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Conversations With Your Younger Self

May 22nd, 2016 at 04:38 am

Imagine what things would change in your life if you could go back in time and have a conversation with your younger self? What would you both chat about? Family, friends, relationships, finances, health, dreams and goals?

Imagine having the ability to take advantage of every massive opportunity that came your way whilst also dodging some of the unnecessary hardships. Wouldn’t your life be monumentally better? Some might argue to the contrary that life is instead shaped by our mistakes rather than our successes. We would probably all admit that we wouldn’t be the people we are without the mistakes. Yet, we would also admit that we wish we could have at least avoided a few of them here and there.

As this website is devoted to helping people rocket ahead in their personal finance journey, I always like to give one or two constructive tips in each post that can be applied directly to your current financial situation. Rather than unproductively navel gazing, can we glean any life lessons from looking back to the past?

Looking back on our past gives us a profound insight into how we can create a brighter future for ourselves and our family. As we look back we can analyse the great opportunities that we pounced upon, as well as those that we missed. We can learn from those moments of fortune as we try to replicate more of those situations. We can also seek to avoid those misfortunate situations as we try to insulate ourselves from repeating those errors.

7 Examples of Looking Back to Look Forward

1. Calculate how much you’ve paid off on your mortgage in the past five years. This paints a picture of where your money has been going. Could you manage to pay an extra $100 per week off the principal? What would your home loan look like in 10 years time from making this decision today?
2. Comb through your wardrobe and look at the graveyard of ever changing fashion. Next time you’re out clothes shopping, maybe this memory might help you to gain some perspective when you see the latest clothing fad.
3. Look at the cars you’ve owned over the past decade. How much would you estimate car expenditure has cost your family? Ever buy new? Could you drive a more modest vehicle and use the saved money to put towards income producing investments?
4. Think of the missed investment opportunities. They’re the ‘If onlys’ you talk about with your mates. They’re the Apples, the Costcos, the Alibabas and the Facebook investments that you’ve missed out on. To learn from past events, keep an eye out for the future world-changing ideas that are right in front of you.
5. Work out how much you have saved for your retirement. Consider salary sacrificing an additional $20 a week to change the living standard you will experience in the future. Don’t forget that compound interest is a powerful friend!
6. Reminisce about the memorable take out/restaurant meals that you’ve had. What was it that made these experiences so great? Compare that to the weekly ‘eat outs’ that barely even induced a smile. Perhaps look towards reducing the amount of incidental eat outs and instead save them for special circumstances where you do something eat some unique and special with amazing people you care about.
7. How much have you spent on electronic contraptions over the years? I’m talking televisions, CDs, DVDs, set top boxes, laptops, mobile phones, tablets etcetera. They all need continual upgrading. Could your life be as equally pleasant with the absence of one or two devices? What would this save you per year?

We each have (if we’re lucky), an average of 82 years on this earth nowadays. Time ticks by incredibly quickly and I’m beginning to understand this more the older I get. We all make mistakes, but they really are only mistakes if we choose not to learn from them. Have a think about where all your big wins might come from in the next 10 years and position yourself to take full advantage of them in the years ahead.

Driving a Money Pit

May 8th, 2016 at 05:43 am

Hi SA readers,

This is a post I put up on my blog with a few Aussiecentric pricings. Hope there's still some relevance for global readers.

Watching the Porsche 911 Carrera S thundering up the hill towards Mount Dandenong left me drooling. All that raw power, the chrome, the leather, the roar of the engine.

Over the years I have come to realise that my passion for cars and motorbikes fluctuate incessantly. In fact with each and every wind change my top 10 list of favourite cars and bikes seem to alter drastically.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have driven a few nice sports cars from Subaru WRXs, to Mitsubishi EVOs to Alfa Romeo Spiders. While the first 20 minutes of driving tends to get my heart racing, I’ve got to admit that things soon settle down and my mind wanders to thoughts about the next vehicle. There’s always another car, another motorbike, another shiny object to capture my attention… albeit temporarily. Coming to this realisation has saved me a fortune over the years.

