"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - January 2010
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Reality Check
- February is No Spend Month!
- Best of the Vault: Simple Spend Less Solutions
- Best of the Forum: Hey No Spenders!
- Sophie Gray: No Spend Lunches
- Penny's Blog: Friends in Frugal Places
- Homeopathy Corner: Fran's Story
- From Last Month: Student Life without Deepening Debt
- This Month's Help Request: Fair Share for Singletons
- Savings Stories: New Year, New Challenge and Keeping Each Other Honest
How are you going? This year, your newsletter is following the challenges set out month by month in the War on Debt calendar we gave you for Christmas. If you haven't got your copy or you would like to read more about it, you can do so here. As you can see, No Spend Month is here again, woohoo! This is one of my favourite money saving challenges. Unfortunately my poor son Sam doesn't share my enthusiasm. I'll never forget him asking me last year, 'Mum, who invented No Spend Month?' 'Er, I guess I did,' I told him. 'Can you make it stop?' came the hopeful reply. Nice try son, but no!
You see, over the past few years, No Spend Month has become one of the most successful and highly anticipated events on the Simple Savings calendar. It first made an appearance three years ago. The goal was clear and simple - avoid spending at all costs! Around this time we also launched the Savings Diary to enable members to track how much they were spending each day and to record how much of it was essential or not. The Savings Diary proved such a valuable tool that members still use it every day to track and justify their spending. You can too!
If you have never given No Spend Month a go before, now's the time to give it a try! Don't forget to let us know how you go. There's nothing that makes us smile more than reading of your success!
"When I joined Simple Savings many years ago, I had no children and was working but had accumulated a lot of debt from having the travel bug for three or four years. Once I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I realised that using the credit cards for everything under the sun wasn't going to help me raise my children properly. I consolidated my credit cards (all three of them) and started paying them off. I lived on basic Centrelink payments whilst raising two children on a single parent's pension and as of Christmas Day have managed to pay off the $30,000 debt that I accrued. I owe SS for the important information and skills that I picked up to be able to do this. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
"Now I have paid it all off, along with my car as of this month, I can save, for us to go travelling as a family TOGETHER and not have to worry about increasing the debts; I can use MY money." (Kathryn Gwatking)
"Thanks very much for the War on Debt calendar. I used it last year and switched around a couple of months so that the climatic seasons for growing vegies and so on worked here in Canada where I live. Being a hardcore frugalist I didn't think there would be a lot in there for me but the biggest surprise was 'Control Your Cash' month. We don't carry a balance on our credit cards so I was feeling a little self righteous about my credit history. We put our credit cards away and only used debit cards or cash. As of today we have gone 113 days without using credit cards. Visa and Mastercard may think we are dead! I am not an anti-credit card fanatic and would use them for motels or car rentals and so on, but it does feel good not to have to send off a payment at the end of the month." (Lew Harpelle)
"Last year I sat down and set up folders for my finances based on your War on Debt calendar. I didn't follow it as strictly as I could have, yet have still managed to slash a massive $15,000+ off our household debt - and still buy a few big ticket items like a caravan and new bedroom suite that we have been lusting after for years. I have also paid off two credit cards that have been hanging around with large balances for years. I still have one to go but using this year's strategies it will be gone before I know it.
"Today I have printed off this year's calendar and am busily making folders and goals for this year. After assessing last year's success I am going to follow the Simple Savings rules more strictly this year, I can't wait to see what I achieve!
"I believe strongly that one of the biggest contributors to divorce in this country is money problems. I know with finance plans in place there has certainly been a lot less fighting in my household. Thank you." (Elizabeth Glover)
"I have been a member of Simple Savings for two months now and I must say how much of a difference it has made to our lives. Financially we thought I had to go back to work for us to be able to get by but thanks to your website and some careful evaluation of our needs and wants, I am able to stay home and continue caring for our three children. We have done a budget and guess what? We may even get our honeymoon from seven years ago! This is such a wonderful start to the new year! Our big saving has come from the money box that we put all change in. It's almost full! Keep up the good work Simple Savings. We are so grateful for you and all the people who share their wonderful savings hints!" (Angela Hobins)
All the best,
P.S. Want 15 minutes of fame? We are looking for interviewees who are willing to share how their Simple Savings membership has helped them. We know there are some wonderful people out there with incredible success stories who can help and inspire those who are really struggling. If this sounds like you, please get in touch here!
P.S.S. $21 Challenge Update - Book errors.
