How we Shop, Spend and Save – “I was curious to see how much money I spend. Now I have ‘Play’ Money” Thea (2 minute read)

It’s empowering for women to have control of our money. We need to be knowledgeable about our money and our superannuation.

My parents passed away when I was at University. What I thought would happen with the world, did not happen. I quickly realised I had to plan for myself (have contingencies) as I didn’t have my parents to bail me out if I screwed up. I have emergency savings and I try very hard not to use this money.

I was inspired by Rachel/Underspent to see just how much money I actually spent in a month. I was genuinely curious. I had a savings account linked to my main account with automatic transfers, but if I had money I would spend it, and I didn’t make smart choices.

I am paid monthly and saved $750 in one month by ‘not buying’. I was blown away at how much money I had ‘thrown away’ on ‘stuff’; almost $200 a week. That month wasn’t an exciting month, so I decided to aim for an extra $400 a month savings and allocate $300 for ‘stuff’. That $300 a month is ‘Play’ money. ‘Play money’ pays for expensive ingredients, new cake tins, clothes, movies and dinners out. It’s not for bills and basic groceries. It’s $300 a month – full stop.

I don’t stop myself having an enjoyable time, eating delicious food and buying exquisite things. I just weigh up how important things, events and people are, and focus on what I truly love. To manage this, I have a spreadsheet that syncs with my phone. So, when I buy extras such as luxury food, a new dress, go out for dinner, grab a takeaway etc, I put it in the spreadsheet. This way I always know exactly where the money is going and my new totals. It sounds lame but it’s not. It’s about taking control and being in control. Once you lose control it’s hard to claw it back.

I have found some workarounds. I use loyalty schemes. If I’ve spent my ‘play money’ I can still go out for coffee by ‘cashing in’ a free one. Then there are supermarket loyalty cards. These allow me to purchase things I want (but don’t need) as I realised that stores ‘bribe you back’ with points. I game the system. I shop around the main supermarkets, the markets and small local businesses. I plan and hold out for the big offers. I then save up the points to pick up things I want without spending real cash. I’m currently saving for a second Soda Stream (for the office). It’s all about having a plan and working the system.

Day to day, I save a lot of money by riding my bike to and from work, and managing my food and coffee spend. Every weekend I try to make time to batch cook. It’s enjoyable and therapeutic. I either pick a ‘tried and tested’ recipe or try something new – I have 5 or 6 different meals in the freezer (same at work). This way, I always have ‘back up’ food – a solution – because take-away food quickly pushes up spending. I also frequently bake cakes & cookies so that I’m not tempted to buy a chocolate bar or chips. We have free fruit at work and will often take some leftover fruit home to freeze and put in cakes. Bit of a humblebrag, but I make my own sourdough bread every week too! I spend less than $2.50 a week on flour. Last year, I was given an Aldi coffee pod machine. I have lovely, beautiful 37 cents per cup coffee at home, versus $4.50 coffees on the way to work (you can make frothy milk with just a jar and a microwave). I also have a French press on my desk. I spend $16 on a bag of coffee instead of paying $4.50 for a single coffee in the work café. No way was I giving up coffee, but now cafe coffee is a social treat, enjoyed with people I love.

I mostly shop online for clothes. I have ‘sale’ text alerts and follow my favourite brands/stores on Instagram. I wait. I ask myself “Do I really need it?” “Do I still want it?” I won’t buy a dress unless it’s on my saved list, I’ve waited, and it is half price. If a new dress is $300, then that’s it for the month. So it makes me weigh up how much I ‘really’ want that dress.

From undertaking the Underspent challenge, I’ve changed the way I think about saving. I’d always focussed on what I couldn’t have. I’ve flipped my mind from that to what I can have. I do not see myself as going without or even missing out – I’m just experiencing and valuing my passions differently. I think about what I want to achieve versus instant gratification. It’s a lot less stressful.

Thank you to Thea for sharing openly and honestly.
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Until next week…