This kind of self-awareness wasn’t always there however. Like Paul Kelly’s famous song “I’ve done all the dumb things.” I’ve owned new or newish cars, and recoiled in horror as they seemingly plummet in value with each hour that you drive them. Our lovely ‘automatic rain sensing windscreen’ sounded like a great idea until the stone chip required a $1200 piece of glass imbedded with rain sensing microchips. I’ve grimaced as kids fling open car doors with careless abandon and as shoppers underestimate the width of their shopping trolleys. I’ve also owned a few four wheelers and had a great time bouncing around the Australian bush. A fun frolic in a river, followed by a total engine rebuild taught me a lesson that fourbys can be costly!

Car expenses can add up to be a gargantuan expense from your yearly expenditure. As Aussies we love the feeling of driving around in something that makes us feel cool or gives us a bit off social currency. Whether we intuitively judge a person’s financial status or coolness by the car they drive, is up to us to personally answer. For me, I will admit that it subconsciously plays a part. However, visit Europe or Asia where touch parking can be a common practice, and the fascination with shiny vehicles can quickly lose its lustre.

But how much does a new car cost to run really? What if we were to choose something modest? Cars definitely have their purpose, but understand that they can leave a huge hole in your pocket. Did you realise is that driving a new humble Mazda 6 can cost you as much as $12,030.78 per year? Yikes!!

$12 grand to drive a car that doesn’t catapult you from 0-100 in any special time. $12 grand for a car that isn’t particularly regarded as head turner. $12 grand for a car that you may have thought was a actually a very rational economic choice. In some ways it is too. Were it a Toyota Landcruiser the annual costs are purportedly over $19k per year. Drive two new cars and you could expect this cost to potentially double. Is anyone else hearing alarm bells blasting in their minds? Fine if you are earning truckloads of cash but for the average Aussie earning $74,724 before tax this could make a massive dint in your pocket.

Vehicle expenses can hit you financially in both obvious and subtle ways. I’ve tried to list a few.
• Depreciation- What is a $30,000 car worth in 5 years? More than likely just a third of the cost. Then there’s the expense of losing the income opportunity that the money could have been deployed towards.
• Financing- A $30,000 loan fully financed at 12% means an additional $18,000 goes down the gurgler over a 5 year period.
• Registration- This would most likely between $500-$850 each year in Australia.
• Insurance- Depending on your rating and the level of cover, estimate $600+ per year.
• Servicing- The RACQ report would conservatively hint that the costs would be around $800+ if you drove 15,000 kilometres per year.
• Fuel- No way of avoiding this one unless you buy electric or have a Flintstones powered vehicle. Obviously the best way to lower your fuel bill would be to drive less, or to choose a more economical vehicle. At today’s prices, driving an average 15,000 kilometres per year, each litre per 100km of economy saved equates to roughly $180 back in your pocket.
• Tyres- Ones again, conservatively allow for $225 per year for when a replacement is due.
If you’re interested in reading the RACQ recently for yourself click here.

See: http://www.racq.com.au/cars-and-driving/cars/owning-and-maintaining-a-car/car-running-costs

This post is not to persuade every reader out of buying new vehicles or lavish cars. I would, however, advocate that each person ensure that car expenses only make up just a small proportion of your annual income. Earn $150k and want to buy a $30k car in cash? No problem. Earn an average of $50k and it could be much more financially harder for you.

To ensure you’re getting a good deal and moving onwards and upwards, add up how much your car costs you each year. Add up the registration, the repair bills, the interest, the insurance and the depreciation. Do a comparison on another more modest vehicle and weigh up the difference. If you could reduce your expenditure by $4-$7k each year, what could you potentially do with it?

Wealth Building is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

January 18th, 2016 at 02:32 am

Get rich quick schemes abound. They sound great don’t they?

I invested $10,000 in XYZ company and now they’re worth $2 million!!!

They trigger our greed glands and even better, we don’t have to work for it. Think about the latest billion dollar US Powerball Jackpot that saw record numbers of people shell out their hard earned money for a hope and a dream.

Unfortunately for the vast majority, the reality of making money can be a lot slower than we would like it to be. How many millionaires do you know who made their fortunes instantly? Maybe the odd one or two whose savvy investor parents left them with a substantial inheritance, but not many. Popularised in the media, we hear of a few great business people who ‘made it’ on a stroke of luck. We seldom hear of the years of study, research and work well into the wee hours that occurred behind the scenes.

Everyone needs to start somewhere. A house is built one brick at a time. A child learns to read by first learning the alphabet. A person seeking to lose weight does so kilo by kilo. Why would the road to wealth be any different?

