What does saving mean to you?

I am sure that we have forgotten what the word ‘saving’ means.

The Macquarie dictionary defines the word ‘save’ as –
“to avoid the spending, using up or waste of’’ and ‘saving’(plural) as “sums of money saved and put aside”.

So, if that is the case – then why do we hear people say “I bought such-and-such for X amount of dollars and saved X amount of money’’. Now forgive if I’m wrong, but (to my mind) that is not saving. That is actually spending. I suppose it might not be spending as much as you could have – but it is still spending!

From what I understand from the definition of the word, the only way you could actually save money in this instance would be to put the amount that you have supposedly ‘saved’ into a bank account. Now that would be saving! But does anybody ever do this?

So then I need to ask this question – “How can you save money by spending money?” To me it does not make any sense at all!

Perhaps people are getting confused with the old adage – “you have to spend money to make money”. That is a common term used in business and I am not going to delve into the whys’ and wherefores’ of that right now. (You actually have to have the money to spend before you spend it, but that is another article for another time)

Buying stuff to store in a cupboard is certainly not making money. But what about antiques and collectibles you ask? Good question! Go and look at the stuff you bought.  Is it going to appreciate in value in your lifetime? Is it a rare and valuable piece that is hard to find?

If not, then your argument is not as strong as the advertising that sucked you in to believing that by spending money on a purchase, you will actually save money.

Take a walk through any shopping centre and count the ‘savings’ signs. They are everywhere and it is so tempting to think that we just might purchase something for less than full price. But it is not saving money.

The only signs that have a real ‘savings message’ are the ones outside the bank that say – “open a savings account today”.

©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

Can you afford to out-source the housework?

Just recently I received some startling information about a growing trend to outsource a lot of our housework chores.

The data was provided by hipages.com.au and focused specifically on the Sydney population. This information says that in 2015, Sydney-siders spent over $8.4 M on cleaning services compared to $5.1 M in 2014 and $3.5 M in 2013.

These are possibly not isolated figures and if we were to look closely at our national households, I’m sure we would find similar data for all states of Australia.

According to ABS, March 2011, this number is expected to increase with a further 3.6 million households outsourcing some form of cleaning services by 2031 nationally.

The rise in demand for residential cleaning services appears to be primarily from high and dual-income households and a progressively ageing population (Ibis World, August 2015).

Hipages is an online marketplace for hiring home improvement professionals. The company analysed tens of thousands of job bookings in Sydney to uncover these interesting trends.

The data suggests that cleaning services are no longer a novelty as every day more residents are prepared to spend their money on a range of cleaning services.

If you look at the chart below, you can see the upsurge in cleaning categories over the last three years:

 

Cleaning in Sydney Jan 2016

 

Growth of cleaning jobs in Sydney from January 2013 to November 2015:

  • House Cleaning demand grew 145 per cent (over $4M worth of jobs requested in 2015)
  • Carpet Cleaning demand has grown by 82 per cent (over $2M worth of jobs requested in 2015 alone)
  • Gutter Cleaning demand grew by 144 per cent
  • Pressure Cleaning demand grew by 314 per cent
  • Window Cleaning grew by 178 per cent

 

Now, it seems to me that we have forgotten how to do things for ourselves. We might possibly think that we have to pay for these things because we are too busy to fit them into our busy life schedules.

We possibly believe that we have become ‘time-poor’.

Ask yourself – How much do you pay to have your lawns mowed or your pool cleaned and maintained? How often do you pay for a house cleaner, or somebody to iron your clothes?

Let me ask you this – Why would you pay $15 an hour to have your ironing done when you are only earning around $20 per hour yourself?

Do you realise that the more housework we out-source, then the longer we will need to work so that we can afford the money to have these chores done for us?

Perhaps it is time to take back some control of our lives as well as our out-going expenses. Perhaps we need to learn how to be more self-sufficient.

It all comes back to that ‘B’ word (budget) and making sure that your lifestyle fits the income you earn.

If you are having a problem getting your expenses under control and don’t know where to start with your budget – CALL me!

 

 

©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

 

 

It’s all a work in progress

A week into the New Year and by now we should have put last year and all its trial and tribulations behind us. We still have the perfect opportunity to start afresh and begin this year with a clean slate.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a crystal ball and could see what this year held for us all?

Of course, at this time of year there is much talk about New Year resolutions. Have you made any? Did you keep the ones you made last time?

