Browsing Category

Budgeting

Budgeting

13 Effortless Tips to Save Money on Your Travel Budget

Travelling can be costly but doesn't have to break the bank. With a few small tweaks to your spending you can ensure you save money on your travel budget and spend where it counts.

The best part about travelling is preparing the travel budget… eh… said no one ever? Even myself, a self-confessed budget-oholic can feel overwhelmed trying to get the best prices and deals and attempting to not go spend-cray when we are living for the moment on holiday.

Seeing as we have just gotten back from a month in Europe I thought what better time then now to share what tips and tricks I use when travelling to stretch our travel budget. We travel reasonably often on our own as well as on band trips and that can really add up especially if you are not watching what you spend each time. If you are only travelling once every few years you can probably get away with going a bit all out on a hotel room, shopping trips and fine dining on your vacation. But that’s not going to work so well for your budget when it’s a regular gig.

The cost of travel can be significantly reduced with a little bit of planning and being selective with what you will and won’t spend on or just tweaking is so you don’t spend as much ;). Some of it starts before you have booked a thing and others are to help you maintain your goal budget once in your destination.

Check out 13 Effortless Tips to Save Money on Your Travel Budget for how you can save on your next trip!

  1. Shop around for all bookings

Shop around from the get go and consider all options when booking a holiday. Is a hotel cheaper and better value for accommodation or would an Airbnb be better? If you’re just after a bed and shower and plan to be out all day, a hostel could be a more budget friendly option. Can you be more flexible with flights days? Booking a flight the day before or after you planned to or at a less convenient time might cost you some sleep but save you hundreds of dollars per ticket. When booking hire cars get 2-3 quotes so you can make sure you are paying a reasonable rate. A little effort at the start of your holiday planning can add up to huge savings. Don’t forget to use the incognito mode in your browser in order to get the best deals on flights and accomodation!

Potential Savings: Picked Airbnb over Hotel room saving $40 a night on accomodation 

2. Book your flights and accommodation early

Book well in advance for tours, car hire, accomodation and flights. Bookings closer to the travel date means you will end up paying more or missing out on the dates or times you want. If you need a particular travel day or time you will most likely have to pay much more for the same service than you would have if you just planned ahead. A lot of accommodation sites such as Airbnb, Booking.com and some hotels offer free cancellation on bookings up to a certain time depending on their terms and conditions for the place you are booking so you can often get book accommodation in advance and change the booking dates without being hit with fees if you need more flexibility. Budget Traveller recommends booking flights on Tuesday to get the best flight deals.

Potential Savings: Flying on a 7.40am flight over 11am flight saving you $180

3. Walk or take public transport as much as possible

Where possible on your holidays walk to places to get the most out of your travel budget. You will not only save money by skipping the taxi, get some exercise and fresh air as well as get to see more this way than if you were to drive or take a train. If you can’t walk or the distance is a bit far, consider taking a bus or train over a taxi to reduce your holiday transport costs. Look into any travel passes such as 48 or 72 hour passes that are available that might be able to save you on transport costs over the duration of your stay.

Potential Savings: Taking the train or bus $4 fare over $15 per trip taxi ride

4. Find free activities and entertainment

Travelling and sight seeing can be extremely expensive, especially when you have a lot of bucket list items to tick off. We were happy to spend on activities we really wanted to do or see and the rest of the time tried to find free forms of entertainment. This could include exploring your destination city on foot, checking out a local park, spending some time in your resorts pool or at the beach, visiting a free Art Gallery or Museum, checking out some local scenery or chatting to some other travelers at a bar or cafe and swapping stories. Don’t assume everything fun or enjoyable costs money. Seek out budget friendly activities and your travel budget will go much further without you missing out on the really awesome stuff.

Potential Savings: Free museum entry over ticket entry to viewing platform $50

5. Spend your money where it counts

Following on from finding fun free activities, spend your travel budget on the things that matter to you. If you love Theatre go to a show on your trip, see a band you might not be able to see at home, do a group tour to a site on your bucket list. By being selective with where you spend your cash, you can afford to do those really important must do ones.

Potential Savings: Guilt free spendings here to do what you really want thanks to your saving efforts elsewhere 

6. Drink less

Alcohol can be very expensive in a lot of cities around the world. A single drink can set you back $10 or more, particularly if you prefer fancy fruity cocktails like myself. If you are going away for a week you can probably get away with buying a few expensive cocktails with dinner, but when you are travelling for a month that cost is going to eat away your spending money fast. On our most recent trip to Europe we limited drinking in the more expensive cities and stuck to going to bars in the more affordable destinations. There are only so many $14 Vodka and Oranges you can justify on a trip without eating away your travel budget.

Potential Savings: One less cocktail a day at $15, total saving of $105 for the week

7. Pack your lunch and cook occasionally

I actually never thought I would be saying this to anyone but here I am. A couple of weeks ago we were in the Faroe Islands and Iceland and were astounded at the price of food! We thought we lived in one of the most expensive cities in the world but this was a whole new level of expensive! On our first day in the Faroe Islands we paid $40 for two small sandwiches and two small bottles of soft drink. Ouch! We planned to stay eleven nights out of thirty in Europe in Faroe and Iceland and knew paying such hefty food bills three times a day was going to completely blow our travel budget.

Instead of forking out $50 plus per meal we grabbed some groceries to make breakfast at our accommodation each morning to save us buying one meal each day. We also grabbed a few ingredients to make up some sandwiches to take on the road for lunch a few of the days. A handful of the nights we cooked or heated up frozen meals. It’s not something you probably need to do for a short overseas trip in an affordable location but is extremely helpful when you are planning a longer stay, particularly in the more expensive destinations where eating out day to day is going to cost a lot more than you expected.

Potential Savings: Eating breakfast at your accomodation total savings $15 to $30 per day

8. Shop less

I know a lot of people who travel plan to go shopping potentially leading to Mindless consumption. I’ve never really understood this myself, I can shop any day of the week in Sydney and don’t feel spending my time on holidays stuck inside four walls at a mall is a valuable use of my time or airfare. Since I don’t shop on holidays unless I really need something, I not only save myself money when travelling but save myself time. Time that I would much rather use exploring a new city and country, not on finding stuff I can cram my home with.

That doesn’t include the nuisance of lugging around heavy, packed to the brim luggage on your flights or paying excess baggage fees which seem to be getting more and more exorbitant. Once we cut out unnecessary shopping on our holidays it meant we could afford to travel more often and didn’t need to save up a whole bunch of excess cash for spending.

Want to know how to pack minimally for your next trip. Check out these 16 Easy Tips for your next trip!

Potential Savings: Not shopping everyday $100+?

9. Be selective with souvenirs

On our first couple of overseas trips we felt the need to bring home souvenir from each place we visited. How could you show that you’d been to Thailand without a key ring to show? You name it we bought it; decorative souvenir plates, key rings, snow globes (which always seem to break :/) and a new fridge magnet from each city. That didn’t include the souvenirs we bought back for family.

Soon enough we found ourselves running out of walls and space to house them all.  And I’ve got to be honest with you, apart from a select few displayed around our home, we never really looked at the others sitting on the shelf. We realised that we probably didn’t need all these trinkets to remember our holidays and that the majority of them were really just dust collectors. We decided to limit our souvenir collection for future trips and decided to be a little bit more creative about what we did bring home.

This past trip we limited our souvenirs to coins we collected from each location, ticket stubs from places we visited on our trip, post cards for our family and a small number of post cards we picked out for ourselves. We also took many photos to remember our travels. Not buying souvenirs made travelling easier as we weren’t risking going over our weight allowance and didn’t have to worry about having breakables in our bag that might get damaged in transit. If you do find joy in souvenirs pick one or two you would love to display in your home from your destination but just keep in mind if you do love to travel these are going to add up over time.

Potential Savings: resisting going overboard with souvenirs $50-100+

10. Pack thoughtfully

By bringing what you need you can reduce the money you spend at your destination and help your travel budget. Unless you do your research, some destinations can really set you back for things you can buy affordably at home. I lost one of my gloves in Iceland and the cheapest pair I could find as a replacement was $40. I left my raincoat at home due to limited space in our luggage thinking my umbrella would be fine, and after realising that umbrellas are redundant in the European weather, the cheapest raincoat at my destination that I could find was from $150 AUD. Keeping a travel check list can help you to remember all the important things you will need for your trip and save you buying them! Packing a Capsule Wardrobe can go a long way to covering you for all your clothing needs on your holiday.

Potential Savings: The cost of buying clothes etc $20+

11. Utilise Free WIFI

Save money on your travel budget by taking advantage of free WIFI. Buying a sim at each of your destinations can add up. For most of our destinations we got away with using our Airbnb’s WIFI and Free WIFI in cafe’s. Downloading Google Maps of our destinations also really helped us to access the maps we needed whilst out and about.

Potential Savings: Staying in an airbnb and not paying the $10+ a day WIFI charge for each phone, potentially $70 per person a week

11. Keep your mind open to alternative tourist attractions

Consider alternative options, outside of main tourist areas to help your travel budget go further. In Iceland, we realised that we’d left it too late to book the Blue Lagoon Pools. We decided rather than to go at night we’d try and find another Geothermal pool on our road trip. We found one on our route that ended up only costing $80 for the both or us versus the $200 + it would have cost had we booked at the Blue Lagoon. It ended up being a good thing and meant we had saved a fair wad of cash for more adventures!

