• Faith,  Family,  Frugal Living

    Dollar Diet: Use it up

    This week’s frugal results of the Dollar Diet. 

    This week we chugged on pretty nicely with our frugal fortnightly meal plan – although we had two takeaways, which is unusual for us on our Dollar Diet.

    The first takeaway was due to our Wednesday night church home group deciding to include a meal as part of the evening’s activities.  I pushed for this as 1) I think something magical happens when people share a meal together, and 2) one of our group has a long commute and often turns up without having eaten dinner – now that’s faithfulness!  I figured we could make Wednesday night easier for her by providing dinner.  We kicked off with Fish and Chips, but we’ll definitely have some home cooked fare in there too in the future.

    The second meal was due to having a bad day, as I referenced in my previous post Parenting with Hashimoto’s.  For some reason my Hashimoto’s is bad at the moment, and I’m having a LOT of bad days.  I got to early afternoon and was all-in.  Mr G was knackered too.  Our cupboards and freezer were bare thanks to last week’s pantry audit.  It was annoying, yet funny.  I’m gratified to know I had done a great job at using up all our food!

    Anyway, I aim to restock our freezer this week with delectable leftovers to avoid takeaway temptation.

    This week’s frugal doings:

    • I made vegan muffins using last week’s applesauce.  Applesauce makes beautifully moist muffins.  They didn’t last long!  We still have lots of applesauce left which will go in more baking or as a breakfast topping.

      image credit and recipe here

     

    • I hung out our washing on the line as the weather permitted.

     

    • I baked, and baked and baked some more.  Biscuits, scones, those muffins.  It all makes filling lunchboxes, filling tummies, and hosting guests that much easier.  And you can make much healthier alternatives to store-bought baking.

     

    • The kids had play dates with friends at the weekend – free entertainment.  The mother of my son’s friend stayed to chat and she brought brownie.  She’s a keeper…

     

    • A friend of mine came over with a DVD and wine.  She’s most definitely a keeper!

     

    • We scored a secondhand Pippins uniform for E.  She adores Pippins (which is baby Girl Guides/Girl Scouts if you don’t know what it is) and asks nearly every day if it’s a Pippins day.  Getting the uniform cheaply is a big help as their activity fee is high.  I’ll elaborate more on why we chose Pippins as an extracurricular activity at a later date.

      What Pippins Do
      image via Girl Guides NZ

     

    • I decluttered the kid’s clothes, toys and books for approximately the 1,237th time.  Seriously.  I seem to be constantly biffing out things the kids have outgrown or broken or had no idea they owned in the first place.  Decluttering gives many people a headache, I know, but I LOVE it.  I give away what I can to friends, and donate to op-shops; only relegating broken stuff or things that I wouldn’t wear or use myself to recycling.  Why is it a frugal thing to do?  1) You can sell your unwanted goods for profit.  2) The less stuff you (or your kids) own, the less time and money you have to spend cleaning it, caring for it,  storing it and stressing about it.  Your time, energy and money are better spent elsewhere.  3) It’s freeing to get rid of things that are otherwise collecting dust, plus I love giving back to the frugal chain of charity shops, where I get most of our clothing and household goods from.  My trash is someone else’s treasure. Donating your goods to charity shops helps them stay open and usually funds all manner of good works.

     

    • Our church has a budget for children’s ministry, but I like to save them a buck or two whenever possible.  On Sunday the church kids entered an art competition, and used paint, brushes and palettes I had leftover from a rock painting event I ran; and they used some high quality paper we’d had lying around for ages after it was gifted to us by a neighbour.  We even used Mr G’s old t-shirts as painting aprons. $0 expenditure for the kid’s ministry this week!
      God’s wonderful creation by Z, age 7

       

     

    What frugal things did you get up to this week?

  • Frugal Living

    Dollar Diet: It’s on!

    Since my last post about the Dollar Diet and how to do it, I’ve been on fire this week, doing whatever it takes to save money and spend less.

    Finance Sketch Near Laptop Computer
    Just for the record, twee mini succulents are NOT an essential budgeting tool…

    We’ve returned from a much-needed long weekend in Dunedin.  Although we had a few days ‘holiday’ in January on our way from our previous town to Pleasant Point, we were moving house, which isn’t a terribly relaxing thing to do.   I get cabin fever if I’m stuck in one place too long, so a change of scene was definitely in order.  A couple of days away does wonders for recharging my batteries.

