Saturday, August 29, 2009

More on is it worth it?

I realised later I forgot to mention a few things on my earlier post Is it really worth it? because I do them without thinking now.

I am a qualified hair dresser and beautician, so I do my own hair and beauty, along with my family. This saves us a lot. For example...

I used to spend $80 on waxing, and what I do to my hair would cost $90+ every 6 weeks.
My husband has his hair done every 3 weeks, as it grows fast and thick. All he has is a number 1 all over, but that is at least $20 at most places now.

So just between my husband and I we save just over $2,000 on hair and beauty by me doing it.

I also mend our clothes, saving us a lot on new clothes or paying to get them repaired. And since I can sew, I have made numerous things for us as well.

I also make some of the gifts we give. Even if you can't sew, if you can cook, or do paper crafts etc... there are plenty of things you can make. Homemade gifts mean more, as they take time and effort to make, but generally cost significantly less than the gift grabbed at the mall.

These are just a few things, as most of it is so second nature to me I do not even think about it being different or frugal to others. It's just how I do things.

It's almost spring

I have been seeing blossoms like these for sometime now, indicating it is almost spring. Just a few more days! And what does spring generally mean? Sping cleaning! Woohoo, how much fun! NOT!

But seriously, it is a great time to go through the house thoroughly, declutter and re-organise your house. It doesn't have to be a long, drawn out experience. Just focus on one thing or area at a time and don't try to do it all at once.

You can look at the whole season to "spring clean". So if you focus on thoroughly doing 1 - 2 area's a week, by the end of spring you will have covered everywhere, without feeling like you have devoted your whole week to it.

Alternatively, you could attack it with a vengance and get it all done in a week.

Which ever way you chose, make sure you are thorough. If you are de-cluttering and want to sell things, get off your butt and sell them. Don't let them sit there to sell "one day". Do it now. (I need to do this now!) And if things don't sell, get rid of them. Too often we hold onto things that didn't sell, because we know what they are worth. The problem with that is, items are only worth what people will pay for them.

One thing I have found that is helping me when cleaning is having a box that is for items that do not belong here (which ever space I am doing.) I throw all items in it that need to go to other parts of the house, so I can focus onfinishing the space I am doing. That way, when I am done, I remove the box and sort it out somewhere else, so I am not cluttering up the just finished area.

This also prevents back tracking or going to the kitchen 10 times to return bowls or plates someone keeps leaving everywhere.

So I plan on doing a big clean this week and piling everything I am going to sell in one area, to list when I get back from Sydney. I haev already started on some areas, now to do the rest.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is it really worth it?

My sister in law posed an interesting question this week, one I had been asking myself. "How much do you save with all the things you do? Do you think it's a lot?"

I had been meaning for a while to sit down and work it out. A lot of things I do I can see the savings easily, like cloth nappies. Other things, like switching everything off at the power point and doing everything possible to save water can be a little bit harder to gauge, but here it goes.

Starting with water, I know when we moved out and our tenants moved in, the water bills jumped. They were using much more than we ever did, and it was $50 - $70 more. Judging by that, we would be saving between $200 and $280 a year on water.

Our electricity is normally $200 less than most people I know. That's people with the same size homes. Based on that, we are using $800 less each year. I also know we are using less and less each bill.

For groceries, there are so many things here that I do to save money, that it is really hard to judge. Menu planning, shopping in season and using a pricebook are the biggest things, as well as buying in bulk, cooking from scratch, and looking for substitutes, (I will post more on groceries later). Based on what we used to spend a week, around $250 a week, and the fact that we are now down to about $100 a week, I have managed to save us $7800.

My groceries include nappies. I now mainly use cloth nappies and when people ask why bother and isn't it too much hassle? With 2 in nappies I am saving about $800 a year by using cloth. That $800 is included in my groceries though.

Moving to a smaller place with cheaper rent. We were living in a house in Sydney, then we moved to a 2 bedroom unit closer to my family. Our mortgage repayments are a lot more than we were charging in rent, but the rent we were charging was more than we were paying. The difference was $50 between our rent and the rent we were charging. By self managing our property, we save $1500 a year in agent fees. By renting smaller, we were saving $50 a week, plus we were able to claim expenses on tax. That $50 difference has grown now, as we charge slightly more rent, but have also moved to a cheaper place to rent. The difference now is $130. $130 a week is $6760 a year. That is a lot of money.

Trying to use the car as little as possible saves us in petrol and car maintenance, like services, tyres etc... How much, I couldn't give you a definate, but I can do an approximate. Instead of driving my husband to and from work each day so I can have the car, I simply go without most days. This would be saving about $15 in petrol a week, not to mention wear and tear on the car. The $15 a week is $780 a year.

Also, we only have 1 car. To register, insure, service etc... another car, we would be looking at around $2,500 a year. An expense we do not want, nor need.

I approximate our clothing savings to be around $2,000 a year. I never buy anything new, always second hand or try to make them. I would feel sick buying new and paying those outrages prices all the time. I am actually going to save even more on clothing soon,as I will be creating a classic wardrobe.

