How to $ave when you’re broke and unemployed!

If you’re unemployed, a student or single parent it’s not that easy to save money or pay for vital services.  However, there are so many resources out there designed to help those going through financial hardship.  Only problem is, that it’s hard to find this information, especially if you don’t have a mobile phone or internet service in the comfort of your own home.

With that in mind, I am striving to compile a complete list of support services where you can get a free hot meal, legal advice, good quality clothes, furniture, food parcels, laundry services, health care and more if you are unemployed or on a low income.

Please click (and print) this Welfare Assistance link to access services for the Sydney area.  If you’re not in Sydney, please have a look anyway, because there are some large, global organisations listed here, even smaller non-profits, that may be in your area, too.  For example, if you are unemployed and need a smart outfit for a job interview, I have Dressed for Success listed in my link above, but I know they also have an office in New York City and worldwide, so just have a try and you never know what you’ll find in your area – one thing leads to another.  Also, walk into your local community centre, see what brochures they have, which can then lead to further information and more links to support in your area.

I will be updating this list above regularly, so if you have anything to add or find an organisation no longer exists or their location has changed, please let me know and I will update this data.

I am hoping to do more of these for other cities/countries, so let me know what support services you have in your area as I strive to compile similar lists, globally.

Peace, love and happiness xo

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HOW TO BE UBER FRUGAL

Here are ways to save money and live a less stressful, simple, sustainable life/style.

Most people who are leading a frugal life will have the usual things down pat, for example, cutting any subscriptions that aren’t necessities, eating at home, paying attention to their power/utility usage, joining the library instead of buying books or DVDs, and getting the best deals on internet and phone services.  This is usually referred to living within your means.

But for someone like me, I needed to do more than live within my means, considering my means weren’t much to start with, having two kids and one income coming into the family.  So, as I contemplated how I could go further in my frugal ways, I thought about the days we really struggled financially when I left a marriage full of financial, emotional and physical abuse.

Think poor, and I mean po! 

I started to realise the difference in my spending habits when I “had money” compared to when I didn’t.  I tend to be more flippant with that money.  For example, I’d easily convince myself that I deserve to buy myself a coffee today or I need a new phone, laptop, furniture, kettle, rubbish bin – anything that was looking worse for wear or lacked the latest technology would be fair game to be replaced.  Absolutely no respect for money at all.

But when money had been tight I would never upgrade anything, because I simply couldn’t.  Things stayed with me until they completely died on me, and then I considered whether it was worth fixing.  There was no income, so there was no temptation to compulsively buy or be flippant with money, because there is no money!

So, now that I am lucky enough to have a steady income, I keep in mind those hard times when I simply couldn’t spend.  There was no money in my pocket and no matter how much I “needed” something, I couldn’t purchase a thing if I wanted to continue to eat and not become evicted.

Even though I can afford to upgrade a few things, I keep my “poor person” mentally, e.g., I had my last phone for five years before I got a new one, and that was only because it died on me.  My friends all bought smartphones while I still had my old, dumb Nokia.  If I had a dollar for each time I was “teased” because of my old Nokia, I would be a billionaire by now.  I have only now bought myself a smartphone because my study, dumb Nokia gave up on me.  I bought the second cheapest smartphone and it does a fine job.  Even though I can afford to buy a slightly more appealing brand within my budget I continue to buy lower priced brands.

A huge amount of homes are robbed by people known to the victim.   Yeah, I know.  Horrible.  Well, no one is going to rob me, I often joke, because I don’t have ‘money signs’ splattered throughout my home, I drive an old sedan and wear a lot of hand me down clothes and anything of value is kept in private areas of my home.  

Don’t take your kids, cards or excessive cash with you when shopping

credit card.jpgEnsure you write a shopping list and bring only the amount of cash needed to purchase these items.  This will stop you spending more than you need and smash impulse buying.  Shopping without the kids stops distractions and additional spending.  I notice I give in to my kids asking/begging for things when I have pangs of guilt over one thing or another, being a single mum on a budget.  

Out of Sight, Out of Mind  

You could probably put aside some percentage of your income (before the cheeky chain store  marketing tricks and impulse buying sucks you in).  You can’t get sucked in if you don’t have the money.  Take away that temptation and change your mind set by making your money disappear before you have a chance to spend it, so you think you have less money that you really have.

