to look through my study cupboards to see what I had lying around that she could use. I found lots of coloured paper and even some cardboard that I had forgotten I had, as well as old wrapping paper, beads and buttons, Textas, pencils and crayons which I used when I was at school. I also found lots of other craft things that I had forgotten I had. Now I have put all these things into a large box and we now use it as our craft box. No more colouring books, pencils and so on for me to buy at the shops, saving me $50 a month so far! My daughter's drawing and colouring in has become so good that she even made her own Father's Day cards for her daddy and both grandfathers, which saved us at least $10.50 on cards for this occasion, and best of all, her daddy and granddaddies had the biggest smiles on their faces when she gave them the cards she had made herself. As we have a very large family (60 in total), I will definitely get her to make cards for everyone in our family, especially as it is something she loves to do. This alone could save us on average around $500 a year on cards! Amazing!" (Patricia)
"Since joining Simple Savings I have learned a lot. A year and a half ago I woke up one morning and all I could see were clothes, shoes and bags everywhere from my bedroom to the bathroom. I sat at my dining room table, asking myself 'Why am I spending so much money on more clothes, more shoes and more handbags? Where am I going? Do I really need them?'
"That very morning I decided I would start writing down every single purchase I made, no matter how small. The first thing I did was buy a cheap notebook from the $2 shop. I never used to go into that shop before; I was always too proud but now it's one of my favourites! I also count second hand shops among my favourites these days.
"Whenever I do need something, I know how to get it for the best price on eBay. I support local businesses and buy all my vegetables and meat in bulk, as well as rice, flour, sugar and toilet rolls. I no longer shop at David Jones or Myer but instead treat myself to pretty plates, cups and saucers and crystal glasses from the second hand shop. The $21 Challenge is fun and a great help.
"Since I started watching my spending, my life has become more organised and focussed. I have money in my wallet and have cleared my credit card. No more arrears. What a relief!" (Maria)
All the best,
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: What Took You So Long?
'Hanna it's me,' Sally's voice sounded urgently down the phone. 'My car's got a flat battery and Pete's left for work already. If I can't get someone to jump start it I'm going to have to call the mechanic out and they'll charge me a fortune!' 'Oh that's a pain!' sympathised Hanna. 'I'm already at work too. Just pop round to one of your neighbours Sal. I'm sure they'll be able to help.'
'Good heavens no!' Sally recoiled in horror. 'I've never even spoken to them. Can you come and pick me up?' 'Sal! You're a big girl,' chided Hanna. 'Be brave! If you don't want to call Pete or a mechanic you're going to have knock on your neighbour's door.' Sally groaned. What choice did she have? She was already late. Reluctantly, she trudged next door and knocked.
'Hi! I'm Sally. From next door? You might have seen me around,' she smiled shyly at the woman who answered the door. 'Oh! So YOU'RE Sally!' the woman beamed. 'I'm Linda. I've been meaning to come over for AGES! I've been getting all this mail for a Sally but had no idea who she was or if she lived in this street,' she blushed and there was a long, rather awkward pause. 'Here you go; I hope it wasn't anything important!'
2. Your Christmas Challenge!
There was a time when a scene such as the one which occurred between Sally and Linda was laughable. No one would have believed it. As if anyone would not know their neighbour's first name! As if anyone would hang on to someone else's mail for so long! It used to be unheard of, but now it is depressingly and expensively common.
Think about it; what do you know about your twenty closest neighbours? Do you know their first names? If their mail arrived at your home by mistake, could you return it to them? If your car broke down and you needed a lift, would you feel comfortable asking your neighbours for help? If you needed a cup of sugar, could you duck next door or would you have to make an expensive trek to the shop?
I asked myself the same questions and have to confess to only knowing eight of my nearest neighbours. Even though I walk past all 20 of their homes, I have only ever knocked on eight of their doors or had conversations with eight of them. Which is a real shame and a far cry from when I was growing up. Back then we knew everyone and the whole neighbourhood would come together every Christmas for the coolest street party. All the kids had a ball and the adults loved it too. We laughed, we joked, old neighbours reminisced and newbies were welcomed into the neighbourhood.
I can still picture it now. Everyone would gather at the end of High Street. The parents would sneak presents for their children under a huge Norfolk pine tree, so that Santa could give a present to every child when he finally arrived. 'Us kids' harassed our parents every five seconds, nagging 'Was that Santa?', 'Is he coming?', 'I heard a noise!', 'How much longer?' We were impatient; not just because Santa was going to give us presents, but also because we never knew how Santa was getting there. One year he came by motor bike, another by flying fox and one time he was even escorted by four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Splinter riding on a giant sewer rat!
