Recently, I wrote a blog post about how to save money while gardening. I thought that it might be a good idea to write a more general post about ways that we can save money on a day-to-day basis. In my opinion, economising is important no matter how much (or little) money we have for many reasons:
o It helps us manage our funds more effectively so they go further
o It enables us to use the money we save for other essential and non-essential items
o It might allow us to put aside some money (or extra money) as savings for the future
o Saving money or getting a bargain makes us feel good!
o It sets a good example to our children and instils a healthy attitude to money from a young age
Grow your own fruit and veggies
Those of you who are familiar with In the Circle will know how much I love gardening. I have devoted an entire media channel to the subject of gardening under the umbrella of Anita’s Garden. Having a garden can help you to save money. Fruit and veggies are expensive. By growing your own, you’ll save a fortune. You’ll also have access to the freshest, tastiest goods around at the convenience of your door step. Gardening gives you a form of free exercise and it will encourage you to be outdoors and make the most of good (or bad) weather.
Don’t forget that you can also save a bundle while gardening! To read more about economising in the garden, you can read my blog post here.
Advertising in brochures and catalogues
Many shops put out a brochure or catalogue from time to time, advertising specials. Some supermarkets release a brochure advertising weekly specials. Don’t be one of those people who has a “no junk mail” or “no circulars” sign on your mailbox. You could be missing out on valuable information which will save you money!
Reduced to clear goods at the supermarket
Some supermarkets reduce fresh foods such as bread, meat, fish and dairy products a day or two before they are due to expire. Stocking up on these items while you are doing your supermarket shopping will reduce your grocery bill dramatically. As with purchasing any edible item at the supermarket (be it fresh or processed), it’s advisable to check the freshness of the product before buying the item.
Check and save supermarket dockets as they sometimes entitle you to a discount on fuel. Consider using public transport, which also saves you on parking costs.
Weekly phone deals
Fortunately, the cost of having a mobile phone has decreased over the years because everyone has one these days. Keep an eye out for special deals on additional data and calling minutes. Vodafone run a scheme called Fantastic Fridays. Sometimes, you can even “purchase” off-peak data free!
I used to purchase contact lenses from the optometrist. Then I discovered a site called Smart Buy Glasses. I order what I need from this site and it saves me a fortune.
Take advantage of coupon websites such as Grabone, Groupon and Treat Me. These sites offer deals and discounts on dining, entertainment, services and goods. I recently bought a bunch of vouchers to Event Cinemas for just $10 each. The normal price of admission to the local cinema costs $18.50. Ouch!
The website First Table is worth checking out if you like dining out. Bookings made through the website allow diners to receive 50% off food for early dining.
Savings can also be made on the spot. Some restaurants offer lunch specials. Our favourite local Indian restaurant has a $12 lunch special, which includes a curry, rice, naan and soft drink. An absolute bargain!
The Entertainment Book
If you enjoy eating out (or going out more generally), you’ll love the Entertainment Book. This handy book is full of discount coupons for dining, entertainment, professional services and travel. The Entertainment Book comes out every year and coupons are valid for an entire year. Proceeds go to charity, so it’s for a good cause, too.
Most stores have sales from time to time. Save money on appliances, electronics, clothing, shoes and much more by shopping during sales. Sign up for emails from your favourite stores so you receive alerts and know when sales or specials are on.
Barter, negotiate, and haggle over prices
Did you know that you can haggle over prices in New Zealand, not just in Asia? I discovered this a few years ago when I needed to update my laptop and camera at JB Hi Fi a few years ago. I naively thought that in New Zealand, the price tag signalled the end price but it appears that I was wrong! It never hurts to ask if there is a “better price”. All the sales assistant can say is no.
These days it seems as though every store has a loyalty card. It sometimes feels like a hassle to join yet another loyalty programme but you may be missing out on an excellent way to save money and receive incentives. Start by getting a supermarket loyalty card and go from there.
Some universities and training institutes offer services by students at reduced rates. The local MIT offers hairdressing at a salon, dining at cafes and restaurants, barista made coffee, a bakery, a florist and a plant nursery all at heavily discounted rates. Besides, you’ll be supporting students of today, professionals of tomorrow.
