Recent Hints & Tips

Full access to the Vault of Hints is for members only, but here's a taste! Hints are contributed by both staff and members.

Bye bye shampoo, hello healthy hair!
updated 22 min ago
Since giving up shampoo and conditioner I'm saving countless dollars a year on hair products! However my hair isn't being neglected thanks to a simple home-made solution I've switched to. I put three tablespoons of bicarb into a non-breakable dish. (I have long hair, so lessen this amount for short or mid-length hair.) I then put two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a non-breakable 1 litre jug and head off to the bathroom. Once in the shower I add enough water to the dish of bicarb to make a paste and apply it to the roots of my hair. After rinsing thoroughly I fill the apple cider vinegar jug with water. I then dunk the ends of my hair into it and pour the remainder over my hair.

I purchase 1kg packet of Bicarb soda and 2 litres of Apple Cider Vinegar for just $8.93 and they last for months and months. I have been washing my hair like this for 6 months now and my hair is shiny, smooth, frizz-free and the healthiest it has ever been. But be warned! Most people who try this will suffer from 'suds and foam withdrawal'! I did! Lets face it, sudsy shampoo feels great and it is nice to run smooth conditioner through one's hair. However, considering most commercial shampoos and conditioners can cost anywhere from $8 to $30+ per bottle and can contain toxic chemicals, choosing bicarb and apple cider vinegar to wash your hair will have a positive effect on both your health AND your bank balance!
Venison mince a cheaper & healthier beef alternative
1 comment
updated Today
I am saving a fortune on mince for our family meals since I have found a cheaper, healthier alternative! I always try and buy lean mince for the family but have found that the price difference in NZ (assume Australia has the same issue) between the basic mince and premium (lean) mince is huge - up to $9 per kilo different! I've now started buying venison mince at our local supermarket, which costs exactly the same price as our budget mince. At first I did a double take assuming that it was a price mistake but I've done this for around 10 months now and the price seems to stay the same. The venison mince is as lean if not leaner than the premium mince and quite frankly I prefer the taste myself. The family don't seem to notice the taste difference at all between venison and beef. In fact our homemade hamburgers now could be described as gourmet burgers and I'm saving a huge amount of money as mince is one of our staples!
A Challenge for life
updated Today
After reading The $21 Challenge, I thought I would see which other areas of my life I could apply the Challenge to.

First, I opened a separate bank account and now deposit $21 every week before I do anything else with my money. I see this as a type of retirement fund â€" it will be nice to see the funds in 30 years time!

My next $21 Challenge is to only put $21 worth of petrol in my car each week. I will park my car further away from where I need to go; this will save money and improve my fitness and wellbeing.

When my phone contract ends soon, I am going to challenge myself to spend no more than $21 on pre-paid phone credit each month - now that will be a challenge!

There are so many ways we can implement the $21 Challenge in our lives, thanks to Fiona and Jackie's inspirational book.
Start a non-perishable 'Emergency Pantry'
updated Today
This simple tip saves me a fortune when times are lean and I have extra people to feed! With extra family members coming to stay and only my pension to live on, I was worried how on earth I was going to feed five people. So I created an emergency storage cupboard to help ease the financial burden. Every fortnight I put several items in the storage cupboard. Tinned tomatoes, pasta, long-life milk, a spare packet of biscuits, lentils - anything that won't 'go off'. I don't notice these few little additions in my usual grocery bill but it's suprising how it all adds up in my cupboard. Lo and behold I soon find that I have enough to make it through the lean days! It's important to remember to rotate and use the old and replace with the new but my storage cupboard is now well stocked and used only in emergencies. I don't worry any more!
Cheese and herb puffs make a cheap and easy snack
updated Yesterday
For a tasty afternoon snack which costs little but tastes delicious, all you need are some sheets of frozen puff pastry and some grated cheese and herbs. Simply thaw your puff pastry sheets (one to two is usually enough). Then put some grated cheese into a ziplock bag (allow around half a cup of grated cheese per slice of pastry) and add a teaspoon or so of mixed herbs or similar. Give the bag a good shake to combine, then sprinkle over the puff pastry sheets and bake in a moderate oven for around 10 minutes. So simple but so tasty and kids love them!
Healthy lunch box tips from the naturopath
updated Yesterday
As a naturopath I am always trying to give my son a healthy lunch. For weight-loss, it's best to keep carbs and sugars to a minimum and to give lots of protein snacks to keep their energy levels stable; plus fresh fruits and vegies. Carbs will fill their tummies but also imbalance insulin levels which can cause weight issues and energy fluctuations, so keep carbs to a minimum. Also be aware that fats are healthy as long as you choose healthy fats - those from natural sources that aren't extracted by heat or chemicals and aren't created in a factory. For example, cold pressed olive oil is good but avoid margarine and heat/chemical extracted oils such as canola, soy, corn, rice bran and sunflower. Saturated fats such as coconut oil, ghee and butter are good in moderation as they are 100% natural and heat stable.

