"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - March 2013
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Debt Diet
- March: War on Debt - The $91,000 Sandwich
- Competition: Get the Good Oil!
- How to Make a BETTER Budget by David Wright
- Best of the Vault: Win the War in Your Wallet!
- Best Members' Blog: One Small Item
- Best of the Forum: Demolish Debt
- Hidden Gems: Renu Fashion
- Cooking with Mimi: Make Your Own Lush-Style Scented Lotion Bars
- Claire's Corner: $188,846 Off the Mortgage? A Good Day's Work!
- 50c Indulgences: Heaven Scent
- Rob Rob's Gardening Blog: Using up a Bumper Harvest
- From Last Month: Outdoor Makeover
- This Month's Help Request: Lose Weight, Not Dollars
- Savings Story: I Hear Being Poor is No Fun!
- Goodbye for Now!
How are you going? I hope you are having an Egg-cellent month! This month Simple Savings made its first App. It is Egg-citing and we are very Appy about it.
It is called "Beauty Queen on a Budget" and it is COMPLETELY FREE. It contains tips on how to look stunning with very little money. Here is a link to the App in the Google Play store. It should be appearing in the iTunes store very soon.
And, we also love your emails and Facebook messages. Here are some of our favourites:
"I was thinking about not renewing my membership this year as we have started cutting out all the 'little extras' we buy and pay for. So, of course the membership renewal came under scrutiny, however, after calculating how much the Savings Vault has saved me this year on just one hint, (the washing machine put rust on four of my son's brand new white school shirts and at $38 each, the hint of lemon juice and sunshine saved me $152), I stopped calculating the savings and paid my renewal fee... Thank you Simple Savings!" (Jane Bottyan)
"Simple Savings has been an eye-opening, awesome blessing for me and has helped me manage in one of the most difficult situations of my life. It has also made me aware that I'm certainly not the only one doing things differently! Before becoming a member I wouldn't have dreamt of talking about money with others - it was just not done in my generation! (I'm just going onto the pension so am over 29!) However, I have just finished talking to my Internet/phone provider and telling them about my situation and how I needed to cut costs. I now have had over $90 cut from my monthly account! I would never have done this without you gals and your wonderful saving tips. Bless you." (Trish)
Have a great month!
All the best,
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Debt Diet
"What are you doing tomorrow lunchtime?" Sally asked Hanna from across her desk. "Umm, eating my lunch?" Hanna grinned. "Tut, honestly!" giggled Sally. "There's a group of us going to check out that new Italian restaurant, want to come? It's going to be bellissimo!"
"Thanks, Sal, but I'm on a diet at the moment," smiled Hanna. "What on earth for? You don't need to diet, look at you!" Sally scoffed. "For goodness' sake, one plate of pasta's not going to kill you!"
"Not that kind of diet - John and I are on a DEBT diet," Hanna explained. "Every spare dollar we have is going on the mortgage so we can pay it off faster and get rid of the stupid thing!"
"Debt diet? Sounds more like a starvation diet to me!" Sally rolled her eyes. "Why would anyone want to do that? I don't even think about my mortgage! I mean, it's just there, it's not going anywhere is it? What difference is $20 or $30 going to make?"
2. March: War on Debt - The $91,000 Sandwich
Sally is right about one thing - mortgages ARE boring. Debt is boring. It's tedious, horrible and a right royal pain in the bum. But she's wrong if she believes that the money Hanna is saving by not buying lunch won't make a difference. You see unlike Sally, Hanna isn't thinking of pasta carbonara - she's thinking of her retirement. She wants to pay off her home loan, retire early and enjoy the good life while she's still young enough to be able make the most of it. When Sally reaches retirement age, however, she may not be able to afford to give up work because all those restaurant lunches she enjoyed 15 years earlier means she is still plugging away at her home loan.
Whether it's a mortgage, credit card, store card, hire purchase - every extra dollar you can put into that debt can make a BIG difference. Let's use Hanna's 'debt diet' as an example:
If Hanna spends an extra five minutes just one morning each week taking a sandwich and a drink from home rather than buying it, she gets to save $9.00 a pop. That might not sound like much but if Hanna has a $300,000 mortgage at 6% interest over 30 years and puts those savings onto her mortgage each month, she can save herself a whopping $23,828 in interest and take a whole year and eight months off the life of the loan. That's worth sacrificing a few bought lunches for, wouldn't you say?
But let's not stop there. That's just the difference Hanna could make to her home loan by bringing lunch from home one day per week. What about if she chose to bring in her lunch five days per week? She saves around $45 per week - $200 a month on bought lunches for starters. But if she puts that money into her mortgage, she could actually save a staggering $91,173 in interest and reduce the term of her loan by six years and nine months. Who would have thought that something as simple as making a sandwich every morning could save you $91,000? Whether you can pay a little extra off your debt each week or only when you have a few dollars to spare, it all makes a huge difference as you can see.
You might be thinking 'where on earth have they got those figures from?' It's easy, you can do it too. If you want to work out the figures for your own debt or home loan and are a Vault member, you already have access to the best mortgage repayment calculator we have ever come across. It's one of Fiona's very favourite things on the site. It's in the Downloads Area here (You'll need to log in).
