Sunday, August 25, 2013

Frugal living

 [source: own photo]

I don’t like talk about it much but as a household, we are finding it tough to cover bills and put away any savings. This living from pay to pay thing is getting old, and though we have made some changes to our lifestyle, there are still some things that we have not been willing to cut back on or give up in order to curb our spending.

Last week when a trip to Coles for the “bare necessities” to get us through to payday cost me $45, I ranted a bit on Twitter and had to wonder – how in the hell are families getting along? We  just have the two of us and I cannot seem to budget so that we are comfortable on our current income.

Reading this blog recently on Rhonda’s Down to Earth  made me have a think about what more we can do to live more simply, more frugally, make our money stretch further.

So, what have we already done?
  • Swapped to shopping at Aldi rather than The Big Two Supermarkets. I save at least $30 a week doing this, though the fruit and veg is not very good quality. Thinking about shopping separately for it at the local grocer but this necessitates an extra trip somewhere which is just beyond me sometimes
  • Cut down to fast food once per week. We get pizza on Friday nights – but it is expensive pizza because we both believe that paying a bit more to get something nicer than the cardboard served by the franchises is worth it.
  • No longer buy magazines in the quantities we used to. Now, we have subscriptions gifted to us or purchase as a special treat only
  • I hardly ever buy new clothes. When I do, it’s usually from the op shop. I try to buy all my accessories there also
  • I’ve stopped buying vintage homewares; it was getting to be a bad habit! I have far too much stuff already, need to sell some 
What more can we do?
  • Make our own passata – we use a lot of it, and although Aldi sauces are only $1.80 a jar or something, I think we could make some cheaper
  • Explore frugal recipes, making meals go further
  • Make our own pizza instead of getting take away
  • Grow some veges. This has been high on my list for a while but I don’t have a place to do it yet. Now we have some bricks left over from the old shed knockdown, I’m hoping that we can make a proper garden
  • Grow our own herbs. Must do!
  • Learn to sew. Repurposing old clothes looks fun and is a great way to reuse old things, something I am passionate about.
  • Start making our own bread. I have a breadmaker that I never use!
  • Make my own birthday/gift cards. I have so much scrapbooking stuff this should be a breeze. Saves at least $5 a pop! 
Things I still don’t think I/we’ll give up:
  • Foxtel. We enjoy it too much and watch it all the time. But perhaps we can cut back on our subscription, get rid of the some channels to save a few bucks a month.
  • Movies. We go at least once a fortnight and use a reward card to redeem a free ticket with points. But it can still be an expensive exercise when you factor in snacks and drinks. Alternative – go on cheap Tuesdays.
  • Soft drink. Both hubby and I are addicted and spend quite a bit. Because the cost of Coke is astronomical at service stations and corner stores, I try to buy in bulk from Aldi each week.
  • The occasional scrapbooking supply purchase. It’s my hobby dammit. But I commit to buying a lot less and to a “scrap your stash” mentality for the foreseeable future.

And of course I'm reading a lot of simple living blogs. What are you doing lately to save money/simplify your life? Any tips?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Content is King

Content is king. That’s the mantra I’m hearing around the Internets these days. It’s probably true.

At my work, we say CASH is king, but that’s because, y’know, we are an Accounts team. So cash is good is real life, but online it seems that content is necessary to generate it.

But that only applies if your aim is to get rich through blogging, or vlogging, or vine-ing (is that possible?) or what have you. I like to think that most of us out there are creating things for the joy of sharing it, and also for the betterment of humankind as a whole. Or as vlogbrothers put it, for the decrease of WorldSuck.

Sure, your video of your cat being cute may not solve world hunger, but in some small way, I’m pretty sure it will cheer up somebody who is having a bad day. Many bloggers get emails from people saying that posts they’ve written have touched them in some way, encouraged them to take steps to solve problems in their lives, or reach out for help when they need it.

I guess what I’m thinking about this today is the hope that good content will hopefully, on average, equal good internet. And if we keep trying to share ideas and have conversations with each other, then we may just make a difference to the world. Maybe one or two people at first, but sometimes the smallest thing can touch many lives.

I mean; when you post a recipe, people try it and gosh darn if there isn’t joy to be found in the making of food. When you write about how you have been feeling down lately, and what you’re doing about it, or your struggle with a certain issue – readers can relate, and take away advice from your experience. When you make a video about how you think a certain thing is cool, or an issue that needs to be talked about, people listen. Blogging and vlogging means reaching out and touching someone. But hopefully in a helpful, entertaining, non-creepy way.

So what I’m trying to say is: create original content. Say what’s on your mind. Tell us about what you’re up to. Share cool stuff you’ve found. Sure, you may be able to make some money. But surely that isn’t the main point?

What great content have you found lately? Has a blogger or vlogger taught you something, made you happy or helped you out recently?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Good service is hard to find

Whatever happened to good service? Got my ranty pants on because it’s Monday.

We’re currently building a big shed. This is so that the cars/car parts which currently occupy my patio can have a home, and the mechanic of the house can have a Man Cave. This has involved getting in experts – because much as C believes he could lay a concrete slab, he did concede that perhaps it was best to leave it up to people who know what they are doing.
So we called a few concreters. We got word of mouth recommendations and even a family friend to do a quote. But they kept making appointments and not showing up. ALL of them. Not just one or two. Every contractor we were dealing with broke appointments without so much as a courtesy phone call.
I was frankly shocked – how can they run businesses like this? In a trade industry where reputation can sink you as easily as it can get you work, why give such bad service?
Long story short, we finally got a good quote and a firm promise to begin work. A loud beeping bobcat showed up at my house at 6.30am this morning and commenced making eternal enemies of my neighbours. The actual shed kit is being dropped off in a few weeks, I guess we’ll see if that goes smoothly.
Let’s just say, I’m glad we’re not building a house. I’m beginning to see why people on Grand Designs have such headaches. Wouldn’t be a building project manager for quids.
Have you been let down in the customer service department recently? And did you badmouth the company to your friends or on social media afterwards?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Summary

 [image source: own]

Happy Sunday everybody!

Doing - some blog reading for the first time in a long time. Doing my best to leave comments but sometimes I really just don't have anything to say and I struggle. Sigh.

Reading - just finished Dan Brown's Inferno. I liked it - but then I've liked his books since Angels and Demons. Yes, the plotline is sometimes very conveient and our bumbling hero is more lucky than smart - but the pace never slacks and you get to learn stuff along the way. This time, I learnt a heck of a lot about Dante and Renaissance art! The visual guide for this book would be very handy too. Who knew? Next, I'm going to start a book I've been wanting to read for AGES, a YA novel called The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.

Watching - I've been trying to get through the first season of Hannibal but finding I can't watch more than one or two episodes at a time or I get terrible nightmares. If you've seen it you'll know what I mean. I thought that shows like SVU and Criminal Minds had numbed me to the horrors of the human psyche but this is a whole new level or horrifying for me. Now wanting to see Silence of the Lambs (nope, never seen it) and read Thomas Harris' novels.

Making - cards! I know, how quaint. But I had two birthdays coming up so I got out my brand spanking new Close to My Heart scrapping stuff and stamped my way to glory. Ended up with ink EVERYWHERE (how do they stay so clean in the Youtube tutorials?) but the cards turned out great. Can't show you because a) gave one away today and forgot to take a photo; and b) the second one is for a reader of this blog and want to surprise her! Did I tell you I'm officially a Close to My Heart consultant? Ha ha not seriously but I did buy the consultant's kit because it was no obligation and had so much cool stuff in it.

Wishing - that we could afford to shop anywhere other than Aldi again. Don't get me wrong, I am a HUGE Aldi fan, but sometimes I get sick of their same same stuff and crave some Kraft Peanut Butter.

Planning - possibly I have been watching too much River Cottage Australia, but I'm bursting to start a vege garden. Other half keeps says "when the shed is finished". May have to take matters into my own hands and start some pots.

So... whatcha doin'?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Chasing Cassowaries

When we were in Townsville last month, hubby and I made a pact to do some things we'd never done up there before. After talking to the locals and a bit of googling, we decided one cool thing to do would be to visit a national park.

We settled on Girringun National Park, 51km from Ingham and a lovely day's drive from Townsville (though made a lot longer by Bruce Highway roadworks). The main attraction was Wallaman Falls, the highest, permanent, single-drop waterfall in Australia.

But on the way there, we spotted this sign:

And I said to C how awesome it would be if we saw a Cassowary!  To me, Cassowaries are seven-foot tall warrior birds that will slash your gut open with one swipe of their claws as soon as look at you. How thrilling to see one in the wild! And then, ten minutes later, we came across two of them! Not seven foot tall though.

One was shy and wouldn't come out of the bush, but his mate wandered boldly out to inspect our cars. I was so happy I had the good camera in my lap so managed to get a few shots.

Hullo. When he saw his reflection in the car window he did a double-take and wandered off again!

So then we continued on to the falls. They were well worth the long drive up the mountain - spectacular! And no hiking to get to the lookout, which my bad feet were thankful for. C took all these shots with the Nikon - I reckon he has a good eye, don't you?

 In holiday attire - practical runners and shorts because North Queensland's winter is like a Spring day to me!

I highly recommend this drive if you're ever up in the Ingham area - oh and the Olympia Cafe in the main street isn't bad for lunch either!


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