Smash your power bill in five steps

Environmentally friendly technologies are usually associated with smug, inner city techno- hipster types but what if I were to tell you that they can save you an absolute bomb in the long run? Going green is a great option for those who are as concerned about their family’s bottom line as they are about the environment. Here at Chez Abulous we managed to slash our electricity bill by 85% with a little work and upfront investment. That’s not a misprint. Until Dadabs took matters into his own hands our electricity bill was around $1,000 per quarter. Our latest quarterly bills were closer to $100. In effect we’ve saved around $3,500 per year.  Whilst this may not buy me a Prada handbag it covers my cappuccino, chocolate and wine habits – just.

Here are the five steps we took to achieve this.

1) Solar panels: Besides marrying me having solar (photovoltaic) panels installed is arguably the best thing Dadabs has ever done in his domestic life. Our solar panels pretty much cover all of the home’s electricity needs during the day light hours. Occasionally we even over generate and sell power back to the grid. This means that the house is actually making us (a small amount of ) money instead of sucking it remorselessly from our bank accounts.

The Federal government currently provides incentive to install solar panels through the Small Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). Under this plan households (or small businesses and community groups) who install eligible systems are allocated a number of Small Scale Technology Certificates (STCs) which are mini-carbon credits. The number of certificates issued depends upon the amount of power the system is expected to generate over a 15 year period.  The householder can then  assign the STCs to a registered agent for an upfront incentive – usually a discount on the installation price. Otherwise they can sell the STCs themselves through the Clearing House (like a stock market specifically for these instruments). Most people opt for the upfront discount because the Clearing House route is frankly a long winded pain in the bum.

Let these guys heat things up for you.

Let these guys heat things up for you.

2) Rejigging the hot water system: Here’s where smart metering comes in handy. Dadabs happened to notice that our electric hot water system was heating during peak periods when power is more expensive. We were frankly being ripped off. We arranged for the system to be put on a timer so that the heating took place over night in the off-peak period when power is considerably cheaper.

We then decided to do away with the whole thing and install a solar hot water system instead. Now we can enjoy long hot showers any time we please without our electricity retailer benefiting. Its a good thing when you bath your kids in a double spa the size of a small swimming pool. As with the photovoltaic panels, solar hot water systems are covered by the SRES, offsetting the cost of installation.  Some state governments also offer other rebates for solar hot water but sadly NSW is not one of them. Bastards!


3) Installing LED lighting: Those new fangled LED lights that you’ve heard about are more expensive than traditional incandescent and halogen lights. However independent tests indicate that they are up to 80% cheaper to run. There are a number of state government based schemes that offer incentives for households to switch from halogen downlights to LEDs which are similar in nature to the solar rebates.

In a massive military style operation we replaced almost every light bulb in the house with LEDs. Yes – it was an expensive exercise but we are reaping the benefits now.

Oh my! Check out the wattage on that.

Oh my! Check out the wattage on that.

4) Switching stuff off: This one is a no brainer. We did a quick inventory and found that we were continuously running systems that we simply did not need. Our security system was running 24/7. Not any more. Similarly the previous owners had put in an automatic sprinkler system which we simply turned off. Other appliances like sub woofers, a bar fridge, the media center and the printer were chewing up energy for no good reason. We flicked the switch.

5) Use efficient appliances: This one is also very straight forward. As your appliances die a natural death replace them with energy efficient models. The mandatory Energy Rating Label (ERL) makes this task easy. The more stars displayed on the label at the point of sale the more efficient the product. Items with over six stars are considered ‘super efficient’.

Not everyone is in a position to throw a few thousand dollars at solar panels, solar hot water heating and brand new appliances but there is still plenty of things you can do to keep your costs down. Although the thought of it may make your eyes glaze over, its worth while to go through your electricity bill with a fine tooth comb. There’s a good chance that the plan you are on is not optimal for you. The electricity companies purposely make their plans so complicated and painful that deters the average person from questioning them. It is time consumers stood up to this treatment. At the very least you can ring your electricity provider and threaten to leave. Its remarkable how quickly they will offer you a discount which could save you hundreds of dollars per year.

Don't give these guys any more than you have to.

Don’t give these guys any more than you have to.


Electricity – its not sexy but saving serious money sure is.

Have you got any power saving tips to share.








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Seven is the new Fourteen.


