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There are many sneaky ways to save money which will put a grin on your chin, a smile in your step and more cash in your stash. Sometimes ways to save money are logical. Follow a path and you will get there over time. Then there are the small fun ways you can save money that all add up. These ways make your money saving experience more like the thrill of drinking Champagne in economy, than suffering a sad, lonely trip on a smelly old bus. There are a number of ways to look at junk mail and I’ve done them all.

Stay focused on your money goals

The first way is to run inside from the mailbox waving the latest Priceline brochure in your hand and with your heart palpitating with the joy of a prospective trip to the local mall. Once inside grab a marker and circle the best bargains. What a gorgeous amazing girly deal. I just had no idea I liked perfume that much or even Victoria Beckham until that happy pink brochure arrived.

Although this is the mood-enhancing phenomena women call ‘shopping’ this is logically not the path to a happier bank balance and long term financial security in terms of saving money. But do not mistake my excitement for stupidity. These marketing gurus are amazing. This brochure is saying: ‘Stuff financial security. Now live for today woman. Life is short. When was the last time you pampered yourself, you…tired mother of two you.” Good point, marketing people at Priceline. Well said. You are right: I am tired. I do need pampering. I am no lesser person than Victoria Beckham. I deserve perfume like her and I know I’ve had a harder day than her. In fact, she doesn’t even need her own perfume, the way us mothers need it. She’s got hired help.”

Learn to love your recycle bin

The second way to look at junk mail is purposeful and deliberate denial. I’ve done this too. Grab the whole roll of mail, strut straight up to the recycle bin and throw all the paper in without taking one look at the latest 30% sale on Manchester at Target or the pre-Christmas sale they are having at the Reject shop. Just close the lid girlfriend. Close that stench in. Now go inside and get dinner started or something.

No. Stuff dinner for the moment and huddle in. Pssst… I’m here to tell you about a secret third way to really make your junk mail sing and to actually turn it into cash. Yes. Cash! The kind of cash that makes you want to call all your friends and have them over this Saturday night for a wild party! So how is it humanly possible to take a whole roll of junk mail (created by a highly educated marketing force) and turn those beautiful little colored sheets of paper into something opposite than their intended purpose? Here is the scenario: They want you to buy. They want your cash. You don’t want to buy. You want their cash. With a little creativity you are about to discover how you can win this little junk mail game that plays out between you and your mailbox daily.


How to turn your junk mail into cash

Between the bright and beautiful graphically designed brochures selling toys, clothes,and Victoria Beckham perfume at 30% off you will find the following: Equally beautiful flyers and pamphlets but ones dedicated to less interesting topics such as: Gas, electricity, utilities, lower credit card rates, landline, internet, phone and insurance services. Sit down now for a little time in the garden. Sit close to the recycle bin but not too close. Grab yourself a cup of tea and pull out every brochure related to utilities, phones and the like. That’s right. The ones make you want to find a spot in the garden and nod off to sleep. The more boring the pamphlet topic, the more money this pamphlet is probably going to save you.

Get calling vendors

Spend time over the next few weeks ringing your current suppliers. Tell them that you are holding in your savvy money-saving-expert hand, a brochure which is offering you a better deal. Now here’s the part where that little brochure in your hand magically turns into cash. Because the cash that is in their pocket is about to be redirected to into your happy, wanting-for-cash-bad-ass pocket. Now confidently, like it is your divine right on this planet, ask the customer service agent for a better deal. And guess what? It is your divine right to have water, electricity and a damn good deal on the next Iphone 5 bundled with Voip internet. If cave people had a similar divine right, so do you. Great! You say. “Got a better deal!”

Ask for a better deal

But don’t stop there. Go harder. Whatever deal they offer, ask for a better one. Winging and moaning definitely wears these customer service people down. Be nice of course. But no-one likes a winger. They will want to get you off the phone at any cost, sometime before their tea break, smoko and their lunch break. They definitely want you off the phone before the early train home leaves. Tell them you have been with them, as a loyal customer for many years, and that it would be great to discuss an even better deal with their manager. Go for the hold music. Spend the time. Woo the manager with funny stories about your dog, travels or life as a Karaoke singer. Do whatever it takes, to get your rates heavily reduced.

