Spring is here! Which means, like it or not, the silly season is just around the corner. Silly season was coined to describe that time of year when the country hits the snooze button and journalists are scrambling for anything that resembles news, resulting in silly stories. We here in Australia, however, also know another meaning of the term – silly expensive!
Between buying gifts and organising trips away you can find yourself wondering where your savings have disappeared to very quickly.
The good news is that you still have time to start some simple money management practices, in order to make sure you have enough saved up for a nice, relaxing summer.
Nectar has put together a list of tips to help you take control of your finances before the silly season strikes! These techniques may take a small effort to get started, but the rewards will be worth it when you’re lying beachside without a care in the world.
1. Watch your money for a month
In order to get a true gauge of your spending habits, you’ll need to monitor your ingoings and outgoings over at least 30 days.
Start by making a detailed fortnightly budget, tracking your income alongside all the costs you can think of. Life is full of surprises and chances are, that as the month rolls on, you’ll be adding to the list with costs you hadn’t remembered or expected. It’s important to factor these into your budget as well, perhaps under ‘miscellaneous costs’.
There are some great apps out there to help you keep track of your budget, including Spendee, Daily Budget, Spending Tracker, Fudget and YNAB (You Need A Budget). Play around with a few and see which one works best for you. Nectar also has a handy budget calculator to help you monitor your spends.
2. Plan to save
Once you’ve tracked your outgoing costs, you should have a fair idea of your savings potential each month. When trying to put aside money, it pays to be very realistic about your current financial situation. Don’t try to save $800 per fortnight if it only leaves you with $100 to spend on groceries for your family. Inevitably, you’ll end up reaching back into those savings accounts when you fall short before the next payday.
Repeating that cycle can become demoralising, so we suggest an alternative. Try depositing a more manageable amount into a high-interest savings account via a direct transfer each time you get paid. You won’t be tempted to dip into your savings and you’ll still have enough to buy your essentials and live comfortably.
3. Check you’re getting the best deal
So, you’ve tracked your monthly spending and worked out some realistic savings goals? If you’re paying too much for your utilities and other fixed costs, you could stand to save even more!
Make a list of all your utility providers; electricity, gas, water, internet, phone and TV and get online to find a better deal (sites such as comparethemarket.com.au and iselect.com.au are good resources). Once you’ve found a better-priced alternative, call your current provider and ask them to match it. Usually they will, but if they won’t, switch over to the new one and watch the extra savings add up!
While you’re at it, make sure you do a sweep of any services that you’re not currently using, such as gym memberships or home phone connections and cancel them. Once you’ve done that, update your budget and see the difference at the end of each month.
4. Pay bills in advance
Work out what your total fixed bills add to for the year and set up an account to automatically pay them before they arrive. The idea with this account is that the money in here is completely separate to any of your other accounts and can’t easily be taken out.
To calculate your payments, work out the annual total, and then divide it into monthly or fortnightly instalments.
Financial coach Melissa Meagher says, “some organisations provide a facility where you’re able to put in place regular payment plans directly with them so that, moving forward, you’ll already have paid or be in credit by the time you receive the actual bill.”
5. Clear out your junk and cut back your spending
Spring-cleaning is the perfect way to make your home beautiful for summer and earn a bit of extra cash at the same time. Throw a garage sale to get rid of all that seldom used “treasure” filling up your cupboards or run some auctions on Gumtree to boost your holiday fund.
To make some longer-term changes, look at areas of spending which you can cut back on. Bringing lunch into work a few days a week or switching to a cheaper supermarket can start to put more money back in your pocket for the time of year you’ll need it most!
Working through all five of these tips will put you in a great position to enjoy a relaxing end-of-year break, but even using one or two of these techniques will make a difference.
Summer plans a little grander this year?
Some expenses a little harder to budget or save for, so if you need any help financing an overseas holiday or maybe that boat you’ve always wanted, we can help.