Monday, January 31, 2011

Cheap Chocolatey Goodness

Hello everyone!

I recently realised that I am always spending money on snacks and sweets for my after dinner desert. I am sure this problem affects a lot of you out there, so I decided to post my favourite cheap and quick recipe, guaranteed to satisfy that craving. I can't remember where I first heard this recipe, but I have since memorised it, and it only takes a couple of minutes to make.

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
spash of vanilla essence

Very simple, just add all the ingredients into a large microwave proof mug, stir well, and put in the microwave. Cooking time varies depending on the strenght of the microwave, so I suggest just cooking it for 1 minute for starters, and then cooking it more gradually until it is ready. When it is ready you should be able to stick a knife into it and it will come out practically clean. Do not overcook it, because it will become rubbery.

Hopefully you enjoy this as much as I do. It will save you money, especially if you tend to buy chocolates etc to eat after dinner.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saving Money Shopping

Hello again.

Today, after doing my grocery shopping, I decided I would make a simple (and somewhat obvious) post about shopping, and I can guarantee that these tips will help you save money shopping!

Firstly, whenever I go to the shops, I go for a reason. Many people I know have fallen victim to the shopping culture, where they spend half a day at the shops as a past time. This encourages needless spending. What began as a "browsing" trip, soon turns into buying yourself something you didn't need, going out for lunch, etc. If you want to save money, avoid going to the shops unless it is necessary. When you need something, you will know you need to make a trip to the shops. You will be surprised what you can go without when you don't think about it.

Secondly, spend wisely. Why buy a special packet of something (for example, a packet of lettuce leaves) when you pay more than you would if you just bought a head of lettuce? You pay less, and you will get more. This can be applied to a number of products. Sandwich ham is a great example of this. Many people refuse to eat any ham that hasn't been bought from the deli section. One of my friends has worked in the deli section of the local super market, and he tells me that the ham that is sliced in the deli is the same as the chunk of ham you can buy unsliced, with the only difference being the price.

Hopefully this was helpful. I apply these ideas constantly and it definitely works.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Savings

Today I was reminded that the local book festival (the "Lifeline Bookfest") was due to open soon, and I thought that this would be a great topic to post about.

Throughout my life I have been a fairly heavy reader, and for any other readers out there, you probably know that this can turn into a fairly expensive hobby. My usual method for saving money on reading (and obviously a fairly popular method) was to visit the local library and use a "try before I buy" technique, where I only purchased books I knew I would re-read many times. This method is quite succesful, but I want to put forward another possible method. Second hand books.

Nearly all towns have a second hand book shop of some sort, and quite often these are run for charity (in Australia think of organisations such as The Salvation Army, or Saint Vinnie's). Second hand book stores at school fairs are also a great place to get your hands on books. Not only does this allow you to buy books you have wanted for a while, but also allows you to explore new books.

This is great for students trying to find textbooks too. My textbook bills have been as much as $400 (for only 4 books), so getting even one of these at a cheaper price is definitely worth the effort.

Purchasing second hand books means that aswell as saving money yourself (and the savings can be fairly remarkable; at the local "bookfest" twice a year, good quality books can be as cheap as $2), the money you do spend is atleast going to an organisation that can benefit from it, rather than a large company.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to Save Money by Using Google

I can't tell you the number of times a friend or member of my family has noticed that something they own isn't working as well as they wanted, and they have simply thrown it away or immediately taken it in to be repaired. An example of this is a computer problem we, which prevented it from starting up. One of the people who noticed the problem immediately gave up, and began making plans for it to be taken in to be serviced. However, when I noticed the computer wasn't working, I went to my laptop and typed the problem it into a search engine. Lo and behold, there were hundreds of pages listing the same problem, and various fixes. After about 15 minutes, and a tiny little bit of tinkering (following the instructions given online of course) the problem was solved.

