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.

Screenshot important emails
updated 24 min ago
If you have an important email, take a screenshot of it, save it in your photos on your computer and text it to your phone. I won a prize and can't locate the email with the details to claim it. This shortcut would save time and grief.
Giant bickies for kids!
updated 3 hr ago
My children love the 'Giant Choc Chip Bickies' available through their school canteen but at $2.00 per bickie I couldn't justify the cost so found an alternative to make my own for only 13 cents each! This recipe makes on average 24 giant bickies and they are so delicious. Each bickie is about 10-13cm in diameter, almost a meal on their own. To further increase my savings I only use Home Brand ingredients and have costed the bickies out at 13 cents each. Quite a saving from $2.00!

The best news is that these bickies now make me money. I was having morning tea with some friends who own a takeaway shop and as it was a baking day I took some of the bickies along. They were so impressed by the look and taste of them that they have me baking them to be sold through their shop on a regular basis. On this occasion my money saving idea has become a money making idea!

The recipe is as follows:-

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
250g margarine
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups SR flour
1 packet choc chips

Method: Cream together white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and margarine. Add eggs, self raising flour and choc chips and mix well. Leave for about 15 minutes before rolling into palm sized ball and then placing on Glad Bake (on a tray). Cook at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 to 25 minutes.

Hint: After 12 minutes I swap the bottom and top trays around in the oven to avoid the bottom tray of bickies burning.
Ranch eggs
updated Today
For a simple meal using mostly non-perishable ingredients, try ranch eggs.


400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin baked beans
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp minced garlic
4 eggs

1/2 cup capsicum
1/2 cup baby spinach
4 tortillas

Fry onions and garlic together until onions are cooked. Add tomatoes and baked beans and sprinkle with chilli flakes. Stir through until the mixture is warm. Make four small holes in the mixture and crack one egg into each. Cover until the eggs are nicely cooked. Lightly spray a frying pan with oil and brown the tortillas on both sides. Serve the mixture on top of warmed tortillas.
Recipe for pre-mixed cupcakes
updated Yesterday
By making my own baking 'packet mixes', I'm saving between $230 and $520 per year! I love baking but sometimes feel pressed for time and am tempted to buy packet mixes for cupcakes. These cost up to $6.00 dollars each and I have noticed the supermarkets no longer stock the cheaper plain ones in their store brand (which I used to buy for as little as $0.69c each!).

Recently I began making my own pre-mixes and storing them in the cupboard ready to go whenever I want to bake! I spend about 10 minutes a month making the base up for eight mixes. All I have to do is pour out 220g of the mix, add the wet ingredients, mix well and bake. Too easy! Here's my recipe for chocolate cupcakes (makes eight batches):

6 cups plain flour
2 cups cocoa
4 cups caster sugar
16 tsp baking powder

Sift all these ingredients and ensure they are well combined before storing them in an air tight container.

When you're ready to bake, simply measure out 220g of dry mixture and add:
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
80g softened butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk

Beat well until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for another two minutes. Pour into cupcake patty pans (makes 12 large or 24 minis).
Stock your pantry with tomatoes
updated 20 Jan 2018
Two boxes of tomatoes have become $180 worth of food and has my kitchen well stocked. I bought 20kg of tomatoes for $16 and made some chemical and preservative free tomato products to last me well into the year. I spent a lovely day in the kitchen and made 30 jars of tomato relish, five jars of oven dried tomatoes, six 750ml jars of tomato sauce and six 500ml bottles of Neapolitan tomato sauce. The only costs were the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, onions, spices and gas which came to $30 and I received loads of praise from my delighted family and the joy of knowing that I have saved money and have healthy options for the family.
Butter Chicken cheaper without the chicken!
updated 20 Jan 2018
A cheap meal I make at least once every 10 days is Butter Chicken - without the chicken! I simply buy a jar of Pam's Butter Chicken sauce when it's on special, add two cans of coconut milk (also bought on special), large diced pieces of half a pumpkin, four small kumara, two medium potatoes, three medium carrots, a cup of peas and a tin of chickpeas for protein. Serve on rice. The coconut milk does not compromise the flavour at all; it might be a bit less intense but still very tasty. I can make this dish stretch to feed eight people!
Time-saving tips for working mums
updated 20 Jan 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!
A year's worth of cleaning product for under $10
updated 20 Jan 2018
I save almost $100 a year on cleaning products with this great recipe for all purpose spray cleaner! It is suitable for all kitchen surfaces, tiles, bathrooms, toilets, even stainless steel kitchen appliances and cooktops. The only thing I'm not sure it's suitable for is marble benchtops. Here's how you make it:

In an empty 600ml spray bottle, combine one tablespoon of full strength eucalyptus oil and one tablespoon of sugar soap. Fill the bottle with water, turn gently to mix, then simply spray and wipe as needed.

The eucalyptus oil cuts through all grease and is also a cockroach deterrent and an anti-bacterial agent. In the bathroom, I spray all bath/shower surfaces and then scrub with a clean, wet broom. As a floor cleaner, I spray it on the really dirty bits, then use a steam mop over the top.

Before I started using this, I used to spend $4.00 per 500ml bottle of Ajax Kitchen Cleaner, $6.00 per 500ml bottle of Ajax Bathroom Cleaner and $8.00 for a 250ml bottle of special cleaner for the stainless steel cooktop and oven. I was replenishing all these every two months. That's $18 every second month or $108 per year! By comparison, I have calculated that my recipe costs $0.79c per 750ml bottle, and I make a new batch about once a month. That's a grand total of $9.48 a year. What a saving!
New life for lonely pillowcases
updated 19 Jan 2018
Everyone has an old pillowcase that has no matching mate. I use my one-off pillow cases to make shopping bags. I just cut them down a little, hem the top and make handles from the pieces of material I cut off. As a bonus, these bags can be thrown into the wash when grubby.
Many uses for lonely socks
updated 19 Jan 2018
The world is full of orphaned socks. I'd like to think they have been put to good use, like this:

- Fragile items going into storage can be wrapped in a sock. Exceptionally fragile items should
be wrapped in newspaper too.

- Place frozen drink bottles in a sock to stop the liquid thawing out too quickly. Stops drips too.

- Slip a tall glass into a sock to act like a stubby holder and keep your drink cool.

- Slip on a baby's bottle, to keep milk temperature constant for longer

- Take a sock to the beach to hold any seashells you collect

- Put onto a clear bottle of olive oil bottle to stop exposure to light. Keeps oil in better condition.

- Use as an emergency heat bag for aches and pains. Fill with wheat grains or rice, tie into a knot and place
in the microwave for about two minutes.

- Cut holes for thumb and fingers and place a sock over a bandaged hand. This keeps the bandage clean
and securely in place. Works just as well on a bandaged ankle.

- Draw a face on a white sock, sew on wool to create hair, and use as a hand-puppet.

- Fold pretty orphan socks to create a pouch. Sew onto a wall hanging or curtain in your
child's room and insert small toy animals.

- Use a secure nappy safety pin to attach a sock to the waist of your jeans or shorts. Great for holding
iPods, keys, loose change or sunglasses.

Of course, the best way to REDUCE the number of sock orphans is to always buy two pairs of the same socks!
Strive for, and maintain simplicity with these mantras!
updated 18 Jan 2018
Having recently moved to Sydney from South Africa, with my little nuclear family, some financial adjustments have been required. Hubby is working and I'm settling our new home and nearly two year old into our surroundings.

