Recent Hints & Tips

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Planning overseas trips adds up to a priceless saving
updated 19 Sep 2017
I love travel and rarely ever pay full price for it. I pick a destination and create an itinerary. I then subscribe to the relevant airlines, hotels and tourist destinations and wait for the special deals to arrive in my inbox. It's very exciting because as soon as I purchase the cheap flights, everything else falls into place easily.

Last year, I paid $2000 for our family of five to go to Singapore/Malaysia for a week. We flew via Scoot which is a Singaporean airline and flights for all of us was $1000 return. We went to Legoland and stayed two nights at Legoland Hotel and spent two days in the theme park. I purchased the hotel booking when they released a 'buy one night, get one free' deal and the theme park was also buy one, get one free. The breakfast was amazing and included in the booking. When Accor had a 50% hotel sale, I booked Novotel Singapore and as a free member, breakfast was included for all of us. We caught trains everywhere and did so many things. It was such an amazing and fun affordable holiday.

My next trip is a European cruise with stops in France, Italy, Spain and Malta. The flights and eight day cruise (which includes food, entertainment etc) costs $1400. My two girl friends (also mums) and I booked the cruise when they had a special where the second passenger was only $1 extra. I also then subscribed to Etihad and booked flights from Brisbane to Milan when they went on special for $1000.

Planning trips this way enables our family to travel more often and the experiences are priceless for the children.
Grow your garlic
updated 15 Sep 2017
You know how expensive garlic is! Do you know that you can have enough garlic for the year if you follow this method? Buy a whole garlic bulb cluster from the supermarket, place it in a glass and fill till it covers half the bulb, wait four days for it to show a green shoot, break it up into individual cloves and plant in your garden. Wait till it falls over and you can even leave it in the ground till you want to use it. Saves you so much money. You can dry it, preserve it in brine or add it to your favourite preserves.
Free 5km weekly walk/run event with Parkrun
updated 13 Sep 2017
If you want to get fitter for free and have fun at the same time, check out Parkrun! We have recently discovered this it is just like entering one of the many organised fun runs around but is local, weekly and free! There are currently 60 locations around Australia alone where this weekly event takes place but is also happening in other countries and the number is growing!

Parkrun organise free, weekly five kilometre timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone and are free, safe and easy to take part in. These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and people of every ability are encouraged to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; all are welcome!

See: or if outside Australia for locations and to register.
Grow your own mighty investment with Acorns
updated 12 Sep 2017
If you've always wanted to invest, but didn't know where to begin, there's a brand new website out called 'Acorns' which rounds up the money you spend and invests it for you. For example, if you spend $4.50 on a cup of coffee, it will round up the figure so you pay $5.00 and invest the extra $0.50c. The concept (and name) is taken from the mighty oak, which starts out only as an acorn, but grows into something great. If you want to find out more you can go to their website here:

It's a fantastic tool, especially if you don't have the discipline (or means) to make regular savings or investments.
Chocolate sauce is a lifesaver when the cupboards are bare
updated 4 Sep 2017
There is nothing worse than suddenly having a chocolate craving, or an unexpected guest arrives at the door during a $21 Challenge week when your cupboards are practically bare! You want to give them something fabulous but have been caught unawares. This indulgent chocolate fudge sauce mix will save the day. It's great served over stale cake, ice cream or banana splits; you are limited only by your imagination. It uses very few indigents, cooks in two minutes in the microwave and tastes great! In fact, everyone I make it for has asked for the recipe.

Microwave Chocolate Fudge Sauce

25g butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp milk


Melt the butter (20-30 seconds in microwave should be enough).
Add remaining ingredients and stir well.
Cook for two minutes and again stir well.
Serve over cake or ice cream.

The sauce will thicken on cooling. For a thinner sauce simply reheat.
Cheese scones for a tasty sandwich alternative
updated 3 Sep 2017
When I have run out of bread for school sandwiches, I find cheese scones a real lifesaver. Very cheap and easy and fast enough to whip up a batch before school!

Cheese Scones: (makes approximately eight)

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup cheese
2/3 cup milk

Mix ingredients all together, roll and cut out and place in a hot oven for 15 minutes.

