Monday, 14 September 2015

Jack Gets Her Groove On!

It must be said, sometimes I am my own worst enemy.  I think we all are to a certain extent aren't we? Certainly in my case it seems half the time I'm taking two steps forward and three back.  In the past week alone I've picked up a $100 fine for not paying my car rego on time and had to fork out $62 to the Medical Centre for being rushed in after hours with a suspected heart attack.  Turns out I have an irregular heartbeat, which makes sense, I'm an irregular kinda gal after all!  Even so, I don't mind telling you I shat myself.  In the hypothetical sense of course.

The good thing about the whole experience was that it made me appreciate being alive an awful lot and ever since then I have been determined not to waste a single moment.  The sucky part was I spent $162 I hadn't planned to, which was a bit of a downer after all the brilliant saving I'd been doing leading up to my near-death experience (slight exaggeration but I genuinely did think I was dying!) To be fair, I do a pretty darn good job of saving every week wherever I can but just lately I've been a lot more conscious of it and once again I have my totally unrelated but totally lovely namesake Wendy Gower to thank.  As a blogger of more than a decade, I should really be embarrassed to admit that I've probably read less than half a dozen other blogs in my whole life.  Before I started my own blog, I knew basically nothing about them and had never read another one so I had nothing to compare my own to, no guidelines.  I just rambled willy-nilly and here I am ten years later still rambling!  Not reading other blogs is by no means a conscious decision, most of the time I simply don't know they're out there or where to find them.  But anyone who knows me will also know I am a chronic Facebooker.  Put a blog where I can 'like' it so it jumps out at me and I'll read it!

Which is exactly what happened with Wendy's blog 'My Abundant Life' - I've given you the Facebook link here so you can make it jump out at you too.  Every week Wendy posts 'This Week's Frugal Tasks', listing every single thing she has done to save money and it's usually quite a list! Seeing all those savings in black and white like that really made me realise how much all the little things we do add up.  I mean, I've known that ever since my early Simple Savings days but somewhere along the line I've gotten so bogged down with everything that I kind of forgot.  After reading Wendy's blog I started making a mental note every time I did something that helped me save, whether it was walking instead of driving, using something up instead of wasting it, how many times I came up with a free solution rather than buying something - and I realised that my actions save us truckloads every single day.  I also realised something else.  For a long time I've been treating my efforts to save money like a fight - a constant battle, me against the world.  And yes, it is a hell of a battle at times.  But it's also a celebration!  I know more ways to save money than you can shake a stick at!  And every one of them is a triumph.  Every one of them is smart.  Heck I'll even go as far as to say I'M smart!  And so is Wendy and everyone else who can write a list of frugal tasks every week. We are legen - wait for it! - dary.

So ever since reading Wendy's blog I have been shaking my frugal groove thang with renewed delight and enthusiasm.  I'm not one of these militant feminists who think they can do everything - but I'll give most things a bloody good go.  Especially if it means I don't have to pay someone to do it!  So last weekend I built myself an enormous vegetable garden.  Well, it's enormous by my standards anyway.  I built it entirely from recycled timber the previous owners of Nawtypoo Cottage had left behind and it didn't cost me a cent!  I was so proud of myself because I'd been wanting to get it done for ages but didn't think I had the skill or the strength to do it - turns out I did!  It might not be pretty, I could feel my beloved late father (who was a builder) watching over me and saying 'Jesus Jack, that's a bit rough isn't it?!' But I didn't care - it was mine and I made it all by myself and it was going to be fabulous.

The catalyst for my building frenzy was last week's trip to the supermarket.  I currently receive a Working for Families tax credit from Inland Revenue for being a sole parent until Ali leaves home.  I was eligible for the maximum payout of $160 per week and I would use this for all Ali and my food, petrol for both our cars as well as other incidentals such as hair cuts, phone top-ups and care packages for Liam.  However when my work dropped off a few months ago it was cut by $60 a week.  This, as I found out makes a BIG difference.  It's a bit bloody Irish, don't you think?  'Oh, you're not earning as much as you were so we're going to take some more off you!'  Then last week I found out they were taking another $20 a week off me because I have a private child support agreement with my ex and refused to make him pay through Inland Revenue.  The reason for this is a) We've already been doing this for two-and-a-half years and it works perfectly well, both parties are happy with the arrangement and b) If I go through Inland Revenue, my ex will be made to pay more.  I don't want that to happen.  In my opinion he already pays more than enough and in addition he helps us out with things like free firewood, meat for the freezer and other things that he doesn't have to do.  I have also had sole custody of our children since our marriage ended.  I would not dream of taking any more from him and I'm stuffed if I'm going to let IRD make me.  So in the space of a couple of months my weekly Working for Families payout has now halved to just $80 per week.

Last week was my first go at trying to manage on that.  I don't HAVE to stay within it but it's a challenge I like to set myself; a matter of personal pride.  I knew it would be tough but I still thought I could do it.  I couldn't.  I went to the supermarket and spent $120 and still had barely anything.  In this shop there were no bought snacks, no cleaning products, no tea, coffee or alcohol and the only meat I bought was a pack of bacon on special.  I didn't even buy a loaf of bread; all I purchased was fruit and vegetables, shampoo, pet food and some basic ingredients I could use to make a whole bunch of other stuff.  I was really, really, really, REALLY angry.  I couldn't have shopped any better, yet I was still a whole third over my budget!  I figured if I was going to have any hope of getting my food costs down I was just going to have to beat the supermarket at their own game and the only way I could do that was by growing my own food like I used to.  Obviously I knew how to do it, but this time was going to be the first time I had done so completely from nothing and all by myself.

So the world's ugliest vegie garden was created.  A patch of lawn was dedicated and my timber frame has been built.  No photos yet!  It's going to be a work in progress because I have to find the cheapest and most practical way to prepare the soil and fill it and one of the unfortunate things about setting up a garden is that it does require some outlay but it will be worth it because I never want to rely on the supermarket for fresh produce again.  If you have fruit and vegies in the garden you can always eat. Besides, getting out in the garden is good for the soul!  I just need to put in some serious weight training if I'm ever going to be able to get my spade through the grass and dig up the turf.  Methinks I may have to find an easier alternative!  I won't give up on that just yet though - after all, I always thought I wouldn't be able to build a garden either!


  1. What about a 'no-dig' vegie garden!

  2. I read quite a few blogs relating to frugal ways, saving money etc but have to admit to three all time favorites, you Jackie at Riches have wings (Penny Wise at Simple Savings before that), Wendy Gower at My Abundant Life and The Frugal Queen in the UK.

  3. I follow the 3 blogs mentioned in the above post. Another frugal blog I enjoy reading is 'The Prudent Homemaker' who lives in the USA and is amazing in how she cares for her family.