Potential Savings: Picking a lesser known tourist attraction for a similar but more affordable one without the crowds $100

12. Shop around for your travel card

Travel cards can charge a range of fees and eat into your spending money. After purchase fees, reload fees, currency conversion fees, ATM fees and the like they can quickly eat up your fun money. When shopping around be sure to compare as many options on the market. A good starting point is Choice’s Travel Money Card comparison but be sure to check the cards website before deciding to ensure you have the most up to date information.

A good starting point is to find a card that has no purchase or reload fees (fees to add money to your card), and ideally one with a low currency conversion charge or none at all and no ATM fees. I recently used the Multi-Currency Cash Passport which had limited fees mainly related to Australian ATM use. Another one I was keen on getting but ran out of time to get  was Virgin’s Velocity Frequent Flyer Card which also allows you to earn points as you spend.

Potential Savings: $5 ATM fees per withdrawal, $10 reload fees, conversion fees

13. Set a daily budget before you leave for your holiday

Don’t wait to arrive at your destination to think about the travel budget. Before we left for our trip we set a daily budget and converted that amount in each currency we needed based on how many days we were staying in each. This gave us a stopping point so we could visibly see when we were nearing the end of our budgeted spending money.

If you are budgeting $150 a day as a couple and staying somewhere for two weeks, only convert $2100 in spending money. If you need more you can always add more later, but that limit will help set you a guide day to day for whether you are within your travel budget or over and you can adjust your spending accordingly. It’s best to research the cost of local restaurants, transport etc from travel bloggers or ask a friend who has been before to get an idea of what  you should be budgeting.

Potential Savings: Sticking to your $125 a day travel budget rather than not having one and ending up spending $200 a day or $500 extra than planned over a week

How do you travel on a budget? What are your tips for stretching your dollar further whilst still having an amazing, fun holiday? Share your tips in the comments below 🙂

Want more tips on how to save money for your next trip? Check out these 10 Easy Tips to Save Money on Your Groceries! 

 

 

Budgeting

18 Tips to Help You Break the Debt Cycle

Are you ready to take action and break the debt cycle? A small amount of planning and new habit forming can go a long way to helping your smash your debt and get on the path to financial freedom. Photo: Alice Pasqual

Being stuck in the debt cycle can seem like a never ending treadmill of stress and struggle trying to keep ahead of what may seem like never ending repayments. Once you add a mortgage, car loan and a few credit card repayments to your budget finding any spare cash can become increasingly difficult and make it harder to break away from debt and get back on your financial feet.

If you are constantly making purchases on the credit card and not paying them off in full the following month you are going to eat up a lot of your hard earned income in interest payments. Money which could be better utilised whether that be saving for a new home or your kids education, your retirement or using that spare cash for enjoyment such as holidays or seeing your favourite band in concert.

No matter where you are on your journey to financial freedom there are methods to help you get on top of that debt. Even for anyone with significant amounts of debt, their financial story isn’t over and they can potentially have the most options for action in terms of retraining their habits and living within their means. No one needs to live under a cloud of debt indefinitely. There is a way out!

Here are 18 Tips to Help you Break the Debt Cycle.

1. Think about the interest 
It can be so easy to forget that the price tag of the item you are about to swipe on your credit card is not the final price you will pay if you don’t pay on credit. If your credit cards interest rate is a whopping 19% or more, every purchase you make on that card which is not paid in full will attract hefty interest charges. That $99 dress you just charged will cost you a hell of a lot more year that you don’t pay off your credit card balance. And it doesn’t stop there, that is just one purchase – imagine that interest on every purchase you make! That sale price doesn’t look as good now does it?

2. Cut up your credit cards.

If you are the kind of person that can’t resist a good deal and doesn’t pay your credit card off in full each month it is time to cut those cards up! Stop spending money you don’t have. If you can’t show restraint, take the easy step of grabbing a pair of scissors and cutting up that card. It will only take  you a few seconds and save you a world of stress and hardship in paying off any extra debt. Don’t let it keep spiraling out of control. You can get out of this and you can start today by cutting up those credit cards!

If you are buying everyday purchases on the card and are not paying them off in full at the end of the month you need to reconsider your income and expenditure and spend less than you earn. The only reason to use a credit card is to have it as a tool to keep track of your expenses, to earn rewards points on everyday expenses and only if you are paying it off monthly! If you are disciplined enough to do this you can save yourself some serious money by keeping your day to day cash in your mortgage offset account or in a high interest savings account. Otherwise get those scissors out!

3. Stop trying to impress others

A lot of people get caught up in looking at other people’s lifestyles and attempt to keep up with them. I guarantee no one ever asks the same people they are trying to compete with – how much debt do you have? Yeah sure, Joe down the road might have your dream car but he probably also has a $200 weekly car repayment to make for the next 7 years which probably isn’t as appealing to your green-eyed monster. Yet so many people go out and buy new cars, bigger homes or brand name designer fashion to fit in with others without a thought for the struggle that is going to put on their finances, such as affording the basic needs of food, shelter, medicine or their education. Break the debt cycle!

Do you feel the need to buy the latest fashion and accessories? You might be surprised to find that other people are probably not that interested in what you are or aren’t wearing. People are too worried about their own lives to focus on your daily outfit choices or the fact that you only spent $50 on your handbag rather than $300. I have often had handbags under $50 and constantly got compliments – no $300 designer bag necessary!

If you are surrounding yourself with people who expect you to meet some kind of designer brand level of outfit choices your probably need to reconsider who you hang out with or reassess if those friends even care, maybe it is your own standards you are trying to keep up with.

4. Avoid the shopping without a list
Stop going shopping unnecessarily! You’d be surprised how little you’d spend if you didn’t step foot in the shops at all or open the latest sales email. If you have endless emails from clothing shops or stores that tempt you constantly, unsubscribing from them can help remove that urge to buy.

Make a goal of only going to the shops when you need to and go with a list of what you need to buy and from where that you have built up over a week or more. Don’t walk down the make-up aisle if that is not on your list. This alone can help you resist unnecessary purchases as most spending occurs when you are browsing which can end up with you buying something you don’t need and will later regret.

Shopping with a carefully prepared grocery list can go along way to saving money on your weekly shop that can be redirected to paying down your debts faster!

5. Take advantage of new credit card balance transfers
If you want a leg up to pay off your credit card balances, consider a balance transfer to a new credit card that will offer you 0% on the balance for a certain period of time, usually between 6 to 24 months. This can potentially reduce the interest rate you are paying to 0% and help you get on top of your debt in a short space of time.

Only do this if you cut up the new card immediately otherwise you will end up back where you started. Also be sure you will be able to pay the balance transferred onto the new card within the low interest period. The new interest rates can be significantly higher usually starting at 19.99% post the discounted interest period so you will want to pay it back within this time frame to avoid the increased interest rates.

This can be a great way to smash that debt balance in a defined period of time at the lower interest rate. Do not under any circumstances add to the balance of this new credit card. It is not for you to spend with, but as a tool to help you get ahead and pay down that debt!

6. Ask your credit card provider for a better rate

Alternatively to the balance transfer option, call up your current credit card provider and ask for a better, more competitive interest rate. If they want to keep your debt on their books they will have to meet your request and better your interest rate. This will save you on interest charges without the time limit of the balance transfer option.

7. Always pay more than the minimum on your credit card debt
When paying off your credit cards always pay as much as you can onto them each month – avoid only paying the minimum. If you can only afford the minimum find a way to change that – cut other expenditure, get a higher paying job, or a second job to increase your income if changing jobs is not an option. Temporary pain will be required to achieve financial freedom.

By only paying the minimum repayment you can add decades and thousands in interest to the debt you are going to have to pay off. Using Money Smarts Credit Card Calculator a $2000 credit card balance paid back at the minimum repayment of $41 a month would take over 21 years to repay and cost over $6500. That means you will in effect be paying for those $2000 purchases three times over for the next 21 years! And for some people $2000 is just one months expenses. Imagine if this is being charged, month after month.

Never settle for only paying the minimum repayment. It should read “what to pay if you want to be in debt forever and pay 3X the price of everything you’ve ever bought and have no desire for financial freedom”. The only time you should utilise the minimum payment is if you are using the Snowball Method and throwing all your spare cash onto the lowest debt and slowly knocking each one to zero.

8. Ask yourself is this purchase is a want or need.
It is important to consider what our wants are versus our needs. Every time you pull out the credit card or cash, ask yourself is this a want or a need? If it is a want, something that you’d like but could live without, ask yourself is this purchase is so important to me that I am willing to be snowed under by debt in order to have it. Is it worth paying potentially 3X the purchase price of the handbag or new runners over a period of years? Or would it be better just to hold off a couple of weeks or months and save up the cash?

If it doesn’t seem worth spiraling into more debt, rethink your purchase. Sometimes we can become so desensitised by buying things with a simple tap that we forget to stop and ask ourselves these important questions. Being more mindful with everyday purchases can aid us significantly to break the debt cycle! Shops are designed to make us want to spend money, whether it be the loud music throughout the shop, the vanilla caramel scented candle wafting through the store or pushy, “extremely helpful” sales staff. Take a moment to stop and assess whether buying this item is going to add to your long term happiness or take away from it.

9. Channel your excitement into your savings
Make the decision to buy things in cash going forward. By buying in cash and saving up for highly desired items you can give yourself the time to save up money gradually for it. You will be surprised how easy it can be to save for something that you really want when you know that after all that hard work you will have that item you desire – debt free.

When you really want something, you will know if it is worth your hard earned money as you will be making the necessary sacrifices to get it. You might start spending less on eating out each week or skipping regular drinks nights in order to save to go on that first overseas holiday.

When you save towards something you want and worked hard in order to acquire it, instead of feeling a sense of guilt or buyer’s regret, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and joy knowing that you worked hard and saved for something meaningful that was going to add value to your life and that you paid for in cash. There will be no looming debt hanging over your head for months or years to come.

I can’t imagine anything worse than going on an amazing two week holiday and coming back to deal with the debt that remains after the fun is over. It’s going to be a lot easier to be motivated to save leading up to that amazing experience than once it has been and gone and you are dealing with the debt consequences.

10. Buy what you can afford not what you can borrow

When we bought our first home we were surprised to see how much the banks were willing to lend us. As I did our actual budget (not the made up ones the banks use to justify lending you a mortgage at 50% of your combined wage) we could see how borrowing the larger amount was going to be a huge financial strain.

Instead we stuck to a mortgage that would be well within our budget which will go a long way to help us break the debt cycle. This included built in safe guards that gave us some extra financial security in case rates went up or in the event that we had to live off one income. Only you know your true spending habits and what you can reasonably afford to pay back. Don’t let others convince you that your borrowing power is bigger than it really is. Check out the benefits of a smaller home and mortgage here.

11. Don’t become accustomed to the mentality of having debt repayments
I have seen this happen time and time again with young and old alike. They pay out their perfectly good car after 5-7 years of repayments and immediately start talking about what car they want next.

Even though they have a perfectly functioning car, with time on their side to save for the next one, the thought of saving up for a car over time, or having a slightly older car is considered too painful, so they go out and get a another car loan.

Break the cycle! Be weird and say no to debt!

If your car is reliable and not that old and mechanically sound, it is so bad that you hold onto it for a couple years more and save up to buy your next car in cash completely debt free? Paying $100 or more a week for the next 5-7 years is a big commitment and is going to get old fast!

12. Reassess what you are willing to get a loan for
Be selective with what you are willing to go into debt for. Only go into debt for purchases that increase in value or are considered an investment. Getting a degree in your chosen career can lead to a higher salary, a house can provide a return through equity.

On the other hand shopping sprees on the credit card, holidays and a new car aren’t an investment and don’t hold their value so going into debt for items like these should be avoided. Do you want to be paying off that shopping spree years down the track after the clothes are out of style and most likely already donated to charity or sitting in the back of your wardrobe?

If you need to get a mortgage for a house that will increase in value over time, that can be considered “good debt” but a $2000 credit card balance for your new sound system is not a good idea and should be avoided.

13. Put every spare dollar that you can to pay your debts down

Most people when buying their first home are signing up for huge 25 to 30 year mortgages. If your mortgage is a 30 year mortgage, it doesn’t mean that you have to wait that long to be debt free. Aim to pay it off as fast as you can.

Are you prepared to stay in your full-time job, particularly if it is a job you don’t enjoy, for the next three decades until you are 60 to own your house? By adding an extra $50 a week to a $500,000 mortgage you can reduce your mortgage by over four years and save $65,000 in interest. A huge saving! Imagine what you could do if you could add $100 a week to it in additional repayments! Break the debt cycle and avoid letting your bank or credit card provider dictate what your repayment timeline will be.

14. Save up an emergency fund of $2000
Part of the never ending debt cycle is attributed to not planning ahead. Suddenly your car dies on the freeway and you need to put $1200 on the credit card for repairs. The hot water system goes and again you are stuck without a leg to stand on and putting that on the credit card.

Plan ahead. Budget emergencies are just as likely as the chance of rain. Find a way to save up $2000 as quickly as you can and keep it in an account for emergencies only. This does not include a nice hand bag that is on sale or last minute drinks with friends. This is only for genuine emergencies like a break in occurs and you need to change the locks or you have a severe tooth ache and need to get it looked at. Get organised and sell your clutter if you have to. 

If you have to use this fund you will need to build it up again. Next time you have a flat tyre you won’t have to panic and stress about finding the money and won’t even need to think about  bringing out the credit card.

15. Prepare a budget and stick to it.
Knowledge is power when it comes to finances. If you are aware of what your budget is you can be more mindful of your spending and more likely to break the debt cycle. If you know you have a $500 electricity bill every quarter start budgeting for it every week. Don’t wait until the bill comes and then try and figure out where the $500 is going to come from and end up paying your bill late with an added late fee.

If you own your home, be prepared to spend regularly on maintenance. Living week to week can put you in a bind when your home needs urgent repairs and you haven’t planned ahead and put away money for such events. Check out these Everyday Savings Tips to help kick start your budget and free up some cash to break the debt cycle!

16. Learn to be content with what you have
Once you realise how little you need to be happy the desire to consume more diminishes. You no long feel as big of a rush buying things. The thought of parting with your hard earned cash will make you more mindful of what you are buying.

Learn to be content with what you have. This alone can go a long way to break the debt cycle. Do you really need a brand new $35k car on finance on your $50k salary when your current car works perfectly fine? Are you willing to pay x dollars every month for the next 60 plus months? In good times and bad – when you are unemployed, when you are trying to live on one income, when you decide to cut back hours at work to study for a new career – that debt is going to still be there.

Maybe having that spare money each week could allow you to go on an overseas holiday each year, cut back your work hours to spend more time with your family or allow you to retire earlier. Sometimes more stuff is not the answer to contentment.

17. Find new past times that don’t involve shopping.
If you are finding yourself constantly browsing online shops or at the mall you may need to pause and recognise the habit and ask yourself – Is there something more valuable I could be doing with my time? How often are you shopping, for how long and how much are you spending? Keep note of it.

Gradually retrain yourself to stop the automatic habit of logging into your favourite stores site or browsing aimlessly on your lunch break. Think about all the things you could be doing instead of shopping; reading a new book, going for a walk, meeting a friend for coffee, learning a new skill or hobby, catching up with family or seeing a new film.

If you have friends who you shop with regularly make a suggestion to do something different together. There are plenty of things to do that are more enjoyable and often free that you could be doing instead of shopping and wasting money.

18. Review your credit card statements 
In order to break the debt cycle and get your finances back on track you need to establish where you are spending your money and wracking up debt. Check your credit card statements monthly and analyse them. When you know where you are spending your money you can become more mindful and take action to stop it. Is it at Kmart on clothing and homewares? Are you spending too much on eBay or Amazon?  Are they stores you are visiting in your breaks for something to do? Is your spending occuring on the weekend because your friends work and you don’t know what to do with your spare time?

Work out where you are spending and place yourself on a ban of going to that shop or buying from that shop online for a month. Just pick one spending problem area. If your weakness is buying makeup avoid shopping for any new make up for that month and see how you feel after a month. Maybe you can stretch it out for two months without too much pain. Then you can add another store to the ban list until you can retrain your mindset to shop as you need things not as a past time or unconscious purchase.

What are your debt goals? Do you have a plan in place to break the debt cycle? Are you using the debt snowball method to pay down your debt? Share your goals and wins to achieve financial freedom below 🙂

Don’t forget to sign up to the Minimise With Me Mailing List for your free copy of my ebook “101 Ways to Save Money Whilst Still Living Awesomely!

<span data-sumome-listbuilder-embed-id=”22788773a7cdca4a3191e4c2207865aed1331569ded8116d0a5d81c91f455545″></span>

 

Budgeting

How we planned a debt free wedding

  • You’re newly engaged and starting to make plans for your upcoming wedding. What an exciting time! The sad reality is that weddings are expensive. Most likely, more than you imagine they cost. Soon enough you hear through the distant bells chiming and realise that this is going to take some financial juggling and severe budget savvy-ness. But there is a way to plan for a debt free wedding and avoid any financial hangovers with a little forward thinking!

    I remember about a week after getting engaged to my now husband, I was asking my friend who was planning his wedding at the time, how much things are going to cost. He told me his entire budget was nearing the $30k mark. I began sinking in my chair. How on Earth could one day cost $30k?! Sure enough we soon realised that figure was pretty realistic for an average wedding.

    Money Smart’s 2014 report on wedding costs estimates an average Australian wedding will set you back $36,200, that’s closer to $40,000 in 2017 with 3% inflation. Soon enough my naive, newly engaged hopeful eyes were opened to the financial realities of planning a wedding.

    I certainly felt a tad unsure and concerned at this point. I’ve always loved working on budgets but this was a whole new world of financial challenges. My husband and I knew we were going to be paying for our wedding ourselves as our parents weren’t in a position to help out too significantly financially. Going into debt wasn’t an option in our minds and didn’t align with our values of avoiding debt (and certainly not for non-asset purchases!).