The kids love them and it makes a nice change from sandwiches. You can also add a handful of bacon bits and sprinkle some cheese on top. Very tasty and much better value than cheese and bacon rolls from the supermarket!
Save money and your sanity with this teen tip that works!
updated 3 Sep 2017
This simple tip has saved me a fortune on dealing with demanding teens! Teenagers can be the toughest of children to negotiate with because they can be master manipulators at getting parents to do things for them that you really don't want to do. Which unfortunately can end up costing you a lot of your time and/or money. Fortunately I learned a great way to deal with this. I can't for the life of me remember where I learned it, but it saved me so much time and money that in turn I've passed it on to many other parents of teens that have the same issues (which most of us do)!

One of the main tactics that teens use is the 'I need to have it/know it now, now, now' ploy. It's usually when they 'need' money to buy something or 'need' you to drive them somewhere or 'need' you to let their friends stay over. And they'll keep at you and at you until you make a decision which is usually a quick yes, that you didn't really want to say, just to get them to stop. Previously, I couldn't think quickly enough when they were harassing me mercilessly for an immediate response and I found myself saying yes all the time, when I really wanted to say no. But saying no immediately never stopped the verbal onslaught. However what I learned to say instead was,'If you want an answer right now, it's no. But if you leave me alone, I'll think about it'. I found that 100% of the time, saying this worked. It gave me precious time to think about whether what they were asking was really as crucial as they made it sound, and whether I really wanted to spend money or change my plans to suit their 'needs'.

My new response also stopped them asking for immediate answers because they knew what the outcome would always be. And the house and my bank account had peace at last!
$1.00 a thousand times over
updated 2 Sep 2017
We had the chance to travel overseas several years ago but had to save $1000 to make it happen. On one income with two small children it seemed impossible. Then I had the brainwave - I didn't have to save $1000, I had to save $1.00 a thousand times! This was so much easier - a generic brand product at the grocery store, a chocolate bar at the petrol station and so on, soon added up and the savings contributed to a great family holiday.
Plus size clothing at the right price - made just for you!
updated 1 Sep 2017
Plus sized fashions are difficult to find in shops and are quite hit and miss for online purchases. However I've discovered a great website called eShakti ( which caters for sizes 0 to 36. My figure is very thick waisted and I find it difficult to find clothing in shops and almost impossible in second hand clothing stores.

eShakti create designs (dresses, skirts, tops, jumpsuits, pants and denim). You select a design and for a single extra charge of $9.95 USD, you can choose to customise the style (alter the neckline, sleeve length and/or hem length) and if you wish, you can input your specific height and body measurements from which the company will adjust their patterns to tailor the garment to be more suitable for you.

Based in Delhi, they claim to operate their work spaces under fair and secure conditions. The cost isn't bargain basement (particularly with the USD-AUD exchange rate), but the items are really great quality - usually better than 'bricks and mortar' shop clothing. eShakti only constructs items once orders have been placed, which means the item can take more than one month to arrive on your doorstep but is worth the wait. They have regular sales (minimum 10% off or greater) and if you purchase a few items, or delivery is delayed, they offer gift coupons, which results in 'covering' customised alteration and delivery costs on subsequent orders.

Because their items are much more flattering and comfortable, I've found that I wear my eShakti items much more than other clothing in my wardrobe and I'm certainly getting my money's worth. I'd also like to mention that the majority of their skirts and dresses come with POCKETS as a standard feature!
Mortgage savings you can 'see' with simple system
updated 1 Sep 2017
If you want to pay off your mortgage faster but like to 'see' your savings, I can really recommend this idea! We reset up our mortgage with an offset account a few years ago and I love it as we are getting ahead on our mortgage. The one issue was that my hubby couldn't 'see' our savings as I put all extra cash into the offset. He prefers a savings account but I want the extra interest benefit working on our mortgage.

So I set up an amortization account (explanation of how they work here and a downloadable spreadsheet here

I then set the table to our 'comfortable' level of payments and the time I wanted to pay it off in and printed it out. Now I can just look at the payment schedule and the difference to where we 'should' be at and where our payment level is equals our savings.

