How to keep warm in winter without blowing your energy bills

How to keep warm in winter without blowing your energy bills

With energy prices going through the roof right now and cold weather well and truly upon us, it is important to think about how we can keep warm in winter. No one wants to choose between putting food on the table or putting the heater on. We all deserve adequate comfort in our homes when the temperature drops.

Whilst I cannot lower energy prices for you or magically pay your bill, there are some simple things you can do to keep your house warmer and your usage within check. When you’re at home in winter, try to keep warm using good old fashioned methods before turning on the heater.

Wood fire

How to keep warm in winter without blowing your energy bills

A wood fire is a wonderful way to feel cozy and keep warm in winter. The fireplace clip on the TV just isn’t the same. For those of you with a wood fire in your home, try to source firewood out of season. There may be more available and you might be able to get it at a better price. Turn on alerts for Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree for free firewood as some people just want to get rid of excess on their property (be careful of white ants when you bring wood home).

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Some will be free because it needs to dry out for a year or so, which is fine if you have place to store it out of the weather. If you need to buy some, a trailer load is often cheaper than buying a bag. Do your research because some companies and individuals charge a lot more than others.

Maintain your fireplace well by employing a chimney sweep to clean it out or buy the necessary tools yourself. This can reduce ash and charcoal build up inside as well as excess smoke, and helps it to run more economically.

Choose a heater wisely

How to keep warm in winter without blowing your energy bills

One of the most important ways to keep energy costs down in winter is by choosing an energy smart heater. Electric heaters can be cheaper to buy but more expensive to run. Column heaters take a while to heat up but are energy efficient. Gas heaters can be more expensive to buy but cheaper to run. Ensure that gas heaters have appropriate ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Both Choice and Finder have done some testing around the best types of heaters to buy and calculations about their usage costs. Decide if you need to heat the whole house or just your main living area. This can help you choose which heater will best suit your needs.

Seal off any draughts

The last thing you want to do is pay for heating, only for it to escape out of your house. Close the air conditioner vents in winter, and better still, cut wood blocks to size to put in their place for extra warmth. Seal any gaps that let the cold air in. Curtains or blinds help to keep in the heat away from windows, and rugs provide warmth and cosiness to hard floors.

Get fit, stay warm

How to keep warm in winter without blowing your energy bills

One way to get warm in winter is to get moving. When it’s too dark and cold to venture outside, try an exercise bike, cross trainer or treadmill. Lift some weights while watching TV. Do some push ups on your kitchen bench. Chromecast a YouTube workout, dance class or yoga session. All of these will help to burn some calories and warm you up in the process.

Blankets

How to keep warm in winter without blowing your energy bills

Have a few blankets within reach of the couch to snuggle up under. Opt for nice thick ones that keep the heat in. You can even buy heated blankets nowadays. Personally I’m not a fan but it is good to warm up your legs without needing to heat the whole house. Onesies can be super warm and a bit of fun.

Straight to bed

We often go to bed after dinner and cozy up under our quilt with a wheat bag or two. It saves putting on the heater and it’s the warmest place to be. We like our decaf coffee, tea and hot chocolates. We enjoy working on our side hustles or watching a TV series together on the iPad, and when it’s time to go to sleep, we don’t have to get up from the warm couch to go into a cold bedroom. Lazy? Probably. But in winter it works for us.

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Head and feet

Heat often escapes from your head and feet so make sure these are warm enough. For those without hair or much of it, a beanie can keep in precious heat. My hubby sleeps with a beanie on his shaved head because otherwise he ends up too cold. Keep your feet warm with thick socks or ugg boots. Use wheat bags in bed to keep toasty warm.

I have a friend who keeps a microwave in her bedroom for the sole purpose (no pun intended) of reheating wheat bags overnight when they go cold. Yes. She owns two microwaves. Crazy woman or genius? I’ll let you decide.

Under the sheets

This is where the magic happens. Do what you can to keep warm in your bed. Consider buying a woollen underlay. We were given one for an engagement present and didn’t use it to start with. When we finally did, wow. What a difference it made. Instant warmth and softness.

Flannelette sheets are another brilliant invention. Instead of that brisk coolness when you first get into bed, you’re met with a warm fuzziness. A bed with an electric blanket on, is a delight to climb into. We’ve now opted for the warm underlay instead but it can be a nice indulgence, provided you remember to turn it off before falling asleep.

Switching your summer quilt for a thicker, winter one helps keep the chills out overnight. It’s another thing to store off season but I personally think it’s worth it. Wheat bags or hot water bottles are the final piece to the puzzle. Mind you, I used to have both an electric blanket and a hot water bottle until someone pointed out how incredibly dangerous that was.

Could you imagine if it burst and you had hot water mixed with an electric current? I rest my case. Don’t forget a nice dressing gown so when you have to venture out of your cozy bed eleven hundred times to help your crying baby or upset child or busting dog, you can keep warm.