Your goal this month is to find one habit you can change like Hanna and put that money into your mortgage or other debt. Do it now so you CAN retire early.
3. Competition: Get the Good Oil!
If you've never tried making your own beauty products before, now is the time! We want to show you that a few basic ingredients can make a fantastic and inexpensive product that actually works. You could even win a cash prize at the same time! We'd love to know about your special macadamia oil beauty recipe and any special tips you'd like to share. The winner will receive a cash prize of $100 or $100 credit in Ye Olde Shoppe. There will be four runner-up prizes of $50 cash or $50 credit in Ye Olde Shoppe. Happy mixing - you can enter the competition here!
Good luck - get mixing!
4. How to Make a BETTER Budget by David Wright
In February's newsletter, we talked about making a basic budget. Now I want to show you how to make a BETTER budget! It was this budget that finally saved us from continual financial frustration.
A basic budget lists your expenses and income and lets you know how much you have left over - hopefully! That is a great first step. However, although you know how much your bills are, do you know if the money will actually be in your account when you need it? Perhaps you'll need to pay your electricity bill and registration in the same week. This is where a BETTER budget helps you - it tells you YES, the money is there, or NO, you'll need to find a bit extra from somewhere for that week. So you will know how much is due, when it is due and most importantly, how you are going to pay it. And that is the beginning of financial freedom.
So how does this work? You'll remember in February's Newsletter we talked about 'Regular Expenses' such as electricity, groceries etc. To keep things simple we'll use Regular Expenses as an example which you can then apply to all other expenses. Regular Expenses are easy to work with because you usually know how much they cost, when they are due and how often they occur. Because of this predictability, you can look at any day in the next year and know exactly how much money you will need - and that is your secret weapon!
Very simply, to plan for Regular Expenses you need to make sure you will have enough money in your account to pay for them when they happen during the year. Ideally you want to end up with exactly the same money at the end of the year that you started with. If you have money left over, it means you have wasted an opportunity to do something else with that surplus. If you end up with less money than you started with, you are going backwards and there will be trouble ahead! So you need to work out your cash flow plan for the entire year and make sure you don't 'crash' anywhere in between.
And this is how you do it:
- Add all of your year's Regular Expense type bills and divide by the number of pay days (52 for weekly, 26 for fortnightly etc.). Let's say you got $654 for your answer.
- On a calendar, mark all of your pay days with a +$654 (answer from above).
- Mark all of your regular expenses on the calendar for the whole year with a minus sign, for example, Groceries -$200 every Saturday, Christmas Shopping -$800 on December 12th, Telephone Bill -$120 on the 5th of each month, Electricity -$250 on the 21st of every third month starting next month and so on.
- Start from Zero and for every day, add all of the plus numbers and subtract all of the minus numbers, working your way through the year day by day. Write each day's closing balance on the calendar in pencil (Don't worry about blank days as they have the same balance as the previous day so you can ignore them.) Don't worry if you have some negative numbers at this stage. The idea is to have a running total of where you are at any particular day during the year.
- After you've done the whole year, look for the largest negative number (e.g. -$500) and add the positive of that number (e.g. +$500) to every day's total for the year. This means that -$500 figure now becomes $0 so the money will now be there on the 'worst' day of the year. If you do not have any negative numbers you can leave this step out. You are extremely lucky!
- Celebrate! You now have the perfect bank statement in advance for the next year. The only obstacle now is this - do you actually have the amount of money your plan shows for today's 'opening balance'? If not you will need to work out a way to catch up on any shortfall that might be evident at the start. You won't need to change the plan - just because you are not where you need to be does not change the fact that you should be there. Do whatever it takes to catch up with that plan as quickly as possible and your stress levels around money will fall away very quickly! For me, this took a little while, but I knew the daily targets that would get us on-track. Once we caught-up, we just followed the numbers until something changed. Then it was out with a new calendar and start again.
See, I told you it was simple, I just didn't tell you it was tedious! The good news is that you can take an easy short-cut by purchasing a copy of the Simply Budgets software. It is very good value when you consider what it can do! The difference it makes to your life, knowing where you need to be financially every day is amazing. You don't actually need to check every day. You can check on payday, or once a month if you are getting good. It's as simple as - What is the date? What does my budget tell me I need to have in my account today? Am I behind, or am I in front? If I am in front I could probably go and spend the surplus without having to worry. If I'm behind I know before it is too late to do something about it. It certainly takes away a lot of the stress, having your very own financial road map.
A little tip in closing - Make sure you also include some of the things you previously have been missing out on. (Let's face it you don't just want to budget to pay your bills!) Put in some sweeteners by following the numbers, and on the chosen date, have the weekend away or the night out on the town and so on. No need to feel guilty or worry if you can or can't afford it because you KNOW you are on target! And that is a pretty great feeling.
You can trial Simply Budgets for 30 days for only $1.00 or purchase the full version of Simply Budgets in Ye Olde Shoppe:
If you would like to trial my budgeting software, Fiona has harassed me into letting her give you a 30 day trial for free. Here is a link to the software:
(If you want the trial for free, hang on to this link. If you try to get the trial from David's site or from our Ye Olde Shoppe both will try to charge you.)
