"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - November 2013
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Chaos Rules!
- November: Happy Homes!
- PowerCooking: Why Didn't I Think of That?
- Ye Olde Shoppe: Easy Christmas Shopping!
- Penny Wise: Getting Down and Dirty!
- Best of the Vault: There's No Place Like Home
- Best of the Forum: Spit and Polish!
- Best Members' Blog: A New Kitchen for Claire!
- Hidden Gem: Kuraby Farmers Market
- Cooking with Mimi: Treat Night - Black Forest Trifle
- Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Free Plants and Booming Vegies
- From Last Month: How to Cut Down Costs of Hospital Visits?
- This Month's Help Request: Digital Dilemma!
How are you going? We've been feeling all Christmassy following the October newsletter and decided to unwrap a Christmas present early - a new look Forum! We're moving everything over from the old Forum to our lovely crisp, new one and talking with our members to see what they think. Change can be hard but we needed to update our rather tired looking Forum and give it back a bit of sparkle! If you haven't seen it yet, do pop in and have a look. We haven't finished but it's looking good - watch this space!
We love receiving all your wonderful emails and Facebook messages - here is our favourite this month:
"As I made pumpkin soup the other day using leftover mashed potatoes from dinner the night before, it made me notice all of the things I do differently having come across The $21 Challenge book and reading the Vault tips and Forum. I have learned to place a much higher value on my time, and if I have taken the time to make someone a gift, I no longer feel the need to add something I bought as well.
"Last year I set our family a goal to pay off around $25,000 above our regular mortgage payments for the year 2013. We are on one income and have four children. To date we have paid off about $18,000 and I feel really good about it. It has made us look at what our children need and what we want them to value, and money certainly isn't everything in that regard.
"I just really wanted to write and tell you that I have found your site and basically your whole mentality, well, a bit life-changing I guess. I was feeling really good about how much we have paid off this year and I wanted to let you know as your site and its members inspired it all in the first place. Thank you so much for genuinely trying to help people in a way they can actually achieve. It really is brilliant." (Jen)
Well done Jen, what a fantastic effort!
Have a great month!
All the best,
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Chaos Rules!
"Quick, there's no time to lose!" Sally dashed in looking panicked. "Good day love?" Pete raised an eyebrow. Sal grimaced at him, "Meg from work is popping in to borrow a book. She'll be here in 15 minutes, oh good heavens look at the place!" Sally told him as she flew around. "Calm down Sal, she's coming to borrow a book, not to do a household inventory!" Pete chuckled, setting aside his paper.
"Peter don't leave that there! Put it in the recycling please - and can you take the rubbish out while you're at it? Kids, don't just sit there! Pick up those toys RIGHT NOW - I mean PROPERLY, don't just put them in a pile! Give me strength!" Sally continued her whirlwind through the house, squashing some things into cupboards and flinging others into rooms and slamming the doors.
"Out of sight, out of mind, eh love?" Pete grinned as she finally paused for breath. "Oh Pete, I'm so tired of living in chaos! I want our house to be tidy and lovely ALL the time so I don't feel uncomfortable when friends drop in. Things have to change! Ooh heck, that will be Meg!" she jumped at the sound of the door. "What a lovely home you have Sally!" Meg said, looking around. "Oh, how nice of you to say!" Sally forced a dazzling smile. "So sorry I didn't know you were coming earlier or we would have tidied up first!"
2. November: Happy Homes!
Wouldn't it be wonderful if our homes looked just the way we wanted ALL the time? If we could just relax in our own surroundings knowing everything was in order, rather than looking around at a seemingly endless list of 'to do' jobs, or getting into a fluster like Sally every time the doorbell rings? With Christmas just around the corner, this month's 'Happy Home' challenge has been perfectly timed to help you get everything under control NOW, so everyone can enjoy a relaxing festive season.
Most of us have at least half a dozen different jobs which need doing around the home and garden but just never seem to get done. Why is this, do you think? For many of us it's any one or all of the following:
- Too busy
- Too expensive to fix or get someone else to fix
- Fear of getting it wrong
- Physically unable/don't have the knowledge
- Weather (too windy, too rainy, too hot, too cold!)
