Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I hope that everyone has a very happy Christmas and takes some time out these holidays to relax, spend time with family or just whatever works for you to help you unwind.

Thanks to everyone that has been reading my new blog and for all the supportive comments and idea's! I'll be back in the New Year with more from the garden, a follow up from Christmas and of course loads more money saving strategies.

Bear hugs!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A snug Christmas...

Christmas is a tough time of year — especially when money is 'snug' or 'cosy' as I like to call it! I've given myself a $100 challenge for this Christmas for the first time, and I'm keen to check out how it goes. Let me fill you in...

Our tree from 2008, no pictures of our new one yet!

Making a list, checking it twice (or three times)
I've made a list of all the people that I need to buy gifts for this Christmas, I've gone through it three times to take off people that really don't need to be there and a whole lot came off. Rather than forgetting about them completely, I have put them on the Christmas card list so that they still know we're thinking of them. I also thought that this year I would combine gifts for couples, so my step-sisters and their husbands get one combined gift — and now they have kids, it will be their children getting the gift rather than them.

I've decided that gift buying in our house should really be for immediate family only, and kids of other family members but you really have to learn to draw that line in the sand or things get really crazy. Christmas isn't about presents, more about spending time with our family over lunch and watching the kids enjoy the holiday season.

So now I only have to buy 8 gifts and send about 12 cards which in postage will be around $6. For the cards we made them, not only is it cheap but a personalised card can be really lovely.

Christmas with Kids...
A good friend of mine said to me the other day that she taught her kids a little poem when it came to Christmas. She told her kids "Santa will bring you 'something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read." This way it cuts down the things that you're buying as it's so easy to spend too much on our own children because we love them so much!

When Grace was really young and was starting to get into Santa, I told her that Santa and the elves go shopping for the gifts rather than make them in a workshop. Some of you may find this a little mean, but I would rather teach Grace that items have a monetary value and to not expect huge, lavish gifts that materialise out of nowhere and to be disappointed Christmas morning when they don't appear. Santa in our house usually delivers just one gift that's a toy, but the main gift is from Mummy and other people that she can thank directly.

Other kinds of money...
I have been busy collecting FlyBuys points this year and have used them all on Graces gift. I don't buy anything just for the points, but rather collect them on things I'm going to buy anyway (petrol, bills, groceries) so when I redeem a reward, it's not like spending 'real' money. It's a really good way to buy for people, especially if you can accumulate loads of points.

Getting crafty...
Where possible, I'm trying to make as many gifts as I can for people. I love to get handmade gifts! They are so personal and can be rather cost effective. If you aren't particularly crafty yourself, consider asking someone you know to help you or even pay them to make them for you, it can be quite fun coming up with the idea's together. Some idea's that I have had are:
  • Jams, chutneys, cookies or fudge (who wouldn't want something yummy!)
  • Knit a scarf or crochet a hat for those that live overseas
  • Paint a personalised Santa sack for a little person you know made from a pillowcase
  • Grow some seedlings in decorated pots or jars
  • If you can sew, offer to make someone something and you can choose the fabric and pattern together or look on-line for some free tutorials.
And if those few idea's don't get your brain firing, you can always have a look-see at local craft markets that are happening in your area and buy a handmade gift for someone and support our locally grown industry.

Love Handmade Market: Saturday 19th December, Rose Centre, Belmont, Auckland 10am til 1pm Kraftbomb: Sunday 20th December, Grey Lynn Community Centre, 512 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland 11 til 2pm
Do an online search for Craft Markets in your area and you will no doubt yield plenty of results.

Feeding the armies...
Christmas usually means a whole lot of food that one poor person has to pay for, make and then clean up after. We have a BIG family, so providing a Christmas lunch can be an expensive event. If you can't go to someone else's house to enjoy Christmas lunch and you are instead the host, why not ask everyone to bring a plate? Tell them what you need them to bring (breads, salads, sides, puddings etc.) then you only have to supply the main part of the meal (ham, chicken, turkey etc.) and a few drinks. That way the dishes take themselves home too! We do that in our house and it works out really well.

Don't bother with Christmas crackers — the good ones are expensive and the cheaper ones are full of junk that no-one needs. Consider making your own paper hats from card (if you really need to have hats) or just decorating the table with a few candles that you can re-use throughout the year.

Tree maketh the holiday...
Bunny Decorations that I have made this year.

There is NOTHING like a real Christmas tree — the smell, the look AND the mess that they make! I do love having a real one, but they are becoming more and more expensive each year, I also feel a little bad throwing them out at the end! Even getting rid of them can be a pain and expensive if you get a service to come and collect it.

My Aunt each year for the last 5 years has gotten a small tree for their property (punga, pohutakawa, fruit tree etc.) popped it in the lounge, decorated it then when Christmas is over planted it in the garden! Not quite traditional, but definitely '2 birds with one stone'!
When I was flatting a purchased a small but fake Christmas tree. When it's all decorated it really does look lovely and is great as a back up when the money just isn't there.

