Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another job or two done

Today I have completed 2 more tasks towards my holiday. I have rung Ashmore Palms and paid the deposit on our accommodation. Nice and easy and a job completed. Job 2 was the rental car. I have chosen to use the same car place we used last time. Lets face it great service, great car and super easy to find the depo - what more do I need. So I emailed them last night for a quote and today's response was $2500 for our trip. WTF? I thought that was really expensive. Scrolled down the quote and it said we were on the Gold Coast for 75 days. Hmmmmmmmm I wish! So emailed them back and corrected it to 15 days. The reply including pick up and drop off at Brisbane Airport is $490 less 5% if I book within 48 hours. So it's booked as well and another tick off the to do list.

Also to make sure I don't spend all my sanity allowance on silly things I have already placed $10 into the holiday fund. If I do this every week it will add up to over $300 by the time we go.

Other ways I have saved money today include turning off the heat pump while at work, opening the windows all day to dry the house instead of using a dehumidifier, powdered milk and stewed fruit with the breakfasts for the lads, stopped at the cheapest dairy for milk, and I have already hung out tomorrows washing on the line in anticipation of another lovely day. Fingers crossed that works out.

So all in all it takes babysteps to get there and one step at a time we will succeed.

Yippe this months mortgage goal!

I am very pleased to report I reached my goal of $1500 off the principal of my homeloan this month. $1524.25 was my total and I am smiling as I report that. I am getting closer and closer to my 2010 goal of getting my loan under $150k. Another month and a bit is all I need.

And on the holiday front it's so exciting to have it booked and the planning underway. Flights are booked, accommodation is booked and this next weeks job is the rental car. Flybuys points are slowly accruing and at this stage 2 days at theme parks are safely covered with these points. How far I have managed to come in the space of a couple of days.

In the back yard things are progressing slowly but I can see some signs of life which is always a big bonus. I've recently heard about a fantastic garden centre on the other side of town which sells grafted fruit trees which grow more than one species of apple, pear etc on each tree. My friend visited this centre today and reported back about how fantastic it is and now I really want to go there. Just need to hold off a few weeks but can you imagine how cool it would be to have 3 different types of apple growing on the one tree.

So having an early night tonight - it's going to be mighty cold here in the morning. -2 degrees expected over night so the only thing to do is snuggle in bed with a good book and an electric blanket.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's mortgage day tomorrow :O)

Thank goodness for the website . Without it I was wondering if I was a freak. I mean nobody else I knew got so excited at mortgage day. I only pay monthly seeing as I have an offset mortgage and if everything goes to my 10 year plan after tomorrow I have only 366 payments left to make. Imagine my surprise when I joined the above site and found others who are counting off the payments. So while I may not fit into the normal category at least there are a lot of others out there like me. I am aiming to knock $1520 off the principal this month. I'll keep you posted.

Holiday stuff seems to be falling into place. Tomorrow I will ring the accommodation and pay the deposit and then it's really all go. Need to look into rental cars too but were super impressed with the pricing and the service of the place we used last time. Not to mention the location is super super easy to hit the highway and also to find on the way back to the airport. Seeing as I will be the main driver this is important.

Still need to work on the math. Realistically we will be totally covered it just depends how much spending money I want to take. I want to take as much as I can figuring it's easier to bring some home than it is to clear credit card debt.

One challenge I have set myself for these savings is not to buy anymore clothing or toys for the boys or myself. Realistically I may need to get Mr8 another long sleeve top but will try hard to avoid it even if it means using school skivvies (just plain navy blue ones no writing) in the holidays. He has 2 non school ones which is normally sufficient for the weekends so it seems silly to buy him anymore. The only other thing I can perceive us needing is maybe another pair or 2 of school trackies. It seems the lads have just hit the stage when these things get holes in the knees. I will try and mend first though and hopefully can avoid that purchase too. Other than that there is nothing we should need and then I can shop at the outlet stores while away to get great deals for future seasons.

My other challenge is to see how much of my sanity money I can not spend and therefore save for spending money. I get $25/week and if I don't have a night out usually spend maybe $10. I'm going to try and have $10 each week put aside.

And the boys are up for the challenge too. Often on Wednesday we have sasuage sizzle at school. Usually they are allowed 1 or 2 items each, maximum spend $4. Tonight I told them they could have 2 things or they could just have 1 and put the change in their holiday money tins. The verdict? Just 1 please Mummy. Clever boys.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Holiday booking

This morning when I checked my emails before heading to work I noticed Air New Zealand had sent me some info on some great deals they have on sale to Australia. I noted that Brisbane was from $189 and thought that looked pretty good. Mentioned to my Mum who thought it wasn't that good a deal so went online to and wow did I spot a great deal. Myself and the lads to Brisbane and back for $1099. About $350 cheaper than last time I checked a few weeks ago. The boys return flights are only $99 each. I can use $237 worth of airpoints dollars so all up it will cost me $862 for the tickets. Yippee.

