Frugal Foo

Foo Thinking Money"Money can't buy me love"... But everything else is in this blog.

Holiday or even Live Rent Free by House Sitting

Image courtesy of photostock /
If you've ever wondered just how long you could travel or even live rent free by house sitting, this interview with serial house sitter James Cave has some very useful answers. Although no money changes hands between home owners and house sitters, James takes a professional approach to minding peoples pets and property while their owners are away.  His diligent attitude definitely pays off as he and his girl friend have been living this lifestyle for many months now.

What are some of the most interesting places you have stayed?
We've spent a lot of time house sitting in the French countryside where our neighbours have mainly been farmers. Despite having visited France quite a few times before I've never been this deep into rural France and so it's been very interesting.

Oh and we also looked after a farm of 18 alpacas recently. That was fun, apart from the bit where I had to rub cream on an alpaca's testicle!

How long is a typical house sitting assignment?
Most tend to be around a fortnight, the average length of a holiday. It does vary of course. I've seen a few that are only a weekend and others that are as long as a year. Everyone has different situations that they need a sitter for, but most are people who are going away on their annual or bi-annual holiday and need someone to look after the house and pets.

Does it cost anything to be a house sitter? costs $60 for a year which is typical for most house sitting websites. Considering it's less than the cost of a hotel for a night, and the amount of money you can save as a house sitter, it's pretty reasonable.

Is house sitting just for holidays, or could I actually live rent free as a house sitter by lining up assignments back to back for years on end?
Technically, yes. We're currently on a 9 month house sitting stint in France, made up of four housesits. We managed to line up most of them back-to-back, with one two week gap. I think we were quite lucky though, it really depends which house sits are available and whether the homeowner chooses you.

What sorts of responsibilities would I have as a house sitter?
With most house sits, the animals will be your main responsibility. More and more people are looking for alternatives to kennels and the idea of having someone to live in the house and care for their furry friends on a personal level certainly appeals to most pet owners. In one of our housesits we were asked to walk the animals for an hour and a half each day and then cook up a batch of cow bones from the local restaurant for them. We were more than happy to, but I can't imagine kennels or catteries being able to meet such requests for every one of their clients. Other responsibilities include cleaning swimming pools, and keeping an eye on the properties to ensure there are no burst pipes or damp patches.

What if I don't like animals? Are there any house sitting opportunities without pets to look after? It's not uncommon to find pet free house sits. Pools need a lot of work, and many people have gardens which need tending. Our experience, however, is that people are quite happy to leave their homes and gardens in the hands of fate, but want to ensure their pets are properly looked after while they're away. This is why most house sits involve an element of pet sitting too.
Image courtesy of Federico Stevanin /
It should also be pointed out that homeowners choose a housesitter over a kennel or cattery because of the one-on-one attention a housesitter can give their pets. We often get woken up in the morning by dogs licking our faces and cats jumping on the bed; so if you don't like animals, especially in such intimate settings, house sitting probably isn't for you.

If I have the skills, what about general home maintenance like cleaning windows or even painting a fence in return for staying in a nice home?
I'm sure there are plenty of home owners who would appreciate the extra DIY help. Occasionally I see housesits where the property is a holiday home or a place that's on the market for sale and the owner wants someone to maintain it while they're away. It's the exception, not the rule, but it is possible to find properties like this.

Have you encountered vicious dogs, snitchy cats or angry birds?
Never. If people are going to go to all of the effort of finding a pet sitter, then it's because they truly love their animals. In all of the housesits we've done the pets have been treated like members of the family and so are completely loving and adorable. That's not to say there haven't been the occasional issues; we recently looked after 7 cats who were all taken in off the street. Sometimes they scrapped with each other, but never with us. Yes. I house sit with my girlfriend and that works extremely well because if something goes wrong there's always someone else there to pick up the slack. For example, she twisted her ankle last week carrying a suitcase down a flight of stairs so I'm picking up the dog walks until she feels better. It's also good for company; when you're in the middle of rural France there aren't many chances to socialise, and old houses can easily play tricks on your mind.

Can singles, couples and families be house sitters?
I've seen quite a few families house sitting and I think this is a fantastic idea. It cuts down the cost of family holidays which can be very expensive and I think most children would enjoy looking after the animals as well.
There are plenty of house sitters flying solo, but I'm not sure if I would like to do that especially if it was in another country in the countryside where I didn't know anybody.

