Saturday, 28 January 2017

How We Budget

Our blackboard freezer door - ever changing messages.

As you all know there are a zillion different ways to budget, however I thought I would share how we budget and perhaps in so doing there might be something in our method that you can introduce as your own - all in the spirit of sharing so we all can improve.

Our way of budgeting works for us at the moment. It will most certainly change as our life circumstances change. It certainly is not the paragon of budgeting, but still worth sharing I feel.

Short cold wash cycles are perfect for
day to day clothes washing.

Some Initial Thoughts On Budgeting

TALK - this is the most important part of budgeting if you are part of a couple. It takes courage, honesty and trust to talk about money to each other, but if we do not talk about money honestly then we may as well not even budget. For instance, it takes courage and honesty to talk about that credit card balance that only we privately knew about......

WOMEN BEWARE - women, please be fully involved in your finances.  I see so many women still living in the past when it comes to finances and often (knowingly or unknowingly) getting the raw end of the deal.  I could devote a whole post to women and money but I will restrain myself from doing so in this post....maybe another time.

MEN - men often are able to earn more and keep more of their earnings than women (for many and varied archaic societal reasons which I will not elaborate on in this post). Whilst this inequity is changing for the better, we are still light years away from both sexes enjoying earning parity and life-balance parity. In short...listen up need to take responsibility for their contribution to their family and society and ensure their families and communities are provided for FIRST.  I am truly gobsmacked at so many men whinging about how many shoes and dresses their ladies have and yet do not see the utter hypocrisy of HIS very expensive fishing boat (on hire purchase) sitting in the garage, HIS zuped-up sports truck (also on hire purchase) sitting in the carport, HIS rifle collection, HIS racing dirt bike in the shed (on a personal loan), HIS shed, HIS....oh, you get the drift. meh.  Yes, I know this comment may not be popular but I am just sayin' what I see too much of.....and I am a man.

BE REAL - budget 10% more for bills and 10% less for savings. Life will happen (strange that!) and if our budget is leaning towards idealistic, then it will topple at the first little shake that life gives it. Lean into change, plan and budget to have the proverbial pizza (or its budgeting equivalent) every so often because you know what?....we are NOT going to cook from scratch every single day of the year - especially if living frugally is relatively new to us.

Home made meals from scratch.

How We Budget

Our budget is now divided into the following eight categories.

  1. Basic weekly living expenses
  2. Regular predictable bills
  3. Irregular bills
  4. Set-aside savings for specific future events
  5. Debt payment
  6. Self-Insurance Saving
  7. Investments
  8. Giving

Each fortnight when our pay packets drop into our accounts, EVERY LAST DOLLAR is automatically ALLOCATED to each of these categories via internal bank transfers the same day. We bank with ING and can have up to nine interest-bearing saving accounts linked to our two main keycard accounts for free. I am sure many banks offer a similar set up.

If you do not allocate every last dollar, then those unallocated dollars will just disappear.

Vinegar 'mother'

More Detail On The Eight Categories

  1. Basic weekly living expenses 
This is things like food, petrol, train tickets, any allowance for yourself - this must be withdrawn from the bank each payday as CASH.

  2. Regular predictable bills
Things like electricity, gas, car insurance, mortgage payments, car payments, personal loan payments, medical insurance, rent, phone bill - these need their own account from which obligatory direct debits will come out of and auto Bpays will get paid from...the more automated the better.  You will have calculated the exact amount that needs to go into this account each payday and this transfer must be automated to occur each payday into this account.

  3. Irregular bills
Things that get paid less frequently (i.e. yearly or quarterly) water, car registration, car maintenance, land rates, yearly subscriptions and fees etc. Again, you will have calculated the exact amount that needs to go into this account each payday and this transfer must be automated to occur each payday into this account.

  4. Set-aside savings for specific future events 
This is an important category that is often overlooked and ends up getting plonked on credit cards or personal loans due to lack of forecasting and planning. Things like Christmas expenses, education fees, car replacement cost (this one is UTTERLY important), wedding/s, birthdays, holidays and the like. Yet again, you will have calculated the exact amount that needs to go into this account each payday and this transfer must be automated to occur each payday into this account.

  5. Debt payment
This category is NOT about paying your minimum payments on debt, loans, mortgages etc - those basic minimum payments are all done under category 2.  This category is exclusively about EXTRA payments of debt. It is imperative to agree and budget on a set amount each payday to dedicate to extra payment off our debts. Do not rely on the we'll-see-what's-left-over approach as this invariably is short-lived. It matters not what debt reduction method you use be it the snowball method, the avalanche method, the spread method or some other method....whatever method THIS is the account that you use to allocate that extra payment against debt. Automate it to pay out of this account to whatever debt is being tackled the day after every pay day. And yes, again, you will have calculated the exact amount that needs to go into this account each payday and this transfer must be automated to occur each payday into this account.

  6. Self-Insurance Saving
Some call this a mojo account or an emergency fund - but really it is a self-funded insurance policy. The aim is to have six months worth of all expenses set aside in this account. This may seem an impossible undertaking to some, but plenty of people have achieved this on very normal incomes or less. It is fully achievable by budgeting a set amount every single payday into this account - the tortoise wins this race absolutely. Patience is a non-negotiable 'must' here. The deep  freedom and quietude this account will give us is immeasurable. Break this down into steps....first aim to have a weeks expenses set aside. When that is achieved then increase it to a fortnight, then a month, then two months etc. It may take five years to accumulate this six month figure - so what. It is worth it. Surprise, surprise....guess what? will have calculated the exact amount that needs to go into this account each payday and this transfer must be automated to occur each payday into this account.

  7. Investments
This is specifically to fund us when we can no longer earn an income from the work we choose to do. For some it will be as simple as investing into superannuation or retirement schemes relevant to whichever country we live in. For more financially savvy folk, it will also diversify into dividend paying shares and/or positively geared property. For others, it will be the purchase of a profitable business or the building of a profitable business. Whatever method we use to invest BE INFORMED. Steer away from stoke brokers and investment advisers and their astounding fees - invest in what you truly understand and can confidently measure. Of will have calculated the exact amount that needs to go into this account each payday and this transfer must be automated to occur each payday into this account, and from thence, into your investment portfolio depending on its particular requirements.

  8. Giving
This one is tricky and I need to be somewhat sensitive in what I write here. Giving is not only a morally deep action it is also a driver of true community and deepens gratitude amongst humans in general. It also feels great and gives a real sense of purpose to the giver. BUT BEWARE.....there is a whole consumerist industry built around donations and giving expertly run and marketed by charities, individuals and religions alike. KNOW where your money is going - do your research and you may be truly astounded (that's a promise). Even the squeaky-cleanest of organisations have to pay for advertising, CEO's, staff and likewise churches also have significant payrolls and costs too. If the charity that you give to does not have a breakdown of its finances that you can easily understand then don't give.  If your church does not have a financial statement that you can understand then ask to join the finance committee....that could be 'interesting' too.

Here's what I think - set aside an amount that you are going to give, then go and give it directly. Our immediate community certainly can benefit from our giving. Also remember that giving does not have to be raw can be giving our time, our expertise, our skills, our encouragement, our vote, our deciding to (for example only) shop at the local butcher run by a real person instead of a multi national.  Think outside the square and closer to home when it comes to giving. Oh, and if we can swing it to be anonymous giving, then it is all the more enjoyable and meaningful. Gosh, I'm not sure if I have mentioned this before but ...... you will have calculated the exact amount that needs to go into this account each payday and this transfer must be automated to occur each payday into this account. :-)

OK, so there is so, so, so much more that I could say about budgeting, but I think this is enough for now hey?

Take care dear folk and stay nice.


Frugal Window Cleaning Method

All you need is an inch of water, a squeeze
of washing up liquid and a squeegee
with a mop cloth. You can do your whole
house with this set up.

