End of an era

Three years have past since my first mustbethrifty post. In my quest to save money and resources, I’ve done things my pre-mortgage self never considered doing: getting multiple quotes, researching products, putting up with housemates, clothes and food swapping, scavenging and borrowing, mending and altering. I’ve finally learnt how to become comfortable with my mortgage.

Now, after nearly five years with my first mortgage, I am about to sign up on a second mortgage, this time hand-in-hand with Cheap Geek. We will be moving out and ‘living the dream’ of house and land (and chickens).Putting on a sold sticker

I’m really happy with the house we’ve bought. It has ‘good bones’. Quiet location with school and public transport options? Tick. Plenty of north-facing living space and minimal exposure to the harsh western sun? Tick. The house also has a small footprint, making it easier to maintain and/or improve. However, there’s still enough room in the house and in the garden for our family to grow.

Instead of writing about money, I’m shifting this blog’s focus onto the new house. Both Cheap Geek and I have a passion for grand designs of the sustainable kind. This doesn’t mean we’re going to knock down what we already have; we’re going to work on improving the new house one double-glazed window pane at a time. Working towards a more water and energy efficient house will mean smaller utilities bills and hopefully a higher resale/rental value.

We could have just got on with renovating. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to reflect on things we have done or about to do. Plus, according to Michael Mobbs, there’s very little literature out there about energy-conserving building design. Even my anecdotal observations will be a welcome addition to the patchy resources out there.

So, here it goes.



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Hol(e)y soles!

These boots have suffered much abuse over the years and now they have hol(e)y soles, which aren’t great in the wet winter weather.

I didn’t want to throw them out, however, since they cost me a couple of hundred bucks. Plus they’re super comfy and play nice with most outfits.

Cheap Geek spends a fortune on his work shoes. In order to extend the life of his footwear, he kits up every new purchase with Topy soles. Once there’s a lot of wear on the sole and heel, he’ll have the rubber pieces replaced. He favours this one particular shoe repair shop, so I thought I’d take my boots there. The guy charged me $55 to add new rubberised soles and heels and I think he gave everything a condition and polish as well.

Resoled boots

There’s little point in spending money on repairs if they cost the same as the replacement. But if you have expensive tastes in shoes or just happen to need decent quality ones for work, make friends with the local shoe repair guy.

While you’re at it, consider using conditionerwaterproofer, and shoe polish on your favourite shoes. Conditioner, leather’s equivalent to skin moisturiser, will help keep the leather supple and prevent cracking*. Waterproofer will keep your feet and shoes dry. And if you prefer your shoes looking smart, not scruffy, shoe polish will get you there.

Check out ‘Shoe Care: 101′ from the Art of Manliness for more ways to extend the life of your favourite pair of shoes.

*Note: conditioner can also darken the leather, so take care when applying to non-black shoes.

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The best cookbook I’ll ever own

Who doesn’t love a good cookbook? Big and bold with page after page of beautifully plated food, they’re a feast for the eyes of the food-obsessed.

Last time I checked, however, ‘oohing and aahing’ over a photograph of Gelato Messina’s rum baba gelato or Annabel Langbein’s slow-roast lamb with herb crust does not constitute as cooking, and a cookbook that doesn’t inspire a meal belongs on a coffee table, not the kitchen bench.

Most titles I own have a handful of bookmarked recipes. For instance, I’ll always refer to Les Huynh’s Takeaway, whenever I’m making wontons. I’ve even made Huynh’s ‘Chinese noodles with sesame dressing’ and ‘Central Vietnam noodles’ once or twice. But these are only 3 of 72 recipes, less than 5% of the book, which makes the book over 95% irrelevant. Even my so-called tome, The Thrifty Kitchen by Suzanne and Kate Gibbs, has only had a third of its recipes attempted.

Thrifty blogger Frugal and Thriving once wrote ‘The most important cookbook you will ever own is the one that you write yourself.’ Her own cookbooks are important for sentimental as well as practical reasons:

Your cookbook will include family favourite recipes, recipes you’ve created and adjusted yourself, recipes passed down from parents and grandparents, recipes you will pass down to your children and grandchildren.