Some of my son's favourite snacks include:

- Boiled egg (my son's number one fave - and something his classmates asked for when they saw his lunch!)
- Half an avocado with a spoon (needs to be kept cool, so best sent in a winter lunch box or use ice packs to keep chilled
- Fruit leather
- Home fried poppadoms; very easy and cheap to make! Buy in small packets at Indian stores and deep fry at home in your own healthy oil (I use home-made ghee for frying)
- Fresh seasonal fruits
- Cherry tomatoes
- I often give my son leftovers from dinner if they're able to be eaten cold. Usually it's a special treat such as sushi or home-made pizza, sometimes a rice dish, sausages and so on)
- Home-made savoury mini muffins or mini quiches/pizzas
- Omelettes/crepes cut into small pieces

You can also make small containers filled with:

*Rice crackers
*Dried fruit selection
*Nuts selection
*Bhuja mix (mildly spicy Indian chickpea flour snacks), they are deep fried so use in moderation unless home fried
*Cheese sticks (cut from a block of cheese, not pre-packaged cheese sticks)
*Pieces of fresh coconut
*Fruit and vegie sticks with hummus or other dip
*Celery sticks with peanut butter
*Salami pieces or biersticks
*Home-made popcorn (with butter and salt or cinnamon is fine)
Harry Potter's Butter Beer for kids
updated 23 Feb 2017
For an inexpensive and memorable party treat, try this novel idea for a 'grown-up' sounding beverage for older children or teens. I've made this myself and it's yummy - I'd even serve it at an adult's party!

Harry Potter's Butter Beer

1 small carton good quality vanilla ice cream, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
2 bottles NON-alcoholic apple cider, or large bottle of apple juice, (though non-alcoholic cider tastes a lot better)

In a medium bowl, cream together the ice cream, butter, sugar and spices. Place back in the ice cream container and re-freeze. In a medium saucepan, heat apple cider until just hot, do not boil. Place equal scoops of ice cream mixture in each glass. Pour hot cider on top and serve with spoons for stirring.

A delicious speciality from Hogwarts School for Wizards!
Leftover sausage stew for one
updated 23 Feb 2017
This simple and tasty meal is handy for using up leftovers!


1 sausage
1 onion, finely chopped
1 potato, chopped
1 slice bacon, chopped
1 dash of brown sauce or tomato sauce.

Simply put all the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to the boil. I like to add a tablespoon of flour at the end to make a gravy from the sauce. Enough for one meal, or add more ingredients for two!
Our chickens are paying for our Christmas holiday!
updated 22 Feb 2017
Many people keep chickens to save money on eggs; however our feathered friends are helping us save on much more! This past Christmas I was really upset that we didn't have the funds to go to Victoria to visit my family. I only get to see them once a year and needed to find a way to save some extra money so I could make it down there from Queensland next Christmas. We purchased some chooks to help save money on buying eggs, however we soon found out that we were spending more on them for their food than just buying eggs from a shop! To combat this, we decided to sell the eggs to friends and to people we work with.