    We kept the costs down by choosing cheap, self-catering accommodation away from the CBD, and mostly stuck to doing free stuff – like playgrounds, bike parks and visiting Mr G’s aunt and uncle who live in the area.  I cannot stress enough how much self-catering will keep your holiday spending at a minimum.  I would much rather spend $40 on a fun outing with my family than on lunch at a cafe!  Mr G and I read several books over the weekend – now that’s luxury!

    Marlow Park, Dunedin

     

    Waitaki Bike Park, Oamaru
    Moeraki boulders, Otago

    Because we’re museum junkies, we did fork out money for the extra activities at Otago Museum.  Most of the museum can be seen for free – and it’s well worth the visit alone – but you do need to buy tickets to enter Tuhura (apologies, I can’t figure out how to do a macron on here!), which incorporates the very interactive science centre, butterfly rain forest, and planetarium.  I wouldn’t do the planetarium again, but the science centre and butterfly rain forest were totally worth the money.

     

    Anyway, on to the frugal stuff!

    • Mr G’s relatives gave us a huge bagful of golden delicious apples and feijoas from their trees.  Paying for feijoas hurts, especially when we used to get tonnes from a tree at our old house.  The free fruit means we don’t need to buy any for a couple of weeks.  My daughter E is a fruit fiend and munches her way through an awful lot, so it’s a significant saving.

     

    • I made applesauce from the apples.  Unsweetened applesauce is a great substitute for oil or butter in recipes, and is a yummy porridge topping.

     

    • They also gave us a stack of towels in good nick.  It’s not often I regret getting rid of something, but I definitely regretted giving away some of our towels last year before we moved.  I didn’t factor in the amount of visitors we’d receive in Pleasant Point (some of our friends have large families), and I should have hung on to them.  As you can imagine, I was chuffed to get the towels from Auntie R.

     

    • I baked a LOT this week.  We had some mozzarella cheese that needed to be used up, so I made a margarita pizza, which is E’s favourite dish in the whole, wide world.  I made cheese scones and a banana cake for my family (using up bananas that seem to have been in my freezer forever), plus several batches of biscuits (cookies) to feed a hoard of children during an impromptu playdate.

     

    • I did a pantry audit – making a list of everything in my cupboards/fridge/freezer – and made a two week meal plan. (I shop fortnightly to save on petrol as we live 20 minutes away from the nearest big supermarket.)  I won’t bore you with all the minute details, but I ended up with things like: a pack of sausages, a whole frozen chicken, leftover chickpea curry, two meals worth of home made soup, half a pack of brown rice, lasagne sheets, a pack of arborio rice and 10 pumpkins.  Yes, 10 pumpkins.  With a modicum of effort, it didn’t take long to work out a meal plan e.g. the sausages went into a very frugal hotpot (let me know if you’d like me to post this recipe, it’s really fast, easy and delicious), and the chicken went into a risotto one night and a curry the next.  The combination of items in my pantry meant I only spent $123 on food this fortnight.  $61.50 for a week’s worth of meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – is pretty awesome!  Doing a pantry audit a few times a year means you no longer get packets of couscous/leftovers languishing at the back of the cupboard/freezer.  You save money buy using up everything and waste waaaay less food, plus it’s also a good way to free up extra cash that you’d otherwise be spending on food that week.  Give it a try the next time you’ve got an unexpected bill.

     

    • I tried out a new recipe to use up some of those pumpkins (from our own garden), and made a pumpkin, spinach and lentil lasagne.  Oh my word, divine! You can find the recipe here.  It’s very time-consuming so best left to a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, but worth the effort.  We eat several vegetarian or vegan meals a week, which helps to keep our grocery budget low – plus they’re healthy and delicious.

      Pumpkin, spinach and lentil lasagne
      image and recipe via taste.com.au

     

    • Mr G sealed up two open fireplaces and a meat safe (our lovely house is from the 1930s) to reduce heat loss, using a masterful application of bubble wrap, tape and corflute.  Open fireplaces are ridiculously inefficient at heating a room; it’s actually more cost-effective for us to run a heater in these rooms.

     

    • We had a very quiet Queen’s birthday weekend.  We had little on our social calendar – which was just as well because my son and I are a bit under the weather – so most of the weekend was spent mooching around the house.  Just what the doctor ordered.