Like all us here, I love a bargain. I feel like I'm relatively frugal and am a girl so go through these strange ramblings of 'Oh my gosh that's beautiful, I love it, but do I need it? Where could that money be better spent?' 'But Leah it's a $14 ALDI track-top you should just get it for yourself, it's really not that expensive! Why are you giving this top so much headspace?' 'I wonder if I could get it cheaper online?' With everything going on in the world, having moved countries and raising a little boy, that blasted ALDI track-top still has me bugging out over it?! How does that even make sense anymore? Retrospectively I realized this evening, after spending the better half of the week thinking about this silly track-top, that I need to work harder on and with what I have. I've penned a few tips/mantras to help me along the way.

1. This is a journey and there are many small wins along the way, eat the elephant one bite at a time. Every (proverbial) top you don't buy is a win and should be celebrated. Pause and take a moment to be proud of your wins along the way.

2. Remember, strive for and maintain simplicity; this is about SIMPLE savings, simplicity affords you time once achieved and time is money, cliche as that saying may be.

3. Use the (FREE) deal, my son turns two soon and just over Christmas he amassed another toy box full of gifts. I've decided that he's getting a library card with access to a few toy libraries for his birthday gift from me and an "experiences" account. My food shopping savings will be calculated and deposited into this account for purposes of enrichment and no more toys will be living here unless they are used and loved.

4. Give, not only money but of your time. Frugal living can leave you feeling bored, especially when thinking back to times when you often spent your time out on places that cost you heaps to keep you feeling "entertained". Research what fills your "feel good" tank and fill it, volunteer or create a capsule wardrobe and donate the rest. Help your friends do the same, you will feel lighter for it.
Drinking stronger coffee can save me $4,000 a year!
updated 18 Jan 2018
A little enforced savings ingenuity has led me to save a whopping $4,000 a year on coffee! I am in the final week of a very tight fortnight money wise. Both weeks I have attempted a $21 Challenge, using up both freezer and pantry stocks to create some delicious meals, even combining a 'yuk' cereal (as voted by the kids) with a favourite one and the kids have been digging into it all week without even realising!

Anyway - all was going well until I realised I was OUT OF COFFEE! Now I'm a 'can't function until I've had my two coffees a day' kinda girl. I had already switched from takeaway coffee to the 'make at home' Cappuccino or sachet sticks, so instead of wasting between $8 to $12 a day on two takeaway coffees, I reduced my spend to around $2 a day.

I was initially happy with this stoppage of a savings leak - but when I had to leave paid employment and began supporting my three kids on just a Carer's Payment I needed to make my dollars stretch even further. So I ONLY allowed myself to buy my coffee sachet sticks when they were on 50% off special (e.g a pack of 20 for $8 - or a 10 pack from ALDI for $3.99. Once again I managed to drop that coffee habit down to just $1 a day for my two coffees.

BUT - with two days to go till I get my next Centrelink payment in - and still in need of some basics like milk, bread, fruit AND MY COFFEE - I put my thinking cap on and worked out a way to cut that coffee habit down to just 50c a day - without sacrificing the taste or quality of my coffee!

I noticed in the selection of coffee sachets available that there is a 'Cappucino STRONG' pack, which I had never bought as I don't like my coffee very strong. But it occurred to me that if it was a stronger mix I might only need to use half a pack! So this morning I grabbed a 10 pack of Nescafe Cappuccino Strong for $3.99. I shook the sachet, tipped just half into my mug, made it up as usual (with my normal splash of milk added) and voila - it tasted the same as the regular mix! And as I tend to have two cups a day, the other half will be used later today so it won't create mess!

So, my initial coffee spend of $8-12 a day ($2920 to $4380 a year), has now been reduced to just 50c a day. That's $182.50 - a saving of up to $4000! AND I haven't noticed any difference in the quality of the coffee! But most importantly I won't have to go without coffee for the next few days and was able to meet my $21 budget and still get everything I needed for the next two days!
Outdoor decorations from your rubbish
updated 18 Jan 2018
Outdoor decorations can be made with your 'rubbish'!

The silver bladder from the inside of a wine cask makes a great star. Fill it with air, then take some string and tie cross-wise, like a parcel, putting a loop at the spout so it can be hung from a fence, gate or tree. It is weatherproof and sparkles in the sunshine.

You can also use an orange or onion bag, fashion it into a bow and hold it together with a wire bread tie or similar. Depending on their size, you may need two or three.

These will last for a long time out in the weather and don't cost you a cent!
Clean the top of your fridge with ease
updated 17 Jan 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!
Pod coffee machine savings
updated 17 Jan 2018
We have saved thousands of dollars since buying a coffee pod machine. Believe it or not, we would buy two coffees every morning, at a minimum cost of $7.00 - that's $2555 per year! After buying a coffee pod machine from Aldi for $80, we now get to enjoy our two coffees for a mere $0.74c per day.

We now always have morning coffee together before going out, enjoying time to chat and a hot drink. We are not missing out on a thing, just saving heaps of money.
Long lasting heels on leather shoes
updated 16 Jan 2018
I always purchase high quality, classic leather shoes for work. However, even the most expensive shoes generally have a plastic sole on the heel. Because plastic is brittle, the heel will often wear or break off very quickly and can ruin your shoes. Before wearing new shoes, I take them to a shoe repairer and have the heel sole replaced with a rubber sole for about $11. The rubber wears gradually and your shoes will last much longer and look better.
True wealth comes in many forms
updated 16 Jan 2018
I am richer than I've ever been thanks to my Simple Savings outlook. When I first joined SS I made a number of small but significant changes to my life and the savings and benefits immediately began to add up. Here are a few of them:

I almost halved my grocery bill in a month - it went from $815 in February to just $430 in March when I started shopping at Aldi and carefully tracked every cent. I discovered my 'inner baker' and instead of buying cakes and biscuits, I baked them from scratch at home. When my washing machine broke down, instead of having to pay out $700 for a new one my wonderful boss gave me an old spare machine they had and no longer used. I made two calls to my insurers, one for my car and one for my house, and found I could save $150 and $400 respectively on my yearly payments. I checked my mobile plan. Because I hardly use it, it was not working in my favour. I changed to a prepaid plan and now what I spend is what I use.

And, finally, I stopped looking for another job to earn extra money. Every dollar I save means time I don't have to work. I am now building my 'wealth' every day in more ways than one.

Many of my friends I used to envy have new cars, impressive houses, expensive clothes - and huge credit card bills. They holiday in Bali or Queensland but work 40 hour weeks in order to do so. They pick up tired and stressed children from after school programs and feed them take away foods because they're too short on time and energy to cook from scratch.

I have a 13-year-old car, a 1980's house, cheap clothes - and NO credit card debt. We holiday three times a year for a week at a time in our trusty 80's caravan and I work 20 hours a week, during school hours, for four days a week. I have one day just for me (or housework). My children walk to and from school and come home to baked goods, home-cooked meals and a happy relaxed household. I'm there to oversee and help with homework and I watch all their sports games.

Ask me again if I want another job to have the 'stuff' I once thought I wanted/needed and my answer will be a clear, precise, 'No way'. Thank you Simple Savings for helping me to step back and see what's really important in life.
Let kids manage their own spending
updated 14 Jan 2018
I am sticking to my budget and avoiding arguments with my kids by making them responsible for their own spending! I have been fighting with my teenagers for years regarding necessity vs luxury. Finally, this year, I had them each open a bank account and told them I was putting their education and clothing budgets in there - and they were responsible for their school stationery and all of their clothing. I told them they could spend the money on anything at all, but I wasn't going to rescue them. If they had blowouts I would hire them to do jobs of my choosing, at a time that suited me at minimal wages.

