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Dollar Diet 2017: Week 37

money 2

Now I’ve finished a piece of work that was sucking most of my spare brain-power, I have more time again to devote to my blog and all things frugal.  This week I was stuck indoors with sick kids.  I thought we’d escaped the worst of what winter has thrown our way, but no, my tots seem to be catching everything just as the weather is warming up.

This week’s frugal happenings:

  • Made two batches of tortillas which I used for enchiladas and burritos.  Tortillas are seriously easy to make (it’s the cooking them that’s the time-consuming bit), and once you’ve had home made tortillas, you’ll never buy commercial ones again.  For the enchiladas I made the sauce from scratch too.  Yum!

 

  • Found a mint-condition Tinkerbell summer dress from Disney at a secondhand clothing store, which will make a perfect gift for my friend’s daughter who is turning 5 soon.  She is really into long, swishy dresses and this one fits the bill nicely.  The wrapping paper and card are, as usual,  handmade by my tots.

    party dress tots in tawhero

    Such a cute dress!

  • Stayed home most of the week.  This has been a self-enforced embargo on going out as my children came down with conjuctivitis.  It is doing the rounds here at the moment and is ridiculously contagious.  Anyway, saving my town from more pink eye saves me money on petrol and saves me from the temptation to spend.

 

  • Stocked up on basics that were on sale at the supermarket.  It’s not often I come away from a supermarket these days, saying ‘Wow! Great bargains today,’ but this happened to be a week where many of our regular groceries were heavily discounted.  Items like canned corn and tomatoes were 75c each, toothbrushes were 58c etc so I stocked up on as much as I could and still came in quite a bit under budget.

 

  • D won some headphones in a competition he entered quite randomly.  He already has a great pair so he sold them on for $130.  Apparently there’s quite a demand for decent gaming headphones, and the buyer was very happy with his purchase.

 

  • Purchased at $60 meat pack from one of our local butchers, which I’ve then divided up into 14 meals (some of which include our whanau* night, when we feed 5 adults and 4 children).  As we eat several vegetarian meals a week, I won’t have to buy meat for three or four weeks.  For NZ prices, this pack was a great deal, working out at just over $4 per meal.

 

  • D’s tax return finally showed up!  That is now salted away with other savings to help with our moving costs.  As we are moving islands (which requires taking our household goods and cars on a ferry), our moving costs will be in the thousands.

 

  • I made a batch of gluten-free date scones with baking mix left over from my 100th failed attempt to go gluten-free.  We have a GF family at my church, so I thought I’d surprise them with something nice for morning tea after the service.

 

  • Gave a bagful of grapefruit to friends.  I am not making grapefruit marmalade this year as we are likely to be moving soon and I am trying to take as little as possible with us.  I am really going to miss all the free fruit our garden provides us with!

 

  • We had several meatless meals, including baked potatoes, which D reckons are the best foodstuff ever invented.

 

Lest you think I am some sort of saint, I did splurge on some unwarranted things this week.  After several days inside my MIL offered to take both my tots for the afternoon.  I was so thrilled, I went to a cafe because I felt like I needed to celebrate!  It was wonderful to spend time without being whined at, or having to wipe snot or eye gunk.  I also went to a Tupperware party (for a friend’s birthday) where I came face to face with an old friend, their children’s tea party set.  My brother and I had one growing up which we LOVED.  I remember holding many, many tea parties in our shed.  The tea set wasn’t too expensive (I don’t usually buy Tupperware as I think it is outrageously overpriced) and I plan to stash it away to give to the kids as a joint present at Christmas.  So there you are, suckered in by nostalgia!

Image result for tupperware kids tea set

Who remembers this?  Ah, the colours of my childhood.

 

 

* whanau: (noun) extended family, family group, a familiar term of address to a number of people – the primary economic unit of traditional Māori society. In the modern context the term is sometimes used to include friends who may not have any kinship ties to other members.

