"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - May 2014
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: What Goes Around
- May: Low-Cost Indulgence
- Ye Olde Shoppe: CreaClip
- Penny Wise: An Unexpected Journey
- Best of the Vault: Especially For You!
- Best of the Forum: Simple Pleasures
- Best Members' Blog: Thank You Simple Savings!
- Mimi: Living a Life of Luxury For Free
- Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Companion Planting and a Fishy Update
- From Last Month: Give Me a Hope Among the Gum Trees!
- This Month's Help Request: Ideas For Outdoor Cover and Flooring
How are you going? We had a fantastic April spreading the word about the $21 Challenge and telling people how they could find money at the back of their cupboards! Having the kids home on holidays meant we had even more reason to use up what we already had and keep their tummies full.
It was great to hear how your own $21 Challenges went! Here are a few of our favourite emails this month:
"Guess what? I finally told my girlfriend about the $21 Challenge and she actually went home and emptied out her cupboards, fridge and freezer. She rang me at the end of the week to say she's saved about $150 by not buying groceries. Now she's even thinking of joining Simple Savings to save even more!" (Sherry)
"You know, my long awaited trip would not have happened if it had not been for Simple Savings. I was hesitant to venture overseas again but my husband of 54 years enticed me with a cruise and visiting my family in Scotland. It was too good an offer to miss. But we had to save really hard and thanks to SS we have made it.
"It has taken us a year and my husband has been so surprised at my determination to save. See - even at my age you can learn new tricks! We shared our travel news with our family and new suitcases appeared on our birthdays and Christmas! Gifts and money appeared on the Christmas tree, all went to the cause. Now we just have to enjoy!" (Nan)
Have a great month!
All the best,
P.S. We added the CreaClip to our store this month. It is getting great reviews:
"My family look well groomed and I am saving $70 every six weeks on hair cuts, thanks to the CreaClip from the Simple Savings shop! My children’s hair grows like wildfire and it feels as though we are going to the hairdresser all the time. A family trip of four people to the hairdresser every six weeks averages $70 for us. That's $560 a year!
"I enjoy my time being pampered at the hairdresser, yet I often wished for a way to cut my family’s hair so that it didn’t look like it had been cut at home. When I initially saw the CreaClip, to say I was mildly interested was an understatement. I subsequently watched many YouTube videos on the CreaClip, and then decided to take the plunge. Well, I wasn’t disappointed!
"My first 'victim' was my eldest daughter. Her overgrown style was transformed into a trendy bob with a tidy fringe. I started to gain confidence! Second to have a turn was my youngest son, who was a bit more keen having seen his sister go under the scissors. A bit more of a challenge to cut, but hopefully I will get faster with more practice.
"Next, the kid who I thought would be the most hesitant was actually the first to chop his own hair off! He was happy, his fringe looked good and I was happy, as he could now see! Ironically, I was the most tentative. But took a deep breath and voila, a neat trim. I chose not to have the luxury of someone else doing my hair; I wanted to do it myself. Once again, I hope to get faster with practice, but overall I am very happy, not to mention $560 a year better off!"
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: What Goes Around
"Are you feeling OK? You look shattered!" Sally asked Hanna, concerned. "Oh dear, do I? I guess I have been burning the candle at both ends lately," Hanna sighed. "John's mother had a hip operation recently. I've been going in to see her morning and night and take meals around to her. She's had a bit of a rough time of it, poor thing." "Looks like it's having a bit of a rough effect on you too my friend!" said Sally. "Drive safe! See you tomorrow."
That evening Sally ran herself a hot bath with her favourite scented bubbles. How she loved her little indulgences! As she soaked away the stresses of the day, Sally wondered if Hanna was even home yet. She had never seen her friend look so tired! She thought back to the times Hanna had cheered her up when she was feeling really awful by surprising her with a gift. It may have only been something small, like a mini chocolate bar or a special soap but it had meant so much, right when she needed it. It gave Sally an idea...
Hanna arrived the next morning to find a dainty gift bag on her desk. "What's this?" she asked, looking around. "It's from me," grinned Sally. "You looked so tired yesterday; I thought you could do with some pampering." "Oh how lovely of you!" Hanna beamed, picking up the bag. "What do we have in here? Lavender bath salts, just what I need! Some herbal tea, yummy chocolate - and - a picture of Hugh Jackman?" she raised an eyebrow. "Ah yes," Sally chuckled. "Sorry, I couldn't afford the real thing, but I thought it would make a nice pick-me-up." "You're right there" Hanna burst out laughing and gave her friend a hug. "He can pick me up any time! Thanks Sal!"
2. May: Low-Cost Indulgence
Good on Sally for recognising that her friend needed a bit of a boost! Many of us are a lot like Hanna. We spend our days rushing about like mad things, forever making sure everyone else is okay, are where they are supposed to be at all times and at the right time, not to mention well-fed, well-dressed and well looked after - and in the process we often forget to look after the most important one of all - ourselves. Yes! You really ARE the most important! People like Hanna are the glue which sticks everyone and everything together. When they are strong, healthy and happy, so is everyone else. But we are all only human, not machines! We can only keep running for so long before our batteries start to go flat. If this sounds like you, don't keep going until your wheels fall off! This month, we want you to take the time to recharge your batteries with some wonderful low-cost indulgences.
Amazing as it sounds, many people don't know HOW to relax; they're just too un-used to it! Fortunately the Vault and Forum are full of squillions of low-cost and free ideas to help you smile, help you unwind, help you sleep, help you laugh and most of all, just enjoy the moment. For starters you could:
- Be like Sally and run a long, hot bath
- Do a jigsaw puzzle (when was the last time you did one?)