The point I am trying to make is that before you head out to get your computer, or blender, or whatever it may be  repaired, do a small amount of research on the problem. It takes no more than 10 minutes to assess whether or not you are capable of fixing it, and quite often you will find simple step by step instructions on what to do. If you are unsucessful in your search, then all you have lost is 10 minutes of your time, and you can take it in to be repaired as you had initially planned.

Note: If the product is under warranty, please don't do anything such as pulling it apart and voiding the warranty. If the problem is too complicated, please don't make the situation worse. The point I am trying to make is simply that it may be easy to solve, and it could save you a pretty penny. I take no responsibility for any bad decisions made regarding voiding warranties or further damaging the item.

What's that about?

I thought that it would a good idea to explain what I hope to achieve with this blog before I  posted any more.

As a student I am constantly bombarded with temptations to spend my money,whether that is by advertisements or a friend asking me to go out for a drink. My general goal is to assist you to change your spending habits and better understand what is really worth spending money.

As for the blog, my intention is for it to be run as a sort of question and answer session. I am open to all comments and questions and I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can, as I believe that you as the reader are entitled to that sort of service. It is this aspect of my blog that I hope will set me apart from all the other commercialised money saving sites which spew the same generic content onto the internet. The irony is that on many occasions those websites do not exactly live by their ideals, so to speak, and are covered with ads and content inviting you to work hard to save money, only to spend it on their products etc.

This is not what I want this blog to be about. My aim is to run a free service providing useful information, and hopefully it will stay that way.

As a final note, if anyone has any tips themselves that they would like to share with everyone reading the blog, include them in your comments and I will try to mention them (and attribute them to you of course) in the next couple of posts that follow.

Another fairly lengthy post (sorry again everyone) but I felt I needed to clear this up.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Household tip 1

In the society we live in today, it is very common for a family to have an outside deck or verandah with a barbecue and a table. To all those deck owners, this tip is for you.

Having a deck is a joy, but can be quite costly. A deck in direct sunlight will fade and deteriorate over time and will require oiling or restaining. Depending on the size of the deck, this can quite a costly exercise. Many families I know enlist the "help" of companies which come and oil the deck for them. Today I challenge you to try oiling it yourself. All it takes is a little bit of time, and it could save you hundreds. All the tools required for the job are cheap, and no skill is required. If you are unsure exactly how to go about doing this job, or are unsure what you need, simply consult google, or visit the local hardware store. There is always someone willing to help, it just requires a little bit of effort on your behalf, and the results will be great.

For those of you who claim you do not have the time, I challenge you to make the time. It really does depend on the size of your deck, but the large verandah on our house (which flows around 3 sides of the house) only took us (myself and my brother) a couple of hours. If you enlist the help of a family member, you will be done in no time.

I implore you to give it a try, an extra hundred dollars (potentially even more)  in your wallet is definitely worth the effort.


Many people I know insist that home brand or no-brand products are unhealthy, inferior and “potentially dangerous” products that one should avoid at all costs (one person I know even insisted that home brand products are a leading cause of cancer, which is obviously false!). My challenge to you is to try for yourself!
Next time you are at the supermarket, try purchasing home brand milk instead of that expensive brand. You may find that it is just as good, or even better. I personally prefer a number of home brand products to their expensive brand rivals. In testing this for yourself, one of two things may happen. You may decide that you do not like it, and hence decide not to buy it again, or you may find that it is surprisingly good and definitely worth saving those few dollars!
Let me put it this way. In the first scenario, you may lose a couple of dollars worth of the product if you decide you don't like it and choose to waste it(definitely not reccomended!) and then go back to the original product. You really lose nothing. If you do decide that you prefer the home brand version, or it is just a good, depending on the product you could be saving daily!
One example of this is milk. Depending on prices, our household sometimes saves up to $2 by purchasing home brand milk. As a household of 4 we go through a bottle of milk on a nearly daily basis, this can add up to $10-$14 a week in savings. When this is done with multiple products, the amount you save could be staggering.
So in conclusion, I urge you to take the plunge, and see what these home-brand products have to offer. I’m sure that 9 times out of 10 you will be pleasantly surprised. Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained!

