20 Savings Tips for Christmas

Did you know that there are only 20 weeks until Christmas? No that’s not an error. If like me you are yet to start planning or budgeting for your Christmas then keep reading. I have written this post with 20 tips you can implement now to help you get prepared for Christmas and hopefully save some money as well.

  1. Start a Christmas Savings Tracker –

If you’ve been following me for a while then you would know that I love visual trackers. The ones you print out and colour in as you reach your savings or investing goals. So I’ve created a free one for you to download to help you track your Christmas Savings.

It’s super easy to use. Simply decide how much you need to save for Christmas, then divide it by 20. This will give you the amount you need to save each week.

Example: I want to save $400 for Christmas.

$400 / (divided by) 20 (The amount of weeks until Christmas) = $20 per week

I need to save $20 per week for 20 weeks to reach my goal of $400 by Christmas.

After you print the tracker out and place it on your fridge you simply write your goal savings amount in the blank goal area. Then you write the value of each weekly star in the blank section (eg $20 a week).

Each week you then colour in a star each time you make a transfer to your Christmas Account (See Tip 2 below)

  1. Set up a designated Christmas Account

Once you’ve set up your Christmas Savings Goal amount and have your tracker printed for your fridge it’s now time to set up your Christmas Account. Your Christmas Account should be a separate account to your everyday banking accounts where you can automate the weekly transfers of funds to this account. I find UP Bank is great for this as you can create additional goal savings accounts, and the round up feature is helpful in encouraging you to save even more than your goal.

  1. Buy one extra Christmas food item each week in your shopping

Each week when you do your weekly food shopping buy one extra food item that you will use during Christmas. Then put it into a box or 2nd fridge/freezer (hidden away) so by the time Christmas comes you already have a good collection of food. Only thing to remember is to make sure you purchase items that have a long shelf life.

  1. Make a Present List

Make a list of who you will be buying presents for in advance. If you write a present list rather than heading to the shops aimlessly you will reduce the risk of impulse purchases, and by taking the time to decide on a present you might end up giving that special person in your life something they will appreciate more.

  1. Shop Online, Do a Price Comparison check and use Coupons

We are in the middle of a Pandemic so it’s a great reason to avoid the shops and do your Christmas shopping online. The added benefit of online shopping is that you can do a price comparison through your preferred search engines before a purchase. Lastly as an extra saving use an automatic coupon finding extension like Honey for your purchases. Honey automatically finds and applies coupon codes on 40,000+ popular sites.

  1. Use Cashbacks

In addition to tip number 5 make sure you don’t forget to use cashback rewards (use the referral links below to save even more). Cashback rewards work by you utilising a link from a cashback website (rather than a direct link to the retailer). The retailer still sells you your item, as normal, but they will send the cashback site a portion of the profits, and the cashback site forwards a percentage of that money back to you. There is no cost to you to use this service.

Cash Rewards (cashback rewards program) β€“ You’ll get a $10 bonus once you make your first transaction of $20 or more.

ShopBack (cashback rewards program) β€“ You’ll get a $10 bonus once you make your first transaction.

  1. Homemade Presents

I love homemade presents so much, and prefer something someone has made me personally than a store purchased item any day. Homemade doesn’t have to be overly time consuming either. I have in the past made homemade gifts like Vanilla Essence, Biscuits, or even Irish Cream Bailys (all of which didn’t take a lot of time to make). There are so many great ideas for homemade presents on Pinterest (click here for the search results for Homemade Presents).

  1. Presence over Presents

We have a no adult gift rule in our home. My husband and I are super busy and the one thing we love about Christmas is that we get to spend time with our family and friends. It might sound sappy but the older I get the less I care about consumer items, and the best present is spending time with the people I love. The exception to this for us is when someone hosts an event for Christmas, and we will provide a hosting gift. The added bonus of this tip is that you don’t end up giving or receiving gifts that end up contributing to landfill.

  1. Second hand isn’t Second Best

A few years ago my son was into dinosaurs in a big way, and so I naturally planned to buy him some dinosaurs for Christmas. At the time the popular toys were superheroes, and as a result there were very little choices in regards to dinosaurs. So I decided to head online via Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace, and I found a local lady selling a huge box of her son’s old dinosaur toys. I snapped up the box for $30, washed them and bought colourful gift boxes to put them in. I then placed them under the tree at Christmas, and my son loved them. He didn’t care that they weren’t new in fact I don’t think he even realised.

  1. Plan your Christmas Lunch / Dinner Menu in advance

I’m not sure about you but the most expensive part of Christmas for us is the food. We swap our frugal staple meals for some ultra special and gourmet Christmas items (such as a nice bottle of French Champagne, and fancy seafood). I believe that planning your Christmas menu (and shopping list) in advance can save you a tonne of money, because you don’t over purchase and you can keep on the lookout for specials in the weeks/months before Christmas.

