Friday, September 25, 2009

Camera, toys, books

Can you believe it? My camera broke. I am so disappointed. We are hoping it is something we will be able to get fixed under warranty. I do not even know what happened. I picked it up to take a picture today, and it would not open. It comes on, but says system error and the shutter wont open. So frustrating.

On a better note, I got something I have wanted for a long time today. It is going to sound so stupid, as it is something so basic and little, and I don’t even know what its proper name is. You know those wooden bead maze things? It’s a piece of wood with wire twisted all over and beads on the wire, so kids can push the beads around from one end of the wire to the other? If my camera worked I could show you!

Anyways, they were $20 (including postage) for a used one on eBay. $20 for the sort I got in Kmart, $30 for the super cute pink, white and green one in Kmart. (I wont pay $10 extra for pretty paint, that’s stupid.) I saw one at the op shop today for... drum roll please.... $2! That’s right, $2! 10% of every other price I have ever seen for these.

I saved money today by going to the library too. Now, last time I went, I was severely disappointed, as they did not have the books I wanted, out of something like 6 libraries that are linked, they did not have 1 copy! Today, I went in and found some of the books I have been wanting, so instead of buying, I was able to borrow them and see what they are like.

You see, I love books and magazines. But especially books. So really, I should be at my library more, but I usually buy the book instead, and try to resist the magazines. The magazines I like are financial, so it’s not all bad. But books are my weakness. I try to be good and only buy on sale or second hand, but still, I’d hate to think how much money I have spent on books this year.

Some of them have been really worth it though, and others that I have bought and not enjoyed so much I have been able to resell, usually for more than I paid. I have also found that even after postage and the exchange rate; the books I like are usually cheaper coming from overseas than being bought in Australia. It is cheaper for some books to be shipped here than from parts of my own country! Yes, postage here is very expensive.

Most of the books are on saving money or cooking that I have bought recently. Maybe instead of buying the books, I should just save my money? Well, they are my sanity, so I don’t see me giving up my 1 little guilty pleasure.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I just love a bargain

Check it out. Would you believe that I got all of this for $60. There was more, but I bought it for someone else. The total here is worth almost $170! Who pays these prices, seriously? I rarely buy namebrand things, but these were to good to miss.

It was at a warehouse type store, whose normal prices aren't anythign to rave about, but when they are clearing stuff, we often get a bargain! Not everything in this picture was bought on clearance, but it was still cheaper than the shops.

I got...
2 large garden pots, Yates brand, there original reduced orice was $6.60, I got them for $1. I don't know their real price.
1 bag of lollypops, 200g, $0.77
5 packets of Arnotts Vita-weat snacks my daughter loves, 50c a box
3 x 1 kg jards crushed chilli, normally almost $9, instead 50c each
10 bottles of Duck toilet cleaner about $3.50 normally, 50c each (are you noticing a trend?)
2 jars Kraft crunchy peanut butter, normally about $4, again 50c each
4 packets of sprinkles, RRP $2, ours 50c each
1 packet Tim Tams, $2.20 normally, $1.79 instead
1 packet choc buds, which I will use for cooking, under $7, normally a 300g packet is $3.50 or more!
1 box of 36 Soothers, whcih my husband just goes through for $10 less than RRP!

I also got for my mum, 6 boxes of 280g Kellogs Cornflakes for 50c a box and 9 800g dark fruit cakes. She was very excited.

I had a full trolley and it hardly cost me. Unbelieveable.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

24 tips on saving water

This picture is a great example of recycling at it's best. The owner of the house has diverted one of the down pipes to a container so they can catch the water. They've also got an old can to use for carting the water. Add to that the plants and you wouldn't even know what it was to look at. Would you believe this is at the front of the house? Great alternative for those who can't afford tanks yet, or who don't like the look of them.