4 Simple Ways to Save Money and Stay Healthier

As a commuting student, I have noticed that there is always someone/something nearby that is very willing to take my money, and when the temptation of food or a snack is involved, then the logical money saving side of my brain usually loses out. After falling to the temptations of the vending machine or coffee shop too many times, I realised that it could be easily avoided. I began to mentally formulate several simple ways of saving anywhere from five to twenty dollars a day. Many of you will take these tips for granted, as strategies that you already exercise or have already heard of, but I am posting these for those of you who are new to saving money in simple ways.

1. Pack your own lunch.
I am sure you have all heard this one, but I can’t stress enough how much of a difference it makes. Even eating at a cheap fast food place (let alone that expensive cafe!) will quickly add up to $10 or more, and if you are doing this 5 days a week, that’s $50 you could potentially save. It only takes an extra ten minutes of a morning to make yourself a fresh sandwich, and you will enjoy it just as much as that fatty, unhealthy packet of chips or burger. A hint to keep the sandwich fresh is place dry ingredients closest to the bread. This prevents any wet ingredients, such as sauce, or a juicy tomato, from leaking on to the bread.
2.       2. Take a thermos of coffee.
Almost everyone likes a cup of coffee at work/university, and this really is a wallet buster. I unfortunately got into the habit of buying a cappuccino on the way to uni every morning, and quickly realised this was eating into my bank balance. A coffee will easily set you back $4 or more, a cost of $20 or more a week. I realised that in doing this, I was spending around $600 a year on coffee alone! Even if you simply cut down to having a coffee every second day, I can guarantee you will notice more money left at the end of the week.
3.       3. Get rid of that spare change.
A heavy wallet full of spare change is your greatest enemy. I have found that when I walk past a vending machine with a heavy pocket, I immediately feel the urge to “get rid of some change”. When I walk past a vending machine with only $20 notes in my wallet, I know that I am unable to use them, and the temptation is immediately gone. This tip is both a money and a calorie saver. That pesky snack machine you walk past every day at the train station or at work will always tempt you, but if you know you are physically unable to use it, then you will not be tempted.
4.       4. Idle spending/eating.
For me, this one is a big one. Having to spend time at the train station every day waiting for the train into the city for uni has often left my wallet somewhat emptier. While sitting and waiting, if you notice a snack machine, or a cafe, the natural thing to do is to “fill in some time”. Obviously this is a bad habit I got myself into. Thankfully I am not prone to weight problems, as I am sure this would play an exacerbating role if I was, and I am glad that I have found a solution. Timing my arrival at the station so that I have no more than 5 minutes of waiting time prevents me from making the wait in the line at the cafe, or fumbling in my wallet for spare change for the snack machine.
Hopefully you find these tips helpful, they have definitely saved me a few dollars!

In the beginning...

Hello, and welcome to what I hope will become a helpful handbook for all things saving. I started this blog with the intention of providing tips and tricks for saving, which as a student have provided me with those extra dollars left over at the end of the day.

For some people, making ends meet can be a real challenge, especially single parents raising children or students living without financial support. I was one of the lucky few who did have some financial backing, although I did not rely solely on that to get me through. I have used all the saving and healthy spending tips I provide on this blog, so I am familiar with how well they work and how they have helped me get through.

I would like to point out that many of you will have heard about some of the ideas that I write about (the topic isn't exactly under explored), and I ask that you bear with me, because there will be those out there who are reading about it for the first time, and hopefully the following post will be new to you.

The idea that provides much of the inspiration for the blog is that you do not necessarilly have to earn a larger income to have more money. Saving is the new working.

Thankyou for taking the time to read a somewhat lengthy introduction (and I do apologise for that), and hopefully you will learn something that helps you in the future.