A Lucky Find

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This morning we went out to do a couple of errands including picking up a few items from a nearby fruit and vegetable stall. Occasionally, there are boxes of cheap produce so it is worth keeping an eye out for a bargain.

Today I stumbled upon an amazing bargain. A box of passionfruit for FREE!! A quick look revealed that almost all of them had soft or rotten patches on them but I thought it might be worth seeing what I could salvage. I asked about whether I could have the whole box and my enquiry was greeted wholeheartedly. Here they are when we arrived home.

It was clear that I would need to process them straight away to prevent any further deterioration.

I simply cut them and salvaged the pulp from those that were OK. A small number were completely unusable.

The final haul was 2.5 litres of passionfruit pulp which is now in the freezer.

The trick is to be able to deal with bargains like this as soon as possible.

A Parcel

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We are not planning a ‘no spend’ year but instead, a year of mindful spending. Spending on things that we need or that will add value in some way to our lives.

The New Year was barely 12 hours old when I made my first purchase. It was a follow-up to some research I had done a few months ago and I ordered some silicone chair protectors from Chair Tips Australia.

The parcel arrived 4 days later.

The packaging was plastic but not too much. The outer bag became a rubbish bag for our small amount of kitchen waste and the 2 ziplock bags will be washed and reused once the contents are all used.

The dining room chairs and stools in the kitchen have timber legs and we really needed something to prevent the chair legs scratching the finish on the floors. I had tried using felt pads on these chairs, however, the constant movement ends up dragging the pads off. Both self-adhesive pads as well as glueing them on with specialised glue were not terribly successful.

This is what they had ended up looking like.

So, the first step was to remove the old pads, clean and lightly sand the bottom of the chair legs.

It was then time to position the new protective covers.

The chairs do not slide easily but that is more than offset by the fact that these will not fall off, will be easy to wipe clean and are barely visible.

I am happy with having spent money on this project.

Shopping and Sad

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We live in a semi-rural area which is about 30 minutes drive to the Sunshine Coast.

Today we braved the retail chaos which is becoming more pronounced as each year goes by. Early January is a particularly crazy time as we combine post-Christmas sales, back-to-school preparations and the inevitable holidaymakers. I think this year is worse than usual as more people are around as they are not travelling further afield.

This was our shopping list:

Roll of chicken wire – to fence a dog run for our puppy
Screws for attaching metal sheeting – to complete one side of the dog run
Galvanised pipe and connections – to make a hanging rail for the laundry
Small saddle brackets – to attach gate for dog run
9V battery – replacement for smoke alarm
Prescription medications – essential
Toaster – a replacement as the previous one has ceased to operate
Pet medication – essential

The list was thought out, planned and could hardly be described as frivolous. Since it is a 70km round trip we try to make sure that we make the journey worthwhile. We did not spend any longer than necessary and were home in under 3 hours despite the busy carparking areas and heavy traffic in every direction.

This is the hanging rail assembled. It needs to be painted and then installed.

So, why am I sad?

I think it was witnessing the overwhelming amount of stock in every shop we passed and the hordes of shoppers buying more and more stuff. Is it to replace an item, as with our toaster? Perhaps but I am more than mildly sceptical of that reason for more than a very small percentage of purchases.

The passion for decluttering in recent years and resultant overflowing charity shops leads me to think that many of today’s purchases or the goods they are replacing will be charity shop stock in a matter of months.

Many items, including clothes, electronics and household goods can be purchased cheaply and we do not value or care for them but almost regard them as disposable. When they break, are superseded by a new model or are simply no longer the ‘flavour of the month’ we toss them aside. Many of these discarded consumer items end up in landfill but to salve our consciousness we drop them at the charity shop. Unfortunately, a significant proportion still ends up in landfill and takes up time, effort and resources of those who volunteers to assist the various charities.

Everywhere you turn there are empty shops and businesses. Online shopping continues to gather pace. Are we buying more stuff because it is so easy to click a few buttons and it turns up on our doorstep in a matter of days? Is the lack of effort or consideration required making us shop more?

There is plenty of discussion amongst marketers on how to make sure that people continue to buy more and more stuff so that retailers and businesses can continue to increase their profits. At what cost?