I love inventive ways to save water and money. Because any water saved will help lower your water bill. Part of a water bill is a fixed cost, unless you install water tanks and get rid of town water, it is a cost you have to have. The usage on the water bill varies though, and by being water smart you can easily reduce this part of the bill. Even though the cost of water is continually increasing, there are numerous tips on how to save water and cuts your costs, because the less you use the less you pay.

Now, some of my suggestions may seem silly, but they work. I know this because the bill we received for our rental property is much higher than when we lived in that house. Our tenants, consisting of 2 adults and 1 child, used more water than we did with 3 adults and 2 children older than theirs in the house. I compared the usage for the same time last year and they were using twice as much water as we had been. So, based on this, I figure the things I do must work. Especially since that comparison was last year, and I did another one this year, with new tenants and they used even more!

So here are my suggestions:
1.) Reduce the length of your shower. Australia is a very dry continent and most of us have lived with harsh water restrictions. That doesn’t mean though that when it’s raining we should go nuts with the water. 3 minute showers should be sufficient.

2.) Have a bucket to catch the water from the shower. I use my daughters’ baby bath. This water can be used in the garden, washing machine, for soaking clothes etc...

3.) Redirect your washing machine grey water to the lawn and water it this way. You can get hose at the hardware store long enough to reach all parts of your garden. Simply move the hose each time you do a load of washing.

4.) Have containers under all your taps to catch any drips. Recycle this water in the washing machine, toilet cistern, anywhere you need water. Since this water is fresh water, you could use it to scrub the vegetables before cooking.

5.) Wash only when full. This goes for the washing machine and dishwasher. They use a lot of water, so get the most out of them.

6.) Use a bowl of water in the sink to scrub vegetables or rinse dishes instead of running water. By using a bowl, you can easily tip this water onto the garden.

7.) Place something in the toilet cistern. Fill up a bottle of water and place it in there. This reduces your water usage with every single flush. How much depends on the size of the bottle you put in there.

8.) Re-use water! Look for every possible way water can be used BEFORE it goes down the drain. The example I am about to give may seem extreme, but I managed to have 3 adults and 2 kids in the house, but only used the same amount of water as your average single person. When I gave my nieces a bath (they were the 2 kids with me), after they had finished, instead of draining the bath, I’d put in a bit of Napi-san and soak whatever clothes needed to be soaked. After they were done, I’d use the water to mop the floor, and then the water was used either in the toilet cistern or garden. I kept a 4 L ice cream container next to the bath, so every time someone went to the toilet, we’d fill the cistern using the ice cream container and the bath water. My floors did not get dirty, because we were shoes off household, so the water was not a funny colour when we flushed. Yes, it was a bit of work, but our bills dropped dramatically when I started doing this.

9.) Use a water saving shower head. They have some great designs now, so you don’t feel like you are trying to shower under a trickle.

10.) Never leave taps running. It is so common for people to leave the tap running when brushing their teeth, but it is completely unnecessary. Wet your tooth brush. Turn off the tap, brush your teeth, then quickly rinse your brush. You can fill a glass of water, and use that to rinse your mouth. So much less water is used this way.

11.) When you wash your hands, instead of running them under the tap for ages, wet them, turn off the tap, scrub your hands with soap thoroughly, and then rinse them under the tap.

12.) Use water drained from vegetables to cook pasta in, or use for the base of a soup. It is full of nutrients. You can freeze it to use later.

13.) Water your garden in the early morning or evening, not the middle of the day. A drip irrigation system is better than hosing, but is time consuming to install, and not the easiest. Plants do not need to be watered every day either. Find out how often what you are growing needs to be watered, then stick to that. Don’t just water for the sake of it.

14.) Try to use less water for everything. Don’t over fill the pots with water when cooking, just use what you need.

15.) Use the water from your fish tank on the garden. It’s has a lot of fertilizer and nutrients.

16.) If you must wash your car, (and are allowed to) do it on the lawn, so the water running off the car is used. As for us, our car gets washed when it rains, and the windows when we fill up with petrol.