Time well spent

This may take up to 20 minutes out of your life for each company called. Stories about how Fido had 11 puppies last year can take some time. But I guarantee that at the end of the exercise, all those brochures have turned into a nice big wad of cash and a massive wad of cash over the course of one year. Now finish that cuppa. Pick your gorgeous, amazing money-saving butt up off your garden chair, throw the rest of your junk mail in the bin and go inside and fix dinner. Oh, unless you have Table Tucker and you don’t have to cook tonight. But that’s another amazing save money story. For now. I commend you on a job well done!

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If you’d like to organise your pantry, check out my system for clearing the clutter. Don’t let the pantry become a place of sloth and sinful benches of Weetbix crumbs and half eaten rice cakes. Since the pantry is used regularly it is a good idea to put systems in place to not only keep the pantry ship-shape, but also keep it logical and functional to use. I have devised a system that is working beautifully in my home and in my small pantry.
Whether you want make your pantry sparkle like a diamond or just give it a once over with a lick of love, these kitchen organisational tips you assist you to enjoy cooking with a fat sense of pleasure and feeding your family at super human speed.

To organise your pantry you will need

  • Cloth and cleaner
  • Rubbish bin
  • White labels
  • Large scissors
  • To clear a large space on the bench

Step 1: Discard rubbish and pull items out

Stand in front of the pantry with the rubbish bin and do this:

  1. Start by pulling items out and place them on the bench
  2. As you pull them out try to group them into the categories listed in step 2
  3. Discard anything past its use-by-date
  4. Put to one-side items you won’t use but you can give away. Use these items in gift hampers to others
  5. Cut the tops off old cereal boxes to use as storage boxes for the pantry

Step 2: Pull everything out and wipe down surfaces

1. Wipe down each shelf

Step 3: Set up categories for your shelves

As you move through your day it makes sense to also move through your pantry the same way. For example, when eyeing up what is for breakfast it makes sense to have a shelf dedicated to breakfast. I have organised my pantry into the following categories.
Shelf 1 (Top)

  1. Breakfast
  2. Snacks

Shelf 2 (Middle)

  1. Lunch
  2. Dinner

Shelf 3 (Bottom)

  • Sweets
  • Baking Goods
  • Drinks

Shelf 4 (Botton)

  • Potatoes
  • Onions & Garlic
  • Extra Bulk Buy Goods

Extra Notes

  • If you like you can put the breakfast shelf in reach for the kids.
  • Place dividers on shelves to separate each category.
  • Label each shelf according to the category if desired. This helps others in the house learn your new system and also helps others to return items to the right spot.

Step 4: Group like items together within the categories

  • Use the bottoms of large cereal boxes to group items together. For example, use box dividers for small packets of sauces and soups.
  • Use open plastic containers to stack unopened packets
  • Use closed plastic containers to store opened packets. E.g Icing Sugar
  • Stack similar cans together. E.g Small cans of tuna
  • Stack round items with round items.
  • Stack square items with square items.

Why group food in your pantry like this?

If you have a copy of my Freezer Meals cookbook you will know the value of using up every leftover in the house before shopping again.

Grouping items in these categories will organise your pantry:

  1. Make it very easy for you to plan a shopping list
  2. You can immediately see what you need for breakfast
  3. You can immediately create meals for dinner using what is left on your dinner shelf.

Use these systems in combination with resources like my Grocery Goodies Printables Pack and you will have an excellent system for saving time and money on groceries and cooking.

You don’t have to spend too much money

Don’t go out and buy expensive Tupperware when you can cut the top off a milk bottle or cereal box. There is no need to spend big money on organising a pantry. The more containers you have, the more youwill buy to try to fill them. This just creates a surplus of food in your pantry.

Remember these tips to organise your pantry

The idea is to use up what is in your pantry before shopping again to:

  1. Avoid food waste
  2. To reduce your shopping bill
  3. To give you some clarity in the kitchen
  4. To make you more creative in the kitchen
  5. To be grateful for the food on your table

Got great ways to organise your pantry? Share them in comments below.
 
 

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Love home organisation? You’ll love these simple little tricks for keeping your home organised without much effort at all.  Here are some personal tricks I use to stay on top of things around the house.

