Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Last Day of February

Well, the last day of February has me feeling a little bit daunted. I know I have achieved small steps forward, however March marks the month where I have very large outgoings and 2 weddings. Whilst I was endeavouring to do No Spend February, I feel as though I fell off the wagon in the last 2 weeks. I need to gather my thoughts and refocus. I can't say that I have spent copious amounts of money on frivolous things, it's just how I feel. The smallest of my credit cards has only got $259 left, which will be paid off in April according to my payment plan and the next one up which has $771 will be paid off in June. Small achievements I know, but at least the debts are going down rather than up. By the end of March I will have earned(in addition to my normal pay) the last of the payment for my daughter's trip away ($1365) and gotten our son sorted out at uni. There has been no interest in the car yet, but we are reasonably confident it will sell sooner rather than later. I will be working a lot again next month, which I think is why I feel the way I do right at the moment. Not much time to stop & think about exactly where I am up to financially and look at what I am achieving.

Today I did the groceries and spent a grand total of $30.50, that will get me through until Thursday, when I will do a big shop again (some of which we will take away with us next weekend (all meals will be at the apartment, except the Saturday/Sunday night dinners which are provided). That leaves me a grocery budget left for March of $219.50. That's an average of $50/week. All of the bills are paid and nothing is outstanding. I have $273 in my savings account and $359 available in my redraw. I will endeavour to continue on my "No Spend" mission, but need to go back to writing it down daily.

Hopefully I feel better at the end of next week after some nice relaxing days off. I can't wait for the Wedding. We are all really excited.

Not much making to do this week, as we are still feasting off last weeks big bake up!

Happy making & saving!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Final Week of February

I can't believe nearly another month has gone by! 10 more to go! So far I have $208 in savings (I increase my payment by 10% at the beginning of each month). I've caught up on all past due accounts/ payments and have nothing overdue. I have $1346 left to earn (extra shifts) to pay the final payment on my daughter's school trip to Borneo (total $6,400)(it was $3500 at the beginning of Feb). Then I can start channeling the extra money into the CC's. OMG there's actually 5 of them. Grand total, $48,392. I seriously wonder how much of that I can get rid of this year. We have put our 2nd car up for sale now. As it is a luxury we simply can't afford (or really need for that matter). There is no loan on this car, so plan to pay down the CC with the highest interest rate with what we get from the sale. Should sell relatively quickly we think, it's a beautiful car & very well maintained. The bill's account takes care of itself and there is always sufficient money in it to cover the regular expenses. I have also taking up a saving tip from By saving a dollar each week (eg week 1: $1, week 2; $2 etc) I hope to save ~$1370 which I will use for Christmas. Next year I want to start week 1 at $53 and see how I go. I have cut back so much and have plugged the holes in the bucket, hence no more serious leakage. I really want to be successful at this and get rid of the noose around my neck. It looks so scary when you see it in black & white in front of you.

I'm determined though, to go without and prove to myself that this can be done. Think how much I will have, to pay off the mortgage when all of this is over! Hopefully hubby will have a job to start in July/August. If not he's been offered a 5 month stint away (not keen on that) but it would mean 5 months of full time wages for him.

Anyway, the grocery budget for next month is $250 (there are 5 weeks in March). See how close we get to it!

Chin up, keep smiling and finding new & fun ways to make the challenge enjoyable.

Today I need to make laundry liquid, do groceries and factor in some exercise. Housework is nearly finished! Yeah!!!!

Happy making & saving!


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Feeding a Family of 4 on $50 per Week

I've had a lot of comments lately asking me how I feed a family of 4 on $50 per week. The composition of my family is myself and my husband, our son (19) and our daughter (14 1/2). We have no pets (puppy passed away 3 years ago and we haven't been able to bring ourselves to get a new dog yet). What I will say is that it requires a certain amount of dedication to the cause, but the longer you practice the easier it becomes.

Twice a year I spend about $160 on meat. By doing this, I rarely have to buy other meat. I always buy in bulk and a variety of meat types, otherwise it can become a little monotonous. Other items I purchase in bulk which don't factor into my $50 per week are Olive oil (4L from Aldi ~ $19-20, depending what's on sale, lasts about 6 months) and bread flour 10kg from Coles $19.95 which lasts about 8 weeks. Our milk is home delivered, as I wanted to support Victorian dairy farmers. It costs a little more, but is worth it for the cause we are supporting( $13.98 for 9L/week). I make my laundry liquid (7L for ~$1.20) we use vegetable oil based soap as shampoo ($1.50 which lasts at least 6 months) and a homemade water, vinegar & lavender oil hair rinse (cost negligible, lasts 2-3 months). I also make my own soap, exfoliator & face masks.