- Can't drag ourselves away from Facebook or the TV
- It's boring! Weekends are for fun!
A friend of Fiona's recently confessed that she turned her iPad off for three days and her house had never been cleaner! Whatever it is that's been stopping you, now is the time to assess and address all those pesky little jobs once and for all. We could have called this challenge the 'DIY Challenge' or the 'Fix-It Challenge' or any number or things, but we have named it the 'Happy Home' challenge because getting on top of all those nagging tasks really WILL make you feel happy! Give it a go and you'll see what we mean.
First things first, we need to make a plan, so grab a pen and paper and take a tour of your home and garden, taking note of all those jobs that need doing. Who in the household is going to be responsible for which job? Try to involve everyone. Then think about how you are going to achieve them. Which need the most time and preparation? Which will cost the most to do? Will you need a professional to do some tasks or can you do it yourself if you put your mind to it? (Tip - YouTube is a wonderful thing, before you go calling someone in to do a job, search it up on www.youtube.com and look at the millions of simple instructional videos on every subject you can think of. You may well find you CAN do it yourself and add a new skill to your repertoire!)
Once you have finished your list, put the list up in a prominent place so you can tick off those jobs as they get done and see your achievements. Then get to it and enjoy a relaxed and happy home this Christmas!
3. PowerCooking: Why Didn't I Think of That?
When Fiona and Kate first developed PowerCooking, they wanted to make cooking as easy and simple as possible. Part of the magic of PowerCooking are Kate's wonderful hints and tips - even the most clever cooks can learn something from this resourceful foodie! For example, did you know that by 'cutting' a container of rice in half before you freeze it means you can easily defrost just half the rice at a time? Clever hey!
To read lots more tips and hints, grab yourself a free membership and visit PowerCooking here
4. Ye Olde Shoppe: Easy Christmas Shopping!
Ye Olde Shoppe is a great place to pick up a bargain, as well as some fantastic money saving goodies you just won't find anywhere else! There's still plenty of time to get some Christmas shopping done in Ye Olde Shoppe. Our Eezee Freezee iceblocks are the perfect gift for summertime fun and are light and easy to send in the mail as well. Don't forget you can buy a gift membership for the Simple Savings Vault at a brilliant low price for that special someone too! Find these and more ideas here:
5. Penny Wise: Getting Down and Dirty!
Being both Mum AND Dad in our house is proving to be pretty hard work! Don't get me wrong, the boys already have a perfectly good dad - but in my own place, the buck now stops totally with me. For the first time in my life I'm responsible for EVERYTHING and that means taking care of a lot of the blokey stuff Noel used to do because if there's one thing I've learned, it sure doesn't get done by itself. It's only now that I really appreciate and value all the things he used to do to keep our place looking nice. I'll be honest, it never really interested me before. I could never understand why he spent so much time faffing around outside on weekends, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, spraying edges and so on when there were a million other much more fun things he could be doing, especially when you live at the beach!
But now I know why he did it. Because it's important. Who doesn't want to live in a nice place? I love my little house to bits and the inside has always been my domain. It's so teeny and cosy that it doesn't take much to keep it looking nice and clean - but the outside is a different story. The outside is BIG and after three months it was really starting to get away on me. The young family who owned the place before me were fanatical gardeners and kept the place pristine. I loved trotting down to the vegie patch and picking things for dinner but somehow I always found something else to do instead of weeding or spraying. And as it turns out, weeds have a rather inconvenient habit of growing and multiplying and before I knew it, the nice, orderly vegie patch which had greeted me in July was now looking like this:
Not surprisingly I wasn't feeling good about it. I was embarrassed - how could I have let it get to that stage? But it wasn't just the vegie garden that was bothering me. My large expanse of gravel driveway was also covered in weeds, a big tree had blown down in recent storms and was lying prone down one side of the house and the lawn was growing a stunning crop of daisies and dandelions. Every time I went outside it got me down. Aghh, why did I buy such a big place? This yard was going to keep me busy and drain my finances forever!
