OK, so this isn’t exactly the most sexy topic. I am sure you’re not quivering with excitement at the thought of talking about your family finances. Or doing a happy dance when you hear that offensive B word. BUDGETING. Holy shit. Have I lost you yet? I don’t know about you guys, but I hate the stress that comes with stretching those last few dollars before the next pay day. It’s scary at worst and it’s frustrating at best. I am so crap at maths and I am definitely not an accountant. Hell, I’m not even that good a blogger that this post is sponsored by an expert on finance or anything. But I think that’s kind of cool too. Because I want you to know that if I can do this stuff each month (or fortnight if that’s how you get paid), then you smart cookies can too!
So…here are the things I do to help prevent that pre-payday chaos…
Set a budget
OH HELL NO. SHE DID NOT JUST SAY THAT. Yep. I did. And it’s easier than you think. It doesn’t involve spreadsheets or fancy apps or complicated mathematics either. That’s just not how I roll. It’s just me, a page of my diary, a pen, access to my bank account details and a calculator. I do it every time we get paid and it gets easier the more you do it, because you get to know what’s coming in and out, and when!
So here’s my routine (which I do each pay day):
1. Note the current bank balance. Put it at the top of the page.
2. Have set amounts to spend on groceries, fuel, and personal spending – my husband and I get the same set amount each to spend how we like on socialising or clothes or stuff we want that is just for us – we also budget a small amount for the Little Mister. The cool thing? If we’re thrifty with our personal spending, we can roll it over and let it accumulate from month to month (often making the other person jealous haha)! Write that shit down.
3. List all of the direct debits due to come out during the current pay period. Including rent/mortgage (the killers).
4. List all of the other bills you’ve got to pay/that are due during that time.
5. Allocate a small amount to transfer to the credit card and/or a separate savings account. It could be anything from $20 to $500 or whatever you can spare each time. Stick to it wherever possible. You’ll be amazed at how much that stuff can add up for bigger ticket items, holidays, home renovations, or even to fall back on when times truly do get tough or the inevitable unexpected expenses arise.
6. Do a little maths. Subtract all the amounts from the current bank balance. See what’s left over (if any). As long as you’re not in the negatives, you won’t have to juggle anything. If you are in the negatives, then do some little adjustments until it fits. 🙂
It may not be the most sophisticated system, but it’s simple and easy and it works for me, which gives me incentive to continue with it!
Plan your groceries (and do them online)!
There was this one miraculous day where I entered a physical supermarket and only spent the exact budget I had for that shop. To the dollar. But it was just that. One miraculous day. Ain’t nobody got time for taking their damn calculator, am I right?
I do my groceries online whenever I can. Why? Because it’s harder to impulse shop just because I’m hungry or I saw something I wasn’t planning on buying just staring at me. Also, it adds everything up for you as you fill your virtual trolley. You can literally shop to the dollar within your budget. It’s easier to meal plan (which also saves our waistlines and our moolah) – you can google a recipe and easily select all the ingredients as you go. Hell yes. It’s also comforting to know that if you plan it right, your family is GUARANTEED to know where their next meal is coming from when pay day is looming!
If you can avoid top up visits to the supermarket, you’ll find it’s harder to fritter away extra dollars each time!
I know that sometimes they inflate the prices for online shopping (naughty!) and you might have to pay for delivery, but for me it’s a small price to pay for convenience (and much less than I’d spend on impulse buying outside of the meal plan throughout the month).
Use EFTPOS where possible.
How many times have we taken out $50 to buy a couple of things at the supermarket, then chucked the change (maybe a $5 or $10 note and a bunch of coins) in our purse/wallet and forgotten about it? Then later, we feel like an impulse buy (for Mr Unprepared that’s an iced coffee treat or for me it might be a magazine) and oooooooh, there’s that cash in my purse! Instead of it going on say, groceries, it ends up being haemorrhaged here, there and everywhere! It’s harder to track where it’s gone, too!