I’m more interested in the practical. Every recipe within my 2 personal cookbooks have been tried and tested (and tasted) by the Mustbethrifty household. In other words, they are 100% functional.

homely recipes

They’re not the most pretty to look at, but I think I have enough coffee table books at the moment.

Coffee-table quality cookbooks

Coffee-table quality cookbooks. The top one, ‘A Zombie Ate My Cupcake!’ is particularly awesome to flip through. I have not baked any zombiefied cupcakes as yet and do not plan to in the near future.

Posted in Clever Cooks, Gen DIY-er | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Consolidating debt with the home loan

Three years ago, I wrote a post on switching to a low-interest credit card and or consolidating the credit card debt in the home loan. I said I’d avoid redraw at all costs but never explained the reasons why.

Consolidating personal debt via the home loan seems like good finance. Where else are you going to find credit with such low-interest rates*? However, in spite of the good rates, home loans are mightily expensive. Have you recently looked at your mortgage contract? Over 25 years, that $350K loan will cost you an extra $263 820 in interest**.

Yep, home loans are deceptive. With their low-interest rates, they may seem like the cheapest credit option, but they cost more thanks to a long lending cycle. Add $10k of personal debt to your $350k home loan and you’ll be paying an extra $7538. Compare this to $1881, the interest you’d get from taking out a separate 5-year 7% interest personal loan.

Personal loan versus home loan comparisons

Screenshot of MoneySmart’s Personal Loan Calculator: while the personal-loan debt on the left attracts a higher interest rate, the home-loan debt on the right ends up costing more because it’s repaid at a slower rate.

Debt consolidation via the home loan is also riskier than other types of loans because makes you think you have more money than you do. Say you’ve cleared your credit card balance by rejigging the home loan. Not only have you increased your home loan debt, you now think you’re entitled to use the plastic again. And so the downward spiral continues until the necessary repayments exceed your income and you default on the home loan.

Of course, you can make debt consolidation via the home loan work for you. For instance, you could make additional mortgage repayments that match a personal loan’s repayment schedule. However, this requires self-control. Not everybody has self-control, myself included.

*Actually, I can immediately think of two places: 1) 0% balance transfers when you switch credit cards, and 2) a gentle(wo)men’s agreement with your best mate, since interest on savings is a paltry 2% or something like.

**Based on a 5% interest rate, monthly repayments, and no bank fees. Calculated using MoneySmart’s Mortgage Calculator.

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2014’s federal budget: what did you expect?

On Tuesday, I came home to this:

While there are a handful of budget ‘winners’, namely defence, infrastructure, medical research, mining (via ABC), as well as ballerinas and school chaplaincy (via SMH), the rest of us have just had our tax breaks knocked out from under us. Continue reading

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My shop on Etsy

This gallery contains 3 photos.

My interview with Grace has inspired me to sell some of my vintage collection on Etsy. Back in the days of pov-uni-studentdom, I used to sell unwanted books and CDs on eBay (I even made a profit when I sold … Continue reading

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Leftovers – Mum’s way

Last weekend, my Aussie mother-in-law showed me her photos from her Vietnam trip. Amongst the scenery shots of Hoi An and Ha Long Bay were the photos of food. The food, she said, was lovely and healthy, though the soup that was brought out with each meal was ‘very bland’.

While the tour guides had been very careful to explain the stories behind the sights, they had not bothered to explain the method to Vietnamese dining. Soup is usually brought out in a large communal bowl. Instead of serving it at the start of the meal as an entree, it is poured over rice and served with a salty dish (i.e. stir fry). There is also a dipping bowl filled with fish sauce for the bland bit of tofu that you’ve fished out of your soup.

Explaining this to my mother-in-law made me reminisce over the family meals Mum cooks. Mum doesn’t reinvent leftovers like I do. Instead, she batch cooks her food and then dishes it out over several nights. Continue reading

Posted in Clever Cooks, Footnote Frivolity***, Thrifty Asian | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment