Friday, April 30, 2010

24 hours for ME!

Yay. It's the one night a fortnight the boys stay with their Dad. I never used to be an advocate of Me time. In fact I used to think it was selfish. Now as a single Mum I long for my Me time, and by the time that night rolls around I am desperate for some peace and quiet.

Usually on this weekend I have Saturday off work but today my boss was sick again and I was called in. Luckily when Dad (my boss) is sick in the weekends my Mum is always ok to have the boys for an extra morning. This means I didn't get my usual quiet time Saturday with the lads but it also means they had fun with Nan instead. Today they went to Time Zone. Not a very frugal option but lots of fun. To make it better value for money I had a double dollars coupon meaning for every dollar you topped up you got a dollar added (lol for free!) The boys had a fantastic time and with the offer it cost $10 for them to get to do the kinds of things the other kids at school do. A big thanks to our friends who gave one of the boys some money for his birthday for a day just like today. Sometimes being frugal and trying to pay off the mortgage early takes a back seat so the boys enjoy the same activities as their friends. Other times we manage to find even better activities for free. Also yesterday as a shared birthday gift the boys were given a Hoyts gift card. Next school holidays we can go to the movies only having to pay a small amount towards my ticket and I can keep the money for the mortgage instead. Gift cards that can be used on activities rather than "stuff" are a great idea and save the parents of the recipient money at the same time.

So after a fun morning and some time in the afternoon playing educational games online and with their Lego the boys have gone with their Dad. My house is quiet and now it's all about ME. I try to avoid housework in this childfree time but getting out into the garden is ok. I also try to have nutritional meals that are extremely cheap and take little effort to cook. Often leftovers, salad sandwiches or omlettes. That way I am still taking care of myself but saving money at the same time. Tomorrow I am aiming for a car free day which will be my biggest money saver for the weekend.

On the grocery challenge front I am going really well with the exception of milk. Remember I was supposed to be making powdered milk for cereal? Well I cannot find my make a shake thingie I use and forgot to ask Mum if I have left it at her place. This means I will most likely need to buy 3x2 litres of milk since my challenge began but will hopefully not put me too far over my $10 goal. Alternatively I could find a different container to mix the milk in and just measure the water quantity using a measuring jug.

Good times with good friends

Today I was asked to work a whole day rather than my usual finish at lunchtime as my boss was sick. I always hang out for the end of the week and some time to myself when the lads are at school but it wasn't a hassle to stay later today. We had already organised to have a play date with friends so instead of me joining in I stayed at work and my girlfriend took the lads to her place. I joined them later for fun, laughter and fish n chips (shouted by the boss to say thanks).

In our circle of friends good times are always had on fish n chip nights. Nothing beats a group of people whom chose to know one another sitting and enjoying a Kiwi classic. Now yes we could cook dinner cheaper and much more nutritionally balanced but it wouldn't be the same as sitting together on the floor passing around the tomato sauce. 5 children, 2 adults and a great evening. What more can you want out of life?

How does this work to save me money and reduce my debt you may be wondering? Especially on the nights when we actually use our own money for our dinner. It doesn't! For our family saving money in some areas is so we can still spend in others. We still have great times with our friends and family but chose ways that are not expensive to do it. When I was a child fun times didn't usually involve spending obscene amounts of money on bottled water and bakery food, expensive indoor playgrounds and 3d movies. A glass of fizzy or a cream bun was a treat. Same for heading to the beach or local playgrounds. It's a lifestyle we have come to shun in these times. And it's a real shame as our children are not learning to appreciate treats in the same way we did. We need to spend less time "planning outings with the Jones's" and more time creating memories.

On a money saving note I didn't have to cook dinner tonight which will especially help the fact I have $30 for food until next Friday, I've borrowed the green waste bin from work again so can get rid of some garden rubbish for free and I charged my cellphone while at work as I thought it would be fine for a half day but maybe not a whole one. Total saved probably about $8 so as a token gesture I've put $5 into my money tin.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Patience is a virtue I don't have

I want my mortgage gone and I want it gone now! Anybody else ever feel that way? The biggest problem for me is lack of money to do it as fast as I want to do it. I can imagine how it would feel to not have the monthly commitment of paying for shelter but I simply do not have enough money to be there right now. I must tell myself daily I am doing the best I can possibly do with my current income and to focus on that rather than what I cannot do. I'd love to have my morty gone 5 years from purchase date but with already 2.5 years gone and still over $150k to go it aint gonna happen. So I will have to settle for 10 years which is still a great effort.

What has brought on this current bout of impatience? It's mortgage day tomorrow. My payment and interest get applied and I see how much of my payment disappears down the drain to interest. At the end of each month I feel this way. I know interest is the cost of borrowing but I don't like it.

So to turn my nose up at the bad stuff I have made an effort today to save money. I stopped and got petrol on the way to work and put the $1.60 I saved using a supermarket coupon in my money jar. I got milk at the dairy by work rather than by school and saved another 50 cents. Tonights dinner was leftovers from last night with pasta. Savings from my grocery challenge will be added next Friday when I see how well I have done. All little savings but if I could manage to save $3/day I will have $1000 in my money tin over a year.

I have a quiet weekend planned and may be computerless if mine is not back tomorrow. Can only beg borrow and steal for so long. I plan on at least one day of the weekend being carless so that will save on petrol. Sunshine is forecast so hopefully that will save on using the heatpump.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Making dinner streeeeetch further

I'm back online today after borrowing Mum and Dad's computer again. Last night I was computerless and it was boring after the lads went to bed. I have spoken to my girlfriend who has mine and apparently it has rather nasty viruses and thingies jumping all around inside it. Drats. Hoping to have it back for the weekend and fingers crossed it will still be fixed within the limits of bartering.

Last night the boys had dinner with their Dad. I had to go to the supermarket for a few bits of fruit and veges so decided I would get Fridays groceries over and done with at the same time. I still have $30 left of grocery money so that will have to stretch until next Friday. I think we can do it as all we will need is more fruit and vege, bread and milk. So for the next 10 or so days we will be making all our food streeeeeeetch just that little bit further. I have decided to set myself a challenge to see how much of that $30 I can keep in my bank account instead of using it for food.

Luckily carrots were on special for a 1.5 kg bag so to help the fruit go further today they had carrot sticks in their lunchboxes. Man they were super happy about that which is great as they will be getting them again over the next few days.
I also have lots of tomatos left in the glasshouse so that will work for one of the boys. Those things put together should help the fruit supply. Each child gets 2 pieces of fruit/veges in their lunchboxes each day along with a sandwich/homemade pizza/scrolls and 2 x baking/snacks. To save on bread I will bake another batch of scrolls and another batch of either pizza bread or pizza bases and that will save on using sandwiches. I have lots of flour and yeast for baking bread and also biscuits etc to fill up the snack category. When we run out of broccoli I will just frozen veges and there are lots of carrots and potatoes to see us through.

So looking at it that way maybe I will get away with just buying milk. In 10 days we would probably use about 6 maybe 8 litres of milk costing less than $10 however I also have powdered milk in the fridge that I will start making again for breakfasts and baking/cooking. Hopefully that will cut the milk back to a maximum of 4 litres or $5.

So there's the challenge I guess. 10 days and the only food I can buy is 4 litres of milk and a bunch of bananas. Can we do it? I'm sure we can.

Tonights dinner was a perfect example of how it can be done. $3.29 got us almost 500g mince. Add to that 1 can pureed tomatoes, 1 maggi cook in the pot, 2 cups frozen veges, 3/4 cup rolled oats and 3 large potatoes and I created enough mince for 2 cottage pies and also another serve of mince which we will have tomorrow night with pasta. All up the cost would have been less than $7 for 3 nights dinners. And healthy, balanced meals at that.

So that's the start of streeeetching my food further. I'll have to do a lot more than that to make the challenge a success and I'll keep you posted as to how I am going.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My baby is growing up - frugal birthday parties

Today my baby turns 6. I feel a little sad at this as he is growing up far too fast. At the same time each year means he is getting more independent and also more helpful. Just yesterday he went outside and without being asked raked up the leaves into the greenwaste bin for me. Boy I love my lads.

On Saturday we had his birthday party with a grand total of 10 friends, their step brother and my boys. Add to that 4 grandparents, Mummy and Daddy plus 1 other Mum who chose to stay. Definately a full house on a rainy day.

Now prior to being a single parent birthday parties were an all out occasion involving big budgets, over the top party food and loot bags to keep up with the Joneses. I am proud to say that this birthday the only extra we spent was on fish and chips for tea for ourselves and friends who came to help me assemble all the lego my wee man got.

And even better than no extra expenditure was the fact that we had a perfect amount of party food and it was the kind of party food the best parties had when I was a kid. Cherrios, fairy bread, chocolate finger biscuits, fruit kebabs, chips, cheezels and birthday cake. All this food except for the cake came in with my weekly grocery budget last week.

The birthday cake as always was made by my Mum who enjoys making the lads cakes each year. I enjoy not having to stress about the cake. Instead of loot bags Mum also made a batch of cupcakes which she decorated like cookie monster which each child took home. Man they looked awesome. Reasonably cheap to make but very time consuming. Thanks Mum.

