This is one of the case studies in my new book, written by Gillian.
When I was at stay-at-home mum I decided that my job (besides raising kids!) was to be in charge of saving our family money while my husband focused on earning. I started by setting up a basic savings account and typed up a list of our regular payments, things like power, insurance and broadband, and reviewed our grocery spending. I sent each supplier an email explaining that we were happy customers but were down to one income to see if there was better deal to be had. All of them (bar one) came back with suggestions for a different plan, package, or some form of discount. I ended up with over $4,000 in the savings account in the first year :-)
Every May, after the busyness of Summer is over, I review our outgoings to see where we can trim costs. This year we cancelled our Sky subscription as we now watch less TV, which will save $1200 a year. We’ve been with Sky for over 20 years and conservatively estimate it has cost us a staggering $18,000 over that time, which I shudder to think about.
I try to have ‘no spend day’ once a week, usually two days after payday – when my car’s gas tank is full and I’ve done the weekly food shop, so don’t actually need to buy anything. I find lots of frittering-type purchases are done without thinking (takeaway coffee, magazines, vending machines) so by actively avoiding random spending one day a week you can save $50-$60 a month.
We have a very simple (but boring) investment strategy and that’s to invest part of every pay cheque – even if it’s a small amount. We have an automatic payment that deposits a set amount every Thursday into a low-fee, non-KiwiSaver investment fund. The amount we invest fluctuates from time to time and has been as low as $20 a week and as high as $200, but week by week it certainly adds up, and it’s safely tucked away.
Reducing the Mortgage
Without fail every time we refix our mortgage we increase our repayments, even if it’s by just a few dollars. It’s not a sophisticated strategy, but we’re now hundreds of dollars ahead on our fortnightly repayments. When I returned to work, we were able to make a big increase, while other years it’s just been an extra $10 or $20 a fortnight. It’s a good way to quietly get ahead on your mortgage without missing the money. Times are tougher at the moment, so next year it may only be an extra $5 or so but it’s still worth doing.
My best tip would be to do a massive house declutter and then set limits on the amount you own. Marie Kondo‘s book was life changing for me. I took her advice which is to declutter by category, not room by room. We laid things out in groups and we’re horrified to find how much excess stuff we owned, that we hadn’t noticed because it was tidied away around the house. Random stuff, like over 40 baseball caps, hundreds of novels, 15 winter coats for just four of us and untold lunchboxes. Things that I’ve spent thousands of dollars on over the years. I have now set rough limit on the amount we own at any one time - like my kids have around 10 t-shirts each and five pairs of shorts, and one good quality lunchbox each, with a spare one in the cupboard. I’ve noticed I shop (and therefore spend) a lot less and the house is infinitely easier to keep tidy.
Whenever I buy clothes, I use the ‘$1 per wear’ rule of thumb to determine if it’s good value or not. A $300 dress I’ll wear to one or two weddings over Summer works out to $150 per wear – not good value, whereas a $45 bra I’ll wear 150 times over its lifespan or $100 jeans that I’ll wear 200 times are. Even pricier items, like a $600 handbag, that I know I’ll use 600 times (every day for 2-3 years) work out to be good value.