Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Green With Envy

I saw this quote on Pinterest over the Christmas break and I fell in love with it for so many reasons.

As I've mentioned in the past as a renter it is a requirement to keep the grass at our property green. It is probably the most difficult clause of our rental contract.
We live in Perth where summer runs from December to May and winters are dry. We get maybe two months of the year where we get a fair bit of rain but it's right before summer hits. So you get your grass looking lush only to have it scorched by the summer heat by Christmas Day.

We have to abide by water restrictions as we pay the fine if we don't, and because it's the right thing to do of course, but to be honest it is just not enough.

So I spend a lot of time truly admiring the greener grass in our street. There are few homes with grass that is just asking to be played on, blades of soft green buffalo ready for you to lie on with a good book. I often think of the term 'The grass is greener on the other side' because it literally is.

However one house just down the street very recently ripped up, not too soft looking but definitely green, grass. The entire front yard was pulled up and disposed of. It was replaced with a lovely landscaped garden, limestone retaining walls and fresh rolls of heavenly looking grass.

Now three weeks later the entire yard is dead!

So I'm finding myself thinking of the monetary meaning behind the saying that this quote is inspired by.

The house with the now dead lawn is lived in by its owners, I cannot know for sure but given statistics I'm fairly certain the landscaping they had done was bought with a fair amount of credit.

When I look at that dead grass I smile. I feel bad for its owners because it would not have been cheap but I smile because the grass is now actually greener on OUR side, literally and figuratively.

We are tending to our grass, which incase you missed my possibly not so subtle hint is actually our finances, and we are feeding it the right stuff to get it the greenest it can be for the future.

To make things a little less about grass...

We are not going crazy with credit - in fact we don't use credit at all anymore - we are being smart about what we spend money on, we are having fun as a family without blowing the budget, and we are all very happy.

Give your grass a good look, if it's not as green as you'd like or if you find yourself longingly looking at the lawn two houses down take a moment to stop and think about how you can better care for your own grass, it needs your help as it won't stay green on its own.

Oh and if anyone has any budget friendly suggestions for actual lawn care I'd love to hear them.

Hears to green grass for everyone in 2015


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Location:Green With Envy

Friday, November 28, 2014

Break Free From The Herd

In case you missed it we are a month away from Christmas. People are going crazy trying to fit gifts into the budget - not me because I start my Christmas shopping in January but most other people - and then they're freaking out at the size of the list of people they have to buy for.

I should re phrase that it's not 'have to buy for' it's 'feel they should buy for to keep up appearances or to fit in with the Jones'.

Newsflash people "The Jones' are broke, you do not want to be like them"

I've had a handful of friends over the past couple of weeks talking to me about how many gifts they need to buy for their children's school teachers and I'm completely blown away by this.

I'm grateful yes that my child's teacher is doing her job and, no hang on there is no 'and' they are doing their job, end of story.

My work history is early childhood education so I've been there caring for twenty plus kids day after day. It was what I CHOSE to do. I'll admit too that I loved that at the end of the year they would shower myself and the other teachers with gifts but I NEVER expected it. Not for simply doing my job. I got a thank you each day, I saw the kids with huge smiles as they learnt a new skill I taught them so yes I loved the gifts - who doesn't love getting presents? - but if one child didn't hand out presents I didn't treat them or their parents any differently because I wasn't in it for the gifts.

To be honest if you're a teacher who expects to be handed presents at the end of the year then I think perhaps you're in teaching for the wrong reasons and the children would be better off without you.

My children will hand out a Christmas card to their teacher thanking them for helping them grow and learn over the year but that's where it ends.

I'd really like to know where everyone is getting their money from to be buying all these extra gifts too. I know not everyone is on the same finance journey that The Husband and I are on but I do know that a lot of people these days are strapped for cash. How do you justify a possible $100 on two to five acquaintances? And why do you push the budget to do it?

There is always going to be one mum that is actually better off than the rest of the class and that mum is nearly always going to lavish teachers with expensive gifts. Maybe she does it because she's lonely and depressed for reasons we'll never know and shopping makes her feel better. The fact is she is not you. Don't make her way your way. You are a great mum (or dad), stick to the budget, thank your children's teachers because YES they do an amazing job and deal with a lot of crap but don't break the bank just to fit in. We are not sheep, be your own person.