The great news is we sold out of New Zealand copies of the $21 Challenge book in December and the book is already into its first reprint. This gave us a fantastic opportunity to fix the errors in the first edition. If you would like to print out the error sheet, click here. (120kb PDF)
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Reality Check
"Muumm," Sally's daughter sidled up to her, smiling sweetly. "I know it's 'No Spend Month' and everything but I REALLY need a new school bag. My old one looks really budget and I've seen this awesome one at Surf's Up. It's like, $80 but it's SO cool! If I don't get it now, someone else will definitely buy it and I'll miss out! Can I get it - pleeease?" She looked at her mum, eyes pleading.
"Well, I suppose if you really need one we should get it while the sales are still on," sighed Sally. Great - there goes the money we had saved! she thought. Sally was feeling down in the dumps after all her hard efforts to save and phoned Hanna. "I can't believe it - No Spend Month is ruined already! I have to buy an $80 school bag," she grumbled. She jumped at the sound of hysterical laughter from Hanna.
"Oh really! Do you HAVE to? Or did she just make you think you have to?" Hanna chuckled. "Let me guess, she looked at you with those big doe-eyes? Yep, mine do that too, they even bat their eyelashes!" Sally didn't know what to say - was her daughter really trying to pull the wool over her eyes? "So you think she can do without it, then?" she asked Hanna. "Most definitely!" came the confident reply. "It's good for us mums to say 'no' every now and then!"
2. February is No Spend Month!
Saying 'no' can be hard at the best of times, but this month it's more important than ever that you say it loud and proud - because this month is No Spend Month!
If you have just joined us, you can read more about what it is and how it works by checking out these links to previous newsletters:
No Spend Month 2008
No Spend Month 2009
These links will also give you some handy tips and strategies for surviving your No Spend Month so we highly recommend you take a look but in a nutshell, your mission for the month is not to spend a SINGLE CENT unless absolutely necessary. Obviously this doesn't mean that you are not allowed to buy anything at all, we all have to live! You CAN spend money on items you really need - but only if it is truly essential, such as:
- rent or mortgage payments
- prior monthly bills
- transport to and from school and work.
Unfortunately, most people confuse the word 'want' for 'need' which leaves a big hole for marketers to duck in and persuade you to buy goods you never needed or wanted in the first place. So this month, if you hear yourself or others saying they need something. Ask yourself and them, do they really need it or only want it, because this month you can only spend money on things you need for survival.
Sounds tough? Yep - but it really works and that's why it's so hugely popular among Simple Savings members. You would not believe how much financial headway you can make in just one month, simply by not spending! It's a fantastic opportunity to evaluate your spending habits and *gulp* see just how much money you waste.
Saying 'no' to almost everything for a whole month requires commitment and a steel resolve but you can make your No Spend Month easier and more enjoyable simply by enlisting the help of a friend. As our story above shows, Hanna saved her friend Sally $80 in the space of a single phone call. Next time you find yourself feeling vulnerable and under pressure to buy, buy, buy, instead of giving in or blowing a gasket, reach for the phone and call a friend. A No Spend Friend! Someone who you can openly and honestly discuss money. Someone who understands your desire to get ahead and you know will support you. Someone to help you stay focused and help you to say 'No'. If you don't have someone you can call for advice, come and join our Forum and get help from other members. They've been there, done that and will help you to stay strong.
With the help of a 'No Spend Friend', you will be protected from the two biggest 'No Spend' obstacles:
Kids. Kids are brilliant at ganging up on us and manipulating us in order to get what they want. Any parent knows how convincing those big doe-eyes can be! However, your friends do not have the same emotional attachment to your children as you do. They can spot when your darling offspring are trying to pull the wool over your eyes a mile off and will enable you to stop and think rationally about whether the latest 'must have' is a want or a need.
Marketers. There are so many times when thinking of purchasing something that we could do with the help and honest opinion of a friend - and we don't just mean someone to ask 'Does my bum look big in this?' when out clothes shopping! It can be very hard to resist buying an item which has had an entire team of marketers dream up the best way to make you want to buy it. You need someone outside the ring who has not been hypnotised by the sales pitches, the flashy displays or the pretty packaging. A 'No Spend Friend' will help you get through those tempting times with your wallet intact.
So this month, find yourself a No Spend Friend! Email this newsletter to a friend and ask 'would you like to be my companion in this?' Email your family members and tell them 'I really want to have a go at No Spend Month and see how much I can save. Can I ring you when I am in trouble? I would really like your help.' If you haven't visited our Forum before and would like the friendship and support of like-minded people during No Spend Month, you can become a Vault member here. Don't forget, we offer a 365 day 'no questions asked' money back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose - even during No Spend Month!