Now we have been saving for this holiday since we got back from the Gold Coast in March 09 so at that price we have enough saved for airfares and accommodation. The lads were given the task of saving to pay for a rental car and have managed to save about 80% of their goal so far. I have a flybuys card with enough points for a 2 day 2 park entry to Dreamworld and Whitewater World for the 3 of us so that's the first 2 theme parks sorted. Then I need to decide between 2 days at Seaworld or 1 day at Seaworld and one at Movieworld. Ah the decisions I have to make.

So I've penciled in accomodation for the Gold Coast and just checking arrangements for the Sunshine Coast and then it's all go with the booking of the airfares. Wow I cannot believe I did all that decision making in one day!

Belts will need to be tightened though to ensure we get enough spending money sorted but what better incentive can there be than an awesome family holiday? I must have suspected something was up yesterday as I baked up a storm - cupcakes, cookies and a slice all placed onto trays and frozen to be bagged free flow. No need to buy snacks for the lads for the next couple of weeks which is always a good money saver.

Oh and I forgot to mention yesterday I got fed up with looking at my money tin and wondering how much money was in it. Grrrr took to it with a can opener even though it wasn't full but would you believe my opener couldn't do it. Took the tin to work and Dad attacked it for me. Yahoo $203.30 which is enough to pay for the flights back from Brisbane for the lads. Then we did a money scrounge up at home and now have $245.70 towards the airfares. So I'll only need to use $617 from our holiday savings account.

So all in all a couple of busy days. Will take some time tomorrow to revise a holiday savings budget now I have a time frame and the costs for the flights and accommodation and see how much I need to save each week to allow for some shopping whilst away.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The great chicken debate

It's yet another rainy day here (well it is winter I suppose) and the lads and I have been discussing the logistics of getting our own free range chickens.

Question #1 - does our local council allow them? Answer: Yes but not roosters unless they don't crow. How likely is that?

Question #2 - do we have the space? Answer: Most definately.

Question #3 - can we build some sort of chicken run with minimal help? Answer: I think so. Might not be the flashest chicken run in town but as long as the chicks are safe that's all that matters.

Question #4 - is it cost effective? Now this is where the debate starts. Up until this winter I have not had to buy eggs for years. My X Mother In Law has hens and has always supplied us with our eggs free of charge. However this Easter they stopped laying and we have had to buy our own. Free range eggs here range from about $5-$7/dozen. Ouch. And we would usually use about half a dozen a week. I had no idea free range eggs were so expensive. And after eating them for years we enjoy the different taste and I couldn't go back to cage eggs. Now there is no point asking Mil for a costing as her hens are her hobby and she would have no idea how much she spends on grain, mash etc and I don't think she has ever kept a record of how many eggs they lay in any given week.

So with the big question out there does anybody have any ideas as to how cost effective free range chickens really are? I would imagine if we had 4 hens and averaged 2 eggs a day I could sell the surplus to a friend or two, maybe we could even get 6 hens. Also what are the downsides to these animals?

Off the chicken topic I have also decided to start taking note of what I do each day that saves us money. I'm curious to see how much I do that has become second nature. So I found an old unlined notebook and will start this today.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another job done

Well another job can be ticked off my list - the lawns have been mowed. I raced home from work and then challenged the rain to beat me. We it kinda did but I kept mowing anyway. And I must have started something because now I can hear the neighbour out with her mower. Hopefully that will be the last mow for about 8 weeks. There are some perks to winter. And in true money saving style I took one of the green waste bins from work to fill with my clippings saving my bin for weeds over the weekend. Sure beats paying to take stuff to the dump.

I have done about 1/3 of the vacuuming and am going to do the rest when I am finished here. The lads have their car mat out with an arrangement of very carefully placed vehicles so I am going to have to be very careful when I do the lounge. Then that only leaves me some more slippers to do. I have sent 11 pairs off today and still need to make more. 3 pairs of the medium sized boys are already sold and that's all of that size and colour I had made so need to get about another 6 or more done. I'm planning on just making them until I run out of sheepskin. The place I used to source offcuts from has closed so I'm not sure how I will go about making them after that. Hoping to get 5-6 more pairs of these done by Tuesday but that will only happen if the weather is lousy.

If the weather is dry I really need to get some weeding done out the front. I hate the front looking untidy as I worry that others will think badly. And I don't want them to think it's cos I'm a single Mum. It's really cos I hate gardening - or weeding anyway.

Right enough chatter it's time to finish the vacuuming and get some things done. Enjoy the day all - each day is special.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Making progress

Today I have made progress on a couple of fronts.

Firstly I have cleaned the bathroom and done the ironing and also worked on the slippers. I had no chance of getting the lawns done today but fingers crossed we get some good weather tomorrow and then I WILL do them I promise.