    I had heard of people trying to pay off their wedding debt post the big day and I didn’t that to be us. I was determined to find a way to have the wedding we wanted and to do so debt free. We got engaged in January and set the date for September the following year which gave us 19 months to save. Let me tell you we needed all 19 of those months and every spare dollar!

    The good news is that we managed to pay it all in cash. Completely Debt Free! And you can too. Read below for How We Planned a Debt Free Wedding.

    SAVING FOR THE BIG DAY

    If you aren’t saving now then you need to start today. Remit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich goes even further by suggesting that people who plan to get married one day and looking at a $28000 average wedding cost should each save about $3,000 per year, or $250 a month from when you turn 21. At 21 I was certainly not thinking about saving for a wedding but in hindsight, even a small amount each week would have helped out a lot when I got married at 27.

    If you have left saving for a wedding until the engagement, you will need to work out what your expenses are in a month and what you can afford to save towards the wedding. This will need to go into a separate wedding savings account.

    For 19 months all of our non-wedding spending was on hold. We still went out occasionally for our sanity, but there were no holidays, shopping sprees, non-urgent home repairs, new cars, new TVs, new clothes (other than things we needed of course). All spending came to a halt and every spare dollar we could find from savings – pay rises, bonuses anything we could think of, went to the wedding savings fund. I remember in that entire 19 months we took one 3 days weekend trip up the coast and that was it which wasn’t easy for two lovers of travel.

    FINDING EXTRA CASH

    Consider ways that you can bring some extra cash to help boost your savings and help you achieve your debt free wedding.

    • Do you have unwanted clothes or clutter that you could sell? This can bring in some fast easy cash and clear up some of your crap.
    • Can you pick up some overtime at work?
    • Can you do a side hustle if you have the time. Drive for uber, sell your arts, crafts, or designs. Advertise some work to do locally like gardening.
    • Save any pay raises instead of adding them into your spending budget.
    • Reduce your eating out budget and cook at home more often.
    • Change expensive nights out at bars with friends to dinner parties at home.
    • Shop your wardrobe instead of going out shopping and spending unnessessarily.

    YOUR WEDDING BUDGET

    Before you spend any money on anything, start by preparing a budget of all the wedding expenses. Refer to this one for an idea (this is read only, save a copy on your drive to edit). Include all clothing, jewellery, accommodation, cars etc. Work out a rough budget and talk with your wife or husband to be about what are the most important things to you both.

    You can research online or ask a friend who got married recently for an estimate of pricing for different expenses. Some suppliers advertise their prices online which is a good place to start, others you can get a quote after a quick email. Plot out the budget estimates into your wedding budget as a starting point. As you fill in more accurate number you will see whether you are in or over budget and you can adjust it from there. The more expenses you add in the better. Don’t forget all the little things; postage, flutes, gifts for the bridal party and so on.

    Updating your budget regularly is the key to planning a debt free wedding so you can ensure you haven’t left anything out. Record every expense as soon as you can after receiving the invoice. Forgetting to enter a cost into your budget can cause you to have budget blow outs or lose your reservation when it is left unpaid. As soon as you get the email or receipt put it somewhere safe and enter it into your budget!

    HOW MUCH WILL I NEED TO SAVE?

    Once you have a ball park of all the expenses work out how much you will need to save each month up until the day. If you are budgeting $20k for a wedding in 12 months you need to be saving $1667 a month for the wedding. Once you have your figure you will need to decide can we afford to save this month each month. If not you can either push back the wedding day or cut expenditure so you can put more money away to meet the required saving amount.

    Don’t leave this too late when your wedding is a couple of months away, and everyone has booked their flights and accommodation and you have to go into debt to pay the difference. It’s really important to get this figure and save the required amount from the get go.

    HOW TO SAVE ON WEDDING COSTS

    These are the things I did in order to save as much money as possible for our wedding. I do not what to think of what we would have paid had I not taken the time and effort to research multiple suppliers and get the best deals we could. We did a lot of the below tips and friends and family have saved on their weddings with others.

    1. Get multiple quotes

    For practically every wedding expense I got 3 quotes, sometimes more. This was no easy feat and time consuming but is going to be a huge help to your budget and potentially save you thousands!

    Quotes can range significantly and getting three or four can usually give you a ball park of what is at the budget end and what isn’t. This is a must particularly for big ticket items like the venue, cars and photographers. I looked into at least 10 reception venue’s and prepared a spreadsheet of the inclusions they offered and compared the prices to inclusions which ranged from $90 to $150 per person. When you multiply a saving of $60 by 50 guests or more the savings add up quickly!

    Be aware that cheapest is not always best. I didn’t go with the cheapest videographer I found because the quality of work was no where near that of the more expensive supplier. Sometimes it is worth paying more on a professional than throwing away half the money on something inferior.

    2. Pick a date further out to give you more time to save and bargain hunt

    The longer your engagement the longer you can save. If you want all the bells and whistles of your dream wedding in six months time you are going to find saving up in time a complete struggle. picking a date further out gives you more time to save and bargain shop!

    Once you have worked out all your wedding expenses budget, work out how much you need to save and what you can save each month as early as possible. If you can’t afford to save enough you are going to have to tighten those purse strings. It is not going to be easy but will be worth it to know you can enjoy your day and not have to worry about any debt afterwards.

    3. DIY as much as you can

    Skip the extras that you can do yourself like printing names on the invitation envelopes- pen will do just fine, bow tying etc and invite some close friends over for a night of crafts. These little expenses can add up when they a multiplied for each guest. I saved myself $5 per RSVP card plus postage by just requesting a text message RSVP instead of ordering cards. If you are going to do this you need to update your RSVP list regularly.

    4. Work out what are your must have items

    For us it was the stuff that we would look back on for years the photography, the rings, the wedding album. This is where we spend on quality. For everything else that is less important and you are willing to save on, this is where you need to find your savings.

    We opted to only have flowers for the bride and bridesmaids bouquets and didn’t bother with any others other than some orchids for the reception centerpieces. Besides, our wedding was in a garden we didn’t need any extra flowers 😉 If you can buy flowers from the local market the day before or ask a friend or family to help out on the day. This alone can save you hundreds. I know some brides who have done this and the bouquets are just as lovely (and not so heavy which is a bonus ladies!).

    We skipped the fancy ceremony set up and just opted for some chairs and a carpet. We could have spent big on an archway and aisle liners, and flowers for the aisle chairs but decided that the garden and water features were beautiful enough without all that excess stuff.

    5. Ask around for any friends or family that can help you out

    We are musicians so are fortunate to have many musicians as friends. A friend played harp at our ceremony and my husbands band did an acoustic cover of a song for entertainment at the reception. Do you know anyone that can make your cake, or do your hair or make-up for a discounted rate or in place of a gift?

    Did anyone have a wedding recently that would be willing to lend you their decorations or know of any great supplier offers? Save where you can. I got my flowers delivered to my brothers house so we could save $50 on long-distance delivery. Any small help goes a long way!

    This also goes for the venue. Ask your reception what vases and decorations they can provide to save you buying them.

    6. Consider buying the dress second hand or off the rack

    Shop around for the dress, aim for the perfect dress that you won’t have to go into debt for. On my wedding dress shopping day I saw other brides trying on expensive dresses with their mums looking like they were starting to sweat. If a $5000 dress is completely out of the budget don’t even try it on, you are asking for pain! Stick to your budget!

    A great time to shop is at EOY sales around June 30. I bought mine off the rack with a 50% discount saving me over $1000.

    Check out pre-loved wedding treasures facebook groups or eBay for second hand dresses to save!

    7. Shop around for wedding dress alterations

    These can range significantly and cost upwards of $500 very quickly. My first quote from the store I bought my dress from was for $500 not including what I ended up getting done. Get at least three quotes here! By doing this I managed to save hundreds of dollars by going to a local alteration place that specialised in formal and wedding dresses which worked out much more convenient travel-wise.

    8. Opt for a smaller cake.

    A friend was kind enough to give us this advice after his own wedding when he was left with half a cake – a very expensive one at that. We opted for a two tier cake and still had about half left over from 80 guests. Even after giving a lot away to family a lot ended up in the bin (Shock horror but it sat taking up space we didn’t have in our freezer for a few months and after agreeing we were not cake people we just wanted it gone).

    If you are having wedding cake, if your venue allows it consider skipping the dessert to save some extra cash. We paid for both and most people only had one or the other.

    9. Consider skipping the DJ and MC

    If a DJ and MC aren’t included in your package consider asking a friend to bring their laptop and speakers and be your DJ for the night as their gift to you. We did this for a friend of ours recently and were happy to help them out. With a playlist you only need to check the laptop occasionally and be there to que a few of the main songs.

    Sometimes the personal touch of a family or friend as MC can add to the night and save your money. If you have an extroverted friend this might be a good choice 🙂

    10. Have a wishing well

    If you feel comfortable with the idea, I highly recommend having a wishing well in place of a gift registration. Let’s face it do we need a second toaster and and a new set of towels that don’t go with what you already have? We were living in our home for three years before we got married and had everything we needed.

    Rather than getting more unnecessary stuff that you don’t have room for, consider asking guests if they are happy to, to donate to your honeymoon fund so you can create memories with their gift. Some people may still opt to give you a gift they picked but in our experience most people were happy to accommodate our wishes.

    We asked guests to donate money to our European honeymoon and some opted to give us Euros and Pounds which was greatly appreciated.

