"I've just joined Cheapskates (in November), so am relatively new and loving every minute. I'm a little overwhelmed at all the information and struggling to really start. My DH and I have set goals to clear our CC debt this year and to increase our mortgage payment by $120 a week (an extra $6,240 paid off this year!) and on paper we should be able to do it, but our money just seems to disappear - hence joining (we need the inspiration and the motivation). Do you have any suggestions to new members where to start? For example, I have the forum always open, joined the Saving Revolution and bookmarked Tip Store pages so I can refer back to them. Does anyone have any other suggestions we can use to reach our goals this year? What do other members do to get the best out of Cheapskates?"
Do you have the answer?
If you have a suggestion or advice for Julia, let us know. We'll enter your answer into our Tip of the Week competition, with a one-year membership to the Cheapskates Club as the prize too.
"My husband and I have two small kids – 5-1/2 and 2 years old. I work 3.5 days a week and my husband works full-time. We have an investment property (we're paying interest only on the mortgage as our accountant advises) and we live in a rental property. My question is, do any of your members have any recommendations about how to save and create harmony when I VERY much want to save money to buy a family home for us to live in and my husband, who is a spender, isn't prepared to have a conversation about budgeting or saving? I know that $$ is one of the main things that people argue about and otherwise our relationship is great, but I want to have security for our kids and build towards our retirement."
Do you have the answer?
If you have a suggestion or idea for Kate let us know, by leaving it in the comments below. We'll enter your answer into our Tip of the Week competition, with a one-year membership to the Cheapskates Club as the prize. And keep an eye open, you may even see your answer in next week's newsletter.
"My husband and I have been married for five months, and are currently living with his parents. This is their wedding gift to us, so we can save as much as possible as a deposit on a home of our own. They offered us rent and utility free living for two years, which we are grateful for. The problem is grocery money (of all things!). Because of our work schedules, my MIL also does the grocery shopping and cooking (she's a great cook, I'm learning heaps) and we split the bill 50-50. Here's the rub: she does all the grocery shopping Coles and refuses to go anywhere else. She doesn't look for markdowns or specials, and flatly refuses to even consider generic brands. Last month our share of the grocery bill was $1,365 - even living rent free, we can't afford that! How can I , at 25 years old and a newlywed, tactfully introduce the idea of smart and frugal, budget shopping without any offence to my mother-in-law, who has been a housewife for 30+ years and has never needed to budget?
Do you have the answer?
If you can help Dianne let us know, by leaving it in the comments below. We'll enter your answer into our Tip of the Week competition, with a one-year membership to the Cheapskates Club as the prize. And keep an eye open, you may even see your answer in next week's newsletter.
2 flour tortillas or Mountain Bread*
2 corn tortillas or Mountain Bread*
2 tomato & basil tortillas or Mountain Bread*
2 spinach tortillas or Mountain Bread*
Nonstick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Put tortillas on a clean surface and spray with cooking spray, then sprinkle with seasonings to your taste. Flip over, spray and season the other side. Pile the tortillas up on a cutting board and cut into quarters using a sharp knife, forming 4 triangles. Put the cut tortillas on baking sheets, being sure not to overlap any. Bake in preheated oven until crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from oven and slide off onto a cooling rack. They will get crisper as they cool.
*Mountain Bread can be bought at your supermarket or online. You can order online from www.mountainbread.com.au There is a minimum order of 8 packets of Mountain Bread. If 8 packets sounds a lot Mountain Bread can be used for wraps, as lasagne sheets and in place of tortillas as well as making really nice chips. Bear in mind that it has a shelf life of 60 days, and can be frozen for up to 12 months. You can also share an order with a friend, delivery is free.
From the October 2011 Journal
My local greengrocer had a fantastic special on onions this week - 10 kilo bags for $3! That's just 30c a kilo - about an 80 per cent saving on supermarket prices.
I couldn't resist and before I knew it two bags had mysteriously made their way into my kitchen.
So faced with 20 kilos of brown onions what was I to do?
Well first off I roped in all the family and had them take turns at peeling - a half a bag each. That was the worst chore over and done with.
Then I took out the food processor and, using the chopping blade, I processed half of them. Now that's a lot of chopped onion, and I did it in batches. With my trusty 1/2 cup measure I portioned those chopped onions into ziplock bags ready to go into the freezer.