There's more I do, I know, but these are the main things. They total $19,260 - $19,340. That is a lot of money.

More importantly, if I was to stop doing all these things, and just give in to keeping up with the Joneses, not only would we no longer be saving, we'd be in the red.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Making money

For a while now I have been doing various things to earn money whilst staying at home. A lot of them are not big money makers, but as I sat down today and worked out how much I have made over the year, I was quite surprised. So I thought I would share with you all what I have been doing and a few things I plan on starting.

1.) I sell on eBay. I have been having problems with buyers lately, but in the last few months alone, I have made close to $800 selling unwanted items, such as old Sega and Nintendo games, baby clothes, Tupperware I don't want etc...

2.) I sell books on fishpond. I have made $150 this year by buying books for cheap and listing them here. It is easier to list than anywhere else, but watch it. It takes upto 14 days for your money and I have had to chase them for it once. But all in all it is an easy process.

3.) I did do Tupperware, but party plan is not for everyone.

4.) I do a few hair cuts and colours here and there. I am a qualified hairdresser, so that is an advantage most do not have, but looking at your own skills, I am sure there is something you will find.

5.) I have made and sold cloth nappies. Just a few sets, but they were worth about $200.

6.) Helping others with their businesses. Rather than being employed by anyone, I have helped people for a day here and there when they have needed it. I get a bit of cash in hand and they have assistance with no employee attatchments.

7.) I will be making things to sell at markets. You can also make and sell things on etsy. I'll be doing mainly aprons, but there's lots of things you could make.

8.) I have done catalogue runs. It's not great money, but we averaged $70 - $100 a week and to do the actual run on ly took 1 hour.

9.) Baby sitting. I used to do this, and am considering doing more of this.

10.) I do surveys for cash online. These don't pay huge amounts, but every little bit counts.

11.) I have done mystery shopping. Getting paid to do my usual banking or buy my milk is great.

This is mostly what I think I will be sticking too, but I will post more ideas later.

20 tips to save money on electricity

We recieved our final bill on Friday for the unit we recently moved out of. It came later than I expected and was slightly higher than I expected, but I did not have time to look at it properly then, but today I did, and I was right. We have been charged for an extra weeks usuage, after I was told it would be disconnected. What really gets me about this, is someone else moved in right after we moved out, so I am being charged for someone elses useage. Add to that, the company is probably charging them as well, you can see how dishonest they really are.
I have called them and they have redone the bill and sent it to me, so we will see...

Unfortunately electricity is essential (ok, yes some people live with out it and are fine, but for most people it is a necessity!) We pay a lot of money every year for creature comforts electricity provides. Fortunately for my husband and I, we are pretty good and our bills are not normally terribly high. That said, I know we could be doing much better.

I sat down and had a really good think about what we already do and what we could do to reduce our bill.

1.) Switch off everything that is on stand by. Anything that is plugged in and the powerpoint on is using power. The TV doesn't actually need to be being watched to be costing you money! Think about it. Most things have a stand by light, right Well, what do you think powers that light? And why have a light on all night when you are asleep? TV, DVD player,toaster, washing machine the list goes on and on.

2.) Air dry your clothes. As you can see in the picture I am now fortunate enough to have access to a clothesline OUTSIDE!! And it is brilliant. Even if you don't have access to one outside, why not use a clothes hanger inside, on a balcony etc... instead of a dryer. I worked out last year that my dryer was costing me $150 a year, and since usage has gone up 20%, it would now be costing me $180 a year. I would much prefer that money in my pocket! As such, I now avoid the dryer whenever possible. And raining is no excuse. If you don't want the clothes hanging inside, why not run a few lines of string under a veranda and hang washing there?

3.) Use a slow cooker or your microwave. They use considerably less electricity. Some meals I cook in the microwave or slow cooker use just 20c electricity, where they would cost $1 or more on the stove. An added bonus of using either of these methods in summer is they don't heat the house up like an oven does.

4.) Check your fridge seals. If the seal is not working properly, your fridge will have to work twice as hard keeping the inside cool, because all the air is leaking into the kitchen.

5.) Keep appliances dust free. When dust collects on appliances, it makes them warmer, making it harder for them to run efficiently.

6.) Have electricity free days. On our last bill, our average daily electricity usage was $2.50 a day. Having 1 electricity free day a week would save us $130 a year!

7.) Use daylight properly. Get up earlier and go to bed later so you can do work in the daylight instead of having to turn lights on. Open your blinds as soon as you get up in winter to use the light to your full advantage. In summer, it gets too hot, and you are better off keeping curtains drawn to keep the house cool.

8.) Get the most energy efficient appliances you can when purchasing new. But do so within reason. Have a budget in mind when purchasing. You might be better off getting a slightly less energy efficient one at half the price, then getting the top of the range model, considering most appliances now are only designed to last until the warranty runs out.

