Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hooray for good friends

We are so lucky.

Lucky to live in such a beautiful country.

Lucky to have such wonderful friends and family.

Lucky to have good health most of the time.

Lucky to have a roof over our heads and enough money to cover all of our needs and most of our wants.

Sometimes I think it is easy to get swallowed up in the day to day chores of life and to forget how lucky we are.

Yesterday I had a reminder of just how lucky we are.

We are lucky enough to have been invited by someone I have only met online at Simple Savings to visit her at her little patch of paradise. It's times like this I am reminded of what wonderful people Kiwis are. And Australians too as another Simple Saver has opened up her home to us on the Sunshine Coast when we visit next year.

Simple things like this show a huge amount of trust on behalf of the person opening up their homes to us. It also shows that the world in which we live can be a wonderful place filled with wonderful people despite all the doom and gloom we often see on the news. I am honored to have the opportunity to visit these wonderful people and would love to return the hospitality should they ever visit my patch of paradise.

So we will be going on holiday before we jump the ditch next year. Just 5 more weeks and we will be visiting a beautiful place called Wanaka. It's somewhere I have often thought I would love to visit but never quite got around to it. The drive will take about 6 hours (lol at least 5 of which will be filled with "are we there yet" and grumpy replies) which would usually seem daunting to me but I am so excited to visit this piece of New Zealand that it's not even phasing me. How cool is that?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mortgage day

Yay it's the end of the month and that means it's mortgage day.

Interest has been added and my payment has been deducted and I am sitting just under $149k. A great achievement so far but still a long way to go. And the cool thing is that as each payment goes through at the end of each month I can see how the amount of interest I pay is getting less and less. It feels great to know that more and more of my money is paying off the principal.

Between now and Christmas however I am slacking off the mortgage a bit and principal repayment will slow to about $1000/month. The reason for this is I am using my Babysteps payments to pay for the back yard renovations. So 4 months will cover the money needed without withdrawing from savings or redrawing from the mortgage. Then come the new year it will be back to hard out on the mortgage.

Oh and in case you were wondering - yes I am obsessed with the numbers. I'd love them to shrink into oblivion :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The baking tins are full

Well it's been a baking day today and there was so much baked we had plenty to share.

My friend dropped over his girls this morning to give his wife a break They have 3 children, the eldest with special needs and the youngest not yet 1. He's been working 7 days a week including being at my house yesterday afternoon building the gardens and they are due to shift house next weekend. On top of that the oldest has been off school for most of the last 2 weeks with a cold and respiritory problems so she is not making a lot of progress with the packing. They arrived after stopping at the bakery with raspberry biscuits, choc caramel slice and a dozen savouries and I had already planned a huge bake off.

They left with half a caramel slice, 1/4 chocolate cake, 12 mini muffins and 12 chocolate chip biscuits. That should hlep out my girl friend for lunch boxes when she already has a busy week ahead. That and the 5 extra hours she had to get packing today.

We also have a large stash of baking and had some to share with our lovely neighbour who kindly shoos the girls in whenever they escape. It's lovely to be able to share with friends and family and it's a wonderful way to say thank you without spending a lot of money. And I'm yet to meet anybody who doesn't appreciate home baking.

The other good thing we did to share with others this weekend was to carefully uplift about a dozen raspberry shoots that had popped up recently. Approximately 6 of these I will nurture and then plant ourselves and the others we will donate to the lads school fair in November. Better than just pulling them out.

And today we spent absolutely no money so I will get a blue sticker on my calendar. Tomorrow we need milk and petrol so the most I can expect is a gold star but that's all good.

Friday, August 27, 2010

4 down 2 to go

Yay today my next two raised gardens were built bringing my total to four. I've had to wait a while for these as I was slack about committing to getting the work done and then had to wait until my handyman had time to squeeze me in. Finally today was the big day and one huge part of the yard has been transformed.

The last garden and the lads new sandpit will need to wait a while - about 2-4 more weeks but that's all good. I can now get to work and do the next stage of my job - moving some soil from the next gardens spot to where the vege garden used to be so I can level that off and sow some grass seed. It's a simple job but pretty physical at the same time. Should help with getting in shape again for the summer though :O)

So tomorrows job - weather permitting - is to sow more seeds. I'm really paying attention to making sure I am sowing seed weekly/fortnightly to ensure we get a constant crop over summer so hopefully we will have some success in this area.

Other than that tomorrow will be a nice, quiet, cheap home day. I haven't had any no spend stickers for two days in a row now and am determined to get one tomorrow. If we leave the house we will need petrol though so that's another incentive to stay home.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I love flybuys

I love flybuys. I don't go out of my way to shop somewhere that gives me points if I can get a better deal elsewhere but my local supermarket happens to be a New World, my homeloan has flybuys points benefits, same for my insurances and a few other bits and pieces. Add to that the occasional purchase I make and I have done quite well out of flybuys.

Currently I am saving our points to pay for a two day Dream World/ White Water World ticket for us all on our holiday next year. I have 1756 points so have 126 points to spare.

Tonight I used Mum's omelet maker for the first time and I must say WOW. And we have our own eggs so super cheap too. So off to the flybuys website I head and you can get one for 295 points. I was trying to calculate if I would earn enough points between now and the beginning of next year so we could still get our theme park tickets when Mum texted me and said she would use her points to get another one. So I have done that and then next year when she wants something for the same/similar amount of points I will cash in my points for her. That way I can be sure I will have enough for the theme park tickets and get the omelet maker now. Full price these retail at $79.90 so using the points is a pretty good deal.

