Saturday, April 28, 2012

Money Saving Tips - Take Two

Okay - This is a take two. Thanks to those that pointed it out. My screen was showing the correct post, but you all saw a post with bits missing and doubled up and misspellings... hopefully it is all worked out now :)

A Facebook question had me finally posting another Money Saving post. I had been meaning to do this for ages and this was the perfect time to post here as well.

Regular posters will know that we had a really tough year last year and it's only just getting better now so these are the tips we used and others we learnt along the way

Budget every.single.cent and stick to it - but be realistic. There is no point in putting away money each week for bills, if you have to dip into it to cover weekly costs. Work out what you need, THEN work around that. We have a Fortnightly budget - set for payday that covers everything we can think of. It covers exactly what bills are due, when they are due and how much. We list every bill due throughout the whole year. For annual/quarterly bills, I break them down into fortnightly payments. Many banks now do online banking and many offer free online banking accounts. I have separated all my needs into different accounts - example = Annual Bills, Quarterly Bills, Monthly Bills, Kids Accounts, Car Account, Special Occasions (birthday, Christmas, etc) Home Schooling account, you get my drift. Each pay a certain set amount goes in each account. That way there is no 'dipping' into funds into the main account that may be needed for bills. By budgeting down to the last cent, I can see where money is going, I know how much I need and where I can skim it from if we have a bad week. I can also see in advance, when the 'big' bills will be coming in and what might happen if we have a fortnight that falls when everything is due.. I have got our budget set up for a year in advance. And the fact that we have in on spreadsheet, means that if something crops up (like a surprise car need or vet bill or whatever) I can also juggle everything around and see the results immediately.

Edited to add some mock ups of our budget sheets - I have done quite a few of these for people.


The second page is linked to the first, so that any changes can reflect immediately.
Buy in bulk when you can, make sure it’s a good deal. (We buy half a cow when we can. Once packaged it has worked out between $4-$8 a kilo depending on sizes of cow) This can be a significant saving for some families. But don’t limit it to meat – bulk buy the things you use the most (and have space for) Don’t fall for the trap of bulk buying everything, then finding  a year/months later, you still have 80% of something left and it’s going off. Buy only what you know you will use, in the shelf time it has.

Co Ops with others and get the savings that way - Co Ops are where a group of people will get together and order enough to qualify for wholesale prices. Sometimes wholesale prices can be a HUGE savings. Be aware, you will generally have to reach a certain amount of product to qualify for the cheaper prices, so make sure you have the numbers and cash before ordering.

Bulk cooking and freezing if you have the freezer room - do a massive cooking day and make up stacks of meals for freezing. Often, you should do this after a successful shop at the local farmers markets, take advantage of the cheaper bulk prices. This also means on those days when you simply can't cook for whatever reason or you know that in XXX amount of weeks you are really going to be struggling, you have prepared, healthy, cheap food ready to go.

Meal sharing – everyone cook and bring one to two meals (or whatever is agreed on) and everyone swaps – great way to experience other meals without paying restaurant prices AND can stock up that freezer quickly.

Food Swaps are good as well – especially if you grow your own food. Trade different foods. We once got a brilliant deal on pineapples – a crate for $22. I traded with friends for other fruits, packet foods, meals,  eggs, etc. Everyone thought that they got a good deal. If you have surplus foods, ask if anyone wants to buy or trade for them. You’ll soon learn what is wanted and what’s not.

Always make enough/stretch it out enough to store at least one serve/meal away when you make a family meal. Doesn’t sound like much, but after a week, you can have quite a store of backups. This is also great for meal sharing with families in need as well. You can also learn how to stretch meals out by adding things like beans and lentils. There are heaps of healthy cookbooks out there or Internet sites that help you to learn how to add this and that to sometimes even double your meal sizes with little change to taste or health. Also ask around - everyone has their own way of 'stretching' their meal dollars.

Learn preserving/canning/drying – that way, in seasons of plenty, you can store foods away for times of lean. We got a preserving kit and over a hundred jars from Freecycle and friends. All up it cost us $25 for everything. Lots of time, it can be a simple start and books are often available in libraries. There are also many websites and forums dedicated to Canning/Preserving - they are a great source of support for newbies AND pros alike!