9.) Dress for the weather. In winter wear long sleeves, hats, scarves, beanies, pants, jackets etc... NOT shorts and T-shirt. In summer, dress down to cool yourself. Wear long hair off the neck and use wet face washers to cool off.

10.) Ditch the electrcity blanket. They are an unnecessary evil. A polar fleece sleeping bag or even just a polar fleece blanket on the bed is just as effective, yet costs nothing to run.

11.) Change the temperature on your heater and air conditioner. Don't have it as cold as possible in summer or as warm as possible in winter. 1 degree can really add up.

12.) Look for high energy users in the house. Switch off every appliance. Go outside and check the meter. Then switch on 1 appliance at a time, checking the usage inbetween. This takes a little while, but will give you a great indication of which appliances are sucking the money out of your pocket. When you have identified which ones use the most, evaluate them. Do you really need it? Might it be time to upgrade to a more energy efficient model? Can some appliances do 2 things? Computers can play dvd's, cd's, etc... A dvd player can play cd's, most people also have mp3's or ipods, so really no need for a stereo.

13.) Block all drafts. The space at the bottom of your door is letting hot and cool air escape. Block it. You can buy a fancy blocker from a hardware store, use a $2 blocker or just roll up a towel and place there. Either way, block that space.
Windows let out a lot of air. Do they need to be resealed along the edges? Do you have block out curtains? What about pelmets at the top? Blocking chimneys when not in use will stop cold air escaping up there in Summer. Exhaust fans, if you don't use them, block them.

14.) Use curtains. I have always preferred timber venetians myself, but the energy savings from curtains has converted me. (Much to my husbands delight!). A good block-out curtain will keep heat in in winter and out in summer. A lot of energy is lost through windows.

15.) Use the fan instead of the air conditioner. They are significantly cheaper to run.

16.) Get kids active outside. So many kids are running up the electricity bill with their computer games, gaming consoles, watching tv etc... If they go outside and play, not only will they be healthier, your bills will be lower.

17.) Turn off chargers when not in use. Mobile phone, lap top, etc... all these chargers consume ALOT of energy and if your not charging, why are they on?

18.) Use solar lights. Get a set for the garden path. Have some you bring inside for night lights, or to light the way to the toilet. Pop them outside every day to charge and bring them in at night.

19.) Compare electricity rates. There can be huge differences in charge rates between companies, so it's worthwhile to compare them.

20.) Check your bills! Just like I said at the start of the post we were charged for days we didn't use electricity. We had disconnected. Over charging happens alot. Check your meter and write down your usage. Check it every week. Check it when your bill comes in and compare it.

A surprisingly large number of people have their bills averaged. The meters are never checked and they get over charged for years. It is definately worthwhile tracking and comparing your usage.

Whilst most of these tips are small, it's all the small things added together that will make a big difference!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Financial blows

Just when things are going good, and you set yourself some great financial goals, like paying off your house, something happens.

Not as bad as a job loss, nor injury, nor death, but my husbands wage has been affected. It is not so bad that we wont be able to afford to live, but it does put a stop on our savings.

There is a silver lining though, it has given him the much needed push to apply for a different job that he has been talking about for over a year. Only drawback is it can take up to 2 years to get in.

So we've looked at all our options. We can take it on the chin for now and work on being more frugal. I could go back to work or we can look at other ways to bring in an income with me still at home.

We are leaning towards looking at ways for me to earn from home. I already do a bunch of things, but will let you know what we end up doing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My budget lay out

I have thoroughly gone over our budget. It is something I do regularly, to tweak it, see where our money leaks are etc...

To create our budget all I did was list all our expense in an excel column, then in the next column I listed how much everything is each fortnight. I chose fortnightly because that is when we get paid.

I gathered previous bills for electricity and water etc... then worked out how much they cost in the previous year and divided by 26. It did take a little while to work it all out, but once it was done I was surprised at all the areas we could save in.

My list of expenses looks like this

Car maintenance
House maintenance
Land Rates
Mobile phones

Now, for me, the only things I can't currently save on are my tithing, mortgage, land rates, car rego and rent. Everything else can be reduced.

My budget is not complex like others I know. It is basic and easy. And since I am not very computer savvy, it works for me.

To start with, when doing your own budget, a lot of people track their expenses first to see how much different things cost them. To do this effectively you need to do it over 3 months and write down EVERYTHING! It will really shock you how much money gets wasted.

Tracking your spending is a good idea, even just to review your budget if you already have one.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My pathetic gardening attempts.

This is what is left of yet another pathetic gardening attempt. I must say, I am very impressed! I manage to kill everything I try to grow. These were planted last year and have miraculously survived. It's spinach and mint. mmmm, sound good? NOT! I do use them, not together, and would've preferred some other plants survive.

The only thing I have managed to keep alive is and aloe vera plant which has come in handy.

I dream of fruit trees and a large vegetable patch when we buy a house here, yet think I must be crazy, nothing I plant lives very long!

So yet again, I am going to try and grow something. I have some pots, and have decided to grow the herbs I use regularly, like parsley, rosemary, oregano etc... Some chillies, and maybe a fruit tree in a pot?