  1. Start a Christmas Savings Account

If you have issues with dipping into the savings you have set aside then a Christmas Savings Account could be a good way to remove the temptation of withdrawing it. I don’t personally use a Christmas Savings Account so I have not included any recommendations or links. There are quite a few out there so when you do search for it via your search engine make sure to check on things like accessibility of funds, interest rate, and terms and conditions.

12. Skip the Traditional Pine Tree

This tip is controversial so feel free to skip it. We love getting a real pine tree each year, but due to a shortage in our state real Christmas trees are costing well over $120 (and the quality is lacking). So instead we are thinking of skipping the pine tree and purchasing an indoor plant from the nursery. It might not be as cool or hold as many decorations, but it will definitely be a talking point at Christmas (lol).

13. Ditch Christmas Wrapping paper

I’m not sure who needs to hear this but there is no rule that says your wrapping paper has to be Christmassy and match the decorations on your tree. Instead consider buying plain brown wrapping paper in a bulk roll, and use ribbons/stamps/drawings to bring them to life. The added bonus of using brown wrapping paper is that you can use it year round for birthdays and other gifts.

  1. Take your own Christmas Photo

The only gift I ask for each year is a Christmas Photo of me and my beautiful boys (including hubby). My husband is the worst photographer (of me lol) ….. and so having a nice photo of me and the boys every so often is the best gift ever. When the kids were young I used to pay for this every year, but as the price creeped up I just couldn’t justify it at Christmas time. So I have learnt how to take my own (semi) professional photos with me in it. Each Christmas morning after the opening up of the presents the boys all know that their job is to get all dressed up for our Christmas photo. I purchased a cheap tripod some time ago and I set it up with our camera on an automatic timer. We then take photos until we get the money shot (as they say).

  1. Ask Guests to bring what you need (and not whatever they want to bring)

If you are hosting a Christmas Event don’t be afraid to actually ask your Aunt to bring a cheese platter instead of that weird casserole that she likes to bring (and no-one eats including her). Be mindful of people’s budgets when asking for a specific item, but don’t feel bad for asking guests to bring items that you need and will be eaten.

  1. Enjoy your Champagne whilst still keeping Alcohol costs low

Alcohol is another area that can get super expensive at Christmas time. As mentioned previously I love a nice glass of Champagne, but I keep my alcohol costs low by doing the following:

  • Buy a couple of nice bottles of wine and save it for the start of the day (such as for toasts). Then buy regular wine for when the good stuff runs out. Let’s be honest after a few glasses of champagne your mum won’t even remember she’s now drinking Yellowtail (this is actually one of my favourite bubbles for under $10).
  • Buy Alcohol Online (click and collect) in the weeks/months before Christmas Day when your favourites are on special.
  • Buy wine in a half dozen if possible as most retailers provide you with additional discounts.
  • Use cashbacks when buying alcohol online to save even more.
  1. Use Loyalty Programs

The types of Loyalty programs on offer will depend on where you live, but being based in Australia I use both the Flybys Program and the Everyday Rewards Program. Both of these programs often have additional incentives and points to be gained in the lead up to Christmas. Make sure you download any apps related to these programs to ensure you’re notified of any new deals that might save you $.

  1. Save your Loyalty Points for Christmas

This is one of my favourite Christmas tips, and one I’ve used for many years. I save my points up for Christmas instead of using them as they accrue. This does take a little self control, but you’ll be thanking your past self when Christmas comes around and you’ve got a nice little nest egg of points to exchange into gift cards (or other items).

  1. Low on cash for Christmas, think about doing some market research

Sometimes saving money just isn’t enough when you don’t have any spare cash to save. With 20 weeks until Christmas you have time to sign up and do some market research (use this link to find a full list of market research companies I’m signed up with). The majority of the companies I use pay out in gift vouchers so I recommend saving these up until Christmas and exchanging these to pay for Christmas related expenses.

  1. Make your own cards

Lastly save money by not buying Christmas Cards, and opt to make your own (or skip altogether). This year we are going to use the kids artwork, but if you don’t have kids you could write your message on the wrapping paper itself. Get creative πŸ™‚

I would love to hear your best tips for saving money on Christmas so feel free to add a comment below. If you would like to have more articles like this delivered to your inbox subscribe below.

Reduce your subscriptions (and save money) by doing a ‘Scream Test’

Last month as I completed our monthly expense review I noticed that our monthly entertainment subscriptions had gotten a little out of hand. I noticed that we were now paying for Netflix, Spotify, Prime, and Apple TV (almost $50 a month). I was a little stunned at how normal these expenses had become and decided to do something. If you are in a similar situation as us and want to do something about it then keep reading.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I don’t believe our story or situation is unique. We started out with good intentions and just one subscription service, but then slowly but surely over time more services magically appeared.