That may be a downer for some to read, but an alternate view is that a house is a prized possession because it takes such a long time to build. Reading is celebrated because it is an incredible skill that takes a young child years to develop. A person who is overweight astounds everyone by shedding kilos and reaching their goal weight through hard effort and dedication. Working towards your wealth creation is no different and it is something to be celebrated every step of the way.

This post is about creating a habit that will dramatically reshape your financial future.
I would like to suggest one little, tiny change that you could make to your everyday circumstances that would have a huge long term effect on where you are in the future.

Allocate 5% of your income per week towards your retirement fund.

I can hear some already saying that there is no way they could possibly contribute 5%. Others might be saying that it is not enough.

In Australia, the average income for 2015 was $1,545.60 per week or $80,371.20 per annum.
Let’s take a look at what 5% would look like over the course of a working lifetime.

I’m sticking with the average wage as a basis, but it would be fair to assume that it would be less when you commence your career and slightly more as you gain seniority in your profession. 5% equates to $4,018.56 per year or just $77.28 per week.
If you saved $4,018.56 per year from the age of 20 until the age of 65 you would have $180,835.20. This is a good start to have towards your retirement, but would you just keep that amount of money in an account bearing no interest? Unlikely. Most of us have some form of superannuation or a 401K retirement fund encouraged by our government and our work places. These tend to be invested in global markets, local markets and in cash.

In fact the Australian share market has returned 10.8% on average over the past 30 years. The beauty of this is that by leaving your money in that account, making regular contributions, receiving positive (and occasionally negative) returns that compound over time, this money drastically grows from your deposited amount.
I’ve written about this previously in a previous post but compound interest really is, as Albert Einstein said, the eighth wonder of the world. It is a way to grow wealth slowly and it should be in everyone’s plan for wealth generation. Those $77 you deposit, directly from your paycheck into your retirement fund, compound and compound and compound over time. Incredibly, at retirement age you are left with a whopping $4,125,880!

Use ASICs Money Calculator tool to try it out for yourself.

I’ve included a screenshot to show you what happens over time. Notice how your investment really begins to pick up momentum in the final years. Bear in mind, however, that the final figure does not take into account management fees, taxation or inflation.

$77 dollars per week may seem unattainable for some but consider getting all your insurance and utilities requoted, maybe only eat out once this month or perhaps give Aldi or Costco a go? A suggestion would be to not focus on that $77 as a punitive measure, but to focus on the cool $4.1 mill that is gained at the conclusion of your working career. Think of how much better you’ll sleep each night knowing that you are financially secure.

I know we all have a tendency to gravitate towards a get rich quick scheme but there is something truly beautiful about having worked and saved for your financial future. The marathon is the most well regarded of all endurance races for a reason. Start today and save towards your financial future.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015). Average Weekly Earnings. Retrieved January 18, 2016 from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6302.0/
Source: Fidelity Worldwide Investment (2015). 30 Years in Australian and Global Shares. Retrieved September 18, 2015, from http://www.fidelity.com.au/fidelityP2/?LinkServID=B91D14A6-B125-E8DC-BB83AAD60C35BC5A
Australian Securities and Investment Commission (2015). Compound Interest Calculator. Retrieved September 18, 2015, from https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/tools-and-resources/calculators-and-apps/compound-interest-calculator