    If parents are buying you are gift, ask if they would mind paying for something for the wedding – the photographer, the celebrant or cake. Every little contribution helps and will be something you can appreciate for years to come!

    11. Ask whether your reception location offers discounts for weekdays

    Weekday wedding can be significantly cheaper. Fridays and Sundays can also be cheaper than Saturdays as an alternative to weekdays. We managed to save almost 10%  or about $1000 off the wedding reception bill by booking our wedding on a Sunday instead of a Friday or Saturday night. It happened to be our actual anniversary so for us it was perfect.

    12. Limit your guest list

    Unfortunately there is no easy way to do this but if you are paying for your own wedding and don’t want to be saddled with the wedding debt for the early years of your marriage you are going to have to stick to a numbers limit. If your parents insist on inviting extra people that aren’t on your list, ask them to pay the cost of their guests attendance.

    Work out what you can afford and stick to that number. If some people RSVP that they can’t make it, you can then potentially invite others that you had hoped you could but just couldn’t budget for in the original list.

    Try not to get caught up in offending people. It is not worth going into debt to avoid potentially offending people not invited who most likely completely understand how expensive and difficult wedding guest lists are. If you are really stuck, consider inviting guests to the ceremony only and keeping the reception for close friends and family.

    12. Consider a more minimalist wedding

    I recently went to a very minimalist wedding and it was no less special than any others I had been to and a lovely relaxing day. Work out what you can do without. Can you use a current suit (or buy one that you can wear again after the wedding)? Can you find an affordable dress off eBay (check feedback first of course!)? Do you have some heels you could wear instead of forking out for new ones? Do you need the pricey photo album or can you put one together yourself (we did this saving us $1000 or  more!)? Check out How Minimalism has Helped Me Find Financial Stability and how it can help you stick to a budget leading up to your wedding.

    Work out what are the must haves for you and your partner and agree on what you are willing to go without. We didn’t bother with expensive add on centerpieces that can cost hundreds and instead we went for some orchids in vases with water for under $80 in total. Sometimes less is more 🙂

    13. Find ways to save on bridal party costs 

    This is particularly helpful if you have a large bridal party. Instead of buying the bridal party dresses and matching suits consider asking them what item they already have that they could wear. Maybe they already have a dress or shirt in the colour scheme you are after and can mix and match. This can look really amazing in photographs and potentially save you a lot of money if you are planning to buy the outfits. Again look at buying these outfits around the sales periods like end of financial year.

    14. Keep your venue options open

    Picking the most higher demand venues means you are going to pay much more. We were looking at $120+ per head costs for a wedding venue in Sydney without any inclusions. On the suggestion of a friend (Steve, you are the greatest!) we looked at a coastal location 100kms away and managed to find a beachfront venue for under $100 a head that was just what we wanted! That decision alone saved us thousands and more importantly meant we could invite more of our close friends and family!

    15. Set realistic expectations and do what is right for you.

    It is your special day and you only get one of them.  At the end of the day ask yourself how much you are willing to spend from your budget on one day. Weddings cost an exorbitant amount of money and there is a lot of pressure to conform to friends or families expectations of what it should be.

    Less flashy wedding are no less special than their pricey counterparts! It is about two people coming together to start their lives together not about how expensive the car was that you hired or how many swarovsky crystals were on your dress. No one is going to judge you for wearing a $200 dress, or getting your bouquet from the markets or wearing shoes that aren’t new. If anyone does they probably aren’t your friend (and surely not paying the for wedding :p).

    If you want to elope with a couple of people around or have a destination wedding and limit your guest list, go with what is important to you. At the end of the day it is your wedding and your happiness should be paramount.

    16. Don’t overspend on the invitations

    I had no idea how expensive invitations got! They can range for a couple of dollars each to $20 or more. When you are buying them for 100 or more guests this adds up quickly. Let’s be honest, sure the fancy ones will look amazing, but people just open them, and chuck them on the fridge or in a drawer. No one else cares if they were the $5 or $30 ones. At the end of the day a good invitation gives guests the details they need to attend your wedding. The $5 ones will do this just find. Save your cash and spend it on the photography or honeymoon!

    17. Quality is not something to skimp on.

    Don’t skimp on the irreplacable stuff! It is important to balance budget services with quality.

    I’ve heard horror stories from people where friends or family were asked to take photographs for the wedding to save money. This can often end in disaster. Your wedding day is a one time thing, if you are going to spend your budget anywhere I would put photography to the top of that list and invest in a professional photographer with a great portfolio. You can never retake those photos. You can still get to the wedding in a Camry. You can still have a good day with a friend as a DJ but you cannot fix a bad photographer.

    Our celebrant was not the cheapest, but we met her at a friends wedding and loved how relaxed she made the ceremony and how friendly she was. We hired her and paid a fee for her to travel long distance. Despite the higher cost than other celebrants were charging she was available to help us with an unlimited amount of questions and made us feel comfortable and sometimes that is more important.

    We hired a venue for our wedding over a DIY hall option, which was the more expensive option. At the end of the day it was worth every penny to not stress on the night and to have professionals on the floor making sure by any means we were having a good time and had nothing to stress about. To hire a hall we would have had to book caterers, cutlery, table cloths, decorations with all the added stress that comes with that. This was definitely something where we opted for quality over budget but found a way to still save by picking a Sunday night and choosing a location that was not in the city.

    AFTER THE WEDDING

    After the wedding can be a good time to claw back some of the money you paid out. Can you sell your wedding dress, shoes or jewellery if they are something you won’t wear again on pre-loved wedding treasure sites? Can you sell your decorations, vases, lolly bar supplies, excess stationery etc that you no longer need on eBay? Did you buy a wishing well that will just sit there collecting dust? Find someone else who needs it. Consider with your new found freed up time creating your own wedding album online instead of paying thousands for the photographers one. This can help to get back a small amount of your cash after the wedding.

    I hope these tips will help you plan a debt free wedding and give you the day of your dreams within your budget.

    How did you save money with your wedding? Please comment below with your tips with other soon-to-be-wed Minimisers and share it to anyone who is planning a wedding 🙂

    Check out How an Organised Space Can Save You Money 

  • Budgeting

    A Quick Guide to Reviewing Your Superannuation Fund

    Reviewing your superannuation fund can be one of the most efficient ways to save for your retirement. Fees can add significant costs and eat away at your retirement nest egg if they are left unchecked. The sooner you conduct a check in of your superannuation fund the sooner you can ensure your money is being invested in the best way for you.

    I’ve recently been on a personal finance binge and was recommended Scott Pape’s The Barefoot Investor book from many people. I bought it two weeks ago and have just finished it. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to take control of your finances and achieve financial freedom. This should be everyone! In particular, I loved the advice on Australian Super funds which can see like a minefield of confusion.

    I’d always thought I was on top of my super. I’d consolidated all my superannuation accounts into one. I chose one considered to be low fee, updated my information and checked my bi-monthly statements each time I received them. Each month I’d make sure my superannuation was paid within my payslip and if I moved, I’d update my address.

    After reading the Barefoot Investor, I realised that there was more I could do and set out to learn as much as I could from his book and my own research. Scott Pape points out that we work 15 hours a month to earn our 9.5% super so we should be dedicating a small amount of effort into making sure we’re in the right super fund and I couldn’t agree more!

    I wanted to not only learn how to make my super work better for me, but to compile information for others to help arm you with more knowledge about your superannuation so you can make the right decisions for  your future.

    GIVE YOUR SUPERANNUATION FUND A QUICK TUNE UP

    Here is a list of five things you can do right now to give your superannuation fund a quick tune up.

    1. Set up an online account for your super.

    If you don’t already have one, set up an online account for your superannuation. Save your password and log in details somewhere safe so you can access your account at any time. Request emailed statements and keep these in your email inbox (I try to go paper free as much as possible, if that isn’t your thing feel free to print them out). Label them as Superannuation in your gmail for easy access or if you print them, file them in your superannuation folder for easy access.

    2. Download your Super fund’s mobile app.

    This will allow you to easily login to check how your investments are performing and what your superannuation balance is.

    3. Consolidate your super accounts.

    Did you change employers and join your new employers preferred super fund? If you haven’t consolidated your old superannuation accounts you could be paying fess of $400 or more annually on each account and losing out on growth in your retirement savings. Don’t let dormant super accounts steal your retirement nest egg. You can find your lost super through MyGov, or you can contact your current superannuation fund and request they consolidate your super on your behalf. Alternatively find more options for finding lost super through Superguide.

    4. Check your insurance cover.

    When choosing a super fund you should opt in to the Death and Total & Permanent Disablement insurance. These will protect you and your loved ones by paying out a lump sum in the event of death or disablement. There is also an option to get Income Protection Insurance which will pay you a percentage of your wage (up to 75%), usually after a waiting period of 90 days in the event that you can’t work due to sickness or injury. The fees for this will come out of your super fund so you don’t have to pay them from your own after tax wages.

    5. Update your beneficiaries.

    If something happens to you who do you want your super going to? Best to make this decision well before it becomes an issue. You should update this with life changes such as a marriage,
    relationship breakdown, after having children and so on.

