Sometime between the oft-remembered past and now, we’ve lost our way.
We’ve gone from a simple life, where the cost of living was manageable and maybe there was a little left over, to a spiral of debt and a mad race to own everything, right now.
And in that time, we’ve fallen in love with the home budget.
This mythical and magical practice involves planning out your expenses, matching them with the money coming in, and ultimately coming out with just enough, or perhaps a little extra on the top.
If only it were that easy.
Because hiding in the shadows of the home budget are these little expenses that, over the week, fortnight and month, really blow your numbers out of the water.
1. Takeaway Coffee
You’re on your way to work, or you’ve just dropped all of your children off at daycare, preschool, primary school and high school (or any variation of the above), and you’re reaching a caffeine low. That coffee you chugged, half-cold, this morning as you were rushing out of the house is more or less used up. One little takeaway latte is hardly going to make a difference, and you’ll feel soooooooo good. Sorry gals, those takeaway coffees are killing your budget.
The average price of a cup of coffee in Australia is $3.50. Of course, this varies from place to place, with many regional centres taking hits of $4.50 for a cup of the good stuff. Even if you just get a cup of coffee three times a week, you’re adding more than $40 to your monthly budget. Buy the beans and make a coffee at home, and that drops through the floor.
2. In-Between Food Shopping
You’ve already blasted through your weekly food shop (using up your allotted budget and then some), when you realise there’s a few things you forgot. No problems, you can just pop into the shop and grab them. Oh, and while you’re here you might as well pick up this, and that, and another thing you probably don’t really need. But hey, you’re already here right? Nope, nope nope.
Shopping in-between your weekly or bi-weekly shop is a really bad idea. Buying all your groceries at one time is a simple way to ensure you’re sticking to your budget. Unless you have the time and energy to keep all those receipts together and figure out how much you spent all up on those 10+ weekly visits to the shops, your budget is down the drain. Instead, try to keep a detailed shopping list through the week, and shop to that list to make sure you don’t forget anything.
3. Things On Sale
You’re wandering through a shopping centre, probably on your way to something important, when you see the (oft red and yellow) banners emblazoned with the word: SALE. Your interest is piqued, and you have a look around, noting the amazing sales of 20, 30 or even 50 percent. This is perfect! You would never be able to afford this usually!
Hold up there girls, let’s look at this closely.
Sales really mess with our concept of what is affordable, and what isn’t. The reason for this is that we’re looking at the original price of the item, and noting how much cheaper it is now than before. But does that mean it’s affordable for you and your budget? These ‘limited time’ sales also have an effect on our mindset, with the idea that we have to buy it now as our time to do so is short. Before you get sucked into the consumerist mind game, have a think about how much money you’ve set out for purchases of this nature, and how much value you’re really getting.
4. Unnecessary Fees
There are so many pitfalls when it comes to fees, and so many places where those well considered budgets fall into those aforementioned pits. One of the biggest for most people is late fees. These might be late fees on bills, other payments, or even library books. Lots of services now charge fees, and they’re killing your budget. Ditto with the bank fees for the many bank accounts you just ‘haven’t got around to closing yet’. Every month your bank accounts have money deducted from the balance, whether or not you’re using the account.
So get on top of the fees.
Plan out on a calendar when your bills are due, when things need to be returned, and what payments are coming that need to be dealt with. That way, you can keep track of everything, and avoid suffering the money waste of fees.