     

    It wasn’t all frugal around here though.  I had to admit defeat and recognise that I really, really do need more warm clothes, and that a woolly hat is a necessary item in E’s school uniform.  I baulked at paying $10 for a plain blue,school-issued beanie, and I got one for $5 elsewhere.  (FYI, I despise knitting, in case you wondered why I didn’t whip one up myself.  Seriously, I’d rather stab myself with the needles…)  I’m not a wuss when it comes to the cold; I’ve lived in much colder climates than Pleasant Point, but they were in countries that have embraced central heating and double glazing.  Get with the programme, New Zealand.

    Despite stocking up in merinos from op-shops last year and layering like the Michelin man, I  needed some thick tops to wear around our icebox house.  Having come from mild Whanganui, I didn’t already own that sort of thing.  I couldn’t find what I wanted secondhand and had to resort to buying two brand new tops.  Still, I figure the money I spent on them is offset by spending less on heating the house!  With Mr G and I at home most of the time during the day – Mr G’s church office is in our house – our power bill gets quite high, so it all helps.  Mr G is usually the type of guy to be found in shorts and t-shirt during a blizzard, but even he has succumbed to thermal underwear.  Ergo, it actually is quite chilly in Pleasant Point.

     

    What frugal things have you been up to lately?

     

     

  • Frugal Living

    How to go on a Dollar Diet

    Long-term readers of my previous blog Tots in Tawhero will know that a few years ago my family and I embarked on what I call the Dollar Diet.  A reader asked if I was still doing the Dollar Diet, and I’m happy to report that yes, yes I am.

    cash, coins, money

    The Dollar Diet is very simple: only spend money on necessities.  Easy, right?

    I had already significantly reigned in my former spendthrift ways when we first attempted a Dollar Diet.  In the past I was careless with managing my money and got into debt at various times.  It was shameful and stressful and my strategy of burying my head in the sand had to go.  It wasn’t an overnight transformation, but slowly and surely I got better at saving more and spending less.

    I got married to Mr G, and we both earned reasonable money.  Mr G is pretty good at money management but we found we weren’t saving as much as we could.  We then had kids.  I decided to stay at home with the kids – at least until they were at school – so we went down to one income.  It was still perfectly liveable, as Mr G got decent money as a software developer.  However, not long after we married, Mr G felt called to become a minister for the Presbyterian church.

    Even though the minister thing has been years in the making, learning to thrive on one, low income drove me to try the Dollar DietI knew we could do better with less, and salt some savings away.  I knew we could track our spending better and plug the holes on our budget.  I had some specific savings goals that year (like a trip to Australia), but the idea of getting into a mindful spending groove over the course of a whole year really appealed.

    In the first year of the Dollar Diet I had lofty goals – there would be NO extras.  No cafe visits, no store-bought gifts, no paid subscriptions of any kind, no new clothes.  You get the picture.  I didn’t quite get there, but I had a lot of fun along the way.

    It’s true in a 1984-esque way: There is freedom in restriction.

    With restrictions on how I spent my time and money, my creativity was given free reign.  I cooked up a storm.  I sewed (very badly).  I learned how to make jam and chutney.  We threw frugal parties.  I grew a veggie garden.  Mr G learned how to DIY gates and fences.  I even upcycled some curtains a la Maria Von Trapp.  For real.

    But I also learned that it’s hard to find time to make gifts from scratch when you have little ones who catch all.the.illnesses.  Unexpected events and invitations happened.  I learned to make gifts waaay ahead of when they were needed because of this.  Most importantly, I learned how important it was to have a fun line in our budget, because I have a deep-seated need to have things to look forward to in my life, and scrimping and saving can get a bit grim at times.

    Today my family needs the Dollar Diet more than ever, because there’s very little room for extras in our new, reduced-income budget.  The Dollar Diet helps us to define our priorities, and takes away some of the stress of making ends meet.  I’ve long since shed many of the trappings that first-world society tells us we need to be happy and successful – no, I don’t need a fancy car, or an iPhone, or to attend a yoga retreat on Bora Bora.  I actually find it fun to see how much I can shave off my grocery budget for the week, and finding ways to do what I want for free or cheaply.

    Before I show you what this year’s Dollar Diet looks like for me, let me caveat this by saying that even though my family and I are now living on that much-reduced minister’s income, I’m still coming from a place of privilege.  We own a home in our previous town and have no mortgage.  Money from renting this out pays for much of our rent here in Pleasant Point.  We have savings.  We don’t have debt.  Despite Mr G’s salary halving this year, we’re still not on the poverty line.