    NB: If you are considering changing your superannuation fund, hold off on these steps until you have decided whether to stay with your current fund or change to a new one to save you redoing them!

    REVIEW YOUR SUPERANNUATION FEES

    Check your super fees by downloading your super funds Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). This should be found with a quick online search of “Your super fund PDS”.

    These are a summary of the types of fees you are likely to be charged on your superannuation account:

    Administration fee: This is a weekly admin fee covering the general running of your superannuation account. This can cost around $5 per month, approximately $60 or more a year.

    Asset-based Administration Fee: The asset based administration fee is a fee in addition to the admin fee that will be charged as a % of your total superannuation balance. These differ depending on the fund that you are in. The higher the balance in your super fund the higher your fee. An asset fee of 0.15% on a $50000 investment amounts to $75 a year.

    Investment Fee: This is the fee for your investment allocation and is also charged as a percentage of your superannuation balance. These fees can range quite significantly. On a $50000 superannuation balance a fee of 0.02% would cost $10 a year versus a fee of 0.64% at $320 per year. This is where the bulk of your superannuation fees come from so is the most important one to review and compare.

    Switching Fees: Some superannuation funds charge this fee when switching your investment choice this can be around $25 per change. Others don’t charge a fee for switching investment choices which is ideal so you are fee to change your investment choice, fee free as it suits you.

    Exit fees: Some superannuation funds charge and exit fee to leave them such as a $36 fee.

    Compare your superannuation funds fees to others and see how they compare. High fees can eat up a significant portion of your investment over a period of decades.

    Check out the Super Guide’s Top 10 Cheapest Australian Super Funds from Feb 2017 for some comparison on Superannuation costs across some of the cheaper Australian Funds.

    Once you have reviewed and compared your superannuation fees make a decision on whether to stay with your current fund or change.

     CHANGING YOUR SUPERANNUATION FUND

    Changing your superannuation is a fairly simple process. The easiest way to go about it is to sign up for your new fund online, fill out the online form with your details and tick the box that allows your new fund to consolidate you old super account balance into your new one. You will also need to mail off a signed copy of your form.

    When filling in your application form you can opt in to the new superannuation funds insurance cover and select income protection insurance cover is you want that additional insurance cover. You will also need to choose beneficiaries and select an investment option from your super funds available options. For more information on these see the Investment Options listed below.

    When you receive your new superannuation membership number give this to your work’s Payroll Officer as soon as possible so they can ensure all future superannuation payments are paid to your new account.

    >> If you want to learn more about achieving financial freedom check out How the Debt Snowball Can Get You Debt Free Faster

    THE TRUE IMPACT OF SUPERANNUATION FEES

    Canstar Australia’s biggest financial comparison site did an analysis on two different people’s superannuation funds to consider the future superannuation balance of two 25 year olds if they paid fees of 0.75% and 1.75% a year. The assessment was based on incomes of $45000 a year and $70000, increasing 4% annually. With 10% of their salary being contributed to superannuation annually until the age of 65. An investment return of 8% annually was used.

    The findings were the someone earning $45000 per year, with the above conditions, could potentially accumulate nearly $330000 more in super if they had lower fees (0.75% versus 1.75%), whilst the person earning $70000 per year could have over $450,000 more in super with the lower 0.75% fee compared to the 1.75%. The results can be found in the table below.

    Earning $45,000 per year Earning $70,000 per year
    Beginning Salary $45,000 $45,000 $70,000 $70,000
    Salary increase annually 4% 4% 4% 4%
    SG rate (annual contributions) 10% 10% 10% 10%
    Investment return in super each year 8% 8% 8% 8%
    Annual fees (%) 0.75% 1.50% 0.75% 1.50%
    Beginning super balance $25,000 $25,000 $25,000 $25,000
    Super balance in 40 years, at age 65 $1,880,074 $1,551,237 $2,696,232 $2,240,590
    Difference in super balance $328,837 $455,642

    This example demonstrates how important it is to consider the superannuation fee when determining your chosen super fund and monitoring them closely. Choosing the wrong one could cost you tens of thousands in lost super over your investment period.

    CHECK YOUR INVESTMENT ALLOCATION OPTIONS

    This is the type of investments you have in your super fund and can include Australian and International Shares, Property, Infrastructure, Bonds and Cash Investments. Your super fund will have a range of investment options that may sound complicated but to help you decipher them, here is a summary of the four main investment options:

    Growth options are ideal for people in their 20s or 30s. These investment options are made up of 85% shares and property investments or a high growth option will hold 100% in these investments types depending on the risk you are prepared to take on. Growth investment have the most risk. Expected rate of return is 6.2% before fees, taxes and other costs with a High volatility rating.

    Balance investments are a make up of approximately 70% in shares or property and the remaining 30% in fixed interest and cash. This is a good mid-point for people that are not nearing retirement and want growth, but want to avoid the high level of risk that come with a 85-100% asset allocation in the growth options. Expected returns before fees, taxes and other costs are around 5.7% with a medium volatility rating.

    Conservative investments are a blend of about 30% in shares and 70% fixed interest and cash. This holds the least risk and is a better investment option for people approaching retirement. The expected return for this asset allocation is around 4.2% before fees, taxes and other costs and have a low volatility rating.

    Cash investments options invest your money in Australian deposit taking institutions aiming to reduce the losses in investments. The expected return of these investments are under 3% before fees, taxes and other costs and have a very low volatility rating so are better for people who want to keep their money safe and to keep up with inflation but are not looking for growth.

    For more information on super investment options and asset allocation check out Money Smart’s Super Investment Options.

    REVIEWING YOUR SUPERANNUATION’S PERFORMANCE

    This can be found by typing in” your super fund investments performance”. Take into consideration the 5 and 10 year investment performance of your chosen investment option.

    You ideally want to cover your annual fees of say 1% and inflation at 4%, a required return of 5% to keep ahead of fees and inflation and more than that in order to grow your investment. Review your superannuation funds performance regularly to consider whether your superannuation fund is giving you a sufficient return on your investment.

    For more help in comparing your superannuation funds performance check out Canstar’s Compare Super Funds. Simply select your age and investment balance and it will populate a list of superannuation funds including the past 3 years performance of the fund.

     

    CONSIDER SALARY SACRIFICING TO YOUR SUPERANNUATION

    Consider salary sacrificing some of your before tax wages and take advantage of the tax concessions on offer. If you earn over $450 a month, your employer must pay 9.5% of your salary to your super fund this is called the Superannuation Guarantee. If you earn over $37000 a year you are paying a marginal tax rate of 32.5% plus 2% for the medicare levy for every dollar earned above this.

    Superannuation contributions are taxed at 15% for individuals with income under $300,000 up to a maximum contribution of $25000 per year. By salary sacrificing some of your before tax wages to superannuation you will be giving yourself a tax discount of 19.5% per dollar.

    In The Barefoot Investor, Scott Pape recommends that  if you are in a position to do so – meaning you are debt free and have bought your first home and have saved up your three months of expenses – you should then consider topping up your 9.5% employer contribution to a full 15% – an additional 5.5% of your after tax wages.

    On a salary of $70000 before tax with a marginal tax rate of 32.5% + 2% medicare levy, if you were to contribute an extra 5.5% to your super, a total of $3850 a year, you will reduce your tax bill by $750 a year ($3850 x 0.15 vs $3850 x 0.345).

    GOING FORWARD

    If you have taken all the above steps you can pat yourself on the back. Many other Australians have yet to do this and a rolling on auto-pilot and may not wake up until they are fast approaching retirement age.

    Don’t forget to review your investment option over time. Consider your age and the type of investment option you should adopt, growth is you are in your 20s-30s, Moving to less risky balanced investment options as you approach your 40s and moving to larger cash asset allocation investments as you approach retirement.

    From here please don’t return to auto-pilot mode. Set yourself a regular reminder to review your super. Quarterly should be frequent enough or you can do this monthly if you prefer. Grab your phone and set a digital reminder in your calendar for the first day of each quarter to check your investments. Now you won’t have to think about it until your reminder goes off and you can do a quick review and go back to whatever you had planned for your day.

    Have your read the Barefoot Investor? What was the most valuable part in the book for you? Comment below with how it has helped you on your financial freedom journey!

    Budgeting

    How the Debt Snowball Can Get You Debt Free Faster

    There is no faster ticket to financial freedom than being debt free. Having  debt can weigh us down and keep us from making changes in our life for the better. Whether that be freeing up money to add to your retirement savings, taking a new role that you love but that involves taking a pay cut or even the improvement in your health from the reduced stress that comes with being debt free.

    About a year ago I came across a book called the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It was here that I first came across the Debt Snowball Method for reducing your debts. I’d always considered focusing on the interest rate the smart way to go about debt repayment. It seemed more financially savvy to me to focus on the dollars involved and interest saved. If you are paying more interest on one debt over another, why would you pay the one with the lower interest rate out first? Since discovering this new method I can see the advantage in paying off debts from the lowest to highest balance over focusing on the interest rate.

    Paying off debts is a hard slog. When you see how many years and repayment periods are left it may seem like there is no light at the end of the tunnel and you will be paying them off indefinitely. The key to the debt snowball is building momentum. Building new habits is tough and we often need instant rewards in order to keep us working towards out goals.