 

 

 

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Effortless ways to save money

Effortless ways to save money tots in tawhero

I want what she’s having…

I am an avid reader of frugal blogs and articles about how to stretch my dollar further. Many ways to save money require time and effort, like cooking from scratch to de-cluttering and selling off your unwanted stuff.  I’m not averse to putting in my time or my effort to save money, but thanks to my AI disease I may not have the oomph required or I just don’t have the time.  But there are still loads of things we can do to save money without taxing our brain cells.

Here are some truly effortless, very-little-brain-power-required ways to save money:

  • Use a third or up to a half less sugar or cheese than indicated in a recipe
  • Likewise, swap out some milk for water in a recipe
  • In fact, use less dairy period.  Even here in New Zealand, the dairy capital of the world, the price of butter, cheese and milk is getting off-the-charts-ridiculous.  A word of caution though: many dairy-free recipes can still be costly because they use things like almond milk or coconut oil.  Search for depression-era recipes for cheaper dairy-free alternatives.  beverage, black-and-white, business
  • If you are a multiple cup of tea or coffee per day person, boil the water once, and make up a second drink in a travel mug (heck, if you use the same tea bag you probably won’t notice).  This way you save money on power and resist the temptation to buy a cup of coffee/tea if you’re out and about.  If you are going to be at home, pour the hot water into a thermos.  Now, if only I can remember where I put my thermos…
  • Drink water.
  • Switch off the lights in rooms that aren’t in use (I am CONSTANTLY doing this is my house, sigh).
  • Put your spare change into a piggy bank at the end of the day.  My brother (who is on a very limited budget) does this and is able to really treat himself every few months with these savings, which helps with the grimness of life on a benefit.  He regularly finds he’s saved $60-70 once his piggy bank is full.  White Piggy Bank on Brown Wooden Surface
  • Shut the fridge door as quickly as you can.  
  • If you are heating a room, shut the door! (My family, this one is for you!)  My kiddos, like everyone else’s, were born in a tent.
  • Don’t have time to use up that produce before it goes off?  Chuck it in the freezer.  Veggies can be added to soups and stews and fruit into smoothies.
  • Unplug appliances at the wall if they use standby power (e.g. microwave) or at the wall for appliances that don’t (e.g. toaster)
  • Reduce your portion sizes.  Experiment with how much food leaves you satisfied.
  • Put on warmer clothes if you feel cold, rather than switching on the heater.

    Put on your coat and hang out with a tree

  • Use less meat or include more vegetarian meals in your diet
  • Buy generic.  Supermarket own brands or budget brands usually come with significant savings, and many times these products are EXACTLY the same (often made in the same factory!) or they are indiscernible from the market leader.  I have certain brands that I prefer because of the taste or results they give, but you can bet I’ve tried all the generic alternatives first.  If it’s something I’m not picky about, like headache pills or canned tomatoes, I go for a generic brand every time. I use a generic brand moisturiser (of which I only need a tiny amount so it lasts for ages) and save hundreds a year.

    Women in Yellow Dress Holding Hands in Purple Grassland

    Buy generic so you have more time and money to hang out in lavender fields with your mates

