Sunday, September 22, 2013

Its All About Negotiation

Yesterdays post got me thinking about negotiating for things.

A very strong memory from my childhood was my weekly trip with my family on a Thursday night to  Macquarie Shopping Centre.  It is on the North Shore of Sydney for those that do not live in Sydney.  Every week we would eat dinner out and our trip was not complete without dad visiting a store called 'Discount Inn'. They sold electrical and computer items.  One week it was a new toaster, the next week something for the computer.   I would walk around with Dad while he decided what he wanted and then he would walk to the counter.  This is the part when I used to cringe and hope the floor would swallow me up.   Dad would start to negotiate on price.  I couldnt understand why he was doing it.   I was so embarrassed and used to joke with friends that he would negotiate on his groceries if he could.  

Fast forward a few years and I have found myself doing the same thing.  OK, I am not as bad as my dad, but when I am making large purchases it is a must.

Take the fridge that we purchased.

It was listed at $2,499.00.  It was on sale at $1,899.00 as it was floor stock.  We were looking at the fridge and I asked the sales person - what was the best price he could do.  He explained it was floor stock already discounted.  He then went onto to say that we could purchase the replacement warranty and that was $275.00.  Delivery was an additional $75.00.  Total cost of this if we paid full price $2,249.00.    I said that we did not want to spend that much  and our budget was $2,000.  A bit of backwards and forwards banter and we got it for $2,000 with delivery and the extended warranty.  Total saving $249.00 - but an $849.00 saving if we had paid full retail with the warranty and delivery.

As we still had the TV's to purchase, we got further discounts.   We bought three 50"plasmas.  They were listed at $900.00 for two of them and $600.00 for the third one.  We ended up getting them for $2,180.00 including replacement warranty and a digital set top box thrown in for another one of our TV's for free. Again a decent saving.

So my rules are;

1. Don't be afraid to bargain. Your money is power whether you a paying cash, credit or interest free

2.  Be prepared to walk away.

3.  Check out other retailers - use the phone it will save you hundreds and it saves negotiating face-to-         face. I will give you an example.

My boss wanted a Westinghouse dishwasher.  The model he wanted was listed on the internet for $800.00 on one site, but then listed at $697 on another site.   I rung Winning Appliances and they said that they were the cheapest and they could do it for $679.00.  So I rung the Good Guys - one said that they were not making anything on that price and couldn't do anything cheaper.   So I rung another Good Guys store to be told that they could do it for $626.00.   Back to Winning Appliances to be told they would do it for $597.00 - how cheap is that!!!!!   I didn't have to go anywhere. Cost me a couple of phone calls and 20 mins of my time and saved $200.00 from the retail price.

5. The more you are spending, the more you can expect to get off the listed price.

6. Don't bargain in the supermarket.  It is just plain embarrassing.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

New Fridge

Yesterday we had a delivery of a new fridge.  New fridge you ask????  Why would you need a new fridge when you only just got one.

The last one, we took delivery of it on 12/07/13 - so just over two months ago.

When we first installed the fridge, as we knew it was going to be taken out again for tiling we did not connect the water.   As soon as the tiling was completed we connected the water.  The water worked, but the ice didn't.   We waited and waited but the ice didn't work.  We rung Bosch, but even with their instructions the ice didn't work.

We rung Bosch again and they sent someone out to repair it.  It turned out to be a faulty ice maker and the ice maker part would be replaced.  Then it dawned on us - replacement warranty.

Let me go back to the beginning and explain.

We purchased the above items - one fridge and three tv's from Domayne.  The fridge happened to be the display model and it was already discounted by $500.00.  The sales person when we asked about purchasing it said we could purchase a 'replacement warranty'. I have heard of an extended warranty, but not a replacement warranty.   We were told if anything goes wrong, and they mean ANYTHING, it will not be repaired, it will be replaced with the new model.  I was a little skeptical about the warranty, but it was not much, so we went for it.

Now knowing that we had a replacement warranty on the fridge we asked Bosch if it would be replaced.  They said that the replacement warranty did not kick in until after the normal manufacturers warranty.  This was not explained to us when we purchased the fridge, so we thought we had been a little jilted.

