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Manage your budget like a boss

A budget can help you get rid of debt, save towards a goal and generally reduce the stress of worrying about whether you have the money you need available to you. Preparing a budgeting takes a little bit of time and organisation; abiding by it will take some discipline.

Obviously, the idea is to try to find ways to cut back but don’t make your budget so tough you can’t stick to it. The key is to understand where your money is going and then take control of it.

Having a goal makes saving money so much easier. You may want to begin by creating a timeline for achieving your goals to help keep you on track, and then follow these tips.

Take stock

Start by choosing a time period to track your ingoings and outgoings. For instance, if you’re paid monthly it’s therefore probably going to be easiest to track your spending over a monthly time frame.

Next, tally up all of your income from different sources for that period. This may include net incomes from salaries, bonuses, dividends, rental property income and Government assistance. Then look at your expenses and when they are due. I break expenses down into fixed costs (those that remain the same from period-to-period) and variable costs (those that change).

Your fixed expenses will include things like loan and credit repayments, rent, insurances and phone plans. I have all of my fixed expenses set up as monthly direct debits so that they come straight out of my savings account, there’s no chance I will forget to pay them and I can track them digitally. Ensure that there is always adequate money in the account so as not to incur any unnecessary dishonour fees.

Variable costs are things you have to pay each month/week, but which may vary in cost each time. They can be broken down into ‘essentials’ – things that cannot be avoided such as electricity bills and transport – and the ‘nice-to-haves’ like entertainment.

Your overall net position will be your total income less your total expenses. Hopefully, this will be in a surplus position but it may not be. And that’s ok, because the point of this exercise is to find ways to improve your financial position.

Identify areas for improvement

Now that everything is down on paper, see if you can find where you are overspending. Ask yourself:

  • Am I paying enough off my debt? Credit cards generally charge a very high rate of interest – can you find a credit card offering a zero interest period and pay it off within that time frame? Can I consolidate my debts and pay them down quicker with a mortgage or a personal loan at a lower rate of interest? Canstar is a fantastic web resource for comparing loans.
  • When was the last time I reviewed my pay TV, internet and phone plans? Is there an opportunity to downgrade my plans to save some money?
  • Have I reviewed my insurance providers lately? comparethemarket.com.au can help to weigh up many different types of insurance.
  • Am I spending more than I need to on transport? Am I driving too much, paying too much in parking, tolls, taxis? Is public transport a better alternative?
  • Am I actually going to use that gym membership? Either start hauling ass to the gym or get rid of it!
  • How much can I save on the things I like, but don’t really need? Do I really need to order takeout twice a week? Must I really have a fortnightly manicure? Try to set yourself a limit on how much to spend on these non-essential items each period. Little things, like just buying one coffee a day, can set you back quite a lot of money.

Start saving

Once you have identified how much surplus income you have, you will need to put it somewhere. There are many different options available such as high interest savings account, term deposits, managed funds and shares. The most suitable option will depend on your goals, your risk tolerance and your investment timeframe.  You should speak to a financial adviser to help you work out what’s best for you.



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4 ways you’re wasting money

We’ve all been guilty of careless spending from time-to-time, but it really does pay to be more conscious about where you’re dropping your cash. Small savings can add up.

Don’t believe me? Well if you make the following minor adjustments alone, you may save yourself up to $6,403 a year. Put the extra cash in an account, or even a jar, at the end of each week and watch the savings grow.


1. Coffee & water

There is no denying that barista-made coffee is superior to the instant Nescafe in your office’s communal kitchen. But when you realise how much your daily fix is costing you over the course of a year, you may reconsider how essential it is.

Assuming you work full-time (based on a working year of 230 days) and you buy one $3.50 coffee a day, that’s $805 you are spending per year. That’s $805 you could spend elsewhere, or indeed save.

The same goes for bottled water, which can cost around the $3 mark for 600ml. If you refill a water bottle with filtered water from the tap instead of buying it, you may save yourself $3 a day – that’s $690 a year.

Total saving = $1,495


2. ATM fees

In Australia, many banks charge non-customers fees between $2 and $3 to use their ATMs. They may even charge up to 80c for a balance enquiry.  However, banks normally waive these fees for their own customers.

Though it might take a bit of extra effort to find your own bank’s ATM (like walking an extra block) it pays to do this as these fees can add up to a significant amount. For example, say you withdraw cash from another bank’s ATM three times a week, and assuming you will be charged a $3 transaction fee each time, that’s costing you $468 per year. You may as well be giving money away. In instances where you can’t find your own bank’s ATM, consider withdrawing a larger amount of money to keep you going longer.

Total saving = $468


3. Grocery shopping

Planning ahead for your grocery shopping may take time and effort, but it’ll be worth it when you see how much you can save by doing so.

  • Start off by writing a list of the items you need based on a meal plan for the week. If you plan on taking your lunches to work, as we suggest in the following tip, don’t forget to factor in what you will need for those meals too.
  • Once you know your items, shop around for the best prices. Have a snoop around on supermarket websites for the things you know you’ll be buying. Supermarket specials often start on a Wednesday, sometimes on a Saturday. Then do your shopping at the one offering the most specials on the items you’ll purchase.
  • Don’t be afraid to buy no-name. Australia’s supermarket wars mean that the big supermarkets are broadening their range of no-brand products and the stigma of buying ‘no-name’ is disappearing. I am also a fairly recent ALDI convert – I find that their brands are of a comparable quality and a helluva lot cheaper. For instance, you can save around $3 on a jar of organic extra virgin coconut oil at ALDI. I’ve taken to buying all of my pantry staples at ALDI. So far, no one has been able to tell the difference.
  • By the end of the week, typically by Sunday, you may also find that some fresh items like meat are reduced. When I see big reductions, I snap up things like beef mince and chicken thighs. These items often come in bulk; I divide them into meal-sized portions and stick them in the freezer for future meals.

By doing these simple things, I am now saving myself $50 a week. That’s an enormous $2,600 a year.

Total saving = $2,600


4. Buying lunch every day

I was terribly guilty of this when I was working. For me, being time poor and a little lazy meant that I would grab lunch at the company café every day, which would set me back a minimum of $8 every day. That was $1,840 I was spending per year on lunches (again assuming a work year of 230 days).

I could have saved myself a fortune had I taken a little extra effort to package up leftovers from the night before or thrown ingredients for a quick salad together.

Total saving = $1,840


GRAND TOTAL = $6,403

These are four incredibly easy ways you can save dough. By making these small changes alone you have the potential to save a grand total of $6,403 per year. Just think about where else that money could go!



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