  • Find a frugal alternative to your favourite-but-expensive recipes.  There are loads of copycat recipes out there.  I find it also helps to have a think about what it is you like about a certain meal.  I know for me, it’s often the sauce or the dressing!  My family loves to get fish and chips as a takeaway.  Recently we decided it was just the chips we love, so now we bake frozen, crumbed fish fillets at home while D nips off to buy the chips.  This saves us several dollars.
  • Use less.  Experiment with how little shampoo, soap, moisturiser etc that you can get away with.  You may not notice any difference if you reduce the ‘splonge’ of shampoo you regularly dish out to yourself.
  • Use it up!  Opening up toothpaste tubes, mayonnaise bottles, foundation tubes, moisturiser bottles etc to get the dregs at the bottom mean you really get your money’s worth.  I find when my moisturiser is getting low and won’t squirt out anymore, storing it upside down means I get another two or three weeks out of it!
  • When your spray cleaner is half empty, dilute with water.  I don’t notice any difference in its effectiveness.
  • When an old bulb blows out, swap it for an energy efficient one
  • Make extra dinner portions for an effortless lunch the next day.  The savings from making your own lunch instead of buying it can be huge.
  • Double or triple a baking recipe if you can squeeze the extra portions in the oven, or if it’s something that freezes well, like cookie dough.
  • Embrace the slow-cooker.  They will save you so much money!  Cheap cuts of meat become mouth-watering, and prep is minimal for many recipes.  My favourite curried chicken recipe requires no more effort than chucking whole pieces (because you can shred it later) of chicken into the slow cooker, along with a tin of coconut cream, a tin of tomatoes, and a few spices.  It takes me all of two minutes!  Roasting a chicken in the slow cooker takes me maybe 40 seconds as all it needs is rubbing with oil.  The added bonus of slow-cooked roast chicken is every single piece of chicken will fall off the bone so nothing is wasted.  Once everyone has eaten, I leave the carcass in the cooker with water, a few veges and some seaweed to make nutritious chicken stock.
  • If it’s a warm but not boiling hot day, switch off the air conditioner in your car and open the windows.  Free stock photo of road, traffic, man, person
  • Read your free community newspapers to find free or low-cost things to do in your area.  My city has cool events on almost every weekend, and they’re usually free.
  • Stay home!  If you’re bored and don’t know what to do with yourself look up lists like this and this for inspiration.
  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists for stores that are your kryptonite.  If you don’t know there’s a sale on in your favourite store, you won’t be tempted to spend.  Ditto group deal sites.
  • Do subscribe to mailing lists for stores that sell the essentials, so you know when the sales are on.  I stock up on winter coats and thermals for my kids a year ahead when these items are at rock-bottom prices (how weird is this saying, by the way?).
  • If you’re not already on Pinterest, sign up and create frugal ‘boards’ for tips and recipes.  You can find my frugal recipe board here.  When I’m out of inspiration or time when I’m meal planning, my Pinterest board comes in very handy.
  • If you are on a power plan that gives you a night rate, push the ‘delay start’ button on your dishwasher or washing machine so you can take advantage of it.  comfort, control, cooking

 

Share your effortless ways to save money below:

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Dollar Diet Week 5: Love walks in

An unexpected expense hit our wallets this week – getting the house flea-treated.  Yuck.  Extremely frustrating as we didn’t have any pets (although we do now, more on that later).  It wasn’t a bad infestation or anything, but I react very badly to insect bites so we had to take action asap.

Aside from that, it was a relatively frugal week.

I:

  • had friends over/visited friends
  • made bread and baked cookies with the children
  • made several jars of plum chutney, as our plum trees are fruiting nicely
  • passed on outgrown clothes to friends
  • packed lunch and snacks when out and about
  • hung out at home as much as possible

The big news is that my Dad won a girl’s bike in a competition!  The bike is really decent (it’s an expensive brand) and will last Sausage for several years.  She turns five next year so getting her a decent bike was on my radar, but Dad’s win has saved us quite a bit of money.

bike-tots-in-tawhero

Happy girl!

I am always on the lookout for free or cheap things to do with my family, so when I spotted an article about ‘Wheels in Whanganui’ happening over the weekend, I marked it on the calendar.  It’s the first time this event was run, and was a collection of cars, trucks and other machinery for families to come and look out.  They also had bouncy castles, a merry-go-round, other rides and food stalls so there was very festive atmosphere.  It was run as a fund-raiser, with a small entry fee to get in ($2 each for D and I, kids free) and it was a fun and frugal way to spend the afternoon.

