I have a confession to make about my financial story. I haven’t always been good with money. In fact, I’m more of a collector and spender than minimalist and saver. It’s just who I am.
I realise that it’s a bit ironic that I have a page about being money savvy. For many financial bloggers or finfluencers, they are great with money. It’s who they are, it’s what they do.
But when you are struggling to manage your finances, do you want to learn from someone who is earning hundreds of thousands a year and a million in shares? Maybe. They are definitely inspiring. They know their stuff. It can also be a little intimidating. A little impossible to relate to because how could they even begin to understand the struggles you’re dealing with. The pull to spend money, to buy more, to have more stuff.
We can be our own worst enemy sometimes. We want to do better. We just don’t know how, or don’t know where to start. How to dig ourselves out of the hole that we’ve found ourselves in. How to earn more money so we’re not living week to week, pay to pay. It’s a stressful place to be.
Here’s my financial story. I hope it gives a little insight into Mel, the girl behind moneysavvymamma❤️.
I’ve always enjoyed shopping & getting a bargain. I was drawn to the clearance racks and the outlet stores. I’d buy things because they were on sale but not necessarily because I needed them. I was a keen op shopper (thrift stores) and loved sifting through the racks to find a gem. Although I got some great deals, I ended up with too many clothes.
Not all fitted perfectly or looked that good. I wouldn’t always wear them and they would end up donated again. I found it hard to justify spending lots of money to buy quality items. This was partly because we grew up without much money, but also partly because I wasn’t on a big wage myself.
My first time earning money was babysitting neighbours kids. It was good fun and I felt responsible. I got my first part time job at 15. (Side note, I worked at a bakery for six years before realising I was allergic to flour. True story.) I loved the feeling of receiving a payslip and seeing money go into my bank account. I didn’t do many hours though and was often broke before payday. I still remember my account going into debit and being charged a $39 fee. Oh how cruel that was.
I was brought up to believe that credit cards were dangerous so I never opened one. I made sure to pay of items in cash, and for that I am grateful. When I was 16, I saw an ad on TV about childhood poverty. I was moved and started sponsoring a child through World Vision. I had a heart for those doing it tough and gave lots away to charity. At one point it was a third of my income.
I tried hard to save. At 17 I bought my first car for $2700. My late grandparents had put aside $1000 for each grandchild towards a car and for this I was so grateful. It was a 1985 Honda Civic. I saw it on the side of the road, pulled over to scribble down the phone number, and raced home to tell my dad.
He asked me what make it was. I had no idea. What model? Who knows. Auto or manual? I dunno. I did tell him that it was white and I could afford it and could we please give them a call. To my disgust it was a manual so I was no longer interested.
My dad gently encouraged me that he would teach me, so I decided that’s what I’d do. Lots of rabbit hopping around the block and practice in empty shopping centre carparks on a Sunday (showing my age now), and we got there. I was incredibly proud to have bought my own car and went on to keep it for five years.
Growing up, I saw wealth as a negative thing. I thought investing was for the old & rich. It was something white guys did on Wall Street. By what I saw on the finance segment on the news, it seemed utterly confusing and boring. Buying shares or investment properties wasn’t on my radar. It wasn’t what my family did so I wouldn’t do it either. Keep it simple, save, buy a house, retire.
After school I went to uni, took a year off to aupair in country England, came back to graduate and got a job. I fell in love with a wonderful man and got married. We’re still in love and very happy.
A few years ago, I saw a friend’s post in a Dave Ramsey discussion group on Facebook. I was intrigued so joined and started reading other posts. I bought Dave’s book ‘Total Money Makeover’ and the concepts made sense.
He’s got a lot to answer for with the way he speaks to people and and the way he treats his staff. He’s lost some fans in recent times. However I am grateful for how some of his ideas helped to switch my thinking about finances.
I asked my hubby to read it. He was interested in some of the concepts. We read The Barefoot Investor. together and began making changes with our money. We had always been intentional to avoid debt and only buy a house that we could afford, rather than what the bank would lend us.
We saved up an emergency fund in our mortgage offset account. This could be accessed if needed, but otherwise helped pay less interest. We set up sinking funds to save up for various things such as holidays, Christmas, renovations, furniture, appliances and shares. We met with a lawyer to create a will. We ensured that we had income protection and death & total disability insurance, and increased how much we were covered for.
I started only buying things that I needed and loved. When something entered our house, I made an effort to sell or donate an item out. We opened seperate savings accounts and automated an amount each pay into them. This enabled us to spend how we like and not have to justify why we wanted to buy something. It’s been a good move.
In 2020, I started an Instagram account to document my financial journey. I thought I was doing okay with money and thought I had some tips to share with people. That’s when I discovered the #debtfreecommunity and the #FIREcommunity. I suddenly realised how little I knew and felt intimidated. I almost deleted my account several times because I felt I had nothing to give.
I was encouraged by a number of women, especially mothers, to keep posting. They liked that I was relatable and didn’t pretend to know it all. They liked having someone who earned a normal income, who was taking time off work to raise children and had to make it work with less money. They liked following someone who was new to the idea of shares and was figuring it out along the way.
Now that I know better, I keep striving to do better. I started dabbling in some side hustles. It was in the middle of the pandemic so things had slowed down, making room for more opportunities to earn money online. I took a baby step and started investing this extra cash.
It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. In fact, it was surprisingly easy. Even fun. It was like shopping for shares! I set up automated investing from our income. I bought a tiny amount in crypto just to see what all the fuss was about.
I have a long way to go and lots more to learn. I follow some amazing people on Instagram and continue to learn via Podcasts and YouTube. I’m proud of my financial journey so far.
I’ve learnt that there is always more to learn. I’ve learnt that just because you grew up without money doesn’t mean you can’t change your future. I’ve learnt that investing isn’t hard or scary or for old men. I’ve learnt that if you don’t put aside money for savings or investing as soon as it comes in, you’ll probably spend it. I’ve learnt that you can do much more on social media than mindless scrolling.
I’ve learnt that there’s an amazing community on here that has inspired and taught me so much, and for that I am incredibly grateful. ❤️
Know that I’m nothing special.
Know that I’m far from perfect.
Know that I’m not the world’s best saver.
Know that I just have a heart to do the best for our family in our season.
I’m realising more and more that money and minimalism and motherhood are so closely intertwined. When you start reducing what you have, you can save more money, and this reduces the overwhelm as a parent.
You won’t find just money stuff on here, mainly because I’m not trained and it’s not my only passion. My page is a mixture of all three, along with my desire to get outside everyday, continue to get fit and exercise, and take steps to prioritise my friendships and marriage. I’m a happier woman, wife and mum when I take care of myself.
Thankful for this wonderful community of people for giving me a small platform to share my thoughts, ideas and learnings. I do appreciate you all.❤️
I’d love to hear about your financial story – what has been your experience?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
A clever way to be savvy with the money you have is to utilise cashback apps. My favourite two are Cash Rewardsand 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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
Considering a pet? Here’s why a fish might be a great starting point for you.
Many households own a handful of pets. They are cute and cuddly, affectionate and keep us company. They help our kids develop empathy and a sense of responsibility. They motivate us to get outside for a walk and to meet other owners.
They help us get our cuteness fixed when we want another baby but our other half is done with having children. No matter how much we care for them, they almost always show us more love in return.
What if you’re not a pet person though? What if life is too busy and the last thing you need is a jolly pet to look after? Consider starting small.
Here are 7 reasons why a fish make the best first pet for you.
Getting a fish isn’t a difficult venture. All you need is a tank, a pump, fish food and your fish. Optional extras are some water plants, pebbles, a light and some snails (water neutraliser drops). You don’t have to make it complicated. You can decide on the day to buy them, go and get the stuff, and have it all finished within a few hours. This is perfect for those who are busy and have a lot on their mind.
You don’t have to buy a huge tank and all the fancy accessories. Why not start with a small bowl or tank and see how you go. See if it looks good in your room. See how you manage it – does it get algae and need to be cleaned often? Are there too many fish for the space? Is it a good size for you? You might find that small is good and that is all you need.
Alternatively, you might be surprised with how much you love owning fish and want to upgrade your tank size. At least when you do it this way, you know that you’re ready for a bigger tank and not just getting excited before you start.
3. Hard to kill.
This reason might sound ridiculous but if you’re not really a pet person, and not used to having to care for an animal, going straight for a puppy is a big step. They need lots of care, as do cats, rabbits, birds and the like. At least fish are pretty resilient.
As long as you buy the right type and listen to advise from your local shop, remember to feed them and keep the tank clean, they should stay alive. And look, if you happen to kill one, they are pretty easy and inexpensive to replace (and your kid might not even notice, unlike a dog).
Considering your financial situation before deciding on a pet is a wise move. Fish make wonderful pets, especially young families, because they don’t cost much. Unless you are planning to have six foot aquariums in your house with designer fish, they don’t cost much to purchase.
I was given a free fish tank and bought five guppies ($12). After a day I surprised myself with how much I loved it. I also realised that I needed a pump. I found someone selling a tank and handful of accessories for $25, bought some more guppies ($12), 10 snails ($5), two aqua plants ($18), fish food for $10, drops for the water ($12). Came to $94. I could have spent less but wanted real plants rather than the plastic ones, and figured the snails would help eat some of the algae. It’s been three weeks and I haven’t spent any more money.
Owning a pet can be incredibly expensive with vet bills, and even with insurance, there can be huge out of the pocket expenses. It can be so stressful for those on low incomes. Starting with something simple like a fish means you don’t have to worry about desexing, worming, microchipping, or unexpected injuries or sickness. There’s no need for doggy daycare or boarding houses.
5. Low maintenance.
Owning a fish is a wise choice for those with busy schedules. You don’t need to enrol them in puppy training or teach them any tricks. You don’t need to train them to go outside to do their business or pick up after them on the lawn. You don’t need to walk them. No need to wash them or cut their hair. You don’t need to entertain them or worry about what they’re getting up to in your house or yard while you’re out at work. They won’t bother the neighbours with their barking.
I recently taught a class that had a fish tank in the back of the room. I couldn’t help but to be drawn to it and watch them swim around. Hearing the water trickle had such a calming effect on me and I just knew I needed to get one for home. I’m so glad I did. I still can’t help but watch them swim around and interact with their surroundings. The novelty hasn’t worn off yet and I love the sense of calm it has brought to our family room. For someone who is openly not a pet person, this has surprised me.
7. Breed easily.
Species like the guppy can breed quickly and without much fuss. Witnessing fish hatch from eggs can be exciting for children. It could become a potential side hustle for them by allowing them to sell any excess fish or snails. They could help with the process of taking photos, writing a description, helping to show the customer the tank and collecting the money after the sale. This could be good practice before trying something like chickens that would take considerable more time and work but would produce eggs to use and sell.
In closing, taking time to consider what type of pet is right for you and your stage of life is important. Asking questions like the following can help you decide:
Do I need a pet right now?
Can I afford to buy a pet?
Can I afford veterinarian treatment if it becomes sick or injured?
What type or breed would be best suited to us?
Do I have time to care for a pet?
Do I have energy to manage and care for it’s needs?
Do I have space in my house and yard for a pet?
Am I committed to keeping a pet for the long haul?
What will I do with it when I go on holidays?
By choosing a pet that is easy and cheap to set up, and low maintenance to keep alive can be an excellent starting point. Once you know that you can manage something like a fish, you can look into owning a different type of pet. Why not buy a few guppies and see if you love them just as much as I do.
Murphy’s law suggests that if we have insurance, we probably won’t need to use it. It seems like we spend all of that money and never need to use it. That is a good thing though. We don’t want to get caught out. We don’t want to be underinsured or not insured at all.