My mission is to eventually make everything that is possible to eliminate the consumerism element from our lives.

So back to grocery shopping! Someone once said to me they spent $200 week on groceries (just her & hubby). I questioned it as I was quite surprised. The response was, "he likes quality food". Food doesn't have to be expensive to be quality. It's what the supermarket can get away with that makes the difference!

I switched to Aldi. I always go there first and buy everything that I can, even though it meant changing brands. I only buy groceries from other stores if I can't get a substitute brand. I try to shop there on the day their produce arrives, because it's at it's freshest on that day (it can be a bit hit and miss otherwise).

I always meal plan for the week. This includes if we are having a dinner party as well, or visitors from interstate (both our families live interstate, so visitors are a regular occurrence.)

I always write a comprehensive shopping list, which I DO NOT deviate from.

I do all of the shopping on one day and then avoid the shops at all costs.

I don't buy junk food/snack food (except special occasions). Everyone has an allowance each fortnight and if they wish to buy anything that deviates from necessity they can do so from their own money. Hubby will often bring home a box of ice creams for everyone as a treat. We love it and I don't feel like I've had to deviate from my plan.

I bake, bake, bake. The house always has a great supply of cookies/cakes/buns & bread. My son's friends used to joke at school that "his mum didn't work, because he always had the best stuff in his lunch box".

Fruit & veg markets (like Little Saigon in Footscray) is a fabulous market and a cultural experience. I love going there!

Buy only what's in season! It adds loads to your grocery bill if you buy produce out of season. They charge a fortune for it!

Be inventive and imaginative. Substitute ingredients. Fill tomato based sauces with vegetables, they go a lot further and are healthier.

A few meatless meals per week always helps stretch the meat a little further. A pot of soup 1 night per week (usually Sunday night for us) is a great cheap meal.

If you run out of fruit, try substituting it for carrot & celery sticks. They are much cheaper and are actually healthier than fruit as they contain no sugar.

Grow what you can! We have a very small inner city block but we still manage each season to have something that we won't need to buy. This summer it was lettuce & capsicums. We also have mandarins & lemons. A few strawberries, chives, sweet basil and schallotts.

The other contributor to my savvy grocery shopping is the $21 Challenge guide by Fiona Lippey & Jackie Gower. It's an outstanding guide to assist you with reducing your weekly grocery bill.

Set yourself a budget and only take that amount of money with you. Soon you'll be able to look into your shopping trolley and guestimate to within a few dollars the cost of your groceries.

I hope this post has been helpful. Just remember, organise, plan and dedicate time to the cause and you will soon see the benefits. I actually get a buzz out of my shopping and see it as a challenge every week!

Happy making and saving!


Friday, February 19, 2010

The End of Yet Another week

Firstly I would like to say "Thank you" to all of the people out there who are reading my blog and providing support to me on my journey. I feel, whilst February isn't quite over, it has been a reasonably successful month. Next month I will detail how much debt has been reduced.

This week has been extremely busy, which means not always a lot of time for concentrating on saving money, however, because my focus is so strong, I have been able to stay on track (more or less). Today will be a catch up day and tomorrow will be for starting to make gifts & special cards for weddings & birthdays for March.

I have lots of small trips away to help keep me invigorated and make me feel like I'm not missing out on anything. The long weekend in March (5-8th) sees the whole family going out of town for a long awaited wedding of very close friends. The accommodation was costly, but I am able to be reimbursed through pre-tax dollars because of my job. There is plenty of bush walking to do and (free) sight seeing. I'm able to cater for all meals (except for the 2 nights that meals are already catered for) in our apartment, eliminating the need for expensive meals out. We're really looking forward to it.

Then there's Easter weekend. We're off camping to a free site on a beautiful secluded beach in country Victoria. It'll be roughing it, but what a place to be "rough". Can't wait to be sipping my morning coffee whilst sitting on the beach and refocusing my mind after the busy start to the year. I just keep reinforcing to myself, that you don't have to spend money in order to enjoy yourself. Just being with the family and having some quiet time together for a couple of days will be lovely. I can't wait. We would normally have spent quite a bit of money on a trip away over Easter. Have saved ourselves ~$1000 at least. Camping will cost ~$200.