I am in no way feeling guilty at all about not buying gifts for Miss fours teachers - she has four this year - I see no reason why I should be. I won't blush from embarrassment when 'that' mum - yep I have one in my class - arrives with a big gift bag over flowing and I have cards.

I'm here to help you understand that you don't need to do it. I am not intentionally bashing those who do feel they need to buy gifts but my blog is to show you how to work with in your budget and that means eliminating guilty buys.

If you can fit it in your budget, comfortably so that you don't actually notice the extra expense, then go for it. Thank the teachers with a gift. If however it will be a struggle, if you'll need the credit card to pay for it, if you'll have to cut out something for your family then stick to a thank you card.

I can guarantee you that a card filled with a heartfelt thank you will be remembered long after the chocolates are eaten, the bubble baths been re gifted and the gift vouchers been spent.


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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christmas Activity List...

That's Aussie Christmas Friendly

Image courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons, by Carlos Silvestre

Go Ice Skating - in fact I highly recommend putting aside the cash to do this and plan it for a day that the weatherman says is going to be one of the Hottest. It'll be a Free 'air con, family fun, christmas adventure' all in one ticket price.

Write a Christmas light scavenger hunt list and go once a week. If you want to save money walk it. Go in a different direction each time so you see a different part of your neighbourhood. If you're open to taking the car visit suburbs you wouldn't normally see.

Sing and dance to Christmas songs. Even if you don't have kids. Put on the Christmas music, turn up the volume and sing like your on TV. Don't forget to dance around like a leprechaun.

Make Christmas cards. Pretty self explanatory. Your $2 type stores have heaps of craft supplies to do this. It makes the card giving process more personal.

Decorate your windows with paper snowflakes. Honestly, please do this and make extra for me! This is one of those crafts I just cannot get right. Which is totally depressing given how much I love snow. String them up with cotton or fishing wire and try and convince yourself it's not 40 degrees outside.

Bake Christmas cookies. I'll share some links soon for Christmas themed cookies that don't need icing - you know that yummy stuff that melts on hot days? - batch them up and hand out as a teacher thank you, or to neighbours, church friends, work colleagues. If gifted the day after baking cookies make great gifts, or you could just eat them all yourself but whatever you do with them save two or three for Santa when he stops by on Christmas Eve.

Go to a carol service or Christmas parade. Most towns will hold a carol service you just have to look for details. I've noticed locally no one really advertises them well but if you check your local councils webpage they should have details for everything Christmassy that's happening in your area. Also check notice boards at shops and ask your child's school.

String gumnuts to hang around your tree. Now it pains me to write this because well gumnuts are not a Christmas thing but stringing cranberries or popcorn is just inviting the ants to come visit for the holidays. So gumnuts it is. If you love your Aussie summer this can become a new family tradition. Make a day of hunting for them at local parks and nature reserves.

Make your own wrapping paper. A roll of brown paper - from Kmart - some red and green paint. Throw in some silver, gold and white if you like and decorate however you wish. You can create stamps out of potatoes in most shapes, paint a sweet christmas image, let the kids loose or all of the above.

Go through your house and find donations for charity. Get the kids to pick three toys each (at least), clean out the pantry and collect canned goods still in date, give your wardrobe a clean through.

Put your Christmas tree up on December 1st.

Discover Kmarts range of SOLAR POWERED Christmas lights. I always wanted to decorate our house with lights but never wanted to pay the electricity bill it would create. This year we've been buying a box of lights every two weeks and now we have a small light display going on. Next year it'll get bigger - especially if the lights are in the Boxing Day sales :) - and I may add some to the roof.

Challenge yourself with a 'sandman' building contest. No I don't mean the man who carries the sleep dust - though it's your sand creation so if that's what you want - I mean a snowman figure out of sand. Head to the beach and see how tall you can get your 'not so frosty' to stand.

Head to your local San Churro for a seasonal 'Jingle Berry' milkshake.

Drop by Gloria Jeans for their attempt at Christmas, a Caramel popcorn latte.