Meanwhile at Mother & Baby

Recently I took my eldest daughter to a seven-year-old’s birthday party. The scene was vastly different to what would have occurred only two years ago.

There was not a sequin nor a scrap of tulle in sight. The event was free of Disney princesses and there wasn’t a set of fairy wings in site.

Instead the lovely, young ladies frolicked about in fashionable shorts and stylish tops. Much of their conversation centred on their favourite pop stars like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and the fate of One Direction. Naturally, gossip about absent classmates was rife.



The Secret to a Happy Marriage

The social media outrage-ometre nearly shattered last week – such was the level outrage generated by a number of outrageously outrageous comments. Firstly Detective Inspector Mick Hughes advised women to avoid venturing into parks alone. Then John Laws publicly humiliated an elderly caller who rang in to talk about his experience as an abused child. There’s been a huge call for people to boycott Law’s program and I can say with some smugness that I am way ahead of the curve . I’ve been boycotting John Laws all my life …….. and Alan Jones and Kyle Sandilands.  Tony Abbott compared Bill Shorten to Joseph Goebbels which generated some outrage (seriously when will people learn not to talk about the war). However for my money it was a lame analogy – Nazi propaganda actually worked.

Whilst all of this was pretty bad, peak outrage was reserved for Hollywood actress Eva Mendes (best known for her role as main squeeze to uber-crumpet Ryan Gosling) when she said…. wait for it……………

“You can’t do sweatpants … ladies, No. 1 cause of divorce in America, sweatpants, no!”

The sweatpant-gate story broke on the 18th March and as at the date of writing (21st of March) it is still trending. Three days is a veritable eternity in social media land. Eva and Ryan have both to taken to Twitter to declare the whole thing a joke and re-avow their love of  sweat pants. Nevertheless so much wrong with the original statement.

For starters – lets not call them sweat pants. They are track suit pants. From now on I will refer to them in the Australian idiom as trakka dakkas. Secondly trakka dakkas far from being a leading cause of divorce, are the primary reason for marriages hanging together. I need to emphasize that I am not talking about shiny new, brand name gym wear. I am talking about pizza stained, worn at the knees, grey monstrosities from K-mart. Men get married so that they can sit on the couch, one hand holding a beer, the other slipped neatly within the straining waist elastic of their daggiest trakka dakkas watching the football and still score semi-regular sex. To even the most shameless of players, marriage means having the luxury of hanging up ones skinny jeans, pointy toed boots and smart casual blazer in favor of lounge wear bearing the Bonds label. Trakkas teamed with thick fluffy socks and a low rent polar fleece are a sign of a very strong marriage.

Tom Jones has been married to his wife Melinda since 1957

Tom Jones has been married to his wife Melinda since 1957

For women having to cook and clean on a daily basis is a small price to pay for the privilege of discarding one’s hooker heels and panty hose for  fleecy lined comfort. (Please forgive my sexist generalization here – if a man had written that he’d be shot down in flames. It’s my second favorite double standard*). Nothing is more flattering to a man than to come home from a hard days work to find his wife slaving over a hot stove alluringly clad in his trakka dakkas, polar fleece and thick socks.

Kimye is rock solid.

Kimye is rock solid.

I am personally concerned about the stability of my marriage because I don’t wear trakka dakkas often. (Shock confession I know). I have a Beyonce butt and the things tend to gape around the waste. Generally I stick to teaming Best & Less leggings with  my husband’s fleece and socks. I can’t tell you how much he loves this look. I really can’t.  He likes it almost as much as my cougar pants. I extrude so much raw heat and sensuality in my elastic waisted leopard skin print shorts that Dadabs has to fight to contain his lust.

“You can’t resist my cougar pants” I tease. “I think I can” he replies but I can tell it is taking every last ounce of self control.

Cougar pants - keeps the spark alive.

Cougar pants – keeps the spark alive.

I am sure that there are millions of couples out there feeling jaded and contemplating a split but the thought of having to give up their trakka dakkas for more restrictive garments is too much to bear. It is simply easier to work on the relationship than change one’s pants.

How’s your relationship with your trakka dakkas?

What’s your secret to a lasting marriage.



** My second favorite double standard is that I can post pictures of shirtless hunks with out being called a misandrist. Its awesome.

If my husband wants to laze around the house like this I'm good with it.

If my husband wants to laze around the house like this I’m good with it.