Have a percentage of your income automatically transferred into a separate savings account.  Even if it’s just $10 every pay check.  I have a bank account which has a savings account attached, so with one account I can have a savings section and an everyday section.  It will be even more helpful if this savings section or account you set up, is done in a way that you are not able to access this money without a bit of effort, and when checking your bank balance you only see the money that is available to you, not the saved money.

I also, when I have spare cash built up or receive some kind of extra money, I hide this somewhere safe in my home and then I literally forget that I have hidden it.  This is handy when it comes to impulse buys . . . If I do remember I have money in the house I still need to find it, so by the time I find the money I usually come to my senses and decide it’s not worth spending and I can make do without.

If you don’t see the money or don’t have the money readily available, you are forced to live without.    

Don’t ever throw something out without pausing to think if it can be reused or recycled.

The internet is a great way to find ways to reuse everyday household products/packaging instead of buying, for example, gardening items.  You can grow seedlings out of empty egg cartons empty milk bottles can be used as mini greenhouses.  

Sandwich bags have become a very popular way to carry lunches to work and school.  A lot of people throw these plastic bags out in the bin after one use.  I have had friends totally weirded out by the fact that I reuse these bags.  I have literally had a friend say to me, “Who does that?”.  My response?  “Well, me!”.  I didn’t think it was that weird.  

Old sandwich bags can also be used to store and keep sorted cables and rechargers, etc.  This makes it so much easier to sort through that box of cords and stops them from getting tangled up.  I’m sure if you continue researching you will find many ways to reuse those nifty bags.  I also use them as ice packs – fill it half way with water and seal it very well.  They are also great instead of wasting money on disposable wipes.  Just wet a face wash/cloth or similar, wring it out and place in a zip bag.  When needed, it’s ready to go.  You’ll be cleaning up your baby as well as the planet.

There are many sites on the internet that will show you ways to reuse and recycle everyday items.  Think about the items you normally fill your bins with and have a quick search online for ways to reuse them.  

internet research.jpg

Don’t ever spend money on things that cardboard boxes could do just as good a job. 

I don’t know about you, but I have trouble spending money on something that I’m going to throw rubbish into.  So, instead of buying rubbish bins, I waltz into a liquor store and ask for a couple of empty boxes.  These boxes are a perfect size for under the sink bins as grocery store plastic bags fit nicely as a liner.  Have one for recycled items and another for rubbish.  When they get dirty, no need for washing.  Just place them in the council recycle bin.  This has become so handy in our house that we now have one in every room.  They come in many different widths so it is easy to find one that fits in almost any area of your home.

I always keep a look out for sturdy, good quality boxes that I can use to store kids toys, sports equipment and to keep on hand for the next house move.  No last-minute scurrying around for boxes and forced purchases of moving boxes.

We also use these boxes to build a fort and play other games.  Simple, free and fun.  Kids will keep themselves entertained for hours with a room full of boxes.  We have built walls and skated through them, had fort wars, tested our skills at making towers . . . lots of things to do with boxes!

When I acquire a delivery parcel at home or at work, whether big or small, I keep the box.  Flatten them out so they are easy to store, and reuse them for storage or gift giving.  I also enjoy making my own wrapping and cards.  That way I can spend more money on the actual gift.

classy christmas parcel post.jpgBoxes are also a gift from heaven if you have small pets like hamsters, rats and mice. They love to snuggle in tight spaces where they can hide themselves and their treats.   No need to buy hammocks or hide-away huts anymore!

Hide the good stuff from your kids! 

Hear me out before you conclude that I’m a mean mummy!   If you don’t or can’t make your own school snack foods or treats, you will know how expensive it is to continue to buy these products every week, or in some cases, more regularly than that.  When I used to make the mistake of doing a bulk shop on Fridays and not hiding the good stuff, half of it would disappear before I get to pack my first lunch box on the Monday.  The money I spent intending to go towards my precious punks lunch boxes has all been eaten during the weekend!  Okay I am exaggerating a bit, but it still requires an extra trip to the shops on Monday to ensure we have enough lunch box foods to last the week.  

The added bonus, is that the kids are then forced to put some effort into what they are going to eat and they can’t take the lazy/unhealthy way out and in the process, make better nutritional choices.  Take away the temptation and you take away the problem.  Just don’t tell your kids you are hiding the snacks and treats, otherwise they will hunt high and low for them!

