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The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

Get your shit together with money

Month

September 2017

Aldi tips, tricks and hacks from a legit expert

In the world of tight-arses, shopping at Aldi is an article of faith.

It’s not just advertising fluff – their prices are genuinely and significantly cheaper.

So, imagine my delight when I moved into my current apartment and found myself living across the road from Aldi. 

As an early adopter of the discount supermarket,  I have honed my Aldi skills over time.

I am always amazed by people who have  never been or don’t shop there regularly. Fools! Do you actually like wasting money?

So here are some tips, fave products and Aldi hacks for all you novices out there. No, this isn’t a sponsored post. I just like being cheap.

Make a cheese platter everyone will think is fancy: the Pickled Onion Club Cheddar is a fave of mine, but they also have a damn good version of the old Blue Castello. Throw on some of their semi-dried tomato and olives and you’re good to go. Pick up some bikkies as well – the rice crackers, water crackers and wafer thins are all great. As a side snack, their Sweet & Salty Popcorn (in the chips aisle) is deliciously addictive.

High-protein overnight oats solve your breakfast issues: There is a cracker of a yogurt, creatively called Hi-Protein Yogurt. Here’s my macro-friendly brekky hack:

  • In a Tupperware container (or jar) put about half a cup of oats (more or less depending on your carb needs)
  • Throw in a handful of frozen berries (reasonably priced, from the freezer section), a spoonful of shredded coconut and a dash of cinnamon. If you have a sweet tooth you can add a pinch of stevia
  • Add enough water or almond milk or juice (whatever you have/like) to just cover the oats
  • Add two-three big spoonfuls of yogurt. Mix it all up and whack it in the fridge for at least a few hours.
  • Note: you may need to play around with ratios to get the right consistency. But experiment and see what you think. You can also add other fruit (today I had mango cos it’s on spesh).

Aldi has ‘specials’ but not like the ones you’re used to. Most of its everyday range has the same low prices all the time. It does have ‘7 Day Deals’ in the fresh food section (hence the abovementioned mango). I like seeing what they have and making meals around that.

But the real killer is the ‘Weekly Specials’ section. Novices beware: this is how you make Aldi not really that cheap after all.

The stuff in the middle section is so random and so alluring. Like ‘wow, I didn’t know I needed a Moroccan-style side table’ or ‘I definitely need a set of embellished hand towels’ or ‘I probably could use 1 kilogram of olives’.

There are definitely amazing bargains to be had in this magical section – some people obsess over the snow gear sales.

But this is the line you have to say over and over in your head: IT’S NOT A BARGAIN IF YOU DON’T NEED IT.

Seriously, I say this every time I wander down that aisle, considering my ‘need’ for new placemats or bakeware.

And here is a hot tip: DON’T TAKE YOUR HUSBAND WHEN THE TOOL SPECIALS ARE ON. Seriously, why did I ever own an air compressor? Although I would say the pink ladies’ toolkit I picked up for $15 has been an absolute pearler for Ikea furniture, BBQ repairs and broken taps (ok, I had to get a muscular footballer to do that one).

Aldi wine is the real deal. Seriously, try their wine. The prices are great, and unlike cleanskins, you can take them to people’s houses and they won’t know it’s cheap.

Unless they also shop at Aldi too – in which case they will give you a sly nod as if to say ‘well-played, my friend’.

Their grassfed steak is great value. I often get a couple of Porterhouse steaks from the Highland Park range (aka the slightly fancier, grass fed range). Whack them on the Weber Q, steam some veggies and you have a delicious dinner. And tomorrow’s lunch.

Because nothing makes you feel fancy AF, as when you’re eating steak while other suckers are eating sandwiches.

I’ve yet to come across anything from Aldi that isn’t good quality. They have a really stringent process to become a supplier (because they only have one, house-branded version of every product). So 99% of the time it’s as good as, or better than, stuff from other supermarkets. There is even a section on the website listing things that shoppers have voted as being BETTER than other brands – click here.

