For sale, sale, sale…

For sale. Image courtesy of Tony (note: Tony does not endorse the author or the contents of a year of living out of her backpack, my friend Grace has been doing some ‘severe decluttering’. When I asked her how her long weekend went, she told me that she had just sold everything she had put up on Gumtree to some ‘really lovely people’. I was so impressed by her success, I started asking questions.

Mustbethrifty: What made you decide to sell your stuff?

Grace: After coming back from working in the slum regions overseas I felt overwhelmed and confronted by my storage container…Where did all this stuff come from? Did I really own that many pairs of shoes? And that large suitcase of clothes?

Being away from home has made me realise how much non-essential clutter I owned. Many items have not seen light of day for a long time - sentimental trinkets and gifts (including the box and cards in some cases!), tops and clothes that had been worn once or twice then never to be seen again, uni papers which I kept in case one day I would “need” them, ex boyfriends’ love tokens, unopened/unwanted gifts…We all have these things somewhere in our houses which only come out in serious cleanups!

Mustbethrifty: So why are you selling your stuff, instead of donating to charity/friends or throwing it away?

Grace: I am very careful with my belongings and so everything I wanted to get rid of was either in excellent or very close to new condition. It seemed wasteful to throw [away] something perfectly good…and add to landfill.

Reusing benefits everyone – the seller, the buyer, the environment, the actual item. We live in a highly consumerist society and it was most confronting for me when I…[was] in India experiencing the effect industrialisation and growing consumerism have on waste, pollution, culture and people’s general happiness.

I have given some items away. However there is a limit on what can be given, as I have small sized clothes for instance and have few people I know who would fit in my clothes and shoes. But certainly kitchen goods and some small whitegoods have been passed onto good homes.

I am in the process of trying to sell the other items and if that is unsuccessful I will be donating them to my local op shop.

Mustbethrifty: Where have you been selling your stuff and which avenue was the most successful?

Grace: Gumtree, eBay, garage sale, Facebook, paper flyers and e-noticeboards – I have tried them all.

I think which avenue you choose depends on what you are selling and how you want to manage your time selling. For example, I am not sure if selling an old average-quality bookshelf would be worth putting on eBay because of the fees and commission the website takes. I would think you might do better going through Gumtree or noticeboards. If you are a bit time poor and prefer people contacting you via email or SMS, then the online selling methods would suit you better than holding a garage sale or…hav[ing] a stall at a weekend market.

In Alice Springs there is an invite only Facebook page for Alice residents to sell or exchange items. I liked the concept [used by] this small community. Commodities were expensive [in Alice] and second-hand goods, particularly useful items like bicycles, were in demand and could be shared and sold in this way.

Other considerations are whether you have a timeline to sell and how concerned you are about price. For most of my items I am simply wanting to re-home them to someone who appreciates and will look after them so speed, rather than price, was the trump card. I was so attached to my dear old washing machine I wrote half a page on Gumtree describing how reliable it was.

Mustbethrifty: What was the weirdest thing you’ve sold?

Grace: At the moment I am trying to sell two hand-made pottery wizard statues for my parents. They were made with beautiful craftsmanship and are quite pretty…if you are into wizards! I think selling niche or unique items like this can be tricky – you need to get to the right audience and to do that you have to chose the right avenue to advertise.

Mustbethrifty: And what was the weirdest selling experience?

Grace: I have been fortunate in that all of my selling experiences so far have been safe,  friendly and positive. I don’t think it was weird as such but amazing more so…When I sold my large Ikea Expedit bookshelf, the man who came to collect it arrived in a tiny Toyota Prius (ie a small four-door car). He ingeniously tied the massive bookshelf with a piece of rope though the open windows and drove off  with the bookshelf overhanging the car roof.

Mustbethrifty: Have you been satisfied with your experience? How would you do things differently next time? 

Grace: So far I have had a positive de-cluttering experience. I think it has made me more conscious to think not just twice but three times before purchasing new things to avoid this build up again. We need very little material goods to live well and the saying that what truly matters in life is invisible to the eye is in my opinion very true.

Mustbethrifty: Any tips you’d like to share with would-be sellers/declutterers?

Grace: Do it! It’s easy to declutter - you just have to start and trust me you will be hooked. Separate what you think you will get rid of from things you want to keep and leave it in the pile for a week or two. If you don’t feel an urge or need to retrieve it, it is time to let it go. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure – someone out there will have a use for what you don’t!

Image credits: Tony

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The cheap geek and the bank account fee

Once upon a time, Cheap Geek opened up a no-frills account that attracted a $4 monthly fee. He accepted this fee without complaint for it was then commonplace for banks to charge maintenance fees for their banking services.Piggy bank

As the years passed, banks became more competitive and charges such as Cheap Geek’s $4 fee started to get waived on new accounts, so long as one deposited a minimum sum per month. But Cheap Geek was uninformed of this, and he unquestioningly, diligently continued to pay his $4 per month for years after the waiver had been introduced.

He would have continued to do so if he had not wondered aloud why he had an unlooked for charge on his second (and newer) everyday transaction account one morning. When it was explained to him that he had been penalised because he had failed to deposit the minimum amount, he frowned at the bank teller. ‘But I always deposit more than the minimum in my main account. Why am I paying for an account-keeping fee?’

A little while later, Cheap Geek was upgraded to an account with no fees. And his savings lived happily ever after…or something like that.

Image credits: BankSimple


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Relaxed cooking on a budget: Save with Jamie

Save with JamieI’ve collected a few Jamie Oliver titles over the years; none of them get used very much. Jamie’s Kitchen horrified me with its egg-laden Baileys and Banana Bread and Butter PuddingJamie’s 15 Minute Meals and 30-Minute Meals demanded too much multitasking for me to really stuck into them. Still, I’m a sucker for budget cookbooks, so when I found a discounted copy of Save with Jamie, I had to have it.

This time round, Jamie Oliver focuses on ‘delicious, exciting food that’s not hard on your wallet’. He’s also enlisted the aid of nutritionists, giving his recipes a transparency that’s sometimes missing from similar titles. Inspiration comes from around the world and though some meals miss the authenticity mark (‘okonomiyaki’ with tomato ketchup and yoghurt, wtf?), at least it’s acknowledged (‘kinda Vietnamese salmon salad’ with apples and radishes anyone?)…In some ways, these kinda, sorta recipes allow for a relaxed cooking style where it’s okay to substitute, using the odds and ends rolling around the bottom of the fridge or whatever’s in season. I snuck all sorts of sad looking vegetables into a ‘happy frumpy minestrone’ with Oliver’s blessing.

Over half of the meat recipes require leftovers from a roast, which fits in with the book’s waste not want not philosophy. Nevertheless, while putting together a mothership roast each Sunday is okay if you’re in a cool British climate, turning on an oven during the heat of an Australian summer is insanity. The book does go into other thrifty basics like jointing a chicken, using offal and weird offcuts, but I would have liked these sections beefed up a little bit more. Thankfully, Oliver offsets this lack with an extensive vegetarian section and a seafood chapter that doesn’t rely heavily on leftovers.

Chapters are broken up with advice like ‘Know your…Butcher’ and ‘Have you ever…opened a bottle of wine and not quite finished it?’ I found myself making friends with the local greengrocer, drying chillies, and agreeing with the Oliver adage of not-menu-planning:

Menu planning is great, but don’t let it restrict you. Flexi-planning is your best option – it will help you waste less, and means you won’t get caught out if your plans change. Build in the option of embracing a few bits in the freezer for days you need last-minute meals. Look at offers before you shop, and see if you can shape any meals around them, but also embrace great-value seasonal produce wherever you can, backed up by your store-cupboard staples. A bit of creativity while you’re shopping, combined with some forethought before you set off, is what’s going to serve you most well. (Jamie Oliver)

Yep, don’t let its structured visuals fool you, Save with Jamie is a flexi-planned affair, making budget cooking fun in a ‘lugs of oil’ fashion. I just wish it had a dedicated thrifty dessert section instead of banging on a two-page spread on fruit as an afterthought.

Title: Save with Jamie: shop smart, cook clever, waste less

IBSN: 9780718158149

RRP: $49.99

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Wedding album on a shoe(string) budget – part one

In the midst of last year’s wedding planning, Cheap Geek and I decided to forego the traditional wedding album. We figured that we wanted our money to go towards the talent rather than fancy paper and ink.