This year we have a real tree, it was $35 so not the most expensive tree but it's still really lovely AND my tree was a gift to us, so maybe consider that — it's a gift people will be able to look at and enjoy all holiday season! For decorations, make some with your kids! You can make them out of anything: spray painted pine cones, shells with holes in them, popcorn on strings, bunting made from recycled cards or fake flowers — get creative and let loose!

Ok, so now I have blabbered on, here is my brutally honest Christmas spend tally:
$35 tree
$0 gift for Grace (Fly Buys!)
$6 postage for cards
$12 paper & envelopes for cards
$8 wrapping paper for gifts
$40 new materials for made gifts (other materials I already had)
$101 total

Ok so I over spent by $1, but the tree was a gift so I still have a little more up my sleeve! I hope that this has give you a few idea's and just remember not to get too stressed out over Christmas, take it in small chunks, re-use and recycle where you can and enjoy the time off with your family!

Jess x x x

Monday, November 16, 2009

Red Ruby Dolly....

Well, to carry on the crochet I was doing last week, I made this cute little dolly for Grace and I'm so proud of how it came out! Grace absolutely loves it and has insisted that she sleep with it each night since I made it — she's so cute.

Not only is this dolly super cute, but I was uber organised (and feeling rather clever) and wrote a pattern to go with it! So, in the spirit of Christmas, I thought that I would offer it to my blog readers for free until the New Year, after which you will be able to purchase the pattern from my Felt shop. That way those of you that can crochet (or those of you that want to learn) can make a few of these for the lovely people in your life that may find them rather special.

Ruby was finished, but she still needed some clothes!

Ruby before her hair cut

If you would like a copy of this crochet pattern, please send me a message to bam bam creative [at] hot mail dot com with a polite request and I will get it straight to you. The pattern is for personal use only so please respect this. The only catch is that I would love to hear from you afterwards so you can let me know how you got on and maybe even see some photo's of your own Ruby Doll!

Finished! I love those telephone buttons!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Toys! Amigurumi Critters...

Speaking from my own experience, kids love toys and I'm sure that if all of us had more money than we knew what to do with, our kids would get the most benefit! If I have spare money left at the end of my budget, it usually ends up being spent on Grace — either by using it to buy bread for the ducks, a walk to our local cafe for a fluffy or some new hair-ties when we're at the supermarket (as you can tell, there isn't usually much left over!).

I found via the Kuky Ideas blog this awesome book for how to make little Amigurumi animals, so I got this book out from the library, which is the one that she used to make her gorgeous wee critters, and decided to have a go for myself!

Amigurumi is a Japanese way to crochet, they are usually little animals or characters with big heads and a cylinder or round shaped body. They are made 'on the round' and rather than rows, you just keep going and going in spirals. Each extremity is sewn on separately and faces are made from embroidery thread and felt — in other words, they are pretty fiddly but so worth the effort!

I learnt to crochet earlier in the year thanks to my nearly 90 year old Nana (she's so super nice and crafty), she was more than happy to teach me as she is finding it more and more difficult to make things for our very large family (Nana is usually your first point of call for new baby booties, jumpers and all sorts) and it's been something that has been loads of fun for me to do — especially being stuck at home most evenings!

Grace and I had a really great time reading the book together and choosing which ones to make, she now has one of the little rabbits and a Teddy with a pink dress and white bloomers on. I have been instructed to make her a Monkey with a red dress this afternoon. The rabbit took me about 2 hours after dinner last night while watching telly, and the Teddy was about 3. Grace entertained herself with her dolls house and pretend kitchen while I made everything which was rather nice.

Graces new teddy — Karina

Amy, the pink baby bunny

Anyway, the point of this blog post was that we had made toys for next to nothing, but we had spent a lot of really quality time together in the process. Grace loved picking out the colours for her animals, which ones to make and seeing them being created and of course naming them. The cost of the book was free (with it coming from the library) and the wool was hardly anything as most of it had been given to me but you can pick up skeins of wool at places like K-Mart if you don't want to go to a speciality wool shop. The felt is about 95c am A5 sheet and embroidery thread is about 50c each from Geoffs Emporium.

My sister is having a baby in January, my other sisters little one is about 1 and a half and Ray's nephew will be one soon too not to mention close friends with little ones — so plenty of little animals to make for Christmas!

With Christmas right around the corner, hopefully this has inspired you to crack out the hooks and yarn...

Crochet/Knitting links:
The Pearl Bee
Lion Brand Yarn (free patterns and supplies)
Squidoo (links to LOADS of free patterns)
Stitch (fancy making your own Bender robot or doll from Amigurumi??)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How does your garden grow...

Well, mine is just starting out. I've never had a vegetable garden before, and with all this money saving milarky I thought that it would be a logical first step. I also wanted to teach Grace about how things grow and that a garden is like a team — with the dirt, bugs and plants all working together. I think that she is more into the flowers than anything else.

I geeked out a bit with the planning of my garden, but I really want it to be successful so I jumped on the computer and did some research, as like any project, the more research you do the more successful it (should) be.