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The Mums of Sydney’s Eastern Beaches

I’m over at Mother & Baby today talking about the Real Housewives of Sydney’s Eastern Beaches

Warning: This article contains clichés and stereotypes

Being a housewife in Sydney’s Eastern Beaches is awesome. There’s a stunning vista everywhere you look from The Gap to Maroubra.

A quality, barista-made coffee is never further than twenty paces away. On top of all that it’s a cultural melting pot with a great diversity of upwardly-mobile, middle class types.

Here are some of the characters I encounter in my community every day.



Rectal-Cranial Inversion Syndrome

According to Diki-pedia* Rectal Cranial Inversion Syndrome (RCIS) is a medical condition whereby an individual’s head becomes lodged (at varying depths) in their rectum. Symptoms include visual impairment resulting from the heads location in the anal cavity. This means the sufferer completely fails to see another persons point of view and/or fails to grasp a logical argument. Often the condition manifests in the victim not realizing that they appear a complete tosser to the world at large.

RCIS has been the scourge of humanity for time immemorial but it has received surprisingly little scholarly attention until now. A large scale international study by a team at the University of Knob End has culminated with the release of a seminal paper.  The work titled ‘You too could be suffering RCIS and U2 almost certainly are’ was published to much world wide academic fanfare. The central finding was that 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of people have at some stage of their lives suffered the condition. Infact the only person who has never ever been afflicted with RCIS is Mother Teresa.

The good news is that whilst most people come down with recurring bouts of RCIS, they are able to extract their cranium from the rectum and resume life as decent citizens. Sadly however it was found that approximately 10% of the population have their heads wedged up their butts for most of their lifetimes and a further 5% face the darkness permanently.  For the majority of the population RCIS resolves spontaneously but for those more severely afflicted it can be extremely difficult to treat. Exercises designed to give the body greater strength and flexibility such as yoga, pilates and barre appear to exacerbate the condition. Nor has diet proved to be of any assistance. Super foods such as kale, quinoa and goji berries only worsen symptoms.

A diet rich in kale has been found to worse RCIS symptoms.

A diet rich in kale has been found to worse RCIS symptoms**

Whilst it is difficult to count the full  economic and social cost of RCIS, it certainly elevates stress levels in the community. There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence about the frustration that RCIS causes. For example my normally even tempered husband’s stress levels went through the roof when an RCIS sufferer parked across our driveway and stayed there all day.  He was forced to call the local council – an institution which itself is populated by RCIS sufferers.

The report brought to light the following facts:

  • RCIS has a remarkable propensity to strike individuals when they are behind the wheel of a car, waiting at the airport or using the self service checkouts at Colesworths.
  • RCIS almost certainly afflicts the person in front of you in the queue for the ATM.
  • There is a 95% chance that your ex partner had a severe case.
  • Many people believe their in-laws have it.
  • There’s a 75% chance that your current boss has it.
  • Everyone on the side of politics that you didn’t vote for is terribly afflicted by RCIS.
  • You’re beginning to think that the side of politics you did vote for has it too.
  • The cop who slapped you with that speeding fine had the worst case of RCIS you have ever experienced.
  • RCIS is over represented in certain professions eg: bankers, lawyers, real estate agents etc
  • Entire government departments are comprised of RCIS victims eg ATO, Centrelink.
  • Facebook has RCIS. We are not talking about Facebook users although RCIS victims are highly concentrated on social media. Facebook, the actual social media platform, has its metaphorical head permanently implanted between its metaphorical buttocks. Facebook is always changing its esoteric algorithms and is purposefully reducing your organic reach. It’s conspiring to make you “pay to publicize.”

RCIS suffers  can look like this.

Typical RCIS suffers

Typical RCIS sufferers***

or this

RCIS is over represented on talk back radio.

RCIS is over represented on talk back radio.

or this

Arguably Australia's worst case of RCIS.

Arguably Australia’s worst case of RCIS.

Early adoption of technology is a classic symptom of RCIS. Only two years ago those with the condition could be easily identified by the conspicuous wearing of Google Glass.

Google glass? Check. Waxed mustache? Check. A confirmed case of RCIS.

Google glass? Check. Waxed mustache? Check. A confirmed case of RCIS.

These days the  Apple Watch is a definite sign.


Beware the Apple Watch.

Beware the Apple Watch.

Is someone in your life afflicted with this insidious condition?

How has RCIS affected you?