Learn sewing.  That way you can make clothes go further by mending or recycling into a new outfit (adult clothes  become clothes for kids, patches for mending, etc) If you have a knack for it, there is always a market for good quality, well made kids clothes) This works well for Op Shop sales. Buy adult clothes very cheap and cut down for kids. Fabric shops also often have a clearance section, learn it and remember the days that the clearances are even cheaper. I have bought fabric for as little as 20c a meter and made two pairs of toddler pants from one meter = two summer pants for 10c each AND enough scraps left over to patch his jeans and tshirts. Clothes Swaps between friends work as well. At the end there is generally a small amount no one wants, ask if you can have it for sewing. I have yet to hear anyone say no. Also, sewing can open doors for cottage industry such as Toys. Well made toys are always being sought after.

Grab cuttings from other people’s gardens – grow some of your own food needs for free or cheap. Find out what works best in your gardens spaces. Some people only have a balcony, others a courtyard, a yard in the 'Burbs, some have HUGE fields and some people have no outside space whatsoever.  But every space can grow food. All you need is light, water and a good growing base. Sunlight is best of course, but I have seen some fabulous indoor gardens, grown on nothing but one garden lightglobe in a desk lamp. Google or Pinterest "City Gardens" for ideas. Also, go to farmers markets and get 'heirloom' foods/seeds - I have only just found out about this. Many supermarket foods can't be grown from their seeds due to fiddling with their DNA (I assume) but many people who grow their own foods have done so by getting cuttings and seeds from others that grow their own, and so on. Swapping foods, cuttings, seedlings, etc is a great way to switch around what you grow, without laying out any money. Learn how to store seeds from your previous harvests - this is a great swap and sell opportunity as well!
Hard Rubbish/Rubbish Tip Stores. I know, I can hear the 'WHAT?!' now, lol. Hard Rubbish, or side of the road council pickups are a great way of grabbing those gems in the dust. BUT... please check out your local governments rules on this. Many local councils have made 'scabbing' (as it is affectionately known here) illegal and can impose fines on anyone caught. That said, I have gotten some fabulous stuff - we recently got an Ikea Rug, still in it's wrapper!! Looks fabulous in the Loungeroom :D Rubbish Tip Stores are also a great place to grab things. You can repurpose, upcycle, cleanup or sell. As always, make sure it is worth your time and effort and CASH to do so. No point in buying something, going to all the effort of cleaning it up/repairing it if no one wants it!

Ask around for any odd jobs you feel you can do. I often struggle to do simple things around the home and would love to be able to find someone who could weed my roses. Or wash my windows, but can’t afford the $50 an hour I keep getting quoted. Many people in the community need things done, but can’t or don’t for whatever reason. Don’t think of it as begging for work and feeling embarrassed – seriously, you are helping others as well as getting a boost to your pocket. But don’t undercharge either – you are doing this for your family as well.

Figure out the local Op Shops – many range in prices and quality. Don’t rule out that tiny dirty looking Op Shop, they just may have the best stock and prices. Same goes for the Big Ones, just because they have heaps of stock, doesn’t mean they are the best prices. Learn which op shops suit you best. I have found that by creating a relationship with some Op Shops, I was able to get a better deal when I needed it the most (for example, one op shop knows that I am desperate for pants for winter, so they put all their size XX pants away for me to look over when I came back) Also some of the Op Shops have discount days and discount tags. Use this to combine savings on purchases.

Reselling is also a good way to get a little extra cash.  Find those bargains at op shops, garage sales, car boot sales.  They can be things like dirty/split Tupperware, toys that need fixing, things that need a good scrub/clean, anything really. Once cleaned up and/or fixed/replaced, you can sell it on. Example – I found a rug at a garage sale. It was dirty and quite smelly, but overall, it was in fabulous condition. No one wanted it as it needed cleaning. So I got it for $5. Took it home, and scrubbed it. I used washing powder, outdoor broom and my hands. The kids got involved and we had great fun scrubbing it on the lawn with water.  Hung it on a big tree out the front and after a full 2 days in the sun (dry rugs with the top/pattern away from the sun) it was clean and dry. Sold it for nearly $300 for a few hours hard graft.  Same with a sale at an Op Shop. Two bags of dirty Lego on pension day AND sale day= a heck of a savings. Took it home and put it through the washing machine in dedicates bags and sold it for enough to start our candle stuff. I also pick up pieces of toys and Tupperware here and there, combine them together into a bulk pack and sell for a lot more than I bought it for. But patience is needed and the ability to store stuff as well.