I was discussing window cleaning with friends the other morning and as I finished typing it up, I thought to myself  " should share this on Mr Home Maker".  So here it is.

You can clean all your windows with just one big squirt of dish washing liquid and a little water. It will only cost you cents in disposables and save you 80% physical effort compared to all the mad polishing, buffing, drying, spritzing nonsense that you see most folk doing when they try and clean windows - here is how.


When I used to work 3 jobs, one of them was cleaning a bowling alley and it had 90 feet of wall to ceiling glass windows in the cafe. They used to get covered in grubby finger marks on the inside and grime from passing car park traffic on the outside - I had to clean them every single morning, seven days a week(!). I quickly learned window cleaner's technique.

Tools:  1 x wide window squeegee with material cleaning pad on the back edge.   1 x square bucket to fit the squeegee.   1 x bottle of dish washing detergent (make sure it has thick consistency, not watery)   A little water (about an inch maximum in the bottom of the bucket)   1 x cotton rag

Method:   1. Squeeze a generous line of neat (yes neat) dish washing liquid directly onto the cleaning pad of the squeegee and work it into the material, thus charging the squeegee pad with detergent. You should only need to do this once for a normal sized house of windows is my best guess.   2. Place squeegee pad down into the inch of water in your bucket and press the pad down into the water to infuse with water. No swishing.   3. Lift up squeegee out of water and run the pad along the inside edge of the bucket to release excess water. (you do not want too much wetness)   4. No need to wet windows first - starting at the very top of your dry dirty window and apply the cleaning pad side of your squeegee to the window and working in vertical saw-tooth pattern strokes across the window top to bottom until window is totally soapy   5. Flip squeegee over to blade side   6. Start at the top of the window and without lifting your squeegee at all (this is critical) work from left to right and top to bottom in arch style overlapping sweeps. The aim is to always have the soapy excess running off the bottom of the blade through the whole process - never lift the blade off the window.   7. Wipe the accumulated moisture of the bottom window sill with your rag    8. Progress to next window and start from point 2 - repeat.

One line of dish washing liquid neat on the pad.

One inch of water in the 'bucket'. Dip and press, don't swish.

This method will mean no polishing, no spraying, no rubbing, no drying, no window cleaning products, no buffing..... just a single smooth arched action from top to bottom of your windows and a simple wipe with a rag at the bottom. The arch-movement squeegee method takes a little practice but once you have it mastered it will take 80% less physical energy than all the spritzing and rubbing that I see most folk doing.

Produces nice fine bubbles that are
easy squeegeed off in one pass
taking all the dirt with it.

I hope this revolutionises you window cleaning.

Take care folks and stay nice.


P.S. Do spend the money on a squeegee that is rubber or soft plastic based not hard plastic otherwise your squeegeeing will take 4 x the effort.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

....What Were We Saying? - Oh Yes

Birthday cake made from scratch and
decorated with Reese confectionery.

Welp, that's January all but gone folks.   Uh huh.

So many folks just waste January fluffing around and being disorganised.  Sure, it is still holiday mode for some and Australian summer holidays for the children, but January can be a great time to get budgets pumping, holiday jobs cranking and plans well on the way to being started and bedded down.

Porridge with chopped apple, cinnamon, a little cream and honey.
The perfect breakfast. (Well, one of them anyway)

How's our Christmas accounts coming along?  Ours automatically has installment  number two dropping into it tonight (pay day). Have we set up our new budgets for the year yet? What about our summer gardens - are they producing well?

Toshi the cat - she who must be obeyed.

