Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paying the price

I made a rookie error last night - I stayed up too late on a schoolnight.

Remember when staying up late meant your parents would let you watch a show that started at 8.30pm, just this once?

Well last night, in an uncharacteristically sporty mood, I stayed up to watch the Wimbledon men's singles semi-finals. Yes, I was watching Tomic.

And boy, was I impressed! He sure can play. He can put that tennis ball wherever he wants on the court, that's a talent.

In the end I crumbled about midnight, and went to bed in the middle of the second set.

This morning, I took this pic of me sitting in the car in the work carpark, mentally trying to get up the energy to go in!

So when I finally got home from work, I had a little nap. And now I'm raring to go again!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Car vs Train

With my new job came a new mode of transport: the car. Ever since I had moved to Brisbane 5 years ago, I had always taken the train to work. This new job was not in the city, so now I drive.

The costs are about the same in terms of weekly train tickets versus petrol. But the stress? Oh so very different. I must confess: I do not like driving to and from work. Here's why.


I have a manual car. Before taking this job, I rarely drove it in traffic. Now, every single afternoon (and sometimes the mornings too) are a jam. It's a pain in the rear. I'm longing for the days of yore, when the only thing I had to worry about was not having to sit next to a smelly person in those tiny seats on the train.

But soon, my new work is relocating back to the city! Hurray! I get to train it again. And read. I miss reading a book most of all, I think. No reading when you're driving. Not recommended.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Good stuff

Image: mine*

Just lately, we have been feeling that there's a lot of "good stuff" going on in our lives. It's a really nice way to feel too, as my partner and I have been through some tough times over the past few years.

I always felt it was mainly about money (ie. we never had enough) but looking back, it was more about other issues - The Truck (deserves a separate post by itself), my job dissatisfaction, C's business. But just lately, really good things are starting to happen.

It all started when I read The Secret last year. JUST KIDDING. Though I did actually read The Secret last year at the urging of a friend. I practiced the visualization techniques for a while, then forgot about them!

This year, however, things have really started getting on track for us. Good things that have happened to contribute to this positive feeling are:

- C proposed, and my parents offered to pay for the wedding (phew!)
- I got a new job
- The Pulsar got written off, so C finally had the means to fix The Truck, and it is now back on the road (the beast of a thing)
- We had a financial windfall, which will make a significant dent in our mortgage

Funny how these four things have made such a huge difference to my personal happiness. C is a pretty happy person anyway, he doesn't tend to worry about things like bills, mortgages, world hunger etc. like I do. But even he has expressed his amazement in the way things are going lately.

And you know what the greatest thing is? I just know that life is going to get better. I'm not sure how, but there are things coming up that are going to be fun (the wedding), amazing (the honeymoon) and interesting (who knows?). It's this feeling I have - that the good stuff is going to keep on rolling in. Wishful thinking? I hope not!

*yes, I took a photo of my own hand. Because I couldn't find any nice pics of a thumbs up, ok?!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Moments

Image: mine

My happy moments for this week:

- Hearing about my mum's experience singing at the Sydney Opera House with Chorus Oz. Amazing that she gets to do that.

- Answering truthfully to several people who asked that yes, I am enjoying my new job. It's much better than my old one and I'm so much less stressed!

- Having a girl's night out to see Bridesmaids. I laughed, I hooted embarrassingly, I loved it. What a great movie - I loved the themes about female competitiveness and friendship.

- Catching up with our friends for pizza on Friday night. A simple thing but so much fun, and we never run out of things to talk about.

- Actually getting some housework done. Because I haven't been away the past two weekends I've been able to maintain a level of orderliness that fills me with satisfaction!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Couponing: Oz Style update

This week is my second week of being a novice couponer. This morning I sat down with the week's junk mail and went through it all. I mean REALLY looked at what is being sold and the prices. I am focusing solely on groceries at the moment as this is the area where I feel our household can really save some dough.

I physically cut the sale items I wanted out of the catalogues and clipped them all together with a bullclip. Then I took the little pile of paper shopping. I think C was a little embarrassed. He should be thanking his lucky stars I'm not toting around a large binder folder full of coupons and clippings just yet!

I've found the hardest thing is learning what things really cost. I mean, the catalogue may tell me that something is on special for $1.29 off, but how do I know that I can't get the same item at another supermarket for $1.50 cheaper normally? So it's been a steep learning curve and it has been absolutely shocking, SHOCKING I tell you, to realize just how blase I have been about groceries for many years.