 

At the end of the week Chip and I spent the morning visiting his new kindy (more on that later).  A little calico cat was hanging around much to the delight of the children, but no one had ever seen her before.  She was obviously hungry and looking for company and it was love at first sight for me.  We only live around the corner from the kindy, so I thought I could take her home until we discovered who her owners were.

We knocked on doors and I put her picture on Facebook.  We found her owner within a few hours.  Only the ‘owner’ didn’t want her anymore as they are moving countries, nor had they inoculated  or spayed her.  Don’t get me started on irresponsible pet owners!  Anyway, she has a new name and a new home (Sausage’s bed…), and she’s a brilliant cat, so we feel like we got the better end of the deal.  She’s been with us a week now and I am besotted.

cali-tots-in-tawhero

Seriously, who could resist that face?

Crazy Cat Lady, that’s me.

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Dollar Diet: The cost of keeping feet shod

This week bought its usual share of expenses, most of which were not a surprise.  I went to the dentist for an initial check-up and will have some work done in a few weeks time.  Our dentist is very reasonably priced so it’s not going to blow up our bank account.

I bought some seedlings for the first time in ages because I just hadn’t gotten around to planting seeds over the holidays.  The weather has been so terrible that pretty much every good-weather day was spent out and about making up for the bad days.

I went to a cafe as a treat, and I must admit I find this a hard habit to break at times.  It’s really interesting though, because it highlights my ‘need’ to have a treat.  I’m working on where this may have come from, because it is a strong impulse.

I went with friends to the lovely Ashley Park (petting zoo, picnic area) , and had a great time feeding the animals and watching the children enjoy themselves.  I think Ashley Park is really cheap compared to similar places, and I thoroughly recommend it.

I bought Sausage a bookcase for her room, as she has more space now Chip has vacated his cot for his big boy bed.  Sausage, like all children, has various trinkets and treasures that seem to multiply overnight.  Due to lack of space they would invariably end up on her dressing table or the floor, but now they are nicely corralled into the bookcase.  I found a small, low bookcase which I think is made of rimu at a second-hand store for $45.  This is a bit pricey for the size of the bookcase, but I’d rather have that than the MDF options that were available.  It has the bonus of being low enough to fit under most windows, so it may come in handy if we ever move house.  Which looks likely in a  year or three.

Our biggest expense was shoes for the children.  They both outgrew their shoes at the same time, so inconsiderate of them.  Finding decent shoes in New Zealand is a problem.  I often have to source mine online, which I don’t like as I do prefer to shop locally when possible.  Most department stores here get cheap shoes from Asia which a) don’t fit properly and b) fall apart if you so much as sneeze in their direction.

Fortunately we can find good shoes here in Whanganui for children, although they are two or sometimes three times the price of the cheap shoes.  My tots trash their cheap shoes really quickly, so it is a false economy to buy them.  Buying the more expensive shoes saves us money in the long run as they withstand all that play quite well.

With Sausage, we’ve often needed to buy two different-sized pairs of shoes because she has a club foot.  Even though her foot has been treated successfully, it will always be smaller than her other foot.  In her case her foot is one size smaller than the other, and in some people it can be up to three sizes smaller.  As you can imagine, buying two pairs of $80 shoes that she’ll grow out of in a few months gets me right in the wallet.  Not to mention have to chuck out the two shoes that are perfectly fine!

Fortunately one of our local stores has a great range of Bobux shoes.  They are quality, NZ made shoes that are recommended by podiatrists.  At the visit this week, I discovered that they hold Sausage’s feet so well, I didn’t need to buy two sizes.  Her smaller foot is totally fine in a slightly bigger size.  Phew.  Oh, did I mention the shoes were on sale?

I got Sausage a pair of Mary Janes and a pair of sneakers, and Chip got a pair of boots.  He is almost out of his sneakers, so I’ll be back for more soon.  I reckon tots only need three pairs of shoes: a good, serviceable pair that they can play in and that might do for a special occasion, a pair of sneakers, and gumboots in winter/sandals in summer.  And that’s extravagant in many countries.