- Do a crossword or Sudoku
- Watch a movie
- Go to a museum or art gallery (many of these are free)
- Borrow a book or magazine and put your feet up
- Download our 'Beauty Queen on a Budget' book or app and give yourself a beauty treatment.
- Go for a long walk or leisurely bike ride
You get the idea - and be sure to check out our newsletter archives and Forum threads for '50c indulgences' and 'One in, all in' suggestions. While unfortunately we can't guarantee you'll find Hugh Jackman in the Forum, we CAN guarantee you'll find plenty of other ways to brighten your day!
3. Ye Olde Shoppe: CreaClip
Snip snip! That's the sound of dollars being cut from your annual hairdressing bill! Fiona fell in love with a nifty hairdressing device called the CreaClip about three years ago. It makes home hairdressing easy and you can cut bobs, bangs and layers without resorting to pudding bowls, sticky tape or spirit levels! Fiona kept bugging CreaClip's designer, Mai Lieu, to let her sell it in Australia, and she has finally said yes! Fiona calls it the 'home hair cut you're not afraid to leave the house with' and you can see it in action here in this terribly cute video of Fiona and her gorgeous kids:
And find out more about it here: CreaClip in Simple Savings Store
4. Penny Wise: An Unexpected Journey
Good gracious, my apologies, it's been a while hasn't it! Among other things, since I last wrote we've had to have our dear little 16-year-old cat put to sleep and I've had my kitchen taken over by a giant mutant eel. Not even kidding - in fact the eel story probably deserves its own blog! But all in good time. On the positive side at least the eel episode got me out of the rock I was hiding under. You know, the one I was under a few months ago? Yes, I'm afraid I've been hibernating under it again. But this time I haven't just been languishing and feeling sorry for myself, no sirree! I've been on a journey - a journey of self discovery if you like (which is about the only journey you CAN go on from under a rock, let's be honest) - and although it's been incredibly hard, it's been more valuable than I could have ever imagined. Hooray! The hard part is, where to begin?
Let's start with an interview I did recently for the Sunday Star Times. One of the many fun and interesting questions I was asked was what my thoughts were on the connection between money and happiness. Ironically had I not so newly emerged from under my rock I may have given a completely different answer! However I feel the answer I gave was the right one, at least for me. I would like to say that I have never believed that money and happiness are connected, however surely that would be a lie. After all, years ago when I was a Sad Sally, I must have felt that they were because I often saw spending money as a way to feel better. If I was having a good day, I would go shopping to make it even better. If I was having a bad day I would go shopping to make it less awful. If I was having a fat day, a thin day or a bad hair day, I would go shopping to give myself a lift. Obviously I stopped believing that years ago when Simple Savings became part of my life and I can honestly say that even though I own less now and have less in the bank than I've ever had, I am absolutely content with what I have. The only way that I feel that money and happiness are truly connected is if you use the wealth that you have to help other people. That brings a huge buzz of happiness. I'll get to that.
But if there is one thing I know for certain about happiness is that it MUST come from within. You absolutely cannot rely on anyone or anything else to make you happy. How do I know? Because that's what put me under that rock. For a long time I've been relying on someone else to make me happy. Of course I've known it; just didn't want to admit it! But I knew it alright and so did he - yes, 'twas someone of the male species. Which was wonderful while it lasted - except he didn't want me to rely on him to be happy. For starters it's not fair to put that kind of burden on someone else! But he wanted me to learn how to be happy for myself, so he pushed me away. At first I hated him for it, he broke my heart! More than once. But I'm also extremely grateful to him because at the end of the day all he wanted for me was to reach the potential he saw in me and be the best I could be. I haven't reached that potential yet - hey, it's only been a few weeks! But I will. And when I do I know there will be nobody prouder than him. But it's been one hell of a journey towards healing my heart and learning to create my own happiness.
At first I wasn't sure HOW to be happy. For starters I was incredibly lonely, I didn't fit anywhere! I'm not a kindy mum, a soccer mum, a retiree, an avid church-goer - any of the little groups which make up much of our town's population. I've never been a 'popper-inner' either - you know, someone who just 'pops in' for a chat or a cup of tea. I'm the kind of person who never likes to disturb anyone, I've always figured everyone else is too busy to be disturbed, just like me. I've always loved walking on the beach and would do so for hours every day but even that lost its appeal. Still, sitting around moping is no good for anyone so I installed a pedometer app on my phone to make sure I did at least 10,000 steps every day. It became important to me - even if I achieved nothing else I had walked 10,000 steps and it had made me get out of the house. It's a good habit to get into and apart from being good for both body and soul it costs nothing and you can pretty much guarantee you'll see something wonderful every day to lift your spirits.
And there was ONE group I was part of - a Facebook group. Two actually! One was our town's Buy, Sell and Swap group. It's a buzzing little group of buyers and sellers all keen to save or make a little extra money. Over the past few months I've watched it grow and I love how even though most of us don't personally know each other, everyone is always so keen to help each other out and their names and faces soon became familiar. The other was a spin-off of that group called Pay it Forward. This group was similar but the rules were that everything had to be free. It was amazing how kind people were and how willing they were to give some really good items away and soon I found myself doing the same. Then one day a woman - one of the regulars - posted with the idea of having a weekend cook-up. She encouraged everyone to post whatever they would be willing to cook or bake on the page that weekend and those items would be collected and then distributed to struggling families in the area. I thought it was such a wonderful, selfless idea and watched, smiling as the list of names grew. And as they did, one other woman pointed out 'isn't it ironic, that the people who give the most so often have the least to give?' That really struck a chord with me - and she was absolutely right.