3. Best of the Vault: Simple Spend Less Solutions
One of the fantastic things about No Spend Month is that you really don't know what you can do until you try. Members are always amazed at just how little they are able to spend once they really put their minds to it! So, no more excuses! Get started on your own 'No Spend Month' challenge with the help of these terrific tips from the Vault.
Tips for No Spend Month
During a No Spend Month, team up with a like-minded buddy or family member to alleviate any unnecessary spending. There are so many things you can do in partnership, or on your own, including:
- Raid each others' pantries rather than make a trip to the shops.
- When heading out to run errands, make one trip for both buddies/families.
- Pay bills online.
- Raid each others' cupboards or gardens before buying gifts.
- Cancel the lawn-mowing for the month.
- When cooking, cook surplus and deliver to your buddy/family.
- Cancel or defer any donations for the month.
- Make greeting cards from household materials including card and glitter. Use downloadable images too.
As you've seen, no spend is no problem!
The key to simple saving is a spend-free weekend.
Celebrate being a Simple Saver, with a spend-free weekend!
A spend-free weekend saves money in so many ways. Petrol, takeaways, groceries, admission fees and more. With at least one spend-free weekend a month, you will save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. At the end of each spend-free weekend, use the money you've saved to reduce debt or increase your savings account.
'Zero spend days' make savings out of nothing
My New Year resolution was to take a close look at the family budget, and we have come up with a great way to motivate us to spend less - we call it 'zero dollar days'. We challenge each other to see how many days a week, then a month, we can spend nothing. We pay all our bills on the same day and try to spend money only on one day of the weekend. It means you have to be more creative about how to entertain yourself, and you sometimes have to go without things until the next shopping day, but it was very satisfying to see that five of the first six days of this year were marked with a big $0 on the calendar. The visual confirmation is important for spurring us on.
A simple statement for Simple Savers
This simple statement helps me save money and stops me from buying luxury items I don't really need:
'Every dollar I don't spend is one dollar I don't have to earn again.'
Every $25 I don't spend is one hour I don't have to work! Thanks to this statement, my rainy day account is growing, my debts are going down, and I no longer live from pay cheque to pay cheque.
Monthly get together without spending
My mother, sister and I have changed our spendthrift ways to help each other out and enjoy quality time and a regular meal together.
We used to spend our weekends shopping. Of course we bought things we did not need. Even worse, we spent tons of money on eating out in the mall! So, we changed our habits! Once a month we spend a day at one of our houses, taking it in turns. The hostess is responsible for lunch and the others help her with a project around her house.
For example, we have painted a playroom, done general cleaning, cleaned a garage, collected items for charity and more!
Another no spend success story
The No Spend Month has motivated me to complete more craft projects than ever before!
If you can't spend then there is no need to go out as much, so staying at home or taking a portable craft project to the park is helping me get through craft projects I have had on the back burner for a while.
This saves me from going into the dreaded fabric shop where it is difficult to come out without a making a purchase and forces me to make the most of the craft supplies I already have.
No spend days help seek out free pastimes
I have cut back on unnecessary spending by allocating two days a week as 'no spend days'. I recently retired but found I still wanted to go out every day for the social interaction. The problem was that going out would always lead to me spending money on coffee or the odd purchase I didn't really need. I now have two days a week when I do not allow myself to spend money. This makes me seek out free activities like going to the library to read the papers, and saves me heaps on my monthly expenses.
Ask your housemates to 'no spend month'
Completing a 'no spend month' with your housemates will show them just how much money can be saved on your electricity bill when you all really try. Hopefully the savings will be significant enough to convince your housemates to continue to use less electricity. If you continue to be careful with your usage but your housemates revert back to their old habits, suggest they pay the extra amount each month thereafter. If you keep coming up against negativity, maybe you are not compatible housemates?
For Vault members only:
4. Best of the Forum: Hey No Spenders!
No spend? No sweat! Our Savings Forum is full of experienced 'No Spenders' who can be counted on to provide encouragement, praise or even the voice of reason just when you need it most!
We all struggle at times and have setbacks with our spending. If you need some support and encouragement then confess your spending sins here and start again!
If you found you have gone overboard with your credit spending then you may be in need of a 'major' no spend challenge! Join the members as they discuss how they plan to fight back against debt.
Jules is having difficulty focusing on her long term goals. She would like to renovate her house and maybe take a holiday - but she can't seem to stop splurging all her money on life's little luxuries, such as make-up, shoes, handbags and more! Fortunately, the Forum members are on hand with heaps of brilliant suggestions for bringing her spending under control.