What if there is an unexpected incident that hurts the pet or damages the property. Will I be held responsible?
We sign a contract before every housesit which says that while we're reasonable adults who do everything we can to make each housesit a roaring success, occasionally things happen which are out of our control. Most homeowners are very reasonable of course, and touch wood apart from breaking a few wine glasses, nothing has gone drastically wrong.

What if something important is not right about the property eg no heating. Would it be attended to?
We ask homeowners to leave us an emergency fund and contact details for relevant tradesmen. If there were any costs above that we would contact the homeowners to let them know and settle things up when they got back.

How do I get started if I don't have any experience yet?
It's the classic catch-22 situation. I recommend starting off by offering your services for friends and family so that you can get those first few references. After that go to a site like Trusted Housesitters and take on a few local housesits, which is what we did. We didn't need to housesit in Edinburgh (where we were living), but we took on a few short sits and really enjoyed it. We felt like we were on holiday in our own city, and those initial references really gave us a boost.

What tips do you have for the best chance at receiving good references and building a good rapport with house owners?
Communication. When we first started we presumed that homeowners just wanted to get away, get some peace and quiet and leave their homes in the hands of very capable people. This is true, but what we've found is that if something goes wrong, no matter how small, most homeowners want to be kept in the loop throughout the entire housesit. This can often just be a quick email to say everything's fine, but it's important to make sure that you do that.

James is not only an avid user of but also works with them for their website.  On the website you can find additional useful information about house sitting, or if you are a house owner and you are curious about how to find a house sitter to look after your pets and property there is also an FAQ for home owners.

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Fuel for thought: Reducing Petrol Expenses

Petrol pump
With the constant hike in prices of petroleum products in the recent years, families have been in the strain to keep family cars running. Four families have resorted to four different measures to counter and cut down the cost of fueling a car that makes up 2.6 percent of the weekly income.

Downsizing to Hatchbacks

The Kings have kept their old family car, the Ford Falcon for almost seven years however it has been costing them to keep it fueled. However when they opted to cut back, they bought not one but two Suzuki vehicles: the spacious Swift and the compact Alto.

Gavin King, 48, explains how having two cars were beneficial to the family, ‘Our Falcon’s tank held 65 litres of petrol but both our Suzukis hold about 77 litres. We cover twice the mileage from just about the same cost of fueling just one car.’ Although on a side note, having a second car would cost the Kings additional on registration and maintenance, and in the long run may counter any advantage on fuel consumption.

Gavin’s wife, Helen, 45, adds that with two cars, driving their children to their respective schools have become more convenient. ‘Gavin takes our daughter, Jenna, to primary school and I take our teenager, Jeremy, to his school which is up on my way to work. My husband and I both save time and only need to fill them every two weeks,’ she says.

‘The Alto is trimmer, and could squeeze into small parking lot spaces. Though personally, I like driving the Swift. I think my husband and I both do,’ she says as an afterthought, and then laughingly added, ‘he knows I need to go out earlier so he intentionally leaves the Swift at the back so I can take the Alto parked in front!’

Switching to Hybrids

‘We got our first hybrid car three years ago after my wife gave birth to our son, Jacob,’ says Nathan Simmons, 42. ‘We wanted something that was environmentally friendly and at the same time fuel-efficient. Hybrids had mixed reviews then but I was willing to give it a go and the Toyota Prius was a pretty good deal to me.’

Elaine, Nathan’s wife, recounts the first time they used the car. ‘When we travel with Jacob, we make it a point to keep the radio off so he won’t be disturbed while he’s napping and we can attest just how quiet the Prius runs on electric,’ Elaine says.

‘We used to own a Falcon running on LPG and found out that LPG wasn’t really cost efficient. It’s cheaper than petrol, yes, but it easily burned up. With the Prius, I fill up once in every 3-4 weeks, that’s on a 60-kilometer daily trip from home to school and back. ’

‘For me, the Prius has a creative design and its space is just right for our family. Hybrid cars are the future in car development. I’d love to have a car that won’t have to run on petrol!’ Elaine exclaims.

LPG as an Alternative to Petrol

The Wilsons have been traveling around South Australia for more than ten months now on a first generation BMW X5.

James, 67, wasn’t too happy with fuel costs when he first set out his long road trip with his wife Francine. ‘My wife and I did a lot of traveling from Melbourne to Adelaide back and forth, and even planned to go to Alice Springs at that time,’ he said, ‘but I had to pay $120 and some change to run the car on petrol, and it was simply too costly.’