Be a savvy saver

Consider doing an energy audit. We’ve just borrowed a kit from our local library and could figure out which appliances were using the most money, and how much a year they are costing. Check if you could add more insulation to your ceiling. Turn off PowerPoints at the wall to stop items using energy on standby, and seal up any gaps to prevent the warmth from escaping.

How to keep warm in winter without blowing your energy bills

Lowering the thermostat by a few degrees (if it is adjustable), can make a difference to your heating bills too. Cooking with the oven on warms the house. It also makes sense to cook a few things at once so you won’t need to use your oven everyday.

Find a better deal

With the growing pressures on energy reserves, there is less wriggle room to negotiate a better deal on your gas and electricity. However it’s still worth giving them a call and asking. Remind them that you have been a reliable customer of theirs for years and always paid your bills on time.

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Say that you would prefer to stay with them but in the end, you are on a budget and need to find the best price for your money. If they can’t offer you a better deal, switch to a different provider who can.

What needs to go

Keeping warm in winter is important. Look at your bank statements and see if there is any way to reduce your expenditure. Doing without some luxuries might help with paying heating bills. Things like gym memberships, streaming subscriptions, takeaway, alcohol and generous gifts can often be put on hold. These can be reassessed at a later date when money isn’t so tight and the cost of living not so high. There is no point trying to keep up with the Joneses if you are freezing every night.

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Last thoughts

Keeping warm in winter can be a challenge for many, especially those watching every last dollar. I really feel for pensioners who are reluctant to turn on the heater and have it so tough. Take some time to look around your home and see if the heat is escaping from anywhere.

Check to see that your current heater is working ok or if it would save you money in the long run to buy a different type. Make sure you’re not getting ripped off from your current provider. Don’t be afraid to go a little old school and do what our grandparents did to keep costs down. Sometimes though, no matter what we do to save on usage in winter, we can’t avoid paying for heating costs.

That’s when reducing our expenditure in other areas, working a little more or starting a side hustle, or a combination of the two can have a powerful effect. It can make us feel like we have more control over our situation.

How to keep warm in winter without blowing your energy bills

Can I make a suggestion? Look around you and think about who might be struggling right now. It might be a neighbour on your street. If appropriate, reach out and see if there’s a way you can help. You could drop them over a batch of soup and some crusty bread or have them over for a meal.

See if they need some help sourcing a more economical heater for their home. Buy them a new wheat bag, a dressing gown or slippers, a soft blanket or a warm quilt. What we do for someone might not feel like much, but it might mean a lot to them. Just showing that we care can be enough sometimes.

How to cope with the rising cost of living

How to cope with the rising cost of living

2022 has come as a shock to many people with the ever-rising cost of living. Everything we need to pay for has seemed to go up. Petrol prices are out of control. Our weekly grocery shop has risen astronomically from what it was last year. Interest rates have risen meaning our mortgage repayments have gone up.

Energy bills are soaring as and electricity rates hit record levels. Add to this the rental shortage crisis and subsequent rent increases mean that many are feeling the pinch and stress around keeping a roof over their head.

There are many factors for this rise in the cost of living. Climate change is causing more natural disasters like droughts, bushfires and floods. This has a flow-on effect with the availability and quality of fresh produce. The war in Ukraine is affecting our accessibility to oil and gas. Petrol is at an all time high. The Covid pandemic has seen a shortage of workers, delays in transportation, a reduction in spending and an increase in inflation.

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These are uncertain and stressful times and seemingly no-one is immune. It feels like every area of our life is affected by the rising cost of living yet our wages haven’t gone up enough to bridge the gap. It is particularly worrisome for those who are unemployed or underemployed, on the minimum wage, on one income, going through a divorce or desperation, battling a chronic health condition or illness, or on a pension. Spending on the most basic of necessities feels out of control. For those trying to make ends meet, this is feeling less achievable.

The big question is, what can we be doing to cope with these rising costs of living? How can we keep from drowning under this pressure? How can we move from treading water to feeling back in control, swimming our own race again?

There are a number of things we can do to reduce the impact and keep our head afloat. There is no quick fix, no easy solution, particularly for those really feeling the pinch right now. I do however, have some suggestions about how we can make a few changes to our lifestyle to make a difference moving forward.

Start with the biggest expenses such as housing, food and utilities and see how you can save money there before moving on to the smaller ones.

Mortgage

How to cope with the rising cost of living

For those with a mortgage and struggling with the cost of living, make sure you shop around for the best deal. Consider getting a mortgage broker who can help you negotiate and find the right lender for you. The lowest interest rate doesn’t always mean it is the best deal, and keep in mind that fixing your rate will restrict how much extra you can pay off. If you are not wanting to refinance, sometimes simply ringing up your bank and asking them if you are on the best deal can reduce it there on the spot.

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They prefer to keep customers where they can so if you play hardball, they may lower your rate to keep you. If not, don’t continue being loyal. Find a better deal elsewhere and switch. If possible, pay a little more than your minimum mortgage repayments. If you have an offset account, consider paying extra so it acts as emergency fund against your mortgage to reduce the interest payable. Provided you can redrew if necessary (with no fees), this can be a good way to have money aside in case you need it.

Groceries

How to cope with the rising cost of living

There is no denying that food prices have gone up, even over the space of a few weeks and months. Experts are prediction that iceberg lettuce is going to go up to $10 each. That’s insane! Although we can’t avoid paying more at the checkout, we can do a few things to reduce the impact on our budget. Meal plan from what you have left in your fridge, freezer and pantry and buy some top up ingredients to make dinners.

Use up what you have in your fridge already and clean it out regularly so items don’t go to waste. Have top up weeks where you aim to buy milk, bread, fresh fruit and veggies, and any other staples you need. Check out the $21 challenge that can save you lots and inspire you to use what you have. Shop with a list and buy fresh produce that is in season. For items out of stock or too expensive, look in the freezer section to see if it is more economical to buy that way (for example, broccoli, beans and spinach are handy in the freezer).

Plan more meat free meals, and for the days that you do consume meat, bulk it up with blitzed veggies. Pasta sauce is a great way to have vegetables inside and can be a way to get fussy toddlers to eat their greens. Lower your standards. Your lunches and dinners don’t need to be gourmet. Keep it simple, healthy and delicious, and don’t be afraid to repeat your favourite dishes in your menu plan.

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If you are able to, do a bulk prep and cook of your meals so you don’t have to be in the kitchen all of the time. Last night I cooked zucchini slice, zucchini chicken, sweet potato chips, potato bake and pumpkin scones. I had the oven on for two hours and used bacon, zucchini and onion across different dishes. Growing a herbs on your windowsill and basic vegetables in your garden means you always have a few fresh ingredients on hand without having to run to the shops.

Utilities

How to cope with the rising cost of living

When the price of everything keeps going up, it is important where possible to consume less energy. When you’re at home in winter, try to keep warm using good old fashioned methods before turning on the heater. Think about putting on a jumper, wearing ugg boots, putting a blanket over your legs and consuming a hot drink.

We often go to bed after dinner and cozy up under our quilt with a wheat bag – it saves putting on the heater and it’s the warmest place to be. Another idea is to use an exercise bike or Chromecast a YouTube workout to get you fit, moving and warm. Cooking with the oven on warms the house, and it makes sense to cook a few things at once so you won’t need to use your oven everyday.

Consider doing an energy audit. We’ve just borrowed a kit from our local library and could figure out which appliances were using the most money, and how much a year they are costing. Turn off PowerPoints at the wall to stop items using energy on standby, and seal up any gaps to prevent the warmth from escaping.

Close the air conditioner vents in winter, and better still, cut wood blocks to size to put in their place for extra warmth. Lower the thermostat by a few degrees if it is adjustable. Ring your provider to get a better deal and compare it with their competitors to check you are on a fair price. Take shorter showers.

In summer, putting the air conditioner on early in the day means it doesn’t have to work so hard in the heat of the day to bring the temperature down. Get the unit serviced every year or two to ensure it is running effectively. Wear light clothing, exercise in the cooler parts of the day and close the blinds to keep the heat out.

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Have a cool shower or bath, get the kids into a splash pool or under the sprinkler, or dip your feet in a little pool after work with a cold beverage. Have meals that don’t require using the oven where possible so the house can stay cool. Consider installing solar panels if you can afford them, as these can reduce your energy bills dramatically.

Insurance

How to cope with the rising cost of living

Despite the cost of living rising, insurance is still important to have. Shop around for the best deal on your house and contents, car, health and pet insurance. Don’t pay the lazy tax by not reviewing your rates annually. It can be a pain to do but a few simple phone calls can save you hundreds. If you get security system or cameras installed on your property, it can reduce premiums. Make sure that you are properly covered in the unlikely event that you’ll need it.

Less extracurricular

Consider putting some limits around what extracurricular activities you sign your children up to. This can help to reduce your driving, saving on petrol, not to mention saves on registration fees and uniforms. If you’re in South Australia, make the most of the School Sports vouchers that save $100 per child per year on fees, and similar programs exist in other states and countries to encourage more participation.

This doesn’t have to mean forever, but at least until you have your head above water. Who knows, you might enjoy a slightly slower pace of life when you say no more often.

Swimming lessons

How to cope with the rising cost of living

Living in a hot country surrounded by water, I think it’s very important that children learn to swim. Swimming lessons too expensive right now? If you have an infant, consider buying a block of casual passes and taking them for swims yourself. Watch what they do in baby lessons and try to replicate it yourself, by using songs to move them through the water and helping to familiarise them.

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Consider VACSWIM for children aged 4 and up. $50 for a full week in my area, plus we get free casual swimming at the centre. My kids get 15 hours of swimming with 5 of those hours lessons, for $50 every summer. You can add a beach week in too if you want them to learn extra skills. If you know someone with a pool, see if you can visit sometimes for extra practice.

Rethink getting a pet

How to cope with the rising cost of living

This may be controversial but I’m going to say it anyway. If you are struggling with the rising cost of living and putting food on the table, now is not the time to get a pet. Unless you are living alone and need the company, if at all possible avoid buying a new pet. I am not saying you should give up any current animals you own. However, pets like dogs and cats can be incredibly expensive.

Think purchase cost, accessories, bedding, food, veterinary bills, medication and holiday boarding. They can reduce your chances of getting a rental, especially in such a competitive market. If you are willing to sacrifice in other areas and have a sinking fund for your pet that you regularly add to, it might be fine, but please don’t forgo your own ability to provide for yourself because you take in a pet.

Know where your money goes

It is important to know where you money is going so it doesn’t trickle through your fingers. You can track your spending on a spreadsheet or via an app. WeMoney is one that I personally use (we both get $5 if you sign up and they plant a tree!). I write more about the features of WeMoney (such as credit scores, net worth, community posting, podcast and blog) here if you’re interested to find out more. Another way to do it is to simply set up direct debits so on payday, money is diverted into different accounts. For us, we have the mortgage deducted, then money goes into sinking fund accounts for spending, car repairs and upgrades, furniture and appliance upgrades, renovations, school and sporting fees, holidays and investing. I like this method because you make sure you put money away before you’re tempted to spend it and we can afford expenses when they come up. You can set up sinking funds for anything including Christmas, wedding, birthdays, pets, health etc. Getting your finances set up well helps you to cope with the cost of living and feel prepared for whatever is around the corner.

Side hustles

There is only so much you can cut out. Frugality is a wonderful way to be more mindful of how you spend money but it can be quite a restrictive way of living. Consider starting a side hustle so you have a little more spare cash. This could be delivering pizza or Uber Eats, tutoring or babysitting, starting up a YouTube channel or podcast, or writing a blog. You can take up a second job or start your own business. Side hustles can be a fun way to make extra money and get paid to do something you love. Canna Campbell has some great ideas in her bestseller, The $1000 Project.

Sell unwanted items

Needing extra cash to cope with rising costs of living? Suffocating in stuff? By going through and decluttering your things, you could find items of value to sell on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. When you take the time to sell things, it can make it easier to part with them if you are getting some money in return. I’ve sold some of my competition winnings, like a rocking chair, to fund a massage chair instead. We’ve been surprised with how much stuff we actually had and sold well over $10,000 worth over the last few years. Your house will feel lighter and your wallet heavier.

Flipping

If you have a hack for spotting a bargain or seeing potential, flipping might be for you. Spot a chest of drawers in hard waste? You could take it home and upcycle it, pocketing a profit when you sell. Find an old book collection in the op shop? List it on eBay and watch the bids come in. Discover an item on clearance in a store that is sold out everywhere else? Sell it for a higher price online, especially if it is rare or in demand. Teaching Brave found a Louis Vuitton scarf in an op shop for $3 and sold it for over $400!

Cashback

A clever way to be savvy with the money you have is to utilise cashback apps. My favourite two are Cash Rewards and ShopBack. They both run promotions where you can get extra cashback from certain stores. It often takes weeks or even months to receive the cashback but then you can transfer it straight into your account. Both give you money upon signing up (please note that I receive a sign up fee) and then any friends or family you refer, you get a bonus too! This can add up, especially if you know lots of people who don’t have these apps yet.

Gifts

Talk with your family around their expectations for gifts. Suggest limiting how much to spend and who you need to buy for. Does every adult need to get a present? Do children need to get a gift from everybody? It can feel awkward bringing up this topic of conversation but for all you know, others are feeling the same way.

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The older we get, the more we often value time spent together over material things. We’d prefer to buy what we want much of the time anyway too. Don’t be afraid to suggest putting in boundaries around gift giving and see what happens. It might save you some money, but also your sanity.

Buy less toys

How to cope with the rising cost of living

For parents reading and for whom money is extra tight right now, stop buying toys where possible. Make it part of your routine to visit your local toy library. There is almost no need to buy toys when libraries today are stocked full of such a huge range.

For a small annual fee, you can have access to all the toys, puzzles, educational toys, puppets, board games, ride on cars, scooters and dress ups you could ever need, not to mention gear you can borrow for parties. It can be a way of trialing toys that your children might like to own before parting with money for them.

Rethink streaming services

How to cope with the rising cost of living

Whilst many of us enjoy snuggling up in bed to stream endless tv shows and movies, it is not a necessity. When the cost of living is making you rethink every decision around spending, this can be one to go. Can you watch free to air catch up TV rather than Netflix, or have just one streaming service at a time?

When you watch the shows that you want to, cancel and switch to another service. If you have Foxtel, perhaps you could downgrade to a cheaper streaming service instead. Can you get out your DVD collection (if you still have any) or head to the library to borrow some? For music, consider listening to the radio or Spotify Free, and stop Premium.

