Category Archives: Everyday stuff

Good news and bad news…

So I’m going to write the update and then write the title, because I don’t know what to title this.

In our last episode, we saw Mel and Darrin waiting for the second quote on replacing the gas line, and wondering what to do next…

The plumber was meant to come on Monday afternoon, but it got to 5 pm and I texted him to find out if he was still coming. He said ‘oops, I put you in my book for Tuesday by accident, sorry.’ So he came on Tuesday instead. His quote ended up being about $1000 less than the first plumber, but that’s still a lot of money when we’re definitely NOT staying here long enough to get that much use out of it.

So…we are not replacing the gas line. We’re putting up with things as is until we find a new house. We’ll hire the temporary hot water system until we can move. We have a workable situation that we’ll just live with for a few weeks.

Wednesday morning I went to the bank meeting and got good news! Because of Darrin only being employed for 3 months at a casual job, the home loan officer said our easiest option would be to make our current home loan ‘portable’ – which means they can just move our current home loan to a new property, provided a) the purchase price of a new place is less than the sale of this place, and b) settlement (closing) happens on the same day for both properties.

Since we already pretty much know who we’re selling to, that should be pretty easy.

So we have a number in mind, which means now we can look at houses! And by ‘we’ I obviously mean ‘I’ because Darrin hates this kind of thing, and his standards are way lower than mine, so he says ‘if it works for you it’ll probably work for me.’

I’ve already been to one open inspection, we did make an offer, but the owners had already accepted an offer. I’m not surprised or disappointed. I kinda feel like we should offer on everything we see just in case we get one, because almost anything would be better than this house. I won’t offer on a property I absolutely hate, but I don’t have to LOVE the house in order to live there. It just has to be better.

Any house we buy will definitely need some work. That’s the reality of what we can afford right now combined with what the market is like. There had to have been 50 people at the inspection I went to the other day. I’ve never seen that many people at an inspection, even though it was 15 years ago I last looked at houses.

So here we go. Wish us luck, pray that the right house comes up at the right time.

Out of gas

Better go get yourself a cuppa, this is gonna be a long one…

So. In July, I found a secondhand gas oven on Gumtree (Australia’s Craig’s list) for $150. Because ours was falling apart, and half the nozzles in the oven were covered up by melted plastic (thanks to a toddler who put something in there one day and we didn’t notice till it started stinking). We hired a gasfitter to come and install it. I kept the oven racks from the old oven, so we could cook 4 pizzas at once, and it was good. It even had automatic ignition (on 3 of the burners) and a fan. It was working pretty well.

Then we started noticing a smell. Not all the time, just every now and then, we’d notice a waft of gas smell. (Or, to be pedantic, the stuff they put in the gas to make it smell so you know it’s leaking.) Since it wasn’t always there, we couldn’t tell if it was us, or if it was blowing in from a neighbour. But Darrin did some poking around one day and found a leak in the pipe coming up out of the ground which goes into the house where the oven is. He found the leak.

So last Friday, we had a gas guy come out again to fix the leak. In the process of all that, he did some testing on the gas line, and said we’ll need a whole new gas line from the meter. He said couldn’t leave the gas on when he left for his next job, but that he’d send someone else out with a temporary hot water system that we could hook up and at least have hot water over the weekend.

He left, and almost immediately the next guy turned up with the temporary water heater. He got it into the bathroom and realised he didn’t have the right fittings to hook it up, and it was 5 pm by this time and the plumbing store was closing. So he had to go and send someone back in the morning to connect it.

Did I mention this all happened on a day when I was getting ready to go to Victor Harbor for the weekend with some friends? Yeah. So Darrin got home around 4, and the first guy was still here. I’d been planning to wait till Darrin got back from work before I left, but then all this happened, and I didn’t feel right leaving before all the water heater stuff was sorted. So then the second guy left, and a few minutes later, so did I.

I had a great weekend, by the way. By the end I was ready to get home, so it was about the right length of time to be away. First time I’ve been away without kids in 5 years. Second time I’ve been away without kids since I had kids! Must do it more often.

So now we’re trying to work out what to do about it. As I’ve mentioned previously, this house is a pile of crap. Okay, not literally, but it’s falling apart everywhere. It’s 60 years old. It’s one of those houses they put up quickly and cheaply in the 1960s when Adelaide’s population boomed. Houses like this have been getting knocked down all over the place for at least 20 years. When we bought this place 15 years ago, the family was expecting the same thing to happen, but were glad we were going to live here. And we had thought about knocking it down ourselves and building a new house, but it’s a lot of hassle and money that we really don’t have right now. And I’m not willing to go into massive amounts of debt with a house payment that’s more than 25-30% of our income.

All week since I got back, I’ve been emailing & texting real estate agents & plumbers, trying to work out the best thing to do for the least reasonable amount of money. We had another plumber recommended to us, but he can’t come see the place till Monday afternoon.

We’ve been thinking, what if we get an electric water heater and put in an extra circuit to handle that? So we had the original plumbing company come out to do a quote. I haven’t heard back from them about that yet, but the quote they gave us to redo the gas line was $6000.

Oh, and what they didn’t tell us, but the other plumber did, is that the rules state that if you have gas on a property, you HAVE TO have gas hot water. Or solar (which is backed up by gas anyway), or heat pump (which is more expensive). So that leaves us having to replace the gas line after all, and trying to find the cheapest person to do it.

Because we don’t want to be here forever. Personally, I was DONE with this house 5 years ago when I found out Micah was on his way. But we’ve stayed, because, firstly, we weren’t organised with money to move, so we worked at building up our savings, and then covid happened, and we didn’t want to move when things were uncertain, and then Darrin quit his job and it took 9 months to find a new one, and then we had another lockdown so he was off work for 3 weeks, and we’re still waiting for him to get a decent number of hours consistently.

But now, it seems we don’t have a choice. We have to do something. Selling the house would put us in a good position to do whatever we wanted. But it’s a pain in the neck packing and cleaning and house hunting and paperwork…but we don’t have a choice. Even if we get a new gas line put in, how long before something else breaks that’s even more expensive? It’s time to get out. And we have a friend who wants to buy the property to put a new house on it for himself. So that part would be easy and quick.

But it sucks that we’re being forced to do it before we’re ready. And do we rent or buy? Renting means we don’t have to fix anything, but the houses I’ve looked at that would suit us, even with rent assistance (through Centrelink, the place where you get government payments…eventually, if you fight hard enough and sign in blood in triplicate), our rent would be more than our mortgage payment + council rates (property tax) + property insurance + water bill. We’d have a huge chunk of money in the bank, so we could wear the extra cost for a while, but I wouldn’t want to do it for very long.

Renting means landlords who allow pets are few and far between. And probably cost more. And we have two cats. But it also means we’d have some time to find the RIGHT house to buy.

Buying means we have a new-to-us house that’s OURS (and the bank’s, of course) and we can do whatever we want there. If we can find something suitable.

So yeah, I don’t know what we’re going to do yet. But stay tuned for updates.

The grocery bill with 4 boys

It sounds scary, and sometimes it is. And we don’t have coupons in Australia like they have in the States. But I have a few tricks I use to feed everyone without going over budget (most of the time).

First, I set a weekly budget based on what Jordan Page recommends. Her rule is to budget $100 per person per month, starting at $300, and then break it down by week. So a family of 1-3 people would still get $300 to spend each month, and about $75 each week.

Now Jordan Page lives in Utah, and there’s quite a difference between the cost of living there and here, not to mention our currency isn’t worth as much. So I plugged $600 into x-rates.com and use that as my monthly grocery budget. When I first did it, it came to $900 a month. Which was about $300 less than I was used to spending, but I thought I’d give it a go. Ever since starting to listen to Dave Ramsey, I’m always on the lookout for more ways to cut spending and save money. 900/4=225. So $225 is what I give myself to work with every week.

Here’s another tip I learned from Jordan. She says before you go shopping, make a meal plan from the food you already have in your kitchen, and write the shopping list based on what you’re missing in the meals you’ve planned. This has been a game changer.

Example: I find ground beef and cheese, and half a tub of sour cream. This screams tacos to me, but I don’t have taco shells or tortillas. So I put those on my list, along with any other taco fixings we like.

Another example: there’s most of a roast chicken in the fridge that needs to get used up. I dig around in the freezer and find a bag of broccoli. There’s a yummy chicken and broccoli casserole that I make, so that goes on the meal plan. But I can’t find any bacon to garnish on top, so bacon goes on the list.

See how that works? It’s made a huge difference to the grocery budget, and in turn, our overall budget.

Another thing I do is look for marked down meat. If I have space left in the budget after I’ve got everything on my list, I’ll stock up on sale meat or marked down meat, and keep it in the freezer for later. We bought a chest freezer when Caleb was born, so we have a ton of space for that kind of thing.

And I shop at Aldi as much as possible. Their prices are usually about 10-20% lower than Coles and Woolworths. When I do shop at the big supermarkets, I scan my loyalty card to earn points and money off my shopping. I try not to get sucked into the bonus offers, unless it’s for something I need anyway.

I also use an app called Receipt Jar, which lets you scan your receipts and get points. When you get enough points, you can redeem them for gift cards or a bank deposit. I’ve already redeemed $30 this way (the first time I used $15 to put toward a new car battery when we needed one, and the next time I got Coles gift cards).

I’d like to say I only go shopping once a week, but I often go a few times for emergency chocolate runs. Which is totally a thing, by the way. Don’t judge me.

Decluttering

I’ve been on a decluttering kick lately. I’m not sure what inspired it, but I’ve been busy getting rid of anything I find that I know we don’t need or want anymore, broken things, clothes that don’t fit, etc.

The one thing that bothers me, though, is that I keep forgetting to take before and after pictures! So I can’t show off my hard work.

So far, I’ve tidied up Darrin’s clothes corner (he had a LOT of clothes in piles and totally disorganised), the bathroom, the laundry cupboard, the corner of the laundry where we keep the brooms and bins, our bedding, the kids’ colouring and activity books.

This week, since it’s school holidays, we’ll be tackling Chuckie and Micah’s room. They have far too many toys, and more keep showing up every Christmas and birthday. Time to move out the ones they’ve outgrown and make more room for the ones they play with all the time.

Meanwhile, I’d love to declutter the #&#_&#+$ possum that’s living in our wall between the bathroom and dining room. Apparently they hate garlic, but I’m not sure how to get garlic in there to keep it away. And if you manually remove them, you have to rehome them within 50 metres of where you found them. And they’re very territorial, so they’ll just come back again anyway. I wonder what’s the point. Not sure how to plug up where it’s getting in either because we’re not sure where it’s getting in.

So that’s where we’re at right now.

Of late toddler naps and complicated board games.

Today I had to let my two year old take a nap. At 4 pm.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Darrin was playing a game with Caleb & Chuckie. I took Elijah with me to the shops at 2:30 so he wouldn’t get in their way. He woke up at about 6:30 this morning, so I figured he was going to nap. By the time we were driving home at 4, he was looking really dopey in his seat, and he fell asleep before we got to the other end of our street.

I know he’s going to be up late tonight. But what else could I do? They haven’t played this game in months. It’s been a wet, miserable day, so taking the little ones outside for 2 hours would have been at least messy (not that they would have minded, but I would).

So we sat in the car in the driveway for about half an hour, then I started bringing the groceries in. I grabbed him after I had everything else in, and he still slept. It took him till about 6 to wake up.

Yeah, it’s gonna be a late night, and I can’t just let Darrin stay up with him because he starts work at 7 am. We’ve both lost sleep the last few days because we’re not used to early starts, and even when we tried to sleep in this weekend, we couldn’t! We were both up just as early on Saturday, and I’ve been awake since 6 this morning (at least Darrin got to sleep in till about 8:30, so that’s something).

I’ll try to sleep late in the morning, but no guarantees. If I can’t, well…I can go hide in my room to have a nap while I let the kids watch TV after lunch. And then go to bed early tomorrow night.

But I’ve been missing being able to watch a TV show on my own since Darrin quit his last job, so now some nights I might have the opportunity to do so.

I guess I should blog again sometime.

Since I just upgraded my WordPress, changed my theme, and moved my site all in the one day. Aside from that, here’s a few other updates.

Ethan is NOT dairy intolerant. His green poos were just the precursor to the whole family getting gastro one week. After he finished up with his (which included some very impressive projectile vomiting) they were normal baby poo colour again. Yay. He’s also getting very close to crawling. Puts everything in his mouth. Was 9.2 kilograms (about 20 pounds) last time we weighed him at 4 months old.

Caleb finally wrote his name for the first time the other day. Yay. He didn’t want to at first, but I asked if he wanted to write a C and he was happy with doing that, so I just asked about each letter after, and before he knew it, he had a name! He loves being a big brother so far, but I think he’s in for a shock when Chuckie starts crawling and grabbing his Lego.

Darrin had, or has, his one year bus driving anniversary about now. Yay. Several months ago, he was made a permanent employee, and has been working out of the Elizabeth depot 10 minutes away since July. Which is a lot easier on the budget and our collective sanity. He wants to use up some of his annual leave soon before they tell him he has to, so we’re pondering when, where, and how we’ll go with two kids for a week.

I have a pile of work to do for Little Para Pants that will actually earn me money! Yay! I’ve also registered my business name, another domain name (littleparapants.com.au), changed my bank account name to ‘trading as Little Para Pants’, and procrastinating looking for business insurance and accountants.

Who cut the cheese?

It’s starting to look as if Ethan has a dairy intolerance. I won’t go into all the gory details, but suffice to say the contents of his nappies aren’t looking quite normal anymore. So you know what that means when he’s breastfed. I have to give up dairy.

Trouble is, I don’t really know any other way of life! I grew up in Wisconsin, nicknamed America’s Dairyland. Every June was Dairy Month, and local shops often had specials on ice cream and other dairy products. If you lived in Wisconsin and didn’t like milk, or didn’t like dairy, you got funny looks from people. Not just that – some people (particularly dairy farmers) might even be offended.

And I love cheese. I would (almost) stake my life on the belief that there’s a type of cheese to go with every type of food out there. Even sweet stuff? Yes, especially sweet stuff! Cheesecake – need I say more?

So I’ll have to work out something to do with all this yogurt I just bought last week. Frozen blueberry yogurt popsicles for Caleb perhaps.

Tonight Caleb is spending the night at his nan’s house, so Darrin & I are having pizza. And then as of tomorrow, I’ll be dairy free to see if that sorts Ethan out. I hope it’s not as boring as I expect it to be!