Those bags of frozen onion will be used to prepare rissoles and burgers, meatloaf, pies, soups and stews, casseroles, pies and quiche and anything else that needs diced or chopped onion this winter.
The remaining onions were sorted and any small enough to roast were blanched, drained and put onto a baking paper lined baking sheet and then flash frozen. I'll use these for our Sunday roasts. When they are completely frozen they'll be bagged up too.
That left about 7 kilos of rather largish onions. Those were sliced on the mandolin. They will be great for hamburgers and steak sandwiches and crumbed they'll make lovely onion rings. The mandolin had them sliced up, into lovely even slices, in no time. And again they went into ziplock bags, this time in 1 cup portions.
Now there is a green bag in the freezer, full of packets of diced, sliced or whole onions.
It did take a couple of hours to process that 20 kilos, but it will save me a lot of time over winter. When a recipe calls for onion I will be able to just pull a packet out of the freezer.
And know that I've saved around $24 too.
What do you buy in bulk to prepare ahead and freeze? Leave a comment and inspire us!
This post was shared from Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing
We have become very used to using fabric grocery bags in the last few years but we are still using millions of veggie bags each year (veggie bags are the plastic bags on the roll in the fruit and veg department).
Even if we re-use them over and over they still end up in landfill and they take a very long time to breakdown. If they end up in our waterways the potential damage is even worse. A solution is to use fabric veggie bags and keep a supply on hand, just as we do with the grocery bags.
When I first started using them I'd get some odd looks at the check-out. After an explanation of how I am trying to reduce my impact on the environment and avoid using plastic bags, and that I was prepared to pay the two or three cents more to cover the weight of the bag, it was OK. In fact these days my regular market stalls and orchards know me and don't even comment any more. Sometimes other customers do though, and I just go through the explanation again.
I’ve made mine out of tulle that I had in the cupboard, left over from our fairy party days and just waiting for another use and an old net curtain. You can use any light weight, sheer fabric. Remember, it has to be light weight, as it will add to the cost of your produce if it is too heavy. You can use old sheer curtaining (pick up a curtain or two at the op shop, mine cost $1.50 and made dozens of bags, or a garage sale if you don’t have any) or lace if you have it.
To make a veggie bag you will need:
Sheer, light weight fabric measuring 70cm x 50cm – use light tulle, lightweight curtains, nylon etc
1.5 metres of ribbon or strong twine
1. Cut the tulle into a rectangle measuring 70cm x 50cm
2. Fold in half widthways – your rectangle should measure 35cm x 50cm
3. Measure down 2.5cm from top edge on both sides and mark with a pin
4. Stitch down first side, starting at pin, and along the bottom to the fold. Turn bag inside out.
5. Starting at the pin, stitch around the bag again, this time along the seam. This will strengthen the seams and make the bag a little stronger.
6. Make the casing for the ribbon by turning the top edge down 2.5cm and stitching in place.
This makes a casing on the top of the bag.
7. Thread the ribbon through the casing, leaving a length at each end. Knot the ends together. To close the bag, pull up the ribbon and tie a slip knot.
This makes a bag a little larger than a large plastic veggie bag, perfect for family sized quantities of fruit and vegetables.
I keep my stash of veggie bags in one of the green grocery bags and they live in the boot of the car ready for shopping. Oh, and you can wash your veggie bags too when they get a little grotty (as they will with use). I toss them in with the towels or the sheets and line dry and they are as good as new.
It may seem silly to you to be using bags I've made myself, that will add to the final cost of the produce I buy (it's only a couple of cents, the bags are very light) when I'm trying to save money and live to our Spending Plan. I think of it as my contribution to saving the environment.
Plastic bags take a very long time to breakdown, even the ones made of organic material. And they do an almost incomprehensible amount of damage if they get into waterways. Animals get caught up in them, or eat them. If they make it to rivers, streams or the ocean then sea life suffers.
If I can not use just 5 bags a week, that's 260 less plastic bags to destroy the environment. Now imagine if every Cheapskater stopped using just 5 veggie bags a week - how many millions of bags would that keep out of landfill each year?
What an impact one simple, painless little action could have on our world!