So yeah, buy quality.  You know this.  A good pair of shoes will outlast several cheap and nasty pairs.  I think it’s getting harder and harder to find goods that quality these days as brand names are no longer an indication of something well made, but that’s a rant for another time!

This week I saved money by:

  • Staying home a lot.  I pottered around the house and garden with Chip.  He spent an hour and a half playing in his sandpit or watering the plants the other day!  Which is 2.7 years in toddler time.
  • Packing lunch and snacks when out/at work
  • Having an at-home date night
  • Baking (I made a THM cheesecake, which was terrific, hooray!)
  • Meal planning
  • Inventing whanau night.  Our friends hosted this week’s dinner, and we bought a side and dessert.  It’s a fun and simple way to catch up on a weekly basis.

Next week will involve lots of jam and chutney.  I have a surfeit of plums and grapefruit.  Yeehah!

 

 

I am not affiliated with Ashley Park or Bobux shoes in any way.  All opinions are my own.  They both rock.

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Dollar Diet: Week 3, a binge

Last week was in no way frugal as the kids and I took an impromptu trip to Wellington.  I needed a change of scene, and D needed some peace and quiet, so when I found a decently-priced holiday home on-line, I went for it.  We had two nights away and had a great time.

I’d been thinking about taking my tots to Bug Lab, an exhibition on right now at Te Papa.  I wasn’t sure if it would be too scary for my tots – who love bugs and insects – but the entry fee wasn’t too pricey ($20 for Sausage and I, Chip was free) so even if they hated it I figured it was worth a try.  The exhibition was amazing.  My tots did get a bit scared as it’s not every day you see insect models that are the size of a small car.  Sausage still enjoyed it and we spent a good half an hour looking around.  Chip got scared, but was content to play with the interactive stuff outside of the bug ‘lairs’, and of course he loves the rest of the museum.  If you’re an NZ parent who is thinking about taking your kids, I wouldn’t recommend it for under 4’s.  School-aged kids, heck yeah.

I’m looking forward to travelling by bus to Te Papa in the future so I don’t have to pay for parking.  At the moment my tots are too little to walk from the bus stop to the museum (a reasonable distance), and the thought of taking our stroller, backpack and two tots on a bus gives me a panic attack.  Anyway, another time perhaps.

We caught up with several friends on the first night, and it did my soul good to see some of my favourite people all at once.  We kept it simple, fish and chips from the local takeaway, and had some vigorous Donald Trump discussion around the dinner table.

We took my plane-obsessed son to Wellington airport.  It cost a little for parking, but it was worth it to see his excitement.  Even Sausage enjoyed it.  We followed it with a trip to Lyall Bay beach.

airport-tot-in-tawherobreach-tots-in-tawhero

I got little sleep the first night, as it was Chip’s first night ever in a bed.  He fell out twice.  Fortunately there was a spare mattress I was able to put down on the floor beside him.  Anyway, the upshot was I was so tired the next evening I was too knackered to cook, as had been my original plan.  I couldn’t face greasy takeaways again, but I managed to find a local Indian place that delivered.  Chip slept just fine that night.

In fact, once we got home he decided he wanted to sleep in his ‘big boy bed’.  He’d been rooming with his sister, and we’d been using his bedroom as a playroom and spare room for guests.  I’m delighted that he’s transitioned smoothly from his cot to his bed, but it has meant springing for a new duvet/sheet set so there is a spare in case he wets through/when one is in the wash.  I have bought second-hand bedding in the past, but it ended up having fleas in it(!), and I can’t bring myself to give it another try.  I managed to get him a duvet, duvet inner and sheets for $60.  Chip fell out again once this week so we used the pool noodle trick from Pinterest as a bed rail.  It was only a few dollars.

We’ve been enjoying all the sights and sounds of Whanganui’s best event: the Vintage Weekend.  Our city is host to all things vintage – cars, fashion, music, boats, a soapbox derby, planes…you name it.  I was feeling in rather a party mood – it is my favourite time of year – so we bought lunch there rather than take it with us.  D and I got some expensive sandwiches, but as they were pretty much the best sandwiches we’ve ever eaten, we’re okay with that.  The beauty of this weekend is that most things are low-cost or free, and it really is a joy to participate in.

Anyway, after all that spending I did make some honest attempts to limit any more.  This week:

  • I packed lunches and snacks, including when we were on our trip.
  • We’ve stuck to our meal plan and used up leftovers.
  • I included free activities on our trip, such as the beach and a visit to a friend.
  • We enjoyed a free lunch out using a gift card.
  • Although there were loads of things we could have spent money on at the Vintage festivities, we settled for a traction engine ride (a gold coin), a ferris wheel ride ($3) and entry to the family zone where free games, activities and bouncy castles were available (gold coin).  Looking around at the amazing car collection or listening to bands playing cost nothing.
  • D and I enjoyed a date night at home, watching The Mask of Zorro.  Love that movie.
  • We had our first whanau night.  My brother has been coming over for dinner once a week for ages, and now we’ve expanded this to include our friends who recently moved here.  One week the guys will go off to Toastmasters while the kids play and my friend and I have a chat, and on the non-toastmasters night we will play board games.  We’re alternating who hosts, and we all contribute to the meal.  Simple and fun and much cheaper than a restaurant!
  • We went on some free outings in Whanganui.  The kids and I went with friends to Gordon’s Reserve and Kowhai Park.  Hours of fun for zilch.
  • Swapping childcare to get a break.  My daughter gets on well with my friend A-M’s daughter, J.  J came over for an afternoon so her mum could get a break.  (It ends up being a break for me too, as the girls play so nicely I barely see them.)  A-M had Sausage for a few hours the following day.  Both times I was able to get loads done on a sermon I was writing.
  • I managed to get 3 sets of summer pyjamas for Sausage for $4 each.  I couldn’t find any in Chip’s size but I will keep a look-out.  I buy for the following year at the end-of-season sales and save big.  Even though I am not buying a single item of clothing for anyone THIS year (none of us need a thing!), I am still practising the frugal habit of buying ahead for next year.  I save huge amounts of money doing this (along with buying ahead second-hand, accepting hand-me-downs and going to clothes swaps).

 

This week has left me feeling rather a sham at frugality!  But I guess I am grateful that we have the money to go on impromptu trips.  Next week will definitely involve belt-tightening and getting back to basics.

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Dollar Diet: Week 2, a frugal birthday party

This post is late as last week ended in a flurry of birthday party, broken arms, sermon writing, special visitors and planning a spur-of-the-moment trip.

The week was mostly spent hanging out with friends, and D went back to work.  One of my best friends A-M recently moved to Whanganui with her family so we’ve had loads of fun spending time with them.  Our kids are close in age, and our four-year old’s are particularly firm friends (most of the time).  Oh, did I mention that Sausage turned four????  Before I get on to the party details, here are some of our frugal happenings:

  • D took lunch to work
  • I packed lunch and snacks for the kids and I, if out and about
  • The kids and I did free stuff, like play dates and parks
  • We used up our leftovers
  • I hung out at home with my BFF, R who helped me prepare for the birthday party, and survived it.
  • R, A-M and I had an extremely rare night out with just the three of us.  We worked out it was 16 years since the three of us had been together like this.  We had a great time, and kept the cost down by going out for drinks and a snack after dinner.

Er, I can’t think of anything else because my mind was frazzled by Chip ‘breaking’ his arm.  He was mucking around on our trampoline with D and then lots of crying and ow’s ensued.  They weren’t sure if the arm was broken (he hurt the elbow area) but they strapped it up and Chip was back to his frenetic self in a couple of days.  He was very proud of his sling and displayed it to all with a loud ‘I got hurt!’  We took him back this week and it turned out not to be broken, so phew.  I am incredibly grateful for the free health care children receive in New Zealand.

Birthday party time!

4th-birthday-2

My beautiful Sausage is now four.  She is most definitely in pre-schooler territory.  She’s long and lanky, and is a funny, confident, easy-going kid who you can actually reason and negotiate with.

As her birthday is in January (summertime in NZ) I have her birthday party at home and let the kids rampage around our massive back yard.  I try to keep it small and simple, but she’s still at the age where parents and siblings come along too, so it always ends up being bigger than I think.

I’ve whinged about it already, but our summer sucks.  It’s been the worst one I can recall, and naturally it rained on Sausage’s birthday forcing us indoors.  Still, we had a lovely time and I spent a whopping $40 on the whole soiree, which includes party food and drink, the birthday cake, decorations and prizes.

As is often the custom in New Zealand, some friends and family offered to bring a plate of food, so that saved quite a bit of money (and prep time).  R and I made a vege and hummus platter, popcorn, egg and ham sandwiches, cheerios and sausage rolls (requested by the birthday girl).  The food from other people meant there was more than enough to go around.  Drink was juice leftover from Christmas (we don’t normally drink it) which I dilute with soda water.  Kids love it.

I saved money by making the cake myself.  I talked Sausage into having this easy cake.  I had my BFF here the night before Sausage’s birthday which is usually when I’d make the cake.  I wanted to maximise my time with R, so I opted for easy, easy, easy.  I made the cake her favourite colour (pink), and put a big 4 on top using sprinkles.  She loved it and everyone said it was delicious (I don’t eat sugar, so I don’t know!).4th-birthday

Professional cakes can cost upwards from $100 dollars.  I consider it a waste of money to buy a cake, when my child loves the cakes I make just fine.  It makes my wallet cringe when I see the elaborate cakes people seem to be buying these days.  I bought $6 worth of sprinkles (most of which weren’t needed in the end, so hit me up if you want some) but otherwise we had all the ingredients in our pantry already.

Sausage also requested ‘Tunip cupcakes’.  For months leading up to her birthday.  Tunip is her favourite character from the show ‘The Ocotonauts’.  Tunip looks like this:

tunip_prof

Not overly complicated I guess, but would certainly require lots of different colours for the icing.  I knew I would have little time and limited fondant colours so I did the next best thing.  I found some free Octonaut cupcake toppers on Pinterest, and iced the cupcakes blue.  They were just as popular as the birthday cake, and Sausage was thrilled with them.  I didn’t get any decent pics I’m afraid.

Decorations were limited to some balloons given to Sausage, streamers we bought in the Netherlands that we put up for parties, and a couple of purple tissue balls ($4) which will likewise be used again.  I don’t do themes, and won’t unless my tot asks for it.

For the first time ever for a birthday party, I bought disposable plates and cups.  I hate these things, but there were several wee ones present and we don’t have enough kid-friendly crockery to go around.  I bought recyclable things, including paper straws.  Someone had given Sausage the party whistles previously, and I managed to get matching stuff.  We have some left over, so expect to see them next year too!

party

We played two games – Pass the parcel, and pin the carrot on Olaf – and I purchased the prizes for peanuts.  One prize was a tin Star Wars lunchbox, and another was a decorate-your-own-mask set.  Simple.  My mother made some beautiful gift boxes for each child to take home, and these were extremely well-received.

Sausage was given some amazing gifts, some of which (like a make your own wand set, so cool!) I have purloined to bring out on a rainy day.

I learned two things:

  1. Outside parties are so much better for my floors which looked like a cake bomb had exploded on them and,
  2. You can never rely on old Mother Nature.
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Dollar Diet 2017

Oh Dollar Diet, I never really left you, but it’s so good to be blogging about you again!