If you have an eBay addiction you're not alone! Bring it back under control this month with the 'No Spend Challenge'.
How low can you go? Each month members try and win against the spending monster. Join in and see how many days you can go!
If you are finding the No Spend a little difficult take some tips from these members that have been doing it since November and they are still going!
5. Sophie Gray: No Spend Lunches
I daren't calculate how many lunches I have made in my lifetime. The fact is, for the best part of two decades I have begun the day with a roll of lunch wrap and a scowl.
My first waking thought every morning has become 'what will I put in their lunches?'
I could just buy the pre-packaged lunch stuff as lots of people do - it's a multi billion dollar industry after all. But I won't. Not only is much of it junk food, it's simply too expensive to waste.
A healthy lunch is cheap to make and you probably have most of the ingredients already, so forget spending up on pre-packed treats and prepare your own. My 'snatch n' grab' lunch box stuffers are prepared in our kitchen on Sunday night. These include:
- Making individual jellies with fruit in re-useable containers. These are better for the environment and cheaper than the store-bought ones. Suitable fruits are peaches, pears, banana, apricots and berries - fresh pineapple and kiwifruit can make the jelly runny - something to do with acid I think.
- Preparing some similar containers of yoghurt so you can alternate.
- Making home popped corn and packing in snaplock bags.
- Home baking - mini muffins are ideal as they're a more appropriate serving size of what is essentially cake and 'minis' go such a long way.
- Home-made muesli bars or some other bar or slice - flapjacks made with rolled oats are cheap and tasty and really easy to make.
- Freezing small sweet or savoury scones that can be pulled out of the freezer as required.
- A 'main event'- sandwich, roll, crackers, sushi, rice salad, left over pasta salad or noodles, piece of quiche or pizza from a previous meal, cold sausage or one of my 'mitey cheese scrolls'...
These recipes are made from pantry staple ingredients so hopefully you already have everything in stock.
Lunch box scrolls
This recipe makes a big batch of dough that divided in half makes 12 savoury and 12 sweet 'scrolls' for the lunch boxes. If you prefer you can double the amount of filling and just make them all one flavour or try your own variations.
Makes 12 mitey-cheese scrolls and 12 spicy custard sultana scrolls
For the dough:
- 6 cups plain flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 sachet instant dried yeast - (8 grams of instant yeast)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 ½ cups warm water
- 1 ½ tbsp Marmite
- 1 tbsp margarine or table spread
- 1 ½ cups grated cheese
Spicy custard and sultana filling
- 1 tbsp custard powder
- ½ tbsp sugar
- ¾ cup milk
- 1/3 cup sultanas
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Extra brown sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling
In a large bowl combine the sugar, salt, flour, yeast and oil. Stir in the warm water and mix to form a soft dough, turn it on to the bench adding more flour if needed, then knead until smooth and springy, 5-8 minutes.
Place dough into a clean greased bowl, cover with cling film and microwave on low power for 1 minute, rest the dough for 10 minutes then repeat. After the second rest the dough should have doubled in size. (Alternatively set aside in a warm place until doubled in size.)
While the dough is rising make the custard. Mix the custard powder with ¼ cup milk to form a smooth paste, whisk in the remaining ½ cup milk and sugar and heat gently, stirring continuously until the custard is thick - this will only take a minute or two. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Soak the sultanas in boiling water to plump them up and then drain them and set aside.
Beat the Marmite and table spread together with a bread and butter knife till completely combined.
Punch the dough down, knead lightly and divide into two pieces.
Roll each piece out to a rectangle roughly 40 cm x 30 cm or around the size of a Swiss roll pan if you don't have a ruler handy.
Make sure there is plenty of flour underneath the dough so it can't stick.
You are now ready to assemble the scrolls.
For mitey-cheese scrolls
Spread the dough with the Marmite mixture - a spatula or rubber scraper is helpful. Sprinkle with a cup of grated cheese then roll up from the long side to form a log.
Divide the log in half then cut each half into 6 thick slices. Place the slices so the scroll faces up on a greased baking tray and top each one with the remaining grated cheese.
Allow the scrolls to rise for around 10 minutes before baking.
Spicy custard sultana scrolls
These are not nearly as well behaved, so work quickly and if they get a bit loose and soggy don't worry they'll still taste great when baked!
Knock the air out of the dough and roll it out as for mitey-cheese scrolls. Spread gently with warmed honey then add the cooled custard keeping it well away from the edges. Quickly sprinkle on the sugar and spice mixture and the sultanas and pat down gently.