Do you make different ones every year or do you trot out the tired old ones that don’t seem to make it past the first few weeks? But, it truly is ok if you didn’t make any resolutions on New Years Eve ~ why limit yourself to starting something new on just one day of the year?

According to some polls, more than 33% of the population resolves to pay off their credit cards each year.

It’s a great idea to plan some goals for the coming year but if your list is very long you may find that you struggle to achieve too many of them.

Sometimes it’s easier to just have three or four resolutions. Make a plan that works and you will find that you can conquer them all.

There will be some slip-ups along the way but if you stick to your plan you’ll get the results that you want.

Don’t forget to make a family resolution this year also. After all, they’re the important people who make our lives worthwhile and achieving your goal will be made easier if you enlist their help.

A financial goal is also a great way to start the New Year. If you’ve got your budget under control – keep up the good work!

Perhaps it’s now time to reassess where your budget is heading. If you don’t have one, then maybe it is time to take some responsibility for your finances and get them into better shape.

Isn’t it funny how people spend so much money on gym memberships to get their body trim and taut, but never give a thought to spending anything on getting their finances into better condition?

Making your body look and feel better is a work in progress and sometimes, to get the results that you want, you could end up spending money on the pursuit for the rest of your life.

Getting your finances to look and feel better is also a work in progress. But, unlike the gym, it only takes one appointment with Budget Bitch to learn how to get the results you want for the rest of your life.

It’s not expensive – call me!

 

©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

Cost effective Holidays…

Have you ever had a holiday in your own neighbourhood?

Now I don’t mean that you do the sleep-over thing with your neighbours, or take it in turns to treat your neighbours’ home and their swimming pool like a resort. But what I do mean is have you ever turned into a tourist in your own town?

For the past 2 weeks, we’ve been playing tourist in our local area. And I have to say – it’s been a fabulous time.

We started by looking in our local paper; in the classified section where different categories gave us some inspiration. From there we found that a 45 minute drive would take us to an area where we could pick and eat our own berries. Beautiful berries – strawberries, blue berries, raspberries, boysenberries; all ripe and ready for the picking. The cost was better than buying them through the supermarkets – around $9 per kilo and obviously they were fresher than buying them in a shop.

Apart from the fresh air and ‘bonding’ experience we shared, the other advantage was that we were able to bring home enough berries for smoothies, cheesecakes, berry pancakes and muffins for the next 10 days as well as enough to make over a dozen jars of homemade jam.

We had an excursion to the river where we had a lovely time; relaxing and fishing. The local council have provided free bbqs at lots of places along the river, as well as in many parks, so we packed a few snags and some salad and were able to enjoy our evening meal while we were there. It felt like we were in the best holiday spot in the world!

New Years Eve was a bit special – we went to the local harness racing meeting. It’s billed as a family affair and they’re right – it certainly is. There were loads of happy families there and the atmosphere was friendly and fun.

Now, we’re not big punters, and the most any of us think we know about horses is that they probably end up in the glue factory (well, that’s what somebody tried to tell us). But we had a great time! We packed some seats and some eats and found a good vantage spot in the grandstand. And there we propped until the fireworks display to send out the old year, and welcome in the new.

After consulting the local paper again, we took a drive south to discover ‘the gourmet food trail’. Again we were gob-smacked at the quality and quantity of things to do, see and taste. The vendors of all this ‘gourmet food’ are very generous in allowing so much free tastings and we got the opportunity to sample many different products.

Of course we came home with some wine from the winery, mustard from the condiments shop, olives from the area and cheese from the local factory. Yummo!

You don’t have to travel very far to be a tourist or have a holiday. Isn’t it funny how we seem to spend heaps of money to visit other places and then spend a lot of time and cash on sight-seeing, when there are so many things to see and do right here – in our  own  backyard?

And it’s very cost effective to put your brain into ‘holiday mode’ and become a local tourist. You don’t have to pay for accommodation for starters…

Don’t take it for granted or say that you’ll get to enjoy it one day. Go now – I can assure you that you’ll fall in love with your hometown area all over again!

©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

Will you shop for rewards?

A few weeks ago, a large supermarket chain decided to change their loyalty rewards system. Before the beginning of November, every time I spent more than $30 in their store I would earn a reward point.

Since the announcement, the voice of the people can be heard screaming through the social media platforms and it would seem that not too many of them are happy with the change.

How it works is this – You’ll earn Supermarket Dollars on a range of ticketed products in participating stores.  This amount will be added to your Supermarket Dollars balance when you scan your card at the checkout. When your balance reaches $10, you scan your card to automatically get $10 off your next “eligible shop in participating stores”.