Shared from Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing
I used to faithfully document the money we saved and/or didn't spend in a little notebook. I’d write down what I did and how much it would have cost if we had to buy it i.e. make a loaf of bread, saved 90 cents; repaired the hem on Wayne's work pants, saved $7.50; cut the boys' hair, saved $13 and so on. At the end of each day I'd move the "savings" from the particular spending plan categories into our Emergency Fund so that it was really saved.
I stopped jotting down back in 2007. I'm not sure why; life became busy when Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing was published, the kids needed more attention (teenagers are such a lot of work - fun, but a lot of work) and I'm sure there are a dozen other reasons excuses I could find.
I still shift money from spending plan categories to our Emergency Fund, only these days I do it at the end of each month.
My lovely friend Annabel over at The Bluebirds are Nesting started the Vicky Challenge last year. It's pretty much doing what I used to do - giving every task a dollar value and calculating the savings when it is MOOed instead of outsourced or bought.
I was thinking about this yesterday when I was in NQR (a discount grocery clearance store we have here in Victoria). A couple of months ago Wendy blessed us with some gravy sachets. Now, I normally make gravy from scratch using the pan juices, stock and plain flour, so I had no idea just how much these sachets cost. Hannah used them one Sunday when she cooked dinner and again when she prepared a meal with rissoles and it was very nice tasting gravy. So, when I saw them in NQR today I thought I'd get a couple as a treat. Until I saw the price! The discounted price at NQR was $1.89! I haven't been able to find them at Coles or Woolworths to see how much they are regularly.
Even so, at $1.89 each that's expensive gravy. Pan juices and stock are free, 2 tablespoons of plain flour costs approximately 5 cents. Add another 2 cents for salt and pepper and a jug of gravy costs 7 cents. That's a $1.82 saving! Just on gravy.
And that's a $3.78 blessing we received, and $3.64 I can move from my grocery budget to our Emergency Fund (I deducted the 14 cent cost of two lots of gravy).
In January Carol blessed me with beautiful papers and cardstock I can use to make cards and other gifts. I used the Kaisercraft price of 12 sheets for $5 to calculate this as I have no idea what the original retail value was I moved $15 from my spending money to our holiday fund.
It may sound crass to put a dollar value on blessings you receive, but I believe we receive blessings to fill a need. Sometimes we don't know we have that need when we are blessed, but it always pops up.
Making sure you use those blessings wisely is a part of being a good steward. And being a good steward means using our resources, including money, wisely. Saving the value of blessings is another form of good stewardship and financial wisdom.
Remember: money isn't saved until it is safely in the bank in your Emergency Fund, PoM Account or a specific savings account. Until then it just isn't spent; that's why I make sure I move the savings from the many blessings we receive into one of our savings accounts, ready to meet that need when it pops up.
This post has been shared from Debt Free, Cashed up and Laughing
This morning I was up at the crack of dawn. Actually I was up well before the crack of dawn as I had to be in at Docklands at the Channel 9 studio for a Weekend Today segment. I left home at 6.35am and it was still dark, but being a Sunday the traffic was light and I had time for a coffee before I checked in.
When I took the call about doing this segment I was so excited. This is something I know about. It's something I've experienced. It's something I've lived through. It's the reason I started the Cheapskates Club.
In the space of 72 hours we went from a two income family of four to a no income family of four with one on the way and half a house, waiting to be renovated, a mortgage to pay plus all the usual living expenses. It was a disaster. Like most people we knew we lived pay to pay. We had credit cards and we used them. We had a mortgage. And we had never heard of anything as sane and sensible as an Emergency Fund.
To say we were stressed is an understatement. It took me six long months to get my act together and realise that we could sink and lose everything we had worked for or we could change our attitude and our habits and get through what I thought would be a temporary hiccup. As it turns out that was one long hiccup - three years in fact. We survived, and from that disaster we grew stronger and much, much wiser and learned some valuable life lessons too.
Losing a job is a very stressful thing. But it's not the end of the world. You can control the way you react to job loss to ensure you come through stronger and happier or losing everything.
Firstly don't panic it is wasted emotion and energy. Take half an hour to sit down and take stock.
Get out your budget and have a look at your bank account and Emergency Fund. Do a pantry, fridge, freezer and garden inventory and make a list of the meals you have in the house. This will tell you how long you can survive without an income and how long you have to find another job. It may be a month; it may only be a week. Either way you need to know how long your money will last.
