A lady called Jackie used to enjoy making me poor. Sure, she was one of the nicest women you could meet – a sweet, friendly mother of a young son. But she fed my addiction.
Every three weeks, I gave her an hour of my life and $35 of my hard-earned money.
You see, Jackie was one of the best acrylic nail technicians in the city. And for a couple of years, I was addicted to the long, colourful nails she gave me. I reckon I spent around $1200 before I wised up and ditched them.
My nails were really fun. Did they improve my life in any meaningful way? No. Did they attach me to an ongoing cost? Yes.
And this is one of the many ways we piss our money away. Locking yourself into recurring costs is a dangerous, because what becomes regular becomes normalised.
You forget to question it. You assume that you need it. You shape your life around those costs.
And this is one of the ways the world conspires to make us poor. Here are some more.
Micropayments and subscriptions – A useful exercise is to go through your bank statements and review all the monthly deductions. It’s amazing how it adds up.
I have Netflix and Stan (I know, excessive, but I am obsessed with The West Wing and it’s only on Stan). So there’s $264 a year. Then Spotify – $144. Dropbox comes to $156.
What seem like little amounts add to more than 500 bucks a year.
This isn’t breaking the bank – but is it necessary? I reviewed the first three and decided they are all integral to my life (West Wing is life). But Dropbox has barely anything stored in there, so why am I paying?
This is the kind of review it’s useful to do every 3-6 months. Where can you cancel and trim?
And if anyone is subscribed to those awful ‘Bella Box’ kind of services – sorry, but you are being ripped off. Signing up to pay for shit you don’t need and didn’t pick – every month – is like standing under the shower cutting up ten-dollar notes. Please, cancel that shit now.
The loyalty tax – We often pay more to stay loyal to insurance, phone and energy companies. They assume once you’re in, you’ll be too lazy to switch. They’re often correct.
But not the Fierce Girls! When they send you a renewal notice for insurance, get a couple of quotes elsewhere. You can use comparison websites like Finder.com.au or Mozo.com.au (not an endorsement, just telling you they exist). Although speaking to individual companies can sometimes get you a better deal, in my experience.
Energy companies are generally awful so I recently signed up to Power Shop, which is kind of the Uber of the energy retailing sector. And it has green energy options, if you care about that. Check it out here and if you want to switch, you could always use this link and I’ll get a discount. (Like, only if you want to. No pressure.)
When my phone comes off plan in March, I will drop to a cheaper ‘BYO’ rate, because I can. Even if it means having an old phone for a while.
I recently changed health funds, because for around the same price I can get full gap-free dental instead of some half-arsed rebate. That will save me a few hundred dollars a year.
Seriously, spend a bit of time doing this type of hunting, and you will save a lot over time. My home-girl Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon has a great article about this.
Credit card minimum repayments and balance transfers – A piece in the SMH last week said that “[e]conomists have found the minimum payments that appear on monthly credit card statements act as an “anchor”, causing many consumers to pay off less debt than they otherwise would – and should.”
If you are paying the minimum, or close to it, reconsider. Where can you cut and trim costs (see above) to increase the repayments?
In an earlier post about good and bad debt, we all agreed that credit card debt is top of the ‘bad’ list (ok, maybe loan sharks are worse, so stay away from men with bad hair and bodyguards).
Is it a viable solution to get a new card with a no-interest balance transfer? Yes and no.
Yes if you have worked out a detailed plan to pay off that amount within the interest-free period.
No if you have just transferred and hoped for the best. Good intentions are not an actual plan.
And don’t even think about spending any more on that card, because that stuff will NOT be interest-free. Choice has a good article about these products here.
But really, if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Credit cards can be good for short-term cashflow issues but they are not your friend long-term. I know you know that, but just thought I’d say it again.
And what about Afterpay? I’ve seen this available with online retailers lately. It’s like a lay-by, but you get the item immediately. Then you have a payment plan: for example, pay off a $200 dress in four separate payments over a couple of months.
Because I love you, and because it’s growing really fast, I’ve looked into this service (I even read their prospectus, since they are listing on the stock exchange soon). Here are my thoughts.
Pros – they don’t charge interest – in fact they can’t, because they don’t have the right license from the government (yet). So it’s much better than using a credit card. The company makes money by charging retailers, who are happy to pay because it makes you more likely to buy their stuff.
Cons – it makes you more likely to buy stuff. It’s behavioural economics: we are more likely to spend money when it’s less painful, so four $50 payments feels so much better than dropping $200. Hello, shopping cart!
So, if using Afterpay makes you spend more, stay away from it. If you’re disciplined and it doesn’t change your buying decisions, it’s not a bad idea. (Let’s be honest, though, who is that disciplined?)
There you go Fierce Girls, go forth and save. Or don’t. Just stay Fierce.
Photo credit: Zhao