I know what you're thinking, you've got two big strapping lads, why weren't they helping? By all means they were willing but unfortunately they are two big strapping and very sporty lads who have literally no time after school or on weekends due to sports and other commitments - and thanks to the time it takes to get them there and back, neither do I. With all the holiday homes in Whangamata, lawn mowing and garden care is a roaring trade and on several occasions I really did consider getting someone in to tidy the place up. But for one thing I didn't have the money to pay anyone and for another, my pride stood in the way. Other people managed to do it themselves, I should be able to do it too! I didn't know the first thing about gardening but I was darn well going to find out.
At last an opportunity arose - an entire long weekend without cricket! It was time to take action. First to go was the fallen tree. It wasn't huge wood-wise but it was VERY leafy. So I trotted off to Bunnings and bought myself a Penny-sized pruning saw. My first blokey purchase, I was so excited! As soon as the boys saw me outside sawing away they couldn't wait to help (all good manly stuff you see). We kept the bigger bits for firewood, loaded up the boot of Liam's car with branches and two trips to the dump and $1.50 later the tree was done and dusted. I wonder how much it would have cost had I paid someone to do the same thing!
Next I dug out my trusty weed spraying backpack from our farming days. Years ago I used to spend half my life scouring paddocks for weeds but over the years I had forgotten how to mix up spray and so on. Still, I found a bottle in the shed with just enough spray to take care of the weeds in the driveway and had a great old time blasting the pesky blighters. To my amazement I went out the next morning and found they were already curling up! I never imagined it would have been so quick and easy, I wish I had zapped them ages ago!
With those jobs out of the way I could put off tackling the vegie garden no longer. My vegie patch is huge; more than twice the size of the one at our previous house, maybe even three times and there I was sitting in amongst the dirt, plastered in sweat as the sun beat down. It felt great! I found all sorts of treasures as I went too - a bush loaded with currants, two potato plants (I was so excited to see those I just about threw a party!) and the mother of all cauliflowers hiding in what I had mistakenly thought was a cabbage! It took me almost two full days of pulling weeds and digging earth over but I had a ball and eventually it ended up looking like this:
It's not perfect but it's a start! I planted some tomatoes, chives and basil too - and you see those blue things down at the end?
They're the boys' old bunk bed frames, perfect for growing beans up! Ali helped me put them in and together we hunted for things which would do as stakes and he wielded the sledgehammer to knock them into the ground while I nervously tried to hold them still. My first bean seed had come up just two days later and my mum has given me heaps more plants and seeds which I can't wait to get growing.
I'm no Rob Bob and don't think I ever will reach that stage (although I would so love to grow my own fish, amazing!) but I never dreamed gardening could be such fun or so rewarding. I'm so grateful to the people who owned the house previously for leaving me with so many different fruit and vegetables, it has been an absolute lifesaver these past few months. Ali is currently snacking on strawberries every day:
And you could have knocked me sideways when I got up one morning and found these!
I don't think I'm going to have to buy bananas for a very long time! It's great to look out of the window each morning and see the results of your hard work. Every day I excitedly trot down to the vegie patch at least once to see how things are progressing. I know that growing my own food is going to save us so much money and it's nice to feel capable and that I'm being a good provider for my boys and I but it's more than that. I guess you could say it's helping to fill a bit of a gap in my life. My self-esteem hasn't exactly been sky-high and gardening is such a wholesome, earthy thing to do (no pun intended, really!) that you just can't help but feel good about yourself and what you're doing. Not only that, aching muscles aside, since I've been getting out in the garden I've been sleeping like a log!
You can get updates on Penny's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page
or in our Members' Blog section.
6. Best of the Vault: There's No Place Like Home
You know that sinking feeling you get when you walk around your house and are reminded of everything you need to do? This month it's time to put that to an end! The Vault is a huge source of ideas, experience, time-savers and budget-busters to turn your house into your haven!
Ask for mis-tints at paint shop
A great way to save money when decorating is to go to your local paint shop and ask for mistints. These are usually sold for around $2.00 per litre on average.
If you're looking for a certain colour but the exact shade is not available they will tint them for you. I bought a 15 litre tin of pink acrylic for the walls and had it tinted to a lovely peppermint green and all it cost me was $30 - a saving of nearly $100.
