Ready for a New Year

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The 2 weeks since my last blog post have slipped by quickly. Our 2 granddaughters came to visit for a week and then we spent a week at the beach with them and our daughter. Christmas was a fairly low-key affair as we, like many others, simply needed to relax at the end of what has been a challenging year.

Anyway, this post is about looking forward. I know that COVID19 will not disappear at the stroke of midnight on 31st December. Much of what we have endured in 2020 will remain with us as we enter 2021.

Six years ago, at the end of 2014 I decided to record all of our spending for the year. Since then, I have continued to do it each year and have refined the methods I use in the process. I use an Excel spreadsheet, however, you could use a notebook if you prefer.

When I was setting up the spreadsheets for 2021 I noticed that I now have 6 years of records of our spending. During that time we have both retired from full-time work and had major home renovations done as well as travelling overseas on 5 different occasions. There won’t be anymore of that in the foreseeable future, though.

It is interesting to see how some categories of spending have altered dramatically in the wake of our retirement. The most significant is the category ‘Transport’. During the first 4 years of recording our spending, we were both working fulltime and our total transport costs were about $6000 per annum. We had a long rail commute from our home to offices in the city. In 2020 our transport costs were less than $300. Not everyone will have the same costs but if you are considering retirement it is wise to take changes in circumstances and spending into account.

Grocery spending was interesting for a different reason. In 2015 my average weekly spending for 2 adults was $93.88. Unsurprisingly, by 2020 this had increased. However, the margin was very modest with the weekly average being $97.11. In five years my grocery bill for 2 adults increased by a mere $3.23 per week on average. We eat good quality but relatively simple meals with an increasing number of vegetarian meals and are working on growing more of our own food. Minimising food waste is also important from both an environmental and financial perspective.

Clothing was another category where there was a substantial change in our spending during the six years of recording data. Our total spending on this category in 2020 was less than 30% of what we had spent in both 2015 and 2016. Since our retirements were planned, we made a conscious decision to limit our expenditure on work attire over the final couple of years. Additionally, I now have time to source some excellent pre-loved items.

For anyone who is interested I have provided a sample of what my spreadsheet looks like. I use a new sheet in the workbook for each month.

Date Amount CategoryDescription
1/01/2021$24.76GroceriesAldi
$10.00SelfGym fees
2/01/2021NIL

These are the categories that I use. The final column ‘Description’ is for extra details – as much or as little as you want.

Transport(public transport, taxis and Uber)
Groceries(food, toiletries and cleaning products at home and on holidays)
Clothing(buying and repairs for clothes, shoes, jewellery and fabric for dressmaking)
Haircuts 
Cars(fuel, tyres, servicing and repairs including when travelling in our car)
House/Garden (all equipment, repairs and renovations to house and garden including chicken feed)
Pets(vet bills, toys, medications, equipment and dog food)
Health(dental, medical, allied health and chemist expenses)
Entertainment(meals, shows, movies and events attended jointly)
Alcohol (beer, wine, spirits and home brew supplies)
Subscriptions(any subscriptions not listed in fixed expenses)
Gifts(Christmas, birthdays, cards and postage, memorial donations)
Holidays (flights, accommodation, tours and entrance fees)
Husband(gym fees, individual socialising, hobbies and books)
Self(gym fees, individual socialising, cosmetics, hobbies and books)

I have only addressed our variable spending in this post but I also have a spreadsheet set up for our fixed expenses each month. This helps us to easily see what bills are coming up and predict when we are going to need extra funds. Some months are less than $200 in fixed expenses, whereas, there are other months which are much more than that. This is because we choose to pay some of our bills on an annual basis.

Do you have a plan for keeping track of your finances for the new year?

I am happy to answer any questions you may have regarding tracking your spending.

Struggling?

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I read a post on Facebook this evening about a news report of households with an annual income of $200,000 struggling to make ends meet.

Payday

The responses were many and varied as you can imagine.  My contribution was to point out that living pay cheque to pay cheque can be a reality no matter what your income may be.  If you expenses are greater than you income you will struggle.  It is that simple.

There is no easy formula to being comfortable.  It can depend on a range of things such as your location, circumstances, skills, education and ability to manage your finances.

Here is the article.  What do you think?

Another definition of rich.

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.

 

Blessed

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Once you post a new entry on your blog it is out there for the world to read.  I sometimes wonder who reads what I write and what they actually think of it.  I am not alone in finding that those who comment represent a minute proportion of those who read.  However, the identity and thoughts of most of my readers will continue to be a mystery.

Since I have been blogging, I tend to find a lot more blogs that I read.  Some are like old friends that I diligently seek out every time there is a new post, others less regularly and many that just capture my interest with one post.  Many have an underlying theme of struggling.  This may be financial, health or relationships.  For some, the struggle appears to define them but others it seems to be an ever-present shadow lurking in the background.

The more I read, the more grateful I am for what I have.  We are both employed, have a roof over our heads and plenty of food.  Severe chronic or terminal illness is not part of our world.  I maintain good relationships with family and friends.

In other words, we have the freedom to make choices about how we live rather than it being driven by the need to deal with issues that constantly threaten our physical or mental well-being.  For that I am forever grateful.

Itis easy to take much of what you have for granted.  Blogging and connecting with others’ blogs adds to my awareness.

What are you grateful for in your life?