Start growing your own medicine and beauty products

Aloe Vera.jpgI would have wasted so much money by now if it wasn’t for my humble little balcony garden.  Not only is growing a garden a great way to save money on food but it’s also great for medicinal use.  My Aloe Vera plant is my best friend.  They are resilient and versatile.  My little garden is lucky enough to be able to catch the rain when it falls.  When it hasn’t rained in a while, the only water I use on my plants is the water that is left in water bottles.  My kids normally come home with some water in their bottles or they leave half drank water bottles lying around the house for me to find.  Before I clean out their bottles I pour the remaining water on my plants.  This seems to be enough to keep them thriving, without wasting more water.  

Aloe Vera is good for lots of uses and you will find many good ideas for its use online.  I use it to relieve and heal burns, sunburn, bruises and rashes.  I also use it when I run out of face wash and use it instead of eye creams – if it’s good enough for Cleopatra then it’s good enough for me.  Aloe Vera is also touted as being beneficial for diabetics and asthmatics.  Search online and you will be surprised at the versatility of this awesome gift from Mother Nature.

Stop buying paper towels and tissues. 

I must admit, my weakness when it comes to sustainable living is kitchen paper towels and tissues.  I could easily go through a roll of kitchen paper in a couple of days.  Now I realise the error in my ways, and I have cut my addiction to kitchen paper significantly.  I can go months without using paper towels now.

I (discretely) keep a roll of toilet paper in the kitchen and use it for most of the things I would have used paper towels for.  If I need to clean up a spill or dry pots or containers, out comes the toilet paper.  If I need to clean my monitor I will use toilet paper.  I can only think of one way I can’t use the toilet paper in the same way I used paper towels, and that’s when cooking chips and other fried items.  However, instead of bringing out the paper towels I now use a clean, dry tea towel, which is washable.

I also use toilet paper instead of tissues now, unless there is a full-blown flu in the house, then we splurge on tissues.  But instead of buying the super soft aloe vera enriched tissues, I enrich my own tissues with my home made aloe vera lotion.  I also dab my nose with aloe vera to keep it from irritating and drying out.

Take advantage of programs made for people like you!

Are you living in a low income bracket?  There may be programs that are easily and readily available for you to use.  Visit your local library, ring your local council, go to your local unemployment office, visit your local community centre, search the internet for programs you can take part of.

Food banks are popping up everywhere.  Find one near you and this can easily save you hundreds of dollars a year on its own.  In Australia, we have The Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, Mission Australia and Uniting Care who will give you anything from food to gift vouchers if you meet their criteria.

If you are unemployed and looking for work, there are charities that will help dress you with the appropriate clothes for the job you are interviewing for.  Most women leave with 3 or 4 different outfits to get you through your first week of work.

lady on phoneI will be placing links to the above organisations on my website soon.  I hope this little list of ways to live beneath your means has helped you in some way, and I will be posting more uber frugal tips soon, as well as a list of organisations that can help you keep on financial track.

Thanks for reading!

Peace, love and happiness xo

 

PARTY SAFETY CHECKLIST

Everyone loves a party, but a party can quickly turn sour.  And when things start to go bad things can quickly escalate and before you know it, you’re on the 6 p.m. news.  Avoid becoming famous for the wrong reasons, with these suggestions to safeguard your party.

With the popularity of social media, especially among teens, it’s so easy to send your party invitations out to everyone in one groovy swoop.  But it’s also very easy for party invitations to be sent on or shared with gate-crashers in one groovy swoop, too.  So, I have compiled a checklist to avoid this and other unsafe situations creeping up on you:

Pre-party planning

engagement-party-invite

  • Before sending out party invitations have a think about the venue.  Are you planning on having it at home?  How many people are you inviting?  Would a hall or function room be more suitable and/or easier to monitor?
  • Post or hand out your invitations instead of using SMS’s or going online.  Place a small note on each invite discouraging people from bringing extra friends.  If you must send invitations via SMS or the internet, take extra precautions and ask your guests not to give out information about the party.  Expressly state the start and end time.
  • If you find that even after your best efforts word has spread, consider changing the venue of the party and only notify those on the list of the new location.  Or better still, hire security to keep guard at the door.  Security firms cater for private parties and having paid, professional security is becoming the norm now.  They will have a list of the party invitees and ensure only they can come in and party on.
  • Have other adults present and make sure that the supervision is visible, as this will add as a deterrent to gate-crashers and trouble makers.  Book them in eight weeks before the party date.
  • Notify police that you’re having a party by completing the Safe Party Notification Form (in Australia, however see if your state has something similar).  Lodge this form with the police station closest to the party venue at least 7 days prior to the party being held.  This avoids problems with surrounding neighbours and the cops say it provides opportunity for them to respond quicker.
  • Give your neighbours notice about the party and give them your phone number, too.  Ask them to notify you if anyone is congregating near their home or if it gets too rowdy.