Use the library

How to cope with the rising cost of living

Reading is a wonderful pastime but can become expensive. By utilising the library, you can try out a range of authors and genres. You can put books on hold from libraries around the state. You can borrow physical copies or ebooks. For those who are time poor, listening to books can be super handy. They can also become quite expensive. Libraries allow you to borrow audiobooks free on Libby or Borrowbox. If you haven’t already, download these apps and see what titles you can borrow today.

Shop secondhand

A great way to keep costs down is to shop secondhand. Op shops sell a huge range of clothes and shoes and often organise them by size. Money goes further on books, toys, linen and kitchenware, and you can often find a bargain in furniture too. Garage sales and listings on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree all help to give items a new life. We reduce the impact on the environment by keeping old items out of landfill and not needing packaging and manufacturing for new products.

Join your local Buy Nothing group.

An easy way to combat the cost of living is to join your local Buy Nothing group. It’s a fabulous way to get to know other people in your area, ask for items that you need and pass on items that you no longer use. So many times I’ve almost made a purchase, and then stopped to ask my group.

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More often than not, some kind person has one to give away and saved me needing to spend money. Other times I’ve almost thrown things away or put something in the donation box, not knowing if it would be accepted only to have someone so grateful for the item that they’d been looking for.

Switch it up

Being intentional with your finances doesn’t mean that you have to miss out altogether. Instead it might look like a potluck dinner with friends where everyone brings a dish rather than an expensive meal out. Having tap water, soft drink or juice instead of alcohol. Packing a picnic and bring a thermos to enjoy rather than buying food when out.

Buying frozen pizza or decorating bases to cook at home rather than ordering a pizza. Swap interstate or overseas holidays for camping and holidaying near home. Go with friends or family and split the cost of an Airbnb.

Utilise cooperatives & community groups

For those who are struggling right now, find your nearest cooperative. They often have meal packs at a fraction of the price of companies like ‘Hello Fresh’. They are genuinely cheaper than buying every ingredient seperately from the supermarket. Community groups, churches and charities can provide free bread, fruit and vegetables and hampers to those in need. Some hold soup nights or free meals. They are a great source of friendship if you are feeling isolated.

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Reach out for help

If you’re really struggling and not sure what you can do or who to turn to, Scott Pape from the Barefoot Investor recommends giving the National Debt Helpline call on 1800 007 007. There you’ll find free, confidential counselling, there to help you figure a way out.

In closing

In closing, the rising cost of living in 2022 is pushing many individuals, couples and families to breaking point. It seems like every area of our life is getting more expensive with not much relief in sight. While these tips won’t solve the problem of how to stretch every last dollar, hopefully it is a starting point.

By reducing our expenses, negotiating better deals, saying no to the unnecessary and trying to live more frugally, we can get through this difficult season. By starting a side hustle or finding a casual job, we can reduce some of the financial pressure we find ourselves in and start to build up an emergency fund buffer. If life is really hard for you right now, please reach out for help.

There are many charities, organisations and churches equipped to help and would be more than happy to assist you. Alternatively, pop a comment or send us a message and I’ll do my best to point you in the direction of some help.

How to save money on private school fees

How to save money on private school fees

Paying for a private school education is something that many parents prioritise. They are not always high-income earners but choose to sacrifice in other areas to afford this. They may live in a smaller house or cheaper suburb, delay house improvements, holiday locally and rarely eat out. Education is important to them so they make it work.

Parents choose to send their children to private schools for a variety of reasons. Factors they consider are wanting:

  • A quality education
  • Teaching good values and morals 
  • Firm discipline
  • Higher standards
  • Committed teachers
  • Clientele of students and their families 
  • Bully free environment
  • Smaller class sizes
  • Continuity of teaching staff
  • Well-kept grounds 
  • Providing them the educational opportunities that they never had
  • Continuing traditions of sending them to the same school that they attended
  • Alumni
  • Reputation 
  • Location 
  • Boarding facilities
  • Sporting opportunities
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Interstate and international camps
  • Subject choices
  • Career options

There are simple ways that parents can save money on schooling costs, such as:

  • Purchasing second hand uniforms or getting hand me downs from friends
  • Buying fewer uniform items and washing more often
  • Buying school shoes on sale
  • Shopping around for school books

These will save cash in the short term. For families considering private schooling or looking for ways to reduce the larger financial burden, here are six tips that might help reduce your fees:

1.School card. This is accessible for low-income earners. This is not widely advertised but private schools are required to take a percentage of school card families. This creates opportunities for disadvantaged students to access high quality education that they might otherwise not be able to. Families are able to enrol their children for a fraction of the cost of the normal fee rate. This could save you tens of thousands of dollars over the schooling journey. If you think you may be eligible or would like to read more, here is some information for South Australians. 

