Recent Hints & Tips

Full access to the Vault of Hints is for members only, but here's a taste! Hints are contributed by both staff and members.

Home mixed household cleaner
updated Yesterday
My mother is chronically ill and disabled. She suffers from a rare type of auto-immune disease, called lupus, and is therefore allergic to most chemicals. This made cleaning difficult because she was allergic to most cleaning products, or those she wasn't allergic to were too expensive to buy on my carer's pension. Because Mum's disease is an auto-immune disease, I have to keep our house hospital-grade clean.

So I have come up with a fantastic recipe, and my house is spotless, smells great and is fresh and clean. The solution cleans and polishes everything, including windows. I have never seen glass and stainless steel taps look so clean.

This solution also lasts forever. Household cleaner used to cost me $80 per month, but now I buy detergent every three months, vinegar once a year at $1.50, washing soda every 18 months at $0.98c and eucalyptus oil once every eight months at $3.50 - a saving of $880 a year minus $20 for the few items I do buy. In total I've saved around $2640 over three years.

Household Cleaner

1 litre water
200ml vinegar
40ml detergent
40ml eucalyptus oil
2 dessertspoons of washing soda

Mix all ingredients together, and it's ready to use. Use 60ml of solution in warm water to wash your floors. Fill a spray bottle and use it to clean your table, benches and bathroom.
Say it with your own flowers
updated Yesterday
It's nice to send flowers as a gift - of course, it's very expensive too.

We save money on flowers by growing our own. We spent $5.00 on packets of mixed flower seeds and $10 on good quality garden soil. We had a few bricks lying around our yard, which we used to make a raised garden bed, big enough for five rows of different varieties of flowers. And, as some of the seed packets had 500 seeds, we will store them for later use.

We now give bunches of our flowers to neighbours, friends and teachers as thank you or birthday gifts. We are also able to personalize them with homemade cards. We all get a kick out of seeing people's expressions when we tell them that the flowers were grown at home!
Clean the top of your fridge with ease
updated 24 Apr 2018
Do you hate cleaning the top of your fridge? Man, it gets so greasy and dusty up there - it's gross! I've got the answer, and it's so simple... plastic wrap!

Clean the top of your fridge, then cover it with a layer of plastic wrap. When the time comes to clean, simply remove the plastic, wipe, cover again and you're done! This also works for overhead cupboards that don't go all the way to the ceiling!
Clear the clutter in 15 minutes a day
updated 23 Apr 2018
The Home Storage Solutions website offers excellent support and tips on how to de-clutter your home in 15 minutes a day! It also includes a monthly plan to help you stay focused. The site is
Make your own re-useable shopping bags
updated 22 Apr 2018
My re-useable, eco-friendly and super cheap shopping bags are a favourite with family and friends! I have always been appalled by wastage. Single use shopping bags are on the way out, so I recently started making shopping bags from large sheets purchased from the local op shop. These are extremely cheap, wash brilliantly and can be made to any size. Have a go and making your own!
Long-term Challenge success
updated 21 Apr 2018
Seven weeks ago, I did my first $21 Challenge and thought that it worked so well I have tried to continue it for as long as I can!

Using the menu planning principles, the food spend for our family of three has come down to an average of $90 per week. I only buy what's on my very short shopping list and plan a couple of weeks ahead so that I can buy bulk items and spread the cost over that period.

Apart from proving that I can sustain this way of food shopping over a long-term, with a potential annual saving of $4500, I have found lots of other benefits associated with the Challenge:

- I spend a maximum of 90 minutes a week doing my shopping, including travel time.
- I have more free cupboard space. Priceless!
- I have been able to turn off our second fridge/freezer today, meaning a further saving on our electricity bill!
Treat pet flea allergies naturally with coconut oil
updated 21 Apr 2018
We are saving a fortune on vet bills and treatments for our cat's allergy problem, thanks to a much cheaper,natural alternative. Our little cat suffers from what appears to be a flea allergy - despite having Advantage applied every month. She has been grooming constantly resulting in bald patches all over her body. Rather than taking her to the vet we decided to try a home remedy first. Morning and night we applied extra virgin coconut oil on the patches. Of course she licked them but gradually the over grooming has stopped and her fur is growing back and she is a lot more comfortable. The result is a saving of at east $80 per consultation and cortisone injection and the ensuing problem that her immune system could be compromised. She is much happier!
Just like the real thing
updated 20 Apr 2018
It's easy to save lots of money on fresh milk by using the instant mixes available from the supermarket. Powdered milk costs around $6.00 per kilo and can taste so much like fresh milk that it fools even the fussiest milk drinkers. Just mix the powder of your choice, pour into a bottle and add a small pinch of salt and a drop of vanilla. Cap and chill overnight.
Let children be children after school
updated 16 Apr 2018
I refuse to buy into the idea that after school activities are a 'must have'. They are not. They are a luxury to be enjoyed if your finances and priorities allow it. I have three primary age children and our afternoons consist of some 'down time' in front of the TV for just a little while (we have a rule about what time it goes off) and afternoon tea. They also do their homework and still have lots of time to enjoy playing. I am a big believer in allowing children time to just 'be children' and enjoy all the imaginative play that they can. They play together in their rooms with some VERY imaginative games and 'constructions' or outside together when the weather allows. Pretty soon we'll be planting a vegetable garden and they will be helping us with that.

Every so often we enjoy a play date with a school buddy, or sometimes their entire family! We have also had play dates at the local park too. We have been in the position of having to let go of music lessons so that the last child could go to pre-school. It wasn't a popular decision but it had to happen. The one who was having the lessons took the news fairly well and continues to enjoy tinkering on the piano with my help. The best part of not having the after school activities is that we are all a lot more relaxed and have time to share with our friends. I am no longer stressed about getting this one to that activity and the other one to theirs...and then picking them all up...and getting dinner done...and getting them all to bed at a decent hour!

Nature's Organics
updated 14 Apr 2018
Nature's Organics brand shampoo have some wonderfully cheap hair shampoos, for $1.80 in a 500 mL bottle. Use this in a hand soap dispenser, it is cheaper and nicer smelling than the expensive soap on taps and works just as well. You can also use this as a shower gel. Put in a pump pack as you use less than when pouring. I save heaps and it lasts a long time.
Home-made washing liquid
updated 13 Apr 2018
I have often looked for a cheap, effective, environmentally friendly washing liquid for clothing. Often they are very expensive.

Recently I was given this recipe for making my own:

1 cake of pure soap, grated (about $0.60c) or 125 grams of Lux flakes (about $1.00 - $1.25)
1 cup washing soda (also called 'Lectric soda' in Victoria) (about $0.65c)
3 buckets

Place the soap flakes or grated soap in about one litre of water in an old saucepan. Bring to the boil. Mash with potato masher or mix in a food processor.

Dissolve one cup of washing soda in one litre of hot water in a bucket.

Strain in soap solution. (If there are any little bits of soap left undissolved, place these in a small basin with a little water to dissolve them for next time you make up this recipe.)

Divide the soap/soda solution into three, nine litre buckets and fill each bucket slowly with cold water. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands. This will set into a soft gel which can be used in your washing machine in cold or hot water.

I use two to three cups of this mix per wash, and although you can add it to your wash, I usually place it in a bucket and add a litre or so of hot water before putting it in my wash.

You can pre-soak really grubby clothes in this mix - just put one cup of it in a bucket of warm water. Even if you still like to use the more expensive brands for really soiled clothes this mix works well for general washing, saving you heaps.

It can also be used as a good cheap shampoo and in a dish washer as well.

