When was your last financial check-up?

You’ve all heard about the need for routine check-ups. If it’s not your doctor telling you, then it’s your friends and family.

But how often have you thought about having a review of your personal finances?

While you possibly think you don’t need one – ask yourself these questions and you might just find that the time has come for a financial check-up.

• Do you have financial goals? (are they in writing? do they include deadlines?)

• Is your debt under control? Do you pay off your credit cards each month?

• Have you started a savings account? Do you understand what this is?

• Have you started a retirement fund yet? If you have, will your current rate of savings give you enough money to meet your future retirement needs?

• Do you need to start a savings program to meet the cost requirements of your children’s education? If you have, will your current savings rate be enough – taking into account inflation and rising tuition costs?

• Do you have a budget? If you do, when was the last time you had it reviewed? If you don’t, then do you intend to allow your finances to drift aimlessly?

• When do you intend to get your money working as hard as you do?

If you are not satisfied with your answers to any of these questions, then you’d better contact us today!

Together, we can get your finances back into tip-top condition, with a healthier bank balance.

 

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 about choices

Whether we realise it or not, our whole life is about choices – do I or don’t I?; will I or won’t I?

As adults we get to make choices every day, starting from the time we awake. The first choice is about happiness – will I be happy today or will I be unhappy? The very next choice is about whether to get out of bed or not.

When it comes to spending money – you have a choice as to where and how much you spend. Of course, there are some obvious necessities that require your money such as rent and utilities. But even then you have a choice. You can decide where to live and who will be the supplier of your utilities.

Spending money on personal activities can certainly be very pleasurable. Not only can you choose what to do, where to eat or where to go but also with whom you share that time.

Having a budget is also about choices. Whether you use one or not is your decision, just as sticking to the plan is a matter for you to decide.  As part of your budget plan, you get to choose where to spend your discretionary income (that is, if you have some left over after taxes and personal necessities).

People who say they don’t want to be restricted in their self-gratification spending will always object to a budget plan. However, they are correct when they say that “it’s their money and they can do what they want with it.”

That’s their choice.

But if you choose to spend all your money and then later feel regret for decisions that you’ve made, then you have only one choice to make –

  1. accept the responsibility for your mistake and start again; or
  2. blame it on somebody else and bellyache about it forever.

Whatever you decide, you always have a choice.

 

 

 

(c)  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)

Getting started in 2015

Help your budget in 2015

 

 

As we know, a budget is a basic financial plan. It calculates your income and expenses and allows you to plan how your money will be spent. Of course, it will be different for every individual – that’s because we’re all different as are our needs and wants.

If you have enough income to cover all your needs as well as your wants – your budget will be vastly different to most peoples. Unfortunately for most of us – our personal store of money is not a bottomless pit. There’s always a limit to what we can spend. Once we have that planned, then we can enjoy our life without worrying too much about our financial future.

A budget doesn’t mean that you can’t do the things you want or have the things that you like. Making your money stretch is not as daunting as it seems. Sometimes we can do with a little help – so here are 7  tips to get you started in 2015 …

 

 

(c)  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 Budget Bitch bag of Christmas Cheer

Imagine this scenario – it’s December and you’re away from home, staying in a hotel in Adelaide. Your brother (who lives there) calls, and invites you to join his family for their Christmas celebration. All their family will be together this weekend, so they’re celebrating early. Being part of their family, they’d love you to come. Its 24 hours away.

My brother has five kids who are all grown and have partners; there are some grand-kids plus other ‘family’ members. The total is 20, and there will be an exchange of gifts at some point during the day.

Now this is not part of my Christmas plans and I am totally unprepared to partake in the gift giving ritual. If there had been more time, I would have been able to put some extra money aside throughout the year. I would also have had time to organise something special for each of them.

So here I am, 24 hours to prepare and not only is there a shortage of funds but I am also lacking inspiration in the gift buying department. Let’s face it – even 20 tins of cheap biscuits is going to cost at least $100.

And then (at 2 am) it hit me! The answer came from my subconscious while I slept. I knew exactly what to do.

