Everyone would like to have more to spend on what’s important to them, but not everyone takes the steps to look at how to make that happen, or is not aware of them. There are ways to go about this, and it’s important to realise that like a lot of things in life, good results don’t come about on their own. It takes effort and time to get good results. Outlined below is how we manage to get by in a typical month which enables us to save more.
We both live a relatively modest lifestyle. We work hard and save now to be able to have a better chance of relaxing in the future. We do this by spending conservatively and not splashing out needlessly. We shop around and buy things when they are on offer.
Raising your savings rate is important in order to know what you need to live off of in the future in your current lifestyle. Below are some of the ways that we reduce our spending.
We eat out very infrequently
Eating out we found was one of our biggest expenses. Instead we have delicious home-cooked meals nearly every day. My wife is an amazing cook and makes wonderful, nutritious, tasty and beautifully presented meals with enjoyment and ease.
Eating at home is far, far better value and can be enjoyable too. If you buy items when they are in season or on offer then so much the better. We will always make extra to last for leftovers which usually includes lunch to take to work the next day. We now eat out for lunch at work usually only once or maybe twice per week at the most, compared to eating lunch out most days in the past.
Food shopping deserves a whole post of its own, but until then, it’s worth noting two things. First is that we will always stock up on things when they are on offer (if we know we might be needing it soon)- what we ended up calling ‘yellow label shopping’ after the coloured labels indicating products on offer. If it is fresh food on offer then it can either be used immediately or go in the freezer.
Secondly when choosing between two items, we will look at the price per 100g, which is nearly always shown in small print at the bottom of the label. All else being equal, we go with the one that offers better value. This technique is handy as comparable items are often in different size jars/ cans/ packets etc which makes requires more effort to do the maths.
Purchase less expensive items where appropriate
Today is a perfect example: Imagine that like me, you happened to have needed a new charger cable for your phone, a birthday card for a relative and some cereal (as one does). Rather than spend $25+ on an official cable, $6 on the birthday card and $4 on fancy cereal, if you look you can find a $5 cable, $2 card and $2 cereal. Overall that’s 30% of what you nearly spent, saving $20. While $20 is not a massive amount, if you do this consistently and in other areas, it soon all adds up.
We weren’t high energy users anyway but still we cut our electricity down by a good fraction when I realised that off-peak electricity is half the price of peak hour usage. We set the timer on the washing machine to run during the night so it finishes just before peak hour starts- in our case 7:00 am. We also changed all the light globes for modern LED ones and many of them turn on and off through motion detection and timers. We save water where possible by using grey water safe detergents and use excess water from the sink and shower to water the plants.
For example we rarely go to the cinema anymore. At over $20 a ticket and over priced snacks and drink? No thanks. Instead, we rent a movie from YouTube for $4 and watch it in the comfort of our own home, with more yummy food and no wondering if and when we should go to the bathroom and worry about blocking someone’s view.
Driving by petrol stations every day to and from work, I am always keeping an eye on the prices. You can develop a feeling of when price might be about to shoot up, as prices usually slowly creep down over a matter of days or a couple of weeks, stay steady for a few days and then have a sharp move back up. They stay there for a few days before starting their gradual descent again. If I feel the price is quite good relative to where it was (relative being the key word) then I’ll top up. To confirm, usually when one petrol station raises prices, there are others that are a day or two behind so I will look to fill up right away (remember where
they are!). We don’t often find ourselves needing to buy petrol that is at its peak but if we do then we just put in a quarter tank or so, enough to last until prices begin to lower again.
Other less expensive options
We avoid lock in contracts like the plague. You don’t need a lock in contract to get better value.
- Supermarket mobile data: we get by with $15 mobile each month, no contract. Sometimes we need to spend $20 but it’s still a lot less than the big name adverts on TV.
Internet: $55 NBN a month, no contract.
As you can see, there are quite a few areas where you can optimise your spending. Do this consistently and it all adds up, and helps to increase your savings rate.
Track your spending but don’t over detail it. You can’t manage what you aren’t aware of.
A series of small changes applied consistently over time will lead to large results. One coffee a day? Only $4 right, but over the course of a year working five days a week that’s about $1,000 you could save up.
- Look out for the price per 100g on items in the supermarket to compare like for like.
Schedule your laundry to save on utility bills. Your bill should say how much you used and spent on peak and off-peak. If not, try calling up and asking them, or consider changing supplier.
Shop for less expensive alternatives when appropriate. You can try a cheaper alternative item once. A charger cable will either charge or it won’t. If it doesn’t work take it back, if it does work then you won this time.