17.) If possible, shower at work or the gym. My husband used to pack everything he needed in a bag the night before and go to work early and shower there. If you are paying for a gym membership, use all the facilities, including the showers. I am astounded at the amount of people who go home after a work out to shower. Use their water, not yours.

18.) Install water tanks. This can be expensive, so why not try doing all the other tips and putting aside the money you are saving on your water bills to invest in tanks.

19.) Leave buckets and containers outside to collect water when it rains, then use it, it’s free!

20.) Share the love and shower together.

21.) Have a water audit. Our water company offers this for $22. They send out a licensed plumber who checks for leaks, installs a water saving shower head, reduces water flow, etc... A shower head alone is worth more than $22.

22.) Extreme showering. Sounds weird, but bear with me. I have previously, only in warm weather showered how I suggested you wash your hands. I wet my body with the shower (I was going to write wet myself, but that has a different meaning, doesn’t it?), turn off the shower, lather up, rinse quickly. Get out. Even when washing my hair, I turned the shower off between rinses. Yes, extreme, but we were broke and it worked. Not a good idea for winter though, and I was the only family member doing it. (Mainly because my husband was showering at work.)

23.) Have you heard the saying “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down?” The thought of going to the toilet and seeing pee in there makes me want to hurl, so, no I don’t really do this. I have on occasion done it out of fear of waking my daughters, not so much for the water savings. (Except when I was extreme showering due to brokenness.)

24.) Wash less. Say WHAT? No, I am not telling you to go around dirty, but do those jeans really need a wash or is it just habit to chuck them in the wash? Not only will they last longer, but by reducing your washing, you are reducing your water usage.

Hopefully you will be able to use these suggestions, at least some of them. If we all reduced our water usage, the world would be so much better off.

10 easy tips on saving money

I like saving money, can you tell? I also like to spend money. One thing I have noticed a lot is that when people say they saved $20 on something, either it was on sale or second hand etc... 9 times out of 10, it wasn’t actually SAVED. It was spent somewhere else. Maybe not straight away, but I’ll bet that $20 “saved” was kept in their wallet or account until it was eventually spent.

I hear so often people claiming they can’t save anything; it’s too hard, I don’t know what happens to it all. But so many people don’t do anything to save. So, I’m going to let you all know what I do with the actual money, not how to cut your expenditure, but how to actually SAVE money, so when emergencies come you will have a buffer.

1.) Create a separate account. Preferably an online untouchable one with high interest. There are so many of them out there now, it’s easy to get one. The great thing about them, besides higher interest, is you can’t spend easily. You have to transfer the money online back into your normal account, and then withdraw it. More often than not this is enough of a deterrent. You’ll realise that whatever it is you wanted on impulse, you didn’t really need.

2.) Save 10% each payday. That is the recommended amount, but if you really feel you can’t do it, just do something. Have payroll take it out of your pay before you even see it. Most companies will do this.

3.) Transfer the small amounts. That is, round down your account online when you check it. If there is $103.84 in there, either round it down to $103.00 or even $100. Transfer the few cents or little dollars into your online savings account. No, it’s not much, but it something. Do it 10 times and it’s $38.40 you will have in savings that your would have otherwise frittered away.

4.) When you save money on something you purchased, save the difference. You were going to spend $100 on new shoes, but got some for $50; put the other $50 into your savings. You were going to spend it anyway, so pretend you did and save it for a rainy day.

5.) Put all tax returns, bonuses, birthday money etc... into savings.

6.) If you do surveys online, when you trade your points for cash, put that cash into savings.

7.) Sell off everything you can on eBay now. Put that into savings, so when you need money it’s there. You wont need to list things later, hope they sell and have to wait 2 weeks to get the money when you need it.

8.) Work on reducing your expenses, but as you do so, transfer the difference. Say you put aside $20 a week for electricity bills. But you are now a savvy electricity user and have been following my tips on saving electricity, so your bills are $50 a quarter less. Move this $50 into savings.