When the Bosch repair man called to say the parts had been delivered, I asked him about our replacement warranty. He asked why we were not using it, as our fridge would be replaced.   So I rung Domayne and Bosch had been telling fibs and it was indeed covered under the replacement warranty.

I called the warranty place and they advised that it could be repaired or they would replace it.  Replace please!!!  One of my main reasons for replacing was when it was delivered and we took off the energy sticker, there was a lovely dent. I didn't think I could complain as it was floor stock.

Fast forward a couple of weeks as the fridge was not in stock, but today I have taken delivery of a brand new fridge with a working ice maker and dent free!!!!

I am now a convert of this warranty.  We also purchased replacement warranties for the new TV's, so if anything goes wrong with them in the next 5 years, they will be replaced as well.

Have you ever used this type of warranty before????


Friday, September 20, 2013


I thought I would go into a bit of how I pay my bills.

When we bought our first house I estimated that our bills would be about $100.00 a week. Each week from Mat's pay I would put aside a $100.00 and when each bill came in I would pay the bill out of that money that had been put aside.

The problem that I had with doing it this way, I didn't have a clue how much our bills were and $100.00 was grossly under what it should be.

I then had a brain wave and I wrote down all our expected bills for the whole year.  Insurances, council rates, phones everything including the regos. Once I had everything tallied, including some estimates for electricity and water I divided this up into a weekly/fortnightly amount.  I used to divide it up weekly as Mat was paid weekly, but now I divide it up into a fortnightly amount as he is paid fortnightly.   If you are paid monthly, divide it up this way. Firstly I worked out that I needed to more than double the amount we were putting away.

When I first started doing it like this, I would have a schedule of bills that would come in and I would pay the amount on my list.  If it was the 15th August I could see on my list exactly who was being paid that day.   The problem with this, was some weeks the bills would be higher than others and if that fortnights bills were lower than my estimate, the remaining amount would be spent and then I would have to find additional money when the bills were higher another fortnight.  It still left the problem of big quarterly bills and when they came in, I would not have the money to pay it all.

Now my strategy is a little different.   I still have the list of bills and now our bills are $400.00 a week - shocking I know.  So I have $800.00 a fortnight that I pay out.  I no longer wait for a bill to arrive. I pay all my bills every fortnight.

For my electricity, I have estimated that I will have a $1,000 a quarter bill - please let it not be more than that.   So that works out at $4,000 per year or $150.00 per fortnight. Every fortnight I bpay $150.00 to the electricity company.    When the bills comes out at the end of the quarter, I should have no bill or a very small one.  

Same with our water, council rates etc.  I pay them all in small chunks every fortnight by bpay.  This way I know that when every bills comes in I will have nothing to pay, or maybe even be in credit.

Plus, another good thing about doing it this way - I used to dread the electricity bill coming in.  I would close my eyes and then peak a look, making sure that I was sitting down.  Now, it doesnt bother me opening the bill as I know I will have basically nothing to pay.  Plus it feels like a cheap bill.

How do you pay your bills????


Thursday, September 19, 2013


We are big electricity users - I wont deny it.  We guzzle that stuff like it is going out of fashion.  OK, we are not that bad, but every time I get an electricity bill it takes my breath away.

There was one good thing about living in the rental house and it being smaller than a shoe box - small electricity bills.  I think our first one was under $400.00 for the quarter.  That caused me to nearly run down the street yahooing.

I expect with the new house that our electricity bill will be about $1,000 a quarter. If it comes in under that, it will require a party. If it comes in after that, I think I will die of shock.

This week I have been ringing around trying to get energy prices.  My first call was to Energy Australia to find out my rates. Their computers were down and they couldnt help me.  Next try was to find out what would work for me.   The problem with iselect, you cannot do it over the internet and someone calls you back.   Someone called me back even though I didn't want them to and they offered me Momentum Energy.  I told them I would think about it and they have been hassling me repeatedly for the last two days.

Today  I went back to Energy Australia and asked what rates I was on.   Firstly I was told that I had a 'Standard all hours meter' and I only had one rate which was a peak rate of 27.39c/kw - 31.32c/kw.  I was shocked thinking we had one of the new 'smart meters' that did time billing, where you have a peak, shoulder and off peak rate.

