Sunday, 23 April 2017

Debt Reduction Myth-Busters

Paying down debt seems to be the focus of so many twee and cheery posts and pins on the interwebs.

The facts are that there is no easy way to pay down debt, no trick, no magic formula, no secret, no book, no hidden knowledge that will help the basics of paying down debt.  It just needs to be done.  True, there are revelations about how much the debt is actually costing us and how to minimize the impacts of interest and also various tips on how to stay motivated and focused.....but absolutely no magic wand.

Line-dried whites.

The cold hard facts are that the entire principal, remaining interest and any contractual fees absolutely have to be paid.  If such-n-such 'real' couple on Pinterest claim to have paid down their debt of $300,000.00 in only two years, then they are absolutely paying down $5769.24 a fortnight - period. The math does not lie....but the stupid hype makes it all sound like debts just evaporate with the greatest of ease just by thinking about it. It doesn't.

Paying off debt takes courage, determination, plenty of sad days and many sacrifices.

If you know someone who has paid off all their consumer debt without assistance, then know of a surety that these folk have characters that run deep.

Saving pennies helps me be prudent with larger sums.

I have had a change in heart about the best method to pay off debt. Once-upon-a-time I used to be a big believer in the power of the debt snowball method (starting with the smallest debt first) which appeals to the emotional side of the brain. I used to argue strongly that because we often get into debt for emotional reasons then the best way to tackle it is to harness the opposite emotions via the debt snowball method. I no longer believe that. I have personally been very successful using the debt snowball method, however I wasted a lot of money choosing this method when I could have used the debt avalanche method (fully focusing on paying the debt that costed me the most each month first). The math speaks the truth of the matter.

Being frugal does NOT mean
living poorly.

I base this change of approach purely on the fact that once we start tackling our consumer debt, it quickly goes from being exciting to utter drudgery (albeit drudgery with a purpose) fact so quickly that the emotional benefits of the snowball method are speedily lost.  That being the case, the quickest way to attack consumer debt is to target the debt with the largest monthly interest/fees first to ensure that the hard slog of debt reduction does not drag on a day longer than necessary. Who wants to still be paying off debt months longer than necessary just because of a spurious long-forgotten notion regarding how we felt about it in the beginning?!

Hot homemade pasties with
delicious flaky pastry

If any of you dear folk are currently using the snowball method, I encourage you to swap across to the avalanche method. You are putting in the hard yards you may as well finish the race sooner using the exact same dollar commitment.

Changing one's mind for a more powerful outcome is always so satisfying.

Kombucha SCOBY anyone?
Plenty to spare!

Take care folks and stay nice.


A Handful Of Tricks

A winter delight - violets.

Hi folks

Here are some little tips and tricks we use here to help stretch the dollar:

  •   Put an extra container out when serving dinner - freeze this serve.  At the end of the week you'll have seven individual dinners in the freezer, or alternatively,  used them to take to lunch the next day.
  •   Sweep instead of vacuum and only vacuum weekly.  This saves on electricity, vacuum bags and noise.

Chook pellets - adding scraps will reduce this cost even more.

  •   Feeding hens is still cheaper than buying organic eggs (I checked the math last night).
  •   Line the bottom of the oven with aluminium foil - saves a heck of a lot of cleaning product.
  •   Stretch your laundry detergent, hair conditioner and hair shampoo with water - mostly an undetectable difference if you get the ratios right.

Frying up vegetables that are a little past their prime
makes the best hot pot.

  •   Know that anything with a heating element in it is an electricity sucker i.e: Clothes dryers, fan heaters, electric blankets, electric ovens, most electric stove tops, electric kettle, urns, hot-wash on your washing machine, dishwashers, hair dryers to name a few. Obviously we use many of these at our place, but it is a case of how much and when. 
  •   Know your electricity plan - we have different charge rates for 4 different time periods in the day and week. 

......even a little stockpile cupboard is worth aiming for.

  •   Be mindful of your driving techniques - practice surge-and-roll to improve your mileage.
  •   Practice ONLY shopping specials - admittedly this takes some serious levels of organisation.
  •   Cut our sugar (seriously!). Your food bill will certainly drop, your weight will certainly drop, your health will improve and you'll feel much better after the first two weeks of hellish detox symptoms.
  •   Change your mobile phone plan.  I recently defected to OVO and now only spend $9.95 per month for unlimited texts, $200 worth of calls and a 1GB of data - it truly is all I need.

Fans.....our favourite appliance.

  •   Use a fan before you reach for the air conditioner. Also experiment with which setting on your fan actually moves the most isn't always 'high' strangely.
  •   Small frugal changes year on year are more effective than big scary changes.....lean into it.

Saving money is not an aim in itself. Saving money is so we can have it for things that are truly important and meaningful to us. 

We can have anything we want if we stop expecting to have everything.

Take care ....and stay nice folks.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Weight Loss Trick

Some bunting in one of the HM daughter's rooms that took my eye.

Hi folks

I recently have taken some of Mrs HM's advice in regards to weight loss and I am delighted with the result.

Along with cutting out sugar and breads, this extra little trick has really genuinely helped us both with our cravings. Our cravings are mainly what we call being "head hungry". Being head hungry is our way of identifying that, whilst we are not actually physically hungry, we are urgently wanting to eat based on the thoughts that are seizing our minds and triggering a craving to eat.

My new snack food

Mind Eating

Mrs HM has this trick which she refers to as mind eating. Mind eating is simply going through the motions of eating something completely from beginning to end.....but only in your mind. Take cream buns for example - let's do a mind eating session together right now. Read the following instructions and just do them in your mind.

Reach out and take the plump cream bun. Lick the bit of cream and jam oozing out of the side. Run it around your tongue slowly and swallow. Slowly push the bun part way into your mouth and feel the soft sweet dough against your teeth and tongue. Bite down and feel the cream and jam oozing into your mouth and the sugary glaze sticking to your lips. Chew slowly and feel the texture of the bun, cream and jam moving in your mouth. Notice the difference in taste between the glazed top of the bun and the inner soft dough. Swallow. Take another bite and press that cream up onto the roof of your mouth and roll the dough and jam around in your mouth as you chew. Feel the sensation of it filling your gullet and stomach as you chew and swallow. Put the last piece in your mouth  and gobble this piece quickly swallowing hard. Lick your fingers taking care to ensure there is no glaze, cream or jam left on them. Reach out and take another cream bun.

Keep repeating this in your mind until you have genuinely had enough of thinking about cream buns. Your mind has consumed about 1800 calories if you mind-ate three cream buns, but you actually didn't. If you do the exercise mindfully, you will actually taste and feel all the nuances of eating a cream bun and you will eventually get bored and stop willingly when your mind is satiated. The craving actually abates and stops. When the next desire to eat a cream bun arises, just do it all over again.

You can do this for any of your crave/trigger foods - just eat it slowly and decadently in your mind from beginning to end.  As much as you like.

The canister on the left has been sorely neglected of late.

You have no idea just how many cream buns, peanut butter sandwiches, triple layer caramel cakes, scones, lollies, chocolates, cheese cakes and eclairs I have mind-eaten over the last few weeks.....and lost weight.

Give it a shot - if it works for you, then that's a win. Just think of the savings too!

Take care folks and stay nice.

Mr HM (Phil)

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

And We're Back.....

Spiralised zucchini with fresh pasta sauce

Well folks...we're back. It is so nice to be back too.

There were oodles of comments waiting to be published on my last mid-holiday post all of which were thoughtful, encouraging and intelligent. Some were out-and-out enthusiastic and some had warnings and concerns - I appreciate every single one of them as they all give Mrs HM and I so much to think about. What a fabulous community!

Cauliflower fried rice - a revelation and
a perfect rice replacement

So, I said I would be back in a couple of weeks but it inevitably took longer to return. After all, I did post about our future plans in the middle of my sabbatical for you all to read - so I feel OK about the longer absence. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it - ha!)

Baked veggies - yummo

So I am back working locally and it is truly amazing sleeping in till 6:00 am everyday. The extra sleep has assisted me to lose some more weight (lower cortisol levels with more sleep apparently) and I am feeling much, much brighter and alert. In fact I just feel much better about life in general.

Romertopf lamb shoulders - oh the decadence.
This literally fell off the bones

I spent my two weeks off doing much less than I planned to do - probably a good thing really. One thing that we have really got a handle on is better eating and diet across the whole family. This change mainly consists of actively eschewing sugar and bread....our two-drugs-of-choice previously. The five HM daughters have been enthusiastic in various ways about the changes and the shopping bill has also benefited big time as we actively now purchase very little in the way of processed foods. We expected a big hike-up in food costs by buying so much fresh produce, but the opposite has been true. Delightful really.

Lightly floured deep-fried chicken

I have been chatting to an old friend who is marketing some essential oils and I am keen to test-drive them in my next batch of soap to see if they hold their scent. I have had significant hit and miss with essential oils losing their top notes during the soap curing process in the past, so am keen to see if this line of essential oils stands up to the rigours of soap making....will keep you all posted if successful.

An evening with the oil lamps and wine,
good food and friends

Two of my ISA brown hens have just stopped laying - nothing - zip - zilch.  The rest of the flock are powering on unabated. Perhaps these two need a grease and oil change....or a sharp axe.  I'll do another full hen house clean out and dust on the weekend and see if this does anything. Poor old Blacky's dementia is getting worse and she does a lot of aimless wandering and worried clucking. I am keeping an eye on her to ensure she is at least eating well.

Sunset over the chimney tops of Newcastle

Anyway...there are quite a few posts on the boil including another episode about what Kate did. So these will materialise soon for your enjoyment. In fact I am brimming with stuff to post about - I'll have to pace myself!  Gosh.

A perfect pasta replacement - spiralised zucchini.

Ah - it is good to be back.

Take care and stay nice folks.


Sunday, 2 April 2017

Our Plans For The Future

Crisp raw beans in home-made humomus 

Mrs HM and I have made a decision about how we wish to live the last trimester of our lives. It simply is this:

  1. Buy a caravan and suitable tow-vehicle for cash and travel for at least 6-9 months of the year around our beautiful country. Maximum spend A$100,000.00
  2. Buy a small property in rural NSW or QLD to be our base and for the five HM daughters to use/come-back-to as needed. Maximum spend A$100,000.00

This will mean a secondhand caravan and tow-vehicle and a humble country property.....both of which are totally fine by us.  The amount of near-new caravans that come up for sale is just astounding and the amount of affordable rural properties that become available is also very achievable - I've been watching both for nearly 4 years now and know that these goals are doable.

Frying up succulent chicken

If Mrs HM had her way it would be just the caravan and the tow vehicle and full time nomadic lifestyle.....I see the need for a basic base-property in the event of either one of us getting seriously unwell or any of our five daughters needing a place to call home for the short or long term.  Also if the economy goes bad or political unrest hits then at least we have a place to call our own and be self sustaining.

So how long away is all of this?  Well - it depends how quickly the following list of events gets ticked off:

  1. Cash saved for caravan and tow vehicle
  2. All five daughters finish their university (college) degrees and gain employment
  3. Cash saved for a rural small holding
  4. Skills and qualifications gained to support earning potential whilst traveling (very important)
  5. Divesting of all our unneeded worldly goods
Number 4 above has been the topic of interesting conversations lately with us both coming to an initial agreement that we would both complete a Cert IV or diploma in Nursing to give us national accreditation as AIN's.  This would allow us to pick up shifts through Nursing agencies as we travelled.  We have two daughters who are finishing Nursing degrees as we speak who can assist us with our studies too if needs be.  This may be a little bit of a rose-coloured plan, but the facts are unless we have a usable,transferable and portable skill whilst we travel then the plans will not eventuate - simple as that. (Nurses - your thoughts on this plan would be appreciated too please). Both of us would go 'nuts' not working at all and this profession would allow us to also contribute directly back to the communities that we spend longer periods of time at as we travel.

BIG kitchen cupboard declutter today........

.....Mrs HM's on a roll!!
I guarantee this will be sparkling by tea time.

So how long?....well our guess is probably five and a half years to be realistic. We will be both 56 by then.

Are we dreaming, or do you think this is achievable?

Take care folks and stay nice.


Monday, 27 March 2017

I'll Be Back.....


I have a couple of weeks off work to decompress before starting my local role.

I hope you don't mind, but I am going to take a blogging-break too if that's OK.

I'll be safely relishing being 'home' with my gate shut behind me.  I'll be decompressing, detoxing, de-stressing, delighting in not thinking about anything but the happiness of each given moment and living simply for the next fortnight.

I'll be back as strong as ever with plenty of frugal tales, fun, fanciful and fervent 'Philisms' in a couple of weeks.

See ya's all when I get back folks.

Oh yeah - take care and stay nice now!

Mr HM (Phil)

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Simple Frugal Weight Loss Update

Fried cauliflower rice - what a delicious revelation. Who knew?!

It has been quite a while since I updated on this matter, but never fear the weight is coming off slowly but surely. Posting every week was sort of boring me, so I stopped. I did not want this blog to become a weight-loss blog.

Baked vegetables with a sprinkling
of beef mince for flavour

I had some initial fast losses, which is pretty normal and then slowed right down.  I have over the last few weeks focused on some other strategies that still honour being frugal yet not succumbing to the often-too-starchy food types available when being frugal (AKA bread! Delicious home made bread that I cannot control myself eating - sigh).

Delicious chicken broth seasoned with white pepper and veggie salt.

Knocking off all bread, eating no sugar and eating the protein portion of my meals first has made a huge difference to how I am actually feeling (weight loss aside).

Soft boiled eggs for breakfast
with a freshly brewed long black.

So I weighed in this morning to see how things were going, just to check that we are still slowly incrementally loosing - here tiz.

Start weight: 120.8 kg
Start BMI: 34
Target weight: 79 kg


Weighing in at 115.5 kg
Lost since last weigh-in: 1.6 kg
Total weight lost: 5.3 kg
Current BMI: 33 (still obese!)

My plan has never been to loose this weight quickly (as nice as that would be) as I do not have the discipline for that. As long as every time I weigh myself it is less than last time - even if that is 100 grams.  Over a period of 5 years incremental, sustainable loss .... the goal will be achieved.  It is a bit like saving money or paying off debt - I just need to be patient and not wish my life away. 

So I'll check in again some time or other folks, and keep you updated.

So take care and stay nice folks.

Mr HM  (Phil)

P.S.  Check this blogger's post out about frugal weight loss HERE

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Cult

A vegetable bake - a great way to use a glut of zucchinis and eggplants.

Hi folks

Consumerism spreads us so thin, keeping us so committed to its ideals and grooming our loyalty in return for whatever it pre-determines us our heart's desire should be. Sounds pretty much like a cult to me.

A couple of my favourite hats

Here are some hallmarks of a cult - sounds like an exact match against our consumerist society to me:

  •   Zealous commitment to a leader - (what product is trending lately and leading the market?)
  •   Questioning is discouraged even punished - (Try  fitting in as a fugalista! - Shunning alert!)
  •   Mind altering repetitive practices - (Serotonin addiction to shopping)
  •   Dictates how members should think, act, and feel - (1000's of advertising images do the trick)
  •   Members are elitist  - (driving the latest tin god on wheels yet? Is that three year old kitchen updated yet?)
  •   Reduced societal accountability - (who's approving all these loans and credit cards anyway?)
  •   Shame, fear or guilt inflicted on non-conformers - (Your life will be meaningless without widget XYZ)
  •   Most loyalest members cannot imagine or function outside of the cult - (I would rather die than be seen wearing/driving that....cannot live without my eat what?)
  •   Expectation to devote inordinate amounts of time to group activities - (checked out a Westfield car park lately? Could you even find a park?)
  •   Total financial commitment expected and encouraged  - (oh yeah, no explanation needed)
  •   Laws preventing members from acts of normalcy - (your backyard vegetable garden is illegal in this zip code Mr Jones)
  •   The altering of facts and withholding of information (product labels.....contract small type.....this will make you look 10 years younger/100 pounds lighter)

Doughnut dough made from scratch

Deep-frying the doughnuts.
When cooler, glaze with  a lemon sugar wash and inject with
jam and creme patissiere.

Consumerism makes the proverbial  Moonies pale into insignificance when it comes to cultish hallmarks and behaviours.  No doubt about it, consumerism is a dangerous and addictive cult which has the best part of the western world thoroughly duped by its ideologies and totally emotionally invested in its promises.  Admittedly, it is plain hard work battling and dodging the western world's biggest and most powerful cult, especially when a certain degree of involvement is required for most of us - tricky.

We need to just walk away from this cult folks and keep hold of those hard-earned coins that we have swapped for irretrievable hours of our precious lives.

Our salt lamp helping to purify
our air inside - chemical free.

Take care folks and step away from the Kool-Aid.


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

What Kate Did - Episode 1

Clothes from an era past.
My connection to my grandparents.

Hi folks,

Well, here it is - episode 1 of  'What Kate Did'. It is all your own all asked for it here!

We introduce my grandmother Kate in 1905 just before her 16th birthday living in Gulgong NSW with her parents.

Episode 1

Kate stared wide-eye at her mother as a feeling of deep apprehension radiated out from her stomach. “Y’not to tell a soul. Y’hear me now Katie-girl?” her mother whispered urgently. Kate nodded, her eyes not leaving her mother’s lined face as the realisations and implications of what she had just been told organised itself in her head.  Kate hopped up off the old bed and went outside to process the information – Grandpa was a convict! A criminal in the eyes of the law! Kate knew that if anybody found out, then the family would be instantly marginalised and not treated with same equality that they had been to this point. Gulgong NSW (where Kate and her parents, sisters and brother lived), although a fast growing community since the gold rush, was still a small town and scandal like this travelled fast.  Kate now knew within herself that at some point she needed to move away, move away to create an existence of her own, where her secret could never be discovered…..somewhere that she could forge a new life that utterly transcended this shocking information.

Said Grandpa (Kate’s mother’s father, John Chandler) was such a character with his tattooed arms and his seemingly endless stories and songs about the sea. It always seemed strange to Kate that Grandpa had lived all his life in Singleton as a farmer and woodsman, yet his stories were of the sea – now it all made sense.  Kate recoiled at the unfairness of it all. Imagine a young sailor, 24 years old, a young father, being transported for ‘stealing’ a horse blanket and having to leave three small children and a young wife to fend for themselves in London town….never to see or hear from them again.  As Kate pondered this reality, the next realisation crashed down on her. Grandma and Grandpa could not have been ever legally married if Grandpa still had a wife alive in London town all those years ago. No wonder her mother was so insistent that this secret be never told. Her mother and her Uncles and Aunties were then obviously all bastard children and Grandpa was a polygamist in the eyes of the law…..the same law that had imprisoned and transported him on a stinking fetid ship ten thousand miles across the seas to Australia. It was this same law that would again condemn Grandpa, his children and their children (indeed Kate herself) as the irretrievable scum of society….if it ever found out.  Kate reeled as she tried to catch her breath through her tight corsetry and she quickly reached out clinging to the fence post to steady herself as everything she thought she knew about her family exploded into smithereens in her mind like a fire cracker.