The Gumtree Challenge- Part 1 of 3

January 7th, 2016 at 04:41 pm

I've always been fascinated by the concept of minimalism. Carrying everything you own in just one or two bags certainly has its appeal. The increase in mobility. To spend less time tending to things. The savings made from avoiding every latest marketing gimmick. To have bought only things of high use and that are necessary.
This appeal, which admittedly borders on an obsession at times for me, is exacerbated by the daily ritual of packing and unpacking the minivan with bottles, jumpers, shoes, toys, books for my fours kids.
Occasionally, I get hit by the decluttering virus and almost everything is up for grabs. My wife, Hayley, might argue that this occurs more regularly than I'd care to admit. Entire cupboards emptied onto the floor, a waste bin piled high, back and forth car trips to goodwill collections or strangers knocking at the door to collect various items are symptoms that I am hit from the decluttering bug.
From my perspective, the benefits of decluttering are as follows:
1. There is less to clean up, tend to, fix and maintain.
2. It gives you a perspective on the ever diminishing value of an object and prompts you to be a selective spender. Ever thought "Man, I paid $1,200 for this computer and now I'm lucky to get $50 for it"?
3. You have a more visibly appealing home.
4. The clutter can be sold to recoup some of your prior spending or to bless someone who might need it.
As Joshua Becker of 'Clutterfree With Kids' says "Owning less is better than organising more."
Post-Christmas I was again hit with the declutter bug and Hayley patiently supported me through the latest wave of house upending. I was able to piece together the substantial pile shown in the picture above.
It's actually not the largest of piles and some of you might be able to easily discard triple the amount without so much as a second thought. Bear in mind that this is something I tend to do quite regularly. About double the items in the photograph ended up being given to goodwill or thrown out entirely, and about 30% of the items have yet to be sold.
I use Gumtree as my sales vehicle of choice for two reasons:
1. No postage hassles. People come and inspect the item and pay on the spot.
2. No sales fees.
Reason Number 1 is my favourite. I often just tell the buyer my address, leave it by the door and ask them to put the money under the door. It keeps things simple for both of us and have never had a buyer betray my trust. Gumtree is great for its simplicity. Give a brief description, photograph on your phone and then your ad gets posted.
When I talk to people about on selling their old iPhone 4, their dusty gym equipment or their old set of rollerblades, people cite hassle as one of the greatest reasons. Gumtree is about as pain free as it gets. For example, I wanted to get rid of an unused swing set. Take a photo, post the ad and it's gone and picked up within an hour from an extremely grateful buyer.
You'd be incredibly surprised how the things that you think have no value are actually sought after by someone out there. The haul you see above netted $525 with a few remaining items still up for grabs. I was able to bless people like my new buddy Mamman (I guarantee I spelt this wrong), a student from Bangladesh, who needed the free electric frypan I posted. I chucked in one of my unused laptops too which felt substantially more fulfilling than the $525 I'd earned.
It would be an understatement to say that I'm a big fan of Gumtree and decluttering. My house is back to the stage where I am proud of it again. I met some great people. I blessed people and was in turn incredibly blessed. The $525 is really just an added bonus.
Some Takeaways:
• If you haven't tried Gumtree, consider giving it a go. It's really easy to set up and to use. If you don’t have the time to wait for buyers, just allocate a set time and say you'll leave it out by the front door.
• Items that you view as unusable items are completely usable to someone else. For example our older concrete tiles would have cost over $300 to dispose of at the tip. Instead someone came to collect them for use outside their onsite van.
• My decluttering advice is to consider getting rid of anything that hasn't been used in 12 months or more. Are you really going to wear that Hawaiian shirt again? Do you still need all your old CDs when you have a Spotify account? Will you use any one of the 5 old mobile phones that you have sitting in your drawers?

Further Reading:
If you'd like to read a little more about decluttering, Leo Babauta has some great tips you might find interesting.


The Ugly Side Of Beauty

December 14th, 2015 at 01:10 am

I don’t like getting old. For some reason I never really thought much about it. That was years away! It felt as though I would stick in some Pan-like state and leave the aging process for everyone else.

Youth seemed to pass by slowly and I remember wishing I was older. Remember those days sitting in the classroom watching the second hand tick by at a painstakingly slow pace? Life would surely be better when I turned 15, 18, 23, 25… then all of a sudden I started to want to hit the brakes. 30, 33, 36… holy guacamole, where did the time go? Life has passed so quickly and yet I still feel so youthful at heart.

The mirror now reveals the onset of grey hair. My forehead shows a series of creases that begins to resemble the rings on a tree.

Vanity is a funny thing. We always seem innately unhappy in our appearance. People with curly hair wish it was straight. Straight haired people wish it was curly. The only people really grinning are the corporations selling us the products to alleviate our discontent. They help us to look like the airbrushed, superimposed models you see in the magazines.

However, there is something admirable and strong-minded about a person who is content in who they are. Not a surface level confidence but a deep, deep down confidence. A person who remains unshaken by the whims of fashion and the siren calls of the media. I admire people who stand boldly and say “This is me, this is who I am and this is what I stand for.” I’d like to say that this is me and I have accomplished this high level of self-assurance. In truth, I haven’t, but each day I aspire to.