Subscriptions to newspapers and magazines
Cancel your subscription to a hard copy version of the newspaper and magazines. Most newspapers and magazines allow you to read articles for free, or at least a limited number of articles such as the New York Times. Alternatively, get an electronic subscription. A subscription to the electronic version might have a reduced subscription rate, such as the New York Times. Not only will this save you money, but it’s also much better for the environment.
The cost of a gym membership can be crippling. The Exercise Association of New Zealand offer heavily subsidised gym memberships to members of the community who have not had a gym membership in the past twelve months. I used this scheme to purchase a gym membership to my local gym, which you can read about in this post. I received my gym membership for half of the normal price, making an annual membership an absolute bargain.
Shop from China
I was always a little dubious about purchasing goods direct from China on websites such as AliExpress. That is, until I started selling plants in my little nursery and needed to purchase lots of plastic plant labels. The cost of sourcing them within New Zealand was just too high and I actually found a better product from China on the AliExpress site. Shopping from China makes sense. After all, most stores in New Zealand import their goods from China. You might as well cut out the middleman and buy direct!
Consider taking your holidays off-peak when prices are lower. You might want to think about taking the family on a cruise as it’s all inclusive and generally works out cheaper than paying for accommodating and dining. You can read my blog post on cruise holidays here.
If all else fails, you can always have a staycation. There are lots of things you can do in your own city. Go sightseeing. Be a tourist in your own town or city. Visit museums, parks, beaches and galleries. Go to the community swimming pool. Ours is free. Alternatively, simply stay at home. Turn your garden into a summer sanctuary. Make your home a place you never want to leave!
This is a very light-hearted drama about a girl’s struggles with her insecurities. One day, she bumps her head at the gym and mistakenly wakes up believing that she is beautiful and thin.
Starring: Amy Schumer, Adrian Martinez, Rory Scovel, Michelle Williams, Lauren Hutton, Busy Philipps, Aidy Bryant, Naomi Campbell
Plot: The film begins by introducing the main character, Renee Bennett (Amy Schumer), a 20-something young girl who lives in New York and works in IT in a grungy basement in Chinatown, the back office of a leading cosmetics retailer, Lily Le Claire with her colleague Mason (Adrian Martinez).
Renee suffers from a low self-esteem stemming from poor body image. This isn’t helped by a sales assistant in a clothing store informing her that larger sizes are available online when Renee goes clothes shopping.
One day, she attends a fitness class at Soul Cycle and hits her head. She blacks out from concussion and wakes up, believing that she is beautiful. Renee annoys her best friends Viv (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps) by being so obsessed with her image and her belief that it has changed, as this is only the case in Renee’s mind. Everyone one else sees her as they always have.
Renee has the confidence to apply to the headquarters of Lily Le Claire for a position as receptionist. She is successful in her application and starts working on the front desk. Renee impresses Avery Le Claire (Michelle Williams) and her grandmother (Lauren Hutton) with her knowledge of how to pitch a bargain line to be sold at Target and appeal to working class women. Renee even catches the eye of playboy Grant (Tom Hopper), Avery’s sister.
Renee has the confidence to give her phone number to Ethan (Rory Scovel), a man who is waiting in line behind her at the dry cleaners, and they start dating. On their first date, she enters into a bikini contest. While she does not win, she puts on an incredible performance and a man at the bar tells Ethan how lucky he is to be with her as she is such a lot of fun to be around. Ethan tells Renee that he likes her because “you’re so yourself”.
While Renee is on a business trip to Boston, she hits her head again and wakes up realising with horror that she has reverted to her former self. She is devastated. She breaks up with Ethan, only to later apologise to him. He takes her back and makes it clear that he loves her exactly as she is. She also reconciles with Viv and Jane, who accept her apology for being so self-obsessed and vain.
In a speech advertising the bargain line of Lily Le Claire, Renee has a realisation that her appearance did not change at all during the course of the film. She tells the audience that true beauty and confidence come from within, not from the cosmetics they use.
Address: Unit B1, 9 Gooch Place, Howick
Phone: 09 535 2222
Yesterday, mum and I dined at a Chinese restaurant in Howick called San Hou. For a long time, we had been searching for an authentic Chinese dining experience and didn’t care if the restaurant wasn’t fancy. We finally managed to find what we were looking for.
The menu is very extensive and to me, was a little confusing. This was quickly sorted by chatting to the waitress, who helped us decide what to order. She said that basically any of the noodle dishes could be done exactly as we liked, which was a nice thing to hear! There were so many choices though – beef, chicken, pork or fish? Seafood? What kind of noodle? Rice? Crispy? Egg? Or maybe you prefer rice? Soup or dry? You could visit this restaurant so many times and probably still not scratch the surface of what they have to offer.
After much deliberation, we decided on some vegetarian spring rolls ($6), vegetarian steamed buns ($6) and vegetarian dumplings ($8) to begin, followed by chicken rice noodles ($12). The spring rolls were small, crunchy and very tasty. The steamed buns were superb. The texture was light and slightly chewy, and the filling contained some lovely vegetables, delicately cooked. The dumplings were quite unusual and I was apprehensive to try them at first: green almost ravioli like in appearance but delicious. I need not have worried. They were superb, like all the starters.
The main dish, the chicken rice noodles, was divine. The flavour of the dish could be tasted throughout. The chicken was well cooked and there was also some bok choy, which was lovely. At first, after ordering rice noodles I wondered if I had made a mistake and if I should have ordered egg noodles. I need not have worried. The rice noodles were lovely and perhaps a little lighter in texture than egg noodle dishes I have tried at other restaurants. In any event, there is always next time. We will definitely be back for more samplings.
1 Queen Street, Auckland City
Price: $$ (average)
Style: Fast food/burger joint
Today, mum and I had lunch at Lord of the Fries in Auckland City. This restaurant is in fact a caravan with limited seating on picnic tables outdoors. The amazing thing about Lord of the Fries is that it is 100% vegan, yet does not compromise on taste. It serves up a delicious range of burgers, fries (the name of the restaurant takes after its fries, for which the restaurant is most famous and what it first started serving), hot dogs and sides such as onion rings.
Neither of us is vegan, but I had read some good reviews for Lord of the Fries, so we decided to add it onto our list of restaurants to dine at. We enjoyed the morning at Mission Bay. I took a long walk along the waterfront and we had coffee at the Coffee Club, then returned to the city to have lunch.
There was so much to choose from, so we pondered over the menu for a little while. We had a couple of vouchers for burgers and fries from the Entertainment Book. A quick check with the girl behind the counter revealed that we could use them both, which was good. We each ordered Spicy burgers ($10 each), one kumara fries ($7.50), one shoestring fries ($6.50) and one onion rings ($8). To complement the fries, we ordered the Parisienne sauce, which was aioli.
The burgers contained a vegetable patty, lettuce, vegan cheese, pickles and a delicious spicy jalapeno sauce. We had ordered a big size, which is suitable for an adult. They were incredibly filling. The kumara fries were also lovely. It had been a long time since I have had kumara fries so it was a welcome treat. The shoestring fries were perhaps the best I’ve ever tasted. Both fries went well with the Aioli sauce. I have only ever had the pleasure of eating onion rings once before in my life, when Burger King put out a vegetarian burger for a limited time while I was at university. These onion rings were crunchy in texture and absolutely delicious.
I would whole-heatedly recommend Lord of the Fries to other diners, whether they are vegan, vegetarian or carnivore. The food was prepared quickly, was delicious and very filling. The portions are also very generous. Make sure you go hungry so you have lots of room to try different things from the menu!
Price: $$ (average)
Style: Chinese Vegetarian
Comments: Today, mum and I visited the Chinese Buddhist Temple Fo Guang Shan (16 Stancombe Road, Flat Bush, Auckland). The Temple and surrounding gardens are very tranquil. It is a nice peaceful spot to enjoy a quiet moment or even relax with a good book. There is an information desk with news of upcoming events.
After looking at the bookshop, temple and enjoying the gardens, we had lunch at the Waterdrop café. The menu is extensive and contains a well-priced range of Chinese vegetarian cuisine. We settled on having the spring rolls ($5/2 pieces), steamed buns ($6/2 pieces), Sui Mai dumplings ($6/6 pieces) and the fried egg noodles with vegetables and tofu ($18).