Other ways I saved money today include heading to the supermarket early - straight after dropping the lads at school. I managed to get meat marked down about 40% which is something I never manage to do. I dried the washing on the line - 2 loads, switched the heat pump off all day and back on now with the washing under it on the airer, tended to the seedlings we are growing making sure they have enough water and also watered the fruit trees. These are things I do routinely but all add up to save our pennies - every little bit counts!

No spend challenge

I have been doing a no spend challenge these past couple of weeks and have been really impressed with the blue and gold stickers on my calendar. Gold stickers are for days when I have only spent on essentials - things like milk, petrol, phone/power bills etc and blue stickers are for days when I spend nothing at all. I started on Sunday 15th and have 7 blue stars and 2 gold so 9 of the 12 days have stars to sparkle at me when I sit at the computer.

The concept of the no spend challenge is from Simple Savings and it's amazing how it changes your perspective on the things you purchase and whether or not you decide to purchase them. For me the big thing is knowing that if I have to purchase something essential I can still have a star as with children in the house we always need milk and without petrol I couldn't get to work therefore wouldn't get paid. And also it makes me think smarter about how I do my shopping. For example tomorrow the boys are having tuck shop so there will be no sticker for me. So while it's looking that way I may as well get the groceries too and then I might be able to manage some spend free days over the weekend. That way my calendar will get even more sparkly.

Any money I save from these no spend days will go into the holiday fund - the best place for it I think. There will be no no spend days while we are on holiday I can assure you!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back down to earth

Well after the buzz of reaching my mortgage goal yesterday it's back to normal here. I'm ready to move on to the next goal and get rid of the next $10k from the mortgage and I don't want to wait. I want it and I want it now! Patience is not one of my stronger virtues.

As a reward for the boys for reaching this goal tonight I told them I would let them have tuck shop again on Friday. They are usually allowed it once each term and this term they had it last week. Man were they shocked when I said they could have it again.

Mr8 announced at the dinner table tonight that after our holiday in Queensland he will be saving for his own laptop. This does not surprise me at all but it does make me remember the days when only the very very wealthy had computers. Now 8 year olds have them. At primary school I do not remember anything about computers. At the end of high school I remember having a computer suite with maybe 15 computers for the entire school to share. Nowadays they have so many more. Mr8's class alone has 4 mini laptops and 2 desktops. Mr6's class has 3 mini laptops and both classrooms have access to enough computers for each child to use one. When did that happen?

Then after he has saved for that he's saving for a trip to Paris! It's great he has goals but I think it's about time I taught that lad about short term savings as well as whoppa goals. I'd better start saving too - he's not going to be old enough to go by himself!

Monday, August 23, 2010

One huge step closer to debt free


Today we took a giant step closer to becoming debt free. We have officially kicked the $150k mortgage balance to the kerb and by the end of the month should hopefully be just under $149k.

Two years and 51 weeks ago I moved into the first house I have ever brought by myself. A huge mortgage for a single parent of $190k and interest rates of fixed 9.1% and floating 10.49% and to tell the truth I was terrified I had overextended us.

Logically I knew I hadn't because the banks had offered me almost $50k more than I choose to spend but to me it was huge - the biggest mortgage I had ever had and only me to pay it. And it's that little ME word that was where I hung my worries. But it was also the one word that was to my advantage. By only being me it meant we were totally on board and there was nobody to sabotage my plan.

Originally my plan was not 10 years to debt free. I would have been happy with anything less than the standard 25 year plan but the bigger picture involved debt free by the time my oldest boy finished high school. That's around 13 years from when I brought.

Then along came Simple Savings and a woman who goes by the name $and sense Kate. Kate has taught me more about paying off my mortgage than anybody I know. Many others on the site have taught me about frugal and sustainable lifestyles as a choice and lastly there is my own personal support team on the Recession Challenge Thread. To these ladies I say Thank You very very much. Without you all I may not have stuck with it this far.

site alone has been at the base of my challenge along with my determination to not be like everybody else. I do not want to be facing retirement with a mortgage still hanging around my neck. I want to have 10-15 years mortgage free so I can save to my hearts content and also I can chose how much I work and until what age. I want that to be my choice and being debt free can do that for me.

So now it's on to the next challenge. At this stage I am going to set 4 month goals. That's until work is sold and I know what is happening with my job. So from now until the end of the year I am aiming for reducing the mortgage to $145k as well as funding the rest of my back yard renovations. Easy peasy maybe?

Um I was wrong and it's not spring

Okay so I definately got the whole spring thing wrong. It's not so much that today has been cold and wet more grey and uninspiring. One of those days that it's very hard to find any enthusiasm.

That said after a very interrupted morning at work I did manage to get quite a lot of engraving done. That's great as there is a lot to be done in the next few weeks. It's peak engraving season and everybody wants their stuff NOW!

I cannot wait for today to be over though. Lol tomorrow is family assistance day and I will be up early to do the banking. Once the funds are transferred I will hit under $150k for the first time :O) and even when interest is added at the end of the month the standard repayment should see me around $149k. Not bad work for a single parent on a fixed income.