The photographs below were taken from the bathroom of a young woman who shall remain nameless. The sheer quantity of products, elixirs and modern day snake oil is astounding but not necessarily abnormal. In fact, many households might have a bathroom or two that resembles this.

I asked my wife how much the average item might cost. “$10?”

She laughed and said “Try $20 or $30!” There are even magical eternal youth creams that exceed $100, or so I’m told.

Doing a rough count of the products and a mid-range estimate of $20 per item, the cost of the items in the shower, bath, cupboard and on top of the vanity unit equated to $1,260!

$1,260 is an astronomical cost! The alarming thing is that I feel that this kind of spending is not particularly abnormal in today’s society. Because it is loosely health related, purchases in this category tend to feel in some ways justified. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything, right?

How many creams and products are disposed of unused or half used before the next latest and greatest is added to the vanity cupboard?

Here are just a few suggestions that might help you save. It is not overly specific because I believe the real root cause of this type of spending needs to be addressed. Namely the understanding that we all age, that supermodels are not necessarily the epitome of health, and that marketers routinely pull out every deceit trick in the book to sell you their latest offering.

Nevertheless, here are some potential savers:
•Chemist Warehouse and My Chemist tend to have regular sales. Boxing Day sales are coming up with particular discounts in the area of fragrances.
•Have a good look at the active ingredients. These are the ingredients that supposedly are making the substantial difference. A quick Google search with the ingredient might give you other affordable alternatives.
•Before you buy, watch a review of the product on YouTube. How have other customers rated it highly?
•Sort your vanity cupboard. You may find that you have a collection of 20 or more skin creams. This realisation alone might stop you from buying another.
•If you are a compulsive spender of beauty products, nominate a friend to act as a financial judge, whereby your latest purchase must justified to them and approved directly by them.
•The easiest way to save is not to spend. To help you with this notion consider imposing a $300 cap (revise as you see fit) on the cost of any and all beauty products. This means you cannot buy another product if the products on your shelf exceed $300 in value. Once you have used up a certain product, then feel free to buy something else with a guilt free conscience.
•Buy a multitasker products that can do the job. This will save you both time and money.
•Consider making your own remedies and elixirs. Just Google the product and type ‘alternative’ at the end of the search term.

For the love of Aldi

October 12th, 2015 at 03:12 am

I've been an Aldi convert for years. This wasn't always the case though.

My first trip into Aldi turned me right off the place for years:

Walk in, grab a trolley... oh wait, I can’t. I don't have a dollar. Walk to the nearest Coles. Pinch a trolley and proceed to backtrack 300 metres to Aldi doing the Aldi ‘Walk of shame’.
Wander up and down 4 aisles. Is this what it’s like in communist Cuba? There is only one kind of toothpaste!
No music playing.
Store staff rushing around like crazy.
Why on earth do they have mountain bikes and welding equipment for sale in the middle of the store?
A trolley load of groceries. Do I have bags? Do I want to buy bags?
The cashier scans through items with blurring speed.
Looking dumbfounded. Everyone starring. Whoops. I’m meant to load the groceries myself.
Where are the bags?

I left feeling a bit lighter. It might have been the reduced ego or it could have been light headedness caused by the dizzying pace at which the cashier whipped through my groceries. Either way I made a decision never to return to that horrid place.

Aussie’s spend 17% of their income on groceries. I’ve spoken to a few people who say it continues to be their greatest expense with bills averaging $300-$400 per family. I can categorically, unequivocally, indisputably guarantee, or at least almost guarantee, that you will save a minimum of $100 off your average shopping bill. When visiting my local IGA I can carry home $100 in groceries! Don’t snub the savings. $100 a week can turn into nearly $2 million over a period of years invested!

Anyway, long story short, years passed and I accumulated more and more kids (or giant tape worms in human disguise) who proceed to eat me out of house and home. My wallet was suffering a monstrous hit. I sucked up my pride, returned to Aldi with a dollar in my pocket and a determined look that was prepared to take on Aldi’s scanner of the year!

My family of 6 spends has a budget of $160 per week. The only way to hit budget on this modest amount is to buy copious amounts of food from Costco and eat corndogs for the entire week, turn our backyard into a giant veggie patch, or shop at Aldi.

I’ve included a photo from a recent shop that amounted to just $135. You get a lot of bang for your buck at Aldi.