    Okay?  Onto this year’s Dollar Diet!

    The Dollar Diet is simple.  Buy what you NEED.  Think long and hard before buying what you WANT.  Is it necessary?  Can you do without it?  Can you borrow it instead?  Can you wait while you save up for it?  Even NEEDS can be slimmed down by growing your own fruit and veg, or bartering and borrowing when possible.

    My ‘needs’ will be different to yours, no doubt, but that’s the beauty of the Dollar Diet.  What are your non-negotiables?

    My 2018 list 

    • Rent  (For the first time in a few years we have to pay rent.  We pay $250 a week for the massive manse we get to live in during Mr G’s internship.  This rent is offset a bit from income from our rental home, but we still have to pay rates and maintenance from the rent income.)
    • Groceries (I typically spend around $150 for our family of four, which is well below the national average of $230 a week, but I know I can get this much lower at times when necessary).
    • Electricity, firewood (Our current house is like most NZ homes – poorly insulated and freezing, so our power bill is rather frightening.  We were so grateful for a generous gift of firewood!)
    • Internet/phone/cellphones
    • Netflix (Hi, my name is Angela and I like to binge watch Occupied and Zoo.  There, I said it.)
    • Insurances (life, home contents, vehicle, house)
    • Petrol, vehicle maintenance
    • Rates (for our house in Whanganui)
    • School fees ($100 a year, plus 4 term activity fees)
    • Extracurricular activities for the kids (E does dancing – paid for by a grandparent- and Pippins; D does soccer.  E currently hates putting her head under the water, so swim lessons next term are probably in order so she can keep up with her class.)
    • Sponsor children (2)
    • Doctor’s visits & prescriptions, dentist visits
    • Gifts (making what I possibly can myself)
    • Haircuts (I only get my hair cut 2 or 3 times a year)
    • Moisturizer, foundation, bug spray (mozzies LOVE me), undies, watertight shoes (why oh why is it so hard to get decent shoes anymore!  Mine always fall apart after a couple of years wear), a few items of warm clothing (secondhand) – A
    •  A few invention gizmos, a few items of warm clothing – Mr G
    • Garden maintenance 
    • Chicken feed
    • Clothing (secondhand or free whenever possible), shoes, underwear for the children
    • 2 short holidays away (free or low-cost accommodation where possible).  Holidays are a luxury, but Mr G and I both recognise the value of making memories with our kids.  We aim to give them experiences instead of toys.
    • A small fun budget: to fund the odd takeaway/outing/school holiday activities
    • Big Goal: family trip to Australia for BFF’s wedding next January.  (We’re keeping this as low-cost as possible by avoiding pricey tourist activities, and staying in cheap and free accommodation.  Travel insurance is free under Mr G’s credit card programme.)

    It’s the things that aren’t on the list that save you money.  No buying lunch everyday.  No takeaway coffees each morning.  No splurging $300 on a pair of shoes that are almost the same as the pair you already own.  No mindless following of ‘fashion’.  No buying a new outfit for a special occasion when you have plenty of options in your wardrobe.  No buying takeaways just because you don’t feel like cooking.  Getting rid of magazine subscriptions, gym subscriptions, any subscription that you don’t honestly use.  No buying books (that’s why libraries were invented) or pretty tchotchkes for your home.  No greeting cards and wrapping paper.  No lavish gifts.  No recipes requiring pricey ingredients.  No expensive holidays.  No meeting up with friends for brunch at an expensive cafe.  No costly plays, concerts, exhibitions. No extravagant hobbies (unless it makes you money or saves your sanity).

    The fun and the challenge comes from trying to find free or frugal alternatives to keep living the good life.  Instead of going out for brunch, host a pancake breakfast for your friends.  Take up running or workout to YouTube clips instead of going to a gym.  Pack your own lunch and your coffee for work.  Have a meal or two in the freezer for the nights when you are too tired to cook.

    I’ll be getting back to my weekly frugal report.  It’s a powerful tool which keeps me on the straight and narrow.  Speaking of tools, two other important items in my frugal toolbelt are Goodbudget *(we use the free version) which is an envelope budgeting app that updates in real time; and a weekly family meeting where we discuss how we’ve been tracking for the week.  Sometimes this is a tad painful, but it certainly reigns me in.

    So stay tuned, I hope that some of my adventures in frugality will help my readers out there.

    Pink and White Ceramic Pig Coin Bank

     

    *We prefer Goodbudget but any app will do!