5. Best of the Vault: Win the War In Your Wallet!
That's right - there is a war going on every day in your wallet and we want to give you some extra artillery to fight back! There is plenty of ammunition in the Vault and we've rolled out some of the big guns:
From Spendaholic to Debt-Free
I am currently still paying the price for my old spending habits but I have turned my habits around and it is paying off. When I turned 25, I decided to become debt-free as soon as possible.
To do this, I have had to forego my previous love of designer clothes, perfumes, shoes, dining out - expensive everything! Instead, I sat down and worked out my income vs my expenses - the 'needs' rather than the 'wants'. Whatever is left over is made as extra repayments into my credit cards - a substantial saving in interest payments.
Next, I made up a simple spreadsheet. It details what I owe less the repayments that I make, as well as major annual items like insurance, car registration, professional memberships and car services. I've even broken this down into months, which allows me to physically see that I am making a (small) dent in my debts. By doing this, I can see that with a lot of discipline, I can knock off one debt a year. Whenever I feel as though I'm slipping in my determination, I take another look at the spreadsheet to remind myself that by sticking to my plan, I can be completely debt-free in two and a half years. It's a long and slow process, but I'm on track!
Also, I've always found that an effective way to save was through tax, so I ask the payroll to not claim the 'tax free threshold' for my salary. My pay is a little less a month, but because I don't see what's being taken out as tax, I don't budget for it and don't miss it. So now, the end of financial year income tax time is always a great time for me because I know that I will get a minimum of $1000 as a tax refund - to go towards paying off my debts, of course!
By making small regular extra repayments and using my tax return, I estimate that I can pay out my debts a whopping three years earlier. Even at a generously low interest rate of 10% on what I owe, this equates to a saving of $4330 for me per year OR $12,990 over the three years!
So, not only will I be debt-free and own my new car in two and a half years, I'll have saved myself nearly $13,000 - not bad for a former spendaholic!
Card triggers mortgage savings
I made myself a memory trigger and it is saving me truckloads on my mortgage. We have just bought a house and want to pay it off fast. So to inspire us I did some simple mortgage calculations using Excel and worked out how long it would take us to pay out our loan and how much money we would save if we paid an additional $20, $40, $60, $80 and $100 per week. Then I put it all on a card.
I printed off heaps of these cards and put them in our wallets (to stop impulsive shopping), in the car (to stop takeaways), near the phone (to reduce bills), on the fridge and next to our shopping list (to reduce luxury items). It has been great!
These cards have inspired us to pay off an extra $60 per week which will save us over 11 years and $124,000!
These are the details from my card:
- $20 extra saves 5 years 3 months / $60,000
- $40 extra saves 8 years 9 months / $97,500
- $60 extra saves 11 years 3 months / $124,000
- $80 extra saves 13 years 2 months / $144,000
- $100 extra saves 14 years 9 months / $160,000
Pie-charts let everyone have a say on debt deduction
I paid off a personal loan of $6000 by creating a pie chart to track my progress and keep motivated. When it comes to debt reduction I have always found the visual incentive of a pie chart to be very motivating. Paying off a debt can be overwhelming as there are things we have to 'go without' in order to achieve our goal so I find the act of colouring in a new section of my pie to mark my progress helps me see how far I've come and pushes me to achieve more. It's a daily reminder of where I need to put my focus! I also like to write a list of all my pay days and the amounts I plan to either pay off my debt or add to my savings account. Ticking items off the list each week helps me stay motivated and on track.
Pie charts also allow children to be involved in the plan. They can see there is a goal and they can colour in the sections as the debt is paid off. It gives them a reward for the part they play in going without things they may like. And it shows them ways to both face debt and win and how to avoid debt where possible in their future.
Measure your savings
I have discovered how important it is to measure everything! From the dishwashing liquid to the oil and sugar in cooking, by taking the time to measure we're now getting the most out of our money!
We had developed a bad habit of just guessing how much we needed of things - for example, I'd splosh out what looked like about a capful of softener, and was then amazed when I'd run out well before the recommended 32 washes! Or I'd discover I was using about two tablespoons of oil for frying when all I needed was a teaspoon to achieve the same results! We now measure - and save!
Here are a few more ideas for our valued Vault members:
6. Best Members' Blog: One Small Item
One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.
This month's winner is Pumpkin Patch for this very moving blog that manages to marry frugality with beautiful family memories.
A couple of weeks ago we had friends come to stay and as I got ready to serve lunch, I reached into the drawer for a tablecloth. On spreading it out, I noticed it was an old one that had belonged to my mother and was past its use-by date so I put it aside for future consideration and grabbed another to use.
In the back of my mind, I had thought to cut it down for the small table in the caravan, using the better parts of it and discarding the rest. This morning I found myself with a few spare hours and set to work - I measured the table, cut the undamaged part of the cloth and prepared to hem it on the sewing machine. I also had enough of the borders left to make a mat to throw on the top of the fridge in the van. Rather than waste the remaining parts, I fashioned four good sized tea towels from what was left - this is beautiful soft old-fashioned damask, which lasts for years and years so what do a couple of light stains or a few tiny holes matter. In all, I didn't waste a bit of it, and I'm very happy with my re-purposing.
