Archive for May, 2009


Cheap exercise

May 27, 2009

A little while ago I blogged about barefoot running, than which no exercise could be cheaper.

Today Google Reader suggested I might be interested in gubernatrix’ blog on strength training, and lo, there is a recent post on fitness on a budget. Not a bad read, I thought. Reminded me of Mistress Krista’s suggestions at Stumptuous.

Personally I train regularly with Capoeira Mandinga, which is extremely cheap as martial arts clubs go. I get sufficient jollies from this that it would be last on my list of things to give up. And I’m riding my bike as often as I can. That’s got to be the most fiscally virtuous exercise I do, because it actually saves money.

Confession: I do belong to a gym. I got a deal on the joining fee years ago, and I pay $33 a fortnight, a rate which is unobtainable now, but which I have locked in permanently. I belong because I like to lift weights, the gym is close enough to work that I can work out in my lunch break, and I don’t have the space at home to set up a weight room.

I have figured out that since I joined four years ago, I could have bought a power rack, a bench, an Olympic bar and 200kg of plates with the money, and this bugs me. As and when we move somewhere with more permanent intentions, a home gym will be on the list. Even now, I ask myself whether I wouldn’t like to save $858 per year, and several hours per week, and find some other way to do strength training.

In any event, my tips for cheap gym membership are:

  • buy an existing membership to a chain gym from someone else. Saves a joining fee, and as rates go up and up continually, you’ll pay their old rate, not whatever the gym is currently offering
  • don’t sign up on your first visit. Some gyms are really bad like this — they’re cagey about their prices when you ring and want you to visit, and then if you fall for that they want you to sign on the spot. Tell them tough. If they want your business, they’ll give you the same deal tomorrow.
  • most of the chains have promotions annually or six monthly where they waive or reduce the joining fee. Wait.
  • if all you need is somewhere to lift, check out somewhere bare bones like the Powerhouse.

Or don’t join a gym at all. Gyms make their money from the customers who sign a contract and then don’t turn up, which turns out to be most of them. Take gubernatrix‘ advice, do your push-ups, run to work, and find something heavy to lug around.

How do you keep fit cheaply?


Further yoghurt report

May 24, 2009

Since I first blogged about making yoghurt at home, I have made a couple of discoveries.

  1. You can use skim milk powder instead of fresh milk. This is a win on two fronts. It saves even more money, and it saves time, because you don’t have to waste time simmering the milk — you can just make it up with hot water.
  2. Cheesecloth costs about $4 per metre, and with half a metre you  have enough to strain your own Greek yoghurt, which is my favourite kind. You can use the whey that’s left in pancakes or scones or what have you.

In my unscientific way, I’ve noticed that the yoghurt mix sachet section in the supermarket has grown substantially recently. I theorise that yoghurty thriftiness is in the air, so to speak. Anyway, I don’t know what you get in a sachet that maes them better than using milk powder and old yoghurt starter. Enlighten me.


A winter resolution, update 2

May 23, 2009

I bought the panniers. Total cost including delivery, $207. Which is what people want for the same model second hand here. So I’m following my expensive item guideline — buy things that can be resold for what you paid.

So, total outlay (raincoat + panniers) so far is less than $250. $250 is the cost of a month’s bus and taxi fares, so payback time is by July, as long as I don’t pike…


A winter resolution, update 1

May 20, 2009

I resolved to equip myself better and bike more.

In the subsequent week and a half, I’ve ridden my bike to work more often than not, saving approximately $40 over usual expenditure.

Today I laid out $30 on a cheap raincoat from Torpedo7.

I’m eyeing panniers from one of the impossibly cheap UK online retailers that Jack suggested. It looks as though I can get the top of the line waterproof Ortlieb ones for less than two thirds of the local price, if they come back in stock. Once thoroughly kitted out, I’ll be setting myself the goal of four commutes out of five and a market trip on Sundays.


Getting good sox

May 18, 2009

Now this is a serious matter. Decent socks make all the difference this time of year, especially when your best chance to recover from a cold is to stay warm (it’s also a good way to avoid them. It’s called a cold for a good reason.)

The trouble is though, the majority of socks on the market these days at the low end are made of acrylic/cotton blends with minimal amounts of wool. This makes them cheaper, but they wear out really rapidly. This results in the need to buy more socks, and you might just as well have bought flash woolen ones.

I’d solved this conundrum by going the middle ground but for one fact. The art of darning socks seems to be rapidly disappearing. Certainly I could condemn myself or my partner to an hour of sock-darning, but seen as neither of us is skilled in this matter it’s simply not worth the needle-pricks.

But… +$30 for a pair of something like Norsewool is just so damn much. Especially when you need at least 3 pairs to get through a week of sitting in shonky office airconditioning.

Tips? On either decent value socks? Or on getting darning up to scratch (including on the cheap Farmer’s ones)


A cheap Saturday night

May 18, 2009

We went to a so-called “soiree” at a friend’s house on Saturday night. There were more than a dozen adults and a few children. The idea was that everyone would perform a small item, whether music, recitation, or what-have-you.

It turned out that we had some accomplished singers and musicians, and some whose enthusiasm compensated for their technical deficiency.

I am ashamed to say I was surprised how enjoyable this low-tech and humane gathering was. It was, in fact, entertaining.

But best of all as far as this blog is concerned, it was FREE.


Careful use of credit cards

May 14, 2009

In the last few weeks Kiwibank have been pushing debit cards hard. Debit cards are like an ATM card for an ordinary bank account with a number that works for online credit card transactions, so you can use them to buy online and the money comes from your account balance. They do have some handy features, but I won’t be getting one.

I use my credit card to wring a little more interest out of the bank. I put every regular expense I can on my credit card, and then pay the card off in full, so that my money is earning interest in a savings account while I am charged nothing for the credit card. There are no electronic transaction charges for my credit card either.

My main credit card has a very small limit, so I can’t really get into trouble, either by overspending, or by fraud. I’d prefer not to have my bank account cleaned out by a dodgy online store, thanks. Whereas although I don’t usually keep large amounts in my main transaction account, there’s a small window around payday when there’s more than usual in there.

I think that if you were going to get a debit card, it would be best to have it hooked up to just one account, and to not put money in that account unless you’re actually planning a purchase.

Got any cunning credit card strategies? Thoughts on debit cards?