The other area in which I have made progress is my extra mortgage repayments. It's payday today and I have now achieved the goal of $500 extra for June to my morty. And there is still one more lot of family assistance to go through before the end of the month but that surplus is being kept aside for a small car repair job. So with that extra payment to the mortgage I will be 1 month closer to hitting my goal of $150k before the end of August. I am so close I can smell it.

Right so off to the slippers - want to try and get another pair done tonight as have to deliver some tomorrow. Yippee as that will help boost the holiday fund.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting things done

I have discovered that one of the secrets of getting things done is staying away from the computer and the internet. What a wonderful resource the net can be but at the same time it is so easy to just surf away and not realise how fast the minutes are ticking by.

Towards the end of last week and into the weekend I spent very little time on the computer and it was amazing how productive my days were. Grrr rain again today and last Sunday and wouldn't you know it straight back to lappy and wasting time.

Now it's not that I have lots of free time. There is a lot to be done at the moment and sitting staring at the screen gets absolutely none of it done. So today I am going to blog my list of jobs to do - just the little ones. That way I have put it out there and will feel more accountable.

-make 10 more pairs of sheepskin slippers for my Aunties shop
-mow the lawns (now obviously I need some more sunshine for this one)
-clean the bathroom
-do some ironing

Now my aim is to do the last 3 of these jobs by this time tomorrow. Task 1 will be slowly but surely but should take about 7-10 days. Job 2 well that remains to have a time frame set as it is weather dependant.

The other reason I want to try and spend more time off the internet is that I spend so much time looking for ways to save money and very little time actually doing it. So I have promised myself that I will make more effort to actually implement the ideas I find.

So hopefully tomorrow I can successfully report that I have made some progress.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A bright sunny day

Man it was cold this morning. A typical Canterbury frost mid winter. I don't know officially how cold it got but fr fr fr fr freezing were the words that stuttered out of the lads mouths when we headed for the car on the way to school.

The upside of such a freezing morning was a beautiful sunny day all be it a cold one. I checked on my new strawberry plants after work today and it looks as though they have taken kindly to their new home. This makes me happy as we could eat a punnet of berries a day in season. And lets face it nothing tastes quite as good as a just been picked, spray free berry.

And it's amazing how much happier people are when it's a lovely day. When I greet customers at work on nice days their response is far more up beat. And of course being surrounded by happy people rubs off.

So today I feel happy and positive. And all because of a little sunshine and some happy people I have come into contact with. Rain is forecast for tomorrow but long may this happiness last.


Today I have completed 2 surveys. Both just tiny rewards but rewards all the same. Firstly I did a survey for Smile City - 30 points then a Colmar Brunton survey for 20 flybuys points. Both were very quick and easy though and the points all add up to a bigger reward.

Our holiday savings are going well too. We are well on target for a holiday in February next year which is super exciting. I received an email today for the place we would like to stay and emailed them back to see what is the best deal they can do for me. You never know until you ask.

Mortgage savings are humming along as well. I am well on target for meeting my $500 goal for extra mortgage repayments for this month. Should even manage to squeeze out enough spare $$$ for a small car repair that needs doing so have booked that in for next week. It will be good to have another job out of the way.

Still no idea with what is happening at work but have come to terms with that. The first night after an offer I managed only about 3 hours sleep. Realised it's a long and slow process and if I kept that up I would be a wreck. Hoping to have a counter offer back tomorrow or the next day and then if that's accepted I can work out a plan from there. Something that really helped me out was the realisation that if they don't want me to continue on it doesn't mean I am not good at my job just that they no longer require my services. So until things are sorted I am doing my best to avoid worrying about things I cannot control. That said I am still being extra cautious about spending just in case.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A money saving day

Today we have spent no money at all. That's cool as I still have $10 of my sanity money left in my wallet for the rest of the week. This doesn't often happen.

Not only have we not spent but we have saved as well. The car has not moved from the driveway so the fuel will last a day longer, we got out into the garden between showers and filled up the work green waste bin saving a trip to the dump. I also baked scrolls for lunch making the most of ingredients we had in the pantry and fridge and there are enough scrolls left for tomorrow and Tuesdays lunch. I've rummaged around in the chest freezer and found enough muffins to add to lunch boxes for the week also. Will probably need to bake about Wednesday. It is worth noting though that Nutella scrolls do not taste very good so we will give them a miss next time. Oh well you live and learn and we only made 4 of those.

The boys have had a fun home day playing with Lego, drawing and creating and watching a dvd from our collection. Mr6 stayed in his pyjamas all day (his choice - he said he "couldn't see the point of getting dressed if he was staying home) so that saves on washing as well.

So all in all a really nice and relaxing day at our house. I love these kind of home days. The ones when we are not home because there is nothing else to do but because we choose to stay put for the day. They are the best.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A very productive day

Today has been a very busy and productive day and I am pleased with all my progress.

I had work today and it was really busy which was cool as it makes time go a lot faster. Before I knew it it was 12.30 and time to head back to Mum and Dad's to pick up the lads.