‘So what I did was to have the car converted into a dual fuel system and added LPG. We still use petrol but not as much as we used to and only when we need to use it.’ Compared to a petrol-only fueled car, the Wilsons saved half as much on LPG on costs while covering the same distance of travel between the two cities.

‘It’s the other way around, really. We run the car on LPG most of the time now and only rely on petrol as the alternative if we ran low on LPG,’ he states.

Using Diesel

‘I was unconvinced about diesel,’ says Tom Raff. ‘ My wife used to drive an old HiLux on diesel and the thing coughed up smoke and was irritatingly noisy!’

‘So when we needed to get a new car, I was reluctant to pick the Hyundai i30w wagon. Even though the hatch was a size down from their former Magna wagon, the i30w was still roomy. It had enough leg room and luggage space at the back. But the one thing I needed to check was the car’s running performance. I wanted to be sure we were making the right choice with a diesel-fueled car.’

‘I was a bit surprised,’ Tom reveals. The turbo diesel engine ran rather quietly, quite the opposite than what he had expected and the driving experience was much smoother without the grey smoke.

‘Right now, my wife uses it more than I do so I can’t really say if it’s fuel efficiency is what it claims to be. We ran it on a full tank of diesel to Rainbow Beach once and that’s about 600 kilometers going there and coming back to Brisbane. There’s still about a quarter of a tank left in it. I hope that we can see the advantages on its fuel efficiency in the long run,’ he added.

About the Author

This article brought to you by Frugal Foo in conjunction with Carsguide Australia. To keep up to date with the latest motoring news, car buyer guides and car reviews online visit Carsguide.

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"When I was your age..."

Although it might sometimes seem that our parents and grandparents only tell us stories of hardship from times past in order to horrify the younger generation into being grateful for modern day wonders such as indoor plumbing and local anesthetic, today's guest post writer Agnes Jimenez, has discovered a far more useful interpretation.  Thanks for sharing Agnes!  Foo.

The other day I was talking to my grandparents, asking them how they "made it." My grandmother stayed home and raised the children while my grandfather worked as a security guard. Yet somehow they managed to raise three children, own their own home, have a summer cottage, and now retire to a very nice retirement community. To me, that just did not make economic sense.

My grandmother explained how simple and frugal things were back then. They did not even own a television until they had been married for several years. There were no cell phones with data plans or computers. A fun night out consisted of walking to the neighbor's house and playing cards. My grandmother made clothing for her family, got most of her food from the garden, and all three kids were expected to work and save for college themselves. They had money because they did not spend it needlessly.

This conversation made me think about my own life. I realized how I was already drooling over the new cell phone due to be released. With absolutely no cooking skills, I was a chronic restaurant customer. Shopping for new clothing was something I did almost every Friday, whether I needed new clothes or not. Suddenly all these things I believed I needed started to seem like an absolute waste.

While we cannot go back in time to my grandparent's era, we can simplify our lives. Learning traditional skills has been a huge help for me when it comes to saving money. I was lucky enough to have my grandmother to guide me, but there are plenty of resources online as well.

Learning to cook was very important. By cooking I mean from scratch with fresh ingredients, not throwing a processed meal into the microwave. By shopping at farmer markets or using produce from my own garden, my food costs were greatly cut down. Use websites like the Daily Bread for recipe ideas.

Sewing was another huge step. Knowing how to sew allows you to repair old clothing, as well as make your own. Instead of running out and buying new pants, I was able to repair old ones. Clothing that did not fit right was able to be adjusted.

Most importantly, think about the difference between want and need. Many of the things I told myself I needed in order to be happy actually made my life more complicated. They added to bills, cluttered my living space, and only temporarily filled a void. Look back at how your grandparents lived, not out of pity or disgust, but with an open and inquisitive mind. There is plenty you can learn from their lifestyle.

About the Guest Author 
Agnes Jimenez is a professional blogger and writer. She writes for many online establishments and supports those ones that offer alternative lifestyles to consumers. She's currently raising awareness about frugal living and basic preparedness through the help of
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Royal Melbourne Show

Royal Melbourne Show 2012

Saturday 22 September to Tuesday 2 October 2012.
Each year in spring, for the price of an entry ticket, the Royal Melbourne Show offers city slickers the chance to sample some of rural Victoria's finest produce, take a glimpse at country lifestyle and culture, then go spend big on buying  mass produce, imported lollies and toys by the bag full.  Arguably it's a formula that works.  Nobody leaves the show grounds at this time of year without a smile on their face.