 Kids Parties – I know, that one is a bit out there. But I used to hold kids parties – Craft Parties, Birthday parties, Theme Parties – whatever you feel comfortable doing. I had heaps of craft items I picked up at an auction for mere cents, so I would hold Craft Parties.  If you can figure it out, it can work well. If you have older kids, or your house is perfectly set up for kids, this can be a good income. You would be surprised at what works and how well you can earn some extra cash.  But it can be hard work. Charge a certain amount per head and set the time.
Couponing is big in some countries. While I don’t personally know much about them, apparently they can be really good for saving money. There are groups that trade them and online groups that pass the word on printable coupons. I have been told that a good, organised couponer can save hundreds. Same rule applies here as every where else - only get what you will actually use in a set amount of time. No point in getting 50 bottles of toilet cleaner if you only go through one every few months. BUT... you might be able to sell them on...or not. Another one to figure out if your area will support that.
Saving power is always a big thing. I have had some very interesting chats with people in other countries about power savings. Some people are all for it, others have no idea. Seems Australians tend to be more in the "Try anything" category lol. Switch all appliances off at the wall when not in use. These are often referred to as Vampires as even in standby mode, they are slowly draining power. Avoid your dryer and use outside - two factors. It's healthier for clothes to be disinfected by the sun and stains tend to fade when in full sun and you are saving on power costs. If outside doesn't work for you, try inside clothes hoists or rails. Even using the local laundromat can save money. I wash my big doonas at the laundromat for about $6 each and then either dry them there for $4 of lug them home. Other times, I have paid $3 to dry my entire weeks washing - cheaper than putting several loads through my household drier. Turn lights off when not needing them. Try doing 'powerout nights' where all power is turn off (except for essentials like fridge/freezers, medical needs - the common sense stuff) and use candles and open fires if allowed.
Cleaning Stuffs - Here's one that can shave quite a bit off your budget AND be healthier for your home. Stop buying chemical cleaners and research into more natural cleaners. Googling will show heaps of different ways to save money this way. Lemons, vinegar, baking soda are the more common ones. Make sure you get proper vinegar though, not the crap stuff. Buying the crap stuff can be just as nasty as buying chemicals and work badly as well. Google is your friend here. Find out what works for you. A few normal cupboard ingredients can replace heaps of $$ of chemical cleaners. Growing lemons is a great way to save money, or buying in bulk when cheap then freezing (we do this).
Homeschooling isn't cheap, but it can be. I do a lot of searching the 'Net - Pinterest has become quite useful for discovering different activities, blogs, ideas, you name it! There are also Yahoo groups, forums, Facebook groups, SO MUCH STUFF!! Just today, I picked up a free Kids Counting in the Garden ebook. By being on the different Facebook groups, I have downloaded HEAPS of free schooling ideas and worksheets, lapbook ideas.... This is not just limited to those who homeschool, anyone can join or search and they can provide some great bonding times with your kids on holidays, after school, weekends, etc. I also keep an eye on booksales and Always check out the op shop for books to use. Join the Yahoo groups and keep an eye on their secondhand posts, some really good stuff can come up. I have also asked around and found several different places that I can get supplies from for quite cheap - but it is a lucky dip most of the time lol. But that's also half the fun.
Find your local Auction Houses - most have now moved to online formats as well, so you can look without having to go physically there and checkout what they have. Most of the better ones even do updates on what they have. I have scored really well - an entire build it yourself giant Lego sorta building blocks for $15. Kids love it. (and I mean GIANT lol - they build cubby houses and castles with it)
Don't be shy to ask for stuff. I saw someone filling a trailer with rubbish, and I noticed him throwing what looked like a fish filter away. I asked if he minded if I had a look, he said go ahead (be aware, some people will say no, that's the risk) and I saw it was a very exxy fish tank filter. Asked him what was wrong with it and he said former tenants left it behind. I offered him some cash, but he said take it as he didn't know it if would work. It did and I cleaned it up and sold it for $125.
Finally - talk to your service providers. Let them know whats going on and see if there is anything they can help with - downgrading plans, cancelling plans, offering different prices. Don't be afraid to let them know you are doing it tough. Talk to Centrelink, schools, power companies, phone providers anyone you can think of. Google assistance in your area - Centrelink/Government Support can often 'forget' to let you know what you might be entitled to so find a financial assistance program in your area and book an appointment. Also approach the many different charities. Be aware that they are under a huge amount of pressure at the moment, so might not be able help a lot, but they might be able to steer you in the right direction. Or three different charities might be able to fill that hole for a week for you to get some breathing space - you won't know unless you ask.
Then, if you are still struggling - go speak to a Qualified Financial Adviser. They can help with options and suggestions, debt agreement and maybe even help you decide if you need to go bankrupt. Bankruptcy is always a final choice, not many of us willing go bankrupt, but if it the decision between your struggling to simply survive and being able to breathe, it may be the right option for you. They can advise what the benefits and more importantly, the negatives of such a decision. Make sure you research your adviser well before hand. Many are simply out there to facilitate your moving into bankruptcy or to close you into a debt agreement - which can sometimes be the same thing to your credit rating, with none of the benefits of bankruptcy. Research well. 