From there Mum shouted lunch. They had waited for me so I could join them. My choice and can you believe I chose Macca's. I am quite partial to a chicken burger and fries mmmmmmmmmmm I just love hot chips. Also by having that for lunch I was able to serve up a super quick and lazy dinner so it was perfect.

After that we headed to Oderings garden centre for strawberry plants. The berry patch is full with compost and I had hoped my budget would stretch to another 18 berry plants. Oderings had a great special on strawberries - 12 for $10 and seeing as I had budgeted $20 for this purchase I was able to get 24. So the berry patch is now full and waiting for a bountiful season. It looks super cool with it finished and this particular garden will just need maintence rather than regular replanting. So easy I just love it.

Also we visited my Aunties shop and I discovered they had sold $77 worth of my baby knitting + she purchased $54 worth of sheepskin baby slippers from me which was super cool. So on Monday the balance in the holiday fund will increase by $131 which will put a smile on my face for a week or two. Also I need to make about another dozen pair in the next week or two so that will be another holiday fund boost.

Lastly it was off to the supermarket. Planned spend was about $150 and came in with $5 to spare. And managed to get a few treats for us as well as a large pile for our stockpile. This is my stash of food and other items that will reduce my grocery spending over any period of reduced income. It's getting to be a rather healthy looking pile again. I always feel better when there is a decent amount of surplus food in the house and as things are at the moment I could probably do $30 grocery shops for about 10 weeks if I needed too. Ideally I would have double the supplies but I'm working up to that. I guess the question is - how much is enough and how much is too much?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The raised vegetable garden is prepared

Yay I have succeeded in meeting the mini goal I set myself earlier in the week. This is a big deal for me as I have felt a little aimless lately. The result of this is that not a lot has been achieved around this place over the last month or two. Today I can proudly say I have completed a task which is a great thing as I have written myself a to do list for the weekend.

One thing I did discover however is that 1 cubic metre of soil is rather a lot for a single Mum to shift. I awoke with enthusiasm this morning quite early which is really unlike me and was chomping at the bit for the sky to let me have enough light to get things done. The boys were fed and ready for school super early as they too were keen to get things done.

So at 8am and with it being a very generous 1 degree outside we got started before heading to school. About six wheel barrow loads were done before school and as you can imagine a rather messy me just dropped the lads at the gate and headed back to it. By about 9.45 am the job was completed and the two gardens full with lovely rich composty stuff and a small pile for garden three when it is built. I managed to get the trailer back by 10am which was at least an hour earlier than I had expected.

While still dirty I headed back to the garden after dropping off the trailer and transplanted 4 raspberry bushes, 1 blueberry bush and 6 strawberry plants to 1 garden and 4 broccoli seedlings to the other one. A job on my weekend list is to purchase 12 (or 18 budget permitting) strawberry plants to fill up the rest of the berry patch. That should see us eating fresh juicy berries over the summer.

After all that I was exhausted. I'm fairly certain I will have aches in parts of my body that I didn't know existed when I wake up tomorrow. Not to mention the fact that I will no doubt sleep extremely well tonight. Still it's all worth is as it looks fantastic and I feel great for having achieved something at last.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A new plan

Yesterday I told a girl friend (well sort of promised) that I would get to work on my raised vege gardens this weekend. Two of them have been built so far with two more and a sand pit to go at this stage and then two more gardens at a later date.

I have been reading the junk mail lately (must remember to put the no junk sticker back on the letterbox) and have seen lots of places advertising strawberry plants so the penny dropped and I realised it's time to get off my butt and start prepping for next season.

And now to make sure I avoid backing out of my promise I have been out today and brought compost - a blended one for two scoops and mushroom one for the other scoop. I picked it up last thing today and towed a trailer for the first time ever. Had a couple of goes at backing the trailer up the driveway and then gave up and phoned a friend. She sent her hubby right over and now it's up the driveway. And tomorrow I must move the lot first thing after taking the lads to school so I can get the trailer back asap. The garden place was really kind when I rang and after explaining trailer hire is $5/hour he said if I came between 4 and 5 pm I could keep the trailer overnight without any extra charges and just bring it back when it is unloaded. Great deal so I jumped at the offer. Fingers crossed for sunshine tomorrow.

So tomorrow will be shifting the compost into the gardens and prepping for planting over the weekend. I also have to move some existing berry bushes into their new home.

Rubber Chicken

Roast chicken again. Yum that has to be the most cost effective roast meal available. $9 chicken served tonight with roast potatoes and steamed veges, tomorrow as chicken with veges and rice, friday as chicken pie (or that's my plan anyway) and saturday night should see us move onto chicken soup/stew depending on how the recipie turns out.

So that's one of the ways I saved money today. Also we got milk at the dairy by work where it is 50 cents cheaper for 2 litres than it is at the dairy by school. And lastly after school we spent about an hour outdoors raking up leaves and mucking around in the yard. By the time the boys realised they hadn't had afternoon tea it was almost dinner time so they just snacked on a cruskit each.