We are drowning in our stuff and killing the planet in our quest to have more and more. I feel like something has to change and soon.

My personal action is to try not to waste anything, use what we have, source items secondhand where possible and be mindful that we have ‘enough’.

I wrote this post just over 6 years ago. There is a link to an interesting short video which is worth watching.

Ready for a New Year

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The 2 weeks since my last blog post have slipped by quickly. Our 2 granddaughters came to visit for a week and then we spent a week at the beach with them and our daughter. Christmas was a fairly low-key affair as we, like many others, simply needed to relax at the end of what has been a challenging year.

Anyway, this post is about looking forward. I know that COVID19 will not disappear at the stroke of midnight on 31st December. Much of what we have endured in 2020 will remain with us as we enter 2021.

Six years ago, at the end of 2014 I decided to record all of our spending for the year. Since then, I have continued to do it each year and have refined the methods I use in the process. I use an Excel spreadsheet, however, you could use a notebook if you prefer.

When I was setting up the spreadsheets for 2021 I noticed that I now have 6 years of records of our spending. During that time we have both retired from full-time work and had major home renovations done as well as travelling overseas on 5 different occasions. There won’t be anymore of that in the foreseeable future, though.

It is interesting to see how some categories of spending have altered dramatically in the wake of our retirement. The most significant is the category ‘Transport’. During the first 4 years of recording our spending, we were both working fulltime and our total transport costs were about $6000 per annum. We had a long rail commute from our home to offices in the city. In 2020 our transport costs were less than $300. Not everyone will have the same costs but if you are considering retirement it is wise to take changes in circumstances and spending into account.

Grocery spending was interesting for a different reason. In 2015 my average weekly spending for 2 adults was $93.88. Unsurprisingly, by 2020 this had increased. However, the margin was very modest with the weekly average being $97.11. In five years my grocery bill for 2 adults increased by a mere $3.23 per week on average. We eat good quality but relatively simple meals with an increasing number of vegetarian meals and are working on growing more of our own food. Minimising food waste is also important from both an environmental and financial perspective.

Clothing was another category where there was a substantial change in our spending during the six years of recording data. Our total spending on this category in 2020 was less than 30% of what we had spent in both 2015 and 2016. Since our retirements were planned, we made a conscious decision to limit our expenditure on work attire over the final couple of years. Additionally, I now have time to source some excellent pre-loved items.

For anyone who is interested I have provided a sample of what my spreadsheet looks like. I use a new sheet in the workbook for each month.

Date Amount CategoryDescription
1/01/2021$24.76GroceriesAldi
$10.00SelfGym fees
2/01/2021NIL

These are the categories that I use. The final column ‘Description’ is for extra details – as much or as little as you want.

Transport(public transport, taxis and Uber)
Groceries(food, toiletries and cleaning products at home and on holidays)
Clothing(buying and repairs for clothes, shoes, jewellery and fabric for dressmaking)
Haircuts 
Cars(fuel, tyres, servicing and repairs including when travelling in our car)
House/Garden (all equipment, repairs and renovations to house and garden including chicken feed)
Pets(vet bills, toys, medications, equipment and dog food)
Health(dental, medical, allied health and chemist expenses)
Entertainment(meals, shows, movies and events attended jointly)
Alcohol (beer, wine, spirits and home brew supplies)
Subscriptions(any subscriptions not listed in fixed expenses)
Gifts(Christmas, birthdays, cards and postage, memorial donations)
Holidays (flights, accommodation, tours and entrance fees)
Husband(gym fees, individual socialising, hobbies and books)
Self(gym fees, individual socialising, cosmetics, hobbies and books)

I have only addressed our variable spending in this post but I also have a spreadsheet set up for our fixed expenses each month. This helps us to easily see what bills are coming up and predict when we are going to need extra funds. Some months are less than $200 in fixed expenses, whereas, there are other months which are much more than that. This is because we choose to pay some of our bills on an annual basis.

Do you have a plan for keeping track of your finances for the new year?

I am happy to answer any questions you may have regarding tracking your spending.

Family Comes First

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I was looking back at the date of my last post which was a little over a week ago. Since then my focus has been firmly on my family. Even though GMan and I are the only ones living here, we are fortunate to have plenty of contact with family. Sometimes it seems to come all at once as has been the case in the past week.