Maybe like us you added a new one because another service had a new TV show you wanted to watch……

Maybe you forgot to cancel it after the free trial…..

Maybe you hated the Spotify ads…..

Maybe you got into the habit of having all these convenient entertaining options at your finger tips…..

Whatever the reason your subscriptions (like ours) have slowly multiplied over time and now you’re quietly paying for more entertainment than you need.

So what now. Well I’ve decided to apply the scream test method to our subscriptions in order to cut them down significantly and save ourselves $500 a year.

What is the ‘Scream Test’?

I work in IT and a scream test is a term and method we use to determine if a service, function, system etc is still in use, and it’s importance. Typically scream tests are applied when no-one will take ownership of the service, function or system in question. If no-one takes ownership then no-one is able to make a decision on it’s importance, and whether it’s still required. You would be surprised at how often things such as servers are kept running without anyone using them. Scream tests are not something to be taken lightly in an IT setting, and if you would like to learn more about them take a look here.

How do you do a subscription ‘Scream Test’?

Well in very simple terms you quietly remove the subscription service, and wait for the screams from your family.

Obviously if I was applying this method to my work this explanation is overly simplified, but in terms of the context of applying it to my subscriptions this explanation suits this application perfectly.

Why am I trialling the ‘Scream Test’ method?

Well I’m 100% sure my household isn’t utilising all it’s subscriptions, and so the scream test will quickly determine what we are using and more importantly what we aren’t using.

I also don’t want to own the decision to keep/cancel the subscriptions. I have enough on my plate in terms of making decisions so for me a scream test feels like a nicer way to determine which subscriptions we should keep.

What if they ‘Scream’?

I expect my family to scream with at least one subscription, and for that reason we will keep one subscription at a time. If someone in the family wants to try another service then we can cancel our current subscription and switch.

It’s just $500 a year, who cares?

Well I do care, especially when I know that we are paying for something that we aren’t utilising. There is nothing worse in my mind than paying for something you aren’t using, and that’s why I think doing a subscription scream test in your household is a good idea.

Let me know in the comments how your subscription scream tests go or how you are keeping your subscription costs down.

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How frugal are you? We audited ourselves against 70 frugal tips (Free Printable)

Our family is pretty frugal, and during the last year I believe we’ve cut our expenses significantly in response to the global uncertainty. That said I always believe there is room for improvement so I audited our household against 70 tips to cut expenses, save money and live a thrifty life.

Canstar being the legends they are recently produced the following article which I started reading ‘Frugal Living: 70 tips to cut expenses, save money and live a thrifty life’. Instead of just simply reading the article which you need to read I decided to do an audit to see if there were any areas that my family could improve upon.

If you want to do this audit on your own individual circumstances I’ve created a free printable below for you to try it for yourself

A screenshot of the free printable ‘How Frugal Are You?’

These are our results from doing the audit:

These are our results from doing the audit:

Frugal TipImplementedNeeds improvement
Spending Diary or Regular Expense Trackingβœ”
Write down your goalsβœ”
Make Savings Fun
(Visual Tracking or Savings Challenges)
βœ”
Self-awareness of emotional spending and avoidance of triggersβœ”
This is a constant battle
Join an online community (eg Facebook or Instagram community like She’s on the Money)βœ”
Start a coin jarβœ”
Shop at a physical supermarketβœ”
One shop, once a week βœ”
Use a shopping list appβœ”
Meal prep like a proβœ”
Make use of leftoversβœ”
Use your own coffee machineβœ”
Swap meat for veg regularly βœ”
Buy frozen veggiesβœ”
Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomachβœ”
Buy generic brand versions where possibleβœ”
Pay bills on time to avoid late feesβœ”
Monitor your bank balance βœ”
Audit your bank accounts to see if you are paying feesβœ”
Check how much interest you are paying on your credit cardN/A
Phone your bank and ask them for a discount on your home loan interest rateβœ”
Shop around for your car insurance regularlyβœ”
Review your health insurance regularlyβœ”
Review your personal insurance regularlyβœ”
Review your superannuation fundβœ”
Track down lost money in bank accountsβœ”
Review your telecommunications contractsβœ”
In the last 6 months
Seek cheaper ways to connect internationallyN/A
Avoid streaming on your phone using mobile dataβœ”
Review your electricity and gas use regularlyβœ”
In the last 6 months
Pay yourself first (your savings / investments etc)βœ”
Use ‘Rounding Up’ programsβœ”
I do mine manually
Get your bills onlineβœ”
Get discounts on petrolβœ”
I could be better
Get bonus interest on your savings accountβœ”
Organise your tax receiptsβœ”
Check your family is registered for the Medicare Safety Netβœ”
Keep things in working orderβœ”
Fix it yourselfβœ”
Buy clothes that don’t need dry cleaning βœ”
I cannot remember the last time I needed dry cleaning
Make your own greeting cardsβœ”
Start doing Secret Santa for Christmasβœ”
Check your calendar to save money on gifts (Plan ahead)βœ”
Delay gratification: Follow the 10 second ruleβœ”
Delete stored debit / credit card numbersβœ”
Calculate the value of your impulse buys in hours of workβœ”
Use your local library (including online libraries such as the Libby app)βœ”
Make your own cleaning productsβœ”
Look for coupons or cashback opportunities βœ”
Consider joining a customer rewards programβœ”
Shop out of seasonβœ”
Reuse, reuse, reuseβœ”
Rationalise your subscription servicesβœ”
Price match where possibleβœ”
We need to do this more
Shared expenses: use splitting and repayment toolsN/A
Use air conditioning more efficientlyβœ”
Get your head out of the fridgeβœ”
The kids need improvement
Save on electricity and air dry clothesβœ”
We are mostly good at this
Freeze uneaten food βœ”
Save on water costs by using water savings techniques (timed showers, water saving shower heads etc)βœ”
Participate in free online surveys for cashβœ”
Take your reusable bags to the supermarketβœ”
Collect and cash in (Bottle Deposit Schemes)βœ”
Check your payslipβœ”
Grow your own veggies / produceβœ”
Propagate your own plantsβœ”
Learn for freeβœ”
I need to do some more research on this
Ditch expensive printersβœ”
We’ve compared ours and its one of the cheapest out there
Know your refund rightsβœ”
Get help from a financial counsellor if you need itN/A
Table – 70 tips to reduce your expenses

The Verdict:

So we have successfully implemented 60 out of 70 of the Frugal Tips recommended by Canstar. In the next few weeks I’m going to work on some of our improvement areas and:

  • Start a coin jar
  • Meal prep
  • Check to see if we have any missing money
  • Consistently use petrol apps and discounts
  • Trial Secret Santa this year
  • Be a little more organised with gift giving
  • Calculate the ‘real’ cost of splurge items in relation to work hours
  • Take advantage of price matching more
  • Put more effort into drying clothes naturally
  • Find out about free study options

Overall this audit has been a really great way to check in and find a few areas to improve upon (and it didn’t take long at all). I highly recommend doing the same and the link to free printable is below:

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Where to find TAFE or student provided services that save you money

A couple of days ago I posted an Instagram reel on utilising TAFE or student provided services as part of my frugal tips. I had a lot of comments from those who also knew about these services (and loved them), and I had a few comments from those who didn’t know about these services. So today I’m writing this article to list some of the student provided services that can save you money, and where to find them.

For this article I’ve completed a quite a bit of research on where you can access these services and have listed them below by category and state.

Hair and Beauty (Massage section further down below)

If like me you don’t want to sacrifice your hair and beauty on the way to building wealth then consider getting a student to cut your hair or do your treatment. TAFE and vocational education providers are always looking for customers for the students to train on. All students are typically supervised so don’t worry you will still end up with a good quality cut / treatment at an amazing price.

StateInformation / Links
SATAFE SA – Location – Multiple see link – Hair and Beauty (Link Here) – They do hair, nail, tanning, waxing, massage and facial services. They offer 25% off of their prices to pensioners and students.
Colour Cosmetica Academy – Adelaide – Link Here
NTCharles Darwin University – Palmerston and Alice Springs – Hair and Beauty (Link Here) – They do hair, nail, tanning, waxing, massage and facial services. They offer an extra 25% off of prices to pensioners.
WATAFE WA – South Metro – Link Here
NSWThe Hair and Beauty Academy – Penrith – Link here
Contour College – Tuggerah – Link Here
QLDKatrinas School of Beauty – Morayfield – Link here
Demi International – Multiple Locations – Link here
ACTAustralasian Beauty Therapy Academy (Beauty – no hair treatments) – Canberra – Link Here
VICVictoria University – Melbourne – Link Here
TASTasTAFE – Hobart, Alanvale, Devonport – Link Here
Table – Student Hair and Beauty Locations

Restaurants / Cafes

Many years ago I completed a short course at my local TAFE and discovered that they have student restaurants that offer high quality restaurant or cafΓ© meals at a fraction of the price. After doing a bit of research it turns out there are numerous TAFE and Vocational institutes that do this across Australia.

