Bargain Betty

Bargain Betty’s money savvy tips

Birthday cake topper


I really should do a posting about birthdays.  It’s my son’s birthday today and even though the party is at home it’s cost a small fortune.  I do have to say I was very impressed with, from which I bought a Manchester United cake topper.  This is the company’s website:

I phoned the company at 9.30pm UK time. To my complete surprise a real person picked up the phone at that time of night and the order went out in the mail the very next morning. The parcel arrived six days after the order was placed and the total cost including postage etc was NZ$13.40. That’s a bargain.

It is even personalised with “Happy 9th Birthday Milo” on it.  When I did a quick Google search last week  I couldn’t find a New Zealand company offering these – although there probably is. Even if I did, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been that reasonably priced.



We need a second guinea pig cage to separate males and females. I’m incapable of coughing up for a new one, or for that matter a second-hand one on Trade Me.  I was perusing the net and am astounded at how much ingenuity there is out there.

This is a real Bargain Betty solution. A wire mesh storage cube hutch:

That won’t quite suit us as it will need to be outdoors. But it really got me thinking about Bargain Betty type solutions to our Guinea Pig problem.

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Private label versus Brands


My friends at RaboBank have just released some research about (cheaper) private label products verus brands:


A new global research report ‘Private label vs. Brands – an inseparable combination’ from Rabobank’s Food and Agri Research division (FAR) shows that


  • The global market share of private/own label food products is set to double from the current 25 percent to 50 percent in 2025
  • A-brands will retain their importance for retailers to anchor categories’ price levels and give consumers choice and familiarity
  • Good news for consumers is that they will still have access to familiar brands and have greater access to lower priced private label products
  • Smaller secondary brands (B-brands) will have to strategically reposition to avoid being squeezed out of the market
  • Two strategies are open to B-brands suppliers: either invest in quality and target the premium market, or specialise in private label.
  • A consolidation spree among private label specialists is inevitable to achieve economies of scale and reduce the cost base


For more information visit:

Bargain basement Kiwi holidays


I’m republishing this for Blog4NZ, which is a grassroots blogging and social media effort to support New Zealand travel in the wake of the Canterbury earthquake. It is a worldwide blogging event happening on March 21-23, 2011

For more information about Blog4NZ visit this link.

Holidays are expensive. It’s something I build into my budget. But I’ve just read that a third of UK parents can’t afford to take their children on holiday this summer. Many Kiwi parents will be planning their summer holidays at least six months in advance. So it’s time to start planning. There are ways to keep the cost down and here are some of my favourites:

Staycations These are about having a vacation at home. But don’t just sit at home — there’s no fun in that. Do touristy things in your own location. If I lived in Wairarapa, for instance, I might schedule in daytrips including a mooch down the main street of Greytown checking out the antique shops, take a trip on Featherston’s Fell locomotive engine and take the kids fishing at Ngawi.

Book a cheap bach or crib Last year we booked a basic bach at Mangawhai heads for $60 a night. A friend of mine got one for $30 a night on a remote Northland beach. The advantage of a bach over other cheap accommodation is that they’re usually fully furnished, have cooking facilities to save you from eating out, and often come with toys. Our Mangawhai bach had a PlayStation for the kids and kayaks.

Go remote If you book somewhere in the back of beyond, you’ll avoid spending anything other than accommodation costs and transport to get there and back. I’ve done this — checking into a farmstay hostel north of Kaeo. Another option, which I often do, is to go on a multiday tramp. That way you’re often only paying to stay at Department of Conservation huts, at $15 a night. When you’re tramping, you can’t even carry an excess of expensive food and alcohol.

WWOOFing That’s Working Weekends on Organic Farms. WWOOFing has been around for as long as I can remember. The idea is that you stay and sometimes eat free on an organic farm in return for a few hours labour each day. If you’re cooped up in an office all week, the occasional WWOOFing weekend can be fun. You get to meet interesting hosts who’ve often given up the city life for their dream.

Camping Away from home camping is one of the cheapest holidays you can have. Flash campsites such as the lovely Top 10 ones can cost more than $50 a night. DOC and local regional council campsites are much cheaper — although they usually don’t have many facilities, but they’re mighty cheap, lots of fun, and often in very beautiful locations. I’ve even camped in the garden of a friend’s bach for free — with the use of cooking facilities inside. Cabins and on site caravans If you don’t like camping you can still rent cheap accommodation on campsites — which are great places for kids. I’ve rented both cabins and caravans at campsites.

Cabins are usually cheaper than similar motel rooms — although they can be basic. The last time we visited the lovely Te Aroha Holiday Park we rented a retro 1950s caravan for just $30 a night for three people.

Home exchanges This is a great concept. You exchange houses with someone else in a location you want to visit. I’ve done one formal exchange, when I was in the UK, and that worked like clockwork. I’m also always trying to convince friends to swap houses with me. That way we can have a holiday without accommodation costs. There are a couple of home exchange websites in New Zealand: HomeSwap and HomeLink, although I haven’t personally used either. So try these out, or share your own stories of cheap holidays with other readers by having your say here.



For the past 12 years I have given up caffeine and alcohol for Lent every year.  For the uninitiated, that’s the 40 days and 40 nights from Ash Wednesday (usually in February, but this year in March) to Easter.  It’s a type of fast.

I do it for healthy living reasons. But it also has a financial spin off.  I figure that I save at least the cost of five cups of coffee at a cafe a week – amounting to a minimum of $20 and also maybe one bottle of wine a week or perhaps a couple of glasses of wine in a restaurant. That adds up to about $15 to $20 a week.  That’s a nice saving over five weeks.

