Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
I know that it goes against the Stress-ista ethos, but I'm stressed. Tired. Rundown. Overworked. Underpaid. All the classic symptoms. I'm also struggling with the notion that I need to take time out from work (eek! the world will surely end if I'm not slaving away at my desk) at a time when work is hard to come by.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The GFC, in all its glory, has coincided for me with a move to a simpler life on the south coast of NSW. Not only does this bring forth previously suppressed desires to grow my own vegies (still in the planning stages) but it also brings a dearth of home delivery options. From a funky inner-west bastion of Thai, Vietnamese, Greek, Lebanese, Italian et al cheap eateries, I have been reduced to multinational pizza joints, multinational fast food joints, fish and chips, a whole lot of Chinese restaurants (sweet and sour anyone? and one lone Indian (pretty good, since you asked).
In an age of credit cards, ATMs and redraw mortgages, the idea of creating a simple household budget has gone the way of the dinosaur – it seems as antiquated as an apron-wearing housewife stashing housekeeping money in the teapot for a rainy day.
Taking charge of the dollars and cents of everyday living expenses is the simplest path to financial security. One thing that will make you wealthy is spending LESS than you earn and the simplest way to do that is to budget.
“A lot of people are scared of budgets,” says Cath Armstrong, Cheapskates.com.au founder and author of Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing. “It’s just a piece of paper with some numbers written down. It can’t bite you, even if it does terrify you.”
Budgets are nothing more than a plan or guide to household spending. They are not a tool for punishment, deprivation or misery. “Budgets are about making sure what comes in is more than what goes out – once you’ve done that, it’s easy, people will wonder why they didn’t do it sooner,” Armstrong says.
The benefits of creating a household budget include:
· knowing exactly where your money is going;
· eliminating silly spending so there is more money for shopping, treats or even investments;
· less stress when the bills and credit card statements come in;
· creating a tool to help focus on long term financial goals.
Go on, it's not that hard is it? Do you use a budget or prefer to fly by the financial seat of your pants?
Monday, March 23, 2009
Swapstyle.com is like one big night in the wardrobes of the women of the world. Or the swapstyle.com members at least. They upload pics of stuff they don’t anymore, along with a ‘wishlist’ of items they’re willing to trade it for. Hautemamascloset (user name), for instance, has a Paul & Joe silk dress (not pictured) that she’s willing to swap for a designer handbag from Coach, Chloe or LV, or “anything from Lilli Pulitzer”.
So what are the hitches? The site is designed for swapping, selling or buying – so some items have a price tag (though there are a lot of ‘swap’ items to be had). It costs $10 to become ‘address verified’, which is a security feature of the site (they recommend dealing with other swappers who’ve been through the process). Oh, and you’ll need to factor in postage for that Paul & Joe dress, for instance – hautemamascloset is in the States.
For fashionistas struck down by the recessionista bug, it’s a fun few hours window shopping if nothing else.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Ever wondered how you get yourself into a financial mess? Dr Paul Harrison, marketing guru and academic-who-speaks-in-normal-language* from Deakin University, has created a short film about the traps for young (and old) players called 'Making It Happen'. The characters are fictional, but the script is based on real stories by consumers. Check out this trailer, and keep an eye out for the film coming to a short film comp near you.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Shopping sounds innocent enough, but it can cause a personal sub-prime crisis, complete with credit card debt and a need for a new fiscal stimulus package.
TV marketing executive and author Neradine Tisaj has literally written the book about it after realising credit card debt and a good chunk of her spare time was devoted to overindulging in retail therapy.
“We all have a void that niggles at us and shopping is one of those ways of nurturing ourselves that isn’t in fact nurturing at all,” the author of How To Give Up Shopping (Or At Least Cut Down) explains.
“In June last year, Australian’s spent 12 per cent of their income in credit card interest so there is no doubt at least some of us are over-shopping – I wasn’t the only one.”
Tisaj’s frustration prompted her to seek out financial advisers, none of whom understood her problem. One told her to stay home more and eat eggs.
“Telling a shopper to stop spending is like telling a fat person to stop eating – it shows no understanding of the problem,” she says.
“For lots of people, shopping is a hobby. It’s their entertainment. I personally loved department stores. For me, riding up the escalator to look at homewares, frocks, shoes and try perfume was the ultimate pastime.”
Committing to a conscious spending regime was the only way out for Tisaj, who now buys “80 per cent less” than she used to.
“If you want to start consciously shopping, you have no choice but to go Cold Turkey,” she says, explaining that overshoppers should go on a month-long shopping detox buying only food and necessities and carrying around a notebook to record any feelings and spending.
“Once you’ve gone Cold Turkey, you realise what you miss and you can allocate a sensible budget to purchase what you really love,” she says. “For me, it was books. So even though I went to the library, I still wanted to buy them.”
And the other trick? Place a list of 20 things you love doing that are inexpensive in your purse – ideally where the credit card used to be.
“When you feel like a splurge, just get out the list and do something else.”
Pictures Minaret Vintage Jewelry via Flickr
Monday, March 9, 2009
All this fuss about Olay's new Regenerist Micro-Sculpting cream (and don't tell me you haven't seen the ads) got me to thinking about how much we pay for beauty products - and how much we need to pay. Hope in a bottle generally doesn't come cheap, but sometimes we overlook really good products because they don't cost a bomb.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Inertia is the enemy! Rise up, ye mobile phone users! Don’t overpay that mobile phone bill again! Discover the cheapest possible phone plan for your needs!