Street parties ARE fun. So this year I'm going to organise a Christmas party in our street! It's not the first time throwing a party has crossed my mind. I've been talking about it with one of our neighbours for three years now. Every year it gets to November and we say 'Let's do it! Let's organise that Christmas street party!' but it is too late in November. We have to organise it now, before everyone's weekends are booked solid.
Let's see how many street parties we can hold across the country at the one time. My goal is 100. Do you think between all us Simple Savers we can arrange 100 parties? Am I aiming too high, or am I aiming too low? Who knows? Maybe, we could arrange 1000 parties between us! There's only one way to find out. We need to count the parties!
The easiest and best way for us to be able to do this is to register your street party with us. To find out everything you need to know about how to host your Aussie Street Party, print out your invitations and register your party, click here.
We will be keeping you posted between now and December 5th with how many street parties will be taking place around the country. We can't wait to hear your street party stories of friends and neighbours, old and new!
We are so keen to hear about your parties. We are even having a competition!
3. This Month's Competition: Preparing your Party
This month, I want you to organise a party to bring your neighbours together. Take the bull by the horns! Mark December 5th in your calendar. Choose the location, print out our invites and drop one in the letter boxes of your twenty nearest neighbours.
To encourage you along we are having a best 'Preparing your Party' blog/story competition. We are giving away three prizes of $100 for the most entertaining and inspiring tales about setting up your party. We want to hear what happened when you knocked on your neighbours' doors? What hurdles did you have to overcome to get your street party organised? What would you do differently next time?
Hint: The judges love photos and laughing. They are also suckers for feel-good stories! To enter the competition email us a link to your blog or send us your story by emailing it to email@example.com. The competition closes on the 17th of November.
4. Vault Update - New Features!
Being a Vault member is now more fun than ever! We've been doing a major update from the inside out. If you haven't been into the site for a while, you'll find some terrific new changes! Check out our progress so far and give us your feedback! We've got a brand new Forum, a new Vault layout and you can even write your own blog and read other members' savings blogs.
If you haven't taken a peek inside our paid areas before, now is the perfect time. Becoming a member of our happy SS neighbourhood couldn't be easier. Our 365 day 'no questions asked' money back guarantee means you have absolutely nothing to lose. Simply click here to become a Vault member and you can immediately begin interacting with other, likeminded people. We'd love to hear what you think!
5. Best of the Forum: Community Spirit
October is 'Plan, Make, Buy' Month and already our Forum members have been busy making home-made goodies for neighbours and loved ones. These inspiring threads will soon put you in the mood for making some merry Christmas savings!
Chatterbox is determined to have a stress-free Christmas and is encouraging all other members to start organising their gifts now! This thread is full of great suggestions - including a fantastic free gift idea for your child's teacher!
Christmas spirit is in full swing at Camelot! This merry neighbourhood of Forum members provide some great suggestions for getting organised for Christmas. This terrific thread will help you ensure every last detail is taken care of well in advance!
Christmas never goes out of date and this helpful thread from last year's War on Debt calendar contains plenty of fantastic gift ideas for all ages.
In this thread, Bush Baby Jo asks the other members to share their favourite home-made gifts, to help others with ideas for filling their own Christmas gift lists. Chock-full of terrific tips and mouthwatering recipes!
This brilliant thread contains no less than 95 suggestions for personalised gift baskets! A perfect solution for the person who has everything; you'll never be stuck for inspiration again!
6. Best of the Vault: Plan Ahead Gifts
With a whole section on Christmas with all the trimmings, the Vault is the perfect place to start planning your low-cost, low-stress Christmas. Check out some of these tips for starters!
Christmas starts now
Gift giving at Christmas time needn't be stressful. Just ask this relaxed and organised Simple Saver!
Every year I make Christmas parcels for all of our friends. The key is to start early! I start in September, when I make individual plum puddings as well as a big one for our family to enjoy. Plum puddings keep for ages when hung in a cool place once they are dry. In October, I make small tubs of ice cream to be frozen. November is shortbread baking time - and yes, shortbread does freeze well. In December, I make fudge as it does not keep past two weeks.
I find it easier to make these gifts than to buy something new for our friends every year. Of course, it is much cheaper too, about $10 per person! Even if I wanted to stop I don't think our friends would let me!
Christmas shopping at the Salvo's
Our annual outing for Christmas gifts has reduced our gift spending and provides our whole family with a fun day out. Several years ago my three children wanted to buy Christmas gifts for each family member. We set a spending limit of $20 ($5.00 per gift) but in the cold, hard reality of the department stores we discovered that there is not much on offer within that price range. That year we all received little cheap decorations; the children were choosing more according to price than what the recipient would value.