I have learnt a few things though. Banana peel in a bucket of water makes great fertiliser as does left over diluted baby formula. When I have remembered about my dying plants I have used either of these methods and revived them really quickly, but then forget about them again.

This time though, they are at my front door, so maybe I will do better.

Cleaning with vinegar and bi-carb

I hate the strong smell of cleaning products. They just about make you pass out trying to clean the shower. A while ago I heard about using some bi-carb soda and vinegar. I was very skeptical, as I just could not believe that cleaning with them would be effective.

Well, check it out!

The picture above is of some tiles with soap scum on them. They were like this when we moved in. Yes, it is very minor, but little spots like this everywhere can make a place look dirty.

And ta da... All gone, and it was so easy. Sprinkle with bi-carb and spray with vinegar. I actually dilute my vinegar with water for cleaning. Use a scrubbing brush or cloth to scrub clean and all done. It is so easy and more effective than any cleaner I have ever bought.

It works really well on all surfaces, including the toilet and bath tub. It is so cheap and I see no reason to use all those stinky cleaning products anymore.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our goal to pay off our mortgage and how we are doing it

As I mentioned before we have set a deadline for our mortgage. I am not going to say how long we have set, as most people think it is impossible. My husband and I are determined.

We currently own a house we are not living in. We plan on selling it and buying here, where we now live in 2 years. Now, before you jump the gun and go, well you'll be making a big profit, you'll be downsizing etc... We're not. We will be upsizing. I am pretty sure that to buy the sort of house here that we'd like it will be at least $50,000 more than our house is worth.

Yes, we will make some money off the sale of our house, but it will leave us with about the same mortgage we currently have, so we are basing it on what our mortgage currently is.

There are so many things that we will be doing to reduce our loan, that I will be splitting them into catergories and posting on them separately. But to give you an idea, here is a rough idea of our plan.

1.) Checked the size of our mortgage, divided it by the amount of years we want it paid off in, then divided that by fortnights, giving us the amount we need each pay to pay it off.

2.) We have committed to putting all tax returns to our mortgage. No exemptions.

3.) We have gone over all our expenses and seen where we can make changes. Anything that is fixed, as in we have no control over them e.g. land rates, rent/mortgage etc.. can not be changed (Although you can move house to cheaper rent and look at new mortgage providers, once done, this is a fixed cost.) Everything else is put under the microscope to see where we can save more.

4.) We have committed to not buying a new car til our house is paid off.

5.) No other large expenses unless absolutely necessary. For instance, we were going to buy me a computer, but have decided against this. Unless an appliance dies, or furniture breaks, we are not getting anything.

The main thing is, we have committed to this. No mattter what, we are determined to do it. Obviously, somethings are outside of our control, such as illness or injury, inability to work etc... but if none of these things happen, we will achieve our goal.


I have felt for a little while that I have been floating about, not really focused on my goals, probably because they seem to keep changing, and probably because it is so much harder without my husbands support.

Recently we finally sat down and discussed indepth (scary for most men, I know!) where our relationship, family and lives in general are headed and what we want. We have always had different aims and goals in life, but for once we are on the same page and it has re-energized and refocussed me.

What surprises me is how many people don't know how to properly set goals. A goal is something you are going to (Or try your damn hardest to) achieve or want. When you set a goal, it is not a matter of going, "oh, gee, I really would like to lose 15kgs!" You need to write it out clearly and have a plan.

Firstly, have a good think about what it is you want. What are your goals? Goals generally come from our dreams and desires. Make sure they are realistic though.

Often it is easiest to separate our lives into catergories, such as financial/career, health, family, etc...

We have set ourselves the goal of paying our house off in a certain number of years(I wont say here, because it is a secret between my husband and I). We have also set a goal to spend more time together as a family and another one to take our family around the world when the eldest is 10.

Besides our family goals I have my own personal goals. The biggest being lose 20kg/ be a comfortable size 10 - 12. I am more interested in being fit, toned and healthy than a certain weight!

Once you have decided on your goals write them down clearly. They need to be specific and defined. For example, "Our house will be paid off by 2020." (That's not the real years, I'm still not telling!)

Thirdly write down your plan of action. Without a plan of action, it is just a wish on a piece of paper. Kind of like driving somewhere you've never been without a map or GPS. Sure, you'll probably get there, but probably not with the desired result.

The plan of action needs to be specific. Set a definite time frame (In our case 2020 is just over 10 years). How do we plan on achieveing it? Well, that is a mini-series of lifestyle changes and goals all on it's own, which I wont go into here, but will delve into further detail with later.

Write exactly how, when and why. Set mini gals, or stages. As in, by December 2010 our mortgage will be $xxx,xxx. By 2011, it will be $xxx,xxx etc... You get the idea.

When setting goals, be realistic. Do not try to do too many at one time and don't try things like "I will lose 30 kgs by next month." It is not going to happen and can be crushing when it doesn't.

Have rewards for when you hit each mini goal.