I couldn’t hit the shopping centre till lunch hour. Into Rundle Mall, and I quickly found a large ‘discount’ shop. So far so good!

Grabbing a shopping basket, I began the next part of my mission – to buy 20 gifts at a cost no more than $2 each. Nothing should be too obviously gender-specific; but to liven the party I chose some purely male and female gifts. (men’s razors, girly soaps; that sort of thing)

I helped myself to the pile of free store catalogues to use as wrapping paper, (they’re colourful and end up in the same place as gift wrap) then spent $2 for a large ‘Christmas’ bag to carry everything. Back at the hotel I borrowed scissors and sticky-tape from the reception desk and soon everything was wrapped.

Family gatherings are great fun and this was no exception. The joy of spending time with people I love, but am separated from by time and distance, was immeasurable. Just to be with them was my own personal Christmas treat.

And then it was “time for the gifts”. My brother took me aside, quietly apologised for the short notice and explained that nobody would be upset that I had nothing for them all. Just being together would be enough.

He was right – it was, but I was ready to surprise them. When all the presents had been opened there remained, under the tree, a large bag that nobody had seen before.

With a flourish I announced that it was time for “Aunty Carmel’s Bag of Christmas Cheer”. Everybody would get a ‘lucky-dip’ and if they didn’t like their gift – too bad. They could always exchange with somebody else later.

What a hoot! We played a trivia game with a dip in the bag being the prize; everybody was a winner. An hour later – we’re still laughing and swapping gifts. Even Grandma got into the spirit, swapping screwdrivers for incense sticks.

It was the best $42 I’ve ever spent and it’s a new tradition; with family members competing to prove that they ‘need’ to be the Christmas Cheer Bag person.

You know – sometimes I think we’ve forgotten that Christmas memories are about people and events – the size and cost of the gifts are insignificant.

 

 

(c)

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)

Budgeting or dieting – it’s the same mindset

Have you ever gone on a diet and tried to lose weight?

Many of us, at some time in our lives, have felt the need to reduce our girth and get into shape. Why do we do this?

Sometimes it’s because the doctor has told us to do this for the betterment of our health. Sometimes, we’ve believed the hype about looking more attractive by reducing our physical appearance. And sometimes we do it because we just want to feel better about the direction our lives are heading.

The first step is to decide which weight reduction formula you’ll try first. Nowadays, there’s a myriad of products available on the market. Do an internet search or even look in an old-fashioned phone book and you’ll see them all.

Their advertising tells you to ’beware of all the other fad diets’ and they lure you with promises of reducing your weight without feeling any pain. All of them are just waiting for to you to sign up.

As we all know, it doesn’t matter which diet plan you choose; if you’re not prepared to change your lifestyle somewhat then it won’t work and you’ll end up disappointed. That’s a fact.

Starting a budget shares the same mindset as losing weight. In both scenarios, success comes from making some lifestyle changes.  That doesn’t need to be difficult. It takes 21 days to change a habit.

We’re not going to make any fancy promises that we can’t keep. However we will say – if it takes just 21 days to make a new habit, then why not give our simple system a try for just one month. That gives you a week of your new financial lifestyle after you’ve created a new habit.

Doesn’t really seem so difficult, does it?

 

© 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 power of branding

We’ve become obsessed with brand names!

There’s no doubt that manufacturers of ‘tried and true’ products have reliable products. We recognise their brand names as representing quality and excellence in the goods or services they provide.

In every area of the commercial world in which we live, brand names have become something to be used as status symbols. Not only do we see well known brand names everywhere but we hear people talking about them and judging others by the labels that they buy, use and wear. 

A young mother I know is so very proud of herself nowadays. She has halved her household grocery bill by shopping at a supermarket that sells low cost groceries. She says that by doing this her family is now ‘surviving’ and not struggling to make ends meet.

With the money she has saved on her grocery bill she has been able to buy her 2 year old son a new pair of Reebok shoes. He’d grown out of his other leather shoes.

The car needs new ‘shoes’ too. She plans to put the new tyres on the credit card and pay them off.