Following that Christmas I did some valuable scouting around in various shops and found the best place that the children could buy gifts where they could choose according to the recipient's needs. The next Christmas approaching we took the children to the nearest Salvo's store. They had such a great time, even the volunteers got in on the act. They were helping the children choose gifts for Mum and Dad and wrapping them up so we couldn't see them. For their $5.00 the children were able to purchase at least two and sometimes three gifts for the same person and learnt the value of giving to charity as well.
Now, before Christmas we sit down and work out which charity stores we have not been to. We are slowly working our way through the surrounding suburbs and the children really look forward to 'shopping day'. Usually we can get away with a lot less than the budgeted $20!
10 gifts for only $12!
I bought 10 pretty gifts for my female colleagues for a total of $12! With limited Christmas funds this year I decided to get creative and made little lavender bags with a festive wine glass trinket on each one.
Mauve drawstring organza bags = 10 for $4.00
Two cards of Christmas trinket wine markers (six per card) = 12 for $4.00
Two packets of lavender ($2.00 a bag) = $4.00
Total cost $12 for 10 cute and useful gifts!
Free gifts for the kids
Christmas can be a tough time for some families, so hopefully this idea will help you save lots of money on those children's presents!
Whenever I get together with a group of mums, we always grumble about how the kids have too many toys and we really should clear them out. Most of the toys we are talking about are nearly new but just not played with! So my idea is to get all the mums together, each with a box of toys from their own house. The other mums then go through the boxes and select Christmas gifts for their own kids.
The children won't realise that the gifts they're receiving are not new, you won't spend a cent and you might even clear out some of the clutter!
Christmas lucky dip keeps present costs low
Our extended family have come up with a way that we can all afford gifts for each other each Christmas - even though there are 90 of us! We all enjoy giving as much as receiving at Christmas, but coming from a very large family (I am one of 12 siblings) it was becoming too costly to even buy a $10 gift per family. So we solved the problem this way! All 90 or so of us get together around 7pm on Christmas night. Then, we organise a Lucky Dip! Each person who attends, including babies, puts three gifts (non-food items) into the Lucky Dip. These gifts can be small items that we have purchased throughout the year, or recycled, pre-loved items that could appeal to anyone. Junk and broken stuff is not allowed. For example, a set of six coffee mugs that were surplus to requirements for one family became six individually wrapped gifts. Cost to giver - $0. A previously read book still in good order - cost $0. Gifts from the $2 shop - $2.00! A pair of jeans hardly worn - $0 and so on. No one should spend more than $2.00 on any one gift. One of my sisters has 13 children. This system means a huge saving for her, as the most she should spend (for 15 people with three gifts at $2.00 each) is $90. However, the most she has spent in reality is $15 because she is great at finding specials and recycling!
When everyone is gathered together, each person is given three gifts. Once they are all handed out and unwrapped, then the trading begins! Everyone can either swap their gifts for something they would prefer, or if they like what they have, they are able to keep it. To make for a great trading atmosphere, the organiser throws in a couple of gifts that are 'special'. At the end of the trading, the people who have the 'special' gifts receive a proper present that is non gender-age specific, such as movie tickets, chocolates, a board game and so on. It is amazing how people will trade something good for something less useful because they think it may be the 'special' gift! We end the evening with dessert and by the end of the night, we feel as if we have all been given gifts from everyone. We all go home with something we bargained for and it hardly cost a thing!
Gifts that show you care
I made gifts for 22 staff members for just $30! I needed a low cost Christmas gift for my staff that also said 'I care'. I am just their manager, not the owner of the business so I don't have an endless amount of money and didn't want to spend a fortune!
I decided to buy ingredients and make a variety of treats such as rum balls, apricot balls, peanut clusters, caramels, white Christmas, coconut ice and so on. I spent around $30 on ingredients, which made enough gifts for all 22 of them! I made boxes to put the treats in and wrapped them in cellophane. They were all thrilled with their hand-made gift!
7. $21 Challenge: Inspiring Women and Helping Earthquake Survivors!
It's hard to believe but the first copies of the $21 Challenge book hit the shelves almost exactly a year ago! What a fantastic year it's been. We are constantly blown away by the feedback we get about The $21 Challenge, but never more so than this month.
First we received the news that the $21 Challenge is being taught in a NZ women's prison. They are using it as part of the women's rehabilitation in the hope that even though the women leave the prison with nothing, it will equip them with the skills, knowledge and recipes they need to cope after their release and feed themselves and their families as best they can. The $21 Challenge book can already be found in many mothers groups and budgeting centres. If you know of an organisation where you think the $21 Challenge can help, why not approach them and tell them about us?