* I dont know whether Diki-pedia actually exists. I am too scared to look.

**If there’s a photo of naked men reclining in kale on the interwebs I am the blogger who is going to find it.

*** Meanwhile I love the Bondi Hipsters. I am not sure what that says about me.



Jobs for Cougars

You’ve got to hand it to Joe Hockey and his crack team of speech writers. They have an extraordinary knack for taking vitally important topics and canvassing them in a way that pisses off the maximum number of voters.  It’s like they have a reverse Midas touch.

Except when Joe touches it, it turns brown.

Except when Joe touches it, it turns brown.

With the recent Inter-generational Report, Joe once again managed to ostracize swathes of the population with his call to arms to get mature Australians and women back into the workforce.

 The trend is continuing, but this is the grey army that is going to deliver prosperity in Australia’s future and we need older Australians – we want older Australians if they choose to do so, to remain in the workforce and to come back into the workforce.

Again, the second major army that we have of potential workers is women coming back into the workforce, particularly after having children.

This makes sense if a) the powers that be can help remove the barriers to getting back into work and b) there are enough jobs to go around – which is currently NOT the case.

As an aging woman its a double whammy.  The Mumabs certainly wants to be a lifter not a leaner. I believe that like a fine wine residing in an Eastern beaches cellar I am improving with age. I will have plenty to give to the community (particularly the dirty old lady community) until I am dragged kicking and screaming off this mortal coil.

Here are just a few of the community services I would happily perform into my 80s and beyond.

1) Hollywood casting agent: All I need is a leopard skin couch and the catch cry “Stick with me sweetheart and I will make you a star”.

2) Editor and chief of Smokin’ Hawt Crumpet magazine and its more conservative sister publication Spry Silverfox: This will be the kind of publication that women of a certain age glance at surreptitiously whilst telling their husbands they are reading The New Scientist, the Economist or even The Onion. Both will be chock full of witty bylines like “Phwoarrrrr”, “Errrrrrmaaaaaagawd” and “HONK!”. There is a gap in the market that I can well and truly plug.

Witty bylines in disco font!

Witty bylines in disco font!

3) A brand ambassador: I would start with fashion label Camilla because frankly no one better understands the needs of the cougar market. I mean look at this. If there’s a way to make this ensemble more cougarish I would like to hear about it. Perhaps there should be some sequin work around the hem because ‘more is more.’ Look at the slip of a girl they’ve chosen as a model. She doesn’t look old enough to legally drink. The Mumabs can legally drink and would love to raise the brand’s profile in hip resort bars from Thailand to Byron Bay.

Fashion I would proudly promote.

Fashion I would proudly promote.

Meanwhile who chose Jen Hawkins to represent Mount Franklin mineral water? Ladies – this is cougar water. It should rightly be represented by a cougar. Ideally a cougar who casually throws a Camilla leopard skin print kaftan over her leopard skin print bikini and wafts around hip resort bars from Thailand to Byron Bay. That’s what I call PR!

Mumabs should take on the leopard print bikini for cougar water!

Mumabs should take on the leopard print bikini for cougar water!

4) Chief wine taster for Petersons: From experience this product is fit for public consumption.  However it cant  hurt to install someone who knows what they are doing just to be sure. Its a vital community service.

Someone must ensure that this is fit for public consumption.

Someone must ensure that this is fit for public consumption.

5) Movie critic: Since Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton exited The Movie Show there’s been not so much a hole in the market but a gaping crevass. The public is crying out for a woman of a certain age to tell them what to watch. I would throw out the star rating system and replace it with a crumpet rating system. A film like The Avengers 2 – Age of Ultron would receive a 5 crumpet rating because it features 5 crumpets.( RDJ, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans). By contrast Bird Man despite winning an Oscar for Best Film, would only receive a one crumpet score – Edward Norton.

The new crumpet rating system

The new crumpet rating system


How about you blog fans?

How are you going to contribute to Australia’s prosperity?



Note: So OK I have been facetious about Joe Hockey but I can sympathize with the position he finds himself in. The country faces a HUGE long term problem with the aging population. There are no pain free solutions. Here’s the choices as I see them.

1) Allow many older people to slip further into poverty.

2) Force older people to sell the family home or enter into reverse mortgage arrangements. Only a lucky few kids will ever get an inheritance.

3) Force older people to remain in the workforce for longer – a very impractical option for some, particularly those with deteriorating health.