There is such a variety of tempting experiences competing for a slice of your day, and a note from your wallet.  For the cost of your entry ticket alone you can learn a lot about fresh produce, admire the show animals and be amazed by the creativity at the Art, Craft and Cookery pavilion.  But come prepared to spend a little additional cash as the opportunity to eat and bring home things not available at your local 7 Eleven can't be overlooked.  And of course it just wouldn't be show day without indulging in one or two of the gimmicks.  The number one priority is to have fun and remember, the merinos are there to be fleeced, not you.

If you're a family on a budget, there are easily enough "free" activities to fill your day.  Children love to interact with Animals, but they be easily tempted by lollies and rides.  Factor this in to your budget.  Doing everything the Show has to offer in a single day is a tall ask.  Having a game plan for the day is the key.

Planning Tips
  • Arrive by public transport or by car.  There is a constant procession of trains between the show grounds railway station and the city.  If you wondered what it was like for the livestock at the show to be herded and crammed into cattle trucks, then your journey home on the train will bring you close to that experience.  Alternatively, car parking is available at the show for $20 which could be cheaper than buying train tickets depending on your circumstances, especially for families traveling from Zone 2 for example.  There is a Show Entry and Travel Saver package which includes public transport but other packages listed later in this post are generally better value if they match your particular requirements.
  • Upon arrival at the show grounds, be sure to make your first stop one of the information booths and grab a copy of the timetable for the free Arena entertainment.  Also redeem ride coupons for ride tickets at the information booths.
  • Unless you're a pack horse, buy showbags as late as possible.  But be warned, everyone else will be doing this too.  It is bedlam at the showbag pavilion just before it closes at 9:00pm. If leaving right after the nightly fireworks, buy your showbags just before you settle in at the Arena, then you won't be carrying the showbags all over the show grounds all day and you'll have your own supply of munchies from your show bags during the fireworks.
  • Not all rides at the Melbourne Show cost the same, but budget around $10 per ride.  The ride coupons that are included with your "Ticket to Ride" entry ticket, can be used like cash at ticket booths.  Some amusement vendors will offer a slightly better deal for cash if pressed, for example I got more throws of the basket ball game by paying cash rather than ride coupons, but generally the value of ride coupons works out dollar for dollar.


Prices for showbags at this years Royal Melbourne Show range from as little as $1 for the Blinky Bill Bag, up to $200 for the Hepburn Springs Bathhouse Showbag.   But there are plenty of showbags under $5 choc full of lollies and chocolates. 

Boring old me is trying hard not think too much about the true value for money of these little bags of trash.  Discount vouchers and novelty toys just aren't worth the value listed with the contents of each showbag in my opinion.

Look, there's no shame in walking out the gates with less than half a dozen bags in each fist.  Well, OK.  Some shame.  You know those kids around the corner from your house, who's parents both work full time, will have enough bags to construct their very own Wonka style edible garden.

So here are a few bags I would consider buying.

Bertie Beetle $2.  The first bag I bought when I was a kid.
Cadbury Dairy Milk Superbag $10.  A solid weeks (or less) supply of chocolate and none of the overvalued novelty items.
The Trash Pack $15.  Worth mentioning truthful advertising.
Yarra Valley Regional Food Group $30.  Just a great way to sample local good food and wine.
Grand Ridge Beer and Food Lovers Showbag $99.  Dinner for 2, beer tasting, a sensible cap and more.

Ticket Prices and Comparisons

The Royal Melbourne Show organizers boast a variety of "free" activities.  But of course there's no way to access the many "free" activities for free.  You must pay admission.  This year there are many ticket options and ticket bundles and I shall attempt to simplify the selection process here.  Full details are at

The first important decision which is going to make ticket selection much easier is -
 Are you interested in rides?

Show Entry with Rides

The Ticket to Ride packages generally work out to be better value than most other options assuming you use the full value of the ride vouchers included in the package.  For example, a student concession Ticket to Ride costs $46 and includes a $40 ride voucher AND covers general admission.  Almost the entire cost of the ticket is returned to you in ride vouchers!  Whereas the alternative concession general admission ticket is $21 with no rides included.  Pre-purchase the Ticket to Ride online until Sept 25.

The After 4 Fun Pass available at the gate after 4pm also includes a ride voucher.  It's cheaper than my favourite Ticket to Ride, BUT the After 4 Fun Pass doesn't return nearly as much of the ticket cost back to you as a ride voucher.   Buy this ticket if you're at the gate after 4pm, on a limited budget and plan to ride just a little.

The $26 Kids Day Value Fun Pass is available online for entry to the Show for children on Oct 2nd only.  It is the same price as the After 4 Fun Pass for Children but is arguably better value since the child can enter before 4pm.  In my opinion, however, it still doesn't beat the value of the Ticket to Ride since it returns less value in ride vouchers in proportion to the ticket price.

If you're not all that interested in rides then consider these general admission options.

General Admission without rides included

If you're not much into rides, a general admission ticket will see you through the front gates.  From there you can easily fill an entire day visiting the pavilions, watching some arena entertainment and reacquainting yourself with the sites and smells of livestock. Rides will be an additional cost after general admission.
Prices from
Adults  $32
Concession  $21
Child $16
Family A (2 adults and 2 children)  $75
Family B (1 adult and 3 children)    $60

Fronting up to the gates on Show day morning and buying general admission tickets (above) is an expensive way to gain entry.  If saving money is important then plan ahead a little and buy a ticket with rides included such as my favourite - the Ticket to Ride, or one of the discount general admission methods below.

Save between 23% and 30% on most of the general admission tickets for RACV members.  You must pre-purchase online before the offer closes on the 18th September.

RACV members After 2pm Offer available at the gate.  This is more expensive than pre-purchasing general admission with the RACV online so you would only buy this After 2pm Offer if your visit to the show was an unplanned last minute impulse.

The Entry and Travel Saver package bundles the cost of the Zone 1+2 public transport, with the cost of general admission.  This ticket is unlikely to save you any money since the Ticket to Ride or RACV discounts offer greater value in most cases.  You might save a little money with this ticket if no other discounts are available to you.  For example if you are not an RACV member and you don't intend to go on Show rides then this ticket will save you money compared with buying full price general admission to the show plus a full price, Zone 1 + 2 ticket for peak travel.

Remember, if you love rides, the Ticket to Ride package generally presents better value for money than any of the discounts on General Admission tickets.

There are other ticket options for group bookings, multi-day passes and RASV members available at

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Paying the Price When Petrol Pumps are "Not in Use"

It really bugs me when I've waited for the low end of the petrol price cycle before I pull in to a petrol station to fill my car, which by then is running only on fumes and special words of encouragement from the driver, only to be confronted with "Not in Use" or similar signs on the nozzles.  On principle I will leave that petrol station and move on to another one risking running out of fuel on the way.  But I am sure there will be others who actually have better things to do rather than touring petrol stations, and will fill up with whatever fuel is available often at a higher price.  We have no way of knowing if there is really a fault with these pumps, but so often it seems to work in the favour of the petrol retailer and not the consumer.


Not normally a fan of current affairs TV programs such as A Current Affair (ACA), I couldn't help but stay tuned after the Channel 9 news last night when ACA introduced a piece about what they call a petrol scandal.  The report depicted several petrol stations where some or all of the cheapest petrol nozzles were posted with signs reading "Not in Use".  At some petrol stations,  it was the cheapest petrol, Unleaded 91 which was not in use, leaving only the more expensive premium unleaded options available to motorists.  In other cases, it was the cheapest non-ethanol blended product, Unleaded 95, which was not in use.  This means drivers with older cars that won't tolerate ethanol in the fuel, or modern sports cars which must use Premium Unleaded, are left only with the most expensive Unleaded 98 option.

The reporter then proceeded to defy the "Not in Use" signage, picking up the nozzle and drawing fuel into her cars fuel tank, demonstrating that the pumps were not out of order, as we might assume.  Responses from fuel retailers as to why this was the case are posted on the ACA website.   It should be pointed out that we don't know if the fuel the reporter merrily filled her car with was contaminated in some way, or the pump was calibrated incorrectly, or did not connect with the computer or any such fault which would have made the pump appear to work, but be quite rightly taken out of service.  But according to ACA, the Not in Use signs were "never on the most expensive petrol".

The conclusion to make from all this is that there is nothing to stop fuel retailers profiting at the expense of the unwary consumer, by closing off the low cost fuel options and leaving only expensive fuels on offer.  At the very least, the consumer is inconvenienced after having pulled up only to find they must either move on, or just fill up with the expensive fuel.

In previous posts I've explained my opinion on the lack of value for money of expensive premium unleaded and cheap but poor value ethanol blend fuels.  I always fill my car with regular unleaded 91 fuel.  I don't like being pressured to buy expensive premium fuel.

The response to ACA from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reads;
"Generally speaking, what retailers choose to sell and when they choose to sell it is a matter for them. This is also the case for petrol retailers. However, in making those choices, petrol retailers need to be honest and truthful in their representations as to the availability of supply."