Most paint shops are only too pleased to sell you their mistints - you just have to ask for them.
Avoid tradespeople costs with working bee
Our small group of friends saves a bundle on home and garden maintenance with our weekly working bee! The three of us get together each Friday. We rotate weekly round each other's property and that person gets a well overdue job done in exchange for a delicious home-made lunch. Not only do we save on the cost of getting in a tradesman to do the jobs we achieve, but we learn new skills, undertake a variety of different jobs, get heaps of work done, eat a wonderful meal together and generally enjoy and treasure the valuable time together!
The three P's of renovating
To give your home a cheap and easy makeover, I recommend you paint, plant and polish!
Paint - covers a multitude of sins and brightens things up quickly.
Plant - a bit of hard yakka in the garden, getting rid of rubbish, trimming back, and reorganising plants takes time and not necessarily lots of money. Ask friends and neighbours for cuttings and be willing to give cuttings of what you have.
Polish - become fastidiously neat with your home. Clean everything and you'll be surprised at how your surroundings just don't seem so bad anymore!
The power of 'sparkle'
My husband and I have undertaken many home renovations (and added thousands of dollars in value to our properties) and are happy to share a few of our best money-makers!
- Cheap plants ALWAYS add more value than they cost. We bought three-foot high palms for $17 each from IKEA. They look amazing, have created a very effective screen, and have added thousands of dollars in value to our property. Otherwise, growing your own cuttings from friend's and family's plants is free! $2 potted flowers are always a winner. Buy a cheap pot from IKEA or a variety store, put in $10 of plants and you'll brighten up your front porch.
- Cheap, pretty-coloured glass bottles from variety stores can really transform your bathroom into a luxurious retreat (and cost next to nothing). IKEA has very cheap mirrors, as do local auction houses - check newspapers for details.
- Floor mats and rugs - try Payless for carpets, liquidator sales and so on.
- Try Spotlight for cheap curtains that are made-to-measure.
- eBay and auction houses are ideal for picking up cheap furniture, otherwise try your local markets or Woolworths Metro for cheap sofa covers or throw rugs.
- Fake flowers are often on sale at variety stores. Gerberas are particularly realistic, cost about $1.00 each, never need watering and will never die! Put them in a nice vase and they look great!
- Use what you have. Paint old kitchen doors with a bright new colour. If you have a 1970's bathroom - go with it! Add to the 'kitsch' factor. Ours had a purple bath and loo. We added green towels, a new mirror ($40 from IKEA), arranged some decorative soaps and goodies into baskets we'd saved from gift hampers we'd been given over the years - and it looks amazing! Make your own rainbow coloured bath salts - clear glass bottles can be filled with salt and bi-carb soda and a few drops of food colouring.
- Paint the front fence - paint costs next to nothing and makes a HUGE difference to the property's value.
- A nice letterbox is a cheap, yet very effective touch. Even nice house numbers make a surprising difference to the outward appearance of a home.
- A name plaque for the house is relatively inexpensive, adds instant appeal and character, and also adds enormous value - it gives the house a sense of identity and history.
- Oldies but goodies for inside - paint the walls (you can even do this to some types of wallpaper!), rip up the carpet and polish the floorboards. Doing this yourself will save you literally thousands while adding tens of thousands in value, even if you do have to pay tradespeople do it. According to our agent, a $29 tub of paint in our spare toilet increased the property value by approximately $10,000!
- Don't putty or render internal cracks - gyprock over them. Settlement cracks in walls will probably return, but gyprock will expand and move with the house and therefore won't crack. It's also relatively cheap and makes the house look well maintained. If you can't afford to fix cracks, put furniture or pictures in strategic places.
- Put a decent welcome mat at the front door.
- Never under-estimate the power of 'sparkle'. Keeping outdoor windows clean and dust-free makes a huge difference to the outward appearance (and critically important first impressions) of a property.
7. Best of the Forum: Spit and Polish!
Our Forum members have some fantastic ideas to help you tidy up, declutter and get your home organised. There are also some wonderful threads to help get you started and keep you on track with helpful advice and support.
For anyone with children, or small visitors, here are some great ideas to keep toys out of the way.