As an example (I have rounded these numbers), our last payment was on the 8/6/17 and our loan should have been $231,000 but after our payment went in we are sitting at $225,000 which means we have $6,000 in 'savings'. My husband finds this system easy to understand, I hope it might help others who's partners like to 'see' their savings!
A variety of uses for empty biscuit tins
updated 1 Sep 2017
I have found a great and super cheap resource for my baking and craft supplies. Many of us are given or buy the tins of short bread or butter biscuits, particularly at Christmas. Inside these tins the biscuits sit in patty pans. I rescue the patty pans from dirty fingers and keep them to use them for art and crafts or baking cupcakes. At just 4c per patty pan that is a saving of 80c per tin!
Say it with a slice
updated 1 Sep 2017
I saved $60 on a thoughtful gift for loved ones following a funeral for a close friend. My natural instinct was to send flowers but we were strapped for dollars. However I know from personal experience with losing my dad and mother-in-law that a gift made with your own hands with time and love can mean just as much or more. So I Googled a recipe and set about making a delicious no-bake lemon and coconut slice. I then wrapped them up in beautiful $2 gift bags with a lovely card (I always buy cards when I see good ones on special for $1). The whole project cost me less than $20 and the slices were loved by all the family and visitors. In the past I would have normally spent approximately $80 on flowers which would die in a few days. This recipe I made however resulted in around 50 slices, with plenty left for the elderly hubby to eat and enjoy now that the family have all gone home. A low-cost gift which is far more helpful and meaningful!
Soothe dry lips in an instant at home
updated 28 Aug 2017
This simple tip is effective and can save both discomfort and money. If your lips are really dry but you don't have a lip balm available, a quick substitute is to rub something oil-based on your lips. You can use things like unsalted butter, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil - even mayonnaise in a pinch!
Best cutting knives for $3 - $5
updated 24 Aug 2017
Many people spend hundreds of dollars on kitchen knives, for what are considered to be the best cutting/slicing implements, but after working in an Asian restaurant, I know better!

I observed the tools the cooks use and where they get them from. Their knives and utensils are fantastic and can easily be bought at Asian grocers and supermarkets. The best knives I have ever used have cost me $3.00 and $5.00. I have had them for several years now, my husband gives them a sharpen every now and again and they handle beautifully. The variety sold is enormous; you can buy a knife for any purpose, at a fraction of the cost of buying in a department or speciality store. I would never again spend money on expensive knives!
Collect loose change from unreturned trolleys
updated 23 Aug 2017
My husband has made an easy $30 from unreturned shopping trolleys in his breaks. He works in a shopping complex and is often finding trolleys left around carparks. Some of the larger stores supply shopping trolleys for a deposit of a $1.00 or $2.00 coin. For those of you who don't know, the coin goes in the slot which then disconnects the trolley from the rest of them. Once you finish with your shop, the idea is to encourage people to return their trolley to the appropriate bay, then your coin will be returned to you. Apparently some people can't be bothered returning their trolleys (particularly on bad weather days). My husband just discovered this two weeks ago. It's amazing and so easy. He is enjoying going for a wander in his breaks so it's also good exercise!
One-pot chicken dish is a winner
updated 21 Aug 2017
This made-up recipe turned a few bits and pieces from the fridge into a real winner of a meal!

Chicken legs (however many you have)
Potato cut into one-inch cubes
Pumpkin cut into one-inch cubes
One leek, sliced
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Zest and juice of one whole lemon(throw in whatever's left too!)
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (thyme would be good too)
Salt and pepper
About half a cup of water (white wine would be good but I didn't have any!)
A splash of oil

Put your oven on to 180C to heat up. Throw everything in a big roasting dish and give it a good toss so the flavours are nicely combined. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes, then turn the heat up to 200C for another 10 minutes to get things nice and crispy! Give everything a good turn a few times while cooking, to make sure the chicken browns evenly.

My husband and I really enjoyed this as it is but some salad leaves and crusty bread would have topped it off perfectly - along with a glass of that wine that we didn't have!!
Immune-boosting chicken soup
updated 20 Aug 2017
Because my mum has an auto-immune disease, she is prone to colds, flu and pneumonia and takes an average of 12-18 tablets a day. As I don't want Mum to get sick or have to take more tablets, I needed to think up a way of boosting her immune system. So I started to make ordinary chicken soup, but it wasn't potent enough. That's when I came up with this recipe. I think that it tastes delicious and has plenty of flavour.