All of the dishes were absolutely delicious and tasted quite authentic. We will definitely be back to sample some of the other appealing items on the menu.
Even if you come here with the goal of having lunch or morning or afternoon tea, make sure you leave enough time to stroll the magnificent grounds.
Price: $$ (average)
Style: Asian/Indian cuisine
Comments: Mum and I had lunch at Monsoon Poon. This restaurant is one we try and go to at least once a year, as we really like the style of cuisine and relaxed environment. We went on a Tuesday for lunch, so the restaurant wasn’t busy or noisy. We were seated and given menus promptly by a friendly waitress.
As we had been here many times in the past, we didn’t take long to order. We ordered diet cokes and poppadoms to start. We then ordered the Lamb Curry with 25 herbs and spices ($23) and the Singapore Fried Noodles ($24), deciding to share both dishes.
We had not tried the lamb curry before and weren’t disappointed. The pieces of meat were succulent and extremely tasty, as was the sauce. The noodles, an old favourite, didn’t disappoint either. It is an enormous dish, so we highly recommend getting one to share, rather than one noodle dish each. We noticed that the diners at the table next to us did the same thing.
All in all, we enjoyed a relaxed lunch here and look forward to returning again.
Location: Dining Lane, Sylvia Park shopping centre
Price: $$ (average)
Style: Malaysian cuisine
Comments: Mum and I went here not having the greatest of expectations, based on reading previous reviews. Diners had complained about portion sizes and the prices being too high. However, we are both keen on Asian food so couldn’t resist trying out a new eatery in Auckland.
We were both blown away by the décor and simple tables which made us feel like we were in Asia. You order at the counter and take away a number, then your food is brought out to you. We ordered the Chicken and Mushroom Sui Mai ($10), which were dumplings, to start. (see above)
Then we each ordered the laksa with chicken and prawns ($18, with the additional extra for the chicken and prawns) for the main.
We were not disappointed. The flavours in the laksa were divine. It was creamy, full of coconut and absolutely delicious. The dumplings were light in texture and also delicious.
In short, we were very impressed with the taste and style of this new restaurant. We will be back.
This is a really good New Zealand movie. I enjoyed the storyline. There was plenty of humour, drama and some romance which made for a good mix. The film was screened in the Deluxe theatre, which was really nice.
Starring: Suivai Pilisipi Autagavaia, Anna-Maree Thomas
Plot: The film begins by showing how the Samoan Hibiscus (Suivai Pilisipi Autagavaia) and her European friend Ruth (Anna-Maree Thomas) became friends at school when they were both sitting under the same tree in the playground. We then fast forward to university, where Hibiscus and Ruth are both studying Engineering. Hibiscus lives at home with her strict mother and grandmother. Her mother has a lot of rules for Hibiscus, including the policy of not dating boys. Hibiscus relies on support from Ruth in this regard. Hibiscus has a part-time job at a restaurant. Sure enough, what lets Hibiscus down academically is boyfriends, of which she has several in the course of the film. One of her interests is a boy from work. Her studies fall to the wayside. For the final year of their course, Hibiscus and Ruth are meant to design a device as part of their project. During their assessment, it becomes apparent that Hibiscus fabricated data for their surveys. Both girls fail the assessment and are made to re-do their entire final year again. The film shows them both graduating one year later. At the end of the film, Hibiscus reconciles with both Ruth (from whom she had become estranged once she started dating her co-worker at the restaurant) and her mother. We learn that Hibiscus’s mother is so strict because she fell pregnant with Hibiscus when she was young and this prevented her from being able to pursue studies herself. The film ends with Hibiscus’s mother relaxing the rules at a scene around their dining table with Hibiscus’s grandmother, Ruth and Hibiscus having an afternoon tea and she allows Hibiscus to use her common sense in making decisions about her education and well-being.
Don’t let the fact that the actors in this film are in the older age bracket put you off! You’d be missing out on a fantastic light-hearted film with elements of comedy, romance and drama. This is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time and I would highly recommend it to others.