Be flexible. Even though you really want to achieve something, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. It may mean you have to extend the timeframe of your goal, or the means by which it will be achieved. Sometimes, after working on a goal, we realise, we don't really want it anymore. Our life has changed and is going in a better direction.

I find it important to always have goals though. Even if they change. It gives a sense of purpose, something to aim for. A reason to keep doing what you are doing. The feeling you get when you achieve a goal is amazing.

Share your goals with others. It makes you more accountable and mroe likely to stick to them. Write them down and have them in places you will see them, on the fridge, back of the toilet door, bedroom wardrobe, in your wallet. You need to see them regularly to remind yourself what it is your are aiming to achieve.

So, set some goals and go hard!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Free exercise

I went to the gym this morning. I am not a member, I had a free pass for a week, so thought I'd use it. What an interesting experience it was. I just did some gentle exercise and weights, nothing too strenuous as I hurt my back recently.

I did get to have a good chat with one of the trainers there about my back and what would be good for it. They actually have a back class tomorrow, which I will be going to. She showed me some simple exercises, that if done for 5 minutes every day will really strengthen my back. Her advice "Go to the back class, copy the exercises, write them down, then do them every day. Do that with walking and watch what you eat." So really, no need to join.

But it got me thinking, it is about $20 a week to be a member of most gyms, so roughly $1,000 a year. There are plenty of things I can think of doing with $1,000.

Whilst at the gym I watched people to see what they did. Do you know what most people did? The treadmill, the bikes then weights.

All those things could be done at home for FREE!!

Go outside for a walk, or if you really prefer a treadmill, buy one, they are way less then $1,000.

Ride a bike. Same thing, either outside or have an exercie bike at home, either way, DO IT!!

Weights, get online, look up some weights exercises, get some weights and do some exercises. Things such as push-ups are great exercises for resistance training, building muscle and you don't need any equipment.

Get free gym passes. If you go online, most gyms have free passes you can print off and use. They range from 3 days to 2 weeks. Print them off and use all the ones in your area. You get to go to a gym, get in the habit of exercising, professional advice and it's free. Just make sure you don't fall for the hard sell and join!

Dvd's. You can borrow from friends, go to the library, buy them online, garage sales, wherever. They can break up your routine and give you something new to do, giving new motivation.

Go with a friend. Running, jogging, walking, riding, swimming. All of these are free (although if you are not near a beach or river, swimming is not free) and even more fun with a friend.

Skipping with a rope burns energy fast.

Play on the play ground with your kids. They will love it and it is great exercise for you.

Play any sport on an oval, soccer, football, cricket, whatever. Get a ball and go for it with friends.

Really, there is no end to the possibilities of free exercise. Watching what you eat and getting regular exercise will ensure you are fit and healthy.

The cost of Babies

I was shopping recently and whilst in a baby store saw a list of "needs" for your baby. What a croc! The list was 2 pages and full of stuff I did not buy for my kids, and they are only 2 years old and 6 months, so it's not like I am out of touch.

I think the main needs for a baby are :

Somewhere to sleep such as a cot (plus matress and linen)

A pram or sling to get them around (Just like in the picture)

A car seat

Food - either breast milk or formula, in which case bottles will be needed too

Clothes, singlets, socks, booties, hats, all in one suits, etc... depends on when they are born

Blankets and wraps

A towel and some face washers, you don't need a baby towel, a nice soft one, which you probably already have is fine

Nappies and wipes

Possibly a dummy, depends on your views


There are so many ways you can set yourself up without spending thousands.

For my first daughter I did want to breastfeed, but she was not putting on any weigth and I was told to bottle feed. An expense I was not expecting, but formulas are all similar, so you don't need to buy the most expensive one.

When getting everything for her, I did not have a lot of money, but still managed to get everything I needed.

We got a cot for half price, $150, brand new. Before I fell pregnant I was offered a gorgous cot for $60, but since I was not yet pregnant I didn't take it. That cot was $750 new! Check second hand shops, not just baby ones, eBay, oztion, classifieds...

I bartered for a high chair, pram, car seat. I got given lots of clothes, a baby bath, wraps, the baby products (soap, shampoo etc...) face washers, and more. I was actually offered 3 prams!

I found once people knew I was pregant I got lots of offers for things. Take it all. I used pretty much everything I was offered and only politely declined things I already had.

I didn't have a baby shower (long story why), but still ended up with lots of things.

Alot of things are best left until after you have your baby, as you don't know how big they will be. My daughters were both 0000, one of my nephews 00000, another nephew was pretty much 00 at birth. So there are significant differences. Babies grow so quick, it does not matter if what they are wearing is too big, they fit it soon.

It really is amazing what you will be given, what you can find cheaply, and how much you can save.

Remember wooden items can be sanded back and painted white or varnished. And most things looks better when cleaned properly.

