new year, new budget

This week I’ve immersed myself in the practical so I don’t get too caught up in the emotional. You could file such a decision under “distraction” or “denial” – both are true. For now, being occupied is important and so I’m going with it (and enjoying the productivity!).

A confession: I used to spend every cent that I earned. Saving money wasn’t a priority for me, an abundant wardrobe was. Even when I became a mother I didn’t feel the need to put money away; I spent frivolously and didn’t concern myself with the notion of an emergency fund or “rainy day” account. When I returned to regular freelance work Daniel and I started talking about a nest egg; having a little money put aside for peace of mind. I distinctly remember watching our savings account slowly yet steadily increase. It was a turning point in my relationship with money because I realised that saving gave me a buzz that spending never could. It changed the way I viewed money and significantly altered the way I spend it.

I rework my budget every few months to make sure it’s realistic. Indeed, it’s quite shocking to see how much it can change from one end of the year to the other. Our food bill has steadily increased over the past two years, despite my menu plans and strict spending. I suppose growing children and a dedication to eating organic (where possible) will do that to you. In the past few months our fortnightly electricity bill has decreased by $20 (“turn off the lights” – it really works!), so too has our petrol bill (we ended up buying the economical and reliable Hyundai i30 wagon). However, the next 3 months will be completely different since there’s only three of us and I’m interested to see how frugal* I can be when it comes to the essentials. There will definitely be a decrease in our food bill, I’ll be buying less coffee (but maybe more chocolate?!) and petrol will be minimal (if I go to Sydney I catch the train).

For non-essentials I’ll continue to buy mindfully. These tips work for me:

  • When it comes to the children’s clothes I always buy quality over quantity – it works out much cheaper in the long run. When buying pants I make sure they have an adjustable waist and if they get too short in the leg I roll them up (European style). If I see clothes on sale I buy them for the next size up and go through Che and Poet’s wardrobe every few months to see if they fit the bigger sizes. Whilst we have a definite winter here it doesn’t get too bitter so I tend to spend more money of trans-seasonal pieces that can be layered for warmth come the cold.
  • If I see something I like for myself I write it in my diary and come back to it a few days later. By doing so I resist the urge to spend frivolously and make a considered purchase instead (or sometimes I realise that I really don’t need it and cross it off the list)
  • I go to the library more often…we can’t really fit any more books on the shelves
  • I’ve limited a “cake with coffee” purchase to once a week
  • If I want something for the kitchen I search the op-shop before buying new (I found a $6 cast iron frying pan a few weeks ago!)
  • I don’t buy takeaway. It helps that there are hardly any good restaurants around here!
Considering we are already half-way through the financial year it’s time for me to get on top of a growing pile of receipts. If you are a sole-trader or run your own business, what is your best method for jotting down costs and filing receipts?
How are you approaching money in the new year? Do you spend more or less in the summer months?
*I always consult the book Frugavore when I’m daunted by the grocery bill.
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Showing 16 comments
  • Kate James

    Thanks for this post Jodi. It's one of those topics that most of us prefer to avoid. I spent years ignoring our budget until I realised it was just an excuse for not wanting to really take responsibility for our money. The single thing that made the biggest difference for us was getting rid of credit cards. We thought we'd find it difficult and those first few months were a bit tough but since then, it's been easy and we've made a huge dent in our mortgage.

    Ultimately, I think that managing your money well comes down to awareness. Knowing where it goes means you can make better choices. Like you say, it's better to spend on quality items rather than wasting money on things you'll throw away.

  • Zara

    Savings accounts are a wonderful thing…the peace of mind they bring, the reassurance, the just in case.
    I think our expenses have remained pretty steady lately. We enjoy going out for coffee and lunch during the week but compared to what typical mid-20 yr. olds are spending their money on our expenses are small.

  • Iliska Dreams

    Groceries and fuel are the two things that gobble up our money. I have planted a garden and gotten chickens, but any hints on other savings when it comes to groceries would be great

  • Astred*designcherry

    I have a receipts folder from kikki.k that has lovely paper envelopes to store the wads of receipts and invoices, which are divided into yearly quarters. Then at the end of each quarter when doing my BAS (joy of joys!) the receipts are pulled out of the envelopes and transposed into an excel spreadsheet (where the GST is tallied). I then use the excel spreadsheet and the envelope contents to compile my tax return docs at the end of the year. Phew! It's actually a pretty minimal easy way to make sure I keep everything.

  • little wild moose

    We save a lot of money through co-ops. I buy all of our spelt flour, dried goods, nuts, seeds, dried fruits (all organic) through a local co-operative of women at wholesale price (every three months). Three times a year I also buy bulk organic tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, cannellini beans, coconut milk etc through the same co-op. This year, I've also started buying organic fruit and veg (at wholesale price!!) through a smaller group of 20 women – we place the order with a local wholesaler, the delivery location is rotated between four of the women's houses, and all 20 of us are on a packing roster, so I help pack the boxes every 4 weeks, and the other weeks I simply collect my box. It is saving us so much money!

    • A little bit country

      I love this idea, will have to see if there is something similar in my area.

    • Jodi

      Sounds great, Jess. I'd love to know how you store big quantities of dried goods, nuts, seeds. Also, when you started the three-monthly purchase, how did you work out how much to buy? x

    • Bridie @ Miss And Misters

      On I love this idea. Although I fear it takes more planning skills than I have. Something to work towards. X

    • smilie

      I'm about to join our local co-ops here on the Kapiti Coast in NZ. It appears to work like little wild moose explained and I've only heard good things about the products and prices. Definitely worth searching in your area to see if there is something similar.

    • little wild moose

      Storage is an issue in our tiny 1950s kitchen – I chose to pack away appliances and crockery we rarely use into the shed, in order to make room. Spelt flour remain in their original bags and *crossing fingers* we have not had weevils yet. I buy nuts and dried fruit in 1kg or 2kg lots, so they are stored in large glass jars with twist top lids (also bought wholesale through the co-op). I know some women in the co-op with chest freezers will freeze their flour and nuts for a week before storing in the cupboards – apparently this kills off any eggs.

      As for working out what quantities to buy, it was simply a process of trial and error. The first co-op I bought 5kg bags of white and wholemeal spelt, 1kg lots of dried fruits and nuts, 2kg of rapadura. I ran out of most things and had to top up at the local organic store, but then barely used other items, so then I had a good idea of what to order next time. After a year and a half of co-opping I have a good understanding of what I need and at what time of year (more flour in the winter months for baking, less dried fruits over the summer period, more flour and nuts near Christmas etc). I now have the confidence to order flour in 12.5kg bags, rapadura in 5kg bags, rice in 5kg bags, medjool dates in 5kg trays (I always run out of medjool dates!), and large 5L tubs of coconut oil.

      It has literally saved us hundreds of dollars! I would definitely recommend it. x

  • Ritz G

    I love the idea too Jess! And Jodi I so relate to you about savings giving that buzz which spending never did! I was the same with earnings and now do all the points you mentioned , and yes my grocery bill is always high (though in the budget). thank you for this lovely and practical post. xx


  • Jan (a gluttonous wife)

    Lovely post…I started a 52 week money challenge on my blog if you'd like to have a read and am currently doing a series of living simply posts. It's hard though, and groceries are my biggest ticket with trying to incorporate organic in there as well. Aldi saves me a fortune as does avoiding the duopoly supermarkets as I get taken away by the multibuys and can't walk out without more than my shopping list!! You are so right, turning the lights off, line drying clothes really make a difference to your power bills.
    Cheers and happy saving!! Jan x

  • Beautiful Life Industries

    A few months ago I found our grocery bill out of control for the 3 of us. We decided that every Sunday we would go to our local organic growers market and do our weekly shop. The fruit + veg is gorgeous and I find it lasts the week where the supermarket stuff is dead in 2 days (any one else find find this?) It has honestly halved our shopping bill. I suspect it because I am not distracted by everything in the supermarket, just loading it into the trolley distracted by all the pretty packets! I love that we are supporting local growers and farmers and I can't remember the last time I used anything from a packet. I love the idea of writing something you want down in your diary…off to pencil in those new Gorman shoes. YES PLEASE!! xx

  • Pink Ronnie

    Mmmm… I owe you a post about filing receipts. 🙂
    For personal finances, I use Jumsoft Money to keep track of our expenses/finances/bank accounts.
    For business finances, I use MYOB First Edge. Both are Mac software.
    Glad you're keeping yourself occupied – I would be too!
    Thinking of you,
    Ronnie xo

    • Jodi

      …I was hoping you would take my hint! Keeping myself very occupied and yet the days are going very slowly 🙁 x

  • Janey G

    i cant even remember the last time i went retail shopping! i get everything from charity shops! kids clothes can be got from freecycle…anything not quality enough can be recycled but mostly the bags of clothes i get from freecycle are hardly worn and top quality! i have actually only ever brought one top for busby ever in nearly 4 years! i acttually think we could go 'free'! (or almost!) NOW WHAT A CHALLENGE THAT WOULD BE! XXX

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