I think we all go through times when we feel like hiding under a rock! But the world keeps turning and life has a habit of going on, no matter how hard we try to avoid it. And all the while I was hibernating, the sun continued to shine, the rain continued to fall and my garden, which had been so beautifully tended all summer but was now being neglected, continued to grow. I kept trying to ignore it; I didn't want to look out of the window and see all the work that needed doing but one day I forced myself to go out and pick whatever needed picking. I took a big bowl but soon filled it up and had to keep coming back inside to grab another and another. Apples were all over the ground, the old bed frames heaved under the weight of scarlet runner beans and I had never seen so many tomatoes in my life. In addition there were olives, feijoas, tamarillos, cabbages, caulflower, silverbeet - I looked around my garden and couldn't believe how rich and abundant I was. All this food - this staggering amount of food was FREE. One thing was for sure, there was no way the boys and I alone could eat it all - and we didn't need it all. So I did the only thing I could do - post plenty of bragging photos on Facebook. I'm kidding! Well kind of - I did post a couple - I was proud after all! Particularly of my giant tomato which bore an uncanny resemblance to Animal from The Muppet Show. But I also put out a call for help. I posted on my own Facebook page, as well as the Buy and Sell and the Pay it Forward pages and asked for people to help by please taking some of our mass of produce off our hands.
Just a small sample of my wares!
Immediately the responses began appearing and I had to start writing a list of who wanted what. This was great! I was so happy that all this food wasn't going to go to waste after all. The next afternoon I bagged everything up and set about delivering them around town. I dropped some off to the new bride who had no fresh fruit or vegetables and was waiting impatiently for her own garden to grow. I dropped some off to a lady who lives alone in a unit and loves nothing more than cooking and baking for her grandchildren when they come to visit. I dropped some off to the young couple who work in Bunnings and are saving all their pennies for travelling. I popped some around to some neighbours I had never met and I dropped a big lot off to a wonderful lady who knew of a family in desperate need and was going to take them round to them herself. This was a lady I had seen around a lot and I always thought she looked like a lovely, warm person but had never really spoken to her much. As it turned out we got on like a house on fire and by the time I left her home she had invited me to join the local singing group and volunteer every Friday at the community garden!
More deliveries followed and everyone was so genuinely grateful it was quite humbling but most of all my little afternoon adventure made me so, so happy and had cost me the grand total of $4 for two packets of freezer bags. These days I have no hesitation in posting anything I have to give and as for the community garden, you have to see it to believe it. It is beautiful!
My tale hasn't finished yet - I still have more to share and I can't wait to tell you, I'm so excited! And none of it would have happened if I hadn't taken a deep breath, pulled on my Bridget Jones knickers like a big girl and gone out there and picked those vegies. I promise to tell you just as soon as I can. I guess what I'm trying to say is, happiness really does come from the simplest things. And it's something that we all have within us. I still believe that happiness does indeed have to come from within yourself. But it's OK to go out and find it too :-)
You can get updates on Penny's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page.
...or in our Members' Blog section.
5. Best of the Vault: Especially For You!
There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy a little bit of luxury and spoil yourself without spending the big bickies. From creating your own day spa to enjoying the great outdoors, it's time to spoil yourself!
It costs very little to look after yourself properly. Try these low-cost ways to pamper yourself!
- Take a nap - there's no bad time for a nap. You don't have to actually go to sleep; just stretch out on the couch and relax. Relaxing and thinking pleasant thoughts are the key!
- Take time out to read a great book while sipping on your favourite beverage.
- Soak your worries away - add some fragrant oils or cheap shampoo to a hot bath and soak yourself. Maybe read a book and drink that beverage!
- Keep up appearances - arrange a pampering session; whether it is a massage given to you by your partner or getting together with one of your girlfriends and doing each other's nails.
- Eating in is just as much fun as eating out - and much cheaper! Invite some friends over for dinner, put on some music and enjoy some good company.
- Grab your partner or friends and head to the beach or to your local park and play. Doesn't matter which sport or activity you do as long as you build a sweat. It's free!
- Keep it simple - Try to take a little time each day to be quiet. Just sit and reflect, and enjoy the luxury. Pamper yourself by congratulating yourself and acknowledging your achievements. We all need to do this, as the self-esteem takes a battering from time to time!
Enjoy the sunset
Find all the best spots in your area to view beautiful sunsets. Pack a nice picnic supper, take along some favourite music and stop letting the sunsets pass you by. These lovely memorable times with loved ones are truly priceless.
Surprise yourself with a special treat
When money is tight and I want to treat myself with something special, I go to my 'special treat container' for a surprise solution. The container has pieces of paper in it with activities that I can do at home and don't cost money. When I want to treat myself, I stick my hand into the container and pick out a random piece of paper. Some of the activities included are giving myself a pedicure or manicure, watching my favourite girly DVD or dressing up in front of my mirror with the clothes I already have in my wardrobe and creating new outfits that I hadn't thought of before. Whatever I choose is a special treat just for me and it costs nothing to have a great time at home!
Guilt-free day of pampering at home
I saved a fortune on a day's well-earned pampering! I had a rare day to myself and was wondering how I could best spend it. My initial plan was to go to a movie, buy a coffee and some chocolates and then get myself some lunch, maybe a neck and shoulder massage - money, money and more money!
So instead I pulled some home-made chicken and vegetable soup out of my freezer and put on a DVD which I had been given for Christmas and hadn't ever made time to watch. I got out the foot spa, essential oils and foot cream, put on a face mask and made myself an extra big coffee in the recently bought coffee maker (bought for half price). The total cost for my treats? $2.77! This was for a whole marked down wedge of Brie, with two days before it was due to expire! I had a wonderful day of peace and quiet and pampering and I didn't have to leave the house!
6. Best of the Forum: Simple Pleasures
It's time to stop, breathe and enjoy life's simple pleasures! Here are some wonderful ideas from the Forum:
Deliberate Creator and other Forum members talk about what puts the sparkle in their lives - what are you waiting for?