Helping Earthquake Survivors
We always knew the $21 Challenge was handy in a crisis but never one of this magnitude! We were humbled to receive these wonderful letters from Tracy Henderson and Sharleen James, who along with their families have been dealing with the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake:
"Just to let you know that Simple Savings and the $21 Challenge have been working in our home. We are one of the very fortunate families that have power, water and a home to live in; however the supermarket distribution centre has been completely trashed and has meant that a lot of the basics aren't in the supermarkets.
"With the $21 Challenge mentality, however, we are eating very well and stretching our food to the max. The breadmaker has been on flat out. We were supposed to go grocery shopping on the Saturday that the earthquake hit, so I believed the cupboards were getting bare. Apart from a few litres of milk and formula though, all is very well indeed. Thank you!" (Tracy Henderson)
"I am down here in Rangiora feeling the quakes. After the scare our supermarket shelves were empty of the basic items like bread. I have been a member for about four months and have the $21 Challenge book. I had been meaning to do the $21 Challenge for four months and thought what better time to do it than now! Out came my breadmaker and I made two loaves before the power went off. My chooks are laying well at the moment and it's fine to have easy meals of eggs in this disaster. Not every meal has to be large 'meat and vegetables' which is what I had been cooking for my family most nights. Last night I turned off the TV as there was nothing on and made cupcakes and muesli bars for the kids. I threw in all the leftover cereal that the kids nagged for and never finished. This weekend my daughter has her 10th birthday party. I will have to make all her party food from what I have on the shelves. She wants home-made pizza and the bread maker is great for the base. I will have to use the website for more hints of party food!" (Sharleen James)
If you haven't heard about the $21 Challenge yet, where have you been?! To order your copy and start slashing your food bill today, click here.
8. Cooking with Mimi
Super organised as ever, Mimi has been busy cooking up a storm making edible gifts for Christmas. Here are some of her favourites!
Orange Espresso Toffee Walnuts
The coffee and citrus flavours in the toffee coating make these walnuts subtle yet irresistible and these dark, glossy, chewy morsels will appeal to everyone. Pack them inside home-made Christmas bon bons, wrap in cellophane with ribbon tendrils, or arrange them in noodle boxes lined with green and red tissue paper. A really quick and easy, yet impressive gift.
- Zest and juice of 2 large oranges
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup strong coffee
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- Pinch salt
- 2 cups walnuts
- Lined baking tray
- Large deep non-stick wok, frypan or saucepan
- Wooden or plastic spatula
- Airtight container for storage
Place all the ingredients EXCEPT the walnuts into the pan and bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbling, add the walnuts.
Stir constantly while the mixture reduces. It will start to thicken and coat the walnuts like toffee.
Continue to stir until the liquid is almost completely evaporated and you have a lovely gluey mass of walnuts and toffee.
Tip the mixture onto the lined baking tray and allow to cool completely.
When cool, break off pieces, and store in an airtight container in a cool place.
For gift giving, wrap in cellophane or line boxes from the discount store with tissue paper and fold over before covering with a lid and tying with ribbon.
Caramelised Apple Spread
This spread smells like Christmas and is delicious on toast, English muffins, crumpets, rice cakes, crepes or pancakes. Try it as a sweet dip with slivers of Turkish bread or as a filling for apple pie or miniature pastry shells. It's also a great way to use up less than perfect apples.
- 15 apples, any variety or a combination of varieties
- 750ml apple juice
- 2 litres ginger beer
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp powdered ginger
- 1 whole nutmeg or ¼ tsp powdered nutmeg
- ½ cup sugar (optional - for intense sweetness)
- 125g salt reduced butter
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Large saucepan
- Measuring cups
- Recycled or new jars with metal pop-top lids (the ones that have a little circle in the centre that 'pops' when you open the jar)
- Food processor, blender or stick mixer
Wash the apples thoroughly as you will be cooking them with the peel on. Core the apples and cut into quarters. Put the unpeeled and cored apples, apple juice, ginger beer, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and sugar in the large saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down to a low simmer, and simmer for 8-10 hours. You need to keep watch and stir this mixture regularly, at least every 30 minutes. You can also cook this in a slow cooker, but I find the results are better on the stove top.
While the apple mixture is cooking, sterilise your jars and lids by running through a dishwasher on rinse cycle and allowing to air dry, or by putting them into a preheated 130C oven for 20 minutes, removing with oven mitts when you are ready to fill them.
After about eight hours of slow simmering, the mixture will become a rich brown aromatic pulp. When the liquid has disappeared and the pulp is thick, remove from the heat and allow it to cool. Remove the whole nutmeg and discard.