I am sure that there are heaps more – feel free to add if you want. Everyone benefits when we share our resources.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Having a total blast today!

Well, It's been longer between bloggings than I expected - mainly due to illhealth and a rental inspection. Hard to sort and clean when you just want to lay in bed and moan, lol. We even had to postpone the inspection once because I was too ill to have anyone in the house, let alone scrub toilets. :(

BUT... we passed our rental inspection with flying colours - thank God Above.

And not only that, I finally have a dehoarded and clutter free house!!  I KID YOU NOT!!! Our landlord didn't mention ONE clutter comment the whole time! YAY.

So this morning, after the usual shakefest and fainting fits, we were able to finally sit at the decluttered craft table and actually DO somethings together!

I had wandered back to Pinterest after they changed their T&C and was doing a nice internet walk and I came across this pinned Blog


but more importantly (to Dragonett Lass at least) to a Tangled Preschooler Pack - 3 of them to be precise! We used up the rest of our ink printing off all three booklets and she spent the afternoon working on them.

They are set for ages 2-7 so Dragonett Lass had the chance to start very easy and work her way up to the harder stuff.

She had a blast. Dragonett Lad couldn't have cared less, lol, so he did gluing.



A good Day!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Compliments

Recently, I was given a compliment by a friend. Why is a compliment worthy of a blog post?

It got me thinking about lots of things.

Firstly, it made me realise that I literally couldn't remember the last time I received a genuine compliment. Aside from Hubby ( <3 ) I cannot remember the last time someone gave me a compliment that wasn't prefaced, followed or implied with a "but..."

Does that mean that I am not worthy of compliments? Does that mean that nothing I do or am is worthy of notice?

What exactly IS a compliment?

Where do compliments fall on the Praise spectrum?
 
lol, can you see where my mind wanders all the time? I have a hard time keeping thoughts straight sometimes :)
 
Okay, the knowledgy bit is that Compliments and Praise are synonyms - which means that they have the same, or close meanings. 
 
One theory that I have been told about (notice I have said 'told' - I have done only very little research into this, feel free to correct me if I get this wrong) is that by praising children, we are growing a culture of people dependant on other peoples approval. I actually agree with this. I have never understood people exclaiming over artwork or projects that children have produced that really are not that great.
Do I think we should be Critics and be bluntly honest? Hell no. But I do feel that we need to encourage kids to be confident of their skills and be brave enough to do what they want, regardless of what others think.
 
Do Compliments fall under this category of 'praise', do you think?
 
By my friend giving me a very touching compliment, would that be 'praise'?
 
Personally, I think that compliments let others know how we feel about them. While over-complimenting someone is just as bad as over-praising, I firmly believe that the social creatures that humans are, we need that connection, that sense of "I'm not alone" that a genuine compliment or praise can bestow.  It allows others to verbally hug someone. Give them a "You are doing okay".
 
A genuine, freely given compliment is a true esteem booster. I know this firsthand now :)
 

A Quick Facebook Share

I'm starting a new section (lol, like I don't have enough!!)

It's called Facebook Shares.

It's for those Facebook status and shares that crop up now and then, you know the ones. Those ones that make you remember WHY you do the things you do. The ones that you find yourself thinking days/weeks/months even years down the track "Gee, I wish I could remember where I read that..."