Forum member Summer Breeze shares the excitement of her 'gap year' - share her thoughts on her favourite books, music, her garden and everything else that makes her happy!
There are some wonderful ideas for everyone in this thread of Anneke's - and a reminder to appreciate the special people in our lives!
7. Best Members' Blog: Thank You Simple Savings!
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.
This month's winner is Rebecca T for her 'thankful' blog and her new 'frugal adventure'!
Today I am going to hijack my own blog to give a big thank you to Simple Savings - to Fiona and her staff, and all the wonderful members who have shared their knowledge about how to save money.
We have taken the exciting, scary, terrifying and daunting step of buying an investment rental property. It is something we have talked about for 10 years(!), and have finally committed ourselves to. While I am completely aware of how fortunate we are that we are able to do this, MAN is it scary! Committing ourselves to a 30 year mortgage, to borrowing 100% of the price, in the fairly inflated post-earthquake market is terrifying, especially to a family of five on one income.
But the biggest thing for me is how much it is going to change our income in the short term. We face the prospect of basically losing one third of our income with increased expenses. As you can imagine, my first thought was 'Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh'! We live a fairly frugal lifestyle already, so I was overwhelmed by panic at this prospect - how were we possibly going to manage?
However, in the couple of weeks we have had since doing this, I have had the opportunity to consider this, its implications and how we are going to get through. I was relieved to discover that we can probably claim a moderate amount of the expenses back in the next financial year - that took a huge pressure off, realising that we are talking about 14-15 months of serious skimping.
The second issue that has helped my panic, and this is where the gratitude comes in, is that I was able to appreciate the resource that is the Simple Savings website. I am grateful for its many wondrous savings ideas and, most importantly, the shared forum of people of a similar mindset who inspire and encourage me, motivating me to be proactive rather than just react to my circumstances.
So this year we will be the most frugal you can imagine. No extras at the supermarket, minimal clothes for the kids, no kitchen accessories or gadgets (my weakness), no shoes or other accessories for me... and following the theme for this blog - no new clothes for me. Great motivation to continue my journey to make my wardrobe more exciting, but WITHOUT SPENDING ANY MONEY!
Having known about our drop in income for a couple of weeks, it has been interesting thinking about this coming year and how easy it is to spend money. I'm going to reread the Café Avoidance Syndrome thread, the Starving Woollies threads, the beauty advice, the 50c indulgence threads and the meals for under $5 threads, and they will provide the rules and the motivation I am going to live by. We will survive, and I am (almost) excited by the challenge.
In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has made this website what it is - I am very grateful!
Well done Rebecca T - we know you can do it!
You can read more of our members' blogs here.
8. Mimi: Living a Life of Luxury For Free
I love thinking up little luxuries that are free or cost us little. A candle in the bathroom, some silk greenery, a thrifted kimono, crystals and a delicate hand towel, all found in my own home, make my bathroom feel extra special. Cost... nil.
Sometimes the luxuries of life seem very far away when the budget is stretched and it's hard to maintain a happy outlook when life is completely bereft of treats. But you can have lots of luxury in your life if you just redefine what luxury means to you. Using silverware inherited from my nanna puts a smile on my face and when it's not in use it's tied with organza ribbon and hung on the wall.
Here are some other ways that I introduce a little luxury into our lives every day:
Walk near a waterway, whether it's a creek, river, oceanfront or lake. Most towns have a waterway or pleasant bike path somewhere.
If you can afford a coffee out, go somewhere other than the local café. Often a coffee in a five star hotel will cost no more, yet feels far more luxurious and decadent. My most favourite thing to do is to just sit in the lobby of the up market hotels with my book of the moment. It's all hush and quiet bustle and plush and comfortable, and nobody bothers me. Well, the staff ask me if I'd like another glass of water, but that's all. I just say I'm waiting for a friend. Who's to know that my friend gets unavoidably detained? When I can afford it, I order a coffee or an exotic tea, but often I don't even do that. It's MUCH nicer than going to a noisy shopping centre where I'll be tempted to spend. Make sure you dress nicely for your flirtation with the luxurious though. You're less likely to be asked to move on, and just getting dressed up makes you feel more wealthy, even if you're not!
I remember going to a work related conference many years ago, where the speaker advised eliminating junk from your life. That means junk food, cheap and nasty stuff of all kinds and some people. You can't live well if you're constantly dragged down by junk. And I don't mean you don't support those you care about when times are tough or when they have a crisis. But some people and things are just a drain.
I like to be my own housemaid. So when I make the bed in the morning, I spritz the pillows with my favourite perfume. When I tidy the bathroom, I fold my towel just so, with a little pocket, and put my night time toiletries in the pocket for the evening. It goes on the end of my bed or on a chair in the bathroom so it's ready for me that night. I do the same after my night time shower for the early morning rush. It just makes the usual routine of getting ready, a bit special.
Along the same lines, set up a breakfast tray for yourself and for other family members on weekends. Trays are available for very little at discount stores and a little tray with a bowl, spoon, serviette, tea or coffee cup and silk flower to greet you first thing in the morning is a true joy. If you don't have a tray and can't afford one, cover a large book with rubber non slip lining (used to line drawers and around $2.00 for several metres at discount stores), and cover it with a pretty tea towel. Instant tray! Just be careful carrying your breakfast on it as it won't have sides!
Use a childhood scent to make you smile throughout the day. For me, that means old fashioned Sunlight soap near the kitchen sink (found in the laundry aisle at the supermarket) for hand washing and a miniature container of Johnsons Baby Powder next to my chair in the living room, so that I can sprinkle my hands with it before I knit or crochet in the evenings. The scent makes me feel so calm and leaves a faint whisper on the knitting that the recipients of my knitted gifts, just adore.