As I sewed, my memories came flooding back. This lovely cloth was used during my growing up years when we sat down at the dining room table, the cloth protecting the lovely polished oak surface. Many a Saturday evening roast was shared around this table, and many a Sunday lunch. My siblings and I all remember this tablecloth with affection - but for over thirty years it has sat neglected in my linen cupboard. We rarely used the dining room table after my father went to the islands for work, bringing it out only when he got home for the weekend every six weeks or so.
I recalled the joyous occasions when we would collect him from the harbour on a Saturday afternoon when he was due for leave. I remember the excited chatter on the way home and the way he rushed into the house to find my mum in the warm fragrant kitchen preparing the evening meal to welcome him home. Never an emotional or demonstrative man, he would pick up my tiny mum and crush her in a bear hug before kissing her lovingly - much to our teenage embarrassment. He always called her 'Toots'. Then the table would be set with this very tablecloth and we would sit down as a family again and share all our news.
This in turn brought back the memory of her death at the age of seventy-six and Dad's frantic rush to the hospital that night when he got the phone call telling him of the massive heart attack. I remember the devastation that he didn't get there in time to say goodbye and that he sat up all night making lists and keeping his mind occupied. The morning after her funeral - New Year's Eve - when I heard him out in the garden and found him savagely ripping out weeds, between cursing and sobbing - he simply said what was the point of going on. His grief was so great. That garden was weeded within an inch of its life!
Who would think that one item of linen could stir up so many memories, most of which I had forgotten or buried. It was a happy morning recalling the many joyous and sad occasions of times gone by. I will now use these items all the time as they were meant to be used - with love.
Thank you Pumpkin Patch for sharing your special memories.
To read any of our members' blogs, click here
7. Best of the Forum: Demolish Debt
We know how easy it is to spend money - and just how very hard it is to save. Every dollar DOES make a difference to demolishing your debt or to growing your savings. Here are some great ways to find an extra few in your budget every day!
There is some great advice and ideas here for probably the most expensive and exciting adventure of your life!
What financial priorities are most important to you - you might be surprised!
It isn't just kids who get a kick out of shaking their money boxes! Did you know a coke tin full of $2 coins will add up to over $500? What a great way to save money you won't even miss.
How much are you really worth? Take the challenge!
If you struggle to say no to those gorgeous shoes or perfect little black dress, this may just be the thread for you!
This thread is an interesting discussion on various options for retirement savings. It's never too early to start thinking about your future.
8. Hidden Gems: Renu Fashion
Our Hidden Gems directory is designed to help members source the best deals in their area. This month's Hidden Gem is Renu Fashion as nominated by Erica Eldridge.
My daughters and I found this wonderful little shop that recycles clothes for $5.00 apiece. Whilst it's only small they have a wonderful variety of clothes, shoes, handbags, jewellery and even hats. The best part about this shop is, unlike other second hand shops where you drop your clothes off and that's it, when you drop your clothes here, anything they decide to keep they give you a $2 credit per item. This means that anytime we decide we need a change of wardrobe, we pop down to the shop and choose something else. Great when you have teenagers who like something one week, wear it and then tell you they can't be seen in the same outfit again or just don't like it anymore.
The people who work there are great and the best thing, there are three stores close by to choose from. As a single mum and a full time student, being able to clothe myself and my girls in new clothing frequently without the huge outlay is wonderful.
Where: 10 Hornibrook Esplanade, Clontarf, QLD
75 Bailey Road, Deception Bay, QLD
141 Suttonn Street, Redcliffe, QLD
Phone: 0402 433 441
Well done, Erica, on locating such a fantastic hidden gem and thanks so much for sharing.
9. Cooking with Mimi: Make Your Own Lush-Style Scented Lotion Bars
Lotion bars are just a lovely and rather more portable way of applying body moisturiser. They are similar in texture and feel to a cake of soap and, like soap, you run them over your limbs to dispense the lovely oils. The warmth of your skin does the rest and voila! Moisture, fragrance and sheen, all in one!
These truly are lush, unlike that overperfumed purveyor of body products, where some of us just get woozy. However, thanks to places like that particular store, these little cuties are somewhat more trendy and desirable than they may have otherwise been. But, oh my. The price of these for something so simple is crazy!
This is one I made with my macadamia oil from Ye Olde Shoppe and just two other ingredients. I added essential and fragranced oil to scent mine, but they're divine unscented as well, should that be your preference.
I also like to add this little ribbon handle to mine. It allows you to slip a hand or a couple of fingers beneath the bow, to use as grip to apply the body butter. It looks pretty for gift giving as well, and makes the lotion bar look less like a bar of soap.
So here's what you need to make two little lotion bars. Multiply quantities appropriately for more lovely bars.
- 1/4 cup macadamia oil
- 1/4 cup cocoa butter pellets
- 1/4 cup beeswax pellets
- 2-3 drops per bar of your desired fragrance
- A toothpick
I used silicone muffin pans to shape and mould my bars, but as for soap making, you can use just about anything. Larger chocolate moulds, patty pans or cake tins are all a good idea, as are empty milk cartons (cleaned of course), ramekins and those little Bento Box style sushi moulds. Sit those on your bench, cleaned and ready to be filled.
Cut some lengths of ribbon, lace or even kitchen string if you like a really organic look. These need to be long enough to sit in the base of your mould, with excess strands long enough to tie into a bow. Longer is better, as you can always trim it to look pretty, but you can't remove it and add more once the lotion bar has hardened.
You'll also need to set up a double boiler arrangement on your stove top. That's just a pot of simmering water, with a bowl large enough on top of it, for the bowl to sit over the simmering water, without actually touching the water.
Add your macadamia oil, cocoa butter, and beeswax pellets to the bowl and sit it over the water in the pot. Stir this with a spoon until it melts. This should take no more than a few minutes.
As soon as it's melted, divide it between your moulds. Reseat the ribbon to anchor it into the desired position if you need to. A little of the lotion liquid should anchor it to the edges of your mould very effectively as it will harden within seconds.
Before the lotion starts to cool and harden, add a drop or two of your fragrant or essential oils to each bar. I used two drops of lemon essential oil and two drops of vanilla fragrance oil and mine smell like a lemon cake...truly delish! Give it a stir with your toothpick to distribute the fragrance evenly.
Leave to cool and harden undisturbed, and when they've gone milky looking, pop them into the fridge. Chilling them just makes them easier to release from your mould.
After about 15 minutes, remove your lotion bars from the fridge and ease them from their moulds. Tie the tails of ribbon into a neat bow, and you're done!
These cost less than $2.00 each to make and make the most gorgeous gift. Your friends will think you've spent more than that on them, for certain!
NOTE: Check online for bargain priced beeswax and cocoa butter pellets. I've had mine for ages and made so many products from one small amount, it's incredible.
You can discover more of Mimi's creations in our Members' Blog section. Take a look at her fantastic recipes for beauty products using macadamia oil.
10. Claire's Corner: $188,846 Off the Mortgage? A Good Day's Work!
Yesterday was a very good day... I saved $94,126. Today was even better... I saved another $94,720! Yep, I was so thrilled, I had to stop myself from telling complete strangers on the street! So here's how I did it...
A few weeks ago we decided to get an updated valuation on our house. We were pretty pleased to find the market value had risen a whopping 10 per cent in just over a year (Auckland house prices for you!). The new valuation meant our equity had risen quite a bit, so I rang the bank and asked if we could have our interest rate reviewed. The bank agreed to drop our floating rate by .5% but kept our payments the same. I did a quick check of the numbers using the calculator on www.sorted.org.nz figuring we'd probably save a few thousand over the life of the term. But $94,126? Fair to say I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the difference this small drop in interest made.
Today, I noticed the bank is offering an even lower rate... another .5% lower on a fixed term. But before fixing, I decided to see what difference it would make if I increased the payments to boot...
Over the past few months I've developed a very naughty habit of buying an espresso coffee every day. The coffee lady in my local café practically has it ready before I walk through the door! At $4.50 a day, that's $22.50 a week. Not a big deal really (or so I keep telling myself). But according to my handy-dandy mortgage calculator, by adding my cup of coffee to my mortgage payment instead, I'll save another $22,292 in interest and shave another year off my mortgage.
Obviously, everyone's mortgage calculations will differ, but one thing's for sure... a little extra payment saves a heaping helping of hard earned dosh! And it makes you feel pretty good about yourself for being so savvy. And if you can negotiate your interest rate down and keep your payments the same, then you're super savvy! Combine the two... and you're on to a real winner!
So in total... (let me double check my facts and calculations!) In the past 24 hours I've reduced my mortgage interest by $188,846 and slashed eight years off the term! Seriously, can you believe that? WOW!
It's really got me thinking about how easy it is to get into the habit of just plodding along, paying the minimum because that's just what's easiest. I just couldn't believe that it was possible to save that sort of money without really doing anything!
Oh and this will make you laugh... upon telling hubby he suggested that we could go buy a Ferrari! My reply? "Ummmm, nooooo... But once the mortgage is all paid off, I'll shout you a coffee... I'm sure my café lady will be missing me by then! *wink*"
If you're keen to do your sums too, the website I used is https://www.sorted.org.nz/calculators/mortgage-manager
You can read more of Claire's warm and wonderful words in our Members' Blog section.
11. 50c Indulgence: Heaven Scent
Hi everyone! Over at 50 Cent Indulgences we have been having a delightful time cleaning our homes, saving money and getting a little healthier. We call it 'Heaven Scent' as so many of the products that we make at home not only work well, they smell just divine! If you, like me, have ever hesitated to dive into the home-made cleaners, let me encourage you that they really do work! The basics are very affordable and can be found easily at your supermarket and online. Once you have them, it often takes only a minute or two to mix up a beautiful cleaner.
Borax is an environmentally-friendly, naturally occurring mineral salt. It can be used as a disinfectant in all-purpose cleaners as well as a brightener in laundry soaps. Baking soda removes stains and neutralises odours as well as serving as a mild abrasive. Washing soda is a natural mineral and has unmatched grease cutting ability. It is a great heavy duty scourer, but wear gloves using it. White vinegar is a stain and odour remover, and literally pulls the dirt out of surfaces when applied during cleaning. Use only white vinegar with cleaning as other vinegars may stain. Castile soap (my favourite I think!) is an alternative to harsh detergents and chemicals. You can wash yourself, your pets, your dishes, your clothes, your hair, and clean anything safely with it. Dr. Bronners has the most beautiful fragrances available.