Decluttering with friends can only give you more motivation - what are you waiting for!
Sometimes the 'small' things make all the difference.
Jump in and get started clearing the clutter with this wonderful group of supportive members!
Find a way to keep those precious memories safe!
8. Best Members' Blog: A New Kitchen for Claire!
One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.
In keeping with the November Newsletter theme of 'Happy Homes', this month's winner is our wonderful Claire M. Claire is one of our longest standing members and puts so much time and effort into helping other members, it really gave the SS team a buzz to read of her success. Congratulations Claire, we're so proud of you!
"Last Saturday I took the plunge and ordered a new kitchen for $10,000, after saving on a pension for the last 15 years. I'll also be saving at least $1500 on discounts and freebies!
"I will have to pay someone to remove the old kitchen and dump it, plus other jobs like tiling. I will be saving money by doing a lot myself - like painting - and leaving the floor coverings until I have saved enough money to do two other rooms at the same time. I am keeping as much as possible and revamping my storage areas after the kitchen is completed. The professional designer I used, who is also a chef, designed the kitchen for me rather than for re-sale.
"Before the revamp I need to paint both windows and white work, re-varnish the table and four chairs and wash and scrub the floors. I'll also need to find room in my storage areas for all the kitchen/pantry items, and find boxes and containers to store it in. Fun!"
Well done Claire - we can't wait to see the 'after' photo!
You can read more of our members' blogs here.
9. Hidden Gem: Kuraby Farmers Market
This month's Hidden Gem is Kuraby Farmers Market as nominated by Brooke S.
The Kuraby Farmers Markets are amazing! We can fill our fridge with fruit and veg that will last our family for two weeks for $35. They also have a fabulous butcher, fisho (with very cheap but beautiful seafood), bakery goods and so on. If you're buying in bulk, ask for a discount - they will probably offer you one anyway. You'll also get discounts if you shop close to closing time.
Where: 1342 Beenleigh Road, Kuraby, Brisbane (next to Kuraby train station)
When: Saturday, 6am to 9am
Well done Brooke on locating such a fantastic hidden gem and thanks so much for sharing.
10. Cooking with Mimi: Treat Night - Black Forest Trifle
What can I say? Potential Christmas dessert? Something to impress the guests? Or Friday night treat for the family?
I give up. All I can say is, it's easy and you have to try it!
To make six small or three disgustingly large Black Forest Trifles you'll need:
- About half a bought or baked chocolate cake or 3 chocolate muffins, broken into walnut sized pieces
- 1 jar pitted Morello cherries, drained, juice reserved
- 3-4 tbsp chocolate chips or grated chocolate or cacao nibs
- 2-3 cups plain sweetened Greek yoghurt
- 3 tbsp cocoa
Beat the yoghurt and cocoa together in a small bowl till smooth and combined. If you can't get the plain sweetened Greek yoghurt, then feel free to add a bit of sugar to normal thick Greek yoghurt. I use my own EasiYo Greek yoghurt and add a bit of sugar when I'm making it up.
Divide half of the chocolate cake between the wine glasses or water glasses.
Drizzle about a dessertspoon of cherry juice over that.
Sprinkle with a pinch of chocolate chips and layer about half a dozen cherries in each glass.
Add three dessertspoons full of chocolate yoghurt.
Repeat layers and drizzling of juice, finishing with a blob of yoghurt and some crumbled mini Flake or more choc chips or cacao nibs.
You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page
or in our Members' Blog section.
11. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Free Plants and Booming Vegies
Everyone likes a freebie and gardeners are no different! Many of us love it when spring rolls around, along with what we here like to call the compost lottery ;)
It always surprises me how well the feral/volunteer plants take off and quite often they end up being better producers than the plants we have intentionally planted out. Most people will have had the ever present tomato, pumpkin or melon sprout from the compost/worm castings and provide them with some very tasty unexpected harvests. Then there are the plants that will sprout from fruit that has dropped the previous season.
The two stand out volunteers for us this spring would have to be the snake beans and a pumpkin that has popped up in one of the yacon beds out the front.