A call to Rawson's electrician told me that we do have that smart meter and they gave me all necessary details and told me to speak to Ausgrid. I rung Ausgrid and my goodness are they helpful and it was worked out that we do have a smart meter, but when new connections are done they are automatically put on the 'standard all hours meter'

I was then put through to an Energy Australia person who said that I could opt to have my meter changed over to 'time of use' billing, but she needed to explain the rates first.  I was all into changing over to the 'time of use billing'until she gave me the rates.

Peak rate is 52.54c/kw  Peak time is from 2pm to 8pm
Shoulder is 21.856c/kw.  Shoulder time is from 8pm to 10pm and then 7am to 2pm and from 7am to 10pm on weekends and public holidays
Off Peak is 13.167c/kw Off Peak time is 10om until 7am

The daily fee you pay is 87.175c compared to the 78.10 cents with the other meter.

With those rates I nearly fell off my chair.  I think I am going to have to turn my kids into slaves and get them riding exercise bikes to make electricity - OK I am joking with that one.

The Energy Australia lady then advised that their rates did not includes discounts - Oooohhh I like the word discount.

With the one rate plan if I agreed to stay with Energy Australia for 2 years I would receive a discount of 12%. If I went with the time of use plan I would get a 15% discount if I agreed to a contract for the same period, basically bringing the rates down to the following

Peak for All Time Billing 24.10 - 27.56c/kw depending on how much I use.

For the Time of Use

Peak 44.659c/kw
Shoulder: 18.289c/kw
Off Peak: 11.19c/kw

Now my next thing is to work out how we use our electricity and when. I think that will determine what plan I am going to go for.

Have you looked at your electricity plans????

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Remember from this post I was a bit of a scab forager during the last junk day that we had and I found two great bits.

The first one

It now sits in my sons room. It makes a perfect bedside table - best part about it, it was FREE!!!!

The second score was the foot stool/ottoman. The original fabric was daggy, but it was in great condition

Re-covering upholstery is easy - and the difference is makes is unbelievable.  Rather than just show you the end product I thought I would show you some of the steps I took to recover it.

I bought 3 yards of fabric (yard works out at about 91cm) to re-cover the ottoman.  I allowed myself a bit extra in case I had any mishaps.  Thankfully I didn't and I have some left over.

I tipped the ottoman over, and there was a black piece of fabric covering all of the staples etc.  Once I unscrewed the feet, I ripped off the black fabric covering to reveal the guts of the ottoman.

Next to come off was the cover.  I wanted to keep the majority of it in-tact so that I could use the original cover as a template.  There were hundreds of staples holding the cover tight - so I would have been there all day trying to remove them all one-by-one, so I ended up cutting the cover as close to the staples as I could. Once I had cut the cover away from the wooden base, I carefully pulled off the cover as to not damage the foam

I pulled apart the original cover so that I could use it as a template to make the new cover.  Don't make things hard for yourself by measuring - just use what you already have.  It will save any mishaps as you know that the original cover fits!

The piping was the only thing that made it a little bit more difficult for me.  I don't have a piping foot for my sewing machine. It would have been easier with one. It would have been a very quick project if I had forgone the piping and just stayed with the fabric, but I wanted the contrast with the black piping.

The fabric that was originally on the ottoman was home-decorating weight - which in layman's terms it is thicker than normal fabric so it can stand up to a lot of use.  The fabric that I chose was regular quilting cotton, so a lot thinner than home-decorating fabric.  I made up a second cover, this time in calico that went over the ottoman first to give a bit of stability and then the other cover went over after.

After you pull the cover over the ottoman - and believe it it is a struggle.  That thing is tight. You need to then secure the fabric to the underside of the ottoman. I use a staple gun and then hammer in the staples afterwards to make sure it is nice and tight.  The underside does not need to be pretty as you get to cover it up with another piece of fabric. In my case I recycled the bottom and feet that was originally on the ottoman.

And the finished product

I am debating whether to get a piece of glass cut for the top, but in the mean time I am happy looking at my new ottoman that was FREE!! apart from the fabric to recover it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Last of the Earthworks....