This has been working a treat and we are now saving money! All the money we get from the chooks goes straight into a money tin that we cannot open. We get approximately five dozen eggs per week and sell either 3 - 4 dozen at $3 a dozen. This adds up to around $12 a week, or $48 per month, minus $18 for chook food. The $30 profit we make each month works out to around $360 over the course of the year, plus we also add any spare gold coins we get to the tin. I cant wait to open the tin at the end of the year to see how much we have saved. The chooks are actually paying for themselves with no out of pocket expense for us, but best of all, I will now be able to afford to go and see my family this Christmas!
Cot mattress makes a perfect cheap pet bed
updated 22 Feb 2017
The cost of keeping your furry friends can be really high, particularly when it comes to buying a bed! I find that buying a cot mattress is a much cheaper option. I purchased my last one from the op shop - virtually new for $15 and used a cot sheet as a washable cover. My dog loves it! Even if purchased new, it can still be a cheaper option than buying from the pet shop and dollar for dollar, I think much more comfortable!
No more wastage with this 'End of Days Meatloaf'
updated 22 Feb 2017
I have a recipe that I use every month or so, which I call my 'End of Days Meatloaf'! It effectively costs me nothing to make as it uses up scraps and leftovers that would have otherwise been thrown away - but it tastes delicious!

Whenever I cut up vegies for dinner I throw any bits left over (the stub of a carrot, mushroom stalks, broccoli stalks and so on) into a blender. I also regularly look through the fridge for other 'sad vegies' that are past their best but are still fit for human consumption, such as half of an onion, bendy carrots and celery, dried out mushrooms, squishy tomatoes, and so on. I chop them all up and add them to the blender too. I also add any leftover cooked rice and bread that's gone a bit stale. I blend everything until it's finely chopped and transfer it all to an empty ice cream container that I keep for this purpose in the freezer. Once the ice cream container is full (usually after about a month or so) I mix the blended frozen vegies in a large bowl with an equal amount of mince, a couple of eggs, seasoning and some sauce of choice (this is a good way to use up the half-empty sauce bottles in the fridge). Normally I add BBQ or tomato sauce, soy, chutney and perhaps leftover apricot jam or marmalade as well. The mixture should be moist enough to stick together like a dough.

I then transfer the mixture to a baking tin. I usually get enough for two meatloaves or I fill up a muffin tin and make mini meatloaves which are good for lunch boxes. I cook the mixture in a hot oven for about 40 minutes, depending on the size of the tin(s), and check it regularly to see if it's cooked all the way through. After cooking, I freeze one of the loaves.

It's very cheap and easy to make, it's delicious and gives us a big whack of vegies. The muffin-sized mini-loaves make a good snack, and the meatloaf will normally last two people about three dinners, if we have it with vegies or pasta. As a bonus, our fridge gets a regular clean-out and we avoid much unnecessary food wastage.
Jam making is easier with home made funnel
0 comment
updated 22 Feb 2017
I found the perfect solution to making home made jam easier without spending a cent! Recently when making chunky jam, I found that using a jug to fill the jars with hot mixture created a lot of mess with jam flowing down sides of jars, especially the recycled small jars with narrow openings. My kitchen funnel spout was too narrow for the chunks to flow through easily. My solution to prevent mess and waste? Cut the neck off a plastic soft drink bottle, remove the cap and use as the funnel, or cut the base off a hard plastic disposable picnic cup and use that as a funnel. Now I can either wash and reuse it or simply discard when jam making is finished!
I 'tax' myself 50% on purchases and put it in to savings!
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updated 22 Feb 2017
I have come up with a novel but very effective way to help me save! Being a reformed shopaholic in progress, I have decided to tax myself 50% of the purchase price on any 'must have' items that I may or may not need. For example, today I brought myself a wallet as the old one was not efficient and I kept losing cards out of it. So off I went to Strandbag and spent half an hour looking at all these gorgeous wallets that made me so happy but this soon turned to frustration as I needed a wallet with zips and a few secured compartments so that I wouldn't lose valuable items. To my surprise, in the end I didn't get a wallet but a purse with multiple compartments. Better still, it was a bargain at only $10, reduced from $40! This means my shopaholic tax of 50% on my $10 purse equates to $5, which gets put into savings. Even with my 'tax', the purse still only cost me $15 in total and my holiday account gets a boost too!
Pinking shears cut the cost of buying new kids' clothes
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updated 22 Feb 2017
When it comes to saving money on kids' clothes, one of the best things I have bought is a pair of pinking shears. I don't really sew, so when my girls get holes in their leggings, normally at the knee, from falling over or just playing, I simply use the shears to cut off the leggings above the hole and turn them into bike shorts. This has saved me lots of money and now my friends borrow my pinking shears too to sort out their kids' leggings!
Home made shampoo & conditioner from your pantry!
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updated 22 Feb 2017
Our family has reduced the price of our shampoo and conditioner from over $4 per bottle to just 10c! With two teenagers and an eight year old with long thick hair, I found that shampoo and conditioner consumed a large portion of our grocery bill each week. Even on sale it still works out to around $4 a bottle, so after some serious web searching I decided to have a go at making my own!

