The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Setting the scene part 4. The Vicky Challenge.

To get the year going we have thought about our dreams and goals and set up our diaries and planners or whatever system works for us.
Then we had lots of inspiration from Vicky, seeing what she achieved last year and just what is possible.   You can do big things in a year! 
Yesterday we started thinking about what we want to make, use up, learn as far as crafts and present making for the year go.  And I got started and made my first thing which is a ballerina pillowcase for Harper.   Today I have lots of cutting out to do.

Now we are facing the finances and savings!  I know many of you are having big financial challenges.  Some are paying things off.  Several I know are working to build good emergency funds. 

In 2016 I started The Vicky Challenge which is what I called it because I just copied what Vicky did!  
She told me she always recorded her savings from her own work and efforts at home as a personal challenge to herself and also an answer to anyone who said the familiar "Oh, you don't work then?" 
When you looked at her savings it was tough to figure out if she would earn more if she worked outside the home or not.  Probably not.  

A few years ago we gave up take aways and I learned to make a good pizza!  Don't have a fit but this saved $2600 in the first year!   Now I keep ahead with meals in the freezer so I am never caught out.

Years ago I used calculators on a website called Crown Financial Ministries.  It helped you work out how much you were making per hour at your job.   I sat and did this with my friend who had two babies and she was considering going back to work.   You went through a process of starting with your wage then subtracting tax, childcare and all work related expenses such as uniform, fuel etc. etc.
Then you considered more extended work related expenses like having less time so buying more ready made and convenience things,  the work rated social things that always seem to come with any job, the things you end up outsourcing due to having less time.
With this final figure you divided it by the hours worked.
Hers worked out to be about $1 an hour profit after all that was taken out.
She was amazed.
Yet many people never even do the maths! 

At the time I said to her how she could SAVE hundreds a week with her work at home and we started coming up with lots of ways to save instead.   
This exercise taught me that saving is like income that is not taxed! 

One of my easiest meals for the freezer are pies.  I found anything I make in the slow cooker i.e. a chicken, lamb or beef casserole makes the most delicious one filling.  And pies freeze beautifully! 

The way Vicky did things really amazed me and I wanted to try it! I love a challenge and I like the motivation.  So from Jan 1 2016 I wrote down all my savings week by week.  I kept a list on the fridge and at the end of the week I would add it all up.   I counted  things like the savings I made from making things from scratch, supermarket savings,  making meals for the freezer instead of buying takeaway, mending,  packing lunches etc.
I didn't count the normal things I do like cleaning the house.  But if you had a house cleaner and took it over yourself in order to save then I would count that.  
So it is up to you what you count and how you approach it.
The first few weeks I was amazed by my savings!  At the end of the year my total was well over $30,000.  I took on big things!   I was quoted $25,000 to get my house painted and I did it myself for $3000.  So I "paid" myself $22,000!   

In 2015 I started on soap making.  I included Miracle cleaner, Wool wash, laundry detergent, bubble bath, hard soap... 
This supplies us and also adds to my gift cupboard. 

If you want to read more about this challenge read Welcome to the Vicky Challenge.  There is a link in this post too back to when Vicky first explained it to me.   I have found this such a motivating exercise I will be doing it again this year.  Last week I added up all my savings for 2017 and I beat the year before by several thousand dollars!   I could see each individual way I saved for the whole year.  Andy could see each one and the totals. He was amazed.  You really have a great sense of achievement.  Starting again now I am determined to beat last year! 

In 2015 I did a challenge that I found on Money Saving Mom.  This was amazing and such an eye opener.  You had to find 52 ways to save $100.  Each one could be anyway it added up to $100 i.e. it could be a one off saving such as rising up your insurance company and getting a lower rate. Or right down to 100 ways to save $1.  I remember giving up a weekly coffee and cake I had for $8.  When I worked out that saved $416 a year I was able to cross off  FOUR of my $100 segments!  
You can find this challenge here:  52 Ways to Save at least $100.  I really loved it and I learned a lot.  And it really saved me $5000 plus!   If you want to establish an emergency fund, get some savings, pay something off... this is fantastic.  Many of my savings ended up being different to Money Saving Moms but I also got heaps of amazing ideas from her.  The biggest thing was calculating the ANNUAL cost of things rather than the weekly cost.   Things that seem small and harmless suddenly seemed enormous. 
Some of my $100 savings areas were things I stopped doing rather than things I started.  i.e.  organising my fridge better and checking through it twice a week to make sure nothing is wasted.  So much food is thrown away and it is just money down the drain.  A simple habit of adding what needs to be used up into your menu plan can be a huge money saver.  

Each of these things really helped me to see my work at home as a real income and to see the potential.  Last year I found new savings.   This is the amazing thing... just when you think you are doing great you find new ways to save.   My sour dough was one thing.   Yoghurt making was another.  This saved me at least five dollars a week on yoghurt but then also gave me further savings as it replaced ever needing to buy sour cream, I make my own raita, tatziki and it adds nutrition to cakes and muffins as well.   One thing leads to another!
Then I learned to make my own enchilada sauce (also thanks to Vicky) and ridiculously, this one thing saved about $12 each time I make a big batch of enchiladas!   Since I have an enchilada cook up about once a month that is $144 a year on this one small thing.

Butter chicken spice mixes, Enchilada mix, cream of Chicken soup, french onion soup mix. 
I use all these so much!   
Each one is a significant savings and none have any artificial anything as an added bonus compared to bought mixes.

Amazed by this I learned to make my own butter chicken mixtures and just about everything else that I ever used to buy in a packet! 

Menu planning and shopping at many more places was a major saver.  I was shocked at the price differences by going further afield.  It took me time but it was very well paid time!   Another way I think menu planning saved me was just a change of awareness of what I have in the house.  Knowing I am over twenty meals ahead and seeing that list I know I do NOT have to buy anything so I can wait for the deals.   Then I buy up.  
Another way this has helped me save is with the challenge to have a list of meals I have on hand I am always trying to add a meal to the list.... this seems to have made me much better at getting another meal out of things.  I am forever setting aside something because really the meal I am making has enough and I will save an ingredient for something else.  These ingredients often soon add up to an extra meal.  Mimi taught me a lot about that!  Once a week or so I get an extra meal just having a left overs night.  This could be making something creative with what is in the fridge or even having different things for dinner.  You know when you have a bit of left over this and a bit of leftover that?  I will say to Andy "would you like left over curry or left over chicken?"  He will say the curry... and I will eat the chicken!  Who cares if we are not both having the same thing!  I just got an extra meal and extended my list!  😊

This year I want to add selling things to My Vicky Challenge.  I know many of you already sell things and several that want to start.  Adding alternative income streams is a really good idea.   I have a few things in mind and I need to make it a habit and get good at it!   I used to sell cooking to a cafe and embroidery to a baby store.   I made and sold baby blankets,  embroidered sheets and pillowcases, ladies nighties, pram sets and toys. 

I created my own little characters and made scenes of such things as mice getting married,  pushing baby mice in prams and so on! haha!

When the girls were little I sewed into the night!  

I also have a stash of things I have accumulated knowing I COULD sell them but never got around to it.   So selling things is being added to my challenge. 

The Vicky Challenge is financial.  And finances are a big part of life!  But it does't take into account the other benefits of your work at home.  To me the biggest part of being home is about creating the home, atmosphere, a safe haven from the world!   Over the weekend I hope to work on a post about this.   

I will be back tomorrow with Feather your Nest Friday and sum up the week!  I hope your first week of  2018 is off to a good start!  

What are your savings goals this year?  
Have you thought about new ways to save and new ways to bring in more money?
What do you think would work for you as motivation?  I like to do challenges as these motivate me. But we have to do something that works for us.  Some people like spreadsheets, or apps or a wall chart.... work out what would work best for you.  Another reason I like a challenge is reporting how I am going here makes me think I better DO SOMETHING or I will have nothing to report!  If this works for you then join in and report here every week in our Friday round up. 

Some of you achieved fantastic things last year!  I loved hearing this! There were some big ones like loans paid off and deposits saved!  
I notice many things we can do seem very small.  But seeds are small too so think in terms of you are sowing seeds and sooner or later you will be reaping a harvest.   Lots of really small things add up.  I am always amazed by how much! 

It is going to take me a while to catch up with comments and replies for this week but I will get there.   I really wanted to get things going and set plans into action.   It is helping me heaps!   It is exciting to see the opportunity of a new year. xxx


  1. Annabel, you've shared some good ideas and inspiration, thank you!

  2. Dear Annabel,

    It has been so lovely to have a post each day this week! You are really motivating me! I have been thinking about the Craft Challenge...I need to finish up a few projects that have been languishing and taking up physical and mental space. I did manage to finish a fairisle vest for my hubby for Christmas that I had had on the go for at least five years! Whew! I now have a cardi to finish for me (while it's still cold, please!), at least four pairs of socks, a sewn shirt that just needs some finishing touches...maybe that's all??? And now I need to think about what I need to make for our house and for gifts for 2018, and what I have in my stash with which to work, and get it planned out!

    As for the financials, we have been hit with some big expenses the last month. Some were planned expenses, but turned out to be bigger than expected, some weren't the car that broke down on hubby's way home from work tonight!!! We already knew we had big $$$ jobs to do in a week for the car to pass the safety inspection before the end of January, and now there is another bill plus a tow on the top of it!!! So I am already looking at what we can do to tighten up ship and pay for some things while making do with what we already have for others.

    We are prepped up here with candles, water, batteries, propane, you name it...a big storm is supposed to hit tomorrow and tomorrow night with snow, rain and wind up to 110km. It's a good thing hubby can't even attempt to go into work tomorrow (without a car), as he might have been stranded on the way there or the way home in the weather!!!

    Your enthusiasm for the clean slate of a new year is really catching!!

    xx Jen in NS

  3. Dear Annabel,
    The posts this week have been wonderful to head us in the right direction. We would like to save more this year, cut expenses, and earn more interest on our savings accounts.
    I didn't get around to responding to the sewing challenge, but loved your idea of 15 minutes whenever possible.
    Thanks for the time it took you and all the planning and effort to get the posts to us this week.
    A big hug and my love,

    1. Dear Glenda,
      Thank you for your support as always! Many times I feel I don't have time for this or that but five or fifteen minutes seems to just work and really add up. Today I am struggling but I know I can do 15 mins. of cutting out my next projects. So I will do that and tomorrow do a bit more.
      Thank you so much! Love

  4. Very inspiring again, thank you Annabelle. Yours is now my fav blog, just love it! Regards Robyn S.A

    1. Dear Robyn, Thank you! That is a wonderful compliment! Very encouraging! With love

  5. Looking forward to spending another year here! What is it about New Years that re-energizes us? And how do we get that feeling again in July???
    We have a few big expenses coming up this year, so I am once again on the hunt to find even more ways to economize, etc. I think however that I am at the point where I read things and think "We already do that, and that, and that..." so finding a source of income may also be on my list for this year.

    1. Dear Sarah,
      Extra income streams can really be great. Ad it could be different things i.e. sell something, make something, re sell something, grow something etc. you just never know!
      There are a lot of us working on this so hopefully everyone will be willing to share their ideas! With love Annabelxxx

  6. i am hoping to try a small part of this this year; at least learn to cook again & trying to make my home more welcoming (something i've never seemed to get)
    great post
    thanx for sharing

    1. Dear Selina, These are great aims! And they go together really well as the smell of something cooking is very welcoming! One thing that is welcoming is the sight of a set table with flowers in the middle or something else decoration wise. That just says home to me.
      With love

  7. Annabel,
    Welcome to the New Year haha! I will continue to add up our savings each week because it really helps me stay accountable and on track and Rick loves to see those numbers. And I am always looking for new ways to save. Now that the pantry is pretty much there I can work on other projects and get things organized and tidy again. Your right the Vicky Challenge addresses financial things, but everything we do in our day to day lives is very important and when we are happy we can make others happy too. Behind the scenes the pump that pumps water into our house was old and quit so we replaced that last month, we hauled out the old furniture and got brand new never used from my mother's house, we have a pellet burner that Rick will be installing that he got a fantastic deal on a few years ago, and a new woodburner that is larger than the current one that we purchased at an end of the year clearance sale last year so that may be getting installed this year too, our savings goal is to save for a new garage this year and pay cash. All of the little things that save do add up and will pay for part of it and add to the emergency fund. An emergency fund is so important even if it is just a few hundred dollars that could save someone some interest payment along the line somewhere. I also want to make things cozier around the home and more "me". I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

    1. Dear Vicky, I have to say Andy has responded really well seeing the numbers too. He is often so surprised. Then sometimes he will see something in the shops and come home saying something about the prices and how ridiculous they are!
      I love your p;an about the home being more you and cosier. That is right up my alley! With much love

  8. Dear Annabel,
    I am excited to do the Vicky Challenge again this year, as last year was just busy and tiring and I just didn't get around to it! I have already started recording things in my notebook.
    This year we plan to pay off our second vehicle, which will make us debt free again. We just got hit with an unexpected $200/month non-variable expense that I am not too happy about so we will have to work around that. We also want to save for a bathtub and then the garden shed, so we have some big goals, but after Colton's graduation things will be much easier financially. We are hoping for a nice tax refund this year, too.
    As I mentioned the other day, we are reimplementing our $50/month personal allowances to help with saving. So anything that is not bills or necessities comes out of our $50 and that is it! I guess that can be seen as a challenge! Well it certainly is. I spent $24 on an Anniversary gift for Colton and $8 on craft supplies, so I only have $18 left for this month! It certainly makes you watch your spending.
    I agree, reporting your savings is a motivator and has me looking for extra ways to save/earn. I so dearly want to start an Etsy store but that may have to wait another year with all of our projects going on and John being so little. I have to sleep sometime lol.
    Thank you for all you've done this week on the blog! We are ready to go!
    Love, Kelsey

    1. Dear Kelsey, Yes you do have to sleep sometime! These things will all come in time, you certainly have the skills for a store, one day you will have more time (maybe!)
      Your plan sounds great. Just having this plan will help you accomplish these things! And it feels good! I will look forward to going along with you and seeing you achieve all of this! With love

  9. Dear Annabel and Blue Bird friends, my plans are still a work in progress due to my mother in law's passing. I have some ideas floating around but until I can settle and put real thinking into them then they will only be ideas.

    Our two children gave me a thermal 'handbag'style lunch bag and a thermos 'bottle'. The lunch bag will mean I can pack enough food to get me through the day when working in the shops (I am usually starving by the time I get home from the shop up the mountain). I tested the bottle out on Tuesday, it was in the car for over 10 hours and the water was still at a drinkable temperature.

    I will be taking the bottle with me every time I leave the house.

    We still have things to do with the estate going on so I am aiming to get back to decent evening meals (my husband was living on toast and eggs because he wasn't hungry) next week. Things will be settling down then until we hear from the legal experts. Then I hope to have some meals in the freezer for 'those' times.

    My plan is to also learn how to do a couple of things that will enhance what I put in the shops. The lady I work with up the mountain has agreed to teach me when it is quiet at the shop.

    Time to check on the evening meal, I am in 'use it up mode'.


    1. Dear Lynette , sorry to hear about your DMil , I remember you doing s lot to help her in the last few years and more . Look after yourself in this grieving period , thinking of your DH too and family .
      That was a lovely practical gift your two gave you and will be very useful , love and hugs , Maria xxx

  10. Hi Annabel
    I just wrote a comment that I managed to send into oblivion with my huge fingers lol.
    Will just say that I'm finding your posts this week really energising, as well as the comments everyone is leaving. And your embroidery is stunning! Have you framed any? I think they would look gorgeous in embroidery hoops or small frames.

    I need to reread how Vicky calculates her Vicky challenge each week, as I really want to do this properly this year.

    Look forward to seeing your sewing next week :)

    Jen in NZ

  11. Thanks Annabel a wonderful post indeed and very motivating.

    I will start to note what I make from selling the handcrafted items I make on the internet more this year as I would be interested to see what this comes to at the end of each year. Also it has got me interested in perhaps selling more products as well such as dried rose petals and now I have lavender growing some dried lavender as well.

    I also didn't comment in the sewing challenge but I will do that too and when time permits at least do 15mins when I can.

    This month is also going to be a doozy for us as we have purchased a lot of items that needed replacing in the home as well as extras. On top of that we have our normal phone and internet bill, the trailer rego and our RACQ membership to pay as well. All good though as all the purchases were things we had in the pipeline to buy anyway just a bit ahead of time due to a lot of things being on special. Our savings will probably be abysmal this month but we have the rest of the year to catch up and have already put some into savings this month.

    I am enjoying writing everything down in my new journal for the year and plan to document our accomplishments and savings more this year than last. You have spurred me on after I added up our 6 monthly savings on our Vicky challenge from last year which I will put in tomorrow as well as some other startling figures too.


  12. I reread all of the Vicky Challenge posts last week. That took quite a while! I don't think I will have the savings you did, but even if it is a fraction - it still is recognizing the savings!

    Thanks again for the challenge and inspiration!

  13. Love this series of posts. This one reminded me of when my husband & I were first thinking of buying a home in very expensive Southern California. I had discovered The Tightwad Gazette in a used bookstore & stayed up the entire night reading it. What an eye opener! We got to work immediately. We put up a round the room chart to chart our progress. This was back in the days when computers printed on that attached paper with holes down the sides! We listed all our goals, put them into that chart, & celebrated each milestone. Eventually, that chart was completed and we found a perfect starter home that we could afford in 16 mos. of major effort. So worth it!

    A visual aid really does make a difference in something so big to save for. We always wanted to push it just a little farther! It's so easy to say, "It's just $20" when wanting to treat ourselves, but looking at that chart we'd say, "But look how far we can move if we put the $20 into savings!"

    1. Debby,

      I totally love the idea of a visual aid to get you to your goals! And I have loved the Tightwad Gazette for years. It is such a wonderful book that I can always find some new way to save, no matter how many times I have read it!

      I think I am going to create some sort of visual aid to keep in the kitchen. That way, the entire family can see that if we can get these bills under control, we can go on a family vacation (not something we do but once every 3 or 4 years in a regular year.) I think that would motivate us all.

      Thanks for the tip and the success story. It really motivates me.


  14. Dear Annabel , your embroidery is just pure perfection as well as sweet , I just love it !
    You are a woman of many talents !
    My thanks too for all your energy giving posts, inspiring us .
    Now if you could just move next door to me ...need I say more , we girls have things in common and our menfolk do too ;-) hehe
    Have a lovely weekend bluebirds , with love Maria xxx

  15. Such an inspiring and enthusiastic post Annabel.

    I want to pay our mortgage off this year. We are almost there, so will be throwing extra $$ on that every pay day and tighten my spending to accommodate this.

    This week I have been planning, and planning! It feels good to have some sort of control over my life and finances.

    It is going to be hot here today and I will be starting on my pantry. I have been seeing a lot of pantry posts with all sorts of containers etc to organise things and make them look pretty. I priced some of these yesterday and I simply cannot afford such things! So I will just organise in a neat fashion and play with an idea to use empty nappy boxes decorated in pretty paper for containers. We will see.

    Tomorrow is HOTTER (46C!), so I will be doing an inventory on my freezers. I need to use some of the food in them to make room for meals I will prepare in advance. I will use the meat etc I have in the freezer for these meals.

    Have a lovely week end gorgeous lady.

    God Bless,


  16. A very inspiring post as per usual, Annabel. I loved your posts last year about the meal base mixtures that you made up and kept in jars. I have mostly made my own ( single quantity) from scratch as I try to avoid added salt and sugar in pre mix packets, but I had never thought to make up batches and keep it in the pantry...a marvellous idea! I was wondering whether you have ever read the book, 'An Everlasting Meal; Cooking with Economy and Grace' by Tamar Adler. It's a lovely book about stretching the food dollar further and the style of writing is beautiful. If you haven't come across it, I do have an extra copy which I would like to offer you as a gift.

  17. Annabel, your embroidery work is exquisite! I really like your attitude to being a homemaker. It is my favourite job. Reading your above post, I thought about how much you have learned and grown over the past few years and I wonder what I can do to increase my skills and become a better homemaker this year.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your journey and to challenge and inspire others. I hope your 2018 is happy and productive.

  18. I just love these posts and all the replies as well that are full of great ideas and motivation! Leftovers are actually on the menu plan here at our home...usually on the night that my hubby has his bowling league or if I know we are going to have a busy week, it may actually appear twice on the menu in any given week. ;)

    Your embroidery is beautiful and I can see why the shops would buy your creations from you. :)

    Be blessed!

  19. Dear Annabel, like everyone else, I am loving your posts, they are inspiring for all of us, and they also spur us on to do more.
    I think that I am going to find it difficult to work our Vicki Challenge, as we are in the place of having our own chooks, so eggs, and meat and stock etc, and also shed material for the compost heap, We have our own lambs but we only kill in the col/cold weather as the coolroom as to work to hard in the hot weather, the same with our beef, we have a small breed called Dexters, they are an Irish small holders dual purpose cow, both milk and beef.
    So I guess my question is do I add them in as a whole or only when I take pieces out of the Freezer, I am thinking as whole for this month and not worrying about small portions. We also barter and I also sell eggs, but this is to pay for the chook and pig feed that DH mixes with wheat that we get from our SIL.
    Also have a fairly extensive vegie garden and we freeze and bottle large amounts of vegies that will last until the next season, so I guess that I will add it in all at once.
    Please Annabel let me know if this is ok?

  20. Annabel, thank you and Vicky for the challenge! I attempted it last year keeping track of savings just 4 of the 12 months. I have made my own detergent for the past 9 years and always knew that was a big savings, but when I wrote down things like picking up and spreading mulch in stead of having it delivered and spread saved me over $100, I started to watch for other things, making my own yogurt, coupon savings, meals, i, for that short period of time added up $2,000. So I am rereading Vicky's Challenge and try to keep better track this year and see how I come out!! So exciting. Thank you!! Jean

  21. Your embroidery is exquisite. Drooling here ;)


I really appreciate your comments thank you! The aim of my blog is the be a place of encouragement and happiness. Very rarely is anyone rude. Actually only twice so far! If you post a rude or aggressive comment I will read it but not publish it, thanks for

Spam is never published... if you are advertising a product or selling website your comment wont be published. I am inundated with stuff about drugs, horses and weird things! I am not going to publish this stuff! Thank you.