5 Ways to Cut Your Spending

We all like a few little luxuries in life but if your aim is to cut your weekly spending then you have to be prepared to make sacrifices and that may mean that some of those luxuries just have to go!

Here are my top 5 things that you really don’t need to spend money on if you’re trying to reduce your spending

1.  COFFEE SHOP COFFEES

This is my no. 1 weakness.  I just love a good cup of coffee.  And of course you can’t enjoy a good coffee without something yummy to go with it.  But I do try to limit myself to one a week, mainly when I catch up with my girlfriends.  But lets do some maths just so you can see how much you can save by skipping that daily coffee.  Let’s say you buy a regular size soy latte from your fav coffee shop.  Generally that will set you back about $5.70 – some places charge less, some charge more.  So if you get a coffee every day on your way to work that is $28.50 a week.  Multiply that by 48 weeks ( take off a couple for annual leave) and you will be spending a whooping $1368 a year on take-away coffee.

A good coffee is a weakness of mine

A good coffee is a weakness of mine

MY TIP: Buy a box of flavoured coffee from the supermarket.  10 sachets cost about $6 or $7.  You can add some pre-packaged Banana Bread for about $6.50. Then you will have coffee and banana bread for a week for under $10.00.

2.  BOOKS MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS

I love to read and while I will admit to buying the odd camping and caravanning magazine at $10.00 a pop I really can’t justify the expense to often.  The same with books.  I am an avid reader and if I bought every book I saw that caught my eye it would cost me a small fortune, given that most new release titles cost anywhere between $20 to $30.  I hardly ever buy a newspaper anymore given that you can read most of the main articles online for free.

This little haul of camping mag's cost a mere $50- Buy that many every month and that's $600 a year.

This little haul of camping mag’s cost a mere $50- Buy that many every month and that’s $600 a year.

MY TIP:  Utilise your local library.  Many have an amazing array of books, magazines and newspapers.  My local library now has e-books available to borrow as well.  If you can’t find a book you want and feel that you have to buy it they are much cheaper to purchase in digital format.  Also Amazon always have lots of titles that you can download for FREE.  Failing that op shops and markets usually have great books at fairly cheap prices.  And don’t forget to swap the good ones with your friends.

3. PAY TV

I have never had and will never have Pay TV.  There are so many channels available now for free that I could never justify having it.  Aside from the fact that my kids watch enough TV without the lure of another 80 or so channels.

MY TIP:  Many libraries have a variety of DVD’s that you can borrow for free.  Also since the advent of being able to download content to watch many of the old video shops are doing it tough and have dropped their prices dramatically.  Some of them even have things like ‘Cheap Tuesday’ where you can get 10 for $10.  Many also have Playstation and XBox games.

4. BOTTLED WATER

Bottled water can be expensive depending on where you buy it from and if we listen to the experts we are filling landfill with plastic bottles that will never break down.  Also, it has been suggested that some types of bottles if left to heat up in your car can produce toxic chemicals.

MY TIP: Buy a good quality metal or BPA free bottle and fill it up at home before you leave to go out somewhere.  Australia is fortunate in that we have good quality water in most areas but if you are concerned about the water quality in your area you can buy water filter jugs and bottles.

5. EATING OUT/TAKEAWAY

I love to go out for dinner and even like to grab takeaway sometimes, but if you are doing it once a week it can add up.  For example, we went out to dinner for Miss M’s 16th the other week and it cost us just under $200 for 5 people.  Admittedly it was a special occasion but eating out is not cheap. Chinese for 4 of us comes in at about $40.00 without entrees.  Even pizza can cost close to $30.

Eating out or takeaway can set you back anywhere between $30 and $200, depending on where you choose to dine.

Eating out or takeaway can set you back anywhere between $30 and $200, depending on where you choose to dine.

MY TIP:  Go out for dinner for special occasions.  It will mean more and you will enjoy the meal more as well.  If you want to have a night off from cooking, get the kids to make pizzas.  We do this quite often and they always taste so much better than bought ones!

Love Me

Let’s Talk About – Debt

Most of us have made an unwise financial decision or two in our lives.  Money was not something that was ever really discussed in my house when I was growing up other than being told we didn’t have any.  So when I first started working and needed furniture for my first flat I got a credit card.  I soon discovered that I had no hope of paying it off and had to extend a personal loan to pay for it.  That was a harsh lesson on the realities of managing my finances.

I have been badly 'In Debt' a few times in my life.