I have kind of become obsessed with this point of debt and it's time to really set myself a plan for the next 12 months. I'm finding that really difficult though as I don't know how long I will have my job for. It's easy to say I want to pay X/month for the next 12 months aiming for a final balance of X but that goal will only stay relevant if I am employed. I guess I might have to start making monthly goals for a while with them working towards a years goal. That way if I don't finish the whole 12 months I haven't failed. I don't like failure.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Could it be spring?

Today the sunshine broke thru the clouds and gave us a beautiful day. The neighbourhood was filled with noises of lawn mowers humming, washing lines everywhere filled with laundry, people out for walks and generally a great mood uplifting day.

I had planned a totally lazy day but even I cannot be that slack on the rare winters day that spills with sunshine so out to the garden I went (after a jolly pleasant sleep in and an hour reading in bed). Managed to chop up more green waste for the work bins and filled my bin as well. The chickens were allowed the whole day out of their run and spent their time pecking and exploring in the back yard.

Mentally I planned out how things will look and where things will go when the two new raised gardens are built this coming week. I cannot wait to get started on them. Hopefully they will be done tomorrow or Tuesday weather permitting or else they have to wait another week. I really want them done this week as it's my week to have Friday off work and if the weather obliges I plan on getting compost on Thursday afternoon. I want to get half of it unloaded on Thursday afternoon even if it means fish n chips for dinner and then there will be less to do on Friday morning.

Mr8 has been happily planting seeds to transplant when they have grown enough and I have been busy reading about which plants to sow when and what grows well next to what. Between the two of us we are mucking along quite nicely and I am taking notes of what we are doing and when so at the end of the growing season we can look back and figure out what worked well and what might need some changes.

And on the money saving front there is a new blue star on my calendar under today's date. A blue star means I have spent no money at all today - it's blue because that's my favourite colour. Days with a gold star are the ones where any spending has been essential only. No star means unnecessary spending :(

It wasn't much but

My house is empty and when the lads aren't here it doesn't feel quite as much like home. Don't get me wrong the peace and quiet is a very pleasant change of pace but the silence like this at bedtime is something I have never gotten used to.

It's funny how I crave for the silence and then when I get it it feels wrong. Knowing I will get a good nights sleep however never feels wrong.

I had a busy morning at work this morning and managed to achieve quite a lot which should put me in a good place for the coming week. This afternoon the lads and I wandered down to the supermarket to get our groceries. Lol only needed to take one reusable shopping bag as there was very little on the list.

Broccoli, bananas, another type of fruit and bread was all we had to get to see us through the week after last weeks big shop. The bread however was our little treat and boy did we enjoy it. I could hardly contain the lads from racing off to the bakery department to see what the taste samples were. 2 of the specialty breads to choose from - garlic and pizza. We all voted for the pizza sample and it was fantastic. Would you believe it - if we waited about 5-10 minutes they would have more straight from the oven and we could purchase one of those. We love getting one of these freshly baked loaves as our weekend lunch treat. At $3.99 a loaf they are certainly not cheap but boy are they worth every cent and this loaf was no exception.

In fact if anything it was better than any loaf we have had as it was so hot and fresh I could hardly hold the paper bag. Quickly we raced off to the checkout and out the doors. Lol we hadn't even made it out to the car park before we were devouring the bread. Boys were on their scooters but they weren't going to let that stop them from enjoying something so yummy. So they managed to scoot one handed and eat with their free hand. By the time we got home all we had left was one tiny piece each and big grins about how fast we had scoffed that loaf.

So while it was only a loaf of bread, something many take for granted for us that loaf symbolised a week of a job well done and a fantastic reward for budgeting so well. I love it when it is the little things in life that are the best :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Holiday saving

Today the boys holiday savings has had a huge boost. Being Friday it's pocket money day which means they add 50 cents to their Australia pigs and on top of that they had their share of this weeks eggs sales. Today they each had $2.50 worth of egg money and $1 each from putting stickers on bases for me at work. I was very proud when they both popped all that in their pigs rather than their spending. All they need is another $85 to cover the rental car which is their contribution to the holiday and then they will be saving spending money from that total until holiday time. They will each colour in additional bricks on the savings thermometer and will no doubt do their little "happy dance" as they realise they are getting closer to the top.

My holiday savings are coming along slowly but surely and I am well on track for Feb 26th. So far I have almost $3000 saved which has covered airfares, accomodation and some of our spending money. Not bad considering my main savings goal is the mortgage.

And the mortgage is only days away from going under $150k which is very exciting. You could say I am obsessed with this and at the moment even more so than usual. This goal represents a huge amount of progress for me - and I cannot wait!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mummy I am sick too........................

That's how Mr6 started and spent most of his morning before school today. Mr8 has a rotten cold and after a rough night and ending up in my bed at 4am I decided there would be no school for him today. Well Mr6 seemed to think it was only fair that he had a day off too but I planned on getting into work for a bit and wasn't planning on taking both boys with me.

The first and by far the funniest excuse was "Mummy my tummy is all pushed in" hmmm maybe some breakfast will help it poke out again. Then every time Mr8 coughed or spluttered he did his best fake cough in hope that would work. Lol even shed some tears and then complained his eyes were watering. Eventually I spat the dummy at him and said no time off school unless he vomited or had problems at the other end. Next thing he raced to the bathroom making retching noises. Short sharp shift out to the car and to school followed that performance.

Luckily his teacher is a Mum of 3 and has seen every trick in the book and after a quick whisper in her ear all was sorted. Not surprising I had no phone calls from school for him all day.

Managed to work for 3 hours and even employed some slave labour - Mr8 earned himself $2 for his Australia fund and made my day tomorrow a little easier :) Then a nice quiet relaxing afternoon with dvds. Going to aim for an early night tonight just in case it is disrupted again.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's raining cats and dogs

Man the last 24 hours have seen some serious rainfall around this place. It wasn't raining when I went to bed last night but twice I woke up from the lovely noise of rain on the roof. And to give you an idea how hard it was raining I have a tile roof and lots of pink batts in the ceiling so to hear the rain though that it must be pouring.

The backyard resembled the beginnings of a lake this morning so I made an executive decision and went out to feed the chickens by myself meaning only one of us would be soaked to the skin. It seems the girls weren't impressed either - no eggs first thing which is unusual. Four laid by the time we got home however so they have redeemed themselves.

And on top of wet it is cold. That horrid kind of cold where with no sunshine at all in sight the cold creeps into your bones and it takes layers and layers plus the heat pump on high to warm you up. Actually it's the perfect day to read a book and be a slacker in bed all day. Shame it was a work day.

On the money saving front I have been doing the no spend thing again. Monday I got petrol - lol didn't want to spend but it was that or conk out. That's included in the essential spending so technically doesn't count as a spend though. Tuesday and Wednesday have been total no spends but tomorrow I will need to get milk. Again as it's planned with the groceries and an essential in a house with children it's technically not counted. I will get 4 litres though so I won't need any more until next weekends groceries. That should help next weeks no spend days :O)

And I am so very close to my goal of $150k for my mortgage. Payday tomorrow will take me even closer - I'll be less than $50 short of my target which is so close it makes me want to scream. I've always seen this point as my medium term goal since I moved into this house nearly 3 years ago. It symbolizes knocking $45k from my mortgage principal which is awesome. It's time to start thinking of my next medium term financial goal but with my employment uncertain I am unsure of just how much to aim for.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mmmmmmmm chocolate

Today I have seriously pigged out on chocolate and now I have a chocolate overload headache. Lol totally my own fault but it was a good idea at the time.

We are just coming into peak engraving time as expected. It appears in Christchurch winter sports are far more popular than summer when it comes to participants. and the clubs are well organised in the sense that they have been in and chosen their trophies. If only they would come and give me the names to go on them all then I would relax a little. I have boxes lined up everywhere with trophies ready to go - all they need is my part of the job done but I cannot do it until I have the names. On the positive side I am managing to keep on top of all the jobs I have names for which is good. I am wondering however what next week will bring in terms of stress. This week chocolate is really working to help me chill out, wonder how long that works? Might have to plan a bit more exercise to combat the effects of all this consumption.

And on another form of consumption I picked up a new book from the library today. It's called Voluntary Simplicity and my understanding is that it is a book about voluntarily simplifying your life especially by reducing consumption and consumerism. Interestingly the librarian looked at the title when I picked it up and commented that it was something she just couldn't understand. I tried to explain that it's something I am really interested in, reducing the clutter and the need for stuff that keeps us tied to debt in any way shape or form. She commented that she had done simplicity once and never again.

Further discussion revealed that her simplicity was "involuntary" and I guess there in lies the difference. She was referring to living with four young children on a single income and said she would never chose to do simplicity again. It got me to thinking how much easier it is to give things up voluntarily - surely wanting to make life different is nicer and easier than being forced to make sacrifices. And for me it's about the bigger picture - I want a simple debt free lifestyle and mortgage free is in my mind the best way for me to achieve that. By ridding myself of the mortgage a huge stress will be lifted from my day to day life so to me sacrifice and voluntary simplicity is worthwhile. And that's before you take into account any environmental factors as a result of less consumerism.

Houston we have a problem

Ok so we have a problem in this house. That said it is a problem of the good variety :O) I now officially have more customers than eggs - and that's without even making any effort to sell them. I currently have 11 eggs in a carton on the bench but orders for 3 dozen plus anything we need for ourselves.

Now it was always my intention to sell the surplus eggs but I really thought it would take a little effort on our behalf. Seems people are really keen to get their eggs at a good price and from chickens they know have good living conditions.

So now we have to decide if we should get some more chickens in the next couple of weeks. Originally our plan was to have 6 and see if I could manage (lol seeing as I was terrified of chickens) and then to get 6 more after our Queensland holiday in March. The coup is plenty big enough for 12 and the run is technically the size specified as free range for 12 chickens so we have the space. When we do get more though I will increase the size of the run for when they are locked in it all day.

There are plenty of advantages to getting the girls sooner - all $ related. I've worked out it costs about 50 cents a day to feed 6 chickens + my scraps from the kitchen. So they are really cheap to keep and well and truly earn their food. Also the boys earn $1 each from each dozen we sell. They are saving this money for the Queensland holiday. The more they save the less I need to spend on them. And of course this saving will continue long after our holiday.

The only disadvantage I can see is when we are away. Our neighbour has already agreed to look after the girls while we are away but I am wondering is it rude to ask her to look after 12 instead of 6? She will be given as many eggs as she wants and have free reign to the vege garden while we are gone so that will be our way of saying thank you. I'm not sure there is any difference between looking after 6 or 12. Will talk to her in the next day or two and see if she agrees.