4) Increase compulsory employer super contributions which puts a strain on business (especially small business). This is somewhat impractical given the increasing fragmentation of the workforce and the trend towards using contractors.

5) Increase taxation – political suicide.

6) Reduce spending on vital services like health/education/infrastructure and defense to pay for pensions.

7) All of the above.

Sheesh – I am glad I am not the one who has to sort this mess!





Could You Survive On The Pension?

The aged pension is in the political spot light – again. Arguable its never been out of the spotlight. Fewer issues are more emotive or shrouded in more hysterical dialogue.

Last year Joe Hockey caused a ruckus when he attempted to increase the eligibility age from 65 to 70 by 2035. The the government also provoked outrage when it proposed changes to the way the pension is indexed. It is currently adjusted in line with average wages. The government wants change it so its linked to inflation instead, which they assume will be lower. This means the aged pension will increase at a slower rate leaving recipients worse off. The government claims it has not ‘cut’ the pension but its all semantics and weasel words.

Recently Fairfax got a bit cheeky.  The Financial Review ran a story proposing that the family home be included in the asset test for pension eligibility. Currently it is not, leading to the absurd situation where a couple living in a $2m house can still receive a part pension if their other assets are below $1,145,500.  As you can imagine this ruffled a few feathers and caused the Social Services Minister Scott Morrison to issue an unequivocal denial. We all know that when the Governments says they it going to do something it wont. As the GST, carbon tax and just about everything TA promised leading up to the last election clearly demonstrates.

Our pension system is like a byzantine labyrinth. Its subject to both income and asset tests and rates vary for homeowners and non homeowners. It also varies according to your family situation. Valuing assets is whole other circle of hell.

The pension system

The pension system

Basically a home owning couple is eligible for the full pension if their other assets are below  $286,500.  Couples with combined assets valued between $286,500 and $1,145,500 can receive a part pension which reduces as the value of the assets increases.

The full pension rate is $1,288.00 per couple per fortnight including an energy supplement. That’s an annual income of $30,912. If there’s anything we can agree on its that its not a princely sum.

I conducted a  thought experiment to see how Dadabs and I would go living on the pension. Mind you its a moot point. Barring a major catastrophe we wont be eligible.

Anyhow I’ve donned my analyst hat and guessimated our yearly expenses at Chez Abulous.  This was a tricky task in itself. I’ve assumed that the kids are off our hands (not a safe assumption) and that we’ve consolidated down the one car.

Expenses 2

I’ve reduced our actual water rates by 20% because of the absence of kids. The electricity figure is based on average usage for a 2 person household as indicated on our electricity bills. Our actual electricity bill is unusually low because Dadabs installed solar panels.

After these expenses we’re left with $21,298 or $409 per week between the two of us.

Could we live on this? Its amazing what you can do when you have to. I’d imagine we probably could. It would not be a lavish existence. We would have to keep a track of every cent. My $30 per week coffee habit would have to die as would those indulgent $14 bento lunches.  The repair jobs that occasionally whack you around the head could wreak havoc. Holidays would be a rare indulgence. However they are now – mainly because Dadabs can’t afford the time away from the business.

I would be waving Sayonara to my gym membership and buying my clothes from (shudder)Target.  A night out at the movies followed by a cheap and cheery meal at the local Thai would have to be meticulously planned and accounted for.

My weekly shop at Colesworth would be an exercise in restraint rather than the party it is now. Most sadly of all I’d have to swap out my NZ Pinot Noir for goon. It would be like going back to University.

These would have to go.

These would have to go.

This exercise has taught me two things;

1) My lifestyle is far more lavish and indulgent than I had imagined. Just because we don’t dine out at Quay every week or take ski holidays in Aspen doesn’t make us frugal.

2) The pension issue is one of the most difficult problems Australia faces. Whilst we are not experiencing a budget crisis, the country has some long term issues that need addressing. Revenues are falling and the aging population is putting increasing strain on the public purse. Something has to give.

This year the total spend on the aged pension is estimated at $42b – which is 9% of the total budget.  Discouraging reliance on the pension can only be a good thing. On the other hand work is becoming increasingly fragmented and many people (particularly women who have taken career breaks) simply won’t have adequate super. Its a lose-lose situation.

What’s the answer blog fans?

Could you live on the pension?

Are you worried about retirement?