If you’re an Aldi hater, here’s a few tips:
• Bring a dollar.
• Bring your headphones and race up and down the music-free aisles listening to all your favourites.
• Learn to appreciate the minimal aisles. Understand that while you may not get that special coffee brand you are accustomed to, you can quite easily complete your shop in 20 minutes!
• If you have a typical grocery list that you tend to follow, photograph your local Aldi’s layout so you can create your meal plan shopping list aisle by aisle. Most Aldi’s have the same layout so they are easy to follow.
• Beat the cashier by placing everything immediately back in the trolley, cart it back to the car, and then transport it from car to the bench in a box.

Aldi has some fantastic products. You may find that they don’t stock your favourite brand but don’t assume that a lower price always is indicative of a lower quality product. The savings can be huge over a year and I find the time saving in doing a 20 minute grocery shop while listening to my choice of music can make me easily shrug the mainstream supermarkets.

My added two cents: If you shop at Aldi to save, don’t buy the middle aisle stuff unless you absolutely need it. There is some really cool stuff but it is only of value if you need it immediately, not 3 months, 3 years or 3 decades in the future.

Making Every Drop Count- 11 Budget Decisions I Made This Month

September 9th, 2015 at 06:47 pm

A Quick Life Update:
Some of you may have read that in the past month I have resigned from the job I held at Empower Christian Church. My gorgeous daughter, Eve, was also born just 6 days ago. We still have 20% owing on our home loan, an investment property to make payments on and $140k (100% leveraged) in a managed fund where we have elected to reinvest the dividends as a forced savings measure. I will be working 3 days a week as a part-time teacher where I need to budget hack my way to meet the bills, save for the future and put aside $4k for an interstate holiday. This is the time where, more than any other time in my life, my budgeting mettle is being put to the test.

I decided to write about the 11 savings measures I have undertaken in the past month. Hopefully there’s 1 or 2 ideas that might help you to save the odd $20, $50 or $100 dollars.

1. Car Insurance ($232 saved)
I have flogged this horse so many times in the past few years that I have absolutely no idea which insurer I am currently with without referring to documentation. Even so I decided one more call shouldn’t hurt. 40 minutes later and I had cancelled my old policies and signed up with Youi Insurance. I could only carve up an additional $77 in savings across two vehicle policies but was able to receive free roadside cover (which saved an additional $155 per annum). On top of that the excess was lowered from $1200 to $700 and they threw in windscreen cover. Youi don’t do online quotes so you can wheel and deal a little with the sales representative. I paid upfront to avoid the 10% they charge for month by month.

2. Free LEDs ($459 estimated savings)
This week I got a flyer for free LED installation. Normally I don’t put in the time to investigate whether the offers are real or bogus and the flyer rapidly finds its way to the recycling bin. This time, however, I’m glad I made the call. 29 LEDs were installed yesterday without a single cost passed on. The company Aussie GreenMarks then sell the carbon credit created to companies wanting to ‘look green’. All our lighting is made up of 50 watt halogen downlights which were replaced. 12-17% of an average electricity bill is made up of lighting expenses. I’d estimate we saved around $459 per annum by making that one phone call.

3. Tax Return
I would rather have a filling each day for a week than spend hours completing a tax return. We have a wonderful accountant that we use but the process is still painful. I spend a long time each year documenting each and every receipt with clear reasons justifying each claim. This year I envisage around $8-9k returned including unpaid Family Assistance. Some might argue that I should have stated my correct income to Family Assistance in the first place. However, the lump sum I receive now goes straight off the mortgage rather than receiving a fortnightly trickle that could be inadvertently spent.

4. YNAB Budgeting Software
I am a big time Excel spreadsheet budgeter! I have used spreadsheets for years. I purchased the You Need A Budget software for $54 US (about $582 on current Aussie exchange market ) and found the transition a challenge initially. There was so many things I didn’t understand the rationale behind on a programming level. A few tutorials later and I’m in business! The app does make it fun to budget and the interface was exceedingly user friendly. One thing I did love was how it uses geolocation to record your purchases. It is a fabulous way to recognise little spending habits you might not realise you have and how to ‘roll with the punches’ when you have a blowout in a particular category.
There’s a lot of free apps but I really am glad I bought YNAB for $54 outright.