Last week Mat made a call to the bobcat man hoping that he would be available Sunday to do some more work at the house.  We have a house warming/grand final BBQ in a couple of weeks and we wanted to crack on with the outside works to get ready for the influx of people that haven't seen the house.   Unfortunately he said he was not available, which put a dampener on things.

Yesterday morning we got a call from him to say that the job he had booked did not take as long as he thought and he could come around straight away if we still wanted him.  Yes Please!!! So five minutes later he was dropping off his excavator and going home to pick up the bobcat.

We wanted him to move the big piles of dirt and clay from the front of the house, take them around to the back of the house and level out the ground on the side of the house so we could continue with turfing.

This is the progress that we made yesterday.

The dirt piles dont look that big, but after over an hour of going backwards and forwards with the bobcat, it looked like not much had been moved

Over two hours of moving dirt - we now have a level pad so that we can start turfing.

The bricks have also been moved to the side of the front yard.  They are the bricks left behind by the brick layers when the replaced the window sills on the ground floor last week.  Another blog post coming up about the work that we have had done with the bricks

Where did the dirt go?

Firstly it was dumped off the edge of the house pad

It was leveled off to make a smooth slope that we can turf and mow. 

Do you know what we are doing next weekend???? 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Trying To Be Organised

I have visions of being a totally organised person, but they are just those - visions.  With the new house, I have decided to try and become more organised.

My pantry is usually a nightmare.  I find that I clean and organise it and then when I am busy, I shove things back in willy nilly and then it all gets messy again.

My new pantry, it is bigger than I have had before and I have become a little obsessed with organising blogs, so my pantry was a great place to start.

My pantry is 'builder basic' so it means that I have not added anything other than what comes standard.  I have had to 'make it work'

When you walk into my pantry and you look straight ahead you will see the photo above.

Top shelf - lots of cereal.  The Nutrigrain - that is Harrý's fault and he is a little obsessed with the stuff.  The crunchy nut is Mats fault, my cereal of choice - Cocopops are missing at the moment. Must add to my shopping list.

Second shelf down.  I love storage containers. I have dreams of a perfect pantry that is all beautifully labelled Tuperware containers.   One I am too cheap to buy Tuperware and secondly I find that having a mix works better for me.  In these storage containers I have sugars, pasta, stocks etc.

Third shelf down. My baskets. I found this idea on an organising blog and I can seriously say it has helped keep my pantry organised more than anything else.

The basked on the the left, it is sauces and condiments. Maple syrup, vinegar, salad dressings, vegemite etc. You get the drift.  Basket in the middle is noodles and nuts.  The third basket on the shelf is for my packet mixes.  I know it looks like it is stuffed in there, and it is, as my secret to a great shepards pie and beef and red wine casserole is a Maggi packet mix....shhhhhh

Bottom shelf is all my utensils that I used to keep on the bench in the old house.   Storage for paper towel. Usually I have more than I have as I am a bit obsessed with paper towel.  The loner basket on the bottom shelf contains everything you need for baking.

On the floor I have a large ice bucket which I keep all my recycling in.

The shelf on the right of the pantry. Again it is  divided into a couple of different types of storage.

Top shelf is flour, oats and rice in large containers.

Second shelf down is baskets again.  It is this shelf of baskets that I find the most useful

The basket in the corner - it holds salt/pepper, gravy and seasonings.   The next basket up contains everything you need for a cup of tea or coffee.  Third basket along is for oils and there is cordial thrown in as it is handy to get to.  The fourth basket is all our breads and the last basket is snacks.  The snack basket used to be housed on the bottom shelf, but a little three year old helped himself too often so it has been moved out of his reach.

The third shelf from the top has all the appliances.  In the corner there is a basket that contains all sauces for cooking.  This is great as you can take out the whole basket at once and have everything handy.  Another reason that I have found these baskets work is that if one of your bottles leaks, or in my case it is the sesame oil that always seems to leak, you only have one basket to wipe out - it does not leave messes on the shelves.