Now I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t buy “the best that money can buy”. I am suggesting that maybe we need to buy the best that our money can buy.

And maybe we need to get our priorities in order 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)

How to keep your holiday pay for holidays

Have you ever had to borrow money from your holiday account? You know – you’ve got a large bill due (usually it’s the car registration) and because you don’t have the money to pay for it, you convert some of your annual holiday (and or holiday pay) into cash.

Wouldn’t it be good if you didn’t have to do that? Wouldn’t it be great if you had the money waiting each year to pay that account? How good would it be to be able to not only pay that bill, but also have a holiday and some spending money as well?

It is possible you know – but you have to organise a budget first!

Now – straight away – I can hear you turning off.

You see the biggest trouble is – most people think that having a budget means taking things away from them. They think that if I was to come to see them, I would be telling them to stop doing things they like to do; stop having the nice things in life that they’ve been having.

But you see, I’ve never yet told anybody that they can’t have this, or to stop having that. I don’t have a problem with anybody spending money – providing that money is theirs and not borrowed! 

Having a budget is not about taking things away from you – it’s about making the most of what you already have and the money that you earn. A budget isn’t restrictive – in fact most people say it actually gives them more freedom.

How good would it be to go shopping and not feel guilty? How much would you love going away on holidays knowing that you didn’t have to borrow the money? How fabulous would it feel to know that you control your money – and not the other way around?

A budget is the most basic financial plan and yet few people have one in place. Most people spend more time worrying about their superannuation fund than how they manage their money on a daily basis.

See, I figure it’s like this – if you don’t ‘get used’ to a budget now – how are you going to manage when you do retire? Unless you’re putting away a quarter of your yearly income into a retirement fund each year, then the weekly $300 government pension is looking pretty grim. (I know lots of people who tell me that it is pretty grim) I can’t live on it – can you?

And just to reassure you – the only people who will know that I’ve been to see you – are the ones you tell.  (but you’ll be so delighted with the results, you’ll probably tell lots of people)

 

 

© 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)

Should you give Your Child a $20,000 Eighteenth Birthday Present?

“We wanted to do this and on the advice of our financial planner, when our child was born we set up a “strictly no touching” savings account with the funds to be given to him when he turns 18.”

What’s wrong with this sentiment?

Nothing? You say?

There are very few parents in this world who want to see their kids go without. In fact, I know there are some who go without things themselves, in order to make sure their kids have the best start in life. Being a parent is like that.

And every parent in every generation wants to give their children more than they themselves received at the same age.

But I don’t quite understand how some parents can religiously contribute to their kids’ savings accounts and never touch the money – yet are unable to save anything for themselves.

I was called to see a young couple who were having trouble making ends meet and were in fear of the bank re-possessing their home. They hadn’t been married very long, had a two year old child and were expecting another baby within a week or two.

Money-wise, with only one income, things were really tight. Apart from their mortgage which was consuming a large portion of their income, they had no other loans.

But with the husbands work hours being cut back, winter ills and the associated costs of the imminent new baby, they’d been so busy juggling things that they’d not only gotten behind with their bills; they’d also missed some mortgage payments.

Both parents looked pale and seemed fragile. Further questioning confirmed my suspicions – they didn’t eat every day. They did say that their little child ate well every day.

Together we started to add up some figures. Boy! There wasn’t much money coming in and I could certainly see why they juggled their funds all the time. Then I asked about the Family Allowance from the government: were they receiving it?

Oh yes, they assured me, they were getting it and were putting it into a bank account each fortnight; a bank account for their son, that they wouldn’t touch. And they were very proud of the fact that he now had a little over $7,000 in savings.

Oh dear! These people were in serious danger of becoming homeless and their toddler was financially secure enough to leave home and set himself up in a rental property. I think he was fast becoming the wealthiest three year old I’d ever met.

This is not an isolated story. Nowadays we seem to have lots of pre-schoolers with bank accounts containing hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars – yet their parents are struggling to keep the roof over their head, and food on the table.