Like many people, I was immediately skeptical and a little quick to condemn the change. The previous incentive certainly gave me plenty of alternatives; I could get an annual free flight to a capital city, use the flyer points to reduce an airfare (points plus pay) or spend the points on a myriad of retail offers.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Centre for Retail Studies at Monash University have worked out that the average customer of this store should earn a $10 reward every 7.4 weeks after spending $107 per week.

Now, I would consider myself an average shopper and with the cost of groceries increasing, I believe that under this system I should be earning rewards quickly. I decided to hold my counsel, until I could make an impartial and unbiased comment.

During the month of November I have taken particular notice of the ticketed items. In many cases, I have found tickets on items that my household does not use. Where the tickets have been displayed on my favourite items, I have discovered that often the more expensive brand names have the reward ticket. In some cases I found that to earn a dollar reward, the regular price had been increased by a dollar. It was enough to drive me mad trying to work it out.

It was easier to just do my usual shop, without worrying about the ticket. I figured that the ‘rewards’ system would work itself out at the checkout.

At the end of the month I added up the costs. During the month of November I have spent a little over $700 in this store. The reward dollars for me have been totalled at $2.50.

At this rate I will need to spend $2800 to ‘earn’ a reward which will take four months, to get just $10 off the next grocery shopping expedition. That’s $30 for the year. Hardly seems worth it, does it?

Under the old system, I would have earned around 515 points towards airline flights/retail returns for the same monthly spend. That would equate to 2060 points for the same four month time frame, and 6,180 annually. I could certainly go places with that amount.

The dictionary defines loyalty as ‘pledging allegiance to’. In a retail sense this means that either the customer will only ever shop in that place, or the company will always reward returning customers.

Today, commercial competition is enormous and we are able to make our money stretch further than ever. We would be crazy to ‘pledge allegiance’ to one particular store or company.

And truly, with the ever-increasing cost of groceries the only place/thing we should be loyal to is our budget.

A better idea is to have a ‘best price on the day’ policy when shopping. Purchasing from a store that offers rewards does not necessarily mean that you will be loyal to that store, but you can be loyal to your budget.

We can all participate in the free loyalty schemes available. As consumers, we get to select which ones will benefit us most.  By keeping our wits about us we can get some truly great discounts along the way.

In the New Year when I will no longer be earning frequent flyer points from my supermarket, I will be free to shop around. I will once again be able to find the best prices and places to get my supplies and keep my budget under control.

And that in itself is the best reward I can get.

 

©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

What is the Perfect Budget?

Somebody asked me recently “what is the perfect budget?

Now, that is an excellent question and there really is no right or wrong answer. Just as, individually, we are all different, so too are our hopes and dreams, our lifestyles and our needs and wants.

So, what might be the perfect budget for one person might not necessarily work for somebody else. Even though we might work at the same place as our friend, and earn the same money each week, because our home lives are very different so too our budgets will be different.

There are many factors to consider in a budget:

  • How much debt do I have?
  • How much are my weekly, monthly and annual bills?
  • How much income do we receive each week?
  • What are our financial priorities?
  • What savings would we like to put aside for the future?
  • What will our needs be in a years time? In five years time? In a decade?

Possibly the biggest question we must ask ourselves is: do we have enough income to sustain the life we’re leading now and into the future? Sadly, for so many of us, we don’t have an income problem but a spending problem.

The perfect budget has many facets.

  • It has a portion to repay our debt as soon as possible, without choking the finances.
  • There is also a portion for day to day bills which enables us to pay these accounts on time without stress.
  • And, of course, there is also a portion that puts a little aside for ‘rainy days’. So many of us have no savings and therefore have to borrow money for the times when disaster strikes.

Finding the perfect budget for your family won’t happen overnight. It takes some planning, and then some test-runs to make sure the perfect mix of spending and saving are in the right proportions. It needs time and patience to get it right for you and your family.

The first step to finding the perfect budget is to start working on it! Of course, if you need some help – you can always contact me!

©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

How to earn some extra income

The decision for parents to become a single-income family is not an easy one. There are many day-to-day money issues that can put the family budget under enormous pressure.

I often hear from parents who have chosen to stay at home with the kids whilst they are small. They tell me that many times they wish that child-care was not so expensive, so that they could help to contribute to the household finances.

Finding a part-time job is not as easy as it sounds, there are family schedules to work around, and baby-sitting to organise. Finding a source of income that can be worked around home duties and family commitments will mean thinking outside the box and looking for opportunities.

Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Have you thought about doing ironing for people? It can be a tedious job if you don’t like ironing, but can also be quite lucrative if you get some regular customers.
  • Have you thought about being a Day-Care mum? That way you get to be at home with your kids; they have others to play with, and you have an income.
  • Baby-sitting is ok too, as is dog-minding/dog-walking; and don’t forget about delivering junk-mail (mind you, the pay rates for that haven’t changed since I did it as a kid)
  • Have you thought about being a ‘lollipop lady’? – ( a school-crossing supervisor) I hear that the pay for that is quite good and it’s only a few hours before & after school.
  • If you’re a keen shopper, then perhaps you might consider mystery shopping. The amount you can earn depends on the assignment, but you may be testing out a hotel, buying goods or even eating in a restaurant.
  • TV, movie and film extras are always required and they pay a daily rate.
  • Put your name down to be an election official. Between federal, state and local elections, there is at least one held most years.
  • Direct selling (such as Avon or Enjo) can also earn a few dollars.

The amount of hours that you work and the type of job that you do will depend on the needs of your family. Any extra money that you can earn will certainly make a difference to the household budget.  

And of course, your budget needs to be reviewed at regular intervals so that the household spending and savings are not only workable for your family, but fair as well.

 

©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

Is any of your money missing?

A little while ago I saw a survey telling us that Australians are unable to account for a third of the cash they spend each week. Supposedly this is despite more than 50% of people trying to stick to a budget.

Can you believe this? Or do you think it’s just ‘yet another survey’ telling us how bad we all are with regards to our spending habits?

Let’s look at this a little more closely … if I gave you a hundred dollars in cash and asked you to spend it over a few days, then this new survey is telling us that you will have no idea where approximately $33 of that money has gone.

In another article I wrote that there is a lot of ‘money’ sitting in your cupboards because we all seem to have a dread of empty spaces and fill them with excess goods. Do you think that could be where your unaccountable cash went?

No? Ok, well did you give the money away? Perhaps you might have bought some raffle tickets for a worthy cause, or found a charity that was having a fund raising drive whilst you were out shopping. You would have given $33 to them wouldn’t you?

No? – Maybe you bought some extra lottery tickets? It would be so easy to spend another $33 in the hope of winning a fortune. Let’s face it – we all want to be ‘saved’. And winning the lottery would certainly go a long way in easing a few pains. Although with the odds of winning one particular lottery being at fifty-five million to one, I don’t think your chances are very good. Australia doesn’t even have fifty-five million in population!

Have we found that missing cash yet? Well – maybe you ate it! Now I don’t mean that you chewed up the notes and swallowed the coins. But perhaps you indulged in an extra latte and piece of cake, or went out to lunch. Or maybe you just bought some luxury food items from the supermarket because you could! If you feel that your belt is pinching a little, then perhaps you’ve found the missing money.

This survey goes on to say that fifty per cent of Aussie women lose track of their money in the supermarket whilst shopping for food or groceries. It also says that forty-four per cent of Aussie men are likely to lose track of their cash whilst on a night out socialising.

It is interesting to note that this particular survey was done by a specific credit card company who are possibly not really interested in where you spend your cash. As we know, these companies would prefer you to use their credit cards for all your transactions.

How much attention do we actually pay to these types of surveys? My thought is that we seem to have so many of them published because in these days of ‘political correctness’ nobody is game enough anymore to tell it like it is.

A marketing ‘guru’ tells me that publishing a survey is a way to use a soft approach for a serious issue. One that is less likely to offend too many people.

Well I don’t need a survey to tell me that, as a nation, we have dreadful saving habits.

And, what’s more, I don’t have any trouble in saying this out loud and as often as I can.

But will you listen?

***

©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

 

 

Two things that will never change

 

The internet in Australia has been around for about 20 years. That’s not very long if you’re talking to a Baby Boomer. And it’s the mere blink of an eye to somebody who is an octogenarian or older.

But what it does mean is that anybody under the age of 20 will have grown up with this medium. Unlike their older counterparts, these young people are not in awe of this technology – it’s been around for as long as they can remember.

Isn’t it funny though, how these kids are expected to ‘know’ how it all works?  Unlike their parents and grandparents, this young generation just accepts and uses the technology everyday without giving it much thought. They’re not interested in knowing about the ins and outs of the computer. They don’t have a need to know ‘how it all works’.