If you're lucky enough to live near a Starbucks stop by and try out their christmas range, three icy frapuccino flavours: Christmas Cookies, Gingerbread and Peppermint Mocha.

Get creative and design your own cold christmas inspired beverage.

Enjoy yourself, don't be a Scrooge, remember it is NOT about the presents or how much money you spend. 

Amazing memories can be made anywhere at any time!


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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Confession Time!

Did you notice the title of today's post? Before I get into my confession I'll start by saying I'm not quitting the gift guide, I'm prematurely ending it due to personal beliefs.

Are you confused yet? Read on and I'll at least try to explain.

So one of the main goals for me in writing this blog is to help you all live well but with in budget. While other goals have changed this has always been at the core. Basically living with a tight wallet, well that's how The Husband would describe it anyhow.

My intention with the DIY gift guide was to show you gift ideas that wouldn't cost a lot and you could put your heart and soul in to. The thing is though my own heart and soul wasn't in it.

Stay with me here as I may ramble from one point to another to try and explain this.

I think I'll start here: just because something is cheap does not mean it's 'cheap'. Monetarily speaking an item may not have cut into your budget but it is highly likely that it was well thought out. A gift chosen with someone's interest in mind is not cheap it's from the heart whether it cost $2 or $200.
I have a varied range of interests. I'd be just as happy with an $8 antique looking reindeer from Kmart as I would with the $80 gingerbread house candle holder from Dusk. Both items are of interest to me and if someone gave me either I know it would be because they knew this, they knew me.

This is what handmade is about. Customising products for the intended.
Let's face it. Long gone are the days when it was, monetarily speaking, cheaper to hand make all your gifts. Even buying handmade is not budget friendly now.
I completely understand why, before you jump down my throat about handmaidens needing to earn a wage too, a lot of time and effort is put into hand made items. But handmade is turning a corner in my opinion from being for the stay at home mum to save a few bucks, to an online boutique store with prices to rival Myer.

I got to thinking while I was posting my last entry about covered journals. Kmart sell funky journals for $5! So if you don't have the mod podge or fabric it's financially cheaper to head to the store and pick a book that the intended recipient would enjoy. I know this because I saw a flamingo and a pineapple the last time I was there and they nearly made it in my cart for my sister.
The only reason they didn't is because I gave myself a per person budget for Christmas gifts and I had spent it already. I'm happy with her gift, as I hope she will be, it's half Hand made and half store bought. The hand made items could have been store bought but it was a rare item that's actually cheaper to make than buy. This doesn't mean that I don't love her because I chose to save money on her gift. She is getting the same item but her little sister won't break the budget over it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is don't let the peer pressure - and by peer I actually mean media, family, and friends - get you down. Don't let this odd guilt we all carry around make you break budget this christmas.

Take this as an example:
Miss Four has been invited to two birthday parties this week. We legitimately can't make one the other we can however I honestly don't feel like taking money from my budget this week to spend on another piece of plastic to join the twenty other prettily wrapped pieces of plastic that this child will receive. It's not that I don't wish this girl the most awesome of birthdays, I do, but I have a tight budget and my family comes first...ALWAYS!
Therefore here's what I'm doing:
I'm going to Kmart - yes I know I really love that store. If you're reading from the U.S. think Walmart, from the UK think Primark - I'm going to Kmart and I'm going to go to the stationary/crafty aisles and I'm going to pick up a handful of items to make a gift basket. Coloured pencils, sketch books, stickers...the list goes on, they have SO much. But with just a few dollars she will receive a well thought out gift that will entertain her when mum and dad take away the noisy toys, or that she can take in the car, or out to tea.

The point I've been working my way to is while I thought I'd be helping by giving my readers a DIY gift guide I realised that I'd be helping more by telling you that it's ok to buy a gift that doesn't cost a lot of money or even time because at the end of the day it is the thought that counts and my love for my family and friends is like a MasterCard ad...

Homemade sugar scrub in favourite scent: $4
Board Game I know they'll love: $20
Gift wrap: handmade by children or possibly recycled from last year

Lifetime of memories: priceless

Remember it's great to create your own priceless MasterCard Christmas but remember your financial goals and try and steer clear from using the credit card for purchases.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Gift Guide Day 10

I have a slight addiction to journals. I have a small stack on my dresser just for show....

and a stack that sits in my drawer....