I used to walk in, buy the things I needed and get the hell out. Do you do this? Sometimes I wouldn't even look at the price. So for example if I needed pasta sauce, I bought the brand I knew I liked. And sometimes, it is the brand my mother buys. I think "they" (being the people behind all these brands) rely a lot on familiarity and comfort to sell their product, and I've come to believe it is just silly!

I had to break some very big brand habits when our household had to start shopping at Aldi, and I'm doing it again now. If another brand of tissue is on sale that is not my "normal" one, I'm going to buy it. Because you've got to try it before you knock it, right?

One problem I've encountered is the price of buying in bulk has set me back a few more dollars than I thought it would initially. I spent $170 last week at Aldi and Coles combined, but I'm hoping that it will last me 2 weeks. Yes, that is including meat. So if it works out to be $85 a week in groceries, I'm going to be a happy clam, because it will mean no more mid-week stop-offs at the local shops to get last-minute things for dinner.

Here are a few rules I've set myself:
  • If we don't eat it, don't buy it, even if it's on special (duh)
  • If it's a bargain, buy at least two
  • Check the free in-store magazines for coupons (I was so excited to find my first coupons last week!)
  • Use your loyalty card to get points (FlyBuys at Coles, Everyday Rewards at Woolworths)
  • If you can get it at Aldi cheaper, only buy it if it tastes ok (always a hit-and-miss situation)
My best bargains for these past weekends have been:

  • $6 for a 780g jar of Kraft Peanut Butter (got 2 because we burn through it like nothing on earth).
  • $3.49 for 1kg Sard Oxy Plus stain remover (the equivalent in Napi-San brand is about $7 I believe)
  • $1.29 for Crumpets (50% off)
  • $1.49 for Doritos (50% off)
I have found the most helpful website by far is Oz Bargain, as it lists the weekly grocery specials and the dollar AND percentage savings for each major supermarket.

Admittedly, today I went and spent a further $60 at Coles, thus blowing my original budget plan, so I'm going to be trying harder next week. I must admit though, $11 of that was on ice-cream to get a free 6 month magazine subscription!

What's your best bargain lately?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rods, Rock 'n' Roll

A few weekends ago, one of us (that would be me) had the bright idea of heading down to our local festivities venue, Pine Rivers Park, to see “Rods, Rock 'n' Roll” - a celebration of all things cool and retro. There was a massive car show 'n' shine, food stalls and a great variety of bands playing music from the 50s to the 70s.

It was such a great afternoon. We ate hot chips, drank hot chocolate and C even ended up winning a fuel voucher from a survey he did about motorcycle safety!

C is a great person to go to car shows with. He knows all the cars and explains to me which ones are cool. Also which ones are famous from movies and music videos. Like the '33 Ford coupe that is so recognisable as ZZ Top's 'Eliminator'. Or a blown '57 Chevy exactly like that in the movie 'Running on Empty'.

I determined that the 30s is definitely my fave car era. I just love everything about the shape.

Although I'm not a huge car girl, I was really impressed by the amount of time and effort these folks put into their machines.

After a soft-serve ice cream, we eventually called it a day.

What's your favourite retro or vintage car?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Extreme Couponing: Oz style

One of my twitter friends, Grosby, sometimes tweets about Extreme Couponing, a show in the US about people who “clip coupons”. I don't think there's an Australian equivalent, mainly because we don't get catalogues ("inserts”) with many discount vouchers on them for things like groceries or staples. But there are some great ways to get bargains by watching the specials and buying in bulk when good deals are available.

How do I know? Because I was so fascinated I ended up researching it. My first port of call was the Extreme Couponing website, to watch some clips of the show as it is not showing on cable TV here yet. It was here I learnt the truth of someone else's remark that Extreme Couponers are actually hoarders with an excuse. I mean, some of folks have built special rooms in their house to hold the bargains that they had picked up. Some even do it just to give thousands of dollars worth of goods away to charity.

Then I hit youtube and found people like “Coupon Queen” Jill Cataldo and The Krazy Coupon Lady, Heather Wheeler
. And I can tell you, I was mesmerised. Some of these couponers (and it's not just the ladies, folks) even Dumpster Dive to find coupons that have been thrown away.

Well, I have been INSPIRED. I usually throw away my junk mail because I shop at Aldi, and up until now really believe that this is the best way to save me money on my groceries. But there are things I just can't get at Aldi, or I don't like their version. Baked beans is an example. Aldi does have an acceptable version, but I'm a Heinz Baked Beans girl from birth. So imagine my happiness this week when a peek at my junk mail reveals a them on sale for $1 per can at Woolworths this week!

This afternoon I spent a good 20mins going through the junk mail and writing down some bargains. I'm going to put the lists in my handbag, so they're in there when I'm at the shop, and not on the counter at home like usual. And I'm going to buy in bulk, because I do actually have the room to do it, even with meat.