Becky's Kill Anything Chicken Soup

8-9 chicken lovely legs, skinless
8-10 chopped cloves of garlic
1 chopped onion
2-3 small red chillies (Remove the seeds if you don't like it too hot as they're the hottest part, or just use one chilli. But you must use small chillis because they loosen mucus.)
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 litres Continental chicken stock
2 finely chopped carrots
1-2 handfuls corn
1 cup macaroni pasta
2-3 handfuls baby spinich

Heat the oil in a stock pot and brown the chicken, garlic, onion, chilli and ginger.
Add the chicken stock, carrots and corn.
Bring to the boil, and if needed add water. Simmer for 15-30 minutes. Take out the chicken, pull the meat off the bone, break meat into small pieces and put back in the pot. Add macaroni and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until pasta is cooked. Add baby spinach, taste, add salt and pepper if needed, then serve.

Since I've started to make this recipe, my mother has had fewer colds. When she has been sick it has not been for as long and has meant fewer hospital visits - not to mention fewer doctor's visits. Between the savings on medical bills, doctor's bills and hospital visits, I cannot begin to imagine what our savings have been but I don't doubt that it's been in the thousands of dollars.

Home roasted capsicum
updated 20 Aug 2017
To add some variation to my husband's lunches, I went to the deli section of my grocery shop to buy some roasted capsicum. I nearly choked when I saw the price of $25 per kilo! I then went in search of the jarred variety but at $4.00 for a small 200ml jar I decided there had to be a better and cheaper way.

I now buy six capsicums at a time, cut them into strips, de-vein and de-seed them. I then place them on a cooking tray with a light spray of oil and roast them for approximately one hour, depending on how many trays I have. I turn them once so they cook on both sides. Once the capsicums are out of the oven, I put them into a clip lock container, add some dried mixed herbs and chilli flakes and pour on a little vegetable oil; enough to coat the capsicum but not enough to drown it. I give the container a little shake and put it in the fridge. My husband takes the container to work and adds the capsicum to his roast beef sandwich at lunch time. The capsicum last two weeks and I even cook the roast myself!

The total cost is approximately $6.00 each fortnight, depending on the price of the capsicum. The cost will come down even more as we have just moved into our new house and once I have sorted out the gardens, I will be growing my own capsicums.
This free wild edible is fine and dandy!
updated 18 Aug 2017
If you want to save money and enjoy a nutritious free boost, look no further than the humble dandelion! This versatile plant can save at least $6 per week on fresh salad greens and an easy $3 per week on coffee. Dandelion can be used to make salad, pesto, green smoothie (add other leaves such as violet and clover) and roots taken in autumn and dried can be ground for a coffee substitute. It's healthier too!

Dandelions are one of the most health giving, nutritious and abundant wild edibles. To identify a true dandelion from the three look a-like plants of Catsear, Hawkbit and Hawkesbeard (all of which are edible, yet none are as beneficial), dandelions have a single golden yellow flower head on a hollow stem, containing white sap. The name 'dandelion' comes from the French dent-de-lion, meaning 'lion's tooth' - the leaves being deeply lobed with triangular teeth pointing towards the base of the leaf. Another distinguishing feature is to turn the leaf over and run your finger along the main vein of the leaf. If it is smooth with no hairs it is a true dandelion. Most other dandelion relatives have hairs on the veins and/or on the leaves.

Dandelions are perennials that grow in a rosette and are commonly found all over New Zealand, Tasmania and Australia mainland in lawns, pastures, roadsides, and wasteland. They originate from Europe and are known for their deep tap roots which easily break when you try to dig them up. They don't give up easily and will send up more leaves bringing up minerals from deep in the soil, benefiting the plants around them and us. In Autumn, when the plant is withdrawing it's energy into the root, it can be dug up, dry roasted and ground into a delicious coffee substitute, which was a practice during the rationing of the Second World War in England. (Find out how to make dandelion coffee below).