I have been badly ‘In Debt’ a few times in my life. {IMAGE CREDIT}

When Mr B and I first got together (almost 19 years ago now) we were both in debt – lot’s of debt.  I was recently divorced and had come out of that with my furniture which I had owned prior to that relationship, my clothes, a car which I owed $24,000 on and $12,000 in cash.  Mr B was in a similar position.  He owned 3 cars, one of which he had spent a lot of money on and 2 jet skis.  The total of his loans were in the vicinity of $32,000 and were with finance companies which meant much higher interest rates.

We knew we had to do something and fast if we ever had any hope of getting ahead.  So with my money I firstly paid off my credit card, a mere $2000 in those days and paid the other $10,000 off the car loan.  We figured we only needed one car and as mine was the newest model and also run on LPG we decided to keep that one.

Two of Mr B’s car’s were older models and we sold them for about $6000 and paid most of it off the loans.  The 3rd car we were able to sell for the pay out figure on the loan – about $16,000 from memory.  More debt gone.  We then hunted around for a cheaper interest rate and combined our remaining debt into one loan which made the repayments more manageable. Consolidating our debt, in this case worked for us.

We realised after selling all the cars that we really needed a second vehicle so we took out a second smaller loan and bought a motor bike.  This loan was over 2 years but we paid it off in one.  Shortly after paying off the loan on the motor bike we found out I was pregnant.  I had good job security and also good maternity leave arrangements – 18 weeks at full pay or you could take it at half pay to have income for a longer period of time.  But we were still only renting a house and towards the end of that year our real estate agent told us that the house was being put up for sale.  My first thought was ‘I’m not moving house when I’m 7 months pregnant.’

By this time I was fairly disenchanted with my job so I decided to resign.  I had been in the same job (law enforcement if you haven’t read any of my other posts) for 14 years so I had long service leave accrued and plenty of superannuation. I was also in a position where I could withdraw most of my superannuation provided I left a base amount in the account.  We did this and I walked away with about $55,000.  This gave us enough money to pay a 20% deposit which meant we didn’t have the extra expense of mortgage insurance. Our first home together cost us $110,000 – one of the benefits of living in a small country town in the late 1990’s! We also had enough money left over to pay out the car loan and shout ourselves a new lounge and a TV/stereo cabinet – mainly because our stereo sat on the floor and we didn’t think that would be a good idea with a baby in the house!

Our first house officially became ours the day after we bought Miss M home from hospital in March 1999.  We stayed in that house almost 6 years to the day.  Over the course of those 6 years we added heating and cooling, cladded the exterior of the house as the timber was in poor condition, fenced in a section of the backyard for the kids, turned the small single car garage into a home office and built a large 6 bay shed.  This cost us a total of about $35,000.

This was our first house after our renovations.

This was our first house after our renovations.

When we decided to sell the house in 2005 and move to Queensland the real estate agent suggested setting the price at $240,000 but I was sure we could get more than that so I insisted setting the price at $280,000 and we ended up selling for $258,000 which gave us an excellent deposit on the house we bought in Queensland.

We now owe under $350,000 for that house.  We borrowed against the house a couple of times to make some improvements to the property, namely the garden as it was a shambles.  We subsequently bought an investment property in 2011 as well. In 2012 we made the decision to move out of our family home and it too became an investment property.  We made this move in order to downsize to something more manageable and also because we were no longer in love with the neighbourhood in which we lived.

We now live in a two story townhouse which we rent.  Part of our reasoning behind this was with Mr B away so much the upkeep of the gardens etc was just to much for us and it seemed as though all our spare time was being spent in the garden or cleaning the house.  Now if anything goes wrong we just phone our real estate agent.

We have excellent tenants in both our houses and the rent covers the house repayments for the time being, thanks to the low interest rates.

Just over 12 months ago we also bought a new car – our first one ever. This was a need as well as a want.  We needed something to tow our camper trailer and also a vehicle that was roomy enough for all of us to travel comfortably in.

We also still have a credit card which, unhappily has been hovering very close to its limit for the past couple of months despite us working really hard to reduce it down.  In all honesty though I must say we live very well – we want for nothing and neither do our kids.  But we could be doing a better job of managing our finances.

So you can see we have a combination of good debt – the houses and bad debt – the credit card and the car.  I say that the car is bad debt because we will never get our money back on it, whereas we should make money on the houses when we choose to sell them.