If something goes wrong, they get a repairman to fix it. One young nephew explained it to me by saying – “I don’t have to understand how it all works; I just use it and make it work for me.”

I guess it was the same about 120 years ago when cars and telephones were invented. At the time it probably took a while for the general public to embrace the technology and I’m sure there were many skeptical opinions being voiced. But just look how far we’ve come since then.

The world became a smaller place with the advent of not only these things but also with wireless and television transmissions. Suddenly, we were able to communicate and associate with people from far away; not just across town but all over the world.

If you speculate about the future, you should be able to see that our world will probably work quite amicably with an online community for business and pleasure as well as the traditional face to face relationships. For the older generations it seems strange, but future generations won’t know any different.

Whether you like it or not – if you’re a business person, you’ll need to get in touch with the capabilities of the internet unless you want to be left behind. That doesn’t mean everything will be done that way but already we are seeing banking, retail, wholesale, and social transactions taking place in this medium.

Sometimes nowadays it seems like there is nothing that can’t be converted into a computer programme. Recently I had an aspiring young chap tell me that I ‘need to embrace technology’ and sell budget planning via the internet. He assured me that together, with his help, we could make a substantial profit from an impressive programme that he’s invented.

But let me tell you this:

You can chase the figures around and around using all sorts of clever computer programmes and spreadsheets. You can make all the figures and projections look very fancy with all manner of colourful pie-charts and graphs. You can give it all a fancy name.

But the simple fact of the matter is – a budget remains as the most basic financial plan that every single person needs to manage their money. And you don’t need this new technology to work one out.

Whether we like it or not, computers and the internet are definitely here to stay. Regardless of how it all pans out in the future there a couple of things that I know for certain that will never change

1.The sun will continue to rise in the east and set in the west. Every day.

2. If you spend more than you earn, you will get yourself into trouble.

*****

 

 

©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

The Truth about Loyalty Cards

Nowadays it’s very common for companies to offer loyalty rewards for their customers. Sometimes it seems that every store you enter is offering ‘bargain’ prices or other sorts of special offers – just for being a loyal customer.

But who is this loyal customer and what is a loyalty reward? And at what price does this reward come?

If the dictionary defines loyalty as ‘pledging allegiance to’ then in this instance it means that either the customer will only ever shop in that place, or the company will always reward returning customers.

And, it seems, you only have to ‘sign up’ and you’re into the program.

One of our major retail stores automatically gives me a discount every time I shop there. I’ve never asked for it, nor signed anything. They tell me it’s because I’ve “shopped there before and that means I’m a loyal customer”.

But I have a ‘best price on the day’ policy when I shop for the type of items that they sell and if I end up purchasing from them it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m being loyal.

They don’t provide a store loyalty card and I often wonder why they don’t just lower the prices of all their stock by the 10% that they so readily seem to give everybody.

Some of the more well-known loyalty cards are provided by the airlines. If you travel a lot, it’s a great way to get discounted seats. In the race to get more people in the air – some airlines have even made provision to link your credit card to their loyalty card, thus allowing you to earn more points.

Being a regular traveler, I belong to three ‘frequent flyer’ programs. I’ve found that regardless of the company I fly with – the points and/or flights all add up to about the same reward ratio – one in ten flights are free.

Of course, you can also link your supermarket loyalty card to one of the airline loyalty programs. But have you realised that on a ‘one dollar spent for one point rewarded’ basis you will need to spend about $8,000 dollars in groceries before being eligible for a flight between Albury and Sydney?

Of course not everything is free. There are loyalty programs that ask you to pay a fee to join. (Huh? They want us to pay them to show that we’re loyal?) Sometimes you’ll need to do your sums before buying this type of rewards program.

If you have a credit card that offers a ‘rewards program’ then you should be familiar with the annual fee that you pay in order to accumulate those rewards. Once again, while it’s nice to save your points, you also have to count the true cost of the reward in real money terms.

One card, that I know well, rewards me with one point for every dollar that I spend. Sound great? Well, when I have around 15,000 reward points – I can get a toaster.

Effectively that means I’ve spent $15,000 before being rewarded with the toaster. Now, with the annual fee being only $48 I’m beginning to think that maybe I could just keep that money and buy my toaster sooner.

In this day and age while commercial competition is enormous, we’re able to make our money stretch further than ever. We’d be crazy to ‘pledge allegiance’ to one particular store or company.

But we can participate in all the free loyalty schemes available. By keeping our wits about us; we can get some truly great discounts along the way!

 

©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

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