When cool, process, blend or mash the pulp until smooth. Return to a clean saucepan and reheat. When steaming, add the butter and vanilla. Stir well to combine.
Spoon the apple spread into the jars, screw the lids on firmly and invert the jars, leaving them upside down to cool. When cool, turn them up the right way, and your lid should 'pop'. If you are unsure, press the little 'button' in the middle of the lid. If it 'gives', your jar is not vacuum sealed. If it remains down, your jar is sealed appropriately.
If your lids don't pop, your apple spread can be processed in the traditional manner for preserving. This is done by submerging the jars (ensure they are sealed tightly and have no residual food in the inner lids) in a large pot of water and bringing them to a boil. Keep them on a rolling boil for about an hour then press the little button again. It should pop in whilst cooling.
If it still refuses to seal, use this batch yourself... you won't regret it! Label and date the rest. This recipe makes between 1 kg and 1.3 kg of apple spread depending on the size of the apples used. It lasts well, stored in a cool place for up to 12 months. Once opened or if not vacuum sealed, store in the refrigerator and use within three months... assuming you can resist it for that long!
Christmas Compote aka Fabulous Festive Fruit Mix
This looks so lush in a recycled jar with a big Christmassy ribbon around it. I write out the recipe on a Luggage Tag and attach it to the jar so that the recipient can make it for themselves next year. Alternatively, keep the recipe a secret, and start your own tradition of giving Festive Fruit Mix to your friends and rellies every Christmas!
- 125g raisins
- 125g sultanas
- 60g currants
- 125g prunes
- 125g dried apricots
- 1 green apple, peeled and sliced thinly
- Juice and shredded rind of one whole orange and half a lemon
- ¼ tsp each of powdered ginger, ground allspice and cinnamon
- 60g brown sugar
- 2-3 tbsp of any alcohol if desired e.g. rum, brandy, Cointreau, sherry or whatever
- Vanilla ice cream, cream, or custard to serve.
- Serve with toasted almonds to garnish if you want.
Place all ingredients, except alcohol in a saucepan with enough water to just cover. Stir to mix and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and stir in alcohol. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Cover and refrigerate or bottle and refrigerate if for gifts. Leave for at least 2 days for flavour to develop. Serve as desired, with the ice cream, custard or cream.
If giving as a gift, tie with a ribbon decorated with cinnamon sticks, jingle bells, or mini pine cones and attach the recipe. Remember to tell the recipient to refrigerate it!
9. Penny's Blog: The King of Bonhomie
Sep 24, 2010
Well it looks as though we're going full steam ahead with the move! Today is my boys' last day at school. This morning they were both hugely excited as I sent them off with a disposable camera each, a bag of lollipops to share with their classmates and a permanent marker. 'Have a wonderful last day!' I yelled at them as they got out of the car - but as soon as the first friend descended on Liam to sign his school shirt I could feel my eyes welling up and thought I had better make a hasty exit before I turn into a snivelling wreck! Yes, we're moving to our dream location and can't wait but we've been loyal residents of Te Kauwhata for 15 years now and the place and its people have been good to us. It's supposed to be a town but it's far more like a village really. As I went about my errands this morning it occurred to me 'We know everybody!' The ladies in the bank. The group of parents and grandparents selling baking outside Mr Patel's to raise money for a school sports team. The drivers of pretty much every car that goes past.
In comparison, when we move to Whangamata, we will barely know a soul. But over the years I've learned that it doesn't matter. For one thing, we have each other but for another, Whangamata has felt like our second home for a long time now. People in the shops and around the place already recognise us and are always friendly. It's going to be one heck of a big change though. For the first time in our lives, we're going to be townies! Or should that be beachies? For the first time in almost 20 years Noel and I are going to be surrounded by houses - but not neighbours. In our cul-de-sac of around 20 houses, only about five of them are actually lived in; the rest of them are holiday homes which are empty for half the year. For the first time ever, I'm going to have to make an effort to find out who our neighbours are and get to know them.