I have found some good containers for storing the mix (or flour, sugar and so on). Often doughnut shops have large fondant containers and McDonald's have large storage containers that their gherkins come in. Some stores give them away and others sell them for up to $2.50.
Purity brand is the same as Earth's Choice
updated 12 Apr 2018
When grocery shopping, it pays to check the manufacturer of the product. I recently bought a 'sensitive' washing detergent to help with my daughter's rash. At first I was happy to pay anything, so I bought the Purity brand (1.25 litres) for $5.75 (ridiculous). Then I decided to buy Earth's Choice (1.25 litres), a cheaper (and I thought inferior) product for $1.98. I started using it and found that it smelt the same as the expensive brand. I checked the manufacturer and discovered that both products were made by the same company. Previously I had only thought of checking the manufacturers of generic products.
London travel tips
updated 12 Apr 2018
When we visited London we found some easy ways to cut down expenses. We bought nice, fairly cheap sandwiches at a chemist called Boots. For drinks we looked around for the smaller metro stores of big supermarkets like Sainsburys and Tesco. For dining out we found that Russell Square in London is a source of cheap Italian and Indian restaurants.

Transport was very expensive, however we disovered that when travelling on the tube, if you ask if the children can go free you can take them through where the guard is by just showing your tickets. This was a new initiative which started when we visited and saved a lot.

And finally we made sure to enjoy all the free things like the Natural History Museum (an absolute must) and the Art Galleries.
Stay in style for less with 'three items' rule
updated 9 Apr 2018
Two years of travelling taught me how to keep my wardrobe looking good for very little. Simply make sure that everything in your wardrobe goes with three other things. Of course each of these must also go with three things, and so on. Also, use scarves and jewellery to make different outfits. With this method I got by with four tops, four bottoms, three pairs of shoes, a jacket and accessories, and I was often complimented on my outfits. No excess spending and no excess baggage!
Milo in a sandwich
updated 8 Apr 2018
For school lunches, I pack a piece of fruit, some home baking (a piece of cake or a couple of biscuits) and two sandwiches (four pieces of bread) for my school-aged children. One sandwich usually has meat or cheese and the other contains honey, jam or Milo. Milo becomes like melted chocolate by lunchtime and the kids love it; it is cheaper than a chocolate spread.
Material girl
updated 7 Apr 2018
I'm in the process of decorating my kids' rooms... on a budget! One neat way I've saved money is by using the material from clothes they've grown out of to make garlands, canvas prints and such.

I'm also using material from some of my old clothes to wrap presents and make wheat pack covers and eye masks for presents this year.
Try before you buy!
1 comment
updated 7 Apr 2018
Before you rush out and spend your hard-earned money on appliances you think you want for your kitchen, borrow the items from friends and family for a 'trial period' to ascertain whether or not you are really going to use them. I have used this strategy over the years and found, after borrowing something, the thrill of having a new appliance could soon wear off! Once I realised, that the bread maker, juicer, sandwich press, or Mix Master either sat in the cupboard gathering dust, was too fiddly to use or simply a nightmare to clean after use I handed it back to its owner and saved myself an expensive purchase I'd regret!
Beware four cents off petrol
updated 4 Apr 2018
Don't get sucked into the $0.04c a litre off the price of petrol for buying at Woolworths or Coles!

I have shopped at Woolworths and Coles and have found them to be getting more and more expensive unless the item is on sale.

I have worked out that the savings they offer on petrol amount to a measly $2.00 a week, which is about $104 a year on a 55 litre tank.

I shop at Aldi where I save at least a dollar off all groceries - or more than $1400 a year!

Our local deli/fruit market is also cheaper than Coles or Woolworths - cold meat, for example, is at least $2.00 a kilogram cheaper and fruit and vegetables are cheaper too.

Many people think that the $0.04c a litre off petrol is a great thing but that money spent at Aldi or the local deli/fruit market will fill up your trolley quicker and save you more money in the long run.
A cleaner way to fry
updated 3 Apr 2018
I've found a great way to enjoy the occasional fried meal without the dreadful clean-up! Because we don't own a deep fryer, and only occasionally want to eat something fried, we just shallow fry in a frying pan. But depending on what you are cooking, this can generate terrible fat spatters over the stove top and stove back, making cleaning up a nightmare! You can't use a lid on the frying pan as this generates steam, which then drips back into the frying pan and makes the situation much worse. We've also tried using a spatter guard on top of the frying pan, but the fat spatters seem to just go straight through the mesh.