You can’t always get everything you want – especially obscure things like cartons of egg white (yeah, it’s a weightlifting thing). So I usually top up at a big chain every few weeks.

And finally, the most important tip for the Aldi newbie…

TAKE YOUR OWN BAGS – I do this anyway because I am a greenie, but at Aldi, you have to pay for the plastic ones. They don’t pack your bags either, so always put your stuff on the conveyor belt the way you want to pack it (heaviest first). Or just chuck it all back into the basket/trolley if you can’t handle the pressure of packing at the checkout (it’s an acquired skill).

If you are really clever you can also find some empty boxes on the shelves or around the entrance and use them instead.

So, that’s it kids. Get in there and get saving!

6 of the best: Fierce Girl’s top posts to help you makeover your money

I’m gonna call it. The Fierce Girl’s Guide to Finance is going places.

Last week we had our first original content posted on Mamamia: a Money Makeover, helping Theresa make a plan to save $25,000. Check it out here.

Then The Daily Mail got wind of the story and got in touch. Let me tell you, after 17 years in PR, the idea of a journalist calling me (about something good) is absolute bliss! Usually we have to shop our stories around and beg journalists to write them.

The outcome was a story where I seemed to scold everyone a lot, but hopefully also provide some useful tips (read it here). And just in case anyone was wondering my age, they helpfully plastered it everywhere. I hope the undertone was ‘wow, doesn’t she look great for her age‘.

I think the reason for this momentum comes down to a few things. Firstly, there isn’t much competition. Not many others are talking to women about money in a no-bullshit way.

Secondly, it’s an idea whose time has come. Ridiculous house prices, rising energy costs, stupidly high uni fees, and a stubborn gender pay gap are just some of the reasons women are realising why we need to look after our own interests.

Turns out, middle-aged white guys in suits aren’t racing to share their power or wealth with us. Huh, who knew? (As a group that is – individually, my dad is actually pretty good at giving me money).

The third reason is obviously the awesome content being pumped out by these fierce fingers. But let’s not dwell on that.

The blog has been around for just over a year, but there are lots of new readers. Hi ladies! Thanks for coming by!

So, let me point you to some of the most popular or useful posts. (NB: this is not like a TV show where they run out of budget for a whole new episode so they just have a storyline full of flashbacks. It’s because there is good content that could be useful to you).

1. How to think about your money as though you’re in an episode of Sex and the City. 

The 4 best friends who will make you rich

 

 

 

 

 

2. Hacks to help you  overhaul your approach to money (even if it’s not January)

7 money resolutions you can keep in 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. How to set up your banking to make your life easier and your spending more enjoyable

The secret to guilt-free spending

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. How mindful spending can help you have a better relationship with money

Mindful spending: what it is and why it matters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. What to read if you’re thinking about buying a home or are freaking out about not doing it

Can I afford my own home? Part I and Can I afford my own home? Part II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. How to get started with investing 

Buying shares is pretty much like choosing a husband

Maybe your grandma was right (about money, as well as that boy you were dating)

My late step-grandma* had a saying about choosing a partner: ‘Never stoop to pick up nothing’.

This post is not about that – I just wanted to share it because it’s great, and to prove that Grandmas know their shit.

My Grandma used to have five empty Vegemite jars, which she’d put her stray pennies into. There were different jars for different purposes.

“And if you keep doing that, soon you have a shilling, and then you have 21 shillings, which means you have a guinea to spend”.

(OK, I had to Google how  many shillings in a pound, but I did know that guineas are more exciting than a boring old pound).

This old-fashioned idea actually underpins a fancy new concept: microsaving apps like Acorns. I’m a huge fan of this app, which scrapes small amounts off your bank account – called ’round-ups’ – and invests them for you.

Say you spend $3.50 on a coffee, it garnishes the 50 cents (to round up to $4), and pops it into a portfolio of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) – click here if you want to know more about them.

I like this because it’s painless saving. Of course I have other savings. But my Acorns is a bonus stash that I actually forget about most of the time.