And in many cases not only do their parents have no savings of their own but they are using their credit cards each week as an extension of their salary. In many cases, they do this just to ‘get by’. Just imagine the stress this causes!

How do we explain to these young people that Family Allowance is money provided by the government to assist with feeding, clothing and educating their children? How can we get them to see that growing up in a safe home with happy parents is more important than a fistful of dollars when their kids leave school?

And how do we get them to learn that they’re teaching a lesson of saving for others, but not yourself.

The gift of saving is perhaps the greatest lesson you can give your child. The lessons you teach them will possibly last longer than the money you save in an account for them. While the end result may be wonderful, it’s the journey that they’ll always remember.

Is it fair to present them with an end result if they haven’t taken part in the journey?

 

© 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 Pocket Money used for?

The Pocket Money Issue is something that I’m constantly asked to referee when I visit families.

How old they should be when pocket money needs to be started, how often they should get it and what purpose the money serves are some points for discussion. And the big question – how much should they get?

Lots of people tell me that kids need to learn how to manage their pocket money first as a stepping stone to becoming “financially astute” in later years. That’s true; although I think that financial responsibility would be a much better lesson to learn. There’s no point in understanding how money markets and share portfolios work if you live on credit and don’t pay your bills.

But whose responsibility is it to teach these lessons? Does it belong to the parents, the school or to somebody else?

The whole debate opens up a myriad of questions – where does the pocket money come from? What’s its purpose and what does it cover? Will the kids have a need to budget the money if their parents also buy them all the things their weekly money doesn’t cover or when it runs out?

Is pocket money a payment for doing household chores? If that’s the case, then how much does a ‘stay-at-home’ mother earn? And who pays her anyway? I’m sure you’ve seen the many articles that have been written about how much it would cost to employ somebody to do the mundane jobs that are a necessary part of living in a household.

So while it’s important for young people to learn from an early age that if you want money you have to be prepared to work for it, there’s got to be a happy medium.

Surely part of what our kids need to learn is that there are certain things in this life that we must do without getting paid. Some days I would like to strangle whoever not only coined the phrase – “you get nothing for nothing”, but taught it to our kids as well.

Call me cynical but I have a mental image of dozens of young adults who have moved out of home with no clean clothes to wear, filthy floors and no clean dishes to eat from because there’s nobody to pay them to do the housework. Of course take-away food doesn’t need dishes to eat off, but who’ll get paid to take out the garbage?

Is pocket money a reward for good behaviour? What denotes a ‘good kid’ and what happens to the kids who have parents that I hear complaining about how ‘bad they’ve been’ lately? Do they still get their allowance? In which case, one might ask if the money is being used as a bribe for good or appropriate behaviour.

Of course, a lot of the pocket money questions that I have to answer are about how to fit these payments into the family budget. Sadly, I see many households where the pocket money portion is larger than the weekly allowance for utilities and it’s no wonder that some families are struggling to pay their bills on time.

Whilst every household and family is different, some of the potential pocket money problems can be alleviated by all parties discussing the family budget and where the allowances fit within that.

A good rule of thumb – if the children are too young to understand or participate in a family budget discussion, then they just might be too young to receive an allowance of their own.

The answers lie within our individual concepts and values of money management.

 

(c) 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)

Don’t be afraid of second-hand places

There are so many things you can buy secondhand – clothing, furniture, white goods, electrical goods, cars, even houses. And there are so many places you can buy them – shops, private sellers, even on the internet.

But just because these things have had previous owners, doesn’t mean that they’re no good.

How often have you bought something, used it once, then given it away? Or how often have you had a garage sale to get rid of your surplus goods?

Charities appreciate people like you.  You’ve probably told those charities “there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just like new”.

So… I challenge you –  if you’re prepared to give away things you’ve only used once, don’t be ashamed to go to a secondhand place to buy something that you’re only going to use once.

You’re sure to save a lot of money.

Of course, if you really are worried about what your friends might think – take them with you and discover the delights of a shopping expedition which won’t cost the earth. You’ll probably even have money left over for a coffee.

 

You’ll find this tip and many others in my book – Money Tips from the Budget Bitch

 

©  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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