I'm quite excited at the thought of more girls. Odd considering how afraid of them I was to begin with. And at the same time I get to provide friends and family with cheap free range eggs - eggs they know come from chickens that are truly "free range".

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The big shop

Today was the big shop for this month. Budget was $200 - just over ok as you had to spend $200 to get the 25 cent petrol coupon.

So armed with a list that not only said what I needed but also had an estimate of the cost we headed to Pak n Save. As each item went in the trolley it was rounded either up or down to the nearest dollar in the hope of things evening out at the checkout. By the end of the last aisle in my calculations I had about $8 left that I needed to spend. Tossed in a packet of razor blades and figured that would take me to about $8 over. Pretty good guess it turns out because I was only $10 over. Funny but it feels good to be so close to the amount - sort of like I have achieved something.

Also today I brought seed potatoes, another blueberry bush (in the hope that my existing one will start to fruit) and a few other bits and pieces. Bush is planted so will be interesting to see if we get many berries this season.

Finally this week my handyman is supposed to be coming to build the next 2 raised gardens. Weather permitting of course so keep your fingers crossed. Then it will be time for more compost and some hard work. Can't wait until things start producing and then the hard work will be worth it. One thing I will have to do to enable things to grow properly is work out some sort of plan to keep the chickens out of the vege beds. We have planted celery, spinach and silverbeet - the last 2 for them only but they seem to prefer fresh growth to waiting for things to fully mature. I got more chicken wire today so will sort that out when the last gardens are built. Hopefully that should do the trick.

Date night for Mr8

Tonight it is Mr8's night for date night with my parents. He left early - about 2pm and nana wanted to do a spot of shopping on the way home. Then he decided it was his turn for a spot of shopping and took nana to Noel Leemings where he proceeded to try and con her into buying him a mini laptop. Luckily she had the sense to say no.

He's now back home after choosing to go to Denny's for dinner where his order was pasta of the day and curly fries. On the way home they stopped for an iceblock at the dairy - very sensible option for a cheap dessert.

Mr6 and I had homemade fish n chips. Mr8 does not like fish and makes a huge song and dance about the smell of it so we don't often have it when he is about. Mr6 and I really enjoyed our meal.

Tomorrow Mr6 and I are heading out for breakfast. His choice of date venue is McDonalds! Gross so I will have a hot chocolate and some toast here first and then just order a hot chocolate for me when we are there.

Also tomorrow it's grocery day. Once a month I get a big shop followed by 3 weeks of smaller shops for fresh fruit and veges. This week I really wanted to head out by myself but the boys really enjoy doing the big shop as they each get to choose something for lunch box treats. I tried suggesting they tell me what they wanted and I would get it but apparently that is not the same so we will all go tomorrow.

Target spend is $200 as that is what it takes to get a 20 cent petrol coupon. So I will be keeping track of the tally as I go around trying to ensure I go as little over $200 as possible. And I must remember that at the moment I am trying to empty out my chest freezer so I can remember what is at the bottom of it. Anything that looks dodgy or freezer burnt will be defrosted and fed to the chickens to ensure there is no waste. I'm sure they will appreciate tomorrow's meal of freezer burnt sasuage casserole more than the lads and I will. It will be hard to only buy frozen goods as I need them though as I am so used to having a stock up so that the freezer is always full. I wonder if I will get home and find I got stuff out of habit rather than necessity. Lol must remember to take the list. I'll let you know how I get on.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

After school fun

One of the things I really love about having children would have to be when they have friends over to play and the sounds of joy and laughter fill the house.

Today I went to school to pick up my 2 and instead came home with 4. Mr8 had one of the girls from his class over and I figured it would be a lot easier for Mr6 to bring someone home as well so he raced back and invited a friend too.

Mr8 and his friend spent their time trading rocks, crystals and shells and then they worked together to bake cupcakes for us to munch on. Actually us is a very generous term - before I could blink the 4 kids had polished most of them off and there were hardly any left to share with their families. And me, well I couldn't tell you what they tasted like as there were only enough left in this house for tomorrows lunch boxes. No doubt Mr8 will be baking those again.

Mr6 and his friend spent the time playing and making lots of noise outdoors. When we got home there were 3 eggs to collect and the visitor was amazed at the warm egg. I knew it had been laid within the last 30 minutes or so and was as fresh as it gets. When he got picked up he was very excited telling his dad why the egg was so warm. And the 2 lads spent the outside time with the chickens playing amongst them which was lovely to see.

Me well I caught up on folding the mountain of washing that we seem to create as well as preparing dinner and doing a few other small bits and pieces. Mostly though I just stood around listening to all the laughter. There is no better sound for a mother than your children having fun.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ah freezing mornings and sunny days

Boy oh boy it's been mighty cold these last couple of days. The beauty of it however is that in this part of the country frosts lead to lovely sunny days about 90% of the time. And these last couple of days have been beautiful in the afternoon. Tomorrow is going to be lovely as well but then it's back to rainy winter :O(

And making the most of the weather I got 2 loads of washing dried and it's even been folded and put away already. The next load is on the airers and will be hung out again in the morning and there is another in the machine as I type. That way if it rains all weekend the washing won't be the end of the world. On top of that I even did the ironing which I have been avoiding for about 2 weeks. Lol it's not that I am lazy just that I hate ironing. The last couple of days I left the ironing on the sofa in the lounge to encourage me to get it done and today it finally did the trick. Sofa looks a lot better without a pile of crinkled clothes covering it from top to bottom.