Home organisation tips

1. Bill Paying

If you pay bills online you can spend too much time doing so. If you are out and about it might be easier to simply pop into a post office and have the nice people there stamp your stuff. Alternatively, if you have regular money coming in – set up direct debits for everything so you don’t have to pay bills at all. See my tips under ‘Finance Management’ below to keep check on any irregularities that might be occurring in your accounts. (Note: Always check your accounts no matter how you manage finance. There are often irregularities!

2. Cleaning

These are my two golden rules for cleaning:

1. Stay in the room for an extra 1-2 mins
2. Do a little bit and often

Stay an extra few minutes in every room. While in rooms for that little extra time, do this:

1. Bedrooms – Open blinds, make beds and get stuff off the floor.  Collect dirty washing. Remove items from night-tables (2 mins).
2. Bathroom – Wipe down the sink and put stuff away. Wipe down mirrors. Collect up dirty washing (2 mins).
3. Toilets – Remove empty toilet rolls. Wipe toilet seat and rim with toilet paper and cleaning spray. Flush and then clean the toilet with a toilet brush (2 mins).
4. Kitchen – Always clean as you go. Refer to my article: How to clean a kitchen in five minutes (5 mins).
5. Living Room – Open blinds and remove items from floors. Note: You can place in a dump bucket for distribution later. Remove items from on top of furniture. Vacuum crumbs with a handheld vacuum. Straighten books and remove items from coffee tables. Wipe hard surfaces down. (2-3 mins)
6. Shower – While showering give everything a little wipe down. Stack shampoo bottles and soaps nicely away. On alternate days, clean the floor with your feet using a cloth and spray. On every other day give shower walls a quick wipe. Squeegee the shower door daily. This is a great one for the kids! Spray the shower curtain with a mist. E.g Eucalyptus oil mixed with water (1 min while showering).
7. Kids Bedroom – While settling kids at night give rooms a quick spruce and get out their clothes for the next day. (5 mins). Hot tip: If you happen to play guitar kids settle extremely well to the soft sound of guitar picking (5 mins max!) Consider soft music for settling children and turn off when leaving the room or you’ll set the precedent of them always needing music to sleep.
8. Laundry – Put two loads of laundry on and hang out before leaving in the morning (5 mins).
Note: To achieve the above keep a small spray bottle of cleaner and a cleaning cloth in each wet area. Have rubbish bins, cleaning cloths and central washing baskets in handy spots.

3. Finance Management

Don’t spend time managing finances when there are so many great programs that can do it for you. I use Getpocketbook.com, which is fantastic. Their app notifies me each morning of changes in my accounts. (Note: This is not a sponsored tip.)

4. Lunches

Never make lunches one-by-one each morning. Make up to two weeks of sandwiches ahead of time (on a Sunday), so you can quickly and easily get lunches sorted for children.

5. Packing bags

Teach children to pack their own bags either at night or in the morning. Night is best because you can get those permission slips out and dealt with. And by the way, attend to these slips immediately or they will build up and you’ll end up with a paper war! If you do have to keep them, have a folder for each child and place them in there until you can get to them.

6. Admin desk

The golden rule, as mentioned above is ‘a little bit often.’ So, whenever you are in your home office, spend an extra minute removing coffee cups, filing paper away and removing items into organised drawers. This way, whenever you work at your computer or in your office, you will always start off with a clean environment. This is improves decision making and daily clarity.

7. Calendars and checklists

Use calendar reminders and checklists to achieve your daily goals and a high level of home organisation.
I organise my day into the following and attend to them in this order:
1. Around the house (Jobs and projects for around the house)
2. Out and about (School run and errands while out)
3. At my desk (Paperwork)
4. Emails and online (Work and Online Jobs)

8. School permission slips

Get into the habit of dealing with all school permission slips each night. Do so on the couch while watching your favourite TV program. See my article ‘Ten ways to get organised while watching TV.’

9. Grocery online

Get up early one morning each week (30 minutes earlier) and do your grocery shopping online. Use resources like Freezer Meals or Table tucker to save money on groceries and get the job done super fast.

10. Buy extra milk and bread

Always buy extra milk (longlife) and bread while shopping. If you run out of essential items like these, you will make extra trips to the shops and spend more on round trips. These trips to the shops really add up over time.

11. Bulk cook on the weekend

Cook in bulk on the weekend and avoid cooking dinner each night.


Do you have any home organisation tips to add to this list? Add them in comments below.

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Homes get messy when there’s a lack of systems and storage to keep areas free. I’ve been getting pretty frustrated lately because due to our renovation project and the lack of built-in storage and places to put things right now – I’ve been running around like a madwoman trying to contain all the items a nice built-in wardrobe or cupboard normally would! I’ve been driven mad by this and with a little bit of time up my sleeve (due to the school holidays) – I’m taking control! This is the first in a series of posts on how to get your home in order if you have a lack of storage, whether you are renting or in a renovation like me. First stop is my back to school project – the kids homework station. Prior to creating this beautiful room (which I am now so in love with – I want to use and live in it myself) our living room and second living area was a mess. We were struggling on school mornings because all my kids’ important and regular items were at the end of a long hallway and far from where we would regularly use them.

See below for the inspiration, tips and my experience with building this lovely room for my kids.


How to create an awesome kids homework station

Organise pens, pencils and stationary items


Portable ideas

My home’s hallway is so long I clean my home with a trolley! I love the functional and time-saving ability of a trolley. Trolley’s are also great if you are limited on space or you need to move your office around from time to time, which can be the case in modern space-deprived living areas.

Children need inspiration too

Just like adults, kids need daily inspiration and motivation. Make your kid’s homework station a colorful and happy place to visit. Personally, I didn’t want to put too many distractions in the room and as you’ll see below, I’ve maintained the happiness without the clutter! However, depending on the needs of your child, place wall charts or items according to what they might be studying or focusing on.
IMG_8102


Sort similar items or shapes together

My big tip for home organisation generally is to sort similar items or shaped items together. For example:
  • Put crayons with crayon
  • Colored pencils with colored pencils
  • Markers with markers
  • Place long thin items like rulers in one spot for example
  • Place square with square and round with round

You get my drift…
IMG_8113


Give each child their own area

I couldn’t really achieve this in the small space I had, however I each child did receive their own seat, which was great! We have to be grateful for the little mercies 🙂 Still, my space looks cute and it is highly unlikely both my children will share the homework station at the same time due to their age differences (10 and 4). Do what works for you and your space.

 IMG_8107

Create the space away from bedrooms

Kids bedrooms get messy on a daily basis. The goal should be to create a separate space for the homework station so kids will always have a clutter free zone when doing home.
IMG_8115


Create a great system for completing and returning notes and homework

This is a great idea, which I hope to implement soon. Mine will include homework only as I prefer to keep kids notes on my desk for when I need to do admin. I keep a folder for each child on my office desk so I can quickly check what needs to be done for them – when I am organising other family administration jobs.
IMG_8109


Create an easy to access spot to place homework books

Alternatively do something cute like this. A simple space for kids to place their homework once taken out of their bags.


If you don’t have the space create a simple portable and personlised solution to keep your child focused

If you are very short on space you can easily make your child’s homework more enjoyable by creating a little box like this. This can be placed on the kitchen counter or dining table for when your child is doing homework. Setting up little systems like this will help your child feel focused, happy and loved!


Create a tidy solution for digital devices

This is an absolute must in a modern home. Personally with all the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi an Wireless out there – I’m not sure why there are still so many cords in my house! However, scroll down to see the two simple solutions I achieved with this, which were:

  1. A place to charge digital
  2. A place to dump digital devices, cords and headphones.

Keep items within arms reach

A highly functional kids homework station should give your kids access to their stuff. Make sure the items are within arms reach. See below for some fabulous storage ideas.

Hang inspiration on the walls and change quarterly

Hang some motivation on the walls. Give your children some affirmations and sayings that will stay in their minds and keep them focused even when they are not doing homework. Keep their minds active and inspired daily. I suggest changing the sayings every season – to spark new ideas in their active and growing minds. Note: Work in progress for me!
IMG_8114


Keep the space as clutter free as possible and void of other distractions

As mentioned above – keep the space clutter-free. Make sure that the space itself is not too cluttered up with stuff. Keep the design as minimalist and distraction free as possible.