“It’s too much of a hassle for most people,” explains Phonechoice.com.au founder Doug Purdie. “They simply pay the bill and don’t think about it much.”
Phonechoice.com.au estimates most of us can save at least $100 a year by aligning our mobile phone calling patterns with one of the thousands of plans available through Australia’s four mobile phone carriers.
“There are so many twists and turns to the plans but you can cut through it all by writing down on a blank piece of paper exactly what you want to use your mobile for: do you ring friends, text, surf the web, use only during peak for business?” Purdie says.
“You need to get your last three months bills and work out if the way you want to use your phone matches the way you actually DO use the phone.”
Then head to the Phonechoice website at http://www.phonechoice.com.au and enter your calling patterns into a tool that will show you the best plan and provider for your calling patterns. “Most people are not on the best deal for them,” he says.
There are three great tips Purdie offers for those wanting to lower their mobile phone costs:
1. Phone your current mobile phone provider with the information you have gleaned from the Phonechoice website. “It’s amazing what can happen by talking to your existing carrier,” he says. “That first phone call can deliver great results - they will tell you they have a capped plan or combo plan that will suit you better and maybe throw in some extras to keep your business.”
2. Save mobile costs by turning off your voice mail – if you look long and hard at your bill, most of it will be deposits and retrievals which earn the provider a motza. If you can’t bring yourself to turn off the voicemail, at least extend the ring time before it switches the message on.
3. If you’re near a landline, use it. “People seem to forget that you don’t need to use a mobile every time you call someone.”
Pictures: The Sun
Monday, February 23, 2009
Well, guess what? I forgot one (plus, let's face it, 11 is just not as nice and round a number as 10).
So, in the interests of sharing information and giving added value, here's number 11.
Think about it: no more late fees because you 'forgot', no more missed opportunities because you 'threw them out'. Lissanne Oliver - check out her blog - is the Australian queen of organisation, and she reckons that getting your financial, um, stuff together puts you in the driver's seat.
Here are five basic steps to get you started:
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Saving may be the new black and money the focus of every women's mag on the shelves this month, but the fact is that your will to stop spending is sometimes not as strong as your urge to splurge. And a credit card is what's known as an 'enabler' in this situation.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Question is, is it working against you?
Pictures: GoFugYourself and GreenFrogStudio
Friday, February 6, 2009
Working towards a financial goal sounds about as much fun as doing a tax return. DULL. But creating money goals helps you envision the future you really want, detail the resources and time you need to make it happen ... and squeeze in all that glorious lifestyle no-one wants to miss out on.
Creating a financial goal is all about deciding what you want - which can actually be half the battle. Most of us spend our time thinking we want stuff but let our finances go haywire instead of implementing plans to make sure all the lovely things we've been dreaming of actually happen.
How To Go For Goal:
Start thinking big and write down everything you want. Easy peasy. Now it gets harder because you have to work out how long you think it will take to achieve them. Place goals that can be accomplished in under six months under Short-Term, goals that can be accomplished in six months to a year under Medium-Term and goals that will take more than a year to accomplish under Long Term.
What's it worth?
How much money will it take to reach each goal? Create an estimate, and write the resulting figure under a new Estimated Cost category. Now write down what it's really worth to you. What will each goal bring to your life, lifestyle, loves and dreams.
Set a target date.
When do you hope or need to meet your goals? Set a target date for each goal on your list, and use this as your deadline to meet or beat.
What's the wish tax?
Divide the estimated cost of your first goal by the number of weeks until your target date. This shows how much money you need to save each week- also called The Wish Tax. Enter the resulting figure in a"My Wishes" column, and repeat for all of the other goals that you've listed.
SO WHAT'S ON YOUR GOAL WISHLIST?
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Clean or vacuum that air-conditioner filter to help it operate more efficiently – it will reduce the energy costs and spew forth cleaner, cooler air. Or maybe open the house up to fresh air instead?
Pictures: Karen Walker paints for Resene, pictures styled by Katie Lockhart
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The idea of budgeting is scary - imagine limiting your spending? EEEEEEK! But there's a simple way to make a budget easy and work for you. And that's to create the budget tailormade to your spending habits, wishes and wants. It's only a piece of paper with a financial plan attached, nothing scarier than that!
So a budget works best if you understand how and what you spend, and why you spend.Just like Weight Watchers asks dieters to track food consumption, all good budgetters should note how and when they spend every single dollar. Try this:
1. Carry that notebook
Taking notes of how you spend, why you spend and how much you spend feels like hard work but will generate amazing insights. How many of us have had a $50 note that just seems to disappear? Tracking your spending is the best way to find out where it went. Keep track of every packet of chewing gum you buy or Diet Coke you splurge on all day, every day for a month. If you really hate the idea of carrying a notebook, try tracking on your computer with this neat trick.
2. Start taking note of yourself
Tracking helps you work out how much you're really spending (most of us underestimate and just wonder where the money went). The other bonus is that writing something down makes you conscious of what sort of mood, events and emotions are going on that might trigger certain purchases. A month of writing things down purchases seem rational and which are emotional.
3. Assess what you really spend day-to-day
At the end of your tracking period, work out what you spend in a week and times that by 52 and divide by 12 to get an accurate monthly average of your day-to-day cash spending. This becomes an invaluable planning tool to get a handle on your spending, budgeting and financial goals.