Sunday Shopping

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No sewing of the stash this week despite the best of intentions.  Today was mostly about shopping which was a little different to our usual weekly shop which consists of going to a local fruit and vegetable stall and a few groceries from Aldi.  We went a bit further afield – to Caloundra because I wanted to buy some more salmon.  It is about 50km round trip so we generally try to make the most of it when we drive that far.

We collected our thoughts and made a list which looked like this:

Farmers’ Markets – fruit and vegetables
KMart – relacement gas canister for Soda Stream, coathangers and long-handled dustpan/brush
Fishmonger – salmon
Discount chemist – tablets and deodorant

After checking the pantry I decided that there was nothing we needed this week from Aldi so we set out on our expedition.

The fruit and vegetables were successfully bought then we headed to KMart.  This was not quite as good.  The gas canister was swapped with far less fuss than last time we wanted one.  You can read about that event here.  However, they did not have the type of coathangers that I wanted nor any long-handled dustpan and brush.  In fact, the selection of household items was very ordinary and there were numerous empty shelves – I am not sure what the reason was.

Off to the fish shop for 4 pieces of salmon which makes 8 serves cost just under $40.  While this is not spectacularly cheap it is a meal that we really enjoy and is better than paying $30 – $35 for a meal of salmon at a restaurant.

There is a Bunnings hardware across the road from the chemist so we tried for the dustpan and coathangers there.  We struck gold with the dustpan but not the coathangers.

Here is the dustpan.  It is the third one I have had in almost 35 years.

2015-05-03 01I bought it to replace this one which has now cracked near the base of the handle.

2015-05-03 02Finally, at the chemist I bought 2 bottles of calcium tablets because they were on special and I made sure they would be used by the expiry date.  I won’t need to buy any more for about 20 months!  GMan could not find the particular deodorant that he uses so we will look elsewhere.

2015-05-03 03I will keep looking for type of coathangers that I want as well as the deodorant.  There is a Big W and Target in Brisbane near my office so I will try to check them out during the week.

Speaking of shopping and spending money, I have tallied up our spending for the first 4 months of the year.  I will have all of the details for you tomorrow.

Tracking 2015 – March

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It is a few days into April and you could be forgiven for thinking that I had forgotten this series.  But no, I am just running a little late.

BudgetingHere are the monthly totals so far:

January – $2,628.73
February – $1,783.49
March – $4,320.56

Well March really blew the averages!  What did we spend our money on?

The blowout in our March spending has highlighted the precise reason why I wanted to track our spending for a whole year.  I knew that our variable spending was very patchy.

One example is the category “Pets/Vet/Registration”.  Our combined total for January and February for this category was $43 yet in March it was $673.  The dog had his annual check-up and annual heartworm medication, we bought 2 large bags of dog food, chicken feed and a fancy chicken feeder which will hopefully save us money in the long run by not allowing other wildlife to access the feed.

2011-12-12 04Food was also higher due due some bulk buying of nuts and dried fruit.

We both bought clothes this month – 2 dresses, a bag and shoes for me and Gman bought 2 new business shirts.

2015-03-21 01One of the cars was serviced and we continue to spend on things to do with house maintenance and developing the garden.

The spending was carefully considered but I certainly would not want to be spending like that every month.

The regular Friday Flashback post will be up this evening.

Tracking 2015 – February

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At the end of January I wrote a post about tracking our spending for the year.

It is now the end of February and we have continued our diligence in order to create an accurate picture of our variable spending.

BudgetingThere was no more holiday spending and our grand total for February was $1,620.92 which is almost exactly $1,000 less than the total for January (excluding bookings for our holiday).  Many, but not all categories were substantially less.  This was not because of any concerted effort, but rather, is an indication of how our costs fluctuate on a month by month basis.

Food made up a much smaller proportion with a spend of $233 in February compared to $633 in January.

Most importantly, if the food and transport costs for the first 2 months of 2015 were averaged out over a 12 month period they work out to slightly less than the figure I put in our budget estimation late last year for the financial planner.  This makes me feel as though I have a pretty good idea of where our money goes and how much it costs us to live.  The proof will come later in the year if the figures continue to stack up.

Tracking 2015

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Today is Saturday.  Where did the week go?  I am very busy at work so although I have been thinking about my blog that is as far as it went.