It's amazing how much better I feel when it's lovely weather. It's a real pick me up just to get outside in the sunshine a couple of days in a road. Long may it last and roll on spring I say!


Oops. I got home from work today and the front gates were shut. Now that was not a good sign because we never shut the gates unless there are lots of kids about - and even less so now they are all of an age they know not to head out to the road.

With apprehension I stopped and opened them knowing it could mean only one thing. Yes you guessed it the girls had gotten out of their enclosure. Well two of them had anyway. Looks as though they found a spot to dig under the netting and off they went. Little buggers. One I found very close to the enclosure almost as though she really wanted to get back in with her friends and then I realised I was still one short. Oh no what will I tell the lads is what I thought. So off I set firstly around the yard in the hope the missing chicken was located. If she wasn't there well I wasn't sure what I would do next. Luckily she was happily exploring in the front yard - somewhere she had never been before. And totally oblivious to any concern I may have had about her safety. I will have to send the lads on an egg hunt tomorrow after school - I have a suspicion I should have had at least one more egg today! And I have blocked off the escape route for next time!

So saved ourselves $20 by locating the missing chicken and that's not the only saving I made today. This morning I had an appointment for Mr8 at the doctors for an infected cut. Luckily the doctor thinks we will likely get away with an antibiotic cream otherwise it will be full on antibiotics. That's something we try to avoid in this house - I can count on one hand how many times the boys have had antibiotics in their lifetimes. Something I am quite proud of. While at the doctor I also got scripts for Mr6 and myself meaning I didn't need to waste the doctors time with silly time consuming appointments. Even if I had only ordered the scripts that would have cost me $28. And to top that off the doctor only charged me as if Mr8 was under 6 - $10 for an appointment saving me another almost $30. So all up great savings in this house today.

We've also sold another 2 dozen of our eggs which is cool. The lads will really love getting their "pay" for taking care of the girls and I'll have more money in their food tin towards their next bag of mash.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Manic Monday

Man today was crazy.

Shortly before I finished work I had a text from a girl friend asking me if I could please take her girls home as it's freeeeeeeezing today and she didn't want to take bubs out in the cold. So I offered to keep the girls until 5. If I pick them up and take them straight home on a day when we have no after school activities all the kids complain about no playtime.

So I sorted out the play date first so I wouldn't have to listen to the moaning and groaning. Instead I got lots of yippees! Much more pleasant me thinks.

And being so cold I thought inside was best but they were itching for some fresh air. So after a quick afternoon tea of fruit and my baking from yesterday they took some chalk and drew murals on the front doorsteps. The only dry part we could find and it was also out of the wind so it wasn't too bad. It's amazing how much children crave fresh air.

The chooks were craving fresh air today too and were very impressed when they were let out of their run to free range around the back yard. I must say that chickens are very efficient little creatures when it comes to digging around and turning over the soil.

Dinner was Sophie Grays (Destitute Gourmet) herb chicken cobbler using leftover chicken. It's really popular in this house - would be rated in our top 10 meals. And what I love about it is if I am missing mushrooms and kumara like I was tonight you can just use normal potato and mixed veges and it still tastes great. And there is enough for me to have another dinner out of it tomorrow night stretching that roast chicken for another meal. The rest of the left over meat I will freeze for chicken and rice or chicken and pasta later in the week.

Lastly we had St Johns. It was my first night as a penguin leader and I was expecting to have the lady who is leaving there to help me. Ah no. And for various reasons a lot of the other leaders were missing leaving just me and the guy who runs the whole division. Luckily he was prepared and had called in a couple of helpers from different divisions and we just joined my Penguins with the bigger kids for the night.

So it's race home and shower the lads and update the blog before the Mentalist starts in about 3 more minutes!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mmmmm a house that smells of baking

Mmmmmmm my house is smelling super yummy today. I have been busy in the kitchen this afternoon while the lads were with their father.

Mr6 has just taken to muesli bars and with 2 lads liking them and the price getting higher and higher while the bars get smaller and smaller it's not cost effective. So I found a recipe online and made them a batch myself. I was rather apprehensive as I worried they wouldn't like them and I would end up putting them in the scraps container and giving to the girls. I need not have worried as they loved them. So I've tossed some into the freezer and left some out for lunches as well.

I also made a chocolate slice and banana bread. The slice is so decadent because I iced it with melted Whittakers chocolate. And I did it the easy way - once it was cooked I chopped up some chocolate and sprinkled it on top before returning it to the oven to melt. Mmmm I must confess there was some serious taste testing going on. Next time I think I'll make traditional icing though - cheaper and maybe not so yummy so I won't "sample" so much.

The banana bread was a last minute thing and will take the place of sandwiches in the lunch boxes for a few days. It's always good to have a bit of variety.

So you can imagine how yummy the house smelt with all that baking going on - pure bliss. And tomorrow when the lads go to school I will know they have the yummiest lunches there - 2 pieces of fruit and all the rest homemade. I can't wait until the fruit trees are in season and then they can have totally homemade lunches.

Ah the things we do to save money!