    When we want to lost weight we join a gym and closely watch the scales. It can be hard to stay motivated when those scales don’t budge in the beginning. If you lost a kilo that first week, it would help you stay focused and more determined on your weight loss journey. This is why the debt snowball can be so effective at helping you get on top of your debt. It focuses on knocking down the smallest and easiest debts to tackle first. With each debt repaid, you can see your progress a lot sooner than if you attempted to pay out a much larger debt just based on the fact that you were paying a higher interest rate.

    >> If you like this post, you’ll love: “10 Easy Tips Save Money Groceries Budget“<<

    Before I go into the debt snowball method I want to mention another step that is equally important before starting your snowball.

    BUILDING AN EMERGENCY FUND

    Before attempting the debt snowball it is best for you to save an emergency fund. Dave Ramsey and a lot of other finance experts recommend having and emergency fund of $1000. I would suggest going a little bit further and aiming for $1500. In my experience if your hot water system goes or your car dies and needs an expensive repair $1000 doesn’t always cover your emergency costs. Just having that little bit more will give you piece of mind especially if two emergencies rear their head at the same time!

    This $1500 is a reasonable savings buffer to help you in times of emergency when you would normally throw those amounts on your credit card. There is no point trying to pay down your debt if you are going to be wracking them up again and living paycheck to paycheck with no plan for unexpected expenses. You’re just going to end up back where you started.

    And let’s face it, there are always going to be budget emergencies. Just like it rains on the weekend, there are going to be rainy days where your best intentions to budget are going to take a hit. Do what it takes to save up your $1500 emergency fund and ensure that it is only used for emergencies. If you have to dip into it because your had to replace a tyre or you have a dental emergency, the money will be there for you. Just be sure to save up your emergency fund again as soon as possible.

    Once you have saved your emergency fund you can move onto your debt snowball.

    THE DEBT SNOWBALL

    With a few minutes of planning you can be well on your way to paying down your debt. Here are the four steps to use the debt snowball method:

    Step One:

    Write down all your current debts in an excel worksheet or piece of paper (Exclude your mortgage, this will be tackled once you have paid back all of your consumer debt and saved a 3-6 months expense fund). Go back to your loan paperwork, online banking or credit card statements and work out what your current debt balances are for all outstanding debts as at today. Then, take note of what rate of interest you’re paying (for full awareness of your debt) and your monthly minimum repayment.

    For the Australians out there, getting a current HELP loan debt statement is not possible as these are only sent out annually with your tax return. Instead, enter the HELP balance that was on your most recent Tax Assessment paperwork and make a note to update this when you get your next one.

    Step Two:

    Once you have written all your debts down, number them from  1, 2, 3 from the smallest balance to the largest. Debt Number 1, the smallest debt balance will be the one that you are going to pay off first and attack with your debt snowball. The last and highest debt balance will be the last.

    Work out based on your current budget, how much extra on top of the minimum repayments you can afford to put on your smallest debt for that month. If your lowest debt has a minimum monthly repayment of $25 and you can spare another $100 a month, start paying the $25 minimum repayment plus the additional $100 repayment, or whatever it is that you can afford.

    Continue to pay Debt Number 2, 3 and so on as minimum repayments. Continue to do this until Debt Number 1 is full paid off. If you get any additional income, a bonus for example, or you were under budget for the month putting that extra money as an additional top up payment on your Number 1 debt will help you knock it down even faster.

    Step Three:

    Once your smallest debt is repaid, take the minimum payment for Debt Number 1, in the example above, that would be $25 a month and add your additional repayments of $100 a month and add this to the minimum repayment for Debt Number 2 – your second lowest debt.

    This means you will now be paying a much larger amount on your second debt – saving you significantly in interest and getting you to your debt free goal much quicker. If your monthly repayments for Debt Number 2 were $40 you will now pay the minimum amount of $40 plus the $25 and $100 you were using to pay of debt number one. Continue to do this until debt number two is paid.

    Step Four:

    Continue to do this for each of your debts in the snowball until the last one is paid off. For each new debt paid off you will be taking the past minimum repayments plus your additional repayment and carrying it forward to the next debt in your snowball. Like a snowball, the repayment for each will grow and pay off a bigger chunk of each debt as it grows and moves to your next biggest balance.

    There are no short-term solutions to paying off debt. It is going to be a slow and difficult journey but one that will be well worth it. Imagine all the things you could be doing with your cash if you were debt free. Put a deposit on a house, go on that dream six month holiday. Maybe you want to start your own business or invest for your retirement.

    Keep these dreams at the forefront of your mind! Every time you feel like giving up ask yourself if you are willing to give up on your financial dreams.

    STOPPING THE DEBT CYCLE

    Here are some tips to help you stay out of debt and to help you get to your debt free journey sooner:

    1. If you can’t afford it don’t buy it. Are you about to buy something on the credit card? Stop! Whatever you are buying you are paying a 19% interest amount on top each year that balance is left unpaid. Does that sale price look so good now?
    2. Cut up your credit cards. If you are the kind of person that can’t resist a good deal and doesn’t pay your credit card off in full each month it is time to cut those cards up!
    3. Stop trying to impress others. No one cares what brand clothing you wear. People are too worried about their own lives to focus on your daily outfit choices.
    4. Learn to be content with what you have. Do you really need a brand new $35k car on finance on your $50k salary when your current car works perfectly fine? Are you willing to pay x dollars every month for the next 60 plus months? In good times and bad – when you are unemployed, when you are trying to live on one income, when you decide to cut back hours at work to study for a new career – that debt is going to still be there.
    5. Stop going shopping! It’s surprising how little you spend when you avoid going to the shops unnecessarily. If you have endless emails from clothing shops or stores that tempt you unsubscribe from them! Instead of going shopping, meet a friend for coffee, read a book, watch a movie. There are plenty of hobbies that are much cheaper and more valuable uses of your time.

    For tips on saving more money to help you free up cash for your debt snowball check out 11 Everyday Tips to Save Money.

    What are your debt goals? Do you have a plan in place to become debt free? Are you using the debt snowball method to pay down your debt? Comment below your goals and wins to achieve financial freedom below 🙂

    Budgeting

    11 Everyday Tips to Help You Save Money

    Sometimes finding ways to save money can seem too hard and an impossibility. You research tips and  think to yourself how is saving $12 a month on bank fees or a few dollars on a coffee really going to have any impact on my savings? How will that help me get on top of my debt or save for a holiday? It may all seems like too much effort with limited results but it is important to stay focused on the bigger picture.

    Savings can be found anywhere you spend your money. In order to find them you need to look at where you currently spend your money and get creative about ways to reduce those expenditures. Often it could be as simple as a phone call to ask for a better deal or taking ten minutes to research something a little bit more before hitting the buy button. Becoming complacent about spending can end up with us losing $100s or $1000s of dollars.

    Here are 11 Everyday Tips to Help You Save Money. Each one alone may only give you a small increase in your savings, but together they can make a big different over the space of a year and the less money that comes out of your pocket day to day the better for your savings account and future.

    1. Review insurance annually

    Shop around for all insurance bills annually. Insurance can increase significantly year to year and most companies will take advantage of loyal customers who don’t put the time in to compare what they are being charged. Most insurance companies offer quick online quotes and allow you to alter the market value and excess coverage in order to get a true comparison. Within minutes you can have a few price comparisons for the insurance you are renewing and be well on your way to save money.

    I’ve often saved hundreds of dollars doing this and for each insurance type over a year the savings can significantly add up. Do this for your car insurance, home and contents and any other insurance you purchase and it can easily save you hundreds of dollars or more a year. Another option is to call your insurance provider to ask if they can make you a better deal.  

    2. Only shop when you have something specific in mind

    Avoid going to the shops unless you specifically need something, particularly if the only reason is because you are bored. Make an ongoing list in your phone or planner of what you need as you think of it and take your list with you on your next trip to the shops. Sticking to a list will allow you to limit your shopping to specific stores and aisles, helping you avoid temptations of items not on your list. Not only will this help you save money but also save time, allowing you to use your time more wisely and create more space for more value adding activities.

    3. Shop around for mobile phone plans regularly

    Phone bills can add a significant cost to your annual budget. To save money shop around for phone plans, particularly if you are on a no lock in contract arrangement and have the flexibility to move around. Phone companies are always updating offers to attract new customers and if you haven’t researched in the past twelve months what offers are available to you, you may be losing out on some amazing savings.

    By changing my phone provider, I was able to take up a 6 month phone plan for new customers that was half the price I was paying to my current provider for the same inclusions. This added up to a saving of $210 in the first year. It may not sound like a lot but that saving alone covers my gym membership for the next four months and that is definitely money better spent on my health. 

    4. Limit dining out

    Limit eating out where possible. If you do want to go out, buy the meal you most prefer to eat out whether that is breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. For me personally I can easily make toast or pancakes at home so I would rather use my dining out budget to pay for dinner which is something much more time consuming for me to create.

    For dessert, often instead of going out and paying $30 on top of our dinner bill, I’ll opt for an ice cream at the movies or occasionally have some store bought waffles on hand in the pantry which comes out much cheaper and certainly doesn’t seem like a sacrifice to me! If you have a dinner outing that you don’t want to miss, opt for one of the cheaper menu items so you can socialise whilst avoiding blowing your budget. Alternatively, staying home and making dinner with friends or your partner is always a good compromise.