Last Monday I went to Brisbane. I took my mother to a specialist medical appointment then we treated ourselves to lunch at Fuzzy Duck Cafe. I would recommend it. This was en route to visit my aunt who is in an aged care facility. Visiting has not been possible during COVID19 restrictions so it was good to be able to see her.

I stayed in Brisbane overnight and after another appointment the next day I picked GMan up from a dental appointment and we headed home.

It has been school holidays for the last 2 weeks and our daughter and granddaughters arrived on Wednesday evening. The girls stayed until Saturday afternoon while their mother went to work for the remainder of the week and picked them up again on Saturday.

During their stay we prepared meals, sorted through my fabric stash, went to the gym, shopped for shoes, went to the beach and park and checked out the garden.

Miss O making french dressing and learning the principle of adjusting the seasoning to taste.

Cutting broccoli for the soup.

A successful shopping trip to buy new sandals for Izzy.

More cooking – pizza bases ready for toppings.

The beginning of a dress for Miss O from a piece selected from the stash.

Some of the regular housework goes by the wayside when there are visitors and this time was no exception.

The refrigerator looked somewhat chaotic. There were several leftovers that I could incorporate into meals the following day.

I had invited my sister and brother-in-law for lunch on Sunday but had no specific menu planned for the meal. We did a small amount of grocery shopping late on Saturday afternoon.

Our lunch was predominately a selection of small plates and salads which worked perfectly as we sat outside in the very pleasant spring weather.

Photographing the spread was overlooked until I brought the salads out.

Homemade hummus, guacamole and sourdough bread, rice crackers, vegie sticks and brie for starters then kale salad, rice salad, cucumber and onion salad ad tomato wedges to serve with mini meatballs, vegie kofta balls and spiced cauliflower bites. Fresh fruit salad made the perfect finish to the meal.

While it sometimes works out that a particular period of time is mostly taken up by a single facet such as family events, I am trying to create more balance in the spread of activities in my week. More about that tomorrow.

Mending to Save the Planet

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The current television series, ‘Fight for Planet A’, has opened some vigorous debate in some forums.  Some people believe that promoting the use of renewable sources of energy is reckless as this is simply perpetuating the problem that is the ‘growth economy’. Unless we actually participate in degrowth the planet is doomed.

I am not totally of this mind, however, I do believe that much of our future depends on a serious change of mindset and questioning what stuff we actually need.

A really good place to start is to think twice about replacing broken or damaged items. I want to give you an example which confronted me this morning.

We have a laundry hamper in our bedroom and one of the handles snapped when I picked it up to take it to the laundry this morning.

I decided to mend the handle and found some strong navy fabric in my collection. It happened to match nicely, however, I would have used any colour or pattern if required.

I applied a small strip of double-sided interfacing to the wrong side.

The job was a bit tricky with the handle still attached to the hamper. I basted the 2 ends of the handle together and then pressed the interfacing to the handles.

The remainder of the fabric was folded over and around the existing handle. Here it is pinned and ready to stitch.

I stitched all around the patched handle and reinforced the ends and this is the result.

My repair effort is far from perfect but it is functional. I even managed to put a twist in the handle, despite my best efforts not to. However, this does not detract from the usefulness of the handle.

There is no right or wrong way to approach a repair so this is simply an example of what can be done.

The repaired hamper will hopefully last for many more years.

This is degrowth in action. Do not buy things that you do not need. Think laterally and repair or reuse what you already have. If you are not able to do you own repairs, check out your local repair cafe or ask a friend, neighbour or relative. We all have skills and we need to support each other in whatever ways we can.

Patience Pays Off

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We often think of being patient and/or persistent when it comes to locating a specific item.  It can be trawling secondhand shops or even looking for a vary particular item brand-new.

However, I have discovered that patience and allowing things to take their course can apply in equal measure when trying to sell or give something away.  Somewhere, sometime there will be somebody for whom your treasure will be just perfect.  It is simply a matter of finding them.

A case in point is this dressing table.  We bought it several years ago with a view to restoring it but plans and needs changed and we needed to find a new home for it.

The mirror attaches to the back of the dressing table and the mirror is absolutely stunning – almost a metre in diameter with a beautiful pie crust edge.