Roll up and slice as fast as you can or the sugar will start to melt and leak out. I often find I have to scoop the last couple of scrolls onto their greased tray with a spatula and rearrange them a little. Sprinkle with a little extra brown sugar and cinnamon.
When baked they will be golden and tasty if a little 'irregular'. They make great lunch box or picnic food - really filling.
Bake both types of scrolls in an oven preheated to 190° for 15-20 minutes or until risen and golden. Remove immediately to a cooling rack so the scrolls don't stick to the trays as they cool.
Cook's tip: If you prefer you can omit the custard from the fruit and spice scrolls and just have them as spicy sultana scrolls. They are great drizzled with a little glace icing. Like a simplified Chelsea Bun.
Not to be confused with fat breakfast pancakes, this flapjack is a Scottish slice and is incredibly simple to make. Oats are very nutritious and Flapjack keeps well, it's perfect with a mug of tea or glass of milk - or try it crumbled over ice cream as a crunchy topping.
Makes 24 pieces
- 400g medium porridge oats
- 175g butter
- 150g brown sugar
- 1/3 cup golden syrup
Pre heat the oven to 180°.
Line a Swiss roll tin with non-stick baking paper.
Melt together the butter, golden syrup and brown sugar then mix in the oats.
Press into the prepared tin and compact the mixture pressing down firmly with a spatula or palette knife.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and score into pieces with a sharp knife. Cool completely before removing from the tin. Store in an airtight container.
Sophie Gray is the author of the range of Destitute Gourmet cookbooks. www.DestituteGourmet.com
6. Penny's Blog: Friends in Frugal Places
Jan 12, 2010
Phew, this No Screens Month lark is wearing us all out! Not that we're complaining, we've been having heaps of fun. The dogs are all undergoing a rigorous exercise program, with twice-daily sessions from their masters. The evening board games are currently being replaced by trampoline contests. The boys have appointed me as their judge and I have to give them both marks out of 10 as they go through their various repertoires of forward flips, backwards flips and other contortions. The only real rule is that if either one of them lands on their bottom, then that round is void and they have to do it again. A simple rule but one which makes for much hilarity as the pair of them end up in all sorts of flamboyant poses in their desperate attempts NOT to land on their bum. Rather like Twister for trampolinists! Mind you, the boys are starting to get more competitive and are demanding more rules be instated as time goes on. Still, when I think of what we would normally be doing of an evening, watching our various screens, I'm more than happy to oblige.
Most afternoons are spent at the local pool, which is usually followed by a session at the school cricket nets, perfecting their batting and bowling skills. The cricket pitch at home still gets daily use but now the boys can bowl at around 110km an hour they need a bit more room! Ali is now a fully fledged zoo volunteer and spends every day he can up there, doing anything from raking leaves to chopping up food for the emus or making toys for the new elephant. All the visitors to the zoo chat to him and ask him questions about the various animals, which he loves. He also loves the unlimited ice blocks and chocolate bars he gets for doing a good job!
As for me, I've been overcome by an uncontrollable urge to cook - in particular I want to bake. Unfortunately it's not really the best time of year for spending hours inside a sweltering kitchen. The weather has been so hot - and we've all been so active - the only meals we feel like eating are barbecues and salads. The cosy, candlelit family dinners we enjoyed so much in winter have been replaced by the four of us sitting around the table in blazing sunshine, fanning ourselves with all the windows and doors open. Don't get me wrong, I love this glorious weather! It's just not ideally suited to dishing up sticky, steamed caramel pudding, heavy, calorie-laden lasagnes and all the other things I've been dreaming of making.
So I've been contenting myself with reading recipe books instead. I love cook books! Probably a little too much unfortunately but this is something I am determined to get under control this year. I have a tendency to be mesmerised by their tempting covers and will happily fork out half of the week's grocery bill in my rose tinted pursuit of being a domestic goddess. Sadly, nine times out of ten I get the aforementioned books home, only to find that our motley crew wouldn't touch most of the recipes with a barge pole and I end up selling them for a fraction of the price on Trade Me. Happy Hanna though I strive to be, I have lost count of how many times I did this in 2009!
You see, I have a confession to make. While I consider myself to be a naturally friendly person, I'm a real home body. I'm not one of life's 'ringer-uppers' or 'popper-inners'. It's nothing personal, it's just our family time is so rare and precious that we like to spend our spare time together, rather than visiting other people. So when it comes to 'should I buy this?' or 'is Nigella's latest any good?' I often don't have anybody to discuss it with or to say 'Nooooo!' Don't get me wrong, I'm not exactly Penny No-Mates! It's just you can know an awful lot of people without having any actual bosom buddies. That's me, I guess. For a long time I've relied on my own judgement when it comes to what-to-buy-and-what-not-to-buy and unfortunately there are times it has let me down!