You would think this would be a no-brainer but there are those people who spend in times of emotional crisis, even though they know they shouldn't. You have nothing coming in to replace what you spend, so cut back on everything. Go back to the absolute bare essentials. No new clothes, toys, plants, books, eating out or takeaway, limit trips in the car to reserve petrol. If you do need to buy something look for the least expensive way: can it be bought second-hand? Could you get it free from Freecycle? Do you already have something that will do the same job? Will you find it at a garage sale or op shop?
Be ruthless with your grocery shopping. When we lost our jobs the groceries were the first thing to be cut back. Cleaning supplies were the first to go, replaced with a bottle of generic white vinegar, a box of bicarb soda and some elbow grease. Then the processed foods went: biscuits and cakes, snack foods, cereals (except for Weetbix and rolled oats), most tinned foods.
Brand names became a thing of distant memory. Generic labels became my best friends. If you have a favourite brand product and it has a cheaper alternative you are just going to have to suck it up and buy the cheaper alternative. You can't afford brand names. It's not forever, just until you get back on your feet.
If you're not working you'll have more time to cook from scratch. Buying basic ingredients costs a fraction of the price of the ready-made foods so you can still enjoy your biscuits and cakes, muesli bars, snack foods and drinks. The difference, apart from the cost, will be that you made them rather than bought them. There are over 1,400 recipes in the Cheapskates Recipe File, all of them good. There is even a $2 Dinner category and of course the Bare Bones Groceries meal plan and shopping lists are on the Printables page.
Go back to tracking your spending. It's all the little things you buy that do the most damage. By recording every cent you spend, on the newspaper, that can of soft drink, the groceries, the phone bill, the power bill, petrol and so on you'll see where the money is going and the areas that can be trimmed.
Switch to a Cash Only Budget
If you haven't already, stop using those credit cards. If you don't have the money to buy something, what makes you think you will have the money to pay for it when the credit card bill comes in? Now is not the time to be getting deeper into debt.
Get on the Phone
If you are going to be out of work for longer than two weeks, get on the phone and let your creditors know. Contact the credit card company, your mortgage lender and any other creditors and explain the situation to them. Let them know you want to continue to make payments and ask if they can be reduced for a limited time. Most creditors are sympathetic and understanding if you contact them immediately, before your accounts fall into arrears.
Make Finding a Job Your Job
Spend time every day actively looking for work. Register with agencies, look through the papers, and look online. Be brave and look at jobs that are new to you. Paper qualifications are good, but experience is valuable too. Don't think that you can't do a job because you don't have the paper that says you can. Of course there are exceptions to this, but for the most part experience and common sense are worth more than the degree.
Get your resume up to date and have it ready to email with job applications. Get copies printed ready to take with you to interviews too. Answer your phone professionally when it rings, it may be your future employer. Don't let your personal grooming slide. This is your job until you find a new one.
Depression will set in very quickly if you do nothing. Don't sit in front of the TV or computer all day. Get up each morning with a list of things to do. Look for work, weed the garden, paint the fence, fix the dripping tap, and clean the car, bake bread, volunteer at a local charity. Do not sit, idle all day, thinking about "poor me". It won't get you anywhere.
Take Work that is Offered to You
Now is not the time to be proud. If you are unemployed, you don't have an income. When someone offers you work, either temporary or permanent, take it. You need the money and the job. Look for part-time work - deliver pizzas, mow lawns, take in ironing. They may not be your dream jobs but they aren't forever. They are just to keep cash coming in. Wayne did all manner of things while he was looking for full-time work. He fenced paddocks, picked pumpkins and tomatoes, would get up at 3am to go out to a feedlot and put out the feed, ploughed paddocks and did odd jobs all over the district to earn some money. None of those things was even close to his trade, he did them because he had to have a job. Don't think that any job is beneath you. Work is work.
Look at the Long Term Picture
If you believe it is going to take more than a couple of weeks to find work (it took us over three years to find permanent, full-time work) you may need to think seriously about your lifestyle. Having money to pay the bills, put food on the table and keep a roof over your family's head are the top priorities. If you can't find any work you may need to sell some possession, downsize your home or car (or both), move to a less expensive area or change the children's schools. You may even need to move interstate, as we did.