2. Sibling discount. In most schools, the more children you have enrolled, the cheaper each subsequent child’s fees are. Often this means the fourth child (and any others) are free. This is a huge saving for large families and can be an appealing factor when considering where to send your children.  For those with multiples, this could be a handy tip because they will all be attending at once. Making use of the sibling discount will save you money but obviously having multiple children in private school will add up.

3. Paying in full. Most schools offer a discount if you pay the full years’ worth of fees upfront. This is normally 4- 5% off which equates to hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of savings. It is important to weigh this up against the interest you might save if this is kept in a mortgage offset account, or the loss of compound interest accumulated if this was invested in the stock market. One needs to consider if having the whole year paid would be a weight off your shoulder. The reduction in stress and not having bill reminders may prove to be more valuable than any financial gain in keeping it somewhere else.

4. Scholarship. Consider whether your child could apply for one. This could be academic, musical, or sporting. Most private schools offer scholarships and can be a way of getting in the door, especially into the top prestigious ones.

Before accepting a position, parents should take time to consider how suitable the location is for logistics, how the expectations of richer families might affect your child’s ability to fit in, the cost of uniforms and camps and the ability for your child to make new friendships. The child may feel stress when sitting the test and it can be difficult if you want siblings to attend but they don’t qualify for a scholarship too. 

5. Pastors discount. This is applicable for Christian schools and may be for other independent ones too. Our local school offers a 50% discount if the main income earner is a pastor at the local church. I imagine this is because typically pastors were paid lower and it helps bring students into the school from the congregation.

This is a huge saving, equating to tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. It might be worth considering a career change and looking into study if you are passionate about theology and want to save cash on private school. 

6. Opt to send them later. There is no rule that says you have to send them to private school from the start. Typically families feel pressure to enrol their children when they are babies, sometimes even before conception to book a place. It is the preference of schools that children begin in ELC, Reception or Foundation.  

This means that you spend more money, students have continuity of education and are long term families, but it’s not necessary. We are sending our boys to the local, fabulous public school and they are enrolled in private for middle school. If things go south, we have the option of sending them earlier. The ball is in your court. Decide what is most important to your family and make decisions that align with those choices. 

These six tips are ways that many parents make private schooling work when on a tight budget, or free up cash for other things if money isn’t an issue. 

An alternative is to enrol your children in public school and choose instead to:

  • Pay off consumer debt (credit cards, car loans, Buy now Pay Later)
  • Pay off university debt
  • Pay off the mortgage early
  • Invest in shares
  • Buy investment properties 
  • Save or invest towards your child’s future higher education costs, car or house deposit

Take time to think about your options and talk about this with your spouse. It may be worth chatting with friends and family members who have gone before and already have children at school. Talk with those from both sides. Write a list of the pros and cons of each. In the end, only you can decide what is most important to you and will work with your family.

Remember, you can always change your mind and enrol them somewhere else if things aren’t working, it is not what you expected or if your financial situation changes.

If you have children, are you going the public or private route? What led you to this decision?

[Disclaimer: I’m not trained in finance so don’t take it from me. Feel free to grab ideas from this post but always see a professional for advice that is relevant and personal to your situation .] 

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5 common money myths busted

common myths about money busted

I am writing today about the 5 common money myths. I often hear things said about money that simply aren’t true. Managing finances does not have to be complicated. We tend make it out to be far more difficult than it actually is. I am here to set the record straight on the five common myths about money.

Myth #1. I need to earn a lot to save a lot.

I hear this money myth a lot. You can save money regardless of how much you earn. Open a savings account or multiple ones if you can. Have money transferred automatically to these accounts every time you get paid. Every time you get a pay rise or come into more money, increase your savings rate.

I would recommend you set up a spending account each for you and your spouse. This gives you the freedom to spend it on what you like and allows some financial independence in your relationship. For me personally, we have $35 a fortnight go into my hubby and my account. It’s not a huge amount but it does grow over time. When I get payouts from Cash Rewards and ShopBack from referrals and cash back, I opt to transfer this into my spending account or top up the mortgage.

Pay more to your debt or mortgage than what you are required to (ie above the minimum repayments). Even small amounts extra will add up. You’ll get used to paying more, that soon it will feel normal.

Work hard to build up an emergency savings fund which you can tap into if and when you need to. This takes away the need for credit cards and personal loans. Chances are, if you have money aside, you probably won’t have to use it (Murphy’s law and all). Set yourself an initial goal of $1000, then $2000, $5000, $10,000 and then 3-6 months of expenses to keep you going in case you weren’t able to work. It’s a big amount but you can get there if you keep chipping away at it.

Myth #2. I need to be rich before I can be generous.

This money myth is common and to me, it sounds like an excuse. While yes, you might be able to afford to give more away later, you can start with what you have right now.

Practice being generous with little so you won’t find it hard to be generous with much. If you can’t part with $10 when you earn $100 a week, you’ll find giving $100 or $1000 away tough. Everyone can be generous in some way, even if it is a tiny amount of money and giving more of your time.