Decluttering... aaaargh... BORING! I know. But if you can't bear to part with it, do what we've all done with the kids' toys. Hide some of it away in boxes. Rotate it once a month or when the seasons change. The most luxurious places I've been to are all quietly restrained and whilst not necessarily minimalist, certainly they're choosy with what's on display. One or two or even three significant pieces on display, whether it's photos or ornaments, says more about you and is more eye catching than dozens of little ones.
Another idea is one that will make you smile, but it really is effective. We all have passwords for so many things these days. Change your passwords, or some of them at least, to reflect your luxurious life outlook.
Some suggestions might be:
The name of a favourite or dreamed of holiday destination and the year you'd like to visit it again.
The name of a luxury car you admire or want to own and the year you'd like to own it.
The name of your favourite luxury designer bag, scent or make up.
A reminder to yourself like 'Dressupforme247'. In other words, make an effort to look nice for yourself all day, every day.
A goal like 'weigh64in6'. Or weigh 64 kilos in six months' time.
Even something general like 'ilovediamondsandpearls' is fun and just makes you feel a bit special. Go on, laugh. But just try it. I bet it makes you smile every time you type it in.
Always have something that feels beautiful close at hand. For me, things that feel luxurious can be:
Solid, heavy or smooth, like the beautiful paperweight my husband gave me for Christmas a few years ago that sits on my desk, or the silver pen that my daughter gave me for Mother's Day that sits near the computer.
Soft and silky, like Johnsons Baby Lotion or my faux fur rug or the baby pink yarn I'm using to crochet a throw rug.
Flowing and floaty, like the op shopped $1 real silk scarf I have tied to the handles of my handbag.
Glittering and bling-ey like the red ballet slipper key ring my daughter bought me at a fundraiser. It has Swarovski crystals all over it and makes me smile every time I pick up my keys.
Thick and glossy, like my stash of Vogue magazines snaffled at the local Lifeline recently for $0.50c each.
Organic and authentic, like the $5 bamboo bristle and wood dishwashing brush I got last week.
No matter where I am, I try to have something close by that feels special.
Now something we are all guilty of and which certainly does NOT contribute to a life of luxury but is definitely worthy of mention here - eating on the run. By which I mean literally eating or drinking while you are moving; be it physically or whilst driving. Please don't do it. Can you imagine the Duchess of Cambridge walking along pushing George in a pram and drinking coffee from a takeaway cup at the same time? It's a bad look. It's bad for the digestion. It's bad for the soul. Honestly it is. As Buddha says, when you eat, just eat. Sit, eat and drink from china or glass, not paper. Use real cutlery, and don't go to places where the cutlery is plastic. Right there is the start of the problem. McDonald's or pizza might seem a cheap meal but you're eating processed food from cardboard packages. This does not make you feel like you're living a luxurious life. It might be a treat in its own way but there are better treats that feed your heart and soul more than a quick takeaway meal. I wrote a detailed breakdown a couple of years ago on Factoring Fun Food into the Budget. See that discussion for an eye opener on the cost of fast food, and what you could be buying instead.
When you eat, just eat. Avoid anything with cardboard boxes around it that has paper serviettes and plastic cutlery with it. It might take time but you and your family will live better, eat better and feel like you're wealthier, not poorer. I promise.
Use colour to create an illusion of luxury.
I'm a Coco Chanel fan. I've read about her, watched docos about her and I find her fascinating. Alas, I cannot afford Chanel in my life. I can, though, incorporate Chanel's' distinctive black and white branding into my life. So, white dinner plates and black serviettes with beautiful serviette rings...pearl if you please... home-made. Black and white striped cushions on my sofa. Coffee cups with black, white and gold accents. A quilted white bolster cushion with black tassels and gold ribbon trim. A little bit of the Chanel feel for no cost... or very little at least. If you're a Tiffany lover, then go for mint and white with silver accents, Dolce and Gabbana perhaps over the top gold satin and more gold braid trim. Hermes would be some restrained tan faux leather with equestrian motifs, Versace I'd do a few Medusa heads about the place, and Dior, well... I'm thinking black lace. You get the idea.
Have beautifully scented shampoo and conditioner with which to wash your hair. I don't mean expensive. I mean something that you love, whether it's green apple, peach, coconut, berry, lemon, honeysuckle, frangipani, jasmine or something else. An easy way of having shampoo and conditioner that is scented exactly the way you like it is to buy unscented shampoo and conditioner from a health food supplier (remembering that the more you buy the cheaper it is, so find a friend who wants some luxury in their life too and go halves) and add several drops of essential oil to it. You can buy the most divine essential oils online with which to scent your shampoo and conditioner and my current favourite is either jasmine or frangipani and those in a shampoo and conditioner... to die for.
Borrowing furnishing and storage ideas from your favourite restaurant or café and implementing them in your own home is another way to bring luxury into your own space. Roll tea towels into neat cylinders and re-home them in a large wicker or wire basket on the bench. Have a waiter's style apron for yourself and the kids to wear when preparing meals. You could even pop a tiny notebook and pencil into the front pocket so that the kids can note down instructions or ingredients that need replenishing. Serve your coffee with a serviette tucked under the cup, a sugar cube on a spoon next to it and a tiny bickie with it. It can just be a tiny teddy or those mini wafers that you can buy for kids now. Garnish your scrambled eggs with chopped chives, add some fresh rocket to your salad sandwich, tear some fresh basil into your spaghetti bolognaise. Herbs cost next to nothing to grow and providing you remember to water them every day, even the supermarket ones in pots will grow well and give you a months' worth of fresh and delicious garnishes on your meals. I am not fond of processed food but the one thing I love is the tinned whipped cream. It's such a small expense, lasts weeks or months in the refrigerator and just allows you to give your own desserts and drinks, as well as desserts and drinks for the family, that Posh Café touch. Try a puff of it on home-made pikelets, hotcakes, scones or crepes with a blob of jam too. It just looks special.