We had 2 prizes - 1 for best dressed and 1 for pass the parcel. Both cost less than $5. Pass the parcel was wrapped with recycled Christmas paper, birthday paper and brown paper from packages at work over the last couple of months. Much cheaper than using brand new wrapping paper like I used to.

For the gift I asked the grandparents and his father to all contribute so we could get him some of the bigger sets of lego. We all spent the same amount as usual but his presents were far better value for money and one of the sets he would never have gotten due to it's price. Hopefully all parties were happy with this deal and we will continue to do this for future birthdays.

So that was "6 on a budget". And even better than that was the fact my wee man told me at bedtime that that was the "bestist party ever". What more could a mummy want to hear at the end of a fantastic day?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Babysteps money savers

The last couple of days I have been absent from my blog as my computer is getting un-virused. Now I'm not sure if that is actually a word but I think you all know what I mean. It has a free anti virus program attached but somehow something managed to get in anyway.

Now computer repairs are not something I allow for in my budget as I am very lucky. I have a friend who can do these sorts of things for me. Thank goodness for that. Actually I am very lucky in that I have a lot of good friends who all exchange services for child-care, baking etc. It's amazing what you can trade/barter with friends if you think about it and the money it saves is freed up for something else. In my case the mortgage.

I find the best way to make these savings count is to put an amount -either what I would have to pay to get the jobs done or just a token gesture into a money tin. Eventually when the money tin is full you can transfer it to debt or use to increase savings. On Friday we biked to school and back - a trip of approx 5kms. I've estimated my car costs about 20 cents/km to run for petrol so I took $1 out of my petrol envelope and dropped it into my coin jar. If I don't do it this way I find the savings just get wasted on other stuff.

Today we went to McDonalds (I know not very frugal) to meet up with a group of like minded ladies from Simple Savings. Instead of ordering the lads happy meals and winding up with yet another junky toy I ordered a cheeseburger, hamburger and a large fries for them. They had their drink bottles already with them as we were staying a while and they were spending a reasonable time in the playground. $3.30 saved and put into the money tin. Simple as that.

While each of these savings is small they all add up. There has been no difference made to the quality of our lives and we have managed to save money without noticing. Best way to save money in my opinion.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Step two: My journey

My journey as a single parent began in March 2007. I purchased our home in August 2007 after alot of looking. Looking at homes I couldn't afford, some I wouldn't live in no matter what and others that just weren't quite right. I had in my head $200k was the most I could afford to spend even though the banks were offering me more. I am so glad I followed my gut instinct about how much was too much.

With big smiles we left the rental lifestyle behind and moved into our own home again. Fortunately after years of hard work and saving I had a decent deposit to get us started but I still needed a mortgage of $190k on a very fixed income. Interest rates were high at the time - my fixed loan was 9.10% and at it's worst my floating rate got to 10.49%.

For the first 6 months I stumbled along just making the minimum 25 year repayments and spending any surplus. To begin with spending was on stuff we needed after splitting most of our possessions in half. Then the shopping began just to make myself feel better. I constantly worried the boys then 3 and 5 were missing out on things as a result of coming from a single parent family.

One day I woke up and realised there had to be a better way. I've always budgeted but never actually had a fixed plan for the surplus. I had been receiving emails for months from a website called Simple Savings - and finally decided to give it a go. They offer a money back deal so if you are not happy within a year they will fully refund you. No questions asked.

This site literally changed my way of thinking and started me on my journey. I've always been frugal and environmentally friendly - the two often go hand in hand - but this was a whole new perspective.

I am proud to say that 2.5 years into my debt free home challenge I have managed to pay $33,529 of my mortgage on top of the interest repayments. How have I done it so far and how do I plan on continuing? Follow me and I'll show you one day at a time.

Step one: My first ever blog

Well here it is my first installment in my journey to pay off my home mortgage in 10 years or less. All while living on a tight budget as a single Mum.

I'm a 35 year old single Mum of 2 fantastic boys aged 5 and 7. We live in a simple 3 bedroom 1 bathroom home in a nice neighbourhood in Christchurch. One of the huge incentives for buying this house was the full size section with the mature trees for the lads to run, play and climb. The downsize of the full section was the higher price on the property however I decided the bigger mortgage was worth the space we would have.

Buying and moving into the first home I had ever owned by myself was one of the scariest and yet most empowering things I have ever done. I feel empowered as a mother and a woman that I can provide for my family and put a roof over our heads. However I am constantly concerned at the high level of debt I have taken on (by my standards) and am working at ways to reduce that debt daily.

My blog will be a step by step guide to my journey to owning my own home and being debt free within 10 years. I hope to post daily sharing the little things I do towards saving money to be paid off towards my mortgage.