Perhaps you could sponsor a child from a developing country. You could write letters as well as contributing financially to build relationship with them. Alternatively you could support a child closer to home by helping them with school supplies, uniforms and fees. You could donate or volunteer at a school breakfast program or soup kitchen. Give money to a homeless shelter or animal rescue.

Marantha Health is a not for profit in Uganda helping to improve health outcomes, and they can always do with more support. Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation is another charity close to my heart. They help to save women suffering with preventable childbirth injuries.

Find the thing that makes you tick, makes your heart break or motivates you into action, and give what you can to it. Get in the habit of giving something in whatever season you are in, and increase the amount when you can. Generosity feels good and is good for us! Like gratitude, it is good for our health to practice and enormously benefits those who need it most.

Myth #3. Mortgages last for thirty years.

A big money myth is that mortgages need to last for 30 years. You can pay it off sooner! Change your mindset. Read books, follow inspiring people, listen to motivating podcasts. Get your partner on board and make a plan. I’m most passionate about this myth!

Find a mortgage broker who can help you find the deal best for you (and who understands all the confusing stuff). Look for the lowest interest rate, low fees, perks like offset accounts and the ability to make higher repayments without limits.

Ring up your bank and ask what they can do for you. Question whether they are offering you the best rate on your mortgage. If they play hard ball, threaten to go somewhere else, and follow through if they don’t seem to care (they often find a better deal if they think they will really lose too).

Make weekly or fortnightly repayments on your mortgage Pay more than the minimum. Throw extra at it when you can- tax returns, bonuses, payrises, side hustles, selling unwanted items from your house. Hustle hard and bank the earnings. Just imagine owning your house outright and the money it would free up each pay!

Myth #4. Kids are expensive.

The money myth that kids are expensive is not necessarily true. As parents, you choose how you raise them. I do cloth nappies and wipes, hand me downs, free gear from my local MOPS groups, op shopping, etc. Put your younger kids in the clothes that their older siblings wore. Do free things with them and limit scheduled activities. Let them share a room. Enrol in public school. Buy second hand toys or utilise the toy library.

Spend more time with them, rather than taking them places or buying them things. They just want your full attention and love. Choose experiences that create wonderful memories together.

My toddler loves pushing a little trolley at Bunnings, exploring the creek and sitting out the front watching the rubbish truck come. We don’t have to make it complicated.

As they get older, limit their extracurricular sporting activities, musical tuition and hobbies. They don’t have to go to every single birthday party that they are invited to. Set a budget for presents and stick to it. Buy generic gifts on sale or clearance and put them aside in a gift cupboard. Don’t invite the whole class to a party, instead let your child pick a few choice friends. Alternate a party year with a sleepover year with one close friend. You choose how busy and expensive your children’s life will be.

Myth #5. I don’t need to worry about retirement yet.

It is a big money myth that you don’t need to worry about retirement yet. It’s never too early to plan for retirement. In fact, compound interest is your friend! Start contributing more per pay. Gradually increase this every year or whenever you receive a pay rise.

Put your tax return onto your retirement in a lump sum. If your partner is not working while they raise children, consider putting money into their superannuation every year to claim at tax time and to help them catch up.

Ensure that your family is protected in case you have an accident or health issue. There are 4 things you can do to sleep better at night.

If you can learn to live on a little less now, you can live on a little more later. I for one don’t want to end up retired and broke, worrying about money, unable to have independence or choices or travel. I plan to live in a paid off house, with plenty of super to draw on, and dividends from shares to access. Figure out how you want to live in the future and work backwards with what you need to do to make that happen.

Have you heard any of these statements before? Did you believe them?

I challenge you to dare to do things differently. Go against the grain of our spend now, worry later culture. Be responsible and wise with your money, reduce your spending and live within your means. Surround yourself with like minded people. Feed your mind the good stuff to stay on track. Set high goals and work hard to achieve them.

You’ll thank yourself later.

10 ways to save money at Christmas, so you don’t go into debt 🎄❄️⛄️

It’s the most wonderful time of year, right? For many of us, this season is far from that. We may feel lonely or isolated, grieving those who are no longer with us, struggling with health issues or dread the awkward family gatherings. For some, the added financial pressure is extremely stressful. We often place high expectations on ourselves to perform and impress others or create an unforgettable time for our family.

There are some things you can do earlier in the year to help set you up for a less stressful Christmas season. Here are ten tips.

1. Have a sinking fund. Start saving early for Christmas. Figure out how much you’ll need: presents, food, travel etc, then work backwards about how much per week or pay cycle this equates to. Open up a separate savings fund and nominate a figure to be transferred into on a regular basis (eg. $50 every fortnight). Christmas can feel like it comes faster every year but it isn’t an emergency. Don’t let it creep up on you and stress you out! Make a plan and stick to it. Little amounts throughout the year add up!