StateInformation / Links
VICRichards Restaurant – Broadmeadows – Link Here
Wangaratta Campus Restaurant – Link Here
Holmesglen Cilantro Restaurant – Link Here
VenU Restaurant – Footscray – Link Here
The Apprentice – Prahran – Link Here
St Georges Restaurant – Preston – Link Here
Prospects Training Restaurant – Ballarat – Link Here
WABentley Pines Training Restaurant | South Metropolitan Tafe – Link Here
SAGraduates Restaurant – Regency Park – Link Here
Tiros Restaurant – Regency Park – Link Here
NSWRubric Restaurant – Alexandria – Link Here
ACTCIT Restaurant – Reid – Link Here
QLDTAFE QLD offers a number of different restaurants across their campuses at Toowoomba, Southport, Warwick, South Bank, Ipswich, Cairns, Loganlea, Townsville, Whitsundays, Mooloolaba and Bundaberg. Link here
NTKarawa Training Restaurant – Palmerston – Link here
Desert Lantern Restaurant – Alice Springs – Link here
Table – Student Restaurant Locations

Massage

Who doesn’t love a massage. The prices in the below range start from as low as $25 an hour depending on your location and treatment. Most of the links below contain additional information on supervision, what you need to bring and hygiene regulations to ease your mind.

StateInformation / Links
VICEvolve College – Docklands – Link here
ALG Student Massage Clinic – Melbourne – Link here
QLDALG Student Massage Clinic – Brisbane – Link Here
Q Academy Student Massage Clinic – Brisbane – Link Here
Institute Massage Clinic – Brisbane – Link Here
Academique Clinic – Southport – Link here
Student Massage School – Brisbane – Link here
NSWALG Student Massage Clinic – Sydney – Link Here
ACTPivotal Therapies – Canberra – Link Here
Australasian Beauty Therapy Academ – Canberra – Link Here
WASouth Metro TAFE – Murdoch Campus – Link here
ACMM Student Massage Clinic – Perth – Link here
SATAFE SA – Massage – Adelaide Campus (Link Here)
Colour Cosmetica Academy – Adelaide – Link Here
Table – Student Massage Locations

Veterinary Services

These services are not as well published online as other student clinics, however I was able to find some student vet services which offer discounts.

StateInformation / Links
VICAdelaide University Small Animal Clinic – Link Here
WATAFE WA – Bentley Campus – Link Here
Table – Student Veterinary Locations

Psychologists

StateInformation / Links
QLDWellness Centre – CQUniversity
Table – Student Psychology Locations

Physio / Exercise / Occupational Therapy

StateInformation / Links
QLDWellness Centre – CQUniversity
Brisbane Health Clinic – CQUniversity
Table – Student Physio / Exercise / OT Locations

Speech Pathology

StateInformation / Links
QLDWellness Centre – CQUniversity
Table – Student Speech PathologyLocations

Podiatrist

StateInformation / Links
NSWSydney Health Clinic – CQUniversity
QLDRockhampton Health Clinic – CQUniversity
Table – Student Podiatry Locations

Dentistry

During my research on student led clinics I found several dental clinics that offer services to the public. Some of these services do require you to be on a health card so make sure you check before you book.

StateInformation / Links
NSWCharles Sturt University – Multiple Locations – Link Here
WAThe University of WA – Nedlands – Link Here
VICUniversity of Melbourne – Melbourne – Link Here
Dental Health Services Victoria – Link Here
QLDRockhampton Health Clinic – CQUniversity
Table – Student Dentist Locations

Chiropractic

During my research on student led clinics I found a chiro clinic that offer services to the public. Feel free to contact me if you find others and I would be happy to add the links.

StateInformation / Links
VICChiropractic clinic – RMIT University
QLDMackay Health Clinic – CQUniversity
Brisbane Health Clinic – CQUniversity
NSWSydney Health Clinic – CQUniversity
Table – Student Chiro Locations

Dermal and Cosmetic Therapies

During my research on student led clinics I found a several dermal and cosmetic procedure clinics that offer services to the public. Feel free to contact me if you find others and I would be happy to add the links.

StateInformation / Links
VICDermal Clinic | Victoria University | Melbourne Australia (vu.edu.au)
Melbourne – Student clinic procedures Archives – Aspire (aspiretrainingclinics.com.au)
WAPerth – Student clinic procedures Archives – Aspire (aspiretrainingclinics.com.au)
NSWSydney – Student clinic procedures Archives – Aspire (aspiretrainingclinics.com.au)
QLDStudent Medical Aesthetic and Laser Clinic – Grayclay
Table – Student Dermal and Cosmetic Procedure Locations

Please note this isn’t a comprehensive list of all student related services in Australia. There are likely many more out there and I would be keen to add more services to this article if you find any more. Feel free to contact me or add to the comments below.

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Side Hustle Series – Bottle and Metal Recycling

This is my second article in my side hustle series posts, and it’s a side hustle I’m quite passionate about….. recycling.