The root is well known for being highly medicinal for the liver, gallbladder and kidneys and has both laxative and diuretic qualities. The leaves contain high amounts of Vitamins A, B and C, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorous, and other minerals. They also contain protein 19-32% in 100g, which is an impressive amount just from green leaves! Dandelion leaves are bitter which stimulates the release of saliva, and improves digestion. A dandelion pesto (Google for the recipe) can last for a while or be frozen. They are also a tonic, help lower cholesterol levels, increase blood and lymph circulation and are blood purifiers. The leaves and flowers can be used in smoothies, salads, pesto's and stir-fries. Don't overlook the dandelion, you'll be amazed how much it can do! If you have sun you can grow dandelion in a pot. It is hardy, strong and a survivor, treat it well.
Sticky sausages
updated 17 Aug 2017
Try this recipe! It's cheap to make and all my family enjoy it.


Serves 4


8 thick sausages
4 tblsp tomato sauce
2 tblsp dark brown sugar
1 tblsp mustard powder
2 tblsp soy sauce


Set oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Mix all marinade ingredients in a shallow ovenproof dish. Add the sausages and coat them in the marinade. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Serve with mashed potato.
Cake in a jar
updated 17 Aug 2017
Here's a really thoughtful gift idea for under $5.00 each!

Start by making a double vanilla cake mix. You'll need:
500g SR flour
400g sugar
5 eggs
1.5 cups of milk
2 tsp vanilla essence
250g butter or margarine softened

Sift the flour and sugar together. Add eggs, milk, vanilla and butter and beat together for five minutes. Next, separate the mixture into two bowls â€" colour one red and one green. Pour separately into two 20cm round cake pans and bake in a moderate oven (180â€"190 degrees) until cooked (25-30mins).

Once cool, crumble up the cakes (keeping the colours separate). Spoon the crumbled cakes into glass jars with lids ($2.00 from The Reject Shop) layering red and green for a rainbow effect. Top with piped frosting and decorate. Seal the lid and attach a plastic spoon or fork with a bow.

You can change the cake colours for different themes such as Christmas, Easter or birthdays throughout the year.
My 'hardship' saved me $350 of debt!
updated 15 Aug 2017
I saved $350 by not signing up to pay off a washing machine and paying cash instead! I was tempted. The sales person asked to look at my bank statements. Because I am in financial hardship I had put the word - 'hardship' - on the reference field on my Internet banking against another account I am paying off under a hardship arrangement. I then got a call from the appliance company saying I could not pay the machine off because of my hardship status. Rather than give up, I found the cash to pay for the machine outright. That $350 I saved was debt that I didn't incur on top of the washing machine purchase. Using the word 'hardship' on the reference field of Internet banking is a great deterrent to stop incurring further debt.
Weekly menu saves on takeaways
updated 13 Aug 2017
We are all set to save a whopping $1200 on takeaways this year! Every weekend we order a takeaway meal, which costs us an average of $30 with soft drink and delivery. Last week I decided to make up my own 'takeaway menu' of quick and easy foods that I could whip up faster than it takes to deliver a pizza or Chinese. The criteria for the menu was:

* Must take less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook
* Must be able to keep ingredients in pantry or freezer
* Must be food we like!

I created a menu with eight different meals that fit the criteria and printed it off on glossy paper. I then put it on top of all of our other takeaway menus by the phone. When Saturday night came around, my husband was hankering for his usual takeaway, so I handed him our own menu! He chose Spaghetti Bolognese and I was able to whip it up in under 10 minutes using Angel Hair pasta and a can of Campbell's Beef Bolognese sauce. I even added some garlic bread for him and the total cost was just $6, saving $24 on our usual spend. We couldn't believe it when we added up the numbers and found that choosing from our own menu every weekend instead of ordering delivery would add up to a yearly saving of $1248! Not only are we saving money, but we both agree our home cooked 'takeaways' are hotter, yummier and much better for us than anything we could have had delivered!
Make your own re-useable shopping bags
updated 12 Aug 2017
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!
Get all the camping info with WikiCamp app
updated 12 Aug 2017
Wikicamp is a brilliant app for your phone which shows thousands and thousands of camping sites; not only ones that cost but better still, the FREE camping areas. It also shows where you are and the closest camp grounds to you, whether they have toilets, water, electricity, WiFi, phone coverage, BBQ's and if pets are allowed. You can also browse photos and comments that others have put there. We just used it for the first time this weekend to go to Woodside Beach so we knew we could take our dog but also discovered we needed to take our own drinking water, which we wouldn't have known otherwise and could have been tricky! I think the app costs about $4.99 but is well worth it!

... and thousands more.

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