Party Day

preparing-party

  • Have only one entrance to the party to monitor who is coming and going.  You can do this by ensuring the entrance is covered by CCTV, hire a security guard to stand by the entrance or even have trusted adults taking turns to monitor in pairs.
  • Place pets in a secure, comfortable area away from the party.
  • Have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks for guests to have as an alternative as well as substantial food options during the party to help dilute and absorb blood alcohol levels
  • Have a fully stocked first aid kit on hand and enough cold water to drink and dilute the alcohol in their system.
  • Have phone numbers for taxi services and clear directions to the nearest hospital in case that is required.
  • Have a chill out zone where your guests can sit down, relax, drink some water or juice and eat some food, like pizza!  Add anything else that will take the emphasis away from alcohol.
  • Allocate a lockable room or cabinet for valuables and close off rooms you do not want guests to use.  When they are ready to leave, collect their things for them.

During the party

party-girls

  • Have a responsible adult to serve alcohol so that the intoxication and behaviour of your guests can be monitored.
  • Confiscate any BYO alcohol from any under-aged guests and if you find any consuming alcohol or illicit drugs, contact their parents and have them collected from the party immediately.  Have a responsible adult watch that kid like a hawk until their carer arrives.
  • Make accommodations for the smokers, so they don’t end up congregating out the front yard or spilling out onto public areas.  This also ensures better crowd monitoring.
  • Should you decide to allow guests to bring their own alcohol, avoid providing them in open containers that can be ‘spiked’ or used to disguise the volume of alcohol being consumed.

At the end of the party

empty-bottles

  • Factor in some wind-down time leading up to the end of the party.  Turn down the music, switch on the lights and bring out the coffee and sweets.  Enjoy this wind down time with your guests before they leave.
  • Make it clear when the party is over by starting to clean up the trash and throwing away any left-over alcohol.
  • Contact the police immediately should trouble occur, e.g., a guest becomes aggressive or refuses to leave.
  • Consider hiring a bus to take guests home. Give them notice of this plan so they have the option of leaving their car home.
  • Turn your chill out room (or a spare room) into a camp out so guests can crash if need be.  Place some sleeping bags on the floor, mattresses or whatever will make the room comfortable and throw some pillows and cushions into the mix.
  • Have plenty of bottled water nearby so people can access easily and keep hydrated (the best way to wake up hangover free).

I would love more ideas on how to keep parties safe, so I very much welcome your feedback and comments on any points you think need to be included here.

What was the worst thing that happened at your party?

I remember back in my pizza party catering days seeing a young woman, unconscious, being carried by two boys and a girl to the hospital around the corner from the home.  The lovely young lady drank more alcohol than her little starved body could handle.  She was okay in the end.  Mostly embarrassed.

What’s your story?

How we got hooked on rats.

I never thought in a gazillion years, that I would ever be one of those people with a pet rat.  When I was young and stupid, and working in a video shop in a hip part of town, a few of my customers would come in with pet rats sitting upon their shoulder, just chillin’ and looking around.  I used to look at these people and think ‘freaks!’.  Now I am one of those freaks.  I was never afraid of rats, and I never saw them as ugly.  They were cute.  But my idea of a pet was a dog.  A big dog.  No little yap-yaps even.  Funny how things change.

I never thought in a gazillion years, that I would ever be one of those people with a pet rat.  When I was young and stupid, and working in a video shop in a hip part of town, a few of my customers would come in with pet rats sitting upon their shoulder, just chillin’ and looking around.  I used to look at these people and think ‘freaks!’.  Now I am one of those freaks.  I was never afraid of rats, and I never saw them as ugly.  They were cute.  But my idea of a pet was a dog.  A big dog.  No little yap-yaps even.  Funny how things change.

I have since had a little yap-yap dog that was adorable and I loved how he could sit comfortably on my lap.   However, the sight of a big dog trying to sit on someone’s lap is always a laugh-worthy moment.  Those big dogs, with their big bums taking up a complete lap and the look on their faces when they know it’s just not going work out and no one will be comfortable in this scenario.  Never that scenario with a small dog.  Twenty years and two kids later, and we were walking out of a pet shop with rats.

