how to: thrifty chic

To get away someday

This week’s inspiration is about finding ways to cut back on the cost of certain things so that the money can be used on things that are more satisfying.

I’ve been going through our finances at home and it’s amazing the places where we’ve been wasting money.  So here are a few how-to tips that we’ve had to learn the hard way:

1. Keep track of your finances and find out exactly where your money is going.  Try keeping a diary of what you spend all your money on for a month.  Make sure it identifies things such as eating out, bills, clothes, loan repayments, groceries etc. After a month you’ll have an idea of your spending habits.  At the end of the month, add the individual categories up.  Are you happy with spending this amount on your groceries or eating out?  Are there any surprises?

2. Next, take stock and look where you can cut back.  For us it started with the credit cards and loans we has.  Simple things like consolidating debts into one loan amount makes repayments easier to keep track of and pay off.  Personal loans generally have lower interest rates than credit cards.  Consolidating debts has meant we pay less interest.  The less you pay in interest, the quicker you will pay off your debts.

Compare the amount you spend on things versus your habits.  Are you getting your money’s worth?  We didn’t realise that we pay nearly $100 a week on phone and internet alone.  The worst part?  We definitely do not get our money’s worth.  I don’t really use my phone.  I have a desk job where, during the day if I want to speak to anyone, I can use my work phone or send emails using my work internet.  I have never come close to using all my call, text and internet allowance on my phone.  Our internet is the same.  The most we’ve ever used in our two years with this company is one sixth of our data allowance.  On the other hand, we waste money on additional data packs and phone calls on my partner’s phone because he needs it to run his business from there.  We’re now going to move me to prepaid, downgrade our internet and change my partners plans to save us on additional charges.  Simple things make big differences.

3. Groceries.  This is by far our biggest expense.  To stop us spending money on food we just don’t need, we make a meal plan.  If you’re the kind of person who, like me, enjoys talking about the next meal before finishing the last one, you find this weekly activity fun and not a chore.  Most people tend to have eating habits just like spending habits – eating the same snacks each day or the same breakfast, lunch or dinner, will make this an easy task.

Use the meal plan to create a shopping list that is purely full of necessities.  When writing your list, make sure you do it while doing a stock take of the pantry and fridge.  This will stop you from buying things that you already have.

In the way that you should pick your battles, you need to pick your vices when it comes to groceries.  I will never eat any meat that isn’t free range, same goes with eggs.  However, I am ok with buying the no-name brands when it comes to flour or sugar.  Work out what you’re willing to cut costs on.  This will mean that you can spend more on the ingredients that matter to you most.

Next, give yourself an allowance each week to buy things that are on special in the grocery store for your stock supplies.  This will help you stock your pantry, freezer and cupboards with necessities that you will most definitely need at some point.  Spend your money on things that have a long shelf life and will not go to waste.  Buying your regular brand of toilet paper that is 50% off today even if you don’t need it, means saving yourself from paying full price when you do.  Spending money on things like that now will save you money in the long run.

4. Beauty products.  These are products that quite often the money spent does not guarantee the quality of the product.

Start with the basics.  Like building a wardrobe, it’s often better to spend big on the basics and then cheaper with the “accessories”.  Spending money on good primers means that the products on top of it, can be cheaper but still have the same longevity or pigment of more expensive items.  I love the Nars eye shadow primer.  It costs about $40 but it means that if I want to use $10 eye shadow, no one will be able to tell.

5.  Look for natural alternatives when it comes to cleaning products and even some beauty supplies.  Never underestimate the power of bicarb soda, tea tree oil and white vinegar for excellent cleaning.  The combination of these natural products gives you anything from kitchen spray, oven cleaner and ever toilet stain remover.

Look at your beauty products.  I bet there are a bunch of ingredients in them that you have no idea what they are.  Have congested skin?  Why not use tea tree oil as a toner?  It’s perfect for clogged pores or pimples and you know what’s in it.  If you want a good face mask, find a health store that stocks pure clay powder.  Different clays have different strengths and uses.  All you need to do is mix with water and apply.  All natural and so much cheaper than most brands.  Coconut oil is also 100% natural and is a perfect face oil, moisturiser and/or makeup remover.

5. Eating out is so convenient.  I find that there are stages where Mr and I eat out or order in way too much and it loses it’s fun.  To counter this and save some money, we have one night a week that is our “restaurant night” and instead of going out, we try out a recipe or cuisine that takes a little extra time or uses a few extra special ingredients.  We cook it together and turn off all phones and televisions and just enjoy the food and each other’s company.  It always costs less than a night out and it ties us over until we have feel like having an extra special night out.  Now when we go to restaurants, we really enjoy them and we remember the meals rather than it just being a blur of a string of nights out.  Saving money by not eating out all the time also means that we can go somewhere extra special when we do go out – saving money on meaningless things to spend on things that matter.

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