Starring: Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, David Hayman, John Sessions, Josie Lawrence and Joanna Lumley
Plot: Lady Sandra Abott (Imelda Staunton) discovers that her husband of forty years (John Sessions) is having an affair with her best friend (Josie Lawrence). She packs up her belongings and moves into her sister Biff’s council estate flat (Celia Imrie). At first, the two clash as Sandra is typically uptight and used to a higher standard of living, whereas Biff is free-spirited and without airs or graces. Sandra takes her along to her community dance class where she meets Biff’s friends Charlie (Timothy Spall), Jackie (Joanna Lumley) and Ted (David Hayman). The sad part of the film is that Biff is dying of cancer but true to her spirit, the film deals with this appropriately when the dance group go to Rome for a performance and she passes away the next day. The film ends when Sandra is given the choice of reconciling with her estranged husband but she ultimately decides to go on a boat tour of France with Charlie.
People either love or hate cruise holidays. Even if you’ve never been on one, I bet you’ve already formed a firm opinion. Cruise holidays are loaded with stereotypes of passengers piling their plates high at buffet meals and drinking copiously on the ship’s deck. I hope to bring a balanced perspective and fresh insights into many aspects of life in my new online magazine, In the Circle. This is why I have chosen to share my experience of a cruise holiday that I took with my mother nearly two years ago.
Why we decided to go on a cruise
At the time, I was working as a lawyer in the Corporate department of a large New Zealand firm called Bell Gully. I decided that I needed a bit of a break. We wanted to go somewhere in the South Pacific which is fairly close to home, but also where the weather would be nice during autumn, as it would be starting to get cooler back home. I wanted to treat mum to a holiday to say thank you for her unwavering support over the years. I would not be the person I am today, let alone have accomplished all that I have done over the years, were it not for her. And that includes her being a tiger mum during my childhood, because it’s made me into what I am today.
Why did we decide to go on a cruise holiday? We had never been on a cruise before and were open to a new experience. At the time, I was quite tired from work and was looking forward to a relaxing holiday so I could recharge my batteries. A cruise appealed because it offered full flexibility. It would give me the opportunity to either participate in the number of activities and entertainment on board or do absolutely nothing if I so wished. It also offered good value for money, as it was all-inclusive of meals and accommodation. Holidays in South Pacific destinations such as Fiji, Rarotonga and Tahiti can get quite expensive due to the cost of accommodation and meals at hotels. The cabins on cruise ships are also nice, especially if you can afford a balcony room or the minisuite.
Booking the cruise
I had started researching cruises a few months beforehand and discovered that a number of P&O cruises departed and returned to the port in Auckland. This made it a convenient holiday option rather than needing to fly to Australia in order to catch the cruise, which is what I had presumed most people did. I also discovered that there were a number of cruises around the islands of the South Pacific. We had always wanted to visit Fiji but never had the opportunity, so I searched specifically for cruises that included this as a destination. I ended up booking an eight night cruise on the P&O ship the Pacific Pearl called the Fiji Encounter, departing Auckland in late March 2016. The cruise had three stops: Suva, Port Denerau and Dravuni Island. At the time I booked, I paid a bit extra and secured us a balcony room as I loved the idea of being able to spend afternoons lying in bed staring at the endless blue ocean.
Prior to our departure, we received a pleasant surprise. P&O offered us a complimentary upgrade from the balcony room I had purchased to a mini suite room with a balcony. Mum and I were over the moon! At the time I had made the booking, this was really in my heart’s desire, but was a little outside my budget, bearing in mind that we needed to allow for on-board costs such as beverages and dining, if we chose to eat at some of the fine dining restaurants on board.
The cruising experience
Both of us were impressed by the process of embarkation, which was very organised. Passengers boarded the ship in an orderly fashion and the process of immigration was smooth sailing. No pun intended! When we reached our room, we were positively beside ourselves. The minisuite room was much more spacious than the balcony room and the crew had given us a complimentary basket of fruit. Prior to our departure from the port, a member of the crew thoughtfully knocked on the door and asked if we would like some complimentary champagne, which we graciously accepted.