First: I figured out what I would like to grow and decided on things that we actually eat and would normally buy at the supermarket. There was no point growing masses of Aubergine because we don't eat them and it ends up being a waste. I thought about what I would like to do with the stuff too — so we'll be eating most, but I also wanted to make chutney, relish and jam from my harvests so that comes into play when planning the next step...

Second: Now I have my list I found this AMAZING site, Grow Veg, that you can sign up for a 30 day trial (and they don't spam you so it's all good to try it out) and here you can draw out your garden beds — all to scale — then drag and drop your veges into it from the menu bar above. That doesn't sound all that great, but the best part is that each vege has a coloured circle around it so you can figure out how much space you need! Amazing. It also has tips for companion planting which is mega awesome and very helpful.

Marking out where I will begin digging, almost
a shame to dig up my lovely grass!

Companion planting is when you plant things that like to be next to each other and they sort of help each other out, like what herbs to plant next to the veges so that the bees come along, or so that you're planting the same families together — beans with peas, but away from broccoli. It all gets very confusing but it's really interesting!

Third: ok, so now I know what I need to grow and how big my garden is going to be. Next I needed to find out WHEN to actually plant the stuff. I found this site, Garden Grow, which lets you put in your New Zealand location and it will give you the best times to plant everything based on where you live. You can sign up for reminders too if you're anything like me and life gets busy....

Fourth: This is the fun bit, buying all the stuff you need! I decided to plant my garden out all from seed. I purchased all my seeds from Eco Seeds who sell heirloom/non-hybrid seeds — they're seeds that you can collect seeds from the things you grow and re-grow them, so it makes things even more cost effective. The people that run the nursery are REALLY helpful and so nice, and you can pay by Internet banking which is nice. I purchased Basil, Beans, Broccoli, Capsicum, Carrots, Celery, Lettuce, Italian Parsley, Peas, Spring Onion, Sweet Pea, Thyme, Tomato Roma and Cherry Tomato's and including shipping it came to $52NZD which I thought was very good.
I also took a trip to Kings Plant barn for some bamboo poles, sunflower seeds and flowers to attract those bees!

My little seeds sprouting!
CW from Top Left: Peas, Sweet Peas, Beans, Broccoli.

Pest Control: for my pest control, I'm going to try a product called Neem Granules, it's ground up neem tree bark. You add a teaspoon full when planting out your seedlings so that the plant sucks it up as it grows and it makes the plant deter the bugs. We'll see how it goes! I also of course have some pellets and things to get rid of the slugs and snails. I'm trying to keep my garden as natural as possible, so the pellets are where it stops.

Next involved A LOT of digging. I did it all on my own — which was so satisfying! I had my dirt delivered by Central Landscaping Supplies (very cheap, all up $90 including it being delivered on a tipper-truck, much to the delight of Grace). I didn't have a wheel barrow (you really DO need one when gardening...) so had to shift a cubic metre of soil with nothing but 2 buckets and perseverance.

Top: Halfway there!
Bottom: Shifting all the soil, only half was left to go... it took me AGES

I've just planted out my seedlings into the garden after looking after them for around 7 weeks inside, we had a good downpour of rain this week which I think has wiped some of them out, so fingers crossed they don't all die! Now the waiting begins....

Here I have listed some links for the helpful sites that I have found:
NZ Gardener: handy for tips and advice
Ooooby: like facebook for garden people, it's pretty weird but kind of cool
Love to Know: tips and advice on almost anything
Square Foot Gardening: Once you get past his moustache, it's quite helpful
Kings Seeds: Seeds and supplies
Eco Seeds: Heirloom/Non-Hybrid seeds that all come with very helpful packets An article on raised garden beds e.g. how to build them, how they work etc.
Urbanmac: pre-made garden boxes, if you're so inclined
Allotments UK: cool gardening in small spaces, tips, advice etc.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Hey there,

Thanks for stopping by. I thought that I had better pop up a little post about what this blog is going to be about and my high hopes for what it could be...

Money is pretty tight at the moment for most people, and if you're anything like me, you probably live week to week with nothing but the smell of an oily rag left over the day before pay day. Well, I've been practising at keeping as many pennies in my purse before the next pay day as I can. So far it has been going rather well, with the occasional skimming it really does add up and when my next warrant is due or my phone bill is a little scary-big, I don't cry and instead I'm a little better prepared.

Some of the things that I will be posting about are — sewing patterns, recipes, budget tips, ways to change spending habits without it being too painful, gardening, links to great tutorials, my own tutorials and my own experiences with all of these things.

A bit about me and my background — I am a solo Mum of one little girl who is now 4, she has a special lactose and gluten free diet thanks to some allergies, and the special foods I buy can be rather expensive. I am back studying full time after being made redundant earlier this year and I run 2 little craft businesses that aren't (yet) making me millions but are a lot of fun regardless.

I'm not a budget freak, I also sometimes slip up and overspend a bit (usually on my daughter though!), so just so you know, I'm pretty normal with my spending habits. I'm not here to give anyone a golden ticket or a 'get rich quick' remedy, just merely to share a little bit of advice from what I have learnt since having a few life changing financial situations over the years, and hopefully some people out there may find it helpful and use my tips and tricks in their own lives.

Chat soon!
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