Sun is supposed to be shining after a horrid frost tomorrow so washing machine is already in in anticipation of getting things dry the old fashioned way.

I have dedicated some time on Friday to doing a stock take on the freezer and the pantry so I can do an inventory. Will also do the stockpile and then make a comprehensive grocery list for the weekends shop. Will be good to see exactly where I am at when I get that sorted. Who knows what is lurking at the bottom of my freezer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thank goodness for ACC

Man this is the house of accidents lately. First my shoulder, then Mr8's arm and now his front tooth. I hope they read the wee mans paperwork properly and saw first accident happened at his father's and second at his Granny's. I was not present at either. They may start to wonder what I am doing to him!

So after slipping on tiles at Granny's house the young lad now only has 2/3 left of one of his front teeth. Off to the dentist for us - super lucky they could see us tonight as it is apparently important to seal it off due to sensitivity. They have done a patch up at this stage and it will be back next Thursday to do the final job.

So it was totally free for the treatment which I am so grateful for. I can only imagine the expense involved.

Otherwise on the money saving front not a lot achieved today. I did however bring home from work 2 boxes which I have started sorting out books into. One box is a definately for Trade Me box and the other is a maybe for Trade Me box. Mr6 is not overly impressed but due to the dentist debacle I haven't managed to fully explain the plan to him. Will give that one a shot tomorrow after school.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chocolate as a sore throat remedy

Today I awoke feeling totally lousy. I went to sleep with a scratchy throat last night and after coughing and spluttering my way through the night today has basically been a total write off. I rang in sick this morning, managed to drop the lads at the gate at school, came home and hung out a load of washing and then curled back up in bed.

Turns out this was the best thing I could have done. Nice warm bed, lemon and honey drink and then about 2.5 hours of sleep. Man I needed that. Slowly made my way from bed to the shower to the sofa before getting the lads from school.

The funniest thing though was when I got up from my sleep I read a friend had posted online saying chocolate is a perfect remedy for sore throats. She says if you let it slowly melt in your mouth it places a lining over the sore parts and they feel better. You know what? I think she is right. Or that's my excuse for all the chocolate I have eaten today and I am sticking to it!

It was raining again by the time I headed back for the lads - what a surprise. Luckily I had grabbed the washing when it started so it's now half dry and on the airer. The heat pump has had a real workout today as when we got up there was a severe frost and it got cranked up to keep us warm. Still again thanks to the heat pump I have avoided using the clothes dryer.

On the money saving front I had a no spend day. Almost stopped on the way home from taking the lads to St John's and treated myself to a chocolate bar but it was really pouring so changed my mind and had some more of the stash at home instead.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Meatless meals

Tonight we had a vegetarian dinner. Now we don't do this often as I have 2 growing lads and also I don't feel as full without meat.

My original plan for dinner was chicken and potato bake but when the boys got home they requested a true favourite - spaghetti pie. This is possibly one of the easiest, cheapest (depending on how much cheese I use - tonight a lot of cheese) yet still nutritional meals I make. Here's the recipe:

2 cans spaghetti (warmed for 3 mins in microwave)
1 quantity of mashed potato (still hot)
grated cheese - as much or as little as you like
OPT cooked bacon pieces

So all you do is heat the spaghetti, spread the potato on top, sprinkle with cheese and grill until the cheese is melted. Yummy. Real comfort food for winter.

Today it has been bitterly cold and this morning pouring with rain. So as a treat to myself I stayed in bed with a book until lunchtime. Only got up because I finished the book and had to head to the supermarket before the lads got home at 4. My grocery budget for today was $20.91 which would leave me with an extra $30 to spend on the groceries next week. Well what can I say Whittaker's chocolate was on special and I couldn't resist even though I have plenty of chocolate at home. Still got very close to budget though $21.59 so overspent by a whopping 68 cents. Next week I will head to Pak n Save with a budget of about $110 but might even go as high as $150 with another smaller week to follow that and even everything out. It is definately worth the trip to PnS if I am doing a big shop.

Other than that it has been a very quiet weekend. Car only went to the supermarket today so saved a bit of petrol, turned the heat pump off last night as the boys weren't home (and regretted it in the bitter cold this morning) and cheap meals. All in all a very good money saving weekend.

Shoes shoes and more shoes

Today we went to a cafe/gift shop for lunch with my Nana and my Mum. It was out at Ferrymead and was totally delish! All be it very expensive though. Although it appears it was only expensive by my standards as the place was packed to overflowing with all types of people. I think I have lost the ability to eat out without thinking how much food I could get at the supermarket for the same cost. I wonder if I will ever be able to eat out without making comparisons again. Still at least the food and the service was great.