9.) Have a money tin. I am loving my money tin. It is getting so heavy. I put my spare coins in it after I have gone shopping, sometimes $5 notes and sometimes extra cash I come across, such as when I do a haircut. This is a great one to have in the laundry too. Have a rule; any money that comes out in the wash is yours to keep.

10.) Have a goal. If you are saving towards something, it is so much easier to save, rather than just thinking, I’ve got to save. I do up little graphs and colour them in as I reach closer to my goal. I have blocks worth $10 or $20, and every time I get $10, I colour in a block. I have it up somewhere so it is visual and reminds me what I am saving for.

Creating some savings is not as hard as we tend to make out. Start small, and work your way up. Something is better than nothing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Creating space

As I have mentioned previously I am in a 1 bedroom unit. I do like it, even though many would hate it. I have been here for 2 months now and have been thinking about what ways I could create storage and utilise the space we have here.

One thing I have been longing for is a proper pantry in the kitchen. As you can see in the picture above, my current pantry is containers on my fridge and freezer. There is the space for a proper pantry, right where the fridge should be. You see, we moved the fridge from its space to the other side of the room (lounge, kitchen, dining are all open plan combined), where the door to the garage is. The garage is not ours and is blocked from the other side, so that door is not used. This has left us a space to put a pantry.

This afternoon, when I was thinking about it, I realised, that instead of traditional pantry cupboards, I would be better off with shelves. Why? Because I could use them in a garage when we eventually move from here and I would be able to put my microwave on one of the shelves, freeing up bench space. Also, since I have Tupperware containers, they will sit nicely on shelves and not look messy.

Some of the other things I have noticed around our place is we don’t use the space under the bed and cot properly. We could be storing all the girls toys and things under there, but it is just wasted space instead.

We have sold quite a few things to make room, and I have already done some things to utilise space, but there is more I will be doing in the next few months.

Some of the things I have done are...
1.) Placed a small bookshelf on a tall boy we have in the wardrobe. This bookshelf is where we keep the books I sell online.
2.) I have sorted shelves in the wardrobe and am using plastic storage containers to keep everything neat in there.
3.) We got a pantry cupboard to use in the bathroom as a linen closet. There was space between the door and the vanity unit, so that is where we put it.
4.) We also have a bedside table in the bathroom. It was already in the unit, so we keep extra bits and pieces in the drawers, things we use every day like shaving cream on the top of it and toilet paper under it.
5.) We have a container next to the toilet with our extra hand wash in it. I got some bottles from a friend, and yesterday I worked out we have a 2 year supply of liquid hand wash!
6.) We did not need the wardrobe to be all hanging space, so I got some of those hanging storage things from a friend to use in there. I place all my clothes that are folded in them and clothes that hang next to them.

Some of the things I will be doing are...
1.) Converting our lounge to have storage under it. It is an old lounge and I have been meaning to do this for ages. I will be using the empty space under where we sit. I am starting it tomorrow and will take pictures.
2.) I would like my girls to have a black board, but instead of buying one I am going to get some blackboard paint, paint the linen cupboard, then using some magnets and a pencil tin, have a container for the chalk on the side, so it is all kept neat in 1 place.
3.) We are buying some shelves and over the door storage things.
4.) I will be moving the microwave on top of the pantry shelves, when we get them, then will be using that bench space for some more shelves, which I will put my cookbooks and the like on.
5.) I will be getting a magnetic knife holder, which will enable me to get rid of my knife block.

There are more things I will do, but I will be doing the above list first.


Ok, we all know we have more stuff than we need. Just look at my storage room above. It is a small space under a flight of stairs, and do you see that bike? Yep, bought about a year and a half ago, it has been put in storage and never used. It was bought so my husband could ride it to work and reduce our petrol bill. Only problem, there are no showers at his work for him to shower after riding, rendering this great bike unused. And my darling husband still will not part with it!