5. Car Servicing ($428+ estimated savings)
I really like my local mechanic. Great guy! Knows my car back to front. There’s one thing I can’t stand about him though… his billing! $100 per hour is the going rate. As a part-time teacher who is renumerated at $35 an hour, this is big bickies! An average service is in the realm of $500-$1,000. I spent $72 buying synthetic oil, an oil filter, drain pan and funnel. A YouTube video later and the job was done! (Truth be told it took me about 2 hours to work out how to loosen the oil filter because I didn’t have the necessary tools.)

6. Council Rates
As Benjamin Franklin stated ‘In this life nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.’ I would also add council rates to that quote. A few months ago I purchased an investment property. The valuation rate on the notice was $40,000 above my purchase price so I rang the council valuer. He was amazed that I was able to purchase the property for the price I paid and said it was ‘unheard of’ in today’s market. I patted myself on the back for a good purchase and now can anticipate a revised rates notice in the mail.

7. The Lights Off, Shorter Showers, Jumper On Rule
I still suffer heart palpitations from last quarter’s electricity bill. I am actually too embarrassed to share it publically on a savings/budgeting blog. Needless to say the electricity drill sergeant was in full force this month demanding lights to be turned off upon exiting an uninhabited room, 4 minute showers and jumpers had to be on before any heaters were switched on. I’ll tell you next quarter how I go.

8. The Power Company Hop ($252.22 in projected quarterly savings)
This relates to the above point. I did previously post about making the change to AGL who had a 12 month special with 38% off electricity. I checked their rates against Simply Energy and found their pre-discounted rates to be cheaper still. If I was with AGL on the last bill I would have saved $252.22 (not that a bill of that magnitude will ever occur again… ever!)

9. Decluttering, Questioning Spending Habits and Reducing Waste
I decided to bundle these 3 topics together.
One of the things that Hayley and I have been progressively doing is decluttering our home. We live in a 17 square home. Most people we know questioned us remaining here with 3 kids, let alone 4. We like it here and don’t want to move just because we need a larger place that can house all our stuff. I’m reading Leo Babauta’s Clutterfree at the moment and I am loving his inspirational thoughts about the innumerable trinkets that we accumulate throughout our lives. Once you declutter it is amazing how readily you view most of the assets you have as future hard rubbish! The tablet that was once the fastest thing in its heyday is now obsolete and can’t download the updated app. All the DVDs I collected haven’t been watched in years and now there’s this thing called Netflix. That jacket that looked great on the 6’ 6” mannequin doesn’t fit quite so well on me.
A declutter works wonders for your spending. You realise you are now disposing of items that once cost you hundreds or even thousands of your hard earned money. This month I was in the market for a new phone for my Hayley and myself as the battery didn’t last a full day. After reading Leo’s book it made me question why it was necessary. My old one works just fine. Maybe I need to stop checking each tweet, post, email and text that comes my way?
Being on a budget has also helped me to reduce my wastage. I have tried to plan meals around the perishable items in the fridge that have a day or two left. I have stopped buying unhealthy packaged goods (most of them anyway). I am also going to implement a rule whereby I forcibly wait 2 weeks before buying a personal item. In the declutter I realised that so many purchases I made served no purpose and were impulse buys. This is a habit I intend to eliminate.

10. Alcohol Free
For years I have enjoyed a wine or two at the end of an evening. Call it working with kids all day or maybe just call it a habit. Either way it results in about 3-4 bottles a week in wine. I made a conscious decision to eliminate all alcohol purchases until I reached a particular savings goal. Each week I would estimate that this decision saves me $25-$40. I have also noticed a feeling of having more energy throughout the day as a consequence.

11. Mobile Phone Plans
I scoured the internet once again fishing for the best mobile phone deal. I can recall those golden Kogan days where $25 a month bought you 5gb of unlimited talk and text on the 3G Telstra network. Now the cheapest I can find is Vaya with $18 a month and 1.5gb. I tried them and wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole! I am currently using Amaysim which offers unlimited talk and text with 2gb a month for $29.90. Lebara, Boost and Optus offer similar plans for a similar cost. I decided to remain loyal to Amaysim at this stage as I have been happy with their customer service and coverage.

In life there are a lot of ideas that we have which we think everyone else already knows. This is a collection of the things I have done to consciously save money over the past month. They are not necessarily mind blowing or unique but if you think any of these tips could help someone else, please share the post. If you have any other ideas that could benefit another, please add them in the comments section.