I'll give a more comprehensive list later of ways to save money on babies.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

21 tips for a cheaper wedding

Weddings can be hideously expensive. It seems as soon as you say "wedding" the price doubles or triples. Combine that with the fact that people seem to think that because the Jones' spent $40,000, we should too. That's how much a wedding costs right? WRONG!! Oh, so terribly, terrribly wrong. Weddings do not need to be expensive at all. Here's a few tips on making a wedding cheaper, without compromising what you want. Stay tuned, because I will be doing more, with things like centrepieces, reception, gifts, bridal showers, invites, the works.

1.) Buy a dress from ebay. No, you don't have to buy second hand, although I have seen plenty of gorgeous dress for a fraction of the original price. I mean, they have only been worn once. But you can buy new for around $300, instead of $2000. Look for sellers who have sold LOTS of dresses and have 100% positive feedback. A 99% feedback on someone who has sold thousands of dresses is not good enough. You want 100%.

2.) Do things yourself. My mother in law hired some books on flower arranging and has made wonderful displays for different functions. She loves it and has a real talent at it. It is amazing what books are out there and the information that is online, means things like that are easy to learn.

3.) Ask the bridal party to pay for their own. This might sound harsh, or you don't want to, but if your are reasonable with things, such as not asking them to buy $500 dresses, most bridal parties are accomodating.

4.) Buy shoes you can dye later. Pretty much no one wheres their white wedding shoes, but I know of planty of people who have dyed their shoes and worn them a lot after the wedding. It means you get proper use out of your shoes.

5.) Instead of fake nails, either manicure yourself well or buy the fake stick on ones. I know of few people who can tell the diffence if you put them on properly. (I will do that in a later post for you all.) And since my sister got her fake nail caught in the sheet and ripped off on her wedding night, ending up in emergency and needing surgery, I am no longer a huge fan of acrylic nails. (True story!)

6.) Jewellery. Search for a wholesale jeweller for the rings. There are ones around and they are much cheaper than the ones at the plaza's and big shopping centres and they are better quality.

7.) Another jewellery tip, is for your jewellery on the day, no one is going to know if they are real or fake. You can get excellent fake necklaces for next to nothing on eBay or at markets.

8.) Cut out alcohol. We had none at ours and it made the reception so much cheaper, and more memorable. Why? No one was drunk. It is your special day, you do not want people getting smashed off their face on your money. You do not want to go home smelling of beer and wine, because it was spilt on your dress and you absolutely do not want your husband getting blind and not ending up in the hotel with you. (Yes, it HAS happened!)

9.) Do the music yourself. You can download music on to your ipod and attatch it to speakers. This does 2 things. 1 - cuts out the cost of a dj, usually $600+ and ensures you have the exact music you want. Unlike my wedding where, we gave the list and he played gangster rap type stuff. So much so, that my husband went down and threatened to bash him if he did not play our list (He was my husbands cousin, and there is a long story behind that! lol.) Mind you, as much as we were horrified, all those in around our age group thought our wedding music was the best ever!

10.) Book mid week. We got married on a Wednesday. Unconventioal I know, but it meant we had our pick of wedding venues, got a slight discount and had extra's thrown in, as places rarely have weddings mid week. This is an especially good idea if your family is spread out and will be travelling anyway. A lot of our guest were going to have to take time off work, no matter when we held it. It also meant honeymoon flights and accommodation was cheaper, as all these things are cheaper mid week.

11.) Try a cocktail type wedding. Having an afternoon wedding with nibblies in a garden is a lot cheaper than a full on 3 course sit down reception. It also means ceremony and reception are in the same place and guest can nibble whilst photo's are taken.

12.) Check out the local photography students. Most will do your wedding for you either free as an assignment or very cheaply. And since they will be getting graded on it, they do a really good job. Plus you can normally get the negatives and all, in comparison to only being able to buy the pictures from the photographer.

13.) Or try out a photographer who will do them on a disc and give it to you instead of an album. This can save you thousands, and means you can get pictures printed as you can afford them.

14.) Buy flowers from the markets for you bouquet.

15.) Go buffet. These do not need to be tacky RSL Club style. Buffets can be lovely, and you can pick exactly what food you want.

16.) Check out outlets for the men. We got our suits for $70, shirts for $30, and the groomsmen had their shirts open, no ties. It was cheaper than hiring and I know one of the groomsmen used it as his wedding suit the following year.

17.) Wedding favours can be combined with the name setting. Think little picture frames, tea light candles, a single rose on a plate with the name tage etc...

18.) Wedding centrepieces are easy to make yourself and can be done very cheaply. If the wedding venue has candlebra's and you feel they are boring, why not get ivy from someones garden to twist around them? We cut $500 from our recption doing this.

19.) Do not invite every man and their dog. So many people have 100 - 500 people, when realistically, 10 years from now, you wont see 1/2 of them. Unless of course, you are like me and are either from or marrying someone from a large family or a culture where you would offend otherwise.

20.) Elope. Seriously. I considered it and still wish I had.

21.) Decorate your own cake or find someone who does it as a hobby. By removing the cake from teh reception package you can save $500+. Just check they will do exactly as you ask, and check their other work.

I have more, but will break it up so it is not so hard to read!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Australian Themed wedding

An Australian themed wedding is great, because you can get most things for next to nothing. Later I will show you Australian themed wedding invitations. In the picture above, I've done a centrepiece with the only cost being the candle. If you wanted you could add gold ribbon around it to pretty it up more. All I did was find some bark and gum leaves at the park. I think it's very effective.

Another great idea is putting the candle on a white platter and scattering gum nuts on the platter. Or you could scatter gum nuts on the table and not have a platter.

One brilliant thing about an Australian themed wedding is the place settings are free. Simply get a gum leaf and a gold pen and writing peoples name on it. Placed next above or on the plates.

Painting gum nuts gold will give an nice effect also. Sticks in a glass vase, either natural or painted is great also.

All I did was walk around our neighbor hood, and I found plenty of leaves and gum nuts, along with lots of native flowers. You could easily decorate any hall or church, make a bouquet for free. Lots of people have natives in their gardens and from my experience, people are more than happy to share.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Frogs under the house!!

Oh, how I wish I had a camera yesterday. The photo's would be classic! Of all the times to forget to take it with me... tut tut tut.

Yesterday a plumber came to our house to check out a leak. It is the house we own and rent out, not the house we are living in. I met him there and was so shocked. My house was a swamp!

Ok, maybe I am exaggerating, but it was bad. The front yard DEFINATELY sank when I walked on it. It was so wet, all the plumber could do was look under the house with a torch and tell me he'll have to come back in a wet suit. There was too much water and "Gee, ya got alota frogs under there, hey?" Well, I guess my swamp theory is not an exaggeration.

But wait, there's MORE! The tenants had told us there was some sort of leak a little while ago, but they thought it was their washing machine (the plumber told me it is from the laundry, and is going under the house in a few days). So they had tried a few things with that before asking us to get a plumber.

The first we learnt of this was when they got foxtel/cable. The cable guy said it was really wet and there was a frog.

Well, yesterday my tenant told me the full story, laughing as he did so.

Apparently, when the cable guy went under the house, he rushed back and so fast. Why? "Mate, there is a CRAB under the house!" Luckily for us, our tenant is pretty fresh from Tonga and not at all fazed by this. Meanwhile, the cable guy would not go under, until the crab was gone. So our tenant grabbed some rocks and scared it away.

All I could think of when he was relaying the story to me was those giant crabs you see at the aquarium? Weird, huh. Funny things is, the tenant thought the cable guy's reaction was weirder than the crab under the house!

I know what your thinking, No way. That is impossible. But believe me, I have seen some weird creatures in this area. And no, I do not live near the sea.

Once, when I was living with my sister in law, we went to hang out the washing. We opened the blinds to the back sliding door and there on the porch was a huge goanna. Yes, a GOANNA! It was tapping it's claws, all creepy, like you tap fingers. Oh, it freaked me right out. Want to know our reaction? AAAARRRRRRGH. Shut the blind. Then stay inside and hope it leaves. It did. We figure it must've been soemones pet, as I was not living in the country, it was SYDNEY. And where we were goanna's and snakes, amongst other reptiles were common pets. Creepy, I know.

So there you have it. I am going back tomorrow, so hopefully, I will be able to get a picture!

Save money making your own baby food!

Recently I went to go buy some baby food for my daughter. When I got to the isle and saw how little the tin was and the price, I did some calculations. The tins are only $1, but they are also only 120g. The first foods are normally things like pureed pear, pumpkin, apple etc... Cheap fruit and vegetables. When I thought about this I came to a realisation. By buying tinned baby food, I am paying $8kg for apples, pears, pumpkin etc... food I can normally pick up for $1 - $2 a kilo!

I decided on the spot to do everything I can to avoid buying ready made food for my daughter. The $1 a tin is when it is on special. Plus once kids get a bit older, the jars are a bit bigger, but a lot more expensive.

Some easy foods are just apples, pears, pumpkin, sweet potato, potato, beans, etc... just cooked and pureed or mashed til smooth. You can do this whilst cooking dinner for everyone and if you do a bit at once and freeze it, you will always have baby food on hand.

You can store it in so many ways. Old baby food jars, if you don't have some, ask around for some. Ice-cube trays are great. You can freeze in the trays, then pop out 4 cubes and store them in pastic bags in the freezer as well, so the trays are always free for more food. Little snack cups and containers are great too. Or plstic bags, Ziploc ones I find are the best.

I worked out that about 3 - 4 tablespoons is about how much goes in a baby food jar. So little containers normally do not need to be full to the brim. Measuring as you are filling containers means less wastage.

As the baby grows you can add things like oats, mince, slow cooked meat is great because it is so soft. Use your own judgement.

I nearly went and bought some jars as we are visitng family 3 hours away from our house. Instead, I cooked and froze some food. I counted out how many I would need, then popped them in the freezer as soon as we got here. They had not defrosted, so were fine. I just get out how many I need for the next day the night before. It is no harder than opening a tin.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Saving money on kids food

I am so amazed at how much snack and junk food for kids is. The marketing that goes into making you and your kids think you need it is unvelieveable.

Recently my husband bought some fruit snacks, you know the diced and pureed fruit ones. They were on "special". So he bought a few and my daughter loves them. When I looked at the price I was quite shocked. It is so much cheaper to buy tins of fruit and split it into little containers than to buy those snack size ones.

Kids lunches dont need heaps and heaps of the snacky foods in them. It is quite unhealthy and very expensive. So I thought I'd give you a few ideas for cheaper lunch snacks. These aren't just for school aged kids. They are great to have on hand for toddlers, so you dont end up buying unhealthy over priced junk food at the shops.

- decant fruit into smaller containers
- make custard or jelly in snack sized cups
- make your own cookies
- pikelets
- scones
- vegetable sticks with hummus
- crackers
- air popped pop corn in bags. This is really easy to do in a microwave. Put a few unpoped kernels into a paper bag. Fold closed and pop in the microwave. How long will depend on how much you use. Only do it for 1 min or so at a time and watch it.

These are all easy to take and have on hand and will help you save money on kids snacks.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Black and white centrepieces

Black and white seems to be a very popular theme. It is relatively easy to do too. White or black platter, a few candles, voila. Done. Here's a few, all under $10 each and really easy to do.

This first one is simply ribbon around some white candles of varying heights, on a platter, which can easily be picked up for $2 - $5, and the candles for $2 each. The ribbon is $2 for a roll, but you wont use the whole roll on one centrepiece.

For something different you could add some pebbles, which are $2 a box, but a box will do quite a few platters.

Or you could just leave out the platter and do it straight on the table.

Some other ideas are layer black and white pebbles or sand in a vase

Have a few black and white flowers in a vase

Have a glass bowl with black pebbles on the bottom and white floating flowers on the top or vice versa

Black and white is classy and elegant. It is very simple, yet looks absolutely stunning.

Beach Centrepieces

Weddings tend to be very expensive. We all want our big day to be perfect and it's easy to be swayed by magazines and professionals into getting the "best" (interpretation = most expensive!)
So here are some ideas for centrepieces for a beach wedding

1.) Shells in a vase - A glass vase can be bought for under $5, you can get them at $2 type shops, second hand shops etc... The seashells can be found at the beach or in bags in the $2 stores or if you look in second hand stores, you will often find sea shell windchimes or necklaces that would be great to use, and usually only $2. If you can only get a few shells, you can use sand or river rocks too.
2.) A white platter with a candle and seashells. You can usually pick up platters for under $5. Or you could use a plate from a dinner set, square, around, any shape works. Candles are cheap, usually $2 - $3, and the seashells, as mentioned above.
If you have a colur theme you could wrap some ribbon around the candle to make it extra special.

3.) A platter with seashells and frangipani candles. The candles were $2 for a packet of 4 at a $2 shop. If they are in season and grow well near you, you may be able to get some real frangipani's for free from someone's garden (Ask them, don't just steal them!)

4.) Scattered seashells. Sometimes in second hand stores you can find bigger seashells. If you are not getting married for a while, you could regularly pop in and see, then just get them when they are there. Alternatively you may know someone with a great collection who is willing to lend to you. That can be a little risky as guest tend to help themselves to things on the table... (Well, I know of a few weddings this has happened at.)

5.) Clam shell with seashells. I often see clam shells in the second hand store, making this probably the cheapest centrepiece I've listed here.

When thinking beach, think tropical plants, like Bird of Paradise, Frangipani, Lilies, etc... But also think driftwood, sea shells, any of these scattered on the tables will look lovely.

A glass bowl with pebbles or shells on the bottom, filled with water and candles or flowers floating on top...
A collection of driftwood, with a few sea shells, a candle and some frangipani will cost vitually nothing, yet look very effective.
A leaf from a tropical plant with river rocks and sea shells...
Instead of table runners, use palm leaves...
There is a lot you can do to make a room look really effective without spending the big bucks!

Party Bag

This is something I have started to do. I now keep all plastic cups, plates, napkins, plastic platters, the happy birthday sign etc... anything related to a party in one easy to find bag.

I used to keep these items in various cupboards and drawers, then I would never find the thing I was looking for, and would end up wasting more money on more plastic cups or whatever, when if I had been organised, I would've had no trouble finding them.

I like the bright striped bag because it is a fun design and easy to spot. I used to keep them in a cardboard box once upon a time, but even though it was labelled, I'd get frustrated trying to find it, as it looked the same as all the other items I was storing.

Another reason I like it as a bag is because I can grab it and go. For example, my niece had her birthday recently. I was talking to my sister in law about it, and she told me she was going to get some pink table cloths. Now I knew I had some in my "party bag." All I had to do was grab before I went over and not have to search anywhere. It's perfect for BBQ's too.

It also helps when you see things on special. Plastic forks, plates, etc... You can buy them and store them altoogether. Saving money in the long run.