See the picture? That is boxes of stuff for me to sell. They also have the packing items, like bubble wrap and prepaid satchels, but essentially it is stuff to sell. Why is it still sitting, week after week? Because I am lazy! But I am getting into it, I promise.

But, that is all beside the point. Since I have decided to buy in bulk everything I possibly can, I have been looking at ways to create more space in the unit we are in, which led me to de-cluttering.

I have been de-cluttering all year. Before we moved into this unit I got rid of lots of things. Actually, I have been downsizing what we have for 2 years. We moved from a 3 bedroom house with a rumpus room, garage, large yard etc... to a small 2 bedroom unit, no garage or storage. I got rid of a lot by having a garage sale and giving stuff away, yet we still had so much stuff. Now we have moved to a 1 bedroom unit, and whilst in the 2 bedroom unit we accumulated more stuff we had no room for and now need to get rid of things.

You see, my husband seems to be great at buying stuff he wants, but does not use. I have been selling it and made quite a bit of money. It is easier to part with other peoples stuff than our own though.

This time though, I have been getting ruthless. I do not need everything I have and whilst I can not get rid of my husbands things, I can severely cut down on what I have.

Here are some tips on de-cluttering
1.) Do 1 section at a time. Do not pull everything out of everywhere, because you will get overwhelmed and the task will seem huge and not get done properly, if at all.
2.) Be ruthless. Do you really need it? Does it get used or is there something it is definitely going to be used for in the future? If not, get rid of it. Some people say to throw away any clothes you have not worn in 6 months and that sort of thing. I disagree, because there are many circumstances where this would cost you money. Such as pregnancy, varying seasons, weight gain and loss. I gained a lot of weight with my 2 pregnancies, which is now coming off, and had I thrown away clothes that did not fit me last year, I would have to be buying clothes now that I am losing the weight.
3.) Use boxes. When I am de-cluttering I have 4 boxes, 1 for stuff I will sell, 1 for stuff I will donate, it is good still, but I don’t think I can sell it on eBay, but it is not rubbish, 1 for rubbish and 1 for things that belong in a different area. I use the last box to stop me walking all over the house returning items to their rightful home. It saves a lot of time.
4.) Set goal areas. List what area you want to do today. It might be the bookshelf, or the entertainment unit, the wardrobe, wherever. Pick one, do it properly, then move onto the next space. Even just doing 1 area properly each day will make a difference.
5.) Look for opportunities to de-clutter. By opportunities, I mean times when you are waiting, that you could be sorting. In the morning waiting for the kettle to boil or toast to cook, you could do a kitchen drawer. On the phone? Why not do the desk?
6.) Get help. If you are a hoarder who finds it extremely hard to part with anything, enlist the help of a ruthless friend. Get them to come over, go through your things with you and take away what you decide to get rid of, so it wont sit there and end up back in your house.
7.) Sell ASAP. If you have a box of things to sell, or a huge pile, sell it as soon as you can. Otherwise you have not de-cluttered, you have simple moved the clutter. Have a garage sale, list on one of the many online sites, the newspaper classifieds, wherever, just get rid of it. If it does not sell, donate it, don’t store it.
8.) Donate the donate box. Take it as soon as you have decided to donate. Get it out of your house. Make sure what you are donating is worth it though. Charities spend millions on getting rid of rubbish people donate.
9.) Set a deadline for when you want it all done. Such as I will have my house de-cluttered by the 10th of October. I will have sold everything by the 20th of October. And so on.
10.) Get to it. Stop delaying and making excuses, do it now!
My house is in the process of de-cluttering. And I will have it done by the 30th of September.

Buying in bulk

Recently I was told about a great online wholesale butcher, where I could purchase organic meat and it would work out to be about $13kg for the meat. Bargain I thought. When it arrived, I must say, I was a little disappointed. There was not as much meat as we thought, and it was mainly mince and sausages which I could have got cheaper at our local organic butcher.