I have to agree that I'd rather live in a world where a business is free to sell what ever (legal) products they choose at whatever prices they choose, and let competition weed out the bad players.  But a sign which simply reads "Not in Use" is misleading to the customer.  Perhaps it should read "Contaminated", or "Not for Sale", so consumers can judge whether or not to return to that business.  Any business which represents itself to be a "petrol" station which does not offer a basic type of petrol, like regular unleaded, should either not open or display clear signage out front before motorists take a detour off the main road and onto the premises where they will inevitably be disappointed.

The ACA report appeared to be limited to petrol stations in New South Whales.  My experience in Melbourne has been similar.  I'd be interested to see comments from anyone else in Australia or around the world for that matter, who has struck this similar problem, and wondered if the petrol / gas / service station manager is playing a little game with you that one way or another, you can't win.

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Spend a Little Money Now to Save Yourself Money and Stress Later

You can imagine how much fun I am at parties when I boast about not owning an umbrella, or describe my strategies to avoid buying sugar when travelling since sugar sachets are available freely at food courts and cafes. Chronic frugals who may have taken things a little too far and find themselves avoiding even the most basic purchases should read this guest post by Louisa Peterson

It might sound a bit contradictory - especially after reading the last post by Kristy Ramirez about How to Take Charge of Your Shopping Addiction, but sometimes spending a little money now can actually save you money and reduce stress in the future.

A good friend recommended Gretchen Rubin's book "The Happiness Project" to me, but she told me to persevere through the first couple of chapters because Gretchen is one of those women who already seem to have the perfect life: great job, supportive husband, kids, financial stability etc. Could a woman like this actually be any happier?! But trust me on this one. Bite your tongue and stick it out because a bunch of her tips are actually really useful.

One of Gretchen's tips that really made sense to me (besides cleaning out your wardrobe), is to invest in those things that make your life just that little bit easier. For some reason these "necessary" purchases remind me of the Scout's motto "Be Prepared".

So here's an example, combined with a small confession: I have an aversion to ironing. So much so, that I check before buying clothes whether they need to be ironed or not. But, having said that, I know that there are about five times a year when I will need to iron something. My ex-boyfriend was a stickler for pressed shirts. (I know right?! Sometimes you do get lucky!) When we were together I'd ask him sweetly to iron my shirt too. But when we split, he took the iron, and I went straight out and bought another one. Ok I know you're thinking that's a ridiculous waste of money for someone who has just admitted how rarely they will use it. But hear me out. On those few occasions in the year when I do need to iron something, for an important meeting or job interview, I can. By buying an iron now, I've protected myself against future stress. Also buying an iron now, I had time to do a quick price comparison and get a cheaper model - as opposed to rushing out and buying the first thing I saw when I was in desperate need of a pressed shirt.
Not the actual ex-boyfreind.

Applying Gretchen's philosophy to my own life I realised that there were a few other necessary purchases that I needed to make now, that would save me time, money and stress later.

Example number two: a friend invited me to play tennis last week - something I haven't done for a while - but I really enjoyed it and we've decided to make it a weekly thing. Obviously it's just a good excuse for a fun catch-up. But during the game I realised that my sneakers were seriously on the way out. They're almost four years old, have hardly any grip and virtually no support. I hadn't gotten around to getting a new pair because I couldn't be bothered (and I'm not THAT sporty!). But growing up playing netball meant that I've also had my fair share of knee and ankle injuries. After hitting the court last week, I was feeling it a little so I went out and bought a new pair of sneakers. These are a cheap contribution to the health of my ankles, knees and back - which will also save me stress, money and time down the track. The only gripe I have is: when did sneakers become so high-tech and ugly?!

One of my other friends just told me her laptop had a meltdown last week and she didn't have it backed up. Now she could be facing hundreds of dollars to get her data back. If you don't have an external hard drive to back up your computer. Go out and buy one. Now. In this day and age if you don't back up your data, I'm sorry, but you'd have to be an idiot. If that's a bit harsh, think about it. What is your data worth? It's not just your tax documents. If you have a digital camera, these are your memories. If most (or all) of your music is digital - that's your soundtrack to life right there. Sure you can replace mp3's - but you can't replace photographs.

I bought my first 1 GB USB stick about 8 years ago for $80. Now you can buy 500 GB for $89 - or 1.5 Terabytes for $149 (from Dick Smith). That's a small price to pay for peace of mind if your computer kicks the bucket or gets nicked. It amazes me when I hear of someone who doesn't have their data backed up today. I mean, seriously...?!