At ours, the five girls are gearing up for another year at Uni (college) and school.  Both daughters studying Nursing at Uni hope to graduate this year with Bachelor of Nursing degrees and launch out into  their first postings - both want to go out to country hospitals in their new grad' years. We'll see what happens. The other daughter is finishing her History and English degree this year and has sensibly also done an education component so she can teach in secondary schools. She has her big 10 week teaching placement this year, so that will be interesting. Another daughter starts her double degree in Communications and International Studies this year and the youngest is beginning her final two years of High School doing her HSC via pathways method.  So it is timetables, books, study notes, part-time jobs and juggling tutes, prac's and placements this is making me dizzy just thinking about it.  Within five years all our children will be finished their University degrees and making lives for themselves elsewhere - it only seemed like yesterday I was reading A.A.Milne to them sitting at the end of their beds with them all rugged up in their 'dressy-gowns', chins on knees and listening enthralled. (there's that stupid lump in my throat again).

Romertopf roast lamb shoulder

....carved up and succulent.
Pass the mint jelly will you?

Sweet potato being fried up.

Help yourself folks!
Table set in the background with
lamps on and waiting.

Broccoli and cauliflower cheese. 

Mint jelly and butter awaiting

Lamb, honey carrots, sweet potato,
baked potato, broccoli and cauliflower
cheese, hot bread roll and iced tea.

Just a few of us tonight eating

...on the deck at twilight with fairy
lights on and oil lamps glowing.

In the last couple of weeks we have celebrated birthdays, cured June from her cluckiness, done a full spring clean of the hen house, installed a small pool, entertained tribes of folks, flown to Adelaide SA and back, survived Christmas and New Year at work (I run a large payroll) and zillion other things. We also had some mishaps with a water leak and had to empty out the side garage and storage rooms....a blessing in disguise as it triggered the culling and sorting part of our brain. We have enough sorted to order a skip bin I think!

You can't have too much cake.

I saw a little quote the other day that I just loved - I'll leave it with you now:

“Today, there are three kinds of people: the have’s, the have-not’s, 
and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-have’s.”

-Earl Wilson

Take care folks and stay nice.


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Money Regrets

Princess Laya....was that you that pooped
on my patio? .......cluck....What poop?

Do you have any money regrets?  I do, the list is depressingly endless.

The good thing about leaning into a more frugal, self reliant and simpler life is that I am not adding to that list of regrets very much.  Yes, I still make the odd stupid purchase now and then, but by and large I've learned my lesson the hard way.

We cannot change the past, but we can draw a line in the sand and intend (it is all about intention) to no longer act in ways that cause inner regret. Regret is a heavy burden - let's not go there anymore....ya'll with me on this?

That poop there right next to your foot
gurl!.......cluck, cluck....I lay you eggs
every fool day and you go on asking
me about poop?! I don't see any
poop - what you on about boy?!

Some positive ways to evaporate regret:

Be Future Focused

We simply cannot move into the future if we are all hung up on the past. We need to mindfully sit down and think up or dream up our future. It needs to be specific, measurable, attainable and have a date of achievement....without all these elements it is just day dreaming. Write these elements down clearly and succinctly and look at them 3 x daily, 7 x days a week.  Every night before we go to bed, we ask ourselves "What have I done today to move me toward my future life?" If we have not done anything, then stay up till we have.

Garlic drying out

Calculate Your Future Personal Earning Capacity

Do you know how much you are worth as an income-generating asset to your family?  Here is how to do the math.  Take your average annual salary x the number of years you intend to work in the future = the monetary figure you are worth as an asset to your family.
e.g. 40 year old earning $50,000 per annum x 20 years left of work = $1000,000.00. Using this realistic yet fictitious example, this person is monetarily worth a million dollars to their family in earning potential.  How are you going to best use that million dollars?

My pot plant watering can

Make A Detailed Sketch Of Your Future Life

We are all so good at ledgers and spreadsheets, but how about getting a big sheet of unlined paper, a packet of coloured crayons and sketch out the details of our future lives.  It does not matter if our drawing skills are hopeless.....this activity triggers the childlike creativity in the brain and makes us communicate the future to ourselves in a different creative medium. As serious as this activity is, it is also great fun to do.

Home made vinegar

Take care folks and stay nice out there.


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A Box Arrived From America!