The maths isn’t quite that simple however. When we went out for dinner at the lovely Manuka Restaurant the other night I bought a $4 Feijoa juice.  But I’m sometimes naughty there and have two glasses of wine over an evening. That amounts to $14 to $18.  So I saved some money.

The other dilemma is how to do the maths at home. I’m not having coffees out, which means that I’m having more hot drinks at home. Some years I allow myself decaf (bought from Chiasso, so not cheap). This year I’m not having decaf, but I’m still having Rooibush tea and Inka, neither of which is cheap. Overall, however, they cost less than Chiasso decaf beans, so I’m saving money.

The best thing is that I feel so self-righteous for five an a half weeks.  It’s not suffering at all.

Eating like a freegan


This is a post originally written for my MSN column:

I’ve twice been accused of being a “freegan” — because I visit friends and family to raid their fruit trees. True freegans, however, shun spending money on anything. They find ways and means to get whatever they need for free.

Freeganism can be taken to real extremes, such as living off the land — or local landfill. You’d have to be pretty dedicated to go that far. Yet all of us can eat a bit like a freegan if we put our minds to it. Here are some suggestions.
Pot roast that bunny: I read once — with mild horror — about Christchurch resident Eng Tang, who checks out small ads for unwanted animals such as pet chickens and rabbits, which he collects for the family dinner.

Get to know your neighbours’ gardens: If your neighbour is a keen vegetable gardener, let them know you’re happy to take any leftover produce. Crops such as silver beet, capsicum, tomatoes, and fruit trees including guavas, lemon and apples may produce more than the property owner can eat. If you’re smart about this and spread your net widely enough you might never need buy fruit again. To thank your donor, pickle or bottle some of the free food they gave you and give it back to them as a present. That’s a sure fire way to be given more raw product.

Take advantage of public fruit trees: Within a 200m radius of my home I’m aware of a large number of olive trees, one apple tree and one feijoa — all on public land. “There’s bush tucker everywhere,” my wide-eyed Australian friend noted, when she visited. Within a kilometre there is a huge overgrown fennel patch in a Department of Conservation reserve and several parks that produce mushrooms. Check with your local council or DOC conservancy office if they’re happy for you to pick the fruit.

Grow your own: Plant fruit trees and other perennial plants, such as silver beet and rhubarb. Even better, get cuttings from your friends or harvest and save the seeds from last year so you don’t need to pay for the plant in the first place.

Build a chicken coop and beehive: My neighbour has both a chicken coop and two beehives, producing more eggs and honey than he can use himself. It costs money to set these up, and effort to look after both. If you discount his labour, then the ongoing cost is nil — providing you put the time in to get the variety of food your chickens need. I know one family that gets waste from the vegie shop for their chickens — although the somewhat eccentric husband, has been known to eat the outer leaves of the lettuce and cabbages himself instead of feeding them to the animals.

Barter: Exchange food or other items with your friends. You could even offer your labour in exchange for garden produce.

Have no shame: You could always check out what local bakeries, restaurants etc do with their waste produce at the end of the day. In the US it’s not uncommon for local freegans (sometimes called dumpster divers) to check out the waste bins at supermarkets. For the record, I could never do this unless life as we know it changes unrecognisably, which is why I’ll never be a true freegan.

Food banks: If you’re really and truly cash strapped, you could contact local churches, many of which have food banks. But these services are meant for the truly destitute.

Learn about edible plants and weeds: You don’t have to look far to find edible plants and weeds. Even weeds such as lambsquarters, dandelion and chickweed can be eaten.

Finally, freegans don’t believe in wasting food even if it was acquired for free. Many believe it’s their social duty to use food that would otherwise be wasted. It’s up to us as individuals as well to eat up all the food we buy instead of letting it go into the landfill.

Bargain Betty on Weblog New Zealand


I have a little introduction to my blog featured today on Weblog New Zealand

Take a look

Baked beans


Way back when I lived in the UK I read an article about baked beans. It was a comparison between Heinz (Watties here in NZ) and Tesco (budget) brand.  It said that there were significantly more baked beans in the branded Heinz can.

I carried out an experiment to compare the contents of Watties and Budget brand beans.  The result was that

I counted 311 beans in a Budget brand can and 430 in a Watties can. That’s a huge difference. I also weighed the beans after they’d been drained for 30 minutes, but the results weren’t relevant. Budget brand has a thin sauce that runs off easily and Watties has a thick sauce that doens’t drain in a collander.  I guess I could have heated them.

We also had a blind taste test.  Both of my children and an adult relative decided they liked the taste of the Watties beans best.

I have since bought a can of Pams’ baked beans and will do a similar test when the time comes to open it.

Happy money saving.

Hissy fit at The Warehouse


I had a hissy fit in the Warehouse this week. I’d gone there to buy Coverseal for my kids books. As the assistant started to ring up my children’s choices, I realised that the 1 metre packs were $4.99 each.  I stood there and said: That’s daylight robbery, to the embarrassment of my children and the shop assistant.  After what seemed like an age wondering what to do, I decided not to buy the stuff.  We walked around the corner in the mall and my daughter got the same brand of Coverseal from Whitcoulls for $3.29 a roll, still a rip-off, and my son got his from the $2 shop. It just shows that it’s never a good idea to assume prices are cheap.

Public holiday surcharges


I’ve been fighting back against public holiday surcharges. Usually I just walk with my feet and spend my money elsewhere. I’ve gone a step further and published a list of local cafes showing which charge and which don’t. I’ve given my research to The Speculator.

Click here to read my research.

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