Brought to you by Electricity Monster
I’m in the middle of what can only be described as a budget spring clean frenzy. Stripped of a house to clean from top to bottom (we are renovating and yes, it’s awful), I’ve instead turned to the finances. Let’s just say there are plenty of cobwebs to dust away in our budget. We are not neglectful, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m the kind of person who reads The Barefoot Investor from top to bottom , goes OMG, LIFE CHANGING, and then puts the book on the bookshelf and waits.
If you’re a fellow ‘waiter’ (what exactly we are waiting for we cannot tell you), this advice is for you. It’s the seven things I’ve put into action this spring to really give our finances a boost. Every one of these tips is simple to do and guaranteed to make you feel very satisfied.
There’s something about getting your bucks in a row that really makes you feel good.
Things that should be on your budget spring clean list
1. Save money on electricity
This was probably the easiest way to save money and all I had to do was head to electricity broker Electricity Monster, fill in a few details on a form and click “Check my rates”. Well, it turns out my rates were pretty dismal, which is no surprise considering we had never bothered to see if we could get a better deal before. I then had a quick chat with one of the Electricity Monster team. From there it took about three minutes for Electricity Monster to gobble up a fair % of our usual electricity bill, saving us megabucks a year. Quite possibly the most profitable 10 minutes of my life. They do gas too (if only we had gas!).
Some more great tips from Electricity Monster here: 5 energy myths that refuse to die
2. Regularly review your finances
Surprise! Our experience with Electricity Monster has probably already revealed that we weren’t great at regularly tracking or reviewing our budget. Scott Pape in The Barefoot Investor advises having a monthly ‘date night’ with your partner to go over the finances. I can think of one hundred other things I’d rather do on a date night with my fella, but, hey, we don’t have to call it a date night, right? Since dusting off The Barefoot Investor and actually implementing some of the advice, we’ve been reviewing our budget every month and it absolutely helps keep us on track. We do it on a Friday night over a glass of wine and a cuddle… so, yeah, it’s probably quite dateish!
3. Keep track of your spending
The monthly review night is great for ‘big picture’ tracking, but if you really want to get ahead you’ve got to follow your grandparents’ advice and “keep track of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.”
I’ve been using a simple budget tracker for a while now and it really makes me conscious about whether I really need to buy something. There are loads of different apps you can use, but I like to keep things simple so I use Fudget. I put my budget in for the week, and input any expenditure as it happens. It’s easy to remember to do this because I generally have my phone with me and can do it straightaway – it quickly becomes a habit. Fudget then keeps track of how much I have left to spend in my budget.
4. Bring your lunch to work
It costs me $15 to buy lunch at work and I used to buy lunch twice a week. Now it costs me about $3 to make my own lunch to take to work. Saving $24 a week didn’t seem like a lot, until I realised that I’m at work 48 weeks a year. By taking my own yummy salad into work each week, I’m saving over $1,000 a year. Times that by 2.5 if you work five days a week.
Some great budget-friendly packed lunch ideas:
5. Cut down on takeaway food
When I switched to meal planning a few years ago, it was the beginning of a healthier, easier, more budget-friendly way to eat. I can’t stress enough how good knowing well in advance what food you are going to prepare is. I used to grab a takeaway at the last minute at least once a week because I hadn’t thought through what I’d make for dinner.
The stress of figuring out what I had at home, what everyone would eat, what I had time to prepare, meant that a quick visit to our local chicken and salad shop was just so much easier. We haven’t been to the chicken shop in months because I no longer make the mad dash for dinner.
It’s this easy: Meal planning: this super-simple method is a game changer
6. Give up something
When you’re looking through your budget it’s a bit too easy to think, “It’s all essential, we need everything here.” Chances are, there will be something you are regularly spending money on that you simply don’t need.
For me, it was buying too many clothes for the kids. I’ve always been a simple dresser and clothes were never my ‘thing’, but I found it hard to say no to the girls when they wanted another shirt or another cute pair of jeans or another dress. You know how it goes.
Now I simply say, “You’ve got a pair of jeans. You can get a new pair next year.” It felt harsh at first (clothes, after all, are so important when you are a tween/teen), but there were three big benefits that kept me strong.
1. Less clutter. It’s streamlined the girls’ wardrobes and there is far less jumble in there now. There isn’t a single item of clothing in their cupboards that isn’t on high-rotation. I’ve learned that if you don’t want clutter, don’t buy it.
2. Wants and needs. This has been a great exercise in teaching my girls about things they ‘want’ and things they ‘need’. I really hope I’m on the way to helping them gain some good minimalism habits for life.
3. Big savings. I estimate that it has saved me over $1000 a year to say ‘no’ to things they genuinely don’t need.
7. Don’t go to the shops
It helps to avoid the shops when you don’t want to spend extra money. I need to remind myself of this time and time again. The only reason to be at the shops is to buy something, so if you don’t have something specific you need to buy, try not to go there. It will only end in excess purchases that will eat away at your savings.
This goes for grocery shopping as well as general shopping. As part of my budget spring clean I’m trying not to go to the supermarket more than once a fortnight and always with a list. If I ‘duck in’ for milk or bread, I always end up buying seven other things that caught my eye. Now my motto is: if it’s not on the list, it’s not in the trolley.
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All up, I reckon my budget spring clean has saved me well over $10,000 a year and I’m only just getting started. My experience with Electricity Monster has made me focus on all of my other bills too. I’ve happily given the kids a ‘homework’ task of hunting around for ways to save money on every single one of them.
What’s on your budget spring clean list?
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