Just before Christmas, however, I found a method which really worked. I went to see 'Julie and Julia' at the movies, and like everyone else in the theatre I came out drooling and dreaming of chocolate cream pie and Boeuf Bourguinonne. I NEEDED to buy a copy of 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking'! Well, I thought I needed it - I certainly wanted it! I wanted to cook just like Julia Child and Julie Powell. I went straight to the bookstore and there it was, all pristine white and inviting, with dainty little Fleur de Lys. I wanted it! The only thing which put me off was the price at $49.95. The Simple Saver in me told me to stop and think. I had just come out of the movie and was swept up in a whirl of French cuisine. Can you imagine how many books that movie has helped to sell? To people like me, who rush out of the cinema thinking 'I HAVE to know how to make butter sauce!'
This time, however, I held my horses. Instead of buying it straight away, I went home and asked the Forum! Almost immediately they came up with a list of smarter alternatives, shared their own experiences of the book and made me realise that I didn't need it after all. It was great! It's not something I would normally have included anyone else in my decision about but I knew that the Forum would be able to give me an honest answer and it was even better than I had hoped. I rang the local library, who had just got a brand new copy in and excitedly went to pick it up. For one whole month that cookbook I had wanted so much sat on my bookshelf. I didn't make a single thing from it - not even the Boeuf Bourguinonne. Just goes to show how much I 'needed' that book. Thank you lovely Forum friends for saving me from yet another culinary book disaster. I have a feeling it won't be the last!
Fortunately I have a couple of new interesting cook books which will keep me going for a while yet. My mother-in-law gave me 'The Aunt Daisy Cookbook' for Christmas. Aunt Daisy was a beloved voice on NZ radio from the 1930's to her sad passing in the 1960's. 'Good morning everybody!' she would greet everyone each morning without fail, before launching into her daily session of recipes, hints and ideas. During her many years of broadcasting, Aunt Daisy gathered up thousands of recipes and published ten recipe books. While she passed away before I was even born, I imagine us Simple Savers would have still enjoyed listening to her show today! I was really chuffed to receive this collection of recipes from days gone by; then my mum was surprised to find an original copy of 'Mrs Beeton's Everyday Cookery and House-Keeping Book', printed back in 1894! She didn't even realise she had it and unearthed it quite by chance during a decluttering session. We can only suppose it belonged to my great-grandmother but I was delighted when Mum gave it to me. Between Mrs Beeton and Aunt Daisy, I think I'm in for quite an education!
25th - No Screens Paradise
7. Homeopathy Corner: Fran's Story
Fran wasn't always a homeopath. In fact Fran was a sceptic. This month Fran shares some of her story about how she was first introduced to homeopathy and why she has devoted her life to it.
To read Fran's story go to:-
8. From Last Month: Student Life without Deepening Debt
Last month Caitlyn Murphy asked:
"I'm a 20-year-old student who has had to move out of home in order to study. I wasn't really prepared for the expenses of living away from home, and as such, have incurred debt. Thanks to your site, I have ideas of what I can do to get rid of this debt, but I'm scared that next year when I go back to uni I'll put myself further into debt. I can't do a lot about textbooks and accommodation - they're going to be huge expenses regardless of whether I buy second hand. However, groceries are a problem I feel could be handled better. My freezer space is about 30 cm x 15 cm x 30 cm - so I don't have a lot of space to buy bulk and freeze meals, and buying fresh food for one person is expensive. Do you have any suggestions about meal ideas or ways I can cut down huge bills?"
Skip meat not classes
Meat is the biggest expense in a meal budget, so why not go semi-vegetarian?
Keep eating fresh fruit and vegetables, and start cooking with beans and lentils. All you need to remember is that if you combine a bean and a grain, you have a total protein. Most nights, aim to have no meat at all and enjoy felafel in pita bread, chilli con carne on rice, pasta with beans and vegetable sauce, eggs dishes and, of course, baked beans on toast.
It's ok to indulge in meat every now and then, but be sure you buy meat that delivers a lot of flavour for not much cash, for example, a single rasher of bacon will add a lot of flavour to salads, egg dishes and potato meals. Also, bulk up meat dishes by adding a tin of cannellini beans or butter beans.
Asian-inspired budget meals
I encountered budgetary problems during my first year at university, but I discovered that an Asian style diet was a big help.