What we found to be helpful was to put a piece of paper towel over the top of the mesh spatter guard to soak up the fat that had been previously sailing merrily through the guard. It caught about 95 per cent of the spatters!
This doesn't work just for fried foods, it also works well for when you are pan-frying a steak and the meat juices spatter everywhere!
Scrub away the years with Cetaphil and bicarb
updated 31 Mar 2018
Paula Begoun is a well known beauty writer and dermatologist who first shared the magic powers of Cetaphil cleanser mixed with bicarb soda. You simply blend the two to a paste consistency and use as a fine exfoliant. To make a milder version you just use more cleanser and less bicarb. Any mild liquid cleanser could be used instead of Cetaphil but I actually love it. It’s very economical when you think
what you can pay for microdermabrasion or micro exfoliants. Time is the key when using this treatment. Fastidiously doing every centimetre of your face and neck (excluding eyes) takes a while but that’s what you need to do to get that ‘salon’ result!
Healthy lunch box tips from the naturopath
updated 29 Mar 2018
As a naturopath I am always trying to give my son a healthy lunch. For weight-loss, it's best to keep carbs and sugars to a minimum and to give lots of protein snacks to keep their energy levels stable; plus fresh fruits and vegies. Carbs will fill their tummies but also imbalance insulin levels which can cause weight issues and energy fluctuations, so keep carbs to a minimum. Also be aware that fats are healthy as long as you choose healthy fats - those from natural sources that aren't extracted by heat or chemicals and aren't created in a factory. For example, cold pressed olive oil is good but avoid margarine and heat/chemical extracted oils such as canola, soy, corn, rice bran and sunflower. Saturated fats such as coconut oil, ghee and butter are good in moderation as they are 100% natural and heat stable.

Some of my son's favourite snacks include:

- Boiled egg (my son's number one fave - and something his classmates asked for when they saw his lunch!)
- Half an avocado with a spoon (needs to be kept cool, so best sent in a winter lunch box or use ice packs to keep chilled
- Fruit leather
- Home fried poppadoms; very easy and cheap to make! Buy in small packets at Indian stores and deep fry at home in your own healthy oil (I use home-made ghee for frying)
- Fresh seasonal fruits
- Cherry tomatoes
- I often give my son leftovers from dinner if they're able to be eaten cold. Usually it's a special treat such as sushi or home-made pizza, sometimes a rice dish, sausages and so on)
- Home-made savoury mini muffins or mini quiches/pizzas
- Omelettes/crepes cut into small pieces

You can also make small containers filled with:

*Rice crackers
*Dried fruit selection
*Nuts selection
*Bhuja mix (mildly spicy Indian chickpea flour snacks), they are deep fried so use in moderation unless home fried
*Cheese sticks (cut from a block of cheese, not pre-packaged cheese sticks)
*Pieces of fresh coconut
*Fruit and vegie sticks with hummus or other dip
*Celery sticks with peanut butter
*Salami pieces or biersticks
*Home-made popcorn (with butter and salt or cinnamon is fine)
Kids' gifts from the heart
updated 28 Mar 2018
My kids are thinking of unique ways to spend time with their friends for their birthdays rather than spending money on expensive gifts that they may not play with. Instead of buying another plastic Batman or Spiderman, I suggested that my kids give a gift from the heart - a gift of his or her time with the birthday child.

Have your child decorate his 'gift' from the heart on some coloured paper and get them to think of some things they can do together with the birthday child. These might include:

*A sleepover at my place
*Dinner - you choose - pizza or burgers
*DVD of your choice
*Come over for the day, bring your favourite CDs and we can listen to them
*Have lunch - hot dogs or pies - your choice
*Let's play computer games together for the afternoon
*Bring your bike around and we'll go for a bike ride and after we'll have a milkshake.

Even though the rest of your family might be present, the main thing is that the two friends are together and having a fantastic time. Try it - the kids really love coming up with new ideas of what they would like to give their birthday friend as a gift. It might just cost you your time but it is the gift that is remembered and enjoyed the most. But most of all, it teaches kids and adults alike that not all presents have to come from a shop.
Relaxing herbal gifts from your garden
updated 28 Mar 2018
Instead of spending large amounts of money on my favourite bath products and luxuries I am now making my own for free and turning a profit making gift baskets! After a hard day at work my partner and I are hooked on bath products, soothing oils and body washes but have found them to be very expensive. A bottle of Radox costs around $9.00, and we use one a fortnight, not to mention all the money spent on sweet smelling salts and body wash.