Back to the appliances. After handover, I had an electrician install a powerpoint on the wall as you walk into the pantry.  I did this after handover as i thought it would save some money, but I should have been more clever and had the powerpoint put on the back of the pantry wall and not on the side. Anyway, it still works so nothing lost.     I have my toaster, coffee machine and kettle on this shelf.  My powerpoint is a 4-gang plug so everything can stay plugged in and ready to use.

Remember those baskets - they are perfect here as the one for bread is perfect for doing toast - no having to walk around and the one with the coffee/tea is perfect for making a cup of tea.  Maybe I need another basket that has mugs in it - then I would only have to leave the pantry when I needed milk.

The other thing that lives on this shelf is the knife block.  I wanted to keep the kitchen benches free of clutter, so this is close to the pantry door.

The bottom shelf has a basket with all my spices and we have cut part of the shelf out so we can put the bar fridge in there.  It saves Mat about twenty or so steps to go into the garage to get beer.   On the floor I have another larger basket for my potatoes and garlic etc.

To the right of the pantry door, I have more shelving where I store all of my other appliances - mix master, slow cooker etc.   I also have a shelf where I store all of my excess platters and we have a large bin that holds our dog food

On the wall behind the pantry door we have a white board.  It is great to be able to write down any items that you have run out of and need to add to your shopping list.    I am also going to start writing our meal plans on the white board so that I don't get the same question everyday "what's for dinner"

So there you have it. For us it works well. I am always open to other ideas and suggestions.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Update on Monet

Writing that blog post on Saturday put me in a foul mood and my family felt it.  At the end of the day it is only just a house, but building a house, I feel like I have birthed a child and everything is pretty personal and so bricks aren't just bricks.

Yesterday I had a bit of a dummy spit.  I had that unpleasant phone call with the SS when I advised that the brick cleaner had not shown up again and I was beyond annoyed at it.  I listed my options, and I was quickly offered a solution to have it rectified - that day.

Yesterday afternoon I met with my SS at the house and went through all my issues with the bricks and brought up some new ones as we walked around.

The house will have another FULL brick clean.  I have had a word with the brick cleaner and told him that what he has done previously has been crap. He told me that he has been to my place four times already - well make sure the fifth time you actually clean some bricks!!!

All of the window sills on the bottom storey of the house (barr the home theatre front window sills) will be replaced.  They are rubbish and they should have been replaced as soon as they were laid.  The course of bricks under all of the sills will also be replaced as the mortar joints are either too thick or too thin

My concern with the mortar being blown out of joints.  When the house is cleaned again today there will be more mortar that is blown out.  The house will be re-pointed where it is needed.  What happens when it is re-pointed, it needs another brick clean.   So that will happen once the re-pointing goes off.

Bricklayers will be back Thursday to replace sills.

We also have an issue where the paint from the feature board at the front of the house has bled down the left hand column and the front of the house.   They have tried to paint strip it and acid clean it, but so far it is still visible.   So they are going to try again today.  If it does not come off, we have been offered moroka (bag/paint) finish to the three feature columns.  Don't know how happy I am with this.  I like my bricks and would love to not have to resort to this.

So I am happy that action has been taken so quickly.  I am happy that the issue has not been glossed over.  

Watch this space - I'll take some pictures of the bricks once they have been cleaned.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Brickwork of Monet

Do you know the saying "Its a Monet -  Far away is great, but up close its a mess".  That is the perfect description for our brickwork.  Don't look too closely!

Before I even built with Rawson, I was warned by a brick cleaner that we use at work that the brick layers that Rawson used were rubbish.  I took his warning with a grain of salt, as he was generally a negative person. Maybe I should not have been so quick to dismiss his words.

I was promised from before the brick layers started that they were the best. They had completed the show homes for Rawson at Waterford County.  We thought the bricklayers were good at the start, and then they must have gotten bored or fed up with the house and then it all went down hill.

I wanted to keep this off the blog. I have always tried to be positive towards Rawson as I have a good repore with the SS and I believe that we have had a beautiful house built. I have decided to blog about this for two reasons.  One I said from the beginning that I would blog about the good, the bad and the ugly and if I leave this out, then I am not doing what I said I would.  Secondly, I have been trying to get these bricks cleaned for months!!!  I was promised that the brick cleaner would come last weekend and he did a no show and then I was promised that he would be coming yesterday or today.  Seeing it is now 4:00pm in the afternoon and we have not seen him, I doubt he is coming - so another no show.