So I'm going to blog them here, so that I can find them again when I need that special little Pick Me Up.


A reminder of what it is about - Helping to think about NOW. Not the Future, not Then, but NOW. Focus on the children, Love not Logistics

Quote

"I wonder if staying present in my interactions with my kids would help me see parenting differently. Even if I don’t love what we’re doing at the time, even if it’s a boring game or the fifth time he changed his mind about the breakfast he wanted, if I just focused on the curl of his hair, I wonder what it would do to my heart.


If I just took a breath and stared into her eyes for a moment, pulled her in for a hug when I feel so proud of her like I do 20 times a day. I wonder if I stopped my mind racing ahead and zoomed out on our life, in that moment, distilled down to its essence, I wonder if I would see that it’s not just logistics I’m doing every day.


It’s love."

Okay, time to get this Blog working again

Well, I think that it is high time I got this blog working again as it should be. A place for me to write my thoughts and travels of the day. One day, I will even make it into a book....maybe lol

Anyway. there is so much we have done since my last proper entry that I'm not even going to try to catch up. I'm simply going to start from today.

Today, I finished off Dragonett Lass' Chore Reminder Chart. I have been googling and searching the 'Net more days trying to find the closest thing that I was happy with - seriously, there are a lot of Chore charts out there and a hell of a lot more parents that seem to expect shit loads from their kids! Seriously, a 4-6yr old's daily chores INCLUDED cleaning the bathroom and vacuuming the kitchen and dusting one room a day?? And that wasn't all, they had the 'normal' sort of jobs AND rotating chores..... What, do they have... kids or slaves?? *shakes head* I know, I shouldn't judge, but even the tone of this website was burning my biscuits - "We homeschool, so my children have more time to clean" They had several kids too.... *reminds self not to judge*

I am not saying that kids shouldn't have chores - I mean, here I am making a Chore Reminder Chart, I was just gobsmacked at how many people expected their kids to do their housework for them. (I figured it out that the home schooling mom exampled above, had the kids doing nearly all the housework! I have no idea what she had left to do herself?)

Anyway, trying to stop being Judgey McJudger - if it works for them and the kids are happy, then more power to them.

But here was my problem. I wanted something that I could put pictures on that were tailored for our house and spaces for ticking them off. I found lovely 'pretty' ones and gorgeous functional ones and so on, but they either required signing up for stuff, paying a fee, printed out too small, were unable to be changed, etc.

In the end, I figured I would, as usual, make my own. A bit of fiddling around and playing with the new (yes, another one!! grr) printer and we worked something out. Of course Dragonett Lass had full say in what we were doing. After all, it was her reminder chart.

She opted for a Fantasy Theme (of course lol) so I have spent the day finding and organising and printing teeny tiny little fairies and dragons and ballerinas (and even a Dr Who!! love my kids!) Which we then had to cut out and laminate and then cut out AGAIN! (After cutting out over 100 teeny tiny pictures, I'm a little sick of them, heehee) It was good in the fact that I feel like crap, so sitting on my butt all day was kinda cool :)

Once the sticky velcro dots were placed on the back and on the reminder chart, it was finished!!

Now, I can hear a little voice saying 'Reminder?' Yeap. We have different levels of chores in our house. Some are simply Family chores, that need to be done because we all function as part of the family and we all need to do our bit to make everything run like clockwork.... well, run at least. Then we have Pocket Money Chores. If the kids want to earn pocket money, then there are chores that are available. By doing them properly, they can earn spending money.

The Reminder Chart is simply so that we can see at a glance what has been done and what still needs doing. Mainly for me and Dragonett Lass - I have a shocking memory at the moment and for Dragonett Lass so that she knows what is expected of her, without feeling as though I am just dumping stuff on her. It is definitely not a Do this or You Will Be Punished sort of chart, it's more of a "Sweetie, have you checked the rabbits today?" "Oh, I can't remember, let me check" sort of thing.

All chores were discussed and she gets to chose what ones she wants as her Family Chores. As Dragonett Lad gets older, he'll have the same deal.

Don't worry. Reminder Charts are not just for the Dragonetts - My next chore is to make one for the Dragon Parents too!! Dr Who themed one is topping the List right now!

So have a look - we definitely like it!! :D

Without the 'Checks'

With the 'Checks' - Put on just as an example for this Photo.

Storage for Spare Checks waiting for use