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:

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.



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.

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.

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



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.

Bread making on the cheap


My article from the Herald on Sunday:

Bargain Betty: Breadmaker adds to culinary mix

I love good bread. In fact, a great baguette or fresh Turkish pide pretty much top my list of favourite foods.

The trouble is that I get indigestion at the thought of spending $5 or more on a loaf, which in reality contains little more than flour, water, yeast and oil/fat.

If I acceded to my children’s demands I’d be buying MacKenzie bread at $5.11 a loaf – just for half of it to be left uneaten in their lunchboxes.

Read more:

BPA-free plastic bottles


Thanks to my journalist friend Tracey Barnett who did a big investigation into the evils of BPA in plastic,  I’ve been out this morning and spent $45 on three BPA drink bottles. One each.
If anyone has been similarly affected by Tracey’s writings  Kathmandu has a sale this week (posted Aug 26, 2010) on BPA-free drink bottles. Two of its normally overpriced BPA-free bottles are now $29.98, which is an acceptable price. I convinced the store to let me have the third bottle for half price as well.

The awful thing is that I feel that I should upgrade all of my old plastic and my Bargain Betty alter ego is in shock.  Why can’t ASB or BNZ or Vodafone or someone start distributing branded BPA-free bottles to customers? I’d advertise the organisation by carrying around the bottles if they sent some freebies my way. Most of my kids water bottles up until now have been branded corporate freebies. Now thanks to Tracey I’m having to spend real money on plastic bottles.

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