    5. Reduce one of your regular expenses 

    What do you buy regularly? Is it coffee? Chocolate? A soft drink at lunch? Pick one expense you buy regularly and try and reduce your spending on that one item. If you love coffee, buy a good quality coffee to have at home and bring your reusable coffee cup out with you. Can you bring in a bottle and have water at lunch instead of spending $4 daily on a coke? Could you cut back on buying the pricey vending machine chocolate on your afternoon tea and just bring some from home? Even if you just cut back slightly, or even make small reductions to two regular expenses that will give your savings a kick start.

    6. Create a wish list with a wait period

    Sometimes we don’t even realise we are making impulse purchases and taking a step back, or waiting a few of days to think about a purchase can help us be more intentional with what we are buying and bringing into our homes. Creating a wishlist is a great way to think about future purchases. When you come across something you want to buy, write it on your wishlist and try and wait a period of time such as 30 days before buying the items you have listed. This will help you to avoid impulse purchases and make more informed decisions.

    A wishlist allows you to truly assess whether this new purchase is needed, if it will add value to your life and whether you want to part with your hard earned cash in exchange for it. It also allows you time to consider other products, look into reviews, ask friend for recommendations and do price comparisons to make sure you are getting the best product for your needs at the best price.

    Your wait period can start small and you can gradually increase it to what suits you. To begin with, set a goal to walk away from the shop, say to yourself if I really want this I will come back to buy it before I leave. If you still want the item when you are ready to leave you’ll make the effort. Making educated purchases can help you avoid suffering any buyer’s remorse, having to go through the hassle of a return and save you any disappointment in your purchase.   

    7. Review your utility plans

    Have you been paying your utility bills on autopilot without reviewing what plan you are on? A quick call to your service provider can save you hundreds in a matter of minutes. Buy contacting my utility provider I was able to switch to a new plan that offered a 16% discount for on time or early payment. A quick ten minute phone call has added up to hundreds of dollars of savings that have helped us to save money and signficantly reduce our utility bills.

    8. Unsubscribe from store mailing lists 

    We are constantly exposed to advertising whether it be on the radio, TV, Youtube, or when we are checking our email. My inbox seemed to constantly be filling up with new sales and offers from stores and became and unnecessary distraction. Unsubscribe to your unwanted shopping email subscriptions as they come into your inbox. When you aren’t being informed on sales 24/7 you will reduce the desire to go shopping and buy unneccesary things as well as the fear of missing out. Instead of having advertisements telling you what you need to buy, you can be more intentional and only add to your wish list things that you need.

    9. Stop paying ATM and monthly bank fees

    No one likes paying bank fees, there is no benefit to us for these costs which makes this area a great place to start to save money. Learn where your banks local ATMs and stop withdrawing cash at other bank tellers. Each withdrawal is at $2.50 or more which does add up particularly if you are only withdrawing small amounts. Think ahead or pay by card where you can. Consider getting a card like ING’s Orange Everyday Account which gives a 100% ATM fee rebate.

    Another expense that adds up are monthly bank fees. Contact your bank and ask them to wave fees on any bank account that you deposit $1000 or more into each month. If you are being charged monthly bank fees on your mortgage consider changing your home loan to a fee free one or asking for those fees to be waived. These small banking fees add up month to month and are much better in your bank account.

    10. Review your super accounts

    Do you have one superannuation account for every job you have had to date and have yet to consolidate them? Each superannuation account pays out management and insurance fees and if you are paying for these twice, or more, you are throwing away a large chunk of your retirement savings.  Consolidating your super is a lot easier than some might think. Most super funds just require you to fill in a Consolidate Your Super form and will contact your other superannuation fund to transfer your balance into your new account on your behalf. It may seem like your retirement is a lifetime away but every dollar you can save today is going to make your life a lot easier in the future.

    11. Sign up to your local library

    I recently joined my local library after hearing about the access to borrowing eBooks and audio books. I never go to the library, but could not pass up access to free ebooks and audiobooks on my phone. You only have to go to the library once to sign up and after download the OverDrive app you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks for free without having to leave your chair. I’ve listened and read countless audio and ebooks this way. If you aren’t too set on only reading physical copies this is a great way to read more and save money on buying books. They might not have every book you are after but any access to more books is a good thing.

    Do you have any tips to save money that have worked for you? Please comment below to share with other readers.

    Budgeting

    10 Easy Tips to Save Money on Your Groceries Budget

    Grocery shopping can make up a big portion of the weekly family budget. If you are not aware of your grocery spending habits those supermarket trips can easily add up significantly in a short space of time.  Here are 10 easy tips to save money on your groceries budget that can help you plan ahead and that can quickly add up to some great and easy savings on your grocery bills.

    1. Always bring a list with you and stick to it

    Save money on groceries by having a shopping list on your fridge. This is my number one tip to save money on your groceries budget! When you are out of something, write it down and by the end of the week you’ll have a list of things to buy that you actually use. Avoid walking into a supermarket unprepared! Once you are in store, resist adding to this list with impulse purchases by completely avoiding aisles that don’t contain items on your list.

    2. Resist buying large quantities of new products

    Avoid buying new products or if you can’t resist, only buy one to try it out first and see if you like it to avoid ending up with multiples of a new grocery item that you may not like. We quickly learnt that often new food or products we would buy on sale were more often than not left unused and taking up space in our pantry or cupboards. Sometimes it is best to stick to using our trusted and preferred brands of products to eliminate waste.

    3. Shop online to help resist impulse purchases

    Do your grocery shop online when you can. It’s easy to see what products you regularly purchase are on sale and helps you streamline your grocery list. I grab my shopping list, sit down for ten minutes and order what is on that list and pick it up at a convenient time or get it delivered. Not being in the store means you avoid additional temptation to make unnecessary purchases and helps you stick to your budget.

    4. Buy only what you need and avoid excessive bulk purchases

    Don’t overstock on sale items. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you need to buy a year‘s supply of it. Most popular items go on sale on a rotating cycle every 3-5 weeks so you needn’t be preparing for the apocalypse! You’ll often find when you do stock up on items like soft drinks and chocolates, you’ll end up consuming the items faster than if there was a smaller supply. Keep in mind how much you need when shopping. If you only need two tomatoes for a recipe and don’t plan on using tomatoes again for another week don’t buy the bulk pack just to make a saving on the per kilogram price. I’d rather pay a bit extra for two tomatoes per kilo that I ended up using, than binning and throwing away a lot more in wasted food and money.

    5. Store food correctly to prolong life and reduce waste

    Learn how to store food correctly in order to prolong it’s life. Some food such as potatoes and onions should be stored separately, tomatoes ripen better out of the fridge and herbs thrown into a glass of water will last a few days longer than in the fridge. This will ensure you get as long out of your fresh produce as possible saving you another trip to the store and money continually buying the same things when they have gone bad earlier than they should have.

    6. Save with DIY Cleaning products

    Reduce cleaning supply bills by making your own DIY cleaning products for a fraction of the price as well as limiting the cupboard overflowing with different products for each cleaning task. Bicarb, dish washing liquid, water and white vinegar alone can clean most areas of them home as well as help reduce the chemicals used inside the home. Cleaning products can contribute a huge portion of your grocery bills and can be a great way to save money on your groceries budget. 

    7. Switch to machine washable cloths

    Switching to machine washable microfiber cloths can helps save endless dollars on dish cloths. A pack of microfiber cloths can be obtained for $5-10 and can be washed again and again to save your replacing clothes regularly. Simply use and put in a wash cloth pile to wash once a week. Other savings tips for cloths is to soak them in vinegar and heat them in the microwave for a couple of minutes to kill bacteria or to throw them in with your dish washing
    cycle once a week.

    8. Meal Plan 

    Meal Planning can be an easy way to save money on groceries. Base your shopping list on what meals you could make with the ingredients you currently have in your pantry or fridge. Add any additional ingredients required for those recipes to the shopping list. If you’re buying something that will not be used up in one meal, incorporate the left overs into your next meal so you can avoid food waste or freeze remaining portions where possible for next time. Ten minutes a week meal planning can save you hundreds over the year and drastically help reduce food waste in your home.

    9. Research specials online or in catalogues prior to entering the supermarket 

    Buying more expensive items such as beverages, beauty and cleaning products can add up over time when paying full price. In order to easily save money on your groceries budget, check out the weekly catalogues for your local supermarkets. Make separate lists for your groceries based on what you are planning to buy in each and shop according to what store has the best price. This might take a little longer, but the savings can be very much worth your while. If you do online shopping this can be even easier where you can just order from different stores and get pick up or home delivery to avoid multiple trips. Alternatively, go to the shop when it suits you, it doesn’t have to be in the same day, if you will be near one today and another on the weekend grab what you need when it is convenient.

    10. Pay attention to the ticket pricing per weight

    In Australia, supermarkets are now required to include easy price comparisons on their pricing tags such as price per 100 grams. You can now easily compare various sizes and prices of similar products from the price tag on the shelf. This can be done much quicker than before when you’d be trying to work these things out in your head or with your calculator and can be an easy quick way to decide in store or online what is the best value for money product to buy.

    Do you have any tips to save money on your groceries budget? Leave a comment below!