So back to today. It's catch up day! Baking, tidying, washing, planning for next week. The top up groceries (fruit, etc) got done on Wednesday. I had $40 in my purse for it. I added it up as I put it on the conveyor belt and knew I was just under. 25 cents under to be precise! I was very pleased with myself, as there were no luxuries, just essentials. Another of my children has just declared themselves "vegetarian"! I don't mind, it means the meat lasts longer between my husband and I. They are good kids, but they do make me laugh sometimes at the things they do. The eldest child does it because he doesn't believe in cruelty to animals (fair enough), the second one, got inspired by a story from 1 of her teachers the other day! Oh well.

Okay, so keep positive. Keep your money in your purse and don't spend anything unless you ABSOLUTELY have to! Pay day next week! See how we go!

Happy Making & Saving!


Monday, February 15, 2010

The Beginning of a New Week!

Here's another Monday morning. The beginning of a new week and another challenge of not fritting away the money I work so hard for. Because I had been sooo good for the last 2 months, I allowed myself some sanity money. It was really enjoyable having some money in my purse that I didn't need to justify. I still have most of that money just because it's hard to get out of the routine of not spending. I also view spending quite differently now. My husband took me out on Saturday night (out of his allowance) which was truly wonderful. And tonight he's taking me to the movies. I must be being rewarded for my mammoth efforts!

Last night I bought home a bottle of champagne ($cheap, but very nice, was on special) as our daughter had cooked a candle light dinner for Valentine's Day. (We don't actually celebrate Valentine's Day, but when people are just doing out of the love of their heart rather than the commercialised "YOU MUST", it's really lovely and feels very special.

With regard to the 6 extra shifts I needed to work this month to be on track for the Borneo payment at the end of March, I have worked 2, just 4 more to go. I am starting to feel liberated of the stress of money and must haves. I like how I feel and find that the more positive my attitude to money the more I seem to have!

Today's baking day. Loaves of bread, biscuits, goodies :)) Also get the house in order ready for the rest of the week!

Happy Making & Saving!


Friday, February 12, 2010

It's starting to Feel Like Recovery

Well, I really feel like I had a win today. I had difficulty trying to sleep after night duty, (massive thunderstorms today in Melbourne) and decided to get up and go and do the bills. I always like to do it as close to payday as possible or more often than not on payday, that way you get to allocate your pay before it gets fritted away.

Well I paid everything as per my plan (and that of debtproof and to my surprise when I was finished I still had a massive $600 left over. With the extra; I transferred $100 into the bills account (for anything additional that might crop up between now and next payday) as well as transferring $500 into my daughter's bank account ready for the final payment on her World Challenge trip to Borneo in June/July.(I had planned to pay that amount of money from working additional shifts - 6 this month and 6 next month, therefore not affecting my household debt reduction plan.

I thought it was a fluke last payday, as the same thing also happened. Miraculously I found myself with $500 left over. You see I have never had that sort of money just leftover. it's always been deemed "live on money". Obviously it made no difference as plenty of credit was still able to be racked up. We were obviously living well beyond our means. Now no credit is being racked up and I am putting savings into the bank each fortnight and paying off my debt. I have no outstanding bills that I need to catch up on. It all seems to be falling into place nicely. it's becoming very clear that we were wasting money we didn't even know we were wasting. I kept saying to my husband,
" I earn good money, yet I don't seem to have any!" This was causing me a great deal of stress, as I kept thinking the answer was to earn more money. Now I am working less hours (84 per fortnight- 7 x 12 hr shifts) than previously (120 hrs per fortnight - 6 days per week) and I have plenty of time to make everything in order to reduce my costs and save money by being more organised.

This year is going to be an incredible year. I can feel it. A year for personal growth, getting rid of the debt and also realising that my family is the most important thing in the world. I love what I am an achieving for them!

Happy making & saving


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Keeping on Track

Today was shopping day and as usual I had menu planned and tried to minimise my grocery shopping to a mere $30. I felt a pang of disappointment when the cashier said that will be $49 thanks. I hadn't deviated from my list. There was not one non-essential item. Yet I still felt as though I had failed.