I’m a millennial so from birth its been hammered into my brain that we need to recycle and reuse as much as possible to minimise our impact on mother earth. So for me making a little cash whilst doing something that I love like recycling makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside.

How do I make money from recycling?

The ability to apply this side hustle to your own situation will depend on where you are located.

In Australia at the time of posting the following states offer $0.10 per bottle recycling.

Coming Soon

Additionally metal and other paid recycling will again depend on your rules and regulations in your state. Check them out online or head on down to your local recycling plant to get the full story for yourself.

How does the bottle refund / recycling scheme work and what are the benefits?

The bottle refund / recycling scheme works by adding a small extra deposit on top of the price of a beverage. This extra deposit is then refunded when the purchaser returns the empty drink container for recycling.

The benefits of the recycling scheme for bottles are:

  • Reduce bottle / container related litter by encouraging litter to be picked up with the reward being the $0.10 per bottle/container.
  • Improved Recycling through more effective capture and sorting with reduced risk of contamination.

So how do I know what bottles or containers are part of the bottle refund / recycling scheme?

Bottles in your state or territory are marked with a stamp which indicates their ability to be recycled as part of the bottle refund / recycling scheme. Some bottle types are not able to be recycled and will not result in a refund being paid. More information on the types of bottles and containers that are recyclable under the scheme is available in the links provided above.

How much money do I make from recycling? and is it worth it?

We make about $50 bi-monthly on returning our bottles. Its not huge dollars, but it’s money for jam. Additionally due to the set up of the scheme you might as well do it as you are paying for the scheme through increased drink prices.

We additionally make money from recycling metal that my husband picks up from his side hustle business. This is infrequent but our last visit nabbed us $80 for recycling a heavy metal frame (it pays to know your recycling rates).

I track all my side hustle income in my Income and Expense Tracker.

What tips do you have for bottle recycling?

I separate my paid recycling items from my normal recyclables by placing these in a separate bin (similar to my garbage bin). I bought an additional bin for this purpose off of Gumtree for $10 many years ago. Having an additional bin is really handy as you can just load it in the car when it’s full, which makes dropping off and collecting the cash at the deposit centre a breeze.

Not everyone around you is going to want to take part in this scheme, and that’s okay. If those close to you don’t participate I recommend taking the opportunity to ask them if they would collect them for you, provide them a bin, and pick them up when full.

Also don’t be afraid to pick up a can / bottle off the side of the road. It’s helping yourself, and helping the environment.

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Photo by Vladislav Vasnetsov on Pexels.com

5 Back to School Savings Hacks

School costs can always be counted on for increasing each year so I’m sharing my top back to school savings hacks. Feel free to add yours in the comments below.

  1. Don’t automatically use the recommended school book list retailer

As I discovered this year it doesn’t always pay to go with the school recommended book retailer. I found this out by accident when I missed the ordering deadline, and had to seek an alternative. I ended up finding out that Officeworks allow you to upload your school book list online so you don’t even need to come into the store. They then pack the items and these can be delivered to your door (or you click and collect). By selecting the alternative option we saved $60 which was then diverted to paying for a new laptop bag. It’s worth doing the sums.

  1. Buy the basic school uniform first

It’s tempting to buy everything in one go at the Uniform Shop to save time, but I have found that by buying everything up front I often ended up overbuying items. Eg buying too many long pants when my son’s only wanted to wear shorts and so on. So now I only buy a basic set of uniform items to get them started for the year, and add to it throughout the year as needed. This hack also helps me spread the cost of uniforms throughout the year.

  1. Work out what you can purchase outside of the uniform shop

Now I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but its worth investigating and seeing what items don’t have to be purchased from the uniform shop. For us we have found that pants, shorts, socks, bags, and hats don’t need to be purchased from the uniform shop. We instead purchase these items from Kmart, Big W or Target. This has saved us a significant amount of money over the years given that the price difference between Uniform Pants and Kmart Pants is about $20-25 a pair.

  1. Buy good quality shoes, but make sure you don’t forget your cashback.

I’m a big believer in buying good quality footwear, and spending a little extra to get something that will go the distance. Something I’ve recently started doing is ordering my kids shoes online. In previous years this wasn’t something I would consider doing as I was concerned with sizing issues / and returns. These days I’ve found more and more shoe retailers are offering free and easy returns to allow people to shop for shoes in the comfort of their own homes. An added bonus of online shopping for shoes is being able to take advantage of cashback offers available at Shopback and Cash Rewards . I make sure to keen an eye on deals in the lead up to Christmas, and have received 10-20% back on my shoe purchases.

  1. Check out your local government entitlements.

It took me a couple of years to find out about the sports vouchers for kids program in my state, however now that we do know about it we make sure to use up our entitlements yearly.