To make shampoo, simply mix 400ml water and 1 tbsp baking soda together in a bottle.
To make conditioner, do the same except with 400ml water and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar.
Shake before use and apply as normal.

That's all there is to it! The recipe can be adjusted to any volume you like. Sure, it may not have the soapiness of the chemical based retail product but it works great and at a cost of around 10c a bottle, it's well worth a try! Perfect for oily hair too, as it neutralises the pH of your hair and there is no vinegar after smell.
My '$10 top-up' challenge saves up to 2/3 on groceries!
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updated 22 Feb 2017
I am spending a fraction of what I used to on food and other groceries since I set myself a $10 top-up challenge! Every few days I would go to the shops to top up bread, milk, butter, tomatoes and other essentials. However I found invariably I would need this or that that hadn't been included in my regular grocery shop and I would end up spending about $20-$30. Not any more though! Now I walk in with only $10 and stick to the $10 top up budget. For example, today it was bread on sale, chicken drumsticks and Hot Cross buns, which came to a total of just $8.50. I am much happier with the new, lower amount! Walking in with $10 for top-up groceries is challenging but also saves us money as we use whatever is at home and there is a lot less wastage. Happy me, happy wallet and happy environment!
Turn zucchini into 'Zapple' sauce
updated 22 Feb 2017
If you are at a loss as to what to do with those large zucchini that spring up overnight in your veggie patch you can make a delicious Zapple sauce. It tastes just like stewed apple and we even used some as apple sauce at Christmas.

To make Zapple peel, seed and dice four cups of large zucchini. Then simmer in 1/3 cup of lemon juice for twenty minutes, then add 1/2 cup of brown sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Simmer for another ten minutes, and you have stewed apple. You can use this for applesauce, apple muffins, apple sponge, just about anything calling for stewed apple. It will hold its shape and won't break down to mush unless you put it in a blender.
Shoe inserts fit the budget
updated 21 Feb 2017
Save money on your children's shoes by buying Clarks Shoes with inserts.

We wanted to buy our two year old daughter some good-fitting shoes but we weren't relishing the high price we'd have to pay for quality footwear. I went to the shoe shop and asked about Clarks Shoes with removable inserts, so we could buy a slightly larger size and get extra wear out of the shoes. A friend had mentioned this to me, as her daughter had a pair and had been able to wear them for nearly 18 months, due to the inserts.

The shoes cost $50, which sounds quite pricey however, in the past, I have bought pairs of shoes for $20 from a department store only for my daughter to have outgrown them after six months. So, more expensive shoes with inserts are actually better value over the long term and much better for your child's developing foot.
$1.00 a thousand times over
updated 20 Feb 2017
We had the chance to travel overseas several years ago but had to save $1000 to make it happen. On one income with two small children it seemed impossible. Then I had the brainwave - I didn't have to save $1000, I had to save $1.00 a thousand times! This was so much easier - a generic brand product at the grocery store, a chocolate bar at the petrol station and so on, soon added up and the savings contributed to a great family holiday.
Vet bills never a worry with pets' own bank account!
updated 20 Feb 2017
I never have to worry about huge unexpected vet bills again since I set up my own easy alternative to pet insurance! When we lost our precious cat 18 months ago due to ill health, we didn't have pet health insurance; we just kept using the credit card. We didn't worry about the cost, we just wanted her better! Unfortunately this didn't happen and as well as the grief of losing our furbaby we were left with a very hefty credit card bill.

