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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 J) 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.
I’ve attached an affiliate link below that takes $6 off the price and credits $6 bucks to me as a referral if you’re interested. There’s a lot of free apps but I really am glad I bought YNAB for $54 outright.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.