Words from the wise

My friend Cara has an Irish Granny who tells her to ‘save your pennies and the pounds look after themselves’. So true! Even if we don’t actually have pennies or pounds.

On one hand, little bits of good work all add up, in those real or virtual Vegemite jars.

On the other hand, it’s all the small purchases here and there that drain your finances.

In fact, I just went through an exercise proving this. My work is about to launch a budgeting tool which links to your bank accounts and categorises all the transactions (from the last 6 months!) into ‘essentials’ and ‘discretionary’.

But it can only do about 70% of them automatically, meaning I had to go through and label a bunch of transactions myself. Soooo many transactions in the ‘Bars, Cafes and Restaurants’. Soooo many in ‘Clothes and Accessories’.

Sobering but not too surprising. After all, my mindful spending manifesto says I can spend money on going out to brunch, dinner or drinks with friends. It says very little about buying clothes though, so I am going a bit too far with that.

Even though I’m still within my ‘spend and splurge’ limit, the process showed me that I should probably shave that allocation down a little.

Considering I just bought an apartment this week, after three years of post-divorce renting, I think that’s a useful and timely lesson.

So my hot tip is this: track what you spend. Even if it’s just for a month, you’ll quickly see where your money goes, and whether it’s in line with your goals or priorities.

I like the trackmyspend app from MoneySmart, but there are others in the app store. Or go old school with a notebook.

Other great tips from my Grandma and her generation:

A stitch in time saves nine – Looking after things properly means they last much longer. I notice this the most with shoes. If you spend the time and effort wearing in a  great pair of shoes, get them resoled and reheeled before they fall apart. I have some beautiful boots cracking the ten year mark now, thanks to some love and care from Mr Minit in Martin Place.

A penny saved is a penny earned – This is really, really important. Earning money is hard and annoying most of the time.

Every time you don’t spend money on something, you can not only keep it, but put it to good use.

My Acorns account is a good demonstration this. I’ve received an 8% return on my funds in the last year.  That means every dollar I put in is now worth $1.08 – for doing nothing!

Sure, I’m not going to spend that 8 cents all at once. But when you add this up over time, it’s powerful. Over the next year, I’ll be earning 8% (or whatever it turns out to be) on $1.08 – not just the original dollar.

And this, my friends, is the magic of compound interest. 

The graph below is from the MoneySmart compound interest calculator (which I freaking love). The pink columns show what happens if I keep my $1000, continue earning 8% every year, but do nothing else for 10 years.

It’s nice. You get $1220 of free money, and come out with $2220. Good outcome, but no reason to crack out the champagne.

However, if you add just $100 a month, look what happens. That is literally the cost of buying a takeaway coffee every day. If you allocate that to an investment fund for 10 years, you could walk away with over $20,000!

Those light blue columns are the ‘free’ money – the interest earned over that time.

Source: moneysmart.gov.au

There are lots of assumptions in this example, including getting 8% returns (not guaranteed with shares). But you get the general picture.

Every dollar you don’t spend is good. Every dollar you don’t spend, and invest in something more productive, is even better. 

That ‘productive’ thing may just be paying down your mortgage. Don’t get me started on how much you can save by doing that – I have a whole post in the works about it.

But you get it, right?

And finally, here is a tip from Grandma White, which has served me well over time:

If something has green mould, cut it off and it’s fine to eat the rest. If it’s pink mould, throw it out. 

I take no responsibility for public health outcomes on that one.

*Side note about my step-grandma Gwen: in her later years she told her daughters “If I die, don’t throw out my wardrobe without getting the $17,000 out of the back.” Over the years, she’d saved whatever was left over from the housekeeping money and stashed it there. Perfect.

Assumptions in calculator:
Scenario 1: $1000 deposit,  no additional payments, 8% interest each year.

Scenario 2: $1000 deposit, $1000 monthly payment, 8% interest each year.
Past performance of an investment isn’t a reliable indicator of future performance.

photo credit: Nicholas Erwin Change via photopin (license)

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