Over the past few seasons I have found that the volunteer bean plants will nearly always be the healthiest plants and end up yielding more beans than the ones we intentionally planted as seeds. Last season we had a few snake bean pods that we left to ripen and dry out on the plant for future seed saving.
It was no surprise to me that some snake beans germinated in the bed from pods that had dropped a few seeds before I got a chance to harvest them. Snake beans are a great plant to grow and there are a few reasons why we love to grow them. They are a climbing plant that loves to climb up trellises and fences so are great in smaller gardens where you may not have a lot of ground space. They will even do well on an apartment balcony and can double as a screen or shade. The size of the bean is another great reason. The beans themselves can grow 40-50cm in length and we find that six or so of these crisp long beans are enough for a meal for our family of four. They have a very 'fresh' flavour when eaten raw so most of ours end up in salads. We also like to add them to stir-fries and they are very nice lightly steamed, which preserves the 'crunch'. They also make a great snack when out in the patch doing odd jobs.
We have found that volunteer pumpkins have always been the best producers for us. The vines always grow faster and provide more fruit than any we have intentionally grown.
This year's stunner sprouted out of some worm castings that we placed under a yacon plant in a vegie bed in the front yard. The growth on this plant has been most impressive and it already has several swelling fruit on the vine. Unfortunately as they are volunteers, they do not always grow where you want them to. Ours generally tend to pop up in rather inconvenient spots and proceed to take over the area. But as we get a lot of pumpkins from these type of plants we have to just put up with it. I am having to 'manicure' this plant already - otherwise at the rate it is growing it could take over the yard in no time flat. I am thinking I will let 6-8 fruit mature on the plant and remove all the new leaders as they sprout from the vine. This way the plant should put all its energy into the fruit rather than front yard domination.
Growth around the patch
I have been busy planting out more seedlings and seeds over the past few weeks along with a few other little jobbies.
The water chestnut/Kang Kong bath/bed has finally been set up. We really love using these crunchy little delicacies in many of our meals and I am very eager to start cooking with them again come next autumn. The Kang Kong is a very versatile leafy green that loves growing in very moist conditions so I thought this was probably one of the best places to plant it. However, I had to plant it in a separate pot and bury in the bathtub as the plant has a habit of spreading very quickly if you don't keep on top of it.
The Aztec corn out the front has put on some amazing growth. I really think they like the wicking beds :) Last week some advanced sweet corn seedlings were planted out at the request of our youngest along with some Glass Gem corn seeds. The plan is to have the sweet corn 'flower' before the Glass Gem so the two varieties won't cross pollinate, making the seed viable for saving and sharing. If you're interested in more information on the Glass Gem corn or to see why it is called that, click here:
This corn looks simply amazing.
I put the final touches on the shade house for the summer garden.
The tomatoes and capsicum suffered from sunburn last year so I sprung for some 30% shade cloth just to take a bit of the sting out of the sun. It also makes a great place to have a quiet drink and rest after a hard day's work or just trying to hide from the kids for five minutes :D :/
Hope you all get a chance to play in the patch over the coming week.
Rob : )»
You can get updates on Rob Bob's new gardening adventure blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page
or in our Members' Blog section.
12. From Last Month: How to Cut Down Costs of Hospital Visits?
Last month Penny emailed us asking for help in managing costs while her baby is in hospital for an extended time:
"We are expecting our first baby in December. We have been told he will be in hospital between two and six months due to CDH. I'd love some ideas on how we can cut costs during this time. For example, parking at the hospital is $24 a day and it is unlikely we will get reduced rate as it is a privately owned car park. So if you have any ideas on how we can get through this time and spend our money wisely, I'd love to know."
We got some fantastic ideas - in fact, we were absolutely overwhelmed with ideas, advice, encouragement and support for Penny! Thank you everyone for your thoughtful and caring responses. Here are some of the ones we received:
Keep food and parking costs down during your stay
When visiting hospital long term, the following tips could help you to keep costs down:
With parking, see if you can reduce the cost by asking for a discount, even through a private car park. Another alternative is to see if there is a church or school nearby and explain your situation. You may be able to get free parking, or park in exchange for a small fee for the time your little one is hospitalised.
