Random Tip

Open all the cupboards and let the cat or dog into the house. They’ll let you know if you’ve got mice. Current mouse population here is expanding (not yet plague proportions, thankfully). Keep the vermin away without having to buy traps or lay bait by allowing your pets to do what they’re good at.

If you don’t laugh, you’d cry

Some days just do not go well. It’s lunch time, and I haven’t completely lost my marbles yet. I should have.

  • My two youngest broke the roller blind in their bedroom. Beyond repair. Now I have to find room in the budget for a new one.
  • They are each on their second outfit, mud puddles plus walking the dog equals wet fun (and extra washing I hadn’t really planned on).
  • Worried phone call from mum asking if I could drive to their place and turn off the stove as she won’t be home until late and doesn’t want the soup to burn.
  • Breakout the vacuum to clean the lounge, and it’s just not sucking things up. Half an hour later I’ve finally removed the hair tangled around the rolling brush in the bottom (am I the only one who never knew I had to do this regularly?).

On the positive side, I was so angry about the blind that I couldn’t even yell at the kids. Instead they got the “go and play, I’m too angry to be nice to you” while I collected myself. The dog got a walk, and he loves wet day walks. The soup mum is making won’t burn, because I did make the 20 minute round trip just to take the stock off the stove, and mum makes great veg soup (I plan on eating some next time I visit). The vacuum is now cleaning the way it should. I will have to actually take it apart and give it a proper clean soon, but it’s fixed enough to get the house clean.

Some days just don’t go well. It’s true, but it’s also a matter of perspective. I could let this series of inconveniences get me down (and I did, for about an hour), or I could realise that it could be worse.

The blind could have broken a window as the kids pulled it down. The dog could have been hit by a car as we walked (thank heaven for retractable leads). The kids could only have one set of winter clothes. Mum’s house didn’t burn down from leaving the stove on while she went out. I could have no vacuum and be using a dustpan and brush to clean the carpets.

In reality, these aren’t big issues, but when we let them build up, they can become big. Stress is something that I deal with every day. Big stressors and little stressors add up to physical ailments. But do I want them to? No. No, I don’t.

So today, while it may not have gone well (and there’s still time for it to go south), I’m choosing to fix what I can, work around what I can’t and know that tomorrow at least I can look forward to a walk to the library.

Frugality? Are you sure?

Being frugal is almost a catchcry these days. Who can be more frugal? Can I out-frugal the neighbours? Can I be greener, leaner, simpler than whomever?

Well, to be honest, I don’t care much about who I can be more frugal than. It’s important to me, so I’m going to be as frugal as I can without denying my family things that I believe to be important.

The reasons, for me, are fairly simple. At one point, I had nothing. I had no steady income, three small humans to feed as well as myself, and only basic benefits that didn’t go far enough to pay the bills.

I had to tighten the belt. If it weren’t for family who showed up with food, one of whom managed to get me a job, we would have struggled so much harder than we already were.

Then, I can tell you I used every frugal strategy I could lay my hands on.

  • I only bought the basics and made everything else from scratch
  • I used cloth nappies out of necessity rather than out of desire
  • I went reusable for menstrual products
  • I didn’t go anywhere I couldn’t walk to
  • I didn’t buy anything superfluous

It really hit home to me, not then, but later, that some people go through more than just twelve months of struggle like this. Some people spend their lives in this stressful situation. I don’t have words to explain how tough this must be, or even to truly comprehend this myself.

So now that things are not so tough for me financially, I still do the frugal. Not because I have to, but because I want to. I want to make sure there’s a buffer between me and any more financial hardship, so I’m building an emergency fund. I want to make sure that when we need something important, we have the funds to pay for it. I want to make sure that I can pay for school fees and swimming lessons. I want to make sure we can pay the doctors fee if one of us should get sick.

So here’s a list of what I’ve been doing to make sure we stay with our heads somewhere above the waterline.

  • Meal plan, simple plus frugal. Only buy what you need, and plan it out so you know what you’re feeding everyone rather than having the dinner time stress of trying to decide at the last minute
  • Accept when people offer stuff. My dad gave me a huge tub of laundry detergent that was sitting unused in his shed. He wasn’t going to use it, so I took it and two months on we haven’t even used half.
  • Wear the kids out by taking the dog for a walk to the park. It’s free, everyone is getting out in the fresh air, and the littles are tired at bedtime after the physical activity
  • Use the library. We can get books, DVD’s etc for free. It’s a win for us as we have a DVD and pizza night with no rental fees
  • Dry the laundry on the clothesline. Winter is tougher than summer, but I’ve strung up lines in the shed so we can dry towels and bedsheets more quickly in the wet months
  • Substitute items on the grocery list. I LOVE Coca Cola. I know how terrible it is for me, but I’m not going to give it up anytime soon, or ever. But instead of buying two bottles, I buy one of Coke and one of the supermarket brand cola. It doesn’t taste the same, but it’s kinder on the budget
  • Buy in bulk. Things like toilet paper, nappies, wipes, rice, pasta, meat for the freezer. If you can store things you use often, buying in bulk is cheaper.
  • Accept hand-me-downs. Not just for kids, my sister cleaned out her wardrobe and since I had been complaining that I had no jeans that fit anymore, she passed some to me. The ones that were too small for me, my eldest daughter got and she was as stoked as I was.
  • Don’t buy what you don’t need. I had two saucepans, and needed a third to use for non-food items (body products etc). I told my mum I was going to visit the op shop and instead she handed me one of hers that she didn’t actually need. Then again, not everyone needs a non-food saucepan, so if you only need two, don’t buy a third.