We've never really had to do that before. When Noel and I first went farming together we lived in a little place called Tirau. Back then it was a real 'one horse town'. There was nothing there and we thought 'What on earth are we going to DO in this place?' But we didn't have to worry - we had neighbours. We had barely even finished unpacking before they were on our doorstep bearing welcoming gifts of baking and soup. Before I knew it I was being taken to craft groups, coffee mornings, you name it, I gave it a go. In the two years we lived there, our neighbours came to mean a lot to us. We went to dinner at our neighbours and vice versa. We would stick the BBQ on the back of a trailer, trundle down to the river at the back of the farm and hurtle downstream in an old tractor inner tube. We helped each other when disaster struck on the farm. I babysat their children so that the mothers could go out to work a couple of days a week. Our neighbours drove me hours to pick up my wedding dress in the days before I could drive. They organised our stag and hen parties, without us even knowing. They sent telegrams when we got married on the other side of the world. They lent me maternity clothes when I was pregnant, so that I didn't have to buy any. They came to the hospital late at night when our first baby, Luke died and sat with us. They helped us organise his funeral and turned up in their droves to support us as we buried him. I returned home from hospital to a spotlessly clean house, a roast chicken in the oven and enough food so that I didn't have to think about cooking for at least a week. More neighbours still brought us flowers and food parcels. They kept us company, kept us smiling and sat and got horribly drunk with us on the days we couldn't quite hold it together. That was almost 16 years ago and Tirau is now a buzzing township, chock-full of cafes and shops and even motels. Our neighbours have all moved on too, but we are still in touch with some of them and I have never forgotten how amazing they were during the toughest time in our lives.
Moving to Te Kauwhata six months later was a little awkward. On the one hand it was good to get away from the sadness and make a fresh start - but on the other it soon became apparent that people knew we were 'the poor young couple who had just lost a baby' and everyone treated us with kid gloves. Still, it didn't stop them from coming around and introducing themselves, bringing us baking and inviting us to dinner. One tradition the district had for years, which has now sadly gone by the wayside was an annual 'Welcome In' dinner. Being a farming community, new families come and go on June 1st every year and when you're stuck on a farm day in, day out it can be hard to meet people. In the winter months you can go for days without seeing a soul or setting foot off the farm. The Welcome In dinner was always well attended and was enjoyed by everyone. Long time locals relished the chance for a good old catch up and it was great for newcomers to put names to faces so that next time they filled up their car with petrol they were already on first name terms with the garage owners, or if they were in strife on the farm, they knew just where they could go to find a familiar face that would help. It's such a shame those annual dinners are no more!
Six months after moving to Te Kauwhata I became pregnant with Liam and once again our neighbours came to the rescue. As you can imagine, the pregnancy was very stressful as I was terrified of losing another baby. The fear was even greater once I developed toxaemia but I lost count of the number of ladies who came just to sit with me and reassure me; some of which had gone through the same thing and understood how I was feeling. These same lovely ladies were among the first on the doorstep when I arrived home safely with Liam, bearing gifts and hugs and I was touched when our nearest neighbour Tracey presented me with a beautiful cross stitch for the nursery, which she had made herself.
I'll never forget the first time I saw her husband. We hadn't even moved in yet and I was horrified to see him pushing a bath on wheels full of burly looking blokes down the road. Straight away I thought 'Oh heck! What have we got here? Is THAT our neighbour?' It was indeed. Ross turned out to be the president of the local Young Farmers club. He also soon turned into Noel's best friend. They formed a fishing club together, with over 100 members and we have had some great times, with many barbecues and Pot Luck dinners, both at home and at their family beach house. Our kids have all grown up together, gone to school together and play sports together. Ross is loud, he's hilarious and incorrigible - and over the last couple of years I have come to really admire him.
You see Ross is a bloke who has his priorities right in my book. He works hard and he plays hard. Friends and family are everything to him and his wife Tracey. They think nothing of travelling wherever necessary to see the people they enjoy spending time with. Their house is always open, always full of people and both of them would do just about anything for anyone. When they get home from a hard day on the farm, they say to each other 'How about we give Rob and Jan a call and invite them over for tea? Stuff it - how about we give all the others a call as well?' Before you know it, there are 20 people or more in the lounge, sharing food and drink and plenty of laughter. There is always a LOT of laughter and Noel and I always come away thinking 'You know, we really should do that more often!'
But that's why I admire Ross and Tracey - because we DON'T do it. For me, having people over for dinner is stressful. It's a BIG THING. Everything has to be perfect but they have taught me it's not about that. It's about the company. My very favourite Christmas ever was the first one that we had at this house. We invited ALL the neighbours, old and new and it was magical. The lounge was heaving with people and I remember thinking 'This is what it's all about!' We used to do things like that - but not any more. Over the years we have lost touch with so many of our friends and neighbours and we only really have ourselves to blame. We got so wrapped up in our work, in our kids, in being 'too busy' that we barely know our current neighbours. Our previous neighbours were our best friends; I used to write about them a lot when I first started my blog. We were close, our kids were close, even our pets were close! Our home was their second home and vice versa. We would do anything and everything for each other and often did. It was reassuring to know that there was another family in existence who were as bonkers as we were! We supported each other through the hard times and laughed hysterically through the good times.