Ouch ouch and ouch again! I am sore and achey and am fairly certain I will seize up and die when I get to bed.

I have decided I have no need to head to the dump with my large pile of green waste. I have my own green waste bin provided in my rates, access to the work 1 + the business next doors 1 and also more often than not my parents 1. So rather than borrow a trailer from a friend and head to the dump I am slowly but surely chopping my branches and trees into smaller pieces that will efficiently fill the bins. Today was originally supposed to be lousy weather and I had written off the garden work wise. Then today arrived dry and at many times sunny and warm. I cannot let those types of days go by now (which is so totally not me) so out came the gloves and the hand saw and off to work I got. I think that since I made the decision not to go to the dump a couple of weeks ago I have managed to halve my pile and develop several new muscle groups. But it's with a big smile of satisfaction that I can say we have tidied it enough that it no longer spills out onto the back lawn. A few more weeks of chopping and breaking and we should have it gone.

Now the savings on this will not be huge but it will be about $20 in dumping fees and petrol to get to and from the dump. That's money better off in my pocket than somebody elses.

And while we were out today we stopped and got a couple of bales of pea straw from the landscape supply store we use. Kindly the man only charged us for the 1 bale saving me $8. I did spend $10 unplanned on seeds though so it all evened out - well almost. I have decided pea straw is the most cost effective way to mulch the spaces between the raised gardens. 2 $8 bales covered up 2 pathways and also I mulched the berry patch which took at least half a bale. And while it might not be the most beautiful way to landscape compared to pretty stones or fancy bark nuggets it does suit the look of my back yard and the mulch value will be fantastic come summer.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The girls best day

Wow today we got 6 eggs which means every one of the girls is finally laying! The boys found that super exciting and I'd have to admit that I did too. And 4 of them even laid in the nesting box - the other 2 are unsure about where they are supposed to put their eggs.

So we have managed to sell another dozen for Monday and if we have enough another dozen on Wednesday. That's really exciting especially for the boys as they are responsible for feeding, watering and caring for the girls so they will be getting pocket money for their efforts.

And tonight we had omlette for dinner. Mr6 only eats the white part of the eggs so I got him spaghetti and toast but made him try a mouthful. Lol made sure it was a piece loaded with cheese and tomato sauce and he said it was great and next time he wants that too. Virtually free dinners which is awesome for our budget.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's the simple things

This week at work I have been doing a mind numbingly boring job. I can happily announce that today I finished it - I am pleased I will not have to listen to that machine noise tomorrow!

That said while the job is boring it does give one a lot of time to think. And I've been thinking about ways to save even more money for our holiday next year. And this is where I struck a bit of a problem. Whenever you read finance books/ debt reduction books they all make suggestions of things you can do to trim your budget or bring in extra cash. My problem is that I don't drink take away coffee, dine out, have expensive haircuts and beauty treatments every 6 weeks. My grocery budget probably can't be cut back much more without affecting the lads by having no "treats" and me by no chocolate. And being a single parent I cannot just pick up a second job or do some overtime. Between government departments clawing back any allowances I receive along with taxes and a lack of time available to work more it's almost impossible for me to get ahead by increasing my income.

So I guess I am going to have to maximise the simple things in order to save money. I'm already pretty good at making sure things are switched off at the wall and all the other things that save a little here and there but I'm going to start scouring the vault on Simple Savings for other little ideas. I am often amazed at how quickly little savings can add up.

The area in which I think I can save/earn the most money is in my back yard. We are already growing some veges and have started planting seedlings for this seasons crops. The berry patch is in and that's an area that should save us hugely. I'll need to put in some hard yards for this to pay off but I think the boys and I are up for the challenge. If we could manage to trim our grocery budget by $20-$30 a week over the season that's going to be a great addition to our holiday fund.


Today was our best day yet for eggs. We got 4! Up until today we have only had 2 layers. This morning however when Mr6 opened the lid to the nesting boxes there was an egg in one and one of the girls in the other. He got such a fright it was really funny. So I suspected when we left the house that we had 3 layers and by the time we got home I was proven right. Number 4 egg I suspect was one we didn't notice the other day as it was in a hard to reach spot so I'm not sure if it's 3 or 4 of the girls doing their jobs properly. Either way it's an improvement on only 2 layers.

So sounds like production might be getting to the stage we can start selling and making back some of the set up costs. I'm wanting to cover the cost of the girls and the mash - anything else is "plant" that will be kept for years. The boys will each get $1/dozen sold - currently their main savings goal is our Australia trip and after selling the first surplus dozen to my Mum they both deposited their $1 into their holiday pigs. They are getting quite close to their savings goal of $500 for a rental car and then they will move on to their own spending money.