Yet another tip is to iron your pillow cases. Yes, I know, I hate ironing too. But this is actually a great way to teach the kids how to iron. I used to love ironing the pillowcases and hankies when I was a kid. I loved the smell of the fresh linen straight off the line heated by the iron. Ironed pillowcases just feel so soft and smooth and really give the bed that five star look and feel. I ironed all of ours in about five minutes flat yesterday and it's such a pleasure to see them there waiting to be used and to enjoy the feel of them as I slide them onto the pillows.
Before preparing your salad for dinner, cut a garlic clove in half and rub the exposed part all over the inside of your salad bowl. This imparts the faintest bit of garlic on the salad leaves and makes the salad smell gorgeous - assuming you like garlic of course. It's not even enough to give you garlic breath, it's just sort of 'there'. When you serve the salad, serve it with wedges of lemon on the side instead of salad dressing. These look particularly posh if tied into a bit of muslin with some kitchen string to secure it knot style on the back of the lemon. This also prevents the lemon pips ending up in your salad.
Choose a palette for your home. Sometimes feeling luxurious when you're on a tight budget is about giving yourself the language to feel okay about saying no. I have a friend with whom I cannot shop without her exhorting me to buy this or buy that. So I've started saying 'oh, that doesn't suit my palette'. It stops her in her tracks... lol! But really, it's amazing what a difference it can make to confine yourself to mainly blue and white with touches of red or beige and white with touches of chocolate. Not only does it make even the humblest of homes look fancier, it also helps eliminate impulse buys. If you can say to yourself 'yes, I love it but it doesn't suit my décor' (said in a rahhhther posh voice), you feel quite magnanimous about passing up the bargain (or not so bargain!). If you have little ones then maybe your palette is 'anything that hides dirt' and that's okay too. Maybe it's then about making smart decisions. If you have white tiled floors, cover them with dark rugs. Dark furniture covers or microfibre furniture hide a multitude of sins. Even dark coloured towels (as much as white ones are lovely) in the darker colours of your 'palette' *wink* that look cleaner for longer make your home and bathroom look a bit more posh.
Play tourist in your own town and see all that your home has to offer, from beautiful gardens to ferry rides, to guided walks and art galleries and museums. Very luxurious indeed and all for free or almost free!
Have some beautiful serving cutlery or make some of your more utilitarian stuff look more posh by polishing it up and embellishing it with a short piece of ribbon on the handle. This also means serving dinner in bowls in the centre of the table and allowing everyone to help themselves. I always found that my kids ate more and ate better when we served dinner this way. I have some beautiful salad servers and serving spoons that I inherited from Mum. As mentioned above, some of them were my Nanna's too. They are silver and are so pretty that I hang them on the wall tied with organza ribbon when they're not being used as serving cutlery.
Have crystal somewhere in your home. This could be a special crystal glass to drink from, a crystal bowl to serve salad from, a crystal vase or actual hanging crystals. That special 'ring' that comes with clinking crystal glasses or bowls together, the weight of a beautiful vase, the sparkle of a single prism hanging in the window or even a crystal keyring just makes the day more luxurious. Crystal doesn't have to be the old-fashioned cut crystal that our nannas had either. There are often quite beautiful and plain crystal bowls and glasses in the thrift shops. And Swarovski type crystals for embellishing other items can be had for very little money online too. To check whether an item is glass or crystal, gently clink it against something or flick it with your finger and look for that 'chime' that only real crystal produces. It's like the difference between stoneware and fine china to use crystal over glass and really gives you an appreciation of how delicate and beautiful it is. I also have a single large teardrop crystal hanging in my bathroom. When the mid afternoon sun shines on it, it produces the most beautiful rainbows all over the bathroom. It's just gorgeous.
Wear diamonds and pearls. Now before you all shout me down wondering where my Simple Savings mentality has gone, let me add that they can be fake. Who can even tell the difference these days anyway! I regularly wear pearl studs that cost me $20 for 100 pairs on eBay and they look lovely. They're also great gifts! Add a few freshwater pearls threaded onto clear elastic as a bracelet and you're looking rather posh. Twinkly studs that look like diamonds can be had for $1-$100 depending upon the quality and I love that they're so versatile and understated. No-one needs to know they're fake. Get yourself some pearls and diamonds. You deserve it!
There are hundreds of ways to engender a little luxury in your life every single day, many of which, as I've shown, cost very little or are free and make you feel a million dollars.
Have a luxurious day everyone!
You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page
or in our Members' Blog section.
9. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Companion Planting and a Fishy Update
Companion Planting & Polyculture
'Companion planting' is a method of growing food that involves planting a variety of plants that have a beneficial relationship with the others planted close by. Some plants are said to keep certain pests away due to their perfume while others will attract predator insects, like ladybugs, into the garden so they can feast on pests like aphids.
Other plants can be used as sacrificial plants that deliberately attract pests to a spot in the patch where they can be dealt with easily. In the aquaponic system we found that chives made a great black aphid attracting plant and we were able to deal with them in one spot. :)
Many flowering herbs and ornamental plants also play an important role in bringing pollinators like bees and butterflies into the vegie patch. Legumes like peas and beans help increase available nutrients for other plants to use and also make a great green manure crop to dig through the beds and increase the nutrient levels.