Organisation and Finances

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WARNING – Long post ahead.  So perhaps you would like to grab a cuppa and snack before you start. 🙂

This is for Anna** and I.  Anna feels that she is falling behind financially and I can see that the things I need to do are fast outweighing the available time.

The first part of this post is about me.

I do not have a lot of preparation to do for Christmas with only a couple of gifts to buy and the only meal I am hosting is for 5 adults on Christmas morning.  However, there just seem to be lots of relatively minor things I need to attend to that are getting squashed into the time before Christmas (17 days).  Without the aid of a list, I am completely lost so here it is.

Ring telecommunications company re phone charges
Pick up belt from repairer
Move furniture for carpet cleaner (coming tomorrow)
Add photos to Christmas letter
Write and post Christmas cards with letter
Make phone calls re extended family BBQ in January
Set up email list for recipients of Christmas letter via email
Defrost the freezer (and do a stocktake of the contents)
Buy Christmas presents for Missy & Belle (I know what to buy, just need to do it)
Finish home-made gifts and package them up
Check on changing health insurance cover

Even my menu planning has fallen a bit by the wayside recently, although I usually have a rough idea of meals for the next couple of days in my head.  This is not ideal and I need to get back on track.  Having a written list for the week saves space in my head and leaves room for thinking about other things.

Anna feels as though she is chasing her tail, both time-wise and financially.  Does that sound familiar?  With a young family there are many competing priorities and every time you feel like you are getting ahead something else rears its ugly head.  Many of us see paid work as the only way to get ahead (or back on track) financially.  Earning money is certainly the most obvious way to make ends meet but the other thing to remember is that the time spent earning that money is time that you cannot devote to money-saving activities.  I am not about to suggest that Anna stop working but it is worth keeping in mind the things you can do to prevent leaks in the budget.

One of the most significant costs in the family budget is food which is absolutely essential.  As my post yesterday discussed, there are savings to be made in this area by making meals from scratch.  This is easy to say but can be difficult to achieve when you are working so a menu plan is definitely your best friend.  Having a plan helps to stave off the “grab a takeaway on the way home” syndrome.  Stick to simple meals and cook a couple of meals in bulk.  It does not have to be presented as the same meal but you can use the same base.  An example is bolognaise sauce which is extremely versatile.  Serve with pasta, as topping for baked potatoes or top with mashed potato for a Shepherd’s Pie.

Do not try to do everything but focus on one or two changes that are manageable and reap the rewards.  If you put a modest amount of money aside each pay (perhaps, $20 if you can manage) you will soon have a fund to start to cover the unexpected expenses and the budget will not look so bleak.

As I have shown many times before almost everything can be traced back to being organised.  We all slip-up from time to time but it is important not to a) lose heart and give up or b) beat yourself up about it.  Regroup and try again.

The most important thing is to be kind to yourself and make sure you take time out to rest and relax.  I hope you all have an opportunity over the Christmas break.

**not her real name

The Big Picture

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Even though most of my goals are small, bite-sized chunks there is a big financial goal underpinning everything we do. After years of accepting that the mortgage for our home and the regular payments was just part and parcel of our existence we now have a strategy and timeline to have it paid off. The magic number is 8 years. A shorter time would be great but we have to be realistic and have chosen to enjoy our life in that time as well.

Like everyone, we pick and choose which parts of our spending can be minimised and which we are not prepared to compromise.

One example is my clothes. I am always neatly and appropriately dressed. I buy good quality clothes and choose to wear things for several seasons. Boots and shoes can be repaired and mending repairing clothes as required will extend their life.

I also rationalise what I do spend. I had my hair cut yesterday and as it is really short I find a good cut every 6 weeks keeps it looking good. My haircut cost $30 which equates to $5 per week or about 71c per day. When you break it down like that it seems like pretty good value. I do not have my hair coloured anymore (love the silver streaks for free). The only other cost is a tiny bit of shampoo and conditioner.

The biggest saving that we can make is by not eating out on random occasions. A menu plan helps as if I have the meals planned and usually partly prepared before we get home from work the temptation to eat out is far less.

Here is my meal plan for the next week.

Menu Plan

Tues – Tuna patties & veg
Wed – Steak & kidney bean pie & veg
Thurs – Tumeric chicken & veg
Fri – Pumpkin soup
Sat -Hamburgers
Sun – Quiche & salad
Mon – Risotto
Tues – Spaghetti bolognaise

Till next time.

Tough Love

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There comes a time when you are not doing your children any favours by constantly shielding them from the reality of the world and the consequences of their actions.

That time is now.  Belle has been struggling financially since she has been separated from her partner (19 months).  This has been as a result of a combination of factors, including residual debt from the relationship, limited income, Cetrelink challenges and inconsistent child support from an unreliable ex(even though it is collected through the Child Support Agency).  But most of all it has been her own inability to face the reality of her situation and understand that expenses must be less than income or you will get into strife.

We have supported her emotionally and financially every step of the way, however, tonight I ran out of patience and think I have finally made her realise that the numbers simply don’t add up.

The Duke and I have discussed various options with her and we have started to put together a plan which will see us take on some of her debt but it will allow her to be able to live within her means (as long as she is very frugal).  The responsibility will be entirely her own rather than us propping up her finances on an ad hoc basis.

If she does this using the assured income (paid work plus Centrelink) then when she does finally get some more child support payments they will be able to be used to buy clothing requirements for the children, create an emergency fund and pay modest amounts off her debt to us.

This is not an easy task but one that has to be done.