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The interior of the cupboards features a central shelf on one side and 4 drawers on the other.

I listed it over 2 months ago on several local Buy, Swap, Sell groups on Facebook.  Despite a few enquiries it failed to be sold.  A couple of weeks ago I decided to try Gumtree and was feeling a bit despondent as there did not seem to be any interest.

Yesterday I received an enquiry about the Gumtree advertisement from people who live in an adjacent locality in our semi-rural area.  They arranged to collect it at 10am this morning.

I held my breath as I cannot remember the countless times that promising sales or giveaways have failed to eventuate.

As arranged the purchasers arrived with a trailer at the appointed time and were absolutely delighted with the dressing table which they plan to put to good use as they fit out their newly-acquired home.

I was really pleased to see this go to a good home and know that it will be appreciated.

Shopping Expedition

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When we went to Brisbane on Friday I made the most of the opportunity and bought a few things that had been on my ‘to buy’ list for a while.

My lipstick – yes, I only own 1 lipstick – was almost depleted.

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I bought a lip brush so that I can utilise all of the remaining lipstick.

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A new lipstick which will last for several years.  The previous one lasted over 3 years so I expect this will last at least as long, especially as I am no longer going to work every day and sometimes do not wear any make-up.

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It is perhaps a little more pink than I have worn previously but I am sure I will get used to it.  Samples to try out are no longer provided so the best I could do was to look at the small colour chart on the display stand.

I also bought a pair of stockings as I had managed to ruin my last remaining pair around the time I finished work – over 12 months ago.  As you can see from the last sentence, I rarely require stockings but they are not something that I can easily buy locally so it is in my best interests to have a pair on hand if needed.

Close to Home

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All things are relative.  Today we went to Brisbane which is about 80km from where we live but compared to London, New York or even Melbourne, it is close to home.

We had a business appointment to attend this morning and decided that we would make a day of it and go out to lunch for a slightly delayed birthday celebration for GMan.

Although we both worked in the city for quite a number of years, we were not terribly familiar with restaurant options.  We had mostly packed our lunches and when we did eat out it was usually with work colleagues in a noisy pub environment or fast and furious cafe.  Neither of these were the setting we were looking for.

I turned to the ever-helpful Google and found Greenglass, a French bistro and wine bar.  One review I found described it as “a cross between elegant wine bars of old and a spacious NYC loft apartment”.  The simple black door at street-level belied the airy, minimalist decor and quality food which we encountered after ascending the narrow staircase.  We enjoyed our meal and the outlook of trees despite being in the centre of the CBD.  If I had any criticism, it would be the level of noise due to the polished timber floors and lack of any soft furnishings.

There is a reason I mentioned London, New York and Melbourne in the opening paragraph.  We have visited all of these cities and the weather we encountered as we departed from Greenglass was far more reminiscent of one of them than sub-tropical Brisbane and its usual ‘perfect’ winter weather.  The predicted rain had arrived during our lunch and this was the dismal scene that greeted us despite it only being 2pm.

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Since I have barely been to any shops in the past 5 months (apart from groceries and home renovations) I took the opportunity to pick up a couple of things that I needed.

With about 30 minutes to spare before the next train was due, we headed to Sugar’n’Spice Cafe which is quite close to Central Station.  This is the view that greeted us as we entered the small, old-world premises.

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Coffee and gluten -free carrot cake consumed while perched snugly at the high counter overlooking an increasingly wet afternoon.

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Today was a complete departure from our home renovation activities of yesterday and we both enjoyed the opportunity to be out and about while still managing to maintain effective social distancing.

 

Ready for Refill

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It is August already and I barely mentioned Plastic Free July in the past month.  While this is a great initiative to encourage people to rethink their reliance on single-use plastics, I try to make every month as free from plastic as possible.

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Today I loaded up my basket with these plastic bottles to return to Felix from Kin Kin Naturals.  These bottles will be reused.  He has a stall at the Kin Kin markets which is about 80km from our place.  We usually go about once a year to stock up on products we use – laundry liquid, laundry pre-soak, dishwashing liquid and dishwasher powder.

It is great to support a local, family-owned business and by buying direct we can save money and plastic.