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The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

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Top 3 tight-arse meals for the week before payday

As a tight-arse from way back, I hate spending money on work lunches.

And as a weightlifter, meal prep and Tupperware containers are 80% of my life. So I can teach you a thing or two about high-protein, low-cost meals.

First of all, let me just recap the numbers on work lunches. Say you buy lunch twice a week and it costs you $12 each time. You work 48 weeks a year, so that’s $1152 a year on burritos and sushi. If you cut that down to once a week, not only does buying lunch become a fun treat, it will save you nearly SIX HUNDRED BUCKS! You could spend that on shoes or investments or savings – whatever.

But I know, you don’t have time to prep lunches because you have kids/drinking sessions/work events/Netflix commitments.

So here are my foolproof ways not to end up in the food court, being fleeced for a bento box … especially if you have too much month at the end of your money.

The Ultimate Pantry-Freezer Lunch: Tuna Special

I thought everyone knew about this, but apparently not. And not everyone knows about the special secret ingredient either. It’s pretty simple:

  • A tin of tuna (I use the 180g ones, because gainz)
  • Mixed frozen vegetables (Aldi – $1.79)
  • Rice (you can use the microwave packets but I think they are wasteful and exy, so I cook a couple of cups of brown, black and red rice on the weekend – lasts a week in the fridge)
  • Secret ingredients: sesame oil and soy sauce

You chuck a handful of the veg in a container (to defrost during the morning) then add your rice, a tiny splash of sesame oil (seriously, go easy on this stuff, it’s really strong – no more than 1/2 teaspoon), and a small slurp of soy sauce.

At lunch, heat in the microwave for a couple of minutes, add the tuna, heat another minute or so. This will cost you about $2 AND make you feel super healthy and virtuous!

Looks way special, huh?

The Ultimate Make-ahead Freezer Lunch: Mince & Veg Extravaganza

I eat this for breakfast every day, but some people think that’s weird. (Those people haven’t been doing squats before work, obvs.) But it’s a great lunchtime option especially if you want a hot meal. It’s based on:

  • Beef mince (I use 1kg but you could use 500g if you’re a pussy)
  • 1 Onion

Chop the onion and cook it on medium heat. Turn heat up to full and brown the mince. Now add a bunch of spices. I don’t measure anything, but if I did I guess I’d use about 1/2 teaspoon of each:

  • Ground cumin
  • Ground coriander
  • Sweet paprika
  • Smoked paprika

And whatever else I feel like. Cook them up with the mince for about 1 minute. Then throw in (for 1kg mince):

  • 1 tin whole tomatoes
  • 1 tin crushed/diced tomatoes
  • Quarter or half a jar of passata

Again, you can play with these quantities. Just depends on how thick or saucy you like it. You can also skip the passata and just add more tomatoes. It’s all very fluid.

Then you add in all the vegetables (especially old, dying ones) in your fridge.You can throw them in a food processor or chop them by hand. I like some combo of:

  • eggplant (diced)
  • carrots
  • zucchini
  • broccoli (srsly – just chop it into small pieces)
  • kale or spinach (I often use frozen portions – $1 a pack!)
  • brussel sprouts (sliced or pulsed in the food processor)
  • mushroom
  • capsicum
  • choko (if you have an aunty or nanna who grows it)

Throw in a good pinch of salt and pepper then simmer for at least half an hour – til everything is soft (the eggplant seems to take the longest). Cool it down a bit (don’t leave it out too long if you don’t like salmonella), put it in little containers and pop in the freezer.

I use the dedicated Tupperware freezer range, but the cheap stuff or even snap lock bags do the trick. Then when you tell yourself you have no food for lunch, grab these little lifesavers and let them defrost all morning. Simples!

Also good for late-night, I’ve-been-at-the-pub dinners.

The Ultimate Lazy Girl’s Low-Carb Frittata

I’m almost embarrassed to tell you about this one, it’s so easy and cheap. It’s our old friend the Frozen Mixed Vegetables and a packet of frozen spinach.

  • Defrost the veg (in the microwave if you have one, on the bench for an hour if you have allocated the microwave nook to protein powder, like me)
  • Whisk up some eggs. It depends how big your oven dish is. I have a loaf tin that takes 8 eggs to fill. Just play with what you have. If it’s not non-stick, try lining it with baking paper to avoid egg mess.
  • Now I add some egg whites from a carton. You buy them from the fridge at the supermarket but they are always in hard-to-find places, and I end up asking.
  • Add a sprinkle of chilli flakes if you like them, into the eggs.
  • Lay the veggies out nicely in the dish and pour over the eggs.
  • Baking time depends on how deep the dish is and how many eggs. My loaf tin takes an hour. A flan or pie dish would be about half that.

 

cheap meals Before…netflix … And after

 

This version gives me enough for a 4 days of eating. Just depends how hungry you are. Have a side salad with it and it feels more satisfying (I’m talking some baby spinach and cherry tomatoes – nothing fancy or hard).

And that’s it my friends! No more excuses for not taking your lunch to work. Also, you will be healthy and feel virtuous – and who can put a price on feeling smug?

photo credit: gborin Hang on little tomato via photopin (license)

We’re all going to die – so let’s just talk about it here, then move on

That’s quite the dramatic headline, I know. But unless you’re a vampire like R-Patts, it’s true.

And if I said ‘hey girls, come over here and chat about life insurance for a moment’, you’d be about as excited as I was to watch three types of football this weekend (thanks to my brother). But unlike football, I can’t even tempt you with muscular men in very tight shorts.

So I promise to make this short and simple. (If you want a long read on this exciting topic, here’s one I prepared earlier). We’ll have a quick chat and then you can get back to worrying about Prince Harry’s mental health.

Imagine if you couldn’t work anymore. For a few months, for a year or two, or even forever. How the hell would you pay the bills? Your partner would? Ok, sure. What if he left though? What if he died? I know, I am a bundle of fun today.

Seriously though, if you got sick, or were injured in a car accident, do you think you future financial needs would be covered by social security? Maybe, but let me just say the disability support pension is about $400 a week. WTF? I legit pay more in rent than that. I would be in minus figures before I even had a crack at feeding or clothing myself.

So that’s why God (well, actually insurance companies) invented Salary Protection insurance (aka income protection). It pays you 75% of your current salary if you can’t work because of illness or injury. For example, I know a lovely lady who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 30 and couldn’t work for six months. She didn’t have that insurance so had to rely on her family for support.

What if you’re in a car accident and end up in hospital and rehab for months on end? You may get some sort of compensation (or not) but that often doesn’t get paid till months or even years down the track. Good salary protection will kick in after a month off work and help to pay your ongoing living costs. Some policies cover you for up to two years; others until you’re 65. Obvs the latter one costs more, but could be worth it. (It’s what I have).

A good friend of Salary Protection is Trauma cover. This is a lump sum that you can get paid if you have some sort of accident or serious illness.  Think about how effing expensive it is to get even a bit sick these days – things like cancer or heart surgery are far more exy. Medicare and private health won’t cover all the costs of specialists, scans and tests. The bills don’t stop coming even if you’re off work. And perhaps you want to fly in family to be by your side.

Trauma protection gives you a pot of money to cover all the costs you face in a crisis, and gives you one less thing to worry about at an otherwise crazy stressful time. 

Total & Permanent Disability – This is one of the policies that often comes with your super fund – not for free, but the premiums come straight out of your savings, so you don’t really notice it. It’s a lