Friday, 7 June 2013

Craft: Crochet Ice Cream Cones

I haven't had a lot of time for crafts and blogging lately as uni has been taking up some of my time in the evenings. My shawl (that I wrote about last week) hasn't grown very much and I needed a small crochet project to get me motivated to keep working on it. That's how these crochet ice creams came to be!  

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Craft: Work-in-Progress Hilo Shawl

I have a wedding to go to in mid July and it's presented a bit of challenge in terms of what to wear. The ceremony will be outside if all goes according to plan and it's likely to be cold (I'm in Australia so it will be the middle of winter). I've found it really difficult to find a nice dress with long enough sleeves to keep me warm. In the end I gave up and bought this cute dress from ModCloth. It has no sleeves at all, I'm going to be freezing!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Craft: Crochet Bunny and Invisible Decreases

I've been crocheting amigurumi for several years now and it's taken me this long to learn that there is such a thing as an invisible single crochet decrease! 

Made with invisible decreases!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Craft: Mother's Day Granny Stitch Scarf

I hope everyone had a great Mother's Day! 

My Mum has admired the granny stitch scarf I have been working on several times now and I thought a similar scarf would make a perfect Mother's Day present. I couldn't give Mum the one I was working on of course, which only left me with ten days to make another one. I have been crocheting it at every spare moment to get it done in time. Luckily granny stitch is relaxing and easy to do while reading or watching TV and I managed to get the scarf finished with one day to spare! 

Friday, 3 May 2013

Personal Finance: Breaking Up With My Insurance Provider

I’ve known for a while now that my car insurance fees were some kind of rort. My small, reliable, low cost car is worth somewhere between $10,000 and $12,000, and I was paying $143 a month for comprehensive car insurance. $143 a month is $1,716 a year. That means I’ve been paying almost 20% of the car’s value every year to insure it, despite my little household’s perfect driving histories, low annual kilometres and a locked garage. I’m the proverbial little old lady who only drives her car once a week to the supermarket, and instead I was being charged like I’m the stereotype of an 18 year old p-plater who’s quite keen on street racing and drink driving.

My dream car! I will own one someday.
Luckily for me, my crappy car insurance company gave me a push to change policies by increasing my fees yet again. To $157 a month, which is $1,884 a year. I repeat: $1884 a year to insure a car worth $12,000 at most. Take a moment to consider how ridiculous that is. I would have to total my car every six years to make that policy worthwhile!
I’d already created a “car replacement fund” able to well and truly cover the cost of replacing the car if I was to total it, as it seems to me that any frugal girl should be preparing for the future. So what was the obvious solution? To take out a third party fire and theft policy so that I wouldn’t be screwed if I hit a Ferrari, and cancel the comprehensive car insurance.
When I called the insurance provider I’d picked as a good bet for a new policy, the very helpful customer service rep explained an amazing phenomenon to me: if your car is worth over $10,000, you can’t get covered for anything less than comprehensive car insurance because it would give you the right to sue the insurance company for under-insuring you. I asked if this was standard across the insurance industry and he told me that for some insurers the limit is only $5,000. Basically, insurance agencies and our legal system assume that you are unable to make decisions for yourself and that you don’t understand what the policy you’re taking out actually means. Otherwise how can you have the ability to successfully sue for your choice to buy a policy that doesn’t cover your car’s value in its entirety?
I was not impressed that my plan to only have a third party policy wouldn’t work. I don’t want to go without insurance at all in case I hit that Ferrari.
However, this story has a happy ending. The customer service rep was able to sell me a policy for $1,074 a year, or just under $90 a month. That’s cheaper than any of the quotes I received from other insurance providers for comprehensive car insurance. It’s not as cheap and cheerful as that third party policy would have been, but it’s an annual saving of $810. It turned out to be very good timing as I had to pay close to $800 for dental work this week. 
My actual car! Which is clearly a Beetle copycat. I love you, Micra.
Just because a service provider was the cheapest option when you last looked, doesn’t mean that’s still the case. When I first had to purchase car insurance three years ago, the provider I picked was by far the cheapest for my circumstances. Now they appear to be very overpriced compared to market standards. My circumstances have changed in that time, and maybe the insurance market has too. This doesn’t just apply for insurance: when was the last time you shopped around for an internet provider, or ran a price comparison on different mobile phone contracts?
Look at whether you really need insurance. I’m still planning to drop down to a third party policy when my car’s value is lower. A different policy may be a better fit than your current one, and if you have a very large savings fund and the value of your vehicle is low, think about what you’re gaining from having insurance coverage. Some people wouldn’t be comfortable with the thought of paying for a new car out of pocket and would rather have insurance just for peace of mind, and that’s okay too.
If you’re friendly and you ask questions, you will receive a wealth of information. The customer service rep was willing to chat to me about all kinds of insurance issues. For example, do you know that if you live in a suburb with lots of car parks (e.g. close to the central business district or a shopping centre) your insurance premiums will be higher? That’s because people are causing accidents by reversing into each other’s cars in car parks and your premium is partly based on the statistics for your suburb.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Bought versus Homemade: Falafel Wrap

The café downstairs from my office sells super tasty falafel wraps. I love them! The falafel is spicy, the wrap is full of salad and tabouleh... I'm hungry just thinking about it.

But I'm really more of a "make it at home" kind of girl, so I decided to put together my own version and compare it to the café wrap.

Why yes, my chopping board IS bright green.
I used a shop bought wrap, baby spinach leaves, mayonnaise with minced garlic and herbs stirred through it, and the very awesome falafel recipe from Poor Girl Eats Well. I drop out the fresh coriander because it's too much effort, and add minced garlic because that's what I do with all savoury cooking.

Homemade falafel is not just tasty, it's nutritious (chickpeas are full of protein!) and it's also budget friendly. The recipe makes enough falafel for four lunches, and at $1 a can, that's four serves of falafel for $3 at the very most once you include the cost of the spices. I estimate the total cost of these falafel and spinach wraps at about $2 - $2.50 each. I want to make my own tortillas Sandra Reynolds style, which would a) reduce the cost quite a bit, b) make me feel like I'm the badass 1950s housewife I aspire to be.

Which is tastier? The honest answer is... both. They taste different, but they both taste great. So for me it comes down to not wanting to spend $7.50 on a café wrap when I can make one myself for $2.50 at the most, and the bragging rights of being able to casually say in the lunch room "yes, you really must make your own falafel if you want authentic flavour" in a snooty voice.

Winner: homemade!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Craft: Work-in-Progress - Granny Stripe Scarf

It seems like I've been waiting all summer for the weather to cool down so that I can start wearing scarves again. Now that it finally has I've begun crocheting my first scarf!

I was inspired to make the scarf after finding the yarn. I don't normally like novelty yarn, but this one was hard to resist with its tiny sequins and rich colour. In certain lights the yarn looks deep red and in others its almost a bright pink.