But then they moved away. Not far, just a few miles down the road - but away. We were all sad that they weren't going to be our neighbours any more but we were all still friends. It shouldn't have changed anything but it did - or should I say I did. You see, I was never one to just 'pop in' and I figured they must have been too busy for visitors having just moved house. I didn't like to bother them. I thought I was being considerate but now I can see it must have looked like I didn't care. The longer I left it to get in touch, the harder it became. The weeks turned into months and the months have turned into years. It often makes me sad - and angry at myself for not taking the risk, getting in the car and going to see them. Even if I had turned up out of the blue and they were too busy for a visit, at least it would have been better than not turning up at all. It lost me the best friend I had had in years and I still miss her. As for the neighbours who replaced them, I haven't set foot over there since they left.
So when we move to Whangamata one thing is for sure. Our door will always be open, to friends and neighbours old and new and there will always be beer in the fridge and plenty of gas in the barbecue. I have a feeling Ross and Tracey will be among the first to come and visit. They'll think nothing of driving an hour or more to see us at Whangamata. Mind you, Noel and Ross DO share a fishing boat together. Some things will never change!
13th - The Ultimate Decluttering
21st - Enterprising young men
28th - SOS (Save Our Sheep!)
10. Homeopathy Corner: Ear Aches
The one time any of my kids have screamed so loudly they woke the neighbours was when Jacqui had an ear ache. She woke in the middle of the night, thrashing and screaming blue murder. I closed all the windows to try and keep the sound in, but it didn't work. The one thing that did work, that stopped her pain AND the screaming was a dose of the homeopathic remedy Hepar Sulphur 30c. I love that remedy!
I also love that well chosen remedies stop ear aches and can stop glue ear. Before we discovered Fran Sheffield, Sam had terrible problems with his ears. His ears had been blocked for over six months and his speech was deteriorating rapidly. My GP who had tried his best said I had a choice - get grommets or find a natural alternative. I told him about a homeopath I had found who looked pretty good and he told me to go and see her. You see, I was very lucky in that my GP was also a lecturer at Newcastle University's Faculty for Medicine. So he was confident in his own abilities and he was up to date with the latest research. He told me he didn't like grommets; he said they would fix Sam's speech but not his health and may lead to more problems.
So, I nervously went along to Fran's 'free workshops'. There I learned the answers to many of my health questions. Questions I had been asking doctors for years. After listening to Fran for over eight hours I booked Sam in for an appointment. After all; it was Fran or surgery. It took Fran one day to fix Sam's hearing problems. The next morning he got up and started singing 'Happy Birthday'. First he sang, 'appi erth ay ou ou.' Then he paused, looked thoughtful and tried again, 'Happy erth ay ou.' He paused again. He did this six times till he sang, 'Happy Birthday to you' perfectly the whole way through.
So when Fran asked this month would we like her to do an article about homeopathic treatment for ear infection, I screamed, 'Yes please! Your remedies saved my son from surgery. This is information everyone needs to know.'
To read Fran's article go here:
To find out about Fran's free workshops go here:
11. From Last Month: Whittling Away Our Inheritance
Last month Catherine asked:
"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!"
As hoped, our savvy members didn't disappoint, with plenty of great tips and good, common sense advice!
Ask yourself some tough questions!
When trying to save for your future it is often hard when temptation is surrounding you! There are a few straightforward ways to get things working for you; Firstly set up an ING Direct account and transfer the money to it. It has a 24 hour turnaround, so it will take a little more effort to withdraw your money. Secondly, when shopping, always ask yourself 'do I really need this?' Nine times out of ten your honest answer to yourself will be 'no'. And finally, leave your credit card at home (simple!).
Use your investment property as a springboard
If you find yourself the recipient of a sudden windfall or inheritance, consider investing the money by purchasing a small investment property (or whatever you are able to afford). Then you can upgrade or springboard off this investment to purchase your own place of residence. You'll also benefit from tax savings.
Ask your bank for a quote
The best way I ever found to save money from an inheritance I received was to go to all the banks and shop around for a roll-over account. As with any company, banks also give quotes and they will match or even better their opponents. You will accumulate interest, and also you will be unable to touch the money for a set period of time. This way you will not only stop spending your inheritance, but watch it grow.
A Term Deposit works to grow your money
When you are looking to wisely invest a sum of money and accumulate interest it's worth looking at setting up a Term Deposit. Most banks and financial institutions offer these and they differ from normal savings accounts because they offer fixed interest rates for a fixed term - generally 3, 6 or 12 months. This way you continue to grow your money, but are not able to readily access it for the duration of the deposit. You can shop around for the best deal for you by visiting individual websites or check out a comparison website such as www.canstar.com.au/term-deposits/.
Use your money wisely and change your life
Coming into money (even if it is a relatively small amount) can be an empowering, life-changing thing, IF you use it wisely. The best thing I ever did to regain control of my money and get out of debt happened when I received a payout for an accident. Instead of continually dipping into it until it was gone I used it to turn things around. Here are the steps I took:
First I cut up my credit cards. That done, I turned my attention to my bills, working out how much they were for the year and dividing them into pay periods. I then set up an automatic transfer for these to go into a 'bill account'. I needed $1000 to start, (which I transferred from my payout money) to ensure it would work. Creating that account was the best thing I ever did. I always have money in there, no matter how big the bill is. I put the rest of the money into term deposits that I couldn't touch, letting them accumulate for the future. Finally, I set up a budget and I stuck to it. I review it every few months and I still live by it to this day, almost eight years later.
Set a budget and visualise your goal
If you receive a payout, inheritance or a sum of money it is so important to invest it wisely and ensure it grows, particularly when you are saving for something significant like your first home. Set a budget where you are looking to add to your inheritance by $10 per week (or more if you can afford it). You must WRITE THIS BUDGET DOWN and keep a copy with you at all times, along with a picture of the thing you are aiming for, such as a house you would like to buy.
You'll have to work hard to see where it can be done, but by setting a goal of having some money left over each pay day, you will be heading in the right direction.
A passbook makes it harder to access your money
When looking for the best way to save and invest your money for your future, transfer your savings to another bank and use a passbook (Heritage have these as a special saver account). This way you will actually have to physically go to the bank to withdraw your money. You could also use ING as it is attached to your account. In this case you will have to wait 24 hours for the transfer to go through (and if you do it after 4 pm on a Thursday you won't get it until the next Tuesday). Another alternative could be to put your money into a deposit account where you can't access it for 3 months at a time. This means impulse spending would become impossible! Finally, DON'T take your credit card out shopping! Having it with you will just encourage you to use it. Better still, be ruthless and cut it up. Think of all the interest you'll save!
Check out The Australian Government Initiative for savings
If you are saving for your first home, look to see if you are eligible for The Australian Government Initiative to save for this purpose.
With this initiative you can only withdraw funds for three reasons:
- To buy your first home,
- Transfer your money into superannuation or
- If you are aged 60 or over (that is the only exception).
If you are not eligible for this initiative consider putting your savings in a restricted account (like a Christmas Savings Account), where you are penalised for withdrawing money before a set date. You should also seriously consider cancelling ALL your credit cards and using debit card/s instead. This way, if you don't have the money in your account, you simply don't make the purchase! Frustrating at the time but highly satisfying in the long-term.
12. This Month's Help Request: Make-up for Teens
This month Kelly asks:
"I'm interested to know what other mums do when your 14 year old daughter suddenly develops an interest in make-up and skin products. I use cheap make-up products from the supermarket but she has quite sensitive skin and I'm not keen on buying really expensive make-up products which might not be any good. What do other teenagers use, or what do you buy your teenager and how do you cope with the cost of this added expense? What would you recommend that is not too harsh on the skin, as well as the wallet?
If anyone has any suggestions or experiences which could help Kelly, please send them in to us here.
13. Savings Story: Grow Your Calendar Savings
Using your annual Simple Savings Calendar can make your savings grow in more ways than one! Here are some of the many ways I use my calendar to save:
- I don't have to buy a calendar.
- I use the challenges to motivate us to save more.
- I menu plan, often using the previous month's meals and rotating.
- I save time and money by recording all birthdays and other function dates to ensure I am not late and rush to buy a gift or 'plate' then paying more than I budgeted.
- I record bill 'due by' dates and regular direct debits so I don't spend the money in my account by mistake and incur costly late fees.
- The calendar is a great conversation starter when friends visit, it encourages them to think outside the savings square or take down the Simple Savings web details and have a look for themselves.
- It reminds me that I'm a part of a global group of like-minded individuals all working towards reducing our debt. Makes me wonder whether the National Debt could use a Simple Savings membership?
- It spans generations. My five-year-old daughter is beginning to use the calendar too. We use stickers for different things that she needs to know about when getting ready each day. A small food sticker such as an apple, reminds her to get her school lunchbox out of the fridge, and a pink sticker reminds her to get our family fun bag, which is pink, for a day out. She crosses off the days so we all know which one we're up to at a glance.
- We also use the calendar to record my daughter's pocket money and her 'goals' on how she wants to spend it.
- I get to model how Mummy stays on track and hopefully instill in my daughter great habits for life, passing it on to the next generation and beyond!