I then realised that in fact I had succeeded. 2 reasons:

1. The cost of fruit & veg is getting higher and yet we still need to maintain a healthy diet.

2. I had fed 2adults & 2 children (19 & 14 1/2 years) breakfast lunch and dinner and snacks for $49 for 7 days. Now that's no mean feat. And no one will be hungry.

I guess that means I have halved my grocery bill, as I used to spend ~$100 per week.

That also led me to thinking that I may be should give myself a sanity allowance. My husband gets $160 fortnight, but also has to pay for his petrol out of that (he rides a motorbike). Whilst my pertol is already paid for, I guess $100 per fortnight might be good, as then I won't feel quite as deprived as I do at the moment. My hair is in desperate need of a colour, yet I can't bring myself to part with $14 for a hair colour (which I do myself once every 8weeks or so). I really have STOPPED all spending.

I have also payed a visit today to and joined their online membership. Unlike which helps you cut the corners off your everyday spending, it helps you formulate your debt free plan. It's a great website full of lots of information, tips and advice.

The plan helped to keep me motivated further and it will do all of my calculations online each month after I've made my payments.

it's scary to see it all written there, but confronting it in black & white is half the battle.

Off to work again tonight. Hopefully better that the last shift. Have also just been for a swim, as I want to incorporate exercise into my routine as part of keeping emotionally & physically fit & strong, will give me the will power to become financially fit also.

I really have to get on to those wedding cards and the March birthday presents.

Happy making & saving!


Monday, February 8, 2010

The beginning of a New Week

Well, here we are! It's Monday and that means it's PAY Week. On Thursday I pull out the bills folder along with the credit card statements. Then I start chugging along with as much as I can possibly pay off everything. Bills are in order of due date, particularly anything with a discount for paying early. These are already accounted for. Everything that can be paid by automatic deduction (fee free of course) is and then that leaves me with the surprise of what I have leftover. Then I divvy it up after paying the minimums off the CC's (out of the bills account).

The No Spend Challenge is going well. The grocreries from Friday blew out to $37 instead of $25, but still happy to come in at $107 for the fortnight. I spent NO money at work on the weekend. Was well prepared and made my lunch for work (12 hr shift). Had to pay for parking just on the Saturday $8.00, but Sunday was on street parking for free. My night duties tonight & tomorrow night will be free also (on street parking). I find a 12hr shift my biggest challenge at not spending as I am sometimes very tempted by the vending machine in the tearoom. I find I'm getting really good at pretending it's not there.

Today I opened an Oztion online selling account. Am going to try my hand at selling some stuff I have from when I cleaned out my wardrobe. Might also have a go at selling other stuff that I make and see how I go. Will be a good way to make a bit of extra cash (have a really nasty March coming up) and am just trying anything to get me through!

Have to buy bread flour today, big 10kg bag, usually costs $19.95 from coles. Have never seen it anywhere else. Otherwise, that's about it!

Have to do some baking today for family to snack on. Thought I'd try bulk cookie mix as I have all of the ingredients.

Happy making & saving!


Friday, February 5, 2010

Weaning Yourself of Shops!

This is just a little extra on the side. If your having trouble stopping yourself from spending money on frivolous items you need to put a plan in place that will help you not spend what you can't afford or don't NEED!

Try these steps if you are a person who can't resist a good bargain!

1. If it's not on a list at home of things you need to get - DON'T BUY IT!

2. Ask yourself if you NEED the item. Put it down walk out and think about it while you do your other necessary tasks. Then wait 24 hours before you purchase it! You will probably find you don't actually go back for it as you'll either forget about it or decide you didn't really NEED it!

3. Don't take credit cards to the shops. Limit yourself to the amount of money that you know you'll need to be able to get the things you have intended to get. This way, you can't spend what you don't have.

4. NEVER leave home to go to the shops without a list of what you actually need to do there. This way you will have a focus and feel like you achieved whilst you were there although you may not have come home with bags full of shopping.

5. Be HONEST with yourself. Do you REALLY NEED a new bag or new shoes. Go shopping in your own wardrobe and pull out things you haven't used or worn for a long time. You'll find it' almost the same as having something new. And you'll always get asked, "is that new"? or "I haven't seen that before!" and you'll feel good about yourself, because you didn't need to buy something new to get the same response!

Be consumer conscious. STOP THINK & SAVE!

Happy making & saving


Friday, The End of a Virtual No Spend Week


Today marks the end of a reasonably successful No Spend Week! I survived my husband's birthday and have only spent $1.20 on a caramello bear (I'm a self-confessed chocoholic) and last night my husband cooked dinner and asked me to bring a bottle of wine home, $10.99 (and it was lovely). As I work shift, my Friday night can happen on any night of the week, so for me, it was last night! I must say, am feeling just a little bit slow today. Back to work tomorrow for 2 day and 3 night shifts. It'll be tiring, but also ensures no SPENDING!!!!

I feel enriched and love the fact that the same money has been in my possession for 1 whole week. I just don't feel like I miss out on anything. My mission is to see how few products I need to buy each week and can I replace things with home made versions.

We have now stopped buying shampoo and conditioner. This has been replaced with a cake of vegetable oil based soap (has to be vegetable oil based) and a rinse made on water, white vinegar and lavender oil. Our hair is fabulous, in fact it's better than when we were using shampoo. The rinse cost almost nothing to make and the soap costs about $1.50 and last a very long time. I also make my washing liquid, very simple and cost very little also, about $1.00 for 7litres. I have home made soap drying ready for use when the bought one runs out. I make all of our bakery products and find that I am slowly replacing the amount of things I need to write on the shopping list. I am also replacing my skin care as I run out. The home made soap with brown sugar, rolled oats and cinnamon is great for my face, on a daily basis. I also make an exfoliator as I need it from olive oil and ground rock salt. Great on face, as well as the rest of the body and feet. The oil leaves your skin feeling soft and supple. For my mask, a little plain yoghurt with some honey. My skin looks great and I know what's in my skin care and that it didn't need to be tested on animals.

All of these little changes make a significant overall difference to the amount of money I am consuming! The savings account actually has a small amount sitting in it also (1st time for a while)!

I also need to get cracking on making 2 beautiful wedding keepsake cards for weddings next month! Also lots of birthdays next month so must start making for those!

Happy making and saving!

Martha :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another 24hours!

Another 24hours has past, and here goes details of the spending!

It was hubby's birthday yesterday, made his card along with his invite for a 3 course French dinner. Set the table beautifully, like a restaurant. Was great!

Salmon $18.21
yeast (had run out) $ 3.75
turkish bread $4.50
parking $0.50
Leek/potatoes/fruit $5.94
Total $32.90

Not bad I thought, given normally if I were to do this sort of thing I would get very carried away and ending up spending more than I would if I bought a gift or we went out for dinner. Everyone had a lovely night, so the whole family benefited from it. He really enjoyed his birthday night.

You see, I'm really trying to create positive experiences for the whole family through not spending. Particularly at their ages (19 & 14 1/2) when they are getting their own money. I want them to see that it's not what you spend necessarily, but what you spend it on. Is it just being wasted or do you stand to be able to get more money from it. Or will it get you a really enjoyable memory or will it just create debt and misery down the track? A great read to help motivate is Not Buying It, My Year Without Shopping, by Judith Levine.

Now back on the No Spend for the rest of the week. Have to start making wedding cards ready for next month! Now that's going to be a challenge!

Happy making and saving!


Monday, February 1, 2010

No Spend Challenge Continues

Back again, after another busy, busy night of night duty! Another 24hrs has passed and I still have spent NO money. Not $1.00 on anything. That's now 3 days, of not spending anything. Quite an achievement I think!

Last night because it was so hot, hubby wanted us to go out for dinner. It was totally unnecessary, as all I needed to do was rearrange my dinner schedule. We ended up having and enormous salad with leftover cold meet from a lamb roast. Everyone was totally happy with that and besides, it would have been too oppressive to go out into the hot wind. The change finally came through and we all cooled down a bit, but then it was off to work for me!

Today is hubby's birthday! He very rarely wants for anything and being so close to Christmas, he's really hard to buy for. What he does love is a good night out to dinner. I have made him up a gift certificate for a 3 course French cuisine dinner, made at home (for the whole family). I already had a small amount of money put aside for the Salmon (a treat for him) and the other ingredients I already have. He loves Pavlova (not very French, but the rest is) and I have a very nice bottle of red wine to have with dinner. I know he will be happy, just to have the enjoyment of the night prepared by me. A beautiful hand made card also goes a long way in his books. His not a consumerist either, which makes for a nice change these days!

So, I'd better get cracking in the kitchen, I also have to fit in a VERY busy kid schedule this afternoon!

Happy making & saving