With regard to food while you are there, if you contact the hospital social work department, they may be able to help with free or subsidised meal vouchers for some or all of your stay. There is also likely to be a patient kitchen or care centre you can utilise, or if not, see if you can bring in either a kettle and plug it in (they will need to check the electrics) or a Thermos flask to save on the cost of cuppas. Best wishes for the coming weeks; you are being thought of.
Ronald McDonald house worth its weight in gold
My daughter and I are often at hospital for her medical conditions and treatment. Ronald McDonald House is a fantastic place to stay. You get:
- Accommodation support mostly covered by PTSS (you only pay for electricity contribution)
- Your own private room with self-contained bathroom and shower
- Support from other parents who 'understand' what you are going through but never overwhelm or patronise you
- Staff who truly make your stay as comfortable and pressure-free as possible
- Assistance with provision of staple food needs (fridge stocked with milk, margarine)
Also provided to assist in stretching your already-stretched budget are charitable donations provided to the House - things like bread, buns (including sweet buns), cereals, tea, coffee, Milo, cooking ingredients - items vary depending on donations. When we were there, once a week a 'group' from outside would come and cook a meal for everyone. I remember the CWA ladies, the Bendigo Staff - having a 'healthy' meal with others (and cooked by someone else) was so appreciated! Another charity would donate frozen meals which parents could help themselves to (communal freezer) without needing to 'ask permission' or 'sign' for it - this provided so much dignity through difficult times!
Another thing you may not have thought of is laundry and how to keep on top of it all. During my daughter's initial transfer from central QLD to Brisbane for urgent medical intervention I didn't know about the availability of a free washing machine and dryer on one of the children's wards for 'parents use' (we were in another ward nearby). Because we were limited in what we could take on the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) transfer between hospitals, I was told to pack only enough for three days. However, we were there two weeks! New friends offered to take me out shopping whilst my daughter was in surgery (for more clothes and other things we needed, meaning I used up money that was allocated to urgent car costs) and they also took our dirty laundry home to wash. However, it was only during a subsequent visit did I learn of the on site parents room with laundry in one of the wards! What a relief to discover it!
Save your money and your sanity
Something to keep in mind during lengthy hospital stays is how to save money on keeping yourself occupied through all the hours and days of sitting around. The following tips could help beat the boredom without breaking the budget!
For you during your stay; if you don't have one, borrow a laptop! You can do Christmas shopping, read about parenting, find new recipes and review more Simple Savings tips! Try and have a different theme each day to keep things fresh.
Borrow library books, then get your partner to return them. He can either surprise you with new ones or you can reserve ones off your borrowed laptop. If you have books at home that you haven't read, now is the time to bring them.
Take a phone so you can call people and they can call you. Take an iPod or MP3 player and listen to music. Take DVDs to watch off the laptop - ask friends if they have any you can borrow.
Finally, tell everyone you are there. Any visitors will brighten your day!
Parking website and rebate saved us hundreds
If you're looking for cheap parking, I can highly recommend checking out a website which really helped us. We had an extended hospital visit earlier this year in Brisbane and found a cheaper car park at findacarpark.com.au. It was at an apartment building mostly used by overseas students (who don't own cars) so parking turned out a lot cheaper than the hospital and was only around the corner. We also had to travel from interstate, so we were entitled to a rebate through our local hospital/community health centre - this covered a per kilometre cost, some of our accommodation costs and public transport costs while in the city. I think you are entitled to this if you cannot get the service at your nearest hospital and have to travel over a certain distance. This amounted to over $800 for our three week stay so, well worth the effort!
Ask those in the know for available support
Before having your baby, speak with a NICU Social Worker. They will know about all the different types of supports available to those in your position, financial and otherwise. Hospitals will usually provide meals for parents, or at least breastfeeding/expressing mothers, when you're spending time there with your baby. Many will also provide access to basic kitchen facilities with a microwave, toaster, kettle and so on - so you can take your own food. Good luck with your new baby! Hope it's not such a long traumatic stay.