Now, for the first time, my daughter is considering second hand uniforms - previously she turned her nose up at them. She's being very careful about her school bag purchase because she doesn't want to spend money twice. She is watching her stationery spending and taking care of her purchases. She even said, 'It's different when it's "your" money' and I know they are all getting a valuable lesson in budgeting.
Make menu planning easy with
updated 14 Jan 2018
I make my groceries last longer by using everything I have in my fridge and pantry thanks to the amazing web site The site lets you enter what ingredients you have and brings up a list of recipes you can make with them, as well as recipes that require another one or two ingredients. You can also search for recipes that exclude certain ingredients, which is great for those on a restricted diet, and it even keeps track of what's in your fridge, freezer and pantry! No more standing in front of my near empty fridge wondering what I'm going to make with what I little I have, and no more searching for recipes with the obscure ingredients I have lurking in my cupboard. This site is a menu-planner's dream!
Never too late
1 comment
updated 14 Jan 2018
It's never too late to start a memory box for your child. If you kept baby clothes, keep one favourite garment or just the buttons from cardigans; newspapers from the day of birth, a favourite toy, cards and photos from special days, baby books from the clinic and so on. For a girl you could take a photo once a year at the same spot, dressed in a 'grown ups' dress. After about 15 years the dress will actually fit and you have a nice memento to frame.
Kogan prepaid SIM cards save all year round
updated 14 Jan 2018
My gift of pre-paid SIM cards is helping my family members save between $120 and $240 a year on calls, texts and data! I bought a Kogan prepaid SIM card for my daughter and my mother. Each cost $126.95 and last for 365 days. For that price, they get all calls to Australian landlines and all calls to Australian mobiles, all texts AND 1Gb of data every 30 days. The data stops when the 1Gb has been used and restarts when the next 30 day period starts. You can purchase more data if you like, but this should be enough for the basics on a phone. My daughter uses Wi-Fi at home or free Wi-Fi when out to update apps and save on data usage.

This SIM works out at a bit over $10 per month which has saved $20 per month on my daughter's phone and $10 a month for my mother but she now has unlimited calls where her previous credit used to run out at $20 per month with no free texts. I bought the SIMs on sale so keep an eye out for the specials and jump in. They are a great saving!
Hunger busting 'broke burgers'
updated 14 Jan 2018
I love these 'broke burgers' - as a student, I make them quite often!


1 egg
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup cottage cheese
1 packet onion soup


Mix all ingredients together and fry them as you would with burgers or meatballs. These are great the next day too. Cooking for a crowd? Double or triple the recipe, it works fine!
Never lose a button again
1 comment
updated 13 Jan 2018
When you purchase new items of clothing, sew the buttons on with Dental Floss. You only have to put the needle through twice. Buttons will not come off. When my children went to boarding school for five years they never lost a button.

If your item of clothing is dark, try doubling the cotton, and after putting cotton through twice, tie a knot, and then continue. You can put nail polish over this also.

When sewing hems, put a knot every six or ten stitches. If the hem comes undone, only a small part will do so.
Oldie but a goodie
updated 13 Jan 2018
Whilst coveting a new Kitchen Aid mixer, and feeling a little depressed about the $799 price tag, I remembered that my Nana's old Sunbeam Mixmaster had been sitting in the garage for years. I pulled it out, gave it a good scrub, and discovered that it works well and beats beautifully! I also had fun researching its history on the internet; it's a 9B model which was the first to be manufactured in Australia, circa 1950. I now have a fantastic electric mixer with an interesting history, and it didn't cost me a cent. It also reminds me of my gorgeous grandmother.

Buying something new doesn't always make sense; especially if you already have something will do the job just as well - even if it is 60 years old! My recommendation is to investigate all the things you have tucked away in your garage, or in the back of the cupboards. There may be a hidden gem that could do a great job, with the added bonus of saving money.
Watch and learn
updated 13 Jan 2018
Two years ago, I was given a beautiful gold watch for Christmas. Unfortunately, the band became so discoloured I got to the point where I didn't want to wear the watch and began thinking about buying another one. Knowing my budget wouldn't cover this expense, I bought a bottle of black nail polish for under $3.00 and painted both sides of the band, saving me $350 on a new watch! Lots of people now comment on my new watch - little do they know that it's the same watch that has been revamped.

... and thousands more.

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