We both settled into cruising life with relative ease. With friendly crew around to answer any questions, we felt instantly welcome on board and any issues were soon resolved. Mum and I quickly found our favourite restaurant on board. We favoured the a la carte restaurant over the buffet. It gives you greater control over what you eat, as there is always the temptation to eat more than you should at a buffet restaurant! It is also nice having your meal brought to your table. As it was just the two of us and the tables were normally for six or more people, we were often seated with other passengers. We found ourselves surrounded by friendly faces and learnt a great deal about cruises from other passengers, many of whom had taken cruise holidays in the past. We met people from lots of different parts of New Zealand, as well as international visitors who had decided to take a cruise as part of their stay in the country. The restaurant was also extremely accommodating of our diabetic diet. Every evening, we advised the front of house of our dietary restrictions for the next day. Kitchen staff were able to make slight adjustments to items on the menu and provide sugar-free alternatives. We were extremely grateful that our condition did not affect the quality of our dining and ability to enjoy our holiday. The meals themselves were of the highest quality. We really enjoyed the range of fresh fish offered at the restaurant we dined at most of the time.
In the morning, cabin crew would make up our room. I really appreciated the funny animals that one crew member made out of towels, which he would place on my bed. Every day, we received a newsletter with information regarding the activities and entertainment on board for the next day, as well as information about any places we would be stopping at.
We spent our days mostly in our room, which was hard to leave as it was so nice! While there is an overwhelming number of activities and array of entertainment on board, we enjoyed having quiet time to ourselves, simply relaxing and looking out at the ocean from our cabin’s balcony. Something else we really enjoyed doing during the late afternoons and early evenings was relaxing on the loungers on one of the deck levels at the back of the ship. We liked looking out at the ocean and enjoyed getting some fresh air.
For each stopover, P&O offer a variety of day packages for different encounters. These organised expeditions can be quite expensive and didn’t really appeal to us, so we decided to do our own thing.
Our first stopover was the port of Suva. We explored the bustling township, starting with the large fruit and vegetable market near the port. We had lunch at a lovely Indian restaurant and browsed the shops at a nearby mall before heading back to re-board the ship at the end of the day.
Our next stopover was the port of Denerau. A lot of passengers had chosen to purchase a day pass for one of the nearby hotels and relax at a resort, but we were both nervous about potentially missing the ship at the end of the day. You are constantly warned that if you’re late, the ship will not wait for you. We therefore explored the port of Denerau and re-boarded the ship early. Note that if you take an organised tour through the cruise company and the tour is late in bringing you back to the port, the ship will wait for you.
The greatest disappointment was Dravuni Island. This tiny island has only 200 inhabitants. From the photos and what we had read about it, Dravuni Island sounded stunning. This was the stopover we had most looked forward to. As the port was so tiny, passengers had to be taken to shore in life boats. Due to rough sea conditions, the captain made the call that it was unsafe to take passengers to shore in tenders, so we proceeded to head back to Auckland early.
Fine dining on board
Although all meals were included in the cost of the cruise, mum and I decided to try the two fine dining restaurants on board. While dining at such restaurants on board a cruise incurs an additional cost, it is generally fantastic value compared with having a meal at a similar restaurant on land. We started by trying the Salt Grill by the well-known Australian chef Luke Mangan.
The meal was excellent. Diners could select three courses plus a few sides to enjoy with their meal. We sampled wonderful seafood and finished our meal with a wonderful cheeseboard. We enjoyed our meal at the Salt Grill so much that we decided to return on our last night so we could enjoy the restaurant one last time before disembarking the ship.
During the cruise, we also dined at the Asian restaurant Luna, which offered a Thai and Japanese option. We decided to try the Thai banquet, which was simply delicious.
Cruise holidays are definitely not for everyone. However, I think it’s important to give things a go first, or at least consider a variety of different perspectives, in order to make an informed decision. This is why I chose to open up about our holiday. If you want to spend a lot of time on land, a cruise holiday probably isn’t for you, as it takes awhile to disembark and re-board the ship, which must be factored into time spent during stopovers. However, if you are with a family or large group with different interests, cruise holidays are good as they offer something for everyone. Passengers who want quiet time can have just that, while the more energetic can explore everything that ship life has to offer. There are also different dining options to cater to all tastes. Overall, we thought that cruise holidays offer excellent value for money. It provided us with a much-needed relaxing holiday. We were well cared and catered for on board. If we were looking for a similar experience in the future, we would not hesitate to take a cruise again.