Rice is a cheap and healthy way of bulking up meals and can even be eaten for breakfast! Buying a rice cooker was one of the best investments I have ever made - make sure you get one with a lid that snaps closed, not just a glass lid like a saucepan lid. You can pick up a rice cooker for around $30 from retailers like Kmart or Target.
The beauty of a rice cooker is that you can simply add things like vegetables, fish and Chinese sausages to the steaming tray above your rice, and in 30 minutes you have a cheap and healthy meal with a minimum of fuss. I calculated that I could cook a meal of rice, steamed lemon fish and vegetables for less than a dollar a serve!
Miso soup is a delicious, healthy and cheap accompaniment to rice dishes, and requires only a small amount of fridge space. You can also add a variety of different dried additives for even more flavour, such as seaweed and fried tofu that can be kept in jars.
The benefits of being a nanny
After her first year at university, my daughter had incurred huge costs as she had moved interstate. Things were much better during her second year when she took on a part time position as a live-in nanny to three children under 12. This made her very organised, and she also had access to free accommodation and good food, plus a small allowance to cover costs. Best of all, she was in a loving home and when she came down sick, she had someone to keep an eye on her.
Other friends took on non-live-in nanny positions, while others cleaned homes or took on more traditional part-time work. However, for my daughter, being a live-in nanny was the best solution and she is still very close to all three children.
Interest free textbook loans
Most universities offer interest free loans for textbooks which you can pay back at any rate you can afford, for example, $20 per week. This doesn't cost you any extra but it means you don't have to fork out an extraordinary amount of money in one go. Well worth checking out!
Communal cooking saves gazillions!
When my sister was at university, and cooking for one, she found a few friends who were in a similar situation, so they agreed to try communal cooking.
One person would be in charge of pre-dinner nibbles, someone else did the main course and my sister always offered to do dessert - she could make delicious desserts for several people for less than $4.00, much cheaper than making a main course at up to $20!
My sister loved the cheap meals and the social aspect as they all discussed their lives at university. Many years later she is still close with the cooking crowd, has saved gazillions of dollars and can cook desserts very well!
Boarding beats flatting
Try boarding instead of flatting. I boarded with people that my family knew, and in exchange for cleaning the house once a week and cooking for them twice a week, I was charged a very reasonable board which included rent, basic phone and internet, electricity and food. I was allowed to come and go as I pleased, so it was no different to flatting in that regard and I found that it was a lot nicer to live in a place that wasn't party central all the time!
A feast on a shoestring
Here's my suggestion for a week's worth of meals that won't take up much freezer space:
At the start of the week, buy a kilogram of mince, half a chicken breast and a lamb chop - bag the mince into five lots of 200 grams. You will also need a range of your preferred vegetables. Freeze the chicken, the lamb chop and two portions of mince.
Day 1 - Make massive fried rice, using browned and seasoned mince. Proportions should be roughly 1/5 meat, 2/5 rice, 2/5 vegetables. This makes so much rice that you will probably end up with three meals - eat one now, put one in the fridge and freeze the other one.
Day 2 - Spaghetti bolognaise, with a 50:50 mix of mince and lentils. Remove half the mix before adding the Italian herbs and store in fridge.
Day 3 - This is your 'spoil yourself' day. Make a gorgeous butter-chicken, using the chicken breast and a good recipe. Do crispy baked potatoes and vegetables to go with it.
Day 4 - Mix up another batch of mince and lentils, and use it to make a lasagne. You might want a 2:1 mix of meat to lentils for this one. If you put lots of vegetables in it, you'll probably have enough for two meals.
Day 5 - Grill the lamb chop and enjoy with char-grilled vegetables and your choice of pasta, rice or potatoes.
Day 6 - Take the leftover mince/lentil mix; add Cajun spice and pepper to make a Mexican mix for tacos.
Day 7 - Eat the leftover lasagne or fried rice, or use a frozen batch of mince to make another dish.
After all this, you should still then have three meals, or the foundation thereof, left over!
Being bothered pays off
With careful planning, and some effort, you can make ends meet!
Be bothered to make your lunch, instead of buying it. Refill your water bottle and freeze it overnight, then make a salad and put it in a container for lunch the next day. When you pack your lunch, put the frozen drink bottle next to the container and it will act as an ice brick. By doing this, you can save $70-$80 per week.
If you have a part time job relating to your course, take the time to check whether you can claim your text book costs on your tax; there's a savings potential here of around $600.
This time investment could be the best time you will ever spend!
Think of the rewards
I want you to remember that this struggle is only for a short time; by putting yourself through university, you'll be bettering your life by doing something you enjoy, and with a qualification you'll be able to look after yourself for a lifetime! But until that time comes, here's some advice!