So, I’m still frugal. And there are tons more little things I do to stay that way. I stretch mince dishes with kidney beans, I bake my own bread and cakes, and I never buy coffee when I’m out. I’m not as frugal by necessity now, but by choice. And by making that choice I can afford the school excursions, swimming and dancing lessons, occasional visits to the café with the kids.

I don’t feel deprived, and I still have fun. So do my kids. And hopefully the kids won’t even notice that we don’t have everything so-and-so has, but will notice that I was there, taking them to the park and the library, cheering them at swimming, doing their hair for dancing and making sure they were clothed, fed and educated. It won’t matter to them now, but maybe, when they have kids of their own, they’ll know mum tried. If nothing else, I tried.

Losing Your Way, Finding Your Path

It’s easy to lose your way. Get side tracked, get busy, family drama, no time, no energy. All of these things can get in the way of that goal you’ve been working toward.

For me, it was a combination of all of the above. A new job that required so much of my time and effort, studying for a degree that I’ve wanted for years, a sick relative, another whose stress levels were affecting me and my family, lack of sleep and the demands of being a sole parent to three amazing kids.

For months I was lost in the mire. I was working, earning enough to allow for the occasional splurge for the kids, and then I let it all slide. I no longer had to budget every cent, I no longer had to be sure to turn the appliances off at a specified time so my electric bill wouldn’t run over my budget, I no longer had to deny myself the occasional pack of Tim Tams. And there it was, I loosened the reins in one area of my life, and all the other things slipped a little too.

It took me months to notice how far off track I’d gotten, and only a day of brooding to figure out that my slip was not a failure, but a normal part of life. We slip, we fall, we drift off the path we had chosen for ourselves, but we can get back up, turn ourselves back in the right direction and begin again.

Three things got me back on track.

  • Realising how much I was spending on disposable products. Baby wipes, paper towel, dish sponges, tampons, the list is enormous.
  • Realising that my trees were fruiting again, here is something free, natural and delicious for my family, and it just happens to grow in my backyard. With a little thought and effort, I could try this gardening thing again.
  • Realising that I missed the sense of achievement I felt when I was giving my family the best I could, even when it was on such a tight budget

So here I am, back at the starting line, picking myself up, finding my way back to where I want to be. And knowing that I may have drifted off the path, but that’s ok, I have GPS, I’ll always be able to find it again.

Winter Preparation

Winter is here, so I’ve thinking about heating. Staying warm. Managing not to freeze in a house whose draughts I haven’t worked out yet. And yes, I should have done this in May, but things can get crazy busy around here.

I have two major issues that need looking, and a small list of others that need to get done because we’ve been inundated with rain and wind.

And this isn’t just a matter of staying warm, it’s a frugal necessity. Electricity prices have increased so much that running the electrics for our household is enough to make me cringe. So in order to lower our heating bill, I need to fix some things.

A large hole in my bedroom wall. It was patched at some point, but the patch has fallen off and is currently sitting on my mantle piece. It not only lets in cold air, but the cat keeps watching the hole as if he’s expecting a mouse. Not cool.

There is also a big louvre window next to the back door. It doesn’t shut all the way and in order to keep any warmth in the house we have to keep the kitchen door closed at all times. Not possible with three kids going in and out.

And these are only the big things. When it comes down to really hunting out the issues, I’ve found at least three other ways that my house is losing heat that I will have to pay for. So while wearing layers and using extra blankets is fine, I want to make sure that the money I will be spending on heating doesn’t just float out the window or under the door.

So start the list. Check under and around doors, windows, cupboards housing plumbing and ceilings for draughts. Check for water leaks next time it rains, is it leaking in through the window? Do you need to replace the seals? Are the gutters running well? If you’ve noticed any mould in bathrooms or under sinks, clean it now, no one needs to get sick.

It sounds a little petty, but all these little things can cost you money, and it does add up. And when paying for winter utilities, every dollar saved is important.

Kick the Crappy Mood

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I, like everyone, can get caught in a bad moment. And dwelling there ends in a bad mood. A couple of quick ways I’ve found can help kick it quickly.

Brush your teeth. No one likes a furry mouth and minty fresh always makes me feel more human.

Have a shower. Wash the bad mood down the drain and use a sweet smelling body wash.

Quiet time. Just five minutes alone with a coffee and a book can switch my brain to a better channel.

Listen to a song you love. My current favourites are ‘Morningless’ by Paul Dempsey and ‘Wild Things’ by Alessia Cara.

Hug someone. Someone you love, or a pet. I don’t advise hugging strangers, it’s kinda weird.

Get out in the sunshine. Fresh air, vitamin D, what’s not to love?

And if none of these help, or you’ve got time on your hands, I suggest a Tim Tam Slam and a Nanna Nap.

Here’s hoping your day is awesome, and if not, you can turn it around.

Todays’ Treat

My kids are like any others, they love a treat, but I’m a frugal crunchy mum at heart, so I try to make treats I feel good about giving them.

Tonight we had a pizza picnic party sitting in the lounge watching Family Feud. And my kids loved it! For them, homemade pizza is fun and tasty. Yes they still request Maccas on occasion, but it’s neither in the budget or locality.

I’m still working on getting the refined sugar and processed foods out of our diet, and I don’t know that I’ll ever give up my caffeine or chocolate entirely. But that’s OK with me. My kids deserve a treat sometimes, and heck, so do I.