The more Kate thought about these newly-acquired facts the more vulnerable and angry she felt. Kate now was more determined than ever that this situation would never shackle and shape her life the way it obviously had her Grandma’s and her mother’s.  It explained her mother’s constant guardedness and her arms-length treatment of her parents.  It probably explained why her mother had married a well-educated Danish man, many years her senior, despite Grandpa’s and Grandma’s deep disapproval – it was probably her mother’s subconscious attempt to escape this dreadful social reality and gain some security, respectability and connection back to the civilised world of Europe and England. Kate was thankful her last name was Peters and not Chandler…….a small mercy though.

Kate’s mind quickly became engrossed in the myriad of realisations that naturally manifested themselves in her family due to this terrible secret – the arguments, the whispered jibes, the way Grandma always over-emphasised the word MRS when she introduced herself, the families aversion to convicts or children of convicts of any description, the embarrassingly false airs and graces indulged in by her mother and grandmother, the aversion to meeting new people in town until they knew all about them..….. a million things now made sense.

Kate wandered over to the shade of the big Ironbark in the front yard and sat down to fully and rationally process what she had been told by her mother today and to get the story straight in her head. She needed to totally reorganise every single memory and thought in her head to match these new facts. Grandpa the criminal, Grandpa the deported convict, Grandpa the polygamist, Grandpa the sailor assigned his time as a field worker to a farmer in Singleton NSW, Grandpa who after seven years of hard labour receiving his ticket of leave (pardon) but still considered a convict. Criminals were known to be a different breed to normal people – tainted blood, dull minds, children of the devil, scum, unhuman. Even though the secret of this social disgrace was now two generations old, Kate still knew its power to lay low the life of her whole family and scuttle her own future if it were ever to be let out. All it would take was for the real Mrs Chandler (or someone who knew her) to appear on the scene or to write to the authorities making enquiries. Worse still, if one of Grandpa’s London town children hoping to find their father in Australia appeared on the scene. In the event of any of these possible scenarios the whole sordid affair would explode like a screaming banshee all over New South Wales. It would be in the papers and on that telegraphic invention thingy Kate had heard about recently. With so many people from England and Europe now willingly sailing out to Australia in the gold rushes, the threat of exposure and subsequent disgrace was a rising daily possibility. It was 1905 and the modern era, but Kate knew the toxic attitude of respectable folk when it came to convicts, let alone polygamous convicts!  Whilst Kate just wanted to shut it out of her mind, she knew she could not – she MUST actively reinvent herself. Kate fervently wished she could reinvent herself then and there without delay.

Maybe Kate should have been more careful of what she wished for as she sat under that gumtree……….    (to be continued)                                                                                                                                                                     


Hopefully this story thus far is up to your expectations folks.

Mr HM                                                                                                               

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Delicious Simple Chicken Broth

How can something so benign-looking taste so good?
We sprinkle a little white pepper and vegetable salt on top just before we serve it.

Mrs HM and I have rediscovered the 'yum'ness of chicken broth. Not only is it delicious but it is also nourishing and frugal.

Left over chicken carcasses after feeding the hoards.
Don't throw them out!

Making the broth is as simple as popping two roasted chicken carcasses (after carving off the meat for another meal), two chopped up sweet carrots and two chopped up red onions into a boiler, covering with water, bringing to the boil then simmering for about three hours.  You know its done when the chicken carcasses have completely disintegrated and the bones are softish. Strain into a container and freeze in desired portion sizes for future use.

Cooking away steadily

When the urge hits us to have chicken broth we simply defrost the amount we need, chop up a little capsicum, spring onion and tomato and add it to the defrosted broth then bring to the boil and serve. We sprinkle just a little white pepper and vegetable salt on top.

It does not look fancy, but oh boy, it is tasty. Nourishing, simple, tasty comfort food at its best.

The cost is only about $1 each per serve. We consider this a filling meal.

Take care folks and stay nice.

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