I'm a novice though, still learning. I don't keep a folder or binder of vouchers or coupons. Yet. Or carry a filing box in my trolley, which was a strategy I saw that I liked! But I am hitting up bargain-hunter websites like OzBargain and Shop-a-docket. In fact, I'm going to print off a discount voucher for 10-pin bowling right now – that's our next date night taken
care of!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Camp Crop-a-lot – Fri 3rd-Sun 5th June – Lake Perseverence

I spent last weekend at a scrapbooking camp. I have no embarrassment in admitting this, because it really is my only hobby! This was my second year, having attended last year as well.

I scrap exclusively using Creative Memories products. C calls it a “cult” but I just think they're the best product! In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I used to be a consultant.

My mother being the one who got me into it, we are quite the scrapbooking pair. We were “roomies” in our cabin and had an absolute blast just enjoying being at camp.

In the mornings we walked down to the dam, and took some amazing post-dawn photos of the mist.

The rest of the days were basically eating and scrapping intermittently.

I got a bucketload of work done – I took about 150+ photos to scrap and I think I managed to put about 110 of these on the page. I also finally completed my SE Asia holiday album which was a project that has been dragging on for 12 months, so that was very satisfying!

Thankfully, it was less cold this year, though I was still sleeping in an artic sleeping bag in my flanny PJs!

What's the best camp you've ever been on?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The High Cost of High Fashion

If I've learned one thing this week, it is this: never, EVER come between a fashionista and her handbag.

The tale unfolds thusly: I now work in the freight industry. There is a thing called Customs. In Australia, if you import goods over the value of A$1000, GST is incurred. And that's when the shitfight starts.

Did you know that about the GST? I did, but only because a few months ago I heard about Gerry Harvey's rants about the strong Australian dollar killing our retailers, because people were shopping online and importing, rather than buying at their local Harvey Norman, like he would have wished. He wants all online buys to be taxed, not just those over a certain value.

Now, the strong Australian dollar is causing Aussies to go a little crazy in their online shopping. I'm not talking about indulging a little more than usual on ASOS or Net-a-porter, I'm talking everything from cameras to shoes. And guess what? If you ship through my freight company (I don't know about others, but I imagine they have a similar process), once the goods have passed Customs and Quarantine they will hold them - until someone pays the duties and taxes.

This is a Prada Hobo. It retails for A LOT. Let's say you're a fashionista wanting to blow their monthly bonus on something they've been coveting for a while. And that item? They find it cheaper on a foreign website, and pay to have it shipped. Except the value, when converted to Aussie dollars, is over $1000.

GST kicks in, and that's 10% of not only the value of the goods, but is also calculated on the transport and insurance costs on top of that. There's a Customs clearance fee too, plus some duties depending on the type of goods (eg. leather). Plus a brokerage fee for the freight company. It all adds up. So when you get a call from the freight company saying basically that your Hobo is being held for ransom, that's when you are NOT HAPPY JAN. Especially when a $1400 handbag incurs an extra $300 in duties.

I do not write this post out of self-interest because I'm sick of being yelled at by bright young things wanting their leather jacket NOW. I write it to educate my fellow shoppers, so that if or when you get stung, you'll be prepared. And can budget appropriately.

Have you ever been stung by Customs or Quarantine? Tell me your import nightmare stories.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Technology – it's the wave of the future

Technology really does amaze me sometimes. Sure, according to Back to the Future we should be getting flying cars and hover-boards any day now, but the things we do have in our everyday life nowadays is nothing short of cool.

When I look back at my childhood, and think how we had to get up to change the TV channel, it seems so old-fashioned! There were no DVDs or CDs, just VCRs and cassette tapes. I used to make mix-tapes off the radio, and the only shopping from home you could do was from catalogues and the Avon lady. We played computer games on a Commodore 64 that you plugged into the TV set.

Now, I have an iPod, an iPhone, cable tv, a portable DVD player and a Wii. I can watch 100 channels of television programming and pause shows I'm watching. I can even rewind it, and tape stuff without a VCR. I can fit thousands of songs onto my ipod, which barely bigger than a credit card, and my iPhone... well, what can't it do?

My iPhone is my mini computer, telephone, tv, camera and music player. I can do my banking and pay bills with the touch of a finger, text my friends and send them a photo of what I'm doing as well. I can watch TV shows, listen to music, do a thousand helpful and frivolous things and when I'm bored with all that, I can still use it to make phone calls. Truly it is a golden age we live in.

What technology amazes you? And how is it different from when you were younger?


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