As we move closer to our ‘life after kids’ plan we are giving serious consideration to selling one if not both houses and investing the money.  Our plan is to buy a caravan and travel around Australia for an extended period of time, working when we can so we know we will need some money behind us to set up a van the way we want to.  All this is still at least 3 years away, but we do want to have a plan in place so as we are not making decisions at the last minute.

Love Me

 

 

 

****All information contained in this post is of a general nature and not intended to be taken as financial planning advice.  Financial advice should only be sort from persons qualified and licenced to give such advice****

How to Save Money on Work Meals

As I have mentioned previously Mr B is a truck driver and works a rotating roster – 5 days on, 5 days off, 4 days on, 4 days off. For the time that he is ‘on’, he doesn’t come home.  He lives in his truck.  For people who might not know, trucks are pretty well set up these days if they are used for interstate or long distance work. Mr B’s truck has a large single bed or ‘bunk’ in it, a fridge and an air conditioner for use at night time when it is to hot to sleep.

Working irregular hours and driving long distances means that there are sometimes not a lot of options when it comes to meal times.  Yes there are plenty of truck stops around – but wow they are expensive.  A chicken schnitzel and vegies can cost anywhere between $18.00 to $24.00.  A steak can be as much as $30.00.  And they are the ‘healthier’ options.  If a good truck stop is not available many drivers have to rely on fast food options, such as KFC or McDonalds.  So we learnt a long while ago the importance of Mr B being able to take his own food with him.

This is the small 12 volt portable oven Mr B uses.

This is the small 12 volt portable oven Mr B uses.

The best thing we ever bought is a small 12 volt warming oven which plugs into a cigarette lighter plug. We use small foil trays to freeze the meals in and these trays fit into the oven perfectly.  This means that he can have a hot evening meal.  This one comes from Dick Smith, but I’m sure they are available at other stores.

He also takes cold meat, cheese, bread, muesli bars, nuts and lots of fruit with him and eats this for breakfast and lunch.

We usually have a big cook up every 3 or 4 months so as he has a variety of meals to choose from, frozen in our freezer. Last weekend we were due to restock the freezer so I thought I would share with you what we did.

Mr B made a list of the meals he would like to cook.  He is not a fussy eater, but likes home-style food and doesn’t mind if things are spicy or hot.  Of course what we cook also has to freeze well.  These are the meal ideas that he came up with:-

Cooking the silverside in the slow cooker meant we could cook other things on the stove top.

Cooking the Silverside in the slow cooker meant we could cook other things on the stove top at the same time.

  • Shepherds Pie
  • Macaroni Mince
  • Curried Sausages
  • Fish Pieces and Fried Rice
  • Pasta Bake
  • Silverside and Potato Bake
  • Meatloaf and Vegies
  • Chicken Stir Fry
  • Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Chicken Schnitzel and Vegies
  • Sausages, Vegies and Onion Gravy
  • Rissoles and Fried Rice

 

We did an inventory of what we had in the cupboard and then went shopping.  We spent a total of $320.00.  Sounds like a lot doesn’t it?  We never spend that in an actual week but you won’t believe what we produced for that money.  Most meals were made from scratch, using fresh ingredients , with the exception of the fish pieces and rissoles.  Everything has loads of vegies in it and because we use the same size containers all the time, portion control is not a problem.

Fried rice made from scratch, lots of vegies in it too.

Fried rice made from scratch, lots of vegies in it too.

Make sure you label and date everything before you put it in the freezer.

Make sure you label and date everything before you put it in the freezer.

In total we ended up with 112 meals.  Each meal cost us a grand total of $2.85. Yes you read that right – $2.85!  So if Mr B is away for 5 nights that is $14.25 for his meals for the week.  Not bad!

This is just what one shelf of our freezer looks like after our big cook-up.

This is just what one shelf of our freezer looks like after our big cook-up.

It might seem like a lot of work but it is so worth it money wise.  Especially as one of my goals this year is to cut our spending, especially on food.  The other thing is that anyone can adapt this to suit their individual needs.  There are so many people who work away from home or work shift work and making a stack of meals like we do is an ideal way to make sure that you always have a meal available.  It will also stop you from buying expensive take away, which is often not good for you, especially if you are watching your weight or have food allergies or intolerance’s.  Most work places these days have a microwave, so switch the foil trays for microwave safe containers and you will soon see the savings add up.

If you don’t have time to cook in one big hit like we did, just cook extra at night when you cook your family dinner and freeze the leftovers.

Love Me