A great example of this growing system is called the 'Three Sisters Method' and is still used by backyard gardeners around the world. This well proven companion planting system was used by native peoples across North America for thousands of years. In this system the three plants normally used were maize/corn, climbing beans and squash/pumpkins. The corn was grown to provide a growing frame for the beans which in turn fixed nitrogen to the soil, and the squash was used as a living mulch that helped to control weeds and received shade provided by the taller corn.
I've been told by a friend (thanks Adie) that some like to plant a fourth sister (borage) here in Australia to help bring in bees/insects to help with pollination. After looking into it further I found that the 'Rocky Mountain bee plant' (Cleome serrulata) was used in some places in the Americas for this purpose and doubled as a food source.
Here are a few links that explain the origins of the Three Sisters Method and planting schedule in a bit more detail:
Some of the claims made about companion planting are not always backed up by scientific data and unfortunately just don't work that well we've found. :/ We have tried on a few occasions to reduce root knot nematode numbers by planting out French Marigolds (a common 'go to' plant for pest control) in beds around the garden. Unfortunately, as a living plant, they just don't do much at controlling the nematodes but we have had great success using them, along with mustard greens, as a green manure crop that is mulched up and dug through the soil to decompose and gas the nematodes into submission, as I've mentioned in other blogs.
There are a load of companion planting guides in books and on the web that I have found useful. Here are a few that I have found useful for us here in Australia:
I would also recommend a great Aussie/Kiwi book by Jackie French called "Jackie French's Guide to Companion Planting in Australia & New Zealand" if you can find a copy.
Polyculture is an expansion of the companion planting idea where many different types of plants are sown out together. It can also include animals into the system, something I won't be doing, much to the displeasure of our chooks. ;) While not all the plants are 'companions' in the sense as I mentioned above, all the plants have a function. Some are planted due to their ability to be an early, late or continual cropping plant to spread out the production period of the bed. Others are planted for their pest repelling properties and some make themselves useful as a thick layer of leaves close to the ground to help shade the soil and stop it from drying out.
This season I decided to combine a fair few different plants into a Polyculture bed to see how it goes. The companion plants we will be using are Alums (garlic & shallots) to deter the aphids and some leafy greens to help provide a layer of living mulch to help keep the soil from drying out.
The short term crops we have planted out are radishes, rocket (arugula), leaf lettuce and beetroot leaves with the bulbs of the beetroot taking a bit longer to mature. The broccoli, garlic, shallot bulbs and walking onions are the longer term crops in the bed that will take quite some time to mature. Perpetual spinach, rainbow chard and shallot greens will offer a continual crop of leaves with the side shoots from the broccoli providing us with a continual harvest up to December this year, if not longer.
When it came time to plant out the bed I placed one row of shallots down either side of the bed and had a row of Glen large garlic up the centre. Up one side between the garlic and shallots went a row of broccoli and up the other went a mix of beetroot and chard seeds. Once those plants and seeds were in, lettuce, rocket and radish seeds were broadcast throughout the bed.
So far the bed is looking very promising with some leafy greens and shallot already harvested for small lunchtime salads. I am also very happy to see that we have a few volunteer purslane pop up which will also be used in salads. :) Shall keep you updated with the progress of this bed as it will be providing us with quite a few meals this season if the current results are anything to go by. ;)
I have finally finished the aquaculture/fish farm system for the back yard, well sort of! We did have two fish in the system that we were given but lost one on the weekend while trying to adjust the pH for new fingerlings... was a silly mistake. I'm now getting the pH levels under control and hope to add the lonely fish back in tomorrow along with a perch from our aquaponic system so they can start to condition the water before the fingerlings arrive. Here is a bit of a look at the fish farm for those that are interested:
While we won't be growing vegies with it this season it will be turned into an aquaponic system after the first harvest of fish has been done - just need the OK from Bianca to expand the aquaponic area. ;)
We were lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to buy an aquaponic system from a local aquaculture designer, Mr Paul Van, who is moving to the United Arab Emirates where he is building a massive 4400m² pilot aquaponic system.
I must say I am more than stoked to have bought this system and my mind is full of ideas on how it can be set up, as this system is about three times as large as the current aquaponic system we have. I think I might actually be able to split it up into a few different systems to help increase our aquaponic vegie production with a crayfish or two tossed in as well. ;)
I'm hoping to have the system set up in the next month or so after we dismantle the current one and move it to my parents for them to make use of. I definitely won't be able to say I will be bored over the coming few months. ;)
A while back I planted a sweet potato slip in the aquaponic system to see how it would go. I was very impressed with the greenery the plant provided for salads and stir-fries but was skeptical as to if we would get many tubers from it. Here's a quick look at some of the small tubers we pulled from the bed along with the bonus tubers I found growing on the vine in the soil beside the system.
That's it for this month's look at the garden... Hope everyone's cool weather crops are in and well on their way... Still have a few more to pop in here and will give you a look next month. :)
Have a great one all,
You can get updates on Rob Bob's new gardening adventure blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page
or in our Members' Blog section.
10. From Last Month: Give Me a Hope Among the Gum Trees
Last month Lou emailed us about ideas to help her use the second hand website Gumtree:
"I need some help working out how the second hand website Gumtree works. I have seen things for sale which I would like to buy but I'm not willing to pay the asking price. What I want to know is, can I ring and offer less? What are the best ways to buy things on Gumtree? I really need some tips and advice."
We got some fantastic ideas - thank you for sharing your wisdom! Here are some of our favourite replies:
Negotiate, you have nothing to lose!
I think of Gumtree as a new version of the old 'Trading Post' paper. By this I mean most people would make an offer unless the listing specifically said 'no offers' or 'not negotiable'. Otherwise go ahead, barter with sellers! You have nothing to lose. Email the seller and ask if they will accept xxxx dollars. Remember to keep your message really friendly and respectful and you'll get a better result. I sell on eBay and I am offended when prospective buyers send a curt message offering a low price. Courtesy goes a long way! I've bought several items on Gumtree, all at lower than the original asking price. Work around their time frames for collection or if you need the item posted, make sure you agree on a price for postage first or you could be whacked with a sneaky mark-up. Good luck and happy bargaining!