To save on utilities, just remember - you can live without a landline! I have a Virgin Mobile month by month plan which costs $30 per month but gives me $170 worth of calls.
When it comes to electricity, you can buy really cheap energy saver globes for everything in your place. Look for them at IKEA or even a discount retailer like The $2 Shop. To save even more on electricity, turn things off at the power point when you're not using them. As for gas heating, only use it if you're really cold! Put on a jumper or use a blanket and try to stay warm that way.
By the way, I got through my degree living alone, renting privately and living on a youth allowance, plus a four hour a week job earning me around $100 pw. It can be done!
Make a meal of it
Find six other people on a budget and then, once a week, you can each cook for seven people. You can choose whether to eat together at the cook's home, or you may decide to collect your meal and take it home. The meals could be frozen for convenience or served hot; the only rule should be that all meals should be nutritious. Even cooking a roast for seven people once a week is much cheaper and easier than cooking seven meals for one person.
Think ahead, cook ahead
You can cook a week's worth of meals on a weekend afternoon and freeze individual portions for the week ahead. Add notes to the portions, for example, 'add slices of potato and layer on top; roast 45 minutes' so you know what to do when you thaw out the portion. You'll be surprised how much cooked food you can fit in a small freezer, plus fewer vegetables are wasted as they last well once cooked and frozen.
For Vault members:
9. This Month's Help Request: Fair Share for Singletons
This month Julia asks:
"As the only single person in our family I feel the constant pressure when it comes to gift buying or even eating out when we are together. I constantly end up paying more than I should because I don't want to look like a scrooge but I really can't afford it. I have a well paid job but am trying to save as well which doesn't seem to be getting through to the rest of my family. I love spending time with my family, but I'm struggling to afford it. Does anyone have any suggestions?"
Sounds like Julia needs some help and we know you are the right people to ask! If you have any ideas on how Julia can work towards her savings without avoiding the family dinners then we would love to hear from you here.
10. Saving Stories: New Year, New Challenge and Keeping Each Other Honest
New Year, New Challenge
Christmas 2009 was the worst I ever had, having just separated from my husband. At almost 50 I found myself homeless with no money. On the 16th of December I found a share accommodation but had to borrow money from friends to pay for my bond and two weeks rent so that I could have a roof over my head. The only job I was able to do to keep me going was as a housekeeper, yet I could hardly pay for the petrol to get to work.
For four weeks, I avoided going to the shops. I am 90% vegetarian so decided to grow all the vegetables I like to eat at my rented home. I collected some seeds, seedlings and cuttings from friends and customers and decided to spend my last $10 for chicken wire to protect my homegrown herbs and vegetables from possums and bush turkeys. I am spending time tending my garden every day and I now have lettuces, beans, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, herbs and so on for salads and stir fries every day. I even have enough to give some to my friends and customers to thank them for helping me to stand on my own feet and living a healthy life. This week I only spent $16 for organic eggs, milk, a tin of pink salmon and a loaf of bread. These with my homegrown herbs and vegetables will give me a healthy diet for the whole week. I am saving heaps to pay my debts as fast as I can.
At soon-to-be-50 and with no savings, I bought The $21 Challenge book to challenge myself. I am so excited because I spent years of feeding a family of four and now I am alone I have absolute control of what I spend and what I put in my mouth. I feel liberated, I feel young and full of energy. Having less money in 2010 is more enjoyable than my stressful life in 2009!
Keeping Each Other Honest
My friend and I are enjoying losing weight, saving money and regaining our lives together - even though we live 200 km apart! Whilst we can't do things together, the pair of us have been recording everything we eat since Christmas Eve. At night, we use Skype, which is free, to report to each other what we have eaten during the day, and how much exercise we have done. We also keep each other informed of both our weight loss and measurements every day or two. It really helps to keep each other honest. With each other's help we are both saving on:
- Food in the grocery basket which is not necessary or nutritious
- fad dieting, which is bad for the metabolism
- spending money on diet clubs or programs
- long phone calls
- a terrible future dictated by the long-term effects of diabetes
- any embarrassment of having to weigh ourselves in public.
We have also discovered there are other advantages too, such as:
- Giving away clothes which are too big to someone in need
- enjoying the acknowledgement of that person for your help each time they wear your clothes
- feeling and looking better and stronger as the weeks go by
- fitting into the clothes I have bought on eBay in anticipation of these changes in lifestyle
- learning that lifestyle is the ultimate choice. This is not a diet; this is my life from now on!