If I withdraw cash (because let’s face it – some can be handy), I make sure it’s from my little personal spending budget (see first tip) and I try to use an ATM that is connected to the bank I am with (so they don’t charge you for its use). That way, I’ll be more reluctant to fritter it away, but I know it’s there as back up if I find myself in a bind where cash is necessary.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule (i.e. when you want to surprise your partner with a gift and you don’t want the source to show up on the account history and spoil it for you both), but I find this really helpful.
Have a bunch of free activities you can do while you’re waiting desperately for that next pay
Here are some things that have worked for us…
- head to the beach
- have a baking/cooking day where you use everything you have left to create something new and yummy – it can be as simple as googling all the odd ingredients and seeing what comes up. I keep a supply of basic baking ingredients stocked away just for this kind of thing – flour (self raising and plain), caster sugar, etc. It’s exciting because by now you’re probably sick of living off the bare bones. It almost feels like you’ve been shopping for new groceries!
- Take a mish mash of the stuff you have left in the fridge/pantry and have a picnic!
- go for a family bike ride/walk
- play dates with friends or visiting the grandparents (hey sometimes they even throw in a free meal hahaha)
- go to the park
- have a movie day at home – there are so many things you can stream these days either for free or with services like Netflix (the most basic monthly package costs not much more than renting ONE new release DVD from a store on the weekend, so definitely cost effective if you like your movies and binge watching).
- use the lack of moolah as an excuse to stay home and get stuff done – all those things you wish you had made more time for while you were running about constantly. OK, so housework or collating receipts for tax time might not be overly thrilling but you’ll love the feeling of accomplishment afterwards…and what else were you going to do anyway? 😛
Got anything to add to my list? I bet you do, you clever people.
Learn how to say no (without feeling guilty or dying from FOMO).
This used to be a really hard one for me. It can be really tempting to want to keep up with the Joneses. Those Joneses have a lot to answer for! The Joneses are the people who can buy tickets for every concert or theatre show that ever comes along. They’re the ones who can go out for those blissful boozy dinners every weekend. The people who can get their kids into every cool activity (that comes with an admission fee). The people who can buy everybody who was ever born once a fancy birthday gift every single year. The people with the shiny new cars. New houses in the latest upcoming neighbourhoods. The people who can do big renovations. The people who go on regular group holidays to Bali with their other friends. Those Joneses. Of course, the Joneses aren’t always as real as we think. When money is tight for you, it can feel like EVERYONE ELSE in the whole world can afford everything you can’t. It’s probably not true at all (you never really know another person’s situation and you might have exaggerated things in your mind out of frustration). And even if it was, it’s not our reality and it’s certainly not worth the stress or debt to keep up!
It can seem really awkward to say, “Sorry – we can’t afford it this month” (especially if you are worried they will scrutinise your spending thereafter and be really unfair about it in which case they probably aren’t the best kinds of friends to have anyway). So if you don’t want to mention your financial situation, don’t! Your finances are nobody’s business but yours. Simply say, “Sorry. We can’t make it! Catch up with you soon!”
When it’s your turn to organise a catch up, make it something that is affordable and fun! You might even find some of those alleged Joneses confessing to you that they were relieved you chose something cheaper to do!
You don’t have to justify anything to anyone and if your friendships are true, they’ll be there no matter what you can afford or not afford to do. Let them know it’s nice to be invited and that you appreciate them, even if you can’t be there for everything.
On the flipside, say yes to all the things you can do (and WANT to do – never do something you’re not that into purely out of fear of missing out) that come earlier in your pay period or that you have prior warning for so you can pop the expense in your budget! Then when things are getting a bit tighter, you can comfort yourself with the fact that it has only been x amount of days/weeks since you last caught up or did that awesome thing anyway – what’s another few days/weeks?
Sometimes just putting things into perspective can really make all the difference. It’s sad that money can sometimes affect how we feel about ourselves, but we don’t have to give in. We can be awesome people no matter what the bank balance says! While we are not exactly millionaires, I am very thankful for all that we have and I try to use it wisely. I am well aware that we have a pretty fortunate and stable situation at the moment (we have learnt the hard way in the past that things can always change in an instant) and I am thinking of everybody else out there who may be doing it a little (or a lot) tougher.
How do you survive those last few days before pay day? Any tips to share?