For my newer readers, I first embarked on a Dollar Diet back in 2015.  I had already changed a lot of my spendthrift ways, and look back on those days with some shame and embarrassment at the money I wasted.  Despite getting more financially literate, D and I seemed unable to save much despite a good income.  We needed to plug the holes in our budget.

The Dollar Diet is simple.  Buy what you NEED.  Think long and hard before buying what you WANT.  Is it necessary?  Can you do without it?  Can you borrow it instead?  Save up for it?  Even NEEDS can be slimmed down by growing your own fruit and veg, or bartering and borrowing when possible.

My 2017 list of needs is much the same as it was in 2015:

  • Groceries (since beginning the Dollar Diet I hardly ever go over budget!)
  • Electricity, firewood
  • Internet/phone
  • Netflix (How else can we watch Designated Survivor or Travelers?  I’m addicted.)
  • Insurances
  • Petrol, vehicle maintenance
  • Rates
  • Tithing, sponsor children, church activities
  • University money for kids (we put $10 a week into their accounts)
  • Doctor’s visits & prescriptions, dentist visits
  • Kindy and playgroup fees
  • Gifts (making what I possibly can myself)
  • Haircuts (we both only get our hair cut 2 or 3 times a year)
  • Moisturizer, foundation, bug spray (mozzies LOVE me), undies – A
  • Theology papers, Toastmasters, a few invention gizmos – D
  • Rubbish & recycling collection
  • House maintenance (2017 EDIT: I will be mowing our huge garden myself this year.  Our new mower will pay for itself in a year)
  • Chicken feed
  • Shoes and underwear for the children, and a raincoat for Chip (he refuses to wear this AWESOME fire chief one I found secondhand…)
  • Holidays (free or low-cost accommodation where possible)
  • Sausage’s hospital appointment (she is still being treated for a club foot, which means 1 trip to Wellington a year)
  • A fun budget: to fund the odd meal out/takeaway/family outing
* Rent/Mortgage is not on the list as we own our home freehold.

My list of needs will doubtless look different to yours.  For D and I, holidays are vital to our sanity.  We have a family holiday coming up in February that we have been saving towards for a couple of years, and I cannot wait!  Some might see kindy and playgroups as a want, but for my sanity they are on my needs list.  Both my children are extroverts, and are much, much happier when they are busy, challenged and socialising with other kids.

It’s the things that aren’t on the list that save you money.  No buying lunch everyday.  No takeaway coffees each morning.  No splurging $300 on a pair of shoes that are almost the same as the pair you already own.  No mindless following of ‘fashion’.  No buying takeaways just because you don’t feel like cooking.  Getting rid of magazine subscriptions, gym subscriptions, any subscription that you don’t honestly use.  No buying books (that’s why libraries were invented)or pretty tchotchkes for your home.  No greeting cards and wrapping paper.  No lavish gifts.  No recipes requiring pricey ingredients.  No expensive holidays.  No meeting up with friends for brunch at an expensive cafe.  No costly plays, concerts, exhibitions. No extravagant hobbies (unless it makes you money or saves your sanity).

The fun and the challenge comes from trying to find free or frugal alternatives to keep living the good life.  Instead of going out for brunch, host a pancake breakfast for your friends.  Take up running instead of going to a gym.  Pack your own lunch and your coffee for work.  Have a meal or two in the freezer for the nights when you are too tired to cook.  You get the picture.

I must advise that the biggest learning I have had from the Dollar Diet is the importance of having a fun budget.  Skimping and saving can get relentlessly grim without a few bright spots to look forward to.  These things don’t have to be extravagant, but small treats that feed your soul most definitely have a place in the Dollar Diet.

Our savings goals are pretty simple: have a good cushion for 2018, when D changes vocation and our income takes a nose-dive.  And enough money for a wee holiday or two.

 

What are your savings goals this year?