Ask about a parking pass
If you are going to be visiting hospital for a long period of time, ask about a parking pass. Some hospitals offer special parking passes/codes to parents who have children in hospital for long periods and it is well worth asking. My son was born premature, and we were given the code to get out of the parking bay for free each time we visited.
To save on food during this time, cook bulk meals and freeze them where possible, so that if you are too tired to cook, you won't buy takeaway. In addition freeze sandwiches and rolls that you can take as snacks while you are there, so that you don't need to buy anything from the shop or canteen at the hospital. Take bottled water with you too, to save on drinks as they soon add up!
Pack a bag full of basics
When a long hospital stay is on the cards, planning ahead will really help you out. Try contacting Centrelink and asking if they can help or refer you onto a social service organisation that may be able to help out with the cost. As for meals, if you are able to pre-make them there are always kitchen facilities where you can reheat them but even buying frozen meals from the supermarket would be cheaper in general than the cafeteria. Prepare a bag with your basics, for example, tea, coffee, UHT milk and biscuits and take it with you; this will be a big money saver. Most importantly though, do talk to the hospital and the social workers there, be certain of what they can help you with because you will be surprised at what they ARE allowed to fund sometimes.
Hospital staff are there to help
I spent some time in hospital when my twins were born prematurely and used the following ways to save through this time. I did not have a car; I left it at home for my husband to use. If I needed to go somewhere he came and picked me up - or family and friends did. Otherwise I just stayed put. Most large hospitals have services that meet your basic needs - and some shops are usually walking distance away. If you park blocks away from the hospital and walk you don't need to use their parking. I stayed in the hospital's accommodation and imagine this will also be available to you. If you live a certain distance from the hospital there is a government allowance that you may be eligible for. It used to be more than 200km in NSW. This may have changed - but the hospital staff will have information. In general, the hospital staff will be able to help you with all these questions - costs, accommodation, food, parking, services available, and so on, so I can recommend asking them first. In my experience they are very helpful. Once you are there, other patients are a good source of information also. Also - there may be societies who can help you with information and tips - in my case it was the Multiple Birth Association. Hopefully there is one who can help you too. Good luck!
Park away from the hospital for exercise and 'me' time
Parking a short distance away from the hospital can not only save you money, but also your sanity! My daughter was born premature and while she was in special care nursery I parked a little while away from the hospital. This saved me money but the best benefit was that the short walk to and from the hospital each time gave me some needed time to process all the emotions we were going through. On the way to the hospital, I would focus on keeping calm and remind myself not to stress too much if, when I got in the ward, my little one hadn't progressed, had a setback and so on. On the walk back from the hospital to my car, I used that time to try and decompress and switch gears, as I was heading home to another little one who needed me.
Easier to save on food than parking
My daughter has spent more of her three years in hospital than out and during this time I have found it is easier to save costs on food than parking. However, if your child will be in for a long while, ask to speak to the hospital social worker; they can give you vouchers for discounted parking while your child is an in-patient. Other ways to save I have found include asking all our specialists to schedule appointments on the same day; this way I am only paying for one full day of parking but seeing all four doctors on the same day. I also have friends who buy me petrol vouchers for birthday, Christmas and so on, which while it's not very exciting for me, they know this is what I need so is very helpful. Most children's wards have a parents' room where you can prepare instant soups, noodles and other meals which all only need hot water. If you also have access to a microwave for reheating, this can be a Godsend for those late night meals when everywhere is closed or money is super low. One tip which works well for me is adding dry rice and vegies to a Thermos. Simply fill with water and leave for the day, then at dinner time your rice will have absorbed and be cooked and ready to eat!
13. This Month's Help Request: Digital Dilemma!
Megan has emailed asking for some help! She writes:
"I really need some ideas on how to organise my digital photos! I have hundreds and hundreds on my camera, on my laptop and on my phone and I am very concerned about losing them. How do other people organise their digital photo collection? I really feel overwhelmed."
If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Megan, please send them in to us here.
14. Goodbye for Now
Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for November 2013 and we hope you have enjoyed it. We hope you can find some ways to make your home and heart happier, please let us know how you go!
Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!
Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on the Simple Savings Facebook page. It's a great way to introduce them to some brilliant free tips and set them on the road to saving!
Till next time...
All the best,