Not only is it Saturday, it is Saturday 31st January.  The final day of the first month of 2015.  1/12th of the year gone.  Have you already forgotten what you resolved to do better/differently/more consistently in 2015 already?

BudgetingOne of my goals was to actually track how much we spend.  We have never worked to a real budget – actually allocating a certain $ value to each item/category but we keep careful track of the regular bills – rates/insurances/phone/internet but is the variable spending that is more difficult to calculate.  I do not have a specific amount of money for groceries each week as I tend to bulk shop for dry goods and meat and buy perishable items on a weekly basis.  I need to average my grocery spending over at least 6 months to get a fair and accurate idea of how much we spend.

As I said it is the last day of the month and we have been shopping so there will be no more spending today.  The grand total of our variable spending in January was $5,134.53 – yes, over $5K!  Almost exactly half of that was airfares and accommodation for our Singapore holiday later in the year. So, $2,618.73 looks somewhat better.  This figure includes food, clothes, gifts, hobbies, eating out, entertainment, alcohol, car fuel and maintenance, haircuts, public transport, pets, medical/dental and incidentals.

Apart from the holiday spending which is really a one-off, the categories with the highest spend were food $623 closely followed by public transport $620.  This is really interesting because what finally prompted me to track our spending very carefully was that I wanted to know how much we would need to live a comfortable lifestyle on our terms in our retirement.  Giving up paid work is a few years away yet but it is important to budget for life without regular employment.  We will still need to eat when we are retired but public transport will cease to be an issue as all of that expenditure is related to our lengthy commute to the office.

Do you know how much you spend?  Working or retired?  I would love to hear your comments.

Navigation Nightmare

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I am currently trying unravel the complexities of telecommunications services – home home, mobile phone, home and portable internet services.

Home telecommunications
What do we really need?  Are we getting value for money from our current setup?

Budgeting
I don’t believe we are getting the services we need at the best available price so I am reviewing our choices.  I am guilty of delaying this assessment because it just seemed too complicated.  There are different providers all offering different levels of service, bundled options and inclusions/exclusions so trying to work out what suits our needs best can be tricky.

Last night I finally bit the bullet and worked out what we are spending each month.  That was a wake-up call!  $210/month for our landline, 2 mobile phones, home broadband and mobile broadband services.  These are spread across 3 different providers.

My research so far indicates that we should be able to get services we need from a single provider and with some minor changes to the way we use the services we can possibly save $90/month.  That is over $1,000 /year that we have been ‘wasting’.  This is possibly still not the very cheapest but there are other things such as network coverage, service and reliability that are important to us.  It is up to you to work out your priorities but it has definitely been worth making the effort to sort out the best deals for us.

I still need to ring the provider and confirm a couple of details before we go ahead with the new arrangement but so fat it is looking good.

In conjunction with my new plan we are considering buying iPhones. We plan to buy them outright and are looking at the 5C model.  I have never used a ‘smartphone’ and The Duke has had an HTC which he has not used to its full potential.  So, to all of you techno wizards out there, I would love it if you could shed some light on any of the questions below.

What is your monthly data allowance and how do you use it?What is Facetime and how does it work?
iPhone vs Android?  Your experiences and thoughts?
Must have Apps?
Anything else I should keep in mind?

Have you reviewed your telecommunications expenses lately?  What about other expenses like car, utilities or insurances?

Making Ends Meet – The Essentials

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In an earlier post I identified the essentials for life as shelter, food and clothing.

I talked a bit about food and how you can immediately reduce your costs by creatively using what you have on hand and also the importance of not wasting precious food.

Now for the other 2 essentials before we move back to food.

Shelter

I know it is unwise to assume, but for the purpose of this exercise I will make the assumption that you currently have somewhere to live.  This means that you will most likely have the expense of either rent or mortgage payments.  These need to be your first priority when you are accounting for money and if you are unable to meet this payments then your situation is very dire.  You should seek financial counselling as soon as possible.

rising-housing-costs
It is not a good idea to try to sell or move to another rental property when things are really tight as there are costs associated with moving house, so, if it all possible, it is best to see if you can possibly maintain your current location by cutting back in other areas.  If it is absolutely essential that you move, you could consider moving in with other family members as a temporary solution or sharing with another couple or family to reduce the costs.  All of these strategies have been done before, and whilst not perfect, they are better than ending up homeless.