If short on space consider a functional and hidden homework space like this

I like this idea for a small hidden homework space. It works if you are short on space! Get someone handy you know to build it or check out places like Ikea for solutions.

IMG_8116

Finally – consider a simple box or shelf just for library books

Library books are easily lost around a busy home – so create a spot for them. If you don’t have a caddy like this and are on a budget – do what I did and use a simple bag hanging on a door. I recycled a cute nappy bag to keep my kid’s library life in check.
IMG_8117

Drumroll….

Scroll down to view our new amazing home station!

Note – Due to renovation the area had to be temporary!!!

First: Here are my notes from my experience in creating this space…

Note: Your shopping list are the items listed in BOLD – if you’d like to try this…

Challenges:

  • Budget – Less than $20
  • Space – Limited
  • Time to set this up – 2 hours

Stuff I have that can be recycled

Furniture I can recycle:

  • A white desk that is not in use really
  • A few large spare lamps we don’t use
  • White plastic party chairs we have quite a few of lying around in the backyard
  • White bookshelf in the bathroom – remodel
  • A large wooden wine rack I’d like to repurpose

Smaller items for the project:

  • Ample pens, pencils and stationary – just need sorting
  • Several colorful kiddy storage boxes I have lying around in my storage cupboard
  • A set of plastic party cups for organising pencils
  • A set of unused yellow trays for organising pencils
  • Wrapping paper for the walls (they’re currently unpainted due to the renovation)

Items for digital setup

  • Extension cords
  • My child’s laptop and cords
  • Chargers
  • Pouches for housing iPads
  • An area for each iPad for each child

Tools

  • Sticky tape for wrapping paper on walls

Goals – The space needs to:

  1. Be in a quiet place so my child (10 year old) can concentrate on his homework
  2. Another spot for Miss 4 – so she can use it too
  3. House all digital charges and accessories
  4. Provide a spot for library books and DVDs etc
  5. Provide an area for pens, pencils and stationary items – organised
  6. Include a lamp for both guests and desk lighting
  7. Be set up for a computer near plugs for easy access
  8. Be functional enough to not look messy and cluttered when not in use
  9. Be a colorful and happy place for my children to spend time in
  10. Include a wall chart for ticking off weekly homework & reading done (In progress!)

Quiet place

I have two children and I live in a six bedroom house (sounds great – but cleaning is harder!). The living areas of our home are starting to take form but bedrooms are located at the front of the house where the renovation hasn’t started.  I’ve chosen the guest room, which is closer to the living/ kitchen area as it is quiet but not so far down the hall (which is long) my children can still access me for questions. It also has a relaxing view of the park next door.

Multipurpose

I like rooms with a multipurpose. Since guests don’t stay all the time – this room now works as a double-whammy. When we do have guests (usually my mother or mother-in-law) tend to visit out of school days and hours anyway – so in theory, this should work! Plus my guests get a bit of a ‘hotel’ feeling when they stay because they get a nice lamp, desk, stationary and a happy place to relax in!

Do this: (1 hour)

  1. Clean out guest room first
  2. Move large furniture items in
  3. Wipe them down and clean them
  4. Place smaller items on kitchen table
  5. Organise pencils and stationary into containers / cans
  6. Go to guest room and arrange items as you see fit

Result

My simple and functional kids homework station!

Cost: Zero!

IMG_8120

The above space includes:

  • Desk and chairs with organised stationary within arms reach
  • Lamp for desk and kids
  • An area for the charging of digital devices for the kids
IMG_8121

The above space includes:

  • A dumping box for each child for digital cords, headphones & other random belongings
  • A space underneath to place kids homework books
  • In progress: Filing system for kids homework and papers
  • A recycled cut nappy bag for library books hung on the door

To create your own awesome kids homework station do this:

Copy and paste my notes section – remove my notes and add your own. You’ll have this job stitched up and fast!


Coming up

Stay tuned – I’m getting my renovation zone decluttered one room at a time. I’ll be posting all my projects from summer 2014 / 2015 soon.
Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest Board below for other great ideas for creating a homework station!
Follow Savings’s board HOMEWORK STATION on Pinterest.

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