All states except Victoria and the ACT offer rebates to Australian parents who enrol their children in recreational events outside of school. Information on these programs are available below.

I would love to know if you have any savings hacks you use. Feel free to comment below.

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Introducing ‘The Frank Basics’ Etsy Store

Thank you for the support you’ve given me in creating and sharing my first personal finance tracker (Personal Finance Budget Spreadsheet and Automated Dashboard).

Since this time I’ve been busy continuing developing other products following requests I’ve received via social media and Etsy. This is a passion project rather than a desire to make money. I work in data and analytics and as part of my role develop solutions for visualising data in multiple platforms for large organisations. I get a lot of joy out of creating solutions for individuals, and working with people to build something to make a work process more efficient (eg through automation of tasks).

I’ve now formally created my Etsy Store aptly named ‘The Frank Basics’. My store now contains 12 digital products at the time of posting as listed below.

Personal Finance Tools

Business / Other Tools

I will continue to add to these products as I develop them so please check in regularly if you are interested (or if you have an idea you would like to see me bring to life get in touch).

Alternatively I also offer Microsoft Excel development (with advanced VBA/Macros) and customisation services to meet your individualised needs.

I’ve put a lot of work into each of my products and have priced accordingly, but for those that follow me on the blog/Instagram I’ve decided to provide you the following coupon code to save you 10% off all products (as a thank you for following along).

Coupon Code – FRANK10

Feel free to get in touch before hand if you have any questions or additional information you would like before making your commitment to purchase.

If you do end up purchasing it please let me know your thoughts and feedback.

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Personal Finance Budget Spreadsheet and Dashboard

I’ve been working on this baby for years. Initially it was as my own budget and dashboard and it developed into something I would like to share with others.

Update 25th January 2021 – Please note that since this article was posted I have created additional Personal Finance products to suit individual requirements. I recommend you taking a look at the following post (β€˜The Frank Basics’ Etsy Store) before purchasing to ensure you find the right product to meet your needs

The Personal Finance Budget Spreadsheet and Automated Dashboard has been a few months in the making since I first decided to share it more widely than my computer hard drive. I have always enjoyed using spreadsheets and it remains the one part of my job that I quite enjoy. As a result I decided to modify my tried and tested one into something that others might find helpful (not everyone likes spreadsheets and this one aims to do the work for you).

The Personal Finance Budget and Automated Dashboard (which includes inbuilt debt snowball / avalanche calculator for Microsoft Excel) contains 9 sheets (tabs) including:

  • Dashboard (Automated sheet)
  • Debts (Data entry sheet) – this sheet includes a debt snowball or avalanche calculator
  • Mortgage (Data entry sheet)
  • Emergency Fund (Data entry sheet)
  • Savings (Data entry sheet)
  • Sinking Funds (Data entry sheet)
  • Budget (Data entry sheet)
  • Review Sheet (Automated sheet)
  • Expense Review (Data entry sheet)

My goal with this workbook is to try to make using excel easy while letting you use all the best features it has to offer.

It also is formatted so you can print the sheets off for your fridge (or other area of your home) – eg the debt and savings trackers.

What does this Personal Finance and Budgeting Spreadsheet do?

For a full list of specifications I would recommend checking out the Etsy listing here.

  • Calculate the % paid off of your debts, and mortgages.
  • Calculates how close you are to reaching your savings goals (Emergency Fund, Sinking Funds, or other Savings Goals)
  • Calculate your income from multiple jobs
  • Calculate expenses you pay weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or yearly
  • The Dashboard shows you how much you have spent on each category (You decide the categories you want – completely customizable)
  • The Review sheet shows you how much money you have left
  • The Expense Review sheet is an optional sheet with a little quiz guiding you on where you could make changes to your budget to save money.

What you will receive:

  • One Microsoft Excel file template
  • One Quick Start Guide PDF

Notes:

  • Created on Microsoft Excel 2016  (only works with Microsoft Excel not Google Sheets)
  • Please note that this spreadsheet uses Macros so please ensure when you open this file you ‘enable macros’.
  • Please note that every sheet on this spreadsheet has built-in instruction buttons to assist you with completing each sheet.

I’ve put a lot of work into it and have priced it accordingly, but for those that follow me on the blog/Instagram I’ve decided to provide you the following coupon code to save you 10% off (as a big thank you for following along).

Coupon Code – FRANK10

Feel free to get in touch before hand if you have any questions or additional information you would like before making your purchase. I’m also happy to field questions to assist you to get the most out of it post sale.

If you do end up purchasing it please let me know your thoughts and feedback. I’m keen to create some more spreadsheet style items so let me know what other trackers or dashboards etc that you would like to see.