The impatiently awaited for box from USA

A box has arrived from USA all taped up securely.  I have been VERY excited about the arrival of this box. (I'm easily excited)

The first beautiful cut glass
lamp emerges

Some of you may remember (quite a while back) that I had been looking for old matching kerosene/oil lamps. The reason that I wanted these lamps is twofold:

  1. To use during power outages
  2. To add some old-world, simple living charm to our dining of an evening

Four lovely matching lamps
all mine!!

We had a week of extended power outages after a storm a couple of years ago and all our batteries and torches went flat and we ran out of candles. We badly needed another source of lighting using a different fuel and my mind immediately went back to the old days for the answer.

Using a funnel to pour in the Kerosene

Well, I have scummaged through second hand shops and also antique dealers, Gumtree and eBay, but the lamps were either in parlous or fragile condition or were very pricey. Then I was introduced to the store called Lehman's in Ohio USA.  I was instantly hooked on their type of wares but never thought about buying through them because I assumed the freight would be prohibitive.

Then Christmas came and I thought I would look through the catalogue for some oil lamps (just for fun, you know...) - they have oodles of the things and at very good prices.  So, I stepped through the whole order process just to see what the freight would cost and to my surprise it was very low.  So I ordered four beautiful brand new lamps and had them shipped to Australia for a quarter of the price that I could get them new in Australia (go figure?!)

The blue of the Kerosene looks splendid

Running in the new wicks after
two hours of wicks soaking

Kerosene in Australia is coloured blue, so when the lamp reserviors are filled they turn the cut glass bases of these lamps a pretty blue.  We mainly eat outside for 3/4 of the year and our dining room table is on the deck.  The lamps will live here and be used regularly.  I can hardly wait to have a tribe of people over and have all four lit up and throwing out their warm light.

I was actually expecting a fairly low-grade product for what I paid, however, when these lamps arrived I was a bit shocked at how sturdy and well built these lamps are. I also was dubious about all that glass surviving the freighting rigmarole, but they were packed within an inch of their life - (yes I have kept all the packaging for reuse).

Turning up the brightness - wonderful.

Lehman's also slipped in a printed catalogue.....the ultimate window shopping for simple living folk and preppers alike I reckon. I will not be spending any more this year, but gosh, it is the best piece of junk mail I have read in decades. It heartens me that there is enough folk out there buying these type of yesteryear wares to make a business out of it.

A close up of the 'action'
Gee they pump out some heat once
turned up - no wonder Nan used
to say you could warm up a meal
over them.

You'll see these lovely lamps featuring on and off through my posts for many decades to come no doubt.

Take care and stay nice folks


P.S. No, I am not being paid in any way by Lehman's to say any of this stuff.  I am just genuinely delighted with these lamps, their quality, the shipping speed and the price. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Do You Have HIDDEN Money?

So much Pizza dough - gonna try freezing it.

Yes, we pretty much all have hidden money.

In an increasingly cashless society it is now 100% normal to never have to pay cash for anything. In fact, Australia is apparently one of the leaders in emerging cashless societies. I know that it is 100% possible for me to never need to have cash on me and this was the way I lived for many years.

Being cashless however hides our money....or to be more exact, it hides our spending. Zip, zip, zip as transactions silently slide from my account to whoever's, deliciously intangible and non emotive. Cashless transactions have no feelings, there is no tangible exchange, no physical letting go of something, no real-life hand to hand exchange, no looking down into our wallets to see less money.

Paper cash partitions now in use in my wallet

Cashless transacting is like a drug - it removes the pain of a situation, numbs it, trivialises it.

Once upon a time it was gold, silver and brass coin that physically was worth something in its own right and was exchanged for goods....then came paper and alloy coinage which were simply representations of value and of little intrinsic value themselves. Now it is just numbers on an electronic ledger stored as a tiny piece of memory in a random unidentifiable computer/s....hidden.

I've returned to start doing cash again after years of being cashless in an attempt to reawaken the emotion of spending money.  Cashless for me is so smoothly painless - I really now need to feel the exchange, the loss, the hand to hand human exchange.  I need to look in my wallet and see that I only have $20 petrol money left - I need to see the full or empty pockets in my wallet envelope. I want to reconnect visually and emotionally with my money.