Clothing

“It is interesting, because I often don’t think of clothing myself as an essential. When I was trying to save for a deposit for a house, that’s the category I set to zero (save for a three week holiday I budgeted for overseas, and within that budget I was allowed to buy whatever, which happened to include lots of clothes!). Admittedly, most people have clothing, so can skimp for a while. And there’s free clothing, through hand me downs, swaps and freecycle. Or there’s op shops. Still, very interesting reading!”

This was a comment in response to my post where I placed clothing in the ‘essential’ category.  Having clothes to wear is essential – we are not in the Garden of Eden – but buying new clothes is definitely not essential!  In fact, like Sarah’s comment, in tough times the clothing budget should be set to zero.

Think about this:  You had enough clothes last week and nothing has changed so there is no need to go and buy more.  Children’s clothes can be let down, patched and created from refashioned adult items.  Check out websites and you will find many references to challenging yourself to buy no new clothes for a year.  It can easily be done.

A final tip:  Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.

In my next post I will look at what meals I can create using the list of contents of Sarah’s refrigerator and pantry.

 

Making Ends Meet – Be Honest

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Do you really, truly know the state of your finances?

It is very easy to try to ignore the situation.  Burying your head in the sand is the wrong decision.

old sand

 

You need to be totally honest and the first thing is to be honest with yourself, extricate your head from the sand and face the facts.  It won’t be pretty and I expect that you have known that in your heart and that is why you chose to ignore the problems.  The inertia that overcomes us when things become too difficult can be extremely overwhelming.

It is very unlikely that this is a situation that you want or need to face alone.  None of us live in total isolation so it is time to include those who are close to you as it is likely that at least some of the changes you are going to need to make will impact on them.  Whether it is your spouse, parents or children you need to be absolutely honest with them.  There is no use trying to gloss over things, otherwise, they may not understand the seriousness of the situation.  Once your and your spouse (as an example) both know what the current situation is you can start to build a plan to move forward.  If you both have the same goal you can support and encourage each other.

honesty

Your new-found honesty needs to extend to your bank, anyone to whom you owe money and anyone who is going to assist you financially during the period while you get your finances back on track.  There needs to be complete and utter transparency to make this work.

new sand

We have already decided that burying your head in the sand is not a sustainable, long-term financial option.

So, it is time to draw a new line in the sand and move forward with confidence.  Things may look desperate now but you can do it.

Tomorrow we will identify and list all of your expenses.

 

Making Ends Meet

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The Duke and I have begun planning and booking for an overseas trip in August 2014.  It has been a considered financial decision for which we have budgeted.  This is in addition to our day-to-day household budget, debt repayments (mortgage and personal loan) and savings (superannuation).

On the face of it, everything looks pretty rosy financially at the moment which is in stark contrast to some other stages of our lives.  But everything could change in a blink if one or both of us were to be made redundant from our jobs.  We do not really expect that to happen but nothing is 100% certain.  We just have to make the best of what we have at the moment.

making ends meet

As I mentioned earlier, there have been times when making ends meet has seemed almost impossible.  Unfortunately, there are many people in this situation.  I read their stories every day in newspapers, online and in magazines. I see it being played out in cities and small communities all over the world.  Sometimes it can be a problem of long-standing (spanning generations) or may be a small blip on the radar due to a temporary change in circumstance.

Whatever the reason, there is a problem when expenses exceed income.

I deliberately left that line by itself because that is the crux of the matter.  Read it again.  When expenses exceed income.  It does not matter what way you dress it up, if you spend more than you earn you will have a problem.  One day the credit card  will reach its limit, you will not be able to get more credit and the house of cards will come tumbling down.

Enough of  the problem.  We are looking for solutions.  There is no magic bullet and this is going to be hard work.  I plan to write a series of posts over the coming days to focus on each of the following points in more detail.  If you have personal experience, suggestions or comments please leave them here or you can email me directly at the email address in the ‘About Me’ tab at the top of the page.

1  Be honest

2  Create a list of expenses

3  Sort essentials from non-essentials

4  Make a plan

5  Accommodation

6  Food

7  Utilities

There will be other topics and the structure may change as the comments unfold.  However, the purpose of this will remain.  It is designed to share collective wisdom from all sources in order to help and support each other.

I look forward to hearing your stories and tips, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.  What are the little things you do every day that save you money?  Remember, this may make the difference to someone else’s  life.

Until tomorrow.