Bargain Betty

Bargain Betty’s money savvy tips

School stationery


Every year Betty gets hit with a huge bill for school stationery. This year we’ve made an extra special effort to go through our drawers and pull out all the old stationery from previous years.   By reusing pens, pencils, books, and other stationery from previous years I’ve saved $71.14. That’s a worthwhile saving.  I would have expected to save about $10 to $20. This is astounding. It’s definitely worth the exercise.

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:

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.

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:

More on soccer boots


Standing on the side of the midgets soccer pitch last week I commented to another mother that her boy had new soccer boots. (Something to pass the time). Oh yes, she said.  She’d got a real “bargain” apparently. They were reduced to $100 she told me.  My eyebrow nearly popped through my hairline, but I said nothing.

I pay $2-$5 for a pair of soccer boots – the same Nike brand as her son’s.  They do exactly the same job.  I usually buy a couple of pairs in the same size so my son can choose between them.  The source? School fairs or garage sales. What’s more, I’m fussy. I only buy boots that are showing no wear.

One day my boy will demand new ones. But until then, I’m not spending any money unless I have to. He’s chuffed with the boots he gets.

Conquest of the day


My son’s soccer boots have lost yet another stud.  Replacement studs only cost $1.80. But now that my supply has run out, I have to go up to Takapuna again (read $3-$5 petrol + my time) to get some more.  Or do I?

Last night I went into the loft and got down a pair of boots I have in reserve for next year (that’s another blog posting) and simply removed a stud from one boot and put it on his existing boot.

That of course leaves me with a stud missing from next year’s boot. So today, I picked up a pair of second hand little kids soccer boots  for $1 – and have removed the studs.  So now I have 12 spares, for $1 in total, and less time/petrol that it would involve going to Stirling Sports.

How to spend nothing all weekend


I’ve had one of the cheapest weekends ever. I was parent help for a Girl Guide camp.  It cost $35 all up for my daughter and myself for food and all materials.  Considering we weren’t eating at home or heating the house for the weekend, most of that was simply taken up with the necessities of life.

Any other weekend we would have been bound to have spent other money, be it going out and being entertained, having a coffee at the soccer grounds, popping by the $2 shop for art materials, or simply doing a bit of shopping.

I must say, however, that this really is a once or twice a year sort of thing. Even I couldn’t do it every weekend. Trying to get 18 girls to go to sleep at 10pm isn’t easy.

Bargain Baby


Another of Betty’s favourite topics over the years has been parenting on a budget. Back before my first child I hated the idea of driving the suburbs in an urban Landrover, bankrupted by the paraphenalia I’d bought for the kids. Here’s something Betty penned right back at the turn of the 21st century:

What are the golden rules of buying on a budget?

  • Prepare a wish list of nice but non-essential items to give to friends and relatives when they ask you what you would like.
  • Ask experienced parents what they found really useful and read our buying guides to help you decide on a purchase.
  • Assume that all gadgets and gismos are cons until proved otherwise.
  • Buy in bulk whenever you see BOGOF (buy one get one free)  or three-for-two offers.
  • Plan ahead so you can take advantage of sales.
  • Question every purchase. Is it really essential?
  • Only buy new if there’s a safety issue involved.
  • Exchange unwanted gifts. Most shops oblige.
  • Tell the world that you want hand-me-downs.
  • Use your local library and toy library.
  • Borrow items wherever possible.
  • Buy second-hand.
  • The full article that I wrote back in the Year 2000 is still live on the website (a wonderful resource for mums-to-be and those with pre-schoolers.  Check it out here.