We are often good at insuring our cars, house and contents, holidays and our health. It’s what is expected of us. It is a habit.
What about protecting you in case of an accident, serious illness, disability or death? It’s not nice to think about. It’s not a nice subject. We don’t normally talk about it. It’s not a great conversation starter (in my opinion anyway). It’s depressing and boring and not at the forefront of our minds.
However, what if something happened to you, today? What if you were no longer able to go to work and provide for your family? Who would get your assets? Who would care for your children? How would the rent or mortgage be paid? How would you afford school fees? How would the bills be paid?
Here are four simple ways to protect your family:
1. Create a will.
Many people do not have a will in place. It is not something people talk about nor something that we think about. Not having a will can make things very challenging for those that are left behind in the case of an untimely or unexpected death.
Dividing assets can become complicated, as can the guardianship of orphaned children. We did this at our local lawyers office. We put in place plans for our money and care of our children if something were to happen to us. We also put plans in writing to protect our spouse if they were widowed.
Regardless of age, it’s a good thing to sort out sooner rather than later as we really don’t know what’s around the corner. It cost less than $500 for peace of mind and was a very straight forward process. Willpro offer an online alternative. It’s completely legit and done by a lawyer for only $99 and couples less than $200 (moneysavvymamma readers get a discount when you mention my name).
2. Have an emergency fund.
Having money aside for when you need it is important. For many people, if they had a large expense pop up they would not have the funds to cover it. They are forced to ask for help from family, take our a loan or open a credit card. It’s not ideal and can prove quite stressful.
Ideally, it is a good idea to save up between 3-6 months of expenses. This money should be easily accessible, ie not in shares or in a term deposit. Consider if you were to lose your job tomorrow or be unable to work due to illness. Would you have any leave you could use or cash out? How much in savings do you have to cover rent or the mortgage? How long could you ‘survive’ until things got really bad?
This emergency fund does not have to equate to months of income, but rather necessary expenses you would have to cover (housing, groceries, utilities, car running costs, insurance etc). It can be a daunting process, especially if you are on a low wage. Start putting money aside each pay and set a goal to achieve this by.
3. Make sure you have income protection.
Income protection ensures that if you are unable to work, you will still continue to get paid. This could be for a sudden illness, accident, injury or disability. Knowing that you will be ok and your bills will be taken care of can be a huge weight off your mind.
When choosing what type and how much to sign up for, there is normally a waiting period. This is when it is imperative to have an emergency fund in place to help cover you in the interim. Income protection can be setup through superannuation (Australia’s version of retirement) or purchased separately.
Going through super can be an easier and cheaper option, but doesn’t always cover that much. Make sure to read the fine print to check that you’ll be covered enough. Applying separately can involve much paperwork, cost a higher amount and come out of your take home pay. However, if you need to access money, it might pay out more. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask an expert for help.
4. Apply for death and total and permanent disability insurance (TPD).
Whilst we don’t ever want to access this type of insurance, it is extremely important. In the unlikely event of your early death, this can provide some comfort to your family members knowing that some key financial areas will be taken care of.
I suggest increasing the payout figure to a number that would easily pay for a funeral, pay off the mortgage, and provide enough money so the remaining spouse can stay home with the kids (and not have to worry about work). It is another insurance that you have to pay for (directly or indirectly) but it is one that you need to have in place. It is crucial that both spouses have this cover, not just the one heading out to work.
These four things are a starting point to give you peace of mind, especially during these uncertain times. It is worth taking some time to consider these questions. If not now, block out some time in your calendar or put a reminder in your phone. Make thinking about, talking about and actioning this a priority.
As always, make sure you get the right advice that is specific to your financial and family situation.
Do you need to organise one of these?
[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.]
Have you noticed the growing pressure to spend more and own nice things? More and more I feel like we are expected to have a high standard of living.
I think that some of us want the first house we buy to be the one our parents saved up their whole lives for, and the ones our grandparents and great grandparents would have only dreamt of. There’s a lot to be said for being content and grateful for what we have and not needing to have everything all at once.
I am not trying to bag young people or say it was easier in my day. I’m still semi young (😅) and I know not all young people have this attitude.
I know house prices have gone crazy recently and times are hard and we are not all out getting avocado on toast. Some cities are becoming almost unaffordable for even the most basic of houses.
However. I do think that there is unreasonable pressure to have all the expensive things straight away. It is expected, in many circles, that once you are working you’ll buy the nice car, big house, new furniture and fancy tv.
It’s fine if you save up for these things but more times that not, this is paid for on credit or left with huge debts. I hear people all the time complaining about how busy they are. About how they ‘have’ to work full time. About how they ‘have’ to go back to work after having a baby or both ‘have’ to work to afford kids.
For some people, this is reality. They have no choice.
But at the risk of being hated, I’m going to say it anyway. Most of us have choices.
We can buy the amazing new car and have a loan, or we can drive an older one and save to upgrade it.
We can over-extend ourselves and buy a massive house and work lots to pay for it (and will be in trouble if they lose their job or interest rates go up) or we can borrow less than the banks let us and buy something that we can actually afford (even on one wage, allowing for unforeseen circumstances).
We can buy new flashy furniture and accessorise our houses and upgrade to new electronics or we can make do with second hand, saving up for new pieces when we can afford it. We don’t need to buy in to the new technology just because it’s new. We can reduce the amount sent to landfill and environmental impact.
My husband and I often feel envious after visiting beautiful homes. We can’t help but stare at modern, open plan kitchens (ours is old and wooden), gorgeous bathrooms (we have a purple bath and penguin tiles) and outside entertaining areas (we have a tiny deck and no undercover area). We have to remind ourselves that maybe one day we can have this, but it’s not our time yet.
We are choosing to live within our means. We avoid lifestyle creep by setting our own agenda about where our money goes. We decide what is most important for our family and stage of life.
We want to be around more for our children, spending time not money on them. We have less disposable income but are happy to go without some of our wants.
It all depends on who you are comparing yourself with. Are you comparing yourself to the professional couple on a double wage, with a six digit income? What about the single parent living on welfare, struggling to make ends meet? Someone homeless after a relationship breakdown or job loss? A family in desperate need of food, suffering in a time of drought and living in a single room hut with dirt floors? A refugee who has escaped a war torn country, living in a camp?
If we are only associating ourselves with those who are wealthy, or seeing influencers on social media show off their life, our world view is skewed a certain way. I am privileged and have much to be thankful for. I don’t have everything but have everything I need.
Do you feel that there is pressure to keep up with the Joneses?
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!
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.
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.’
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. ❤️
A mortgage doesn’t have to be forever. In fact, many people are paying theirs off in record time. Just imagine what your life would look life if you had no debt, and true financial freedom!
Here are 20 tips to help pay off your mortgage earlier:
1. Interest rate.
Check to see that you are on a good interest rate. Banks are like electricity companies – they apply the lazy tax. They offer good deals to new customers but often not to existing ones. Look around at their competitors and see what they can offer you instead. Go back to your bank and say that you’ll move if they don’t match the other rate. In many cases, they’ll do anything to keep you.
2. Make more frequent repayments.
Pay weekly or fortnightly instead of monthly. I prefer weekly as it feels like less money, and I like to see results quickly! Paying weekly or fortnightly means that you make an extra payment each year without even realising, and this will save you thousands in interest.
3. Round up.
Round up accounts each night or whenever you check your balance. Transfer to the mortgage. Small amounts quickly add up!
4. Need vs Want.
Do you need to live close to the city, in a large house, with a swimming pool? Opt to buy a home in an area you can afford (even on one income- you could lose your job / get sick or injured / pregnant etc). You can always upgrade later. Live within your means. In saying that though, before you buy a house, consider the next 5 years. If you want to start a family, perhaps don’t buy a one bedroom apartment. Avoid moving more than you need to or you’ll just end up paying stamp duty unnecessarily.
5. Get insured.
Make sure you (and your spouse) are covered in the unlikely event of permanent disability, loss of income and death. It is important that the stay at home parent is also covered, so if something happened to them, the partner could pay off the mortgage and be able to stay home with the kids without worrying about money or work. Often superannuation policies cover for this but it may not be enough, or they may not cover for pre existing medical conditions. Insurance is one of those things that you will probably pay for and never use, but this is a good thing.
6. Live without payments.
Transfer any Centrelink (government assistance) payments that you can live without to the mortgage. This might be regular or annual amounts.
7. Live on one wage.
If you are on a double income, see if you can live on one wage (good preparation for having children). Have one persons wage pay the rent or mortgage, groceries, bills etc and the other put all or most on the mortgage (or savings to buy a house). Knock as much as you can off, as quickly as you can.
8. Side hustle.
Any extra money you come into (2nd job, selling things, overtime, tax return, inheritance etc), put on the mortgage. Enjoy watching those numbers go down.
9. Reduce all unnecessary spending.
Write down every person you buy presents for (it adds up). Do you need to buy everyone a present at Christmas or can you do Kris Kringle? Make a limit, say $30 adults for KK and $10-20 for kids. Do you even remember what you were given last year for Christmas?
10. Bring your own food.
Pack your lunch. Bring a coffee to work rather than buying one. Don’t drink calories if you can avoid it (soft drink, juice, energy drinks etc). They are expensive and often don’t fill you up. Opt for a filling meal instead and drink water.
11. Spend your own money.
Don’t use credit cards or afterpay. Live within your means. Use cash and debit cards instead, and keep a list in your phone of things you want to buy. Wait a few weeks and see if you still really want them.
Get a good mortgage broker. Check that your mortgage is with the best bank / consider fixing or making variable etc depending on advice.
13. Seek advice.
Consider paying to see a financial planner or advisor. It might set you back a couple of hundred dollars but will save you thousands over the long haul.
14. Learn from the experts.
There are many fabulous authors out there. I’d recommend Canna Campbell’s ‘Mindful Money,’ Scott Pape’s ‘Barefoot Investor’ and Lacey Filipich’s ‘Money School’ books. Read, watch YouTube clips or join one of their Facebook groups for inspiration and accountability. Free Podcasts are a great way to learn more and achieve your financial goals.
Make a budget and try and stick to it. There are plenty of apps and spreadsheets for this, some that are free and others that cost a few dollars. Others prefer a book and pen. Do your research and find what works best for you and your family!
Use cash where possible – it’s harder to spend than a card. It seems to feel more real and hurts when you spend.
17. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.
If you can’t afford a new or newer car, don’t! Save up and buy with cash. Opt for older (but still reliable). When you can afford it, upgrade. We have a fortnightly direct debit into a savings account for this very purpose. When we need to upgrade, we can use these funds to partly or fully pay for it.
18. Pause unnecessary spending.
Consider putting a hold on luxuries like eating out, drinking alcohol regularly, overseas holidays and even private school fees until you have paid off your debts, and possibly even your mortgage (or at least make a dent in it).
19. Be on the same page.
Try to get your spouse on board too. Watching your mortgage go down can actually be fun (I must be getting old)! It definitely makes it easier if you are both on the same page.
20. Do whatever it takes.
The more you can pay down your mortgage now, the less interest you’ll end up paying. Just because you signed up for a 30 year loan doesn’t mean it has to take that long. Do you want to still be paying it off in your fifties or sixties? Make a plan to pay it off early, if you can. Every little extra you can spare will save you thousands in interest over the life of the loan.
Paying off a mortgage early takes intentionality, hard work and sacrifice. It is a hard slog. I have never met someone who regretted paying it off though. The freedom that it brings is life changing. We are working towards getting ours gone.
Are you motivated to pay off your mortgage quickly? What strategies do you use? Feel free to comment below.