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5 simple ways to save money on your electricity bills

Do you want to save money on those nasty electricity bills. Here are 5 simple ways I save money on my electricity bills.

  1. Do a yearly electricity company review

Time to complete – Approximately 30 minutes

What do you need – Your last electricity bill. If you receive them online as a PDF you won’t need to print it out.

How does this save me money? – Grab your last electricity and / or gas bill and head on over to Energy Made Easy . This is an Australian Government power comparison website where there is no email sign up required to get a price comparison. I saved over $1000 in one year by making the switch to another provider (and I didn’t even go with the cheapest).

Make sure you use this government website (β€˜Don’t google electricity comparison website’) and avoid other energy comparison sites which may be paid a fee from energy providers to find you, and will also likely result in spam emails. Also your taxes pay for the free Energy Made Easy service so why not use it (I mean you’ve paid for it).   

Once you’ve input your details the site will provide you a comparison pricing of all the electricity providers in your area based on your last bill. Then you compare the companies available, and the terms of each one, and let the company make the switch for you.

It really is very simple and easy. I saved over $1000 in one year by making the switch to another provider (and I didn’t even go with the cheapest). If you do select a new provider and it happens to be ReAmped Energy feel free to use my link here for $50 off your first bill (in addition to the any savings you get from switching).

  1. Use Smart Plugs

Time to Complete – 30 minutes (including ordering the plugs, and setting them up)

What do you need? – Smart Plug/s (These can be any smartplug device you would like to use. I personally use TP-Link ones as they are available at my Hardware Store, the price point is reasonable $20 per plug, and the application to control them is free)

How does this save me money? – Have you heard of Vampire electronics? Well Vampire electronics use up electricity whether or not they are actually turned on and in use (eg your Computers, Microwave, Gaming Consoles, and TV’s). It’s estimated that Vampire electronics cost the average home an extra $200 per year (US Dollars) when not in actual use. To reduce the impact of vampire electronics smart plugs can assist you by turning off your electronic items for you. Smart plugs like the ones I use allow you to turn your electronic items off from your phone, and / or put them on timers via an application. This then reduces the vampire consumption of energy, and stops me needing to remember to turn off my electronics at the wall (which can be difficult for some electronics like microwaves).

An added bonus of using smart plugs is that I now have an auto shut down of devices for bedtime so my boys can’t sneakily access devices when they shouldn’t.

  1. Get a thermometer for your fridge

What do you need? – Fridge Magnet Thermometer (Cost between $10-20)

How does this save me money? – Heating and cooling costs likely make up the majority of your energy costs so having our Thermometer on the fridge means that we only turn on

  • Heating if the temperature goes under 18 degrees Celsius.
  • Cooling if the temperature goes over 25 degrees Celsius.

Why a fridge thermometer? Well its simply because its a high traffic zone in our house and its the best place for us to be aware of the temperature of the house.

We also have a few other heating and cooling hints such as we wear extra layers in the cooler months, and in summer we will try the fan first before popping on the air-conditioning.

  1. Be smart with your dryer

How does this save me money? – We all know this, but some of us like me who live in a colder climate may not always be able to avoid having a dryer all together so I have a few dryer tips.

  • Buy a Heat pump condenser dryer – yes the initial outlay may be more but your energy consumption will be less than half the cost of a traditional vented dryer.
  • Throw a dry towel into your dryer load. This will reduce the drying time which will reduce your electricity cost per load.
  • If you have the heater on for your own warmth then use an indoor clothes horse to dry your clothes as well.
  1. Get a Smart Meter from your energy retailer or consider purchasing of your own

Time to Complete – 30 – 60 minutes (including ordering the smart meter if required / or talking to your energy provider, and setting it up)

What do you need? – Smart Meter (Cost between $0 and $124)

How does this save me money? – You know the quote ‘What gets measured gets managed…..” well its one of my favourites and definitely true in regards to monitoring your energy usage via a smart meter (as long as you use it correctly and intentionally of course). The savings from the smart meter come from the idea that by having a smart meter you are more aware of what the energy usage for your electronic items is in your house, and therefore choose to be more intentional with using them. You may even choose to replace high energy usage items, and replace with a more energy efficient model.

Many will already have a smart meter, and therefore you should have access to clear and detailed insights into your electricity consumption. If you have a smart meter and don’t have access to any insights get in touch with your energy provider to see how you can access your smart meters data.

If you don’t have a smart meter and would like one contact your energy provider first as you may be entitled to a free one. Alternatively if like me you are not entitled to a free one then you can get yourself a Smart Meter and install it yourself. My personal favourite is this one called the Powerpal Smart Meter . Installation of this meter is simple and no electrician is required.

There are so many other tips to save money on your electricity out there. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

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