Bargain Betty

Bargain Betty’s money savvy tips

Things I won’t save money on


This first ran in my column on MSN:


Most of us could save a small fortune if we gave up some or all of the unnecessary fat in our spending. I often remonstrate with myself about some of my spending. So I’ve decided to blog about what I won’t give up just to save money.

Here are the four things I won’t give up until I’m destitute. WARNING: these examples are bad for your long term wealth and should not be followed:

My car
I’m horribly wedded to that expensive piece of metal. I use it for lots of short trips that could easily be done on a bicycle or foot. It’s on my To Do list to find out exactly how much each trip to the local café or supermarket costs me in dollars and cents. According to Fuel Saver the fuel consumption can vary by up to 55 percent for two people driving the same model of car exactly the same distance just due to their driving habits. I accept that I probably need to own a car. It’s just that I could spend significantly less if I cut out those time-saving short trips.

Café visits
Coffee is a drug. It leaves toxins in your body, makes you fat, it’s an unnecessary waste of money, and so on. The part of the addiction I’d like to can is the café visits, not the drug itself. I guess a shrink would tell me to accept this failing and realise that my daily sojourn in a café is one of my great pleasures in life.

After-school activities
My children do soccer, dance, art classes, cubs, guides and so on — which cost around $10 a session on average. I’m well aware that these activities won’t benefit the children’s future as much as many parents think they will. Even so, it’s giving them opportunities. I sometimes think parents who limit the children’s afterschool activities to one per week and give children time to hang around home, might be doing a better job at parenting than I am.

My pets
I know they’re a black hole when it comes to money. Pets, however, are part of my children’s family. Like all of these items above, I would give them up if I was forced to financially. I’ll budget for them, however, as long as I possibly can.

There are lots of other things other people won’t give up to save money. I searched online about the subject and found a number of bloggers and columnists proffering lists of things they wouldn’t give up to save money:


The trouble with a list like this is that all of these unnecessary things I won’t give up stand in the way of boosting my long term savings. Justify them as I do, the money could be spread more wisely if I didn’t do these things

It’s a fact of life. People who budget enjoy more luxuries than those who don’t. That’s because they’re not frittering money here there and everywhere on things that don’t bring them satisfaction. They set goals and focus emotion on looking forward to a strictly limited number of good things in life.

Your say: What is the last thing you would give up to save money?

Read more:



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.

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.

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.



As the parent of children I just can’t escape going to McDonalds from time to time.  I’ve found a couple of good bargains recently:

1.  The first is the two for one Cheeseburger and Coffee vouchers printed on the AA Travel Great Kiwi Road Trips maps. These maps are on all the counters at McDonalds restaurants until the end of this month. Just open the map up and cut the vouchers out.

2.  Sausage McMuffins.  My daughter asked if she could have a Sausage McMuffin without the egg recently. I discovered that the sausage McMuffin is $2 cheaper without the egg, and the meal deal is also $2 cheaper. This made it $4.90 for Sausage McMuffin,  hash brown and a kids’ drink. I saved $2 and my daughter was happier.

New Zealand: 100 per cent pure rip-off


This morning’s NZ Herald has an interesting article about New Zealand being 100 per cent pure rip-off by international journlist Peter Bills.  It reminds me of an article I wrote on my return to New Zealand after 12 years away:

Godzone: where ripoffs rule – Personal Finance – NZ Herald News

Most of the things I said in that article five years ago still stand:

Life is perfect and sweet in good old Godzone. People are friendly and rip-offs are non-existent. Never mind the tourist literature, this is the New Zealand I viewed through rose-tinted glasses during my extended OE.

In the UK, meanwhile, where consumers believe they’re hard done by, the slogan “Rip Off Britain” scream the newspaper headlines. The phrase is so embedded in the UK psyche that when I searched Google I found it mentioned 11,600 times.

But a year back in New Zealand and I’ve come to the conclusion that British consumers aren’t hard done by. Looking at my own spending patterns, it’s easy to collate a “dirty dozen” where Kiwis just don’t get a fair deal……

Last year I updated these thoughts following a huge amount of feedback to my weekly MSN article:

More of New Zealand’s biggest rip-offs

If ever something gets Kiwis foaming at the mouth, it’s rip-offs. Looking back at all the blog posts I have written in the past year, “Rip-offs rule in New Zealand” got more response than any other.

Over the past few months I’ve thought of more rip-offs that bug me personally and 200 comments from MSN NZ Money readers have opened my eyes to others.

Here are some rip-offs that rile me:……..

Public holiday surcharges


I make a point of never going to a cafe or restaurant that charges public holiday surcharges. As I said on MSN not long back:

My local cafes do a roaring trade on public holidays and I’m sure that extra turnover must make up for the additional staff charges. Surcharges are a rort in my opinion — and several of you agree, it would seem.

Usually I will walk up to the counter, check, and if there is a surcharge explain politely that I’m going elsewhere.
Yesterday (Queen’s Birthday) I made the mistake of popping into the Stone Oven for a takeaway coffee (a waste of money of course, but that’s another blog), and to my horror realised I was being surcharged. It was just 10 minutes before the Devonport Cubs Monster Hike began and I had no choice but to pay. Fortunately the member of staff gave me two clicks on my coffee card, which more or less wiped out the extra I’d paid for the coffee and made me feel a bit better.

This morning I had a real brainwave. I should keep my free coffees from my coffee cards and only use them on public holidays. That’s another way of getting around this surcharge.

Cafe owners hate my attitude I know. I’m the customer, however, and I choose to walk with my feet, which I do.