Bargain Betty

Bargain Betty’s money savvy tips

My Contact Energy gripe


I pay my electricity bill by direct debit in order to get the prompt payment discount.  For some totally unknown reason the payment didn’t go through on January 24.  Instead of emailing me (and Contact has my email address, which it uses regularly for notification of statements), the company waited eight days before mailing me – and that letter arrived 11 days after the payment was due. In this day and age there is no excuse for not informing a client immediately by automated phone message, text or email instead of waiting until the customer loses their discount. I feel that the extra $30 or so I’ve been charged is a rip-off due solely to Contact’s poor customer service and lack of moving with the times.

Cheap holidays


This blog first appeared on MSN at

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:

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.

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.

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.

More information

More on One Day sale websites


I really am a convert to these new one-day-sale websites – as anyone who has read my previous blog would know.

Today I’ve come across, which has some phenomenal bargains.  I don’t actually buy wine for home – because I think it’s a waste of money and not good for you. I do appreciate that most people in New Zealand do buy wine, so I’m happy to share these links and discuss wine bargains.

Financial prescription for the New Year


Financial prescription for the New Year

From my RaboDirect blog – for those of you who resolved to spend less this year:

Gyms, weight loss companies, and self-help authors make a killing in the first week of January as the ghost of Christmas past is turned into hare-brained New Year’s resolutions.

Dualit toaster


An email from a work contact:

Hi Diana

I’ve been looking at buying a Dulait toaster for several years but despite the weak Pound the retail price in NZ never changes.

I’ve looked on-line and virtually all the outlets charge the same price:

Milly’s Kitchens        $499
Pantry Magic            $499
Choice Catering $403
Award Appliances        No price, but I think they are the importer so its propbably close to $499.

Then I look on-line at O’Gormans in the UK and its GBP 102 or NZ$214, and for UK customers they do a next day delivery serive for GBP4:60.

It’s another example of NZ consumers getting a raw deal.

So what does “Bargain Betty” have to say??


Bargain Betty says: yet another example of the classic Kiwi rip-off. You really do need to shop around – worldwide for things.

Ice cream cake


I had a Bargain Betty moment at my daughter’s birthday party this weekend. In fact three of us had it at the very same moment.  Maia had been expressing an interest in an ice cream cake earlier this year. I thought she’d forgotten about it and her aunty made a very nice heart-shaped cake.

On the morning of the party Maia had a hissy fit about not getting her ice-cream cake.  We were in the supermarket at the time and I looked at the ice cream cakes, thinking she could have two cakes.  At $19.80 it was beyond what I wanted to spend (having a trolley of party food and supplies already).  So I convinced Maia to let me buy a $3.99 pack of ice cream and a $2.76 pack of lollies.

When we got home we put the lollies in the bottom of a cake tin, pressed the ice cream in and froze it. When it was frozen it was simply turned upside down and pressed out. The kids loved it.

It was only afterwards that I realised what a bargain cake it was.  $6.75 in total and only a few minutes to make.

The “Feeding Michael” project


My brother Michael is arriving this Sunday to stay for a fortnight. Michael is a fully fledged member of the  Men in Lycra brigade. He teaches 6am spin classes, cycles to and from work, which can be anywhere in Sydney, and then spends his evenings at the local Dulwich Hill Bicycle Club.

Needless to say, he consumes as many calories a day as a small army of teenagers.  It dawned on me this week that I was going to need to re-stock the pantry big-time, after my pantry project.

But just what do you feed this calorie monster is my question? So I thought I’d throw the question open and ask my readers for recipes and suggestions for the “Feeding Michael” project.

Your say: please share your recipes and tips on feeding Michael and/or teenagers

Dressmart bargains


My alter ego, Bargain Betty, had to eat her words this Labour Weekend. That’s because I’m a great cynic when it comes to Labour Day, Boxing Day or Easter sales. The general public are primed to believe that they’re going to get the bargain of the century.  More

Happy birthday, now save that money


I thought I would share this piece I wrote for RaboDirect:

Childrens’ birthday and Christmas money proves a real dilemma in our household.

Granny gives the kids a $100 cheque each birthday and Christmas; in our family that’s not all for blowing on expensive toys. I’ve schooled the children into believing it’s to be saved for purposes such as university fees, their first car, or the deposit for an apartment.

Read more:

Some thoughts about coffee


I’m the biggest hypocrite when it comes to buying coffee.  I don’t believe in buying the daily Latte. But I do it.  I try lamely to justify it by saying it is my sanity time. Or when I’m really being fanciful I suggest it’s a big part of our culture here in New Zealand to drink coffee in cafes. That is true, compared to places like the US and UK. But it’s still not an excuse.

Since the GST rise the price of a coffee has risen way more than the 2.5% rise. I’ve seen lots of cafes put it up from $4 to $4.50 in the past few weeks. For the first time I’m starting to rate cafes not just on the quality of their coffee, but the price.

I have to say that I’ve become way more attached to the Devonport Deli in the past month.  That cafe (where the coffee is decent, but not amazing) sells pre-paid cards for 11 cups of coffee.  That brings the price of the daily latte down to $3.60 per cup (less if you’re a flat white drinker). Admittedly that’s still $3.60 too much. But it’s an awful lot better than $4.50 or even $4.80 that I’ve seen.

Finally, caffeine is an evil drug. It really is. I once read that it’s more addictive and more toxic than LSD.

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