Our bricks were finished 26th February 2013 - this is over six months since they were completed. Our bricks have been cleaned countless times since they were completed.  The last time the brick cleaner came out, which was a couple of weeks after we moved in, the only thing he managed to do was soak the garage as he brick cleaned the garage door and little else.  So after the amount of times he has been here, we either have bad brick layers or bad a bad brick cleaner - I think a bit of both.  So get ready for picture overload and you can make the decision.

When I sit in my ensuite toilet - this is the view. Tell me how the brick cleaner missed this when the scaffolding was up?

You dont have to walk too far from the ensuite - only as far as the main bedroom balcony. Looking at the balcony annoys me to no end - how are we expected to accept this???

Close up of the balcony wall

The top of the column on the balcony.  This is just over a metre high off the deck, so in plain view. This one has actually been hand scrubbed with acid, so you can only imagine what it looked like before.

The top of the column at the front of the house

The other column is just as bad, but I didn't want to break my neck getting a photo of it, so you can have a photo of the side of the column instead as that has not been cleaned.

The sill for the sliding door on the balcony - I don't think the brick cleaner ever bothered with this one. 

The whole of the sill is like this, so I guess we should accept a snow white sill.

Now time to move outside as there is plenty more to see. 

Next stop, left of the front door.  That joint is about 30-40mm thick and messy. 

Window sills for the home theatre and the 5th bedroom.  I complained about these sills from the day they were installed.  They look messy, they are crooked and they have laid bricks that are chipped and have tried to disguise them.

The brickies answer rather than removing the bricks was to wipe concrete over the dodgy joints - as then they would be less noticeable.  Five months on, it is still there and the sills are still dodgy and crooked and have chipped bricks


Check out the wall next to the 5th bedroom

Blown mortar from the amount of times the house has been brick cleaned.  The block spot just above half way up the photo on the left - that isn't a black spot, its a hole in the mortar.

The next photo is of under the kitchen splashback window.  Do you think it could do with a clean???? Maybe all the mortar on the slab could be cleaned off as well.

Above the splashback window is lovely too - neat isn't it

My favourite part of the mortar is the one that has been put between the splashback window and the first course of bricks above it. 

This mortar is done so well that is falls apart when you touch it and you can rub it out with your fingers. Yes, the black bits are holes in the mortar.

This is a good one - on the corner of the house where the mortar was blown out from the initial brick clean - lets just wipe mortar over the joint and then it needs to be cleaned all over again

Another spot where the mortar was blown out and they thought they would just wipe it with mortar.

Blown out mortar on the side of the garage. Unfortunately this isn't uncommon and I would bore you to death if I showed you the extent of it. The bad thing in, it still needs to be cleaned, so it will only get worse.

Front columns - these badly need a clean and they not only have blown mortar, but the mortar joints are uneven. 

Above the front door.  

More blown mortar joints.  A lot of the external corners on the house are like this

Look at the mortar on the alfresco.  Hmm I don't have any words to describe this one.


So there you have it. I have lots more pictures, but I don't want to bore you and I don't want to upset myself any further

The problem with the brickwork is the more you look at it the more you notice everything that is wrong with it.  It is pitiful. 

I feel let down by Rawson.  I feel let down that they would expect that I would accept the brickwork in this condition. I guess for only spending $400,000 what can you expect. 

I can tell you now, I feel that I have made a huge mistake.   I didn't get any independent inspections before we handed over or during any stage of the build.  I should have, but I trusted my relationship with my builder.  I tried not to be one of those clients, I wanted to be easy going and enjoy the process and I feel when it comes to the brickwork it has bitten me in the backside.  My piece of advise, is you are spending a huge amount of money. Protect yourself and protect your investment and make sure you are having a house that is built right. 

What am I going to do about it???   My SS is going to get a not so pleasant phone call from me on Monday. I am furious over this.  I am also going to email the Construction Manager at Rawson to voice my disgust over the state of my brickwork. 

My last resort is to go to Department of Fair Trading.