The boys have been eagerly doing their jobs of feeding and watering the girls. They are also responsible for letting them out into the run in the morning and back into the coup at night. And when we let them out of the run the boys keep an eye on them making sure they stay in the back yard and also that they don't eat the vege seedlings or the berry plants from the berry patch. When the boys are not home I do not let them out of the run. It's hard enough for me to get them back into the coup just from the enclosure. Tuesday nights that's my responsibility. Lol last night I must have looked as though I was playing soccer with glass balls. I really really don't want to touch them so have to carefully nudge them into the coup. It must look so classic!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tonights cheap dinner

Tonight I made myself a super cheap dinner. A cheese and bacon omlette. Yesterday Mr6 and I stopped at a meat, fruit and vege shop to get a few bits and pieces of f & v and while there I noticed a pack of bacon offcuts - $8.99/kg so grabbed one of those too as they looked pretty lean and tasty. Yesterday Mr6 and I had bacon butties for lunch and then tonight I split the rest of the pack. I managed to get 3 servings for either dinner or breakfast and 3 serves of singles for omlettes. I think that is great value for $9. It's one of the ways I try to stretch my budget making money go further. Let's face it our grocery shopping is more often than not the place with the most discretionary spending. Regardless of the size of the grocery budget you will almost always see "wants" as well as needs in people's trolleys. I know even though my budget is extremely tight there is always at the least a block of chocolate in my trolley. And that's before taking into account things like boneless chicken meat and lunch box treats for the lads.

The only way this can be done with my tight grocery budget is to shop smart. My favourite bacon at the butcher is close to $20/kg. It is super yummy but I find it hard to use for large quantities at that price. A small amount for flavour in a dish or an omlette not a problem but a feed of bacon and eggs or bacon and egg pie? Wow that starts to get exy. So I compromise by using the good stuff when I need small amounts and the cheaper stuff for larger serves. Also by shopping to the specials I find I have room for the treats.

I have tried menu planning but I don't like it. Lol I don't like being told what to do even if I am the one who wrote the plan. I know a lot of people do this and swear it saves them money. I find shopping to the specials is the way for me.

With this plan I keep an eye on the weekly specials the supermarkets advertise and when there is something good I get a few extras. This works well with non perishables but I also stockup on things like cereal we use a lot of. It's amazing how much you can save simply by keeping your eyes open for the bargins - give it a go if you don't already. Odds are if you are paying full price you are paying too much.


My shoulder hurts. It's an old injury I did about 3 months ago and something flared it up again over the weekend. A lot of the time it's ok but move my arm the wrong way and the pain goes shooting through something shocking.

On top of that I have a sick kid. Coughing and spluttering and a yucky nose meant a day off school for Mr6. So I packed up the lap top and took it and a couple of games and headed to work with him. When we got there I set him up out the back with Grandad and Reader Rabbit an educational game. He happily sat there learning and playing and letting me get at least some work done.

We managed to get 3 hours done then headed off for my physio appointment. Ouch physio hurts but I know it's for the greater good. I have appointments on Wednesday and Friday as well so hopefully I will be on top of everything much quicker than last time.

So it will be a quiet few days as far as anything energetic is concerned and a haze of paracetemol and nurofen to make things bearable. If I disappear it's too sore to type.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Definately different from how I planned

I will confess to being a planner. And if you had asked me on Friday what my plans were for today I would have said "nice quiet day at home". Well that was definately different from what we had.

The day started with a wonderful breakfast out with Mr8. I get very little one on one time with either of the lads so this is a real treat for us. We went to a cafe close to my work and each ordered a mini homestyle breakfast. Toast, bacon, egg, hashbrown, sasuage and half a tomato each. The wee guy had a berry fruit smoothie and seeing as I had just had a hot chocolate at home I just had a water. $22.50 and well worth every cent to have the special one on one time. Will do this again with Mr6 in a couple of weeks.

Mr8 and I then popped to The Warehouse to look at cellphones seeing as they had a sale on. Got a bottom of the line one and a connection pack for under $100 and that includes $20 of prepaid credit. And I compromised and got a boring black phone so it can be passed along to Mr8 in the future. I wanted a pink one but thought he might protest about that a couple of years down the line.

Then it was off to Clip and Climb as chosen by Mr6. His reward for being brave and staying by himself all night at Nana and Grandads. Clip and Climb is a cool wall climbing facility designed especially for children and novice climbers. Another full on hour of fun for all. I was amazed to see the improvement in Mr6's confidence. He now has several walls he can climb to the top and he did the leap of faith as well. Basically you climb up higher than the height of a power pole, stand on the top of it and take a leap reaching for the bar. Mr6 has never ever done this before and I was very surprised when he said he wanted to. He climbed all the way to the top and the minute he looked down he burst into tears. The lady climbed up and helped him to stand up and then jump. When he got to the bottom he asked for another go. Up to the top again and quick look down then he took the last step and jumped without any assistance. Man I was so proud of him.

After that it was a quick trip into town to swap a sweatshirt Mum had brought for him that had the most hideous hoodie I have ever seen. The store was fantastic about it and no problems at all to swap for something that fitted and looked better.

So by now it was almost 2pm and we still hadn't stopped for lunch. I really wanted to avoid buying lunch out so we headed for home.

That however was not meant to be. On our way we passed an appliance store advertising 14c digital photos and I remembered Mr6 needed us to print off the photos of the class teddy at our house before he went back to school tomorrow. I don't normally bow so easily to peer pressure but can you imagine being the only kid in the class whose Mum didn't print out your photos? So we called in and quickly got them printed off plus a couple of the changes in the back yard. Grand total of $2.20 spent. And one very very happy child. He got home and added them to the book of Alvins adventures and wrote his story.

Then finally about 2.30 we got home. Definately not how I had the day planned out in my head but very enjoyable all the same. Even managed to do some baking, sow some seeds (in the glasshouse MC) and let the girls out to peck their way around the back yard. Shattered now and still lots of reading to do but what a great day.