As part of a detour on the way back we stopped at an adults shoe shop. Actually it was mostly a ladies shoe shop and OMG some of the shoes were to die for. The only problem was the cheapest ones I found cost $199.90 which is well kinda out of my shoe budget. Oh there was another small problem - the brand was called Eject and I couldn't help but think "reject". There was one particular pair I really liked which cost $499.90. Now they were full leather knee high boots so at least there was a lot of leather to them. But it begs the question - do people really spend that much money on shoes? And do they ever wear them or do they look at them all shiny in the cupboard afraid to wear them in case they get ruined? I know I would do the later.

On another completely different note the sun was shining again leading to a very productive money and sanity saving day with the washing. 3 loads were washed and almost completely dried - just finishing off on the airer now. And I have promised myself that before I head to bed I will rotate and fold everything that is dry so that tomorrow when I get up the first thing I see will not be washing all over the house. Of course I will have to put it all away too but that's ok I'm sure it will be worth it.

So it's a quiet night for me - home alone. It's amazing how empty the house seems when the lads are not here. So far I have watched a dvd - The Hurt Locker. Fantastic movie all be it very different from what I would usually watch. I am planning an early night with one of the many books I got from the library yesterday. Cheap, quiet and relaxing - what more could a single girl want?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Super quick supermarket shopping

This week I have a shopping list that is much longer than my budget. Now not much on this list is essential more like 10% essential, 20% desired and 70% stockpile. As time with work on the market goes by I am feeling a need to increase my stockpile as much as possible.

The only 3 items I really needed now on the shopping list were broccoli, frozen corn and chocolate (chips for baking and Whittakers for eating). Realistically I could probably go a couple of weeks and other than perishables and eggs we would be fine. So I decided to call in super quick to the Countdown by work and just get those items on my way home. Hmmmm well that's not quite what ended up happening but I am very impressed with the outcome. Firstly the 3 items I went in for were not on special. Not even 10 cents off. But I did notice there were quite a few other things we always use that had great deals on. Things like 5 cans of spaghetti for $5 - Watties and saving of $4.25. Diamond pasta 2 packets for $3 saving $1.18. Maggi 2 minute noodles 2x5 packs for $5 saving $2.38. All up I got the things I really needed and a decent stash for the stockpile for $29.09. It should have come to almost $40 so that's a great saving.

So all I will need to get this weekend at my local New World is eggs, milk, bananas and Charlies mandarins. I'm thinking I'll allow myself $20.91 and then I'll have an extra $30 to spend next week which should hopefully see my list finally fitting my budget.

I find that for me the best place to trim the budget is on the food category. There is so much wastage in many peoples homes and a lot of people don't even look at what items cost they just toss them in the trolley. By buying and stocking up on specials you can reduce your grocery spending by about 20%. And better than that it's actually simple - all you have to do is plan ahead and pay attention.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Swimming lessons

Today was swimming day. It's hard at this time of the year to find the inspiration to leave a nice warm house and take the lads to the pool. And I don't get into the pool so I can only imagine it is much harder for them. We have unfortunately missed the last 2 weeks of lessons due to colds and xray appointments so it is really important we try to make it to the last 4 weeks of term.

Another reason to try to make it to every lesson is the expense. And let's face it swimming and other extra curricular activities can be very expensive. And of course there can be a huge variation in cost and quality of such activities.

We found somewhere that was really cheap in comparison to the place we were originally using. The class sizes were the same, it was about the same distance from home and because we have a Community Services Card due to being a low income family the fees were reduced and a fantastic price. Even better than all that though was the fact that after their lesson the boys could splash and play in the main pool for as long as I would let them. We managed to get a Sunday morning lesson which meant their father and I were able to alternate weeks to take them. Sounds perfect doesn't it and the budget definately agreed. However in practice there were 2 big problems which affected Mr8's ability to benefit from these lessons. Firstly the teacher didn't hop into the pool with the children just stood yelling instructions from the side of the pool. Also it meant he was unable to correct arm strokes and breathing problems in a hands on manner. Worse than that though was the temperature of the pool. The poor child was so cold in that pool that even with a thermal on under his swim gear his lips and fingers were drained of colour within minutes of entering the water.

So after a few weeks of shivering and tears at lesson time we pulled him out. His brother continued to have his lesson in the other pool and X and I would take turns trying to teach him while the little guy had his lesson. Eventually we just left him to have fun and splash about and then they would have play time together.

So on the one hand this was a huge waste of money but on the other we learned a valuable lesson. Cheapest is not always best. Lets face it cheap lessons where a child struggles to swim 5 metres are not beneficial. Slightly more expensive lessons in a warmer pool where he can swim about 15 metres are much better.

We never returned to our original place of lessons however as they are really expensive. Instead we went to the swim school that the boys school uses for their lessons. The facilities aren't flash but the staff are fantastic and hop in the water with the children, the pool is usually pretty warm and the boys have fun. Price wise they are about half way between the 2 extremes we have found elsewhere.

No spend day

Today I can proudly say I have not parted with a single cent. Now that is a reason to celebrate and I am happy about it. Every day I manage to keep every penny of mine in my bank account makes me one stop closer to debt free.