Salads made 90% from the garden

Hidden money, hidden transactions, hidden consciences, hidden actions, surreal purchasing encounters and hidden consequences are the ploys and tactics of a cashless society. I am slowly becoming more and more disobedient to this consumerist regime.

Have you ever thought that your spending has been pretty OK and then opened your online banking statement and stared at the long list of tiny transactions relating to coffee and the makes me want to turn my head away in denial when I see this on my statements. Bringing my money out of hiding as cash is helping this weakness of mine.

Remember June he clucky hen?
After months of her being unbreakably
clucky, I simply turned her
nesting box to face the sun. Cured.

Cashless is so, so sinister.  It is a bit like feeding a bad habit on the sly.....cashless makes it so impersonal, disconnected, non judgemental and easy-as-heck to feed the addiction that is spending. It hides what's happening with our money, it hides the normal physical motion of paying money, it hides the realities if we can't really afford it , it hides what money we are actually dipping into, it hides a destructive habit.

Bad things happen in dark and hidden places. It is time to get our money out in the light, making the transaction real, meaningful, observable and emotive.

Bread making. So satisfying and
frugal at 80 cents per loaf.

Take care folks and stay nice.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Rethinking Success

Freshly made pizza totally from scratch.
Beats the pants off a bought one.

Hi folks

I have been pondering the concept of success lately and am now a bit suspicious of my long held beliefs about success.  You see, success nowadays seems to be so fleeting, so circumstantial, so costly, so subjective and ....well...just plain competitive.

Freshly baked Romertopf bread cooling.

For instance...success in a career will always come at the price of time away from home, time away from family and some serious educational debt - I am not so sure the slightly inflated paycheck is actually worth the effort in real terms.  These days I take satisfaction in successfully completing the family's laundry - am I losing it?!

I found my half-finished home-journal/grimoire. Now to find
some nice secondhand leather to make the cover. I used to think that once I was successful that I would experience a real sense of arrival, satisfaction, achievement and self esteem - but no. I just felt like I had climbed someone else's mountain instead. It was resentment that I felt not success.  I also used to think that success would evaporate my non-specific anxiety about life and I would be very 'together' and confident. Again, computer said "no".

Deep-fried eggs and bacon
Who can resist?!

I always believed that once I was successful (at whatever) that I could relax, enjoy, relish, celebrate and share.  I still want to believe that.

It is true that  for many years I chased success in areas that were totally incongruent to who I was and my core values, so really I had Buckley's chance of ever truly feeling successful. Instead I felt like a fraud. Thus I am really starting afresh over the last couple of years in creating a list of goals and achievements that actually line up with my core values, not someone else's.......

More freshly made pizza.

Something I have begun noticing more is the things others say I am good at......these comments always take me by surprise because the things mentioned are not things I am working at being good at....and I do not even think I am good at them. Nevertheless, I have not brushed this observation aside because there probably is a lesson in other folk's observations.  Maybe the answer to the success riddle is hidden somewhere in this.....time will tell.

There is a very special story about this.....for another day.

Another thing I have begun to mindfully take note of are activities and situations where I feel energised.  This has been an interesting experiment as it has brought up some surprising results thus far. For instance: Why do I feel so energised when I am chatting to someone about creating a pathways for their success? Why do I feel so energized with 30 people sitting around my dinner table eating and drinking and being happy?  Why do I feel so energized teaching people things (anything!)....I am meant to be a deep introvert and yet I am energised by these 'people' things. I feel SO successful  whilst doing these things - weird much.  I'll keep observing and see what manifests I think.

Two more in the oven - you full yet? No?

As you can tell my mind has about 100 'screens' open at the moment and the over-thinking warning light is flashing too....ha ha.

I wonder if your perception of success has changed across time?

Another one ready to go into
the oven.

Take care folks and stay nice


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