Growing fresh herbs in my own backyard sparked the idea and after experimenting by crushing mint leaves into a bath I discovered the most amazing, fresh and relaxing scent. It is really strong so you have to be careful not to use too much. Now I have begun putting some crushed leaves into my body lotion and using rose petals and water in a spray bottle as room freshener.

Then we gave my sister a home-made bath hamper including a bag of fresh mint leaves, body lotion with crushed rose petals, a nice loofah, some home-made room freshener along with some candles and a few other girly things. The whole hamper only cost $15. My sister thought it was fantastic!

As a family that usually spends a lot of money on gifts, this idea has saved me heaps without lowering the standard of the gifts. Now the girls at work have been asking me to make them non-stop so I am actually beginning to make a profit. I have a lot of fun doing it and am also making some hampers for my niece to sell at their school fete. She thinks they will be a real hit!
A sweet idea for dispensing handcream
updated 28 Mar 2018
I work with steel, timber and do tiling, so my hands get very dry, cracked and sore. To help, I use emu oil-based cream. Often though, the hand-pumps on these products fail, and replacements can cost up to $10. Then I hit on the idea of using upside down honey bottles! I put my handcream in one and voila! Instant access, drip-free and excellent to throw in the work truck. And to make it easier to transfer the handcream into the honey jar, simply put the original handcream in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it up a bit.
Time-saving tips for working mums
updated 27 Mar 2018
For many people juggling work, family and study, time is the most important saving they can make. I work four days a week, have a three-year-old and studied part-time for a diploma for a year. I got by with these time-saving tips:

1. Lowering my expectations for the house. I don't need a spotless house, but a tidy and lived-in home.

2. Doing my housework little and often, rather than spending huge amounts of time tidying up. I do things like:
- put my little one's daycare bag together for the next day as soon as we get home in the afternoon.
- cook my lunches (pasta and sauce, muffins and so on) once a week and freeze them.
- put my lunch box together from the freezer in the evening.
- clean the toilet by putting a teaspoon of Napisan in it each night. It soaks overnight and the bowl is clean with the next flush.
- do laundry when enough for a load accumulates so we don't have a sudden clothes drought, then an avalanche of laundry to do and put away.

3. Exercising on a stationary bike in front of the TV in the evenings after my little one is in bed.

4. Programming our DVD recorder once a week (Sundays when we get the new TV guide) so I don't miss my favourite shows.

5. Filling cereal bowls with water if I am rushing and have to leave the breakfast things. This makes them easier to clean later and stops ants.

6. Trying not to double handle things. Rubbish goes straight in the bin, meat is put in meal size portions in plastic bags and frozen as soon as it gets home, magazine subscriptions go straight to magazine rack when they arrive in mail.

7. Leaving rooms better than when I arrived, so the need to tidy doesn't build up. It only takes five minutes to put laundry from the floor to the hamper, make the bed, wipe a bench, replenish the toilet paper.

8. Recruiting my little one to help - she's only three but she can put dirty dishes in the sink, put toys away in her room, dirty clothes in the hamper.

9. Shopping for groceries by myself in the evening so hubby can watch his TV shows in peace and I am not tempted to go to other stores as only the supermarket is open. Also many things are marked down at that time.

10. Trying to do three things for myself that make me feel happy each day, like listen to podcasts while I do the housework.

11. Writing the shopping list progressively through the week so I can pick it up and go when it's time to do groceries.

12. Storing the bedding in storage containers under each bed so it's quick to make the bed, especially when changing my little one's wet sheets in the middle of the night.

13. Shopping for presents at sales during the year (online or in stores) so I don't need to go to crowded stores during the Christmas rush.

14. Not beating myself up if I find lifestyle changes tricky at first - I am afterall human!

... and thousands more.

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