2. Kris Kringle. This is popular in many work places and families. Rather than everybody buying a present for everybody, do a simple draw to figure out the one person that each person buys for. Set a limit (we do $30 in our family) and create a wish list of ideas for that person to choose from. This is a great idea for buying for children too – they really don’t need that many presents!

3. Set limits. Be realistic about what you can afford to spend and what you actually want to. Have a conversation with family earlier on in the year and put your concerns on the table if you feel the spending is too high. It is ok to have boundaries for presents throughout the year too. We have $30 for close family, $20 for other family, $20 for kids and $10 for children’s parties. Write down your budget, figure out what you can buy with this money and keep a record of what you buy throughout the year. It’s easy to forget things that you may have bought, and then overspend when you purchase more things closer to Christmas.

4. Write gift ideas. This is especially important for children. Most relatives want to be generous and buy an exciting gift for their child, and want the wow factor. To help avoid excess in your home, try creating a wishlist of ideas. This can be on a website like Amazon or simply a list emailed out with prices and links to the shop. Include a mixture of toys (focusing on open ended or good quality), clothes, books and experiences (eg cinema, bowling or swimming vouchers). See my post on How to declutter your children’s toys for good for more tips.

5. Buy second hand. I love op shopping (or thrifting). Most of my children’s clothes, shoes, books and toys are bought this way. I always encourage relatives to buy things on marketplace or from op shop if they want (eg get a bulk set of Fireman Sam toys for $30 rather than one new truck). I only buy second hand for others with their permission (eg. would you prefer five gorgeous dresses second hand or one new one for your two year old?). This not only reduces cost for people, or gets more for their money, but it also reduces the environmental impact.

6. Limit wastage. Writing lists and doing Kris Kringle can help limit excess presents but how about food? Discuss and plan meals with family, organise who brings what, try not to go crazy at the grocery store before hand. Make salads to go with leftover cold meats, cook veggies in a creamy cheese sauce, make yiros, soups or platters. Use it as a chance to have a few days off cooking. Jamie Oliver has some fabulous ideas for this in his book, ‘Save with Jamie.’

7. Choose your favourites. Covid has certainly changed the way way we live recently and for many of us, has forced us to slow down (see Why adjusting to isolation was hard, but why I’m not ready to come out of it just yet …). As mothers, we often feel pressure to create a magical Christmas experience.

Sit down and figure out what is most important to you and ask your kids what they love the most. Is it Christmas carol events, Christmas lights, visiting markets, sitting on Santa’s lap (or the socially distanced version), snuggling up watching Christmas movies, baking honey biscuits or decorating gingerbread houses? Pick your favourites, schedule them in and create times of rest and togetherness at home. We don’t and can’t do it all. ( The art of saying no.. )

8. Everyone contribute. Discuss with family what you can all bring to ease pressure on the host. Divide up meat, veggies, salads, dessert, drinks and snacks (even bonbons, serviettes and declarations can be brought by someone else if they come early to help set up. It shouldn’t be organised and paid for by one household (in my opinion).

Two years ago, I had a baby on Christmas Eve. I went home that night and made it for Christmas lunch at my parents and Boxing Day at in-laws. Whilst I don’t recommend doing this (😂😂), they made it simple for us. I pre-bought and packed drinks and nibbles, and contributed some money towards food.

9. Limit alcohol. This is one area that can add up really fast. If you enjoy drinking, especially at this time of year, look out for specials the month or two leading up to Christmas. Put some boxes aside (and try not to drink them!) to reduce costs closer to the festive season. Mix up drinking alcohol with water, soft drink, juice, soda stream, flavoured milk or hot drinks if you can.

10. Return or regift excess. People love to give women hand creams or bath lotions. It’s a lovely gesture but how much can you actually use? I regift these items unless I really love the scent. If I take the time to create a wishlist with my child (or on behalf of young children), and the relative chooses to buy a noisy plastic toy that will not last (or clothing that is the wrong size), I don’t feel bad about exchanging this or regifting (unless your children really love it or are old enough to make their own decisions).

This may be seen as ungrateful, but isn’t it worse to open the package, let the kids play with it a week before it breaks or put the clothing in a drawer never to use? It might seem harsh at the time but if you do it quietly, and buy something else with the money for your child, surely that is a better solution.

Ultimately I choose what comes into our house and stays there, as I am the one to pick up and organise all the things. Last year, our boys got so many toys for birthday and Christmas. I took some to my local department store and asked if they sold it and whether they would let me return it. One shop took most and gave me $120 in credit notes. I used this to buy clothing they needed and some toys they’d wanted for ages.

In closing, despite the expensive season that Christmas can be, you can have a say in how prepared you are and how much you choose to spend. Take some time to plan ahead, set your budget and gently communicate with those around you about these plans. Brainstorm together about some changes you can make that will honour the family traditions whilst respecting your financial situation. It’s ok and healthy to have boundaries. We don’t have to do what we have always done.

I hope that Christmas for you this year will be special and with those that you love. ❤️

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