Fortunately, our photographer offered a digital-proofs-only package: he wasn’t the type who holds his digital proofs for ransom*. And so we saved $1360, got married and had a bowl. Lawn bowls at a wedding

Months later, our photographer sent us his digital proofs which now grace many a Facebook page. Ads from Artisan State, a new budget photo album company, have also been gracing the Facebook feeds. I’m not sure how good the quality of the albums are but Sydney wedding photographer Sutoritera has posted a fairly positive review Continue reading

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Your pumpkin for my onion?

Many moons ago, I wrote a post about veggie swaps, meets where you swap your excess homegrown produce with others. Being a lazy gardener, I haven’t planted many annuals this year but that doesn’t mean I can’t swap my food.

In order to minimise waste, I’ve been splitting my bunches of spring onion and coriander with my friend Sarah. Yesterday, she returned the favour by giving me a chunk of her pumpkin, corn, and some coriander:

Food swaps don't have to involve homegrown produce

Food swaps don’t have to involve homegrown produce

She even gave me a soup recipe that uses up the pumpkin, the coriander plus the short-dated peanut butter jar that she offloaded to me the other day!

Food swapping doesn’t have to be limited to fruit and veg. Make two trays of lasagna and exchange one of them for some of your neighbour’s casserole. Swap short-dated stock with friends and family. Set up a ‘free shelf’ in the pantry and the fridge between housemates.  Bribe your local grocer with banana muffins and end up with an armful of free, overripe bananas. Not only will you cut back on waste, you’ll also nurture a sense of community amongst all those involved.

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The indirect cost(s) of double glazing

The guys from Ecostar Double Glazing installed our fancy schmancy double-glazed windows earlier in the week. The house is much quieter now. While some noise still comes through, we’re able to watch TV with a 30% lower volume.

Double glazed window from Ecostar

One of our new double-glazed windows.

There’s also a noticeable difference in how the house heats up and cools down. After a warm day, the internal temperature usually drops in the evening, but with double glazing, the heat is trapped inside. The only way to release it is to open up the windows. Fortunately, Ecostar’s windows are designed to maximise ventilation.

Opening the windows to allow air in/out

The window swings out and slides down, making the most of convection currents. Warm air escapes out through the top and cool air gets drawn in through the lower gap.

Unfortunately, our $13k+ windows do not come with flyscreens*. What’s even more unfortunate is that silly us picked casement windows instead of double hung windows. While casement windows are Ecostar’s cheaper option, they can only be fitted out with costly flyscreens.

Normal flyscreens that fit on the outside of a window or on the inside of a window with a winder usually cost as little as $50 to order and install (via Doorite Screens). Normal flyscreens do not fit on casement windows that have extruding handles; only magnetic or retractable flyscreens are compatible. Magnetic flyscreens are the cheaper option, costing approximately $150 per screen. Retractable flyscreens will set you back $280 to $430 per smallish window**. Ask for Tuff Mesh (aka Cat-Proof) and you’re looking at a 15% markup. Gulp. 

The windows are also devoid of dressings, which means that while minimal ambient heat is transferred through the glass, direct solar gain is still a concern in summer. Plus living in a fishbowl kind of sucks. We’ll soon need to fork out for awnings and blinds/curtains for the windows facing north and west***.  Double gulp.

This double glazing thingy is going to end up costing more than our wedding. Thank goodness for little red packets.

*Still, we did get a very good deal on our windows. The installers from Ecostar told Cheap Geek that they had worked on a similar job which set the owner back $20k. By capitalising on Ecostar’s end-of-year and sign-up-on-quotation discounts, we saved ourselves thousands of dollars.

**Like a good Must Be Thrifty, I got basic phone quotes for ‘a small window’ from four different companies.

**By the way, does anyone know what type of window dressings are the most thermally efficient in both winter and summer?

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Making do

Whilst helping Mum clean the dining room, I got to use her vacuum cleaner.
dad's very old vacuum cleaner

I remember when my parents bought this beast. It was in the early nineties, when household appliances were still made in Germany. Dad’s been ‘servicing it’ over the years: the cord has been replaced, the end of the hose has been reinforced with plastic piping, and the LED lights that used to tell you what level of suction you were using have been removed.

Mum and Dad’s make-do attitude never ceases to amaze me.

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