Here are a couple of my favourite recipes that I use around home.
Orange Dusting Spray
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp liquid castile soap (I use orange but you can use any smell)
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 15 drops of sweet orange essential oil
Mix all ingredients in a glass bottle or a spray bottle. Apply with a lint free cloth. If mixed in a spray bottle, shake it before use. Keeps indefinitely.
Home-made Heavenly Laundry Powder
- 1 bar of soap (I used Palmolive Naturals Pomegranate as I love the smell and the colour. Cost $1.00)
- 1 cup borax
- 1 cup washing soda
Grate your soap of choice with a hand grater. Mix with borax and washing soda. To get it to combine better, rather than settling in layers, whiz for a few seconds in a food processor. Wash utensils well after making. This is suitable for a front loader or a top loader machine. Use two tablespoons per load.
I am now on my second batch of powder and it works a treat. I will not be buying powder again as this takes less than five minutes from start to finish and is suitable for babies and sensitive skin as well.
Enjoy yourself making beautiful scents for a cleaning indulgence!
You can drop in and join Helen, Annabel and the Under 50c Army here: March...a season of fresh discovery. Under 50 cent indulgences March 2012
12. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Using up a Bumper Harvest
Mimi asked a couple of great questions on the last blog and as they relate to all who have vegie gardens I thought it was worthy of a longer response. Mimi asked:
"Rob, maybe you can help me get my head around this. It seems to be a problem for many of we novice gardeners. How do you know to estimate the quantity of each thing you plant? The biggest issues I face are either insufficient yield or over supply. Is it just common sense over a long period of experience or do you just deal with these issues as part and parcel of the exercise?"
The short answer I gave on the blog:
How many of each plant just comes with experience I think. We have only been gardening for four or so years so we are still learning as we grow go ;)». I have learned that variety is better than volume. While we are nowhere near to being self-sufficient in vegie production we are very lucky that we can make many different types of meals from the varieties of vegies we grow.
The long answer I thought was worth sharing:
I know it can be rather daunting when the kitchen bench is covered in one type of vegie and all inspiration has flown the coup. It has gotten to the point where Bianca and the kids cringe when they ask what's for dinner, knowing it will involve yet another helping of zucchini, eggplant, chard or a combination of all three for the fifth or sixth meal in a row. The challenge for me over the past few years is trying to find new ways to prepare the food and keep everyone happy with the meals that are cooked.
As an example, for our family of four we will plant three to four zucchini, realising that there will be an excess if the yield is good. I can usually serve three or four meals a week using them in different ways without boredom setting in. Zucchini makes a great raw pasta that you can top with traditional sauces, which is also great if you are watching your carbohydrate intake. We are lucky enough to have a spiralizer that will cut zucchini and other vegies into spaghetti-like threads but the same can be achieved with a potato peeler or mandolin to make thin fettuccine-style strips. When grated it can be used in baked vegetable slice, added to rissoles and tastes great in a raw broccoli salad.
Variety, rather than volume, can also come into play, when it comes to growing a productive garden. One example of this is the types of greens we have started to grow such as Egyptian spinach, orach & kang kong.
While I have only planted out a few plants of each there are more than enough to give us a constant diverse range of greens for our salads. We are never really concerned with excess greens as the worms, fish and chooks will always look after any excess and they always appreciate it.
As I learn more about gardening, I have started to progressively sow out certain crops, like beetroot and carrot, every four weeks or so. I have also started to do this with our winter broccoli and cauliflower crops. This way we will (in theory) end up with a constant supply of these crops without any excess occurring. It also saves storage space in fridges, freezers and pantries as the vegies are stored fresh in the garden : )»
Swapping with others is a great way to make use of excess vegies as well. Other gardeners may have better yields with other crops and be very grateful for some diversity in their diet as well. Much of our excess produce has been given away to very grateful family and friends. The upside to this is that it has inspired a few of them to start planning and planting out their own vegie patches. We are looking forward to swapping with them in the near future. :D»
Storing excess produce
Freezing, drying and bottling (canning) are the best ways to make a bumper harvest stretch out longer. A favourite way to use up excess here is a vegie sauce made with zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, onions, mushrooms and garlic. It can then be canned or frozen for later use. Once thawed it is as easy as adding the desired spice/herb blend when reheating and letting it simmer for a while to let the flavours infuse through the sauce. I like to leave it chunky when I freeze it, then if the recipe calls for it, I can process it into a thin sauce. We use it in Mexican, Italian, Middle Eastern or any dish that calls for a vegetable sauce.
Drying is also a great way to save produce for later use.
We have recently purchased a dehydrator and have used it to preserve some of our large zucchini for later use in stews and curries. I think it will get a great workout once the tomatoes are ready to come off.
Bottling is a skill that I am only just starting to explore a lot more recently.
We have been making up a LOT of Thai-style curry and chilli pastes from all the chillies we have been lucky enough to harvest this season. Most of the jars are being given away as we already have a year's worth in the pantry from earlier batches. We were also forced to harvest some capsicums early on in the summer due to fly strike. Once any hitch hikers were removed, the capsicums were quickly processed with some vinegar, honey and dill to make some very tasty pickles that taste fantastic in fresh salsa.
I hope this gives you a few ideas on how to use up any excess that you may get from your patch.
After much procrastination I finally got around to harvesting the castings from the bath tub worm farm.
It is a very easy job that only takes a few minutes so not quite sure why I kept putting it off! Most of these castings will be used to fertilise the coming season's seedlings as they are planted out. I might also make up a few batches of casting 'tea' fertiliser if there are any left over.
As shown in the clip, our worm farms are all based on having a well-draining bedding (broken up horse manure/coconut fibre) that can be consumed by the worms. When it comes to feeding the worms kitchen scraps, I like to run them through the food processor and then I add them to the top of the worms' bedding. Water is never added to the farm because the pureed food tends to make the farm moist enough. In nature you will find compost worms living just under leaf litter where the ground is only slightly damp so I try to mimic that in our farms. We find this system works very well and since adopting this method we haven't had any problems with the farms turning manky like many of our earlier farms used to. By processing the vegie scraps, it helps the worms consume it faster. This means we will have healthier, faster breeding worms that can, in turn, provide us with a nutrient rich fertiliser faster. : )»
Our first pineapple
I posted about having to harvest our first pineapple prematurely as we were concerned about ants and other creepy crawlies trying to eat the soft sunburnt patch on the top side. Well, I am very happy to report that it ripened up nicely and was chopped up yesterday morning for our breakfast.
While it was not as sweet as some we have had, it was home grown, so that more than made up for any short comings. I have been given a few pointers by someone who has a lot more experience on how to fertilise this very tasty member of the bromeliad family. Peter (from the Share the Seed Group on Facebook) recommended lime and potash as great additives to both pineapples and paw paws. This should help sweeten the fruit, so I shall be adding a small handful to all.
The plant this fruit came from has also produced two 'pups' which shall be removed from the plant and planted out into pots. Pups are said to fruit a lot faster than plants grown from the crown or seeds so hopefully we might get some fruit from these plants next year.
That's about it for this week - hope you all have a great week in the garden. : )»
Read more of Rob Bob's garden blogs in our Members' Blog area.
13. From Last Month: Outdoor Makeover
Last month N. Carson emailed us about ideas to help with her outdoor makeover. She said:
"After six years of indoor renovation, we are finally ready to begin on the outdoors! The prospect of ripping up 4x32m of concrete driveway and replacing it with bitumen, digging out 35sqm of unwanted dirt in the backyard, erecting a front brick fence, building a deck and also general landscaping is extremely daunting - and costly! Any advice regarding cost-effective concrete demolition, skip hire, dirt removal or waste disposal - and also outdoor renovation advice would be incredibly appreciated!"
We got some fantastic ideas - thank you for sharing your wisdom! Here are some of our favourite replies:
Take the time to get quotes
Before you tackle a large outdoor renovation project, it's a good idea to get quotes from various tradespeople to do individual jobs and also quotes for the whole package. It may be cheaper to get the jobs done individually. Also work out what you may be able to easily do yourselves so you know exactly what you need others to do and quote for.
Advertise broken concrete as free fill
We have a farm with many dirt tracks to negotiate. During rainy weather pot holes, ruts and washouts can be a problem. Broken concrete in these areas would be very useful - perhaps you could advertise it locally for 'free fill'? You never know who in your area could make use of it so you don't have to pay to get it taken away.
Free garden landscaping with Permablitz
If you're looking for a helping hand to landscape your gardens with minimal cost, I'd recommend contacting the Permablitz office in your state. Permablitz is a not-for-profit organisation that runs a program where their trained permaculturists come to your backyard and design a landscape plan so you can grow your own fruit and vegetables. A few weeks' later volunteers spend a day on the weekend helping you implement the design free of charge! To qualify, you need to have previously volunteered at two other people's gardens with Permablitz. You also need to provide tea and coffee but each volunteer brings a dish to share. It is a lot of fun and great to see your backyard transform into a productive space in about six hours! Plus, you get to meet local volunteers that you can later swap any excess fruit and vegies with. Permablitz also offer some educational sessions about what they're doing on the day so the volunteers can learn some handy info.
Get it done with a Kanga
Here's how we tackled our backyard renovations and saved on the cost of plants. One of the best things we did was to hire a Kanga for the weekend. It cost $260 but we were able to efficiently remove the dirt and rip up the existing garden beds. We then used pine sleepers for the garden edging ($19.95 each) and grabbed dirt from the local garden supplier at $30 per ute load. We then raided friends' gardens for plant cuttings which saved us heaps on the cost of plants!
14. This Month's Help Request: Lose Weight, not Dollars
Jen Aitken has emailed asking for some help! She writes:
"I am looking to lose weight but I often find dieting can be expensive. Ironically, when you eat healthily with lean protein and fresh fruit and vegetables, it can be more expensive than filling up on cheap carbohydrates. Does anyone have any economic suggestions that they have tried and succeeded with (apart from the obvious of just eating less!)?"
If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share, please send them in to us here.
15. Savings Story: I Hear Being Poor is No Fun...
Kathy Lowry emailed us and we just had to share this inspiring lady's saving story! Well done Kathy - we love your zest for life!
I hear being poor is no fun but I beg to differ! It can be a mind-set and creative saving can be great fun and healthy! As our major food items are fresh, organic raw food, the garden is vitally important to our health and budget. Our garden is just one example of our $10,000 annual saving (although it is way more) as we only buy $100 worth of groceries per month.
What else we do and how much we save per annum:
- Save $10 each month by buying and planting seeds instead of seedlings - $120 per annum.
- Save $10 each month by making compost from our scraps and lawn-clippings - $120 per annum.
- Save $10 each month by making our own potting mix - $120 per annum.
- Transplant self-sown seed from compost and propagate own cuttings - $120 per annum.
- Place bricks in toilet cistern to reduce water use and re-route good grey water to use in the garden - $40 per annum.
- Trade 'haves' with 'have-nots' (trade excess organic fruit and vegies, babysitting, sewing, helping with homework and so on for carpooling, coffee/lunch/movie outings, gifts and so on) - $200 per annum.
- Dry or preserve excess fruit and vegies to present as beautiful gifts to working friends - $300 per annum. (They also love herbs, edible plants and flowers like strawberries, mixed lettuces, tomatoes, chilli, pansies and calendula. We put them in pots for convenience and they return pots when finished so we can reuse pot, ribbon and name tag!)
- Use gum leaves as labels and flax as string/ribbon on gifts - $10 per annum.
- Dig garden and save on gym fees - $200 per annum.
- Never visit doctors or pharmacy as we don't get ill thanks to healthy lifestyle - $200 per annum.
- Get gardening advice from library or Google instead of buying books - $100 per annum.
- Cut our own hair (I took a course 45 years ago) and colour my hair - $1000 per annum.
- Make own cleaning, air freshener and polish products very cheaply using lavender, cloves, eucalyptus oils, citric acid, white vinegar, borax, baking soda, Epsom salts, washing soda, bleach and Nilodour - $120 per annum.
- Buy macadamia oil for food and cosmetic use (for cosmetic use we buy from Simple Savings) - $100 per annum.
- One-off item - Dug own sewer drain and filled own tanks. (Quoted $6000 as we have solid limestone in our area but five days of labour saved us a budget blowing, whopping $5000.
- Visit recycling boutiques for clothing and sew to make clothes, change buttons, shorten sleeves and so on - $1000 per annum.
- Buy petrol on cheap days only, using maximum docket discount - $120 per annum.
- Have DVD evening get-togethers with friends and hire new release - $100 per annum.
- Being a volunteer usher at the performing arts centre gets us into shows free - $100 per annum.
- Bet on radio races with friends using 10c for $1 coins. Money stays between you!
- Go 'garage saling' 6 to 8am some Saturdays for fun and for items we need (ladder, garden furniture, free pots, kids' toy treats. We often get opened/almost full packet of fertiliser, car products, paint and spray perfume and so on.)
My husband and I have a car, caravan, bicycles and small freehold house (a big bonus of course, as rates, insurance, maintenance and so on equals $5000 per annum) on ¼ acre peninsula block that is a five minute walk in three directions to the ocean or estuary. We use our location for beach bumming, romantic sunrise and sunset walks, picnics, swimming and star gazing. We are very active, travel domestically and internationally (China, NZ and Queensland last year for three months, and USA and Europe this year for four months.) We live on $1800 per month ($21,600 per annum) including travel and the occasional $100 cash withdrawal from our savings when necessary. Our families are happy to give us spending money for wherever we are going for birthday gifts and we send postcards showing where and how it was spent. Sometimes we house-sit.
Three weeks after an extended holiday, our garden is ready for salad picking again. Various friends 'vegie-sit' our potted tomato, strawberry, cucumber, zucchini, capsicum, parsnip and assorted herbs and have even enjoyed the fruit for a while. Other kind souls water and harvest our garden if they have time. We reciprocate when they need us.
Absolutely everything goes onto our credit card, and we pay it on the due date religiously thereby avoiding any fees. I make sprouts, yoghurt and soft cheeses although we eat very little dairy products. We make our own fabulous sorbet from own fruit, and our own bread so we know what we are eating. We begin the day with a green organic smoothie which gives us energy and takes us through to 2pm, even when physically working. (Still can't believe how good they are!) We do not eat any processed food or animals if we can avoid it. I do, however, have a weakness for smoked salmon which I buy frozen for $10 per kg and cut into ten chunks while frozen and thaw as necessary ($1 per 100g).
Due to our advanced years we enjoy free local travel between 9am and 3.30pm weekdays and all weekend. This is when I visit friends 110km away or we go to a free concert, gallery visit or just go to the city for coffee with friends. We occasionally take the one hour bus trip to the casino and back. For a total of $10 (I'm not a gambler!) we meet with friends from other areas, get $2 cash, $1 Kino voucher and a full buffet meal with limitless food and drink. No-one ever suspects how frugally we live as we are always having fun, still enjoy a tipple, look amazingly healthy and fit, and travel abroad staying with friends and relations who also enjoy holidaying with us in turn.
Life is to be lived and not having much money can just make it more interesting!
16. Goodbye for Now!
Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for March 2013 and we hope you have enjoyed it and have been inspired by all the money saving tips. Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!
Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.
Till next time...
All the best,