Then there's two or three lying around the lounge room and study as well.

The issue with having an addiction to journals is that journals are not cheap. They usually average $15 each.

Journals make great gifts for teens and teachers or anyone you know who loves to write or needs to write for their job.

All you need is:
An exercise book - I picked mine up at kmart for $1 but if you like you can shop around for a hard cover journal.
A piece of fabric in a fancy print
Mod Podge

If you've ever covered an exercise book with contact then you'll be able to do this. You follow the same steps except you're adding the glue to make the fabric sticky. It's actually better as its easier to eliminate air bubbles.

Brush glue over one cover and lay on top of fabric.
Snip corners on an angle and straight down at the spine.
Brush glue along edges of book and fold fabric in.

You can trim up any stray fabric pieces at this point, once the glue dries it will stop the fabric from fraying any further.

As you're using mod podge allow this side to dry for two hours before finishing the other cover.

Once your two hours have passed repeat on the remaining side.

Leave book to dry then snip the remaining hanging fabric at each end of the spine.

I will add here that I recommend darker prints. The pink fabric I used was picked by Miss Four but is see through, I can read all the text on the cover of the exercise book.

Add a packet of fancy pens or pencils and you've got a great stocking stuffer for under 18 year olds or 31 year olds with a journal addiction.


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Monday, November 17, 2014

Gift Guide Day 9

Today's gift makes it onto the 'Man Friendly Handmade Present' list. As with most of the projects in this DIY Gift guide it's completely customisable, which is why I made mine for the holidays - you can never have too many Christmas decorations - and it's why you can make them for any football fan, music nut, beer lover or automobile addict.

You can also make them for grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, neighbours.....

I never used to be a coaster person. I've never had a coffee table I was worried about getting moisture rings on and until recently I'd never really come across any coasters I liked the look of. That was until I started searching Etsy for homewares and discovered a whole world out there of customised coasters.

The biggest issue I had was deciding what theme to go with. We have plenty of family photos around the house so I didn't want photo coasters. It was a toss up between Christmas and Moose - I have an odd love of Moose - given the time of year and the fact that I was watching Home Alone I decided on using quotes from some of my favourite Christmas films.

For these coasters you will need

Mod Podge - this is more than just a glue it's a sealant as well. Try not to let the price put you off. The small bottle is around $10 however it will last you several projects so is worth the expense. You can pick it up at Spotlight, Bunnings or craft stores.

Coaster bases - .69cents each at Bunnings. My mouth dropped open I'll admit, that price is just insane. You could make coasters for everyone on your Gift list at that price.

Printed images - you can use photos, images printed on paper, magazine cut outs.

The how to is simple:

Read the instructions on your mod podge. Brush the back of your image with the glue and stick to the coaster base. Leave to dry for two hours then apply your first coat of sealant. Simply brush lightly over the top of your image.
Leave to dry for 15 minutes and apply a second coat.

And now you're done. One more DIY Budget Friendly Gift.


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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gift Guide Day 8

Like my own family I know a lot of people have fur babies who are just as much a part of their family as the humans who grace their gift list therefore I had to add a gift for our furry friends to the DIY Budget Friendly Gift guide.

Basic Dog Biscuits.

They may be basic but my kelpie was licking her chops waiting for these.

You'll need the following:
1 cup of self raising flour
1/4 cup of oats
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/2cup of peanut butter
1/2 cup of milk
1 tbsp oil - I used coconut oil
1 tbsp applesauce - I put in two.

Simply mix all the ingredients together then turn out on to a lightly floured surface. Roll out and cut out shapes of your choice.

I had no bone shape cookie cutter so I made circles and stars and with the last little bit of dough I attempted to make a big kind of worked.

Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown at 150c.

Store them in an airtight container. Add a ribbon and gift to your favourite furry friend.

Mine didn't last long enough to be prettied up with ribbon but they were very well received. You can see my kelpie Kate licking her lips in anticipation waiting for me to take her photo.

All up this gift probably came in under $4 with plenty of ingredients left to make more batches. Don't forget that although the gifts in this series are budget friendly they are not cheap. They are made with love and warm wishes.

Enjoy your baking

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