But, not to worry, it was an experience and led me to redo some of my previous research. A while ago I had spoken to our local organic butcher about purchasing in bulk and what sort of discount would be available. At the time, if I purchased a whole rump, I could get 20% off. This weekend, I went back and enquired again, but was more specific about what exactly I wanted. Such as 10kg of mince, 10kg chicken breast, 10kg sausages, 10kg rump etc... As it turns out, they can do 20 – 30% off most things, and definitely 30% off the specific meats I enquired about, making it very cheap for organic meat.

My next step in my bulk buying attempts is bakery items. Not cakes and biscuits, but the flour, sugar, milk powder etc... My friend told me about a place her inlaws go to get their items in bulk, for a great price. So off we went. It is a bakery supplier, who also deals with the public.

When we got there, we were amazed. My friend had asked about the prices of some things, so we knew they were good, we just had no idea how much stuff he supplied. As it turns out, I am able to get flour, milk powder, baking powder, yeast, bi-carb soda and more all for less than the cheapest brands at Woolworths.
So, I have my meat, I have my baking supplies, what else?

Well, there is still toiletries, cleaning supplies, fruit and veg, plus those extra luxury items.

We went to a large warehouse, which with its normal prices is not cheap, but it’s specials are great. We purchased name brand cereal for less than no name, washing powder in a 10kg box for about the price of 3 x 500g boxes!

Our fruit and veg is slightly different. Some items, such as potatoes, onions etc... are cheaper when purchased in 10kg bags, but other items do not always get a discount. It is still worth asking though. We purchase items, then divide it up between us. Sometimes we can get boxes of discounted apples that can be stewed and preserved. It’s just a matter of looking around and asking.

I have found that buying in bulk is saving me a lot of money. Not only does it work out cheaper most of the time, (I only buy it if it does), but I am not running to the shops for 1 item, then ending up purchasing 5. I am not wasting petrol ducking to the shops regularly, and I know there is always something I can whip up to eat with my supplies.

It is a bigger amount of money to outlay initially when purchasing in bulk, but once you get into the swing of things, buying 1 or 2 items a shop in bulk, soon you will be able to build up your bulk supplies and will be reaping the rewards.

You don’t have the space for bulk supplies I hear you say? Well, soon I will be posting ways to help you get around this. Remember, I live in a 1 bedroom granny flat, no garage, with my husband and 2 kids.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pay yourself first

Well, I figure I must be doing something right. Today I went to church with my mother in law and in a lesson there they were talking about living within your means.

We discussed budgets, and I was surprised, listening to all the women discuss how they budget. Most seem to pay everything, then if there is money left, they put that in savings.

I work the opposite way. I pay my tithe, then savings, THEN everything else. Otherwise you will never save. I was about to tell everyone this when the lady teaching us read a quote from one of our church leaders, L. Tom Perry, saying exactly what I do. I do not remember the exact quote, but it was alonghte lines of how everyone pays other people first, the grocer, the butcher, the electricity etc... but neve pay themselves.

The biggest step towards saving is putting some money away each pay first, then learning to live with what is left.

Most people seem to advise us to put away between 5% - 20% of your wage. This probably seems like a lot of money, but we soon adapt.

I have found for some people it works better to start off saving $10 a pay. Putting it in an account they can't touch and don't use, then as they get used to it, (Most people wont notice $10 missing each week) they gradually increase it, $20, $30, $40 etc... til soon they are saving %5 or 10%.

I started this way. When I got my first job, I set an amount to save each week. Since I was an apprentice earning only $220 a week, but was living at home, I saved 1/2 my pay. The rest went on board, bus ticket and things I wanted. As my circumstances changed, so did my budget. When I got married, our finances were very different. We had significant debt and our costs were much higher.

I started out by paying a certain amount off the debt, and still trying to save $50 a week.

Now we save much more, have an emergncy fund and never have to worry.

So my biggest piece of money saving advice is ...