That happened by accident or fate, not sure which.  After my kids and I went through some massive traumatic events, moved on in life and got back on our feet, I felt that a pet may be the way to help them emotionally and mentally heal.  So, we went to the pet store to look around for a pet hamster or rabbit. something small, easy to maintain and doesn’t cost a small fortune to feed and house.

So, we walk into the local pet shop and look around for a small animal.  The sales clerk was raving about rats as pets.  She owned seven rats, the owner of the pet store also owned a bunch of rats and they attend rat conventions and events.  I had never heard of such a thing!  She talked about how trainable rats are, how gentle they are and how they will just sit on your lap and fall asleep, just like a dog!  She told me about some of the not-so-great features of a pet rat, too, so I could make an educated decision.

As she talked and led us to the rat cage and opened the cage door, and as my kids were gently interacting with the more braver rats that came out of the cage to greet us, she continued to talk about rats and their needs and benefits of having them as a pet.  I still wasn’t totally convinced but my kids were enjoying interacting with them.  They both, for the first time in their life, agreed on the same thing!

Princess-pexels

They both agreed to having a pet rat as their new pet.  The sales clerk mentioned that rats are animals that require a rat friend, so I allowed my kids to pick one rat each.  That was one more than I was expecting to take home, but it made sense.

As my kids were interacting and chose their pet rat, one of the rats in the cage decided to come out and see what was going on.  She crawled up my arm.  She was a beautiful cinnamon hooded rat.  She sniffed me, looked up at me with those eyes, and then I heard these words come out of my mouth, “I want one, too!”

So, we walked out of that pet store with three rats instead of one.  I don’t know what it is about rats.  Is it their soft fur, their cute little mannerisms, their spirit, their cute little face?  I don’t know what it is, but they are adorable and irresistible creatures, once you get to know one.  They have since become addictive.  They are such ‘busy’ creatures.  And there is something very satisfying when you know you have completely earned a rat’s trust.

Our pet rats have given us so much joy and so much laughter and love.   I’m sure there is some sort of chemical reaction that is triggered within me when I interact with my precious punks.  The delight and warmth they exude, the laughter they bring and their cleverness is fascinating.  It relaxes me when we play together, and when I find I am a little down in the dumpsters, I just walk up to my rats, have a play and I walk away smiling and feeling better.

Rats have been amazing therapy as well as fun company to have around.  Rats came to us at a time in our life in which we had radical changes going on.  We had just overcome some very full on challenges and obstacles in our lives.  Our life is radically different to what it used to be, for the better, and our new found pet, our new addition to our family, helped us heal and laugh together.  Laughter is great medicine.

So, that’s why I have called my blog, The Ratical Life.  Our life is enriched by these little fellas and they fit in perfect with our new lifestyle.  They don’t need a lot of room, so they are the perfect pet for any sized home.  They need time our of their cage to roam and stay stimulated.  This can be done safely and we will explore this a new blog soon.

A a rat fan, there is only one thing I wish were different with them.  I wish they lived longer.

Have you ever owned a pet rat?  What was your first experience with a pet rat that made you decide you wanted one (or two)?

First blog post

First blogs. So exciting. So positive. So bringing on writer’s block! But with such an important topic, writer’s block or not, these words need to get out, one way or another.

Well, what better way to start my first blog, and rise above my writer’s block than by keeping the default Title on my WordPress free post page.  I have to apologise and explain.  You see, my writers block is coming from different directions.

One, I am an introvert, somewhat fearful of digital technology.  I’m soooo  out of my comfort zone writing on the internet, but I am taking the advice of all those life coaches and motivational speakers who advise doing just that.  So, here I am . . .

Secondly, there is so much I want to say and so many mothers I want to help in any way I can, that my fingers want to go in different directions on my keyboard to give everything I’ve got right here, right now.  There is so much I know now, that I wished I knew before I did the bolt from my (self proclaimed) psychopathic husband.  I wish I knew what I know now, when I was having the very first twinkling of needing to split, before I thought open communication in a marriage would conquer all.  It can be the complete opposite.  Open communication can kill you or come very close.

There is so much help out there if you know where to find it, and it can save your life and/or your children’s life.

Thirdly, I want to share my personal story to help other women see what direction they are heading in, to warn mothers to safeguard themselves for their sake and children’s sake, to help women see past their ‘now’ and have the knowledge and confidence to become self sufficient,   collecting a strong support network to help them through any new directions in their life, how to be a better self, mother, provider, adviser.  But to do that I will have to consciously face my nightmares of the past, and the slow but sure progression to being me again.

Continue reading “First blog post”