And Lastly Build an Emergency Fund
As soon as you have an income start socking some of it away in an Emergency Fund. Years ago I would have said three months’ worth of living expenses was plenty. These days I suggest you aim for at least 12 months’ worth of living expenses. You won't be able to save that much straight away. Work at it every week. Start with just $10 if that is what you have and in a year you'll have $520. Add to it with bonuses, tax refunds, birthday money, money from garage sales - any extra cash that comes your way. An emergency fund gives you security and relieves the stress a financial hiccup, be it a week, a month or three years long, can cause.
Although when it happens it seems like it is, financial hardship isn't the end of the world. When disaster struck us, I thought it would be the end of our hopes and dreams. Instead it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to us. If we hadn't lost our jobs, with two little boys, a new baby on the way, half a renovated house, a mortgage and bills to pay, we would never have started living the Cheapskates way, learning how to live life debt free, cashed up and laughing and we would never have started the Cheapskates Club.
From Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing
When we started out on this journey it was all about frugality, with a little survival thrown in. Over time though, it has morphed into something else entirely. Yes, frugality is still a big part of our Cheapskates lifestyle, but it's not the main part.
I have come across and even met people who are so focussed on frugality that they have lost the joy in living. They are so focussed on saving money that they miss out on the things they would truly enjoy just to save a dollar. In their quest to save money they have become mean, and not just with their money, but with their sense of charity, their humour, their compassion, sympathy and empathy. They have forgotten why they chose to live a frugal life and live in loneliness and despair, scared to enjoy the fruits of their frugal ways.
That's not what we're about. Yes, we deliberately look to save money. That's just commonsense. Why pay more than you have to for something? But we don't sit in the cold because it's not cold enough to turn the heater on (when is it by the way? I always say not before Mother's Day but that's just a guide). We don't strain our eyes by only having one 40 watt light bulb burning, and we don't risk stubbing a toe because we only have one light on at a time. And we most definitely don't starve ourselves or run the risk of rickets because we only eat mince and rice.
Yes, I make my own washing powder (and if you haven't tried it may I suggest you do?). That's just commonsense. For around $10 and 5 minutes I can have enough of the best washing powder I've ever tried to last for a year. Why would I pay six or more times that price for a washing powder that makes my daughter itch unbearably and that causes us all to sneeze when we put clean clothes on?
And I cook from scratch. I actually like it these days. Pre-Cheapskates I didn't enjoy cooking at all. These days I take pride in serving delicious meals to my family, knowing they are budget-friendly, as well as nutritious. When I look at the shelves and see the jars of jams, apricots, tomatoes and sauces sitting there I feel a little satisfaction, knowing that the fruits of my labours (literally) will feed my family in through the coming winter.
So often the perception is that if you live life the Cheapskates way you don't buy anything new. You don't eat out or go to the movies, you don't have holidays, all your clothes are secondhand and your home is sparsely furnished with rubbish.
We don't eat out every week, but we do eat out on special occasions. And we always enjoy the meal. I think it's because it is special, something different to our normal meals. There is the saying that what you don't cook yourself always tastes better, I think that's because it's a treat, something out of the ordinary. When we eat out we can afford to go somewhere fantastic because we don't do it regularly, we haven't used all our money on run-of-the-mill meals. We've saved for one truly special meal. And you know what? Most of the time it costs under $50 for the two of us, often with a voucher, sometimes without.
Living frugally isn't about going without. It's about having the things you want, without the commonly associated debt. It's about seeing the difference between saving for a purpose and just saving. It's about understanding what is important to you and what is not.
I see no point in saving the shards of soap, just to boil them down and re-mould them into another cake when I'd much rather have a nice bar of my favourite shea butter soap and really enjoy my shower and my itch-free skin. I do see the point in keeping them to grate into my laundry powder - they're being used up and saving me money.
So, yes, it is about frugality. Frugality is important, without it we wouldn't be able to live the way we do. But it's not the most important part of our lives. We watch our pennies and look for ways to trim expenses because we like the end result - a debt free, cashed up life, where we laugh with joy every day.
What I'm trying to say is that living the Cheapskates way isn't just about saving money. It's about changing your priorities so that you can live life debt free, cashed up and laughing too.