This is one of the times when having an offset mortgage and a credit card which is paid in full every month works to the advantage of the mortgage holder. With the way my mortgage works I still pay a standard 25 year minimum payment but having money in savings means more of that payment goes towards principal than a standard loan.

Of course this only works if you are careful. With the way my package is structured I can redraw any extra payments I have made but not as simple as heading to the ATM or logging on to my banks website. This feature makes the BNZ Total Money package better than a normal revolving credit loan in my opinion. It means I can't splurge at the mall because I can use the redraw and I still have to budget for all my expenses. It's a great way to get ahead and it is working for me. Each month I am managing to pay an extra $85 in principal simply for doing nothing and showing some self restraint. All up in the almost 3 years I have had the loan I have managed to pay off about $3000 extra. And this is money I will never have to pay interest on ever again. In my opinion that's a great deal.

So if you want to save money and pay off your home loan faster just like I do then look into offset loans. They are not overly popular in NZ yet but if more people want to start using them more banks may offer them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Holiday planning

Today I got out the holiday planning information and decided I am going to have to pick up the pace a little.

We are planning 2 weeks in Queensland in March of next year and so I have been putting aside $20 every week for this. I've also been collecting air dollars on my credit card purchases (CC paid off in full each month so no interest charges) and making sure I swipe my flybuys card to collect those points whenever possible as well. Also when we started saving for this holiday in March of last year after the last trip I was being very good and putting lots of bits and pieces extra into the savings fund. One thing I started especially well at was selling outgrown or unused stuff on Trade Me with all funds being set aside for the holidays.

I have however gotten very slack lately and it's been quite a while since I last topped up with anything extra. Every spare cent has been hitting the morty or paying back the money I borrowed from the lads to buy the dishwasher.

Some might say just postpone the holiday but for us that's not an option we want to do. Our last visit to the Gold Coast was one of the most amazing things we have done as a family and all 3 of us are really keen to do it again. So I guess it will be tighten our belts time. Lol we might have to lose weight though as there's not a lot of room to make things tighter. Actually tightening the belts is not at all an option as there is no way we could find the extra money we need.

So it's on to plan b then. Plan b is back to the beginning. Get some stuff sorted out and sold on Trade Me, save any unexpected windfalls and make sure I am making the most of the CC and flybuys for the points.

So far I can fly me to Brisbane with air dollars but I can't come home and I can't take the lads. I want to get enough points for at least my return flight. To do this I need to make sure I make as many purchases as possible on the CC.

With flybuys I can get all 3 of us in to Dream World and White Water World for free on a 2 day 2 world pass. I will ask my parents to get us Sea World passes for Christmas. Then I need more flybuys points so I can transfer them over to air dollars and hopefully pay for one of the boys return ticket. Again with this I just need to shop smart and remember to use my card.

The rental car is a goal I have given the boys when we got back from the 2009 holiday. I have given them a target of $500 to save for the rental car + they need to save their own spending money. It's up to them how much they save and so far they are at nearly $400. Not long to go and they will be onto their own spending money.

So other than accommodation and my spending money a lot of the big stuff is worked out. The main problem is the small stuff - the boys both need new passports, petrol money for the rental car, food money for groceries as we won't eat out all that much, a fund for misc. expenses that come up unaccounted for, and travel insurance should cover all the bits and pieces. I currently have enough money saved for about half the spending money and all the accommodation.

Here's the dollar values of what we need. This is kind of ball park figures as a lot will depend on how the currency stands at the time of booking and travel. Also I won't know what if any special deals we will be able to take advantage of.

Passports x2 $180
Food $200
Petrol $150
Travel insurance $70
Airfare x 1 child $450
Airport taxes $200
Spending $750 (minimum)
Total $2000

Now that is assuming I manage to scrape together enough air dollars for both mine and one child's return flights. I am currently putting aside $20 each week and have about 38 weeks to go. So we will still be about $1250 short at this rate.

$1200 in 38 weeks. That's my new goal. Now for ways to achieve it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Super cheap cheese

Countdown supermarkets have a super special deal on cheese for the next couple of days. $5.99 for 750 grams. As part of keeping my grocery budget as low as possible ($80/week or less) I have to pay attention to specials like this. Luckily I have a wee friend who always emails me things that are a great deal. I missed this special yesterday so called back in today as I was driving past and grabbed 2 blocks. Now I didn't really need cheese this week as we had almost a whole kg in the fridge but this really is a great special that shouldn't be missed. And lets face it cheese in an unopened packet really does last quite a while.

One step better than that though I borrowed a girl friends blender with grater and grated about 2kgs which I have divided up into bags and placed in the freezer. About 90% of the cheese we use is grated so this is perfect. And it will come in especially handy when I make scrolls for the lads lunchboxes as the hard work will already be done.

So lots of cheese in the freezer now for me which is great and also I now have 3 pounds of butter in there as well. These are items that are essential in our house and getting them on special for financially tight times seems like a smart idea.