Only purchase from 'real' photos
I have bought and sold a lot of things on Gumtree and this is what I have learned:
- I will only buy if there's a good photo of the item that looks like it's been taken in someone's home - it is too easy to copy and paste photos from websites so the item looks brand new!
- I always ring and ask lots of questions and if I'm still interested, try and get to see the item as soon as possible. Always take your time looking over the item, try it, and if you're going to buy it, make your offer reasonable.
- Always pay in cash and take the item with you - and have fun!
Place a 'wanted' ad and let the sellers come to you
If you are concerned about approaching people in ads, why not submit your own ad in with whatever you want, including as much detail, even a rough price guide and let the sellers find YOU? They will know exactly what you're looking for and you won't waste time looking or contacting needlessly. I collect antiques and have found this is a great way to connect with serious buyers.
Always check, never assume
When interested in purchasing from Gumtree, make sure you ask questions! We bought an instrument from there and just assumed it was relatively new as the ad said 'stopped playing after six months' and was being sold with 'new reeds, new cleaner, new cork grease, new case'. When we went to see it, the instrument was very, very old and not at all what we expected. All our fault because we assumed and didn't ask the most important question! Now when we buy off Gumtree we get a list of questions together so we don't waste our time or the seller's!
Being nice can get you the best price
I use Gumtree frequently both for buying and selling things. In my experience, most prices on Gumtree are negotiable, unless the item is special in some way, for example, an antique or limited edition or the seller states in the advert that the price is 'firm'. The best way to get a discount is to call the seller up and have a chat with them. Be friendly and polite and ask whether the price can be discounted - but within reason. If there is no number to call then send a text or email but again be friendly and polite. Alternatively, if you want to view the item before buying, you may consider negotiating the price face to face instead. As an example, I saw some Coleman camp chairs on Gumtree for $65, arranged to see them, negotiated the price down to $50 with the seller and we were both happy!
When I am the seller I find some people can be very rude when texting or emailing, especially 'timewasters' who are not really interested in buying your item or 'lowballers' who basically want to pay as little as possible. I had one such email today in response to an item I have on Gumtree for $45 which literally just said '$15?' - no 'Hi', no name, no nothing! Needless to say I have not responded. I have a general rule that I would rather not sell to someone who offers peanuts or who is rude and unfriendly when contacting me. So the moral of the story is: be nice, be polite and be reasonable with your offers, and you will generally find that sellers will be too!
Pros and cons of text/email selling
I have done a lot of buying and selling on both Gumtree and eBay. I must have replaced my balcony setting five times through Gumtree - if I didn't like it, I would just sell it again and never lost money! I have completed many transactions purely via email, text messages or phone. I am a shy person and don't like talking on the phone so this way I have more courage to make an offer. I make reasonable offers as I figure both the seller and the buyer have to be happy. However, some sellers don't like negotiating through email or text and will state that in their ad; phone calls only.
One thing I have learned over time, especially when selling, is to NEVER be surprised with what people will buy or be prepared to pay. Some of the oddest things I would have just given away, people have paid ridiculous prices for! With buying, don't be afraid to make an offer, the worst they can do is say no. As a seller, I find it harder to say 'no' in person, however, I am more likely to reject an offer if it is via text or email. Overall, do what you are more comfortable with - and have fun!
Words of advice from experienced buyers
My husband and I have bought quite a few things from Gumtree ranging from baby goods and furniture to work tools and even a boat. What we have learned:
- Buy local or within driving distance and go and see the item first hand. If you are interested, make an offer then and there (don't go away and ring them later as someone else might come along and buy it first).
- Make sure you have the cash ready to pay them unless it is a big ticket item.
- If you are buying tools and equipment always inspect it first to make sure it's in good condition, or at least the condition you expect.
- If you are buying a car/boat and so on, get an inspection report first.
It never hurts to ask
When considering making a purchase on Gumtree, the first thing to do is to find out if the item/s are still available. People frequently forget to update their ad. I also look to see if the seller has chosen the 'negotiable' option and check to see how long ago the item was listed, then I either email them or call and ask if they are negotiable on their price. Sometimes people ask unrealistic prices and the more popular an item is the less likely they will be to drop their price but most people I've found are happy to make a sale and rehome their item, so it never hurts to ask.
11. This Month's Help Request: Ideas For Outdoor Cover and Flooring
Nayia has emailed asking for some help! She writes:
"I would like to ask if anyone has any ideas to solve this problem. We have a (very) small room out the back which has become our fourth bedroom. The room itself is fine, but it is four metres from the house, with no eaves for protection. If my son wants to go to the toilet or come into the house, he gets wet if it's raining and/or traipses dirt into the house or his room. There is no space outside his room for a mat and very little inside it. The room also gets full sun so is boiling in the summer. We are renting so we can't drill into the walls or guttering for cover, but we'd love some suggestions for:
"(a) a cheap cover we could use that would reduce or block out the rain and sun. We thought we could buy a big patio umbrella, but it won't cover the whole area and will blow over in wet windy weather.
"(b) a cheaper solution than decking tiles, which are very expensive, for the ground. The area to cover is about 1.5 x 4 metres.
"Thanks for any suggestions"
If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Nayia, please send them in to us here.
12. Goodbye for Now
Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for May and we hope you have enjoyed it. We hope you'll find some time in your day to spoil yourself - you deserve it! There are some wonderful ways to enjoy some little luxuries - 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 our Simple Savings Facebook page.
Till next time...
All the best,