Later on, when the time felt right, we adopted two kittens and looked into pet health insurance. However we discovered when looking at the fine print, there are certain things which are not covered. Not only that but as the animal ages (when you are probably going to need it most), the premiums increase! I looked at the average monthly payment they quoted for two young cats and instead of signing up for insurance I opened a savings account with the bank. I put the same amount of money as I would have paid the insurance company into the cats' bank account every month. This makes interest and the more money that stays in the account, the more interest is gained. Should either of our animals require veterinary care any time in their lives we will now be prepared and have money available. No terms and conditions, no increased premiums and no more credit card bills!
Op shop frames slash cost of prescription glasses
updated 15 Feb 2017
I managed to save at least $200 on my pair of prescription glasses! After having an eye exam, the optometrist advised me the lenses I needed would cost $80. He then cheerfully led me to the racks of frames and asked me to choose a pair I liked. But what I didn't like was the price tag! The cheapest frames were over $200 and most were nearly $300 - for a bit of plastic! On the way home I called into the op shop and there they had a pile of glasses at $2.50. Inspiration struck and I rang my optometrist to ask whether I could supply my own frames and if the lenses could be made to fit. It turned out the $2.50 pair that I chose would do beautifully!

Later hubby broke an arm off his glasses, we were told it would be a minimum of $50 for a new one, so it was off to the op shop again and for $1.50 this time we got a pair of glasses with almost identical arms. Two minutes work and 'hey presto' a pair of mended glasses!
Free eye checks
updated 15 Feb 2017
If you need an eye check, Medicare will pay 100 per cent of the fees once every two years. This is available at any optometrist I believe. Just take your Medicare card with you. However, if you need more frequent checks, UNSW Optometry Clinic offers free checks during semester time. These are undertaken by a student optometrist who is supervised by a fully qualified experienced optometrist. This link gives all the details of when and where this service is available:
A little docket saving goes a very long way!
updated 15 Feb 2017
My mum has a unique way to save for holidays or special occasions which really works! Each week she puts aside in cash the 'savings' value that appear at the end of her grocery docket from buying specials or multiple buys on items she had on her list and needed anyway. She often checks the catalogues and may buy some items on special in advance and store in her pantry - especially non perishables. These 'savings' can range from $10 - $50 week and allow her to also have spending money for Christmas and a family holiday in December. My dad was a bit sceptical at her methods - until he saw the amount of money she had put aside!
Cafe style banana bread from home
updated 14 Feb 2017
I save a whopping $64 a month on morning teas! Three mornings a week I used to pick up a cappuccino and a piece of cake on my way to work to enjoy for morning tea but once I realised I was paying $15 a week on this small luxury, I came up with a different plan. I started bringing my own coffee from home and instead of buying banana bread, I spent a day in the kitchen and came up with my very own delicious recipe instead, using items I always have on hand:

Banana, Apple and Pear Bread.

3 cups plain flour
6 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup toasted fruit and nut muesli
1/2 cup currants
1 cup stewed apple and pear mix (leave skin on, cut into small peices with a bit of honey and cinnamon & cook until soft)
2 eggs
2 large ripe bananas (when ours start to go soft I put them in the freezer to use for things like this)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup brown sugar

Sift all dry ingredients together, in a separate bowl, whisk all wet ingredients together and then slowly mix into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. When combined, pour into two lined loaf tins and bake at 150 degrees for around 1-1 1/4 hours. The bread will be soft and moist in the middle. When cool, cut and wrap in cling wrap and freeze until needed. I can cut each loaf into eight thick slices, meaning I now get 16 slices of banana bread for less than $5! Bringing my own delicious bread and cappuccinos from home has reduced my monthly spend from $75 to just $11. I don't feel anywhere near as guilty now when I enjoy my morning tea treat!
Two tips for low-cost reading glasses
updated 14 Feb 2017
I've discovered two great ways to save money on my reading glasses! Firstly I refuse to buy expensive designer frames and am very clear with my optometrist about this. I ask to be shown the budget frames and she respects my decision and guides my choice of frame. I always find one that suits me for no more than $150 and have them fitted with my new prescription about every two years.

Secondly I save money on my spare pair by looking in the op shops for suitable frames. I then take these into my optometrist who adds my prescription to them at a cost of just $90! I use this pair when I'm cooking and cleaning and such and save my best pair for reading or when I'm out to dinner perusing the menu in style!

... and thousands more.

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