I baked chocolate chip cookies today using the Sophie Gray recipie and OMG they are the best cookies I have ever tasted. I also added a cup of rolled oats to the mix just to improve the nutritional value. That's a good thing as I have not stopped eating them since they came out of the oven. I am glad I gave some to the girl friend whose blender I borrowed as it means less for me to eat.

Also money saving in another sense I have not had to feed the lads a lot over the long weekend and that will continue tomorrow as well. They have spent 24 hours with my parents and will spend most of tomorrow with their Granny on the other side so I have saved on a lot of food. Also they brought home 6 caramel surprise muffins from my parents place this morning which will go in the freezer for lunchboxes. Actually it might be a good idea to organise a freezer stocktake and use up all the baking in there to make room for a good meat stockup.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rain rain go away.....

But do not come back another day! I am so over the rain. I am over looking at the washing filling up my lounge room. But I am determined I will not cave and use the clothes dryer.

I have leaves that need raking outside as the trees continue to drop them everywhere. Our place looks like a carpet of leaves. I did get some raked up yesterday but not enough. And now it is raining again for the next few days so it will have to stay carpeted.

We haven't done much that is saving money these past few days. Mostly just the little things we do on a daily basis. I have managed to put about $10 in my money tin however and other than a blocked drain problem yesterday no unexpected expenditure. One thing I learned yesterday was that if you notice a problem on a Saturday get onto it straight away. The charge for the drain layer was $112.50 (which given the job was a fantastic deal) but had it have waited until Sunday or heaven forbid the public holiday on Monday then the bill would have been much larger. I am super grateful that I discovered the problem first thing Saturday morning saving us a lot of money.

Dinner tonight was a $$$$ saver though. A jam sandwich and maybe a banana later on if I get hungry. For lunch we had ciabatta bread with cooked chicken and I am still full. Or maybe I am full because I ate half a packet of m&ms. Either way I don't feel hungry so had a super cheap dinner.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I can't believe I forgot

Wow we are 4 days into June and I have not updated on my reason for this blog. That is getting my home loan down to a big fat 0 in my 10 year time frame.

So 30 May was "M" day and payments were made and interest added. I hate interest with a passion. Then again it is a necessary evil for me as there is no other way I will have a home. At least now my interest rate is a reasonable 5.99% rather than the evil 9.1% I settled for when moving day arrived.

So last months payment of $1440 to my larger loan included $613.26 of interest. This month was a little better - $609.14. So that means each month I will pay approximately $4 extra to principal. What I am pleased to see is the $830.86 that came off the total loan balance this payment. It's great to see that over half of my money is improving my overall balance. Then there is the smaller more pleasant loan. Now this one I almost like as it is approximately 50% offset which is fantastic. This is also the loan I throw all spare money at. This months payment was $260 + $500 extra. Only $72.87 was for interest meaning I paid $687.13 off the balance. I would love to have this loan fully offset if I was to be unemployed but that might be asking too much.

Whichever way you look at it though for the month of May I managed to reduce my home loan by a whopping $1517! I am always super happy when it goes over the $1500 mark. Not bad for a single Mum on a very average income :O)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

And the key to success is ..............

Organization. I cannot believe how smoothly the mornings have gone these last 2 weeks. It has been amazing. Ok so I had to bribe the lads to walk themselves into school but it has been so easy. I wonder if I will keep it up next week?

Had to take Mr8 for x-rays today as his hurt arm was still sore. $32 because ACC no longer covers the full cost. One has to wonder what you do for medical care when you are truly broke. Thankfully all is good so it's just bruised. At least we won't have to sit for hours at the hospital over the long weekend now.

We have planned a very quiet weekend. I have to pick up a car key from the city on Saturday morning for my Aunty and Uncle and the lads have the party on Saturday as well. We will catch up with my folks and visit my nana in the afternoon and have a quiet evening. Also the lads will be staying with my folks Sunday night so I can have a nice sleep in on the public holiday Monday. Yay for sleeping in.

Anyway brought myself a puzzle today because I am spending far too much time online. Off to see if I can get the edge done before an early night.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

1 Chicken 4 meals.

Wow. Last weekend I brought 4 size 20 chickens. I had read on Simple Savings of members getting 3-4 meals off chickens this size and thought it would be worth trying the size 20 instead of our usual size 9 which does 2 meals for $5.

Day 1 Sunday - roast chicken and vegetables.
Day 2 Monday - chicken noodle stir fry.
Day 3 Tuesday - chicken and pasta - just me tonight.
Day 4 Wednesday - was supposed to be chicken soup but turned more into chicken stew.

So that was successfully one chicken 4 meals and 3 nights of very simple dinners as the meat was already cooked. Very happy I stocked up on that one as we now have weeks of simple meals ahead.

So thanks to Simple Savings I have found yet another way to make my grocery money stretch a little further and we still had healthy meals. I will definately keep an eye out for chicken specials like that in the future.