On a side note, its always a good idea to defragment your hard disk now and again (if you have a mac, run the disk utility or another maintenance program), to make sure that your computer is running as efficiently as possible.

If you're planning your next overseas holiday and you're going to take your mobile phone, electric razor, computer - or any other gadget with you - get yourself a travel adaptor. You can either buy one for the particular country or region you're heading to, or pay a little extra and get a universal travel adaptor that will work everywhere. Buy it and pop it in your backpack or suitcase. Then it's there when you need it and you won't forget it in that last minute packing frenzy. If you buy an adaptor ahead of time, you won't be stuck paying inflated airport prices for something you can get cheaper online. It also cuts down on stress because you won't have to spend valuable holiday relaxing time hunting for something you could have organised so easily beforehand.

My last tip for today costs a little more money, but in addition to avoiding stress, this one is also a safety issue. Whatever your preferred mode of transport - whether you drive a car, motorcycle, scooter or ride a push-bike - you need to make sure that the essentials are in working order. There are straightforward, regular maintenance checks that you can do at home. If you're not sure what these are, get out your manual :), check with your state motoring organisation, or the guys at your local repair shop, phone a friend, and/or Google it. If you drive a car, you should check the oil, water and tyre pressure every three months, or before you go on a road-trip. If you own a bicycle, you need to check the tyres, brakes and oil the chain regularly. If you let smaller things wear out, there can be a knock-on effect where they cause bigger problems and will cost you a lot more later on. As my Dad would say "if we take care of them, they'll take care of us".

Of course you have to get a yearly rego check for your car, which helps to ensure safety standards, but if your wheels are a bit older, you might need to do additional repairs during the year. While we all hope that nothing major goes wrong, it's always good to have a contingency plan, and this involves a little bit of forward thinking. Make sure you set aside a little bit of cash each month, so if something bigger does go wrong, you have the means to sort it out.

By maintaining your wheels regularly, you're making sure that they work more efficiently (just like your computer), protecting your own safety. A positive side-effect is that this is pre-emptive stress and cost reduction.

Clearly this list could go on indefinitely (think spare light bulbs, candles, a torch and a tin of baked beans in the cupboard), but these are my top five tips for spending money now, to save money, time and stress later.

What are your tips?

- Louisa Peterson from Delivery Hero, online takeaway solutions for Australians. Louisa is a food, travel and lifestyle blogger who enjoys finding out about - and writing about - practical tips. When she isn't blogging about all things food-related, she still enjoys hitting the kitchen to try out new recipes, travelling and going to the beach.
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How to Take Charge of Your Shopping Addiction

An important element to living a simpler and freer life with less clutter and more quality time, is learning to buy less stuff that you don't actually need. For some, this is a big ask. After reading today's guest post by Kristy Ramirez, I realise just how close I too have come to meeting some of the criteria for a shopping addiction.  In my case, Bunnings Warehouse hardware is my downfall. I would have to admit to purchasing a few "oh-that'll-come-in-handy" items which now lay idle in my tool shed, still in their original packaging and will probably never be used.  I suspect there's at least a little bit of shopping addiction in all of us.  But how much is too much?  Kristy has the answers.

There is a medical name for people with a shopping addiction – it’s called a compulsive disorder or Oniomania. Compulsive shopping and spending is a very common thing, and unfortunately it happens more with women.

Women who ‘shop till they drop’ and when the credit card bills come in – well, the guilt flows. It might make them feel better while they are getting all of those pretty things, but after getting home, most people feel worse than the high they get from shopping.

Compulsive shopping has been used to try to cure depression, anxiety, loneliness and when a self-esteem boost is in order. Does it really help all of these emotional problems? Yes, you might feel better about yourself walking into work with a new outfit, purse or shoes – but does that feeling last?

Not hardly. A study that followed a small group of people trying to cure their addiction, called RESOLVE – was formed to help create ‘mindfulness’ training and to stop the addiction.

In this mindfulness study, people were encouraged to think ‘in the moment’ and to experience whatever is happening right now, and not judge the feelings, good or bad, but rather accept the feelings. It was proven by the people studied, who, by the way were compulsive shoppers, that if practiced consistently it reduced depression, anxiety and increased the feelings of well being. Most of the compulsive shopping ceased and the addicts were able to live more normal and balanced lives.

Ultimately compulsive shopping can be curbed and eliminated if mindfulness is practiced on a regular basis as well as the guilt and emotional turmoil that come with this dilemma.

So, when you think about compulsive shopping – not only does it create a serious debt problem, it doesn’t hide or remove depression, or anxiety – it brings on severe depression, anxiety and strains relationships. Retail therapy is only a band-aid for deeper problems and it not only adds to them, and intensifies the original problems, it adds new ones.

Best to get off the retail cycle and get yourself un-addicted before your world really starts to fall apart. But how you ask? First, you need to determine how much of a shopaholic you are - here are some clues:

1. Do you go shopping when you’re feeling down and blue?
2. Do you shop for a pick-me-up when feeling out of sorts?
3. Do you get a rush when you buy things?
4. Do you have racks of clothing and shoes with tags still attached?
5. Are you buying things you don’t need just for a rush?
6. Do you go on shopping binges, even after the holidays?
7. Hiding purchases from your family.

If you answered yes to at least one or two of the above, you’re probably on your way or are already a shopaholic. Depending on how deep in debt you are, you might want to seek professional counseling or join a self-help group. But if you think there is still hope, and you want to get back on track, here are some preventative measures you can take right now:

1. Stop using the credit cards completely and cut them up
2. When you have to shop, make a list and don’t sway from that list
3. Avoid discount stores and warehouses
4. Pay for everything with cash or debit card
5. Only window shop after the store is closed
6. Take a walk or talk to a friend when you feel the ‘urge’ to shop

If all else fails, call the Debtors Anonymous support group or another local (Australian) group.

The point is that your life is short, and living it to the fullest without overwhelming debt, guilt, and all of the other emotions entangled in a compulsive behavior – is essential to a good quality life.

Kristy Ramirez is a debt free, frugal mom who currently writes for Life Insurance Finder Australia where she helps people answer questions such “What is Total Permanent Disability Insurance?”

You might also be interested in this other article related to Management
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Moomba Festival

Moomba 2012

Where to go to see the Melbourne Moomba parade, rides and best value car parking.

The Melbourne Moomba Festival is a long standing traditional cheap day of fun for Melburnians to round out the last of the warm weather before Autumn takes hold. Admission and events are free of charge but bring your wallet if you want to eat, drink or ride.

The Yarra River is the arena for various free events. Bring a picnic and plant yourself on the grassy river bank for the water skiing.

The zany Birdman Rally held Sunday 11th March 12pm, is where competitors attempt to launch themselves from an elevated platform into a glide through thin air above the river. All manner of home crafted flying contraptions made from such aeronautical materials as crepe paper and paddle-pop sticks, which have been constructed by enthusiasts quite possibly after watching too much Playschool on the ABC, are piloted by fearless jumpers. On occasion someone with Wright brother inspiration emerges with something that resembles crude aerodynamics. However none of the wannabe pilots escapes the laws of gravity for more than a moment.  In turn, each flying machine hits the murky water, instantly blending with the contents of the Yarra river below to form a mash of mud sodden paper mache, slurpy straws and Starbucks coffee cups.

The festival spans the Labour day long weekend and this year starts on Friday 9th March, until Monday 12th March. Much of the activity is located south of the Yarra River in the Alexandra Gardens, but the venue straddles both sides of the river with some rides and activities at Birrarung Marr.  See the clickable markers  in the map at the end of this post.

Moomba Parade

The Moomba parade is at a new location this year.  It runs up St Kilda Rd, beginning near the Shrine and ending near the festival carnival area.  The parade takes place at 11am on Monday 12th March. Claim your patch of the foot path early for the best vantage point.  See the red shaded area on the map at the end of this post.  The map is clickable for labels of the parade, parking and rides locations.


Fireworks are at 9:30pm on Sat, Sun and Mon nights of the Moomba Festival. After dark, find somewhere on either the north or south banks of the river, clear of trees, to see the fireworks.


Carnival rides are ticketed at individually operated booths. Last year the cost of rides started at $5 for children's rides and $10 for adults.  There are rides situated on both sides of the river.

Car Parking

Parking in town on weekends can be relatively cheap compared with parking in the same car parks during the week. On the map below I have marked two convenient car parks (click "P" on the map to see labels) where you will pay only $9 at Riverside Quay, or $8 at Eureka (which is the closest to Moomba) for the day on Saturday, Sunday and the Public holiday.  These car parks also have weekend (Sat / Sun) specials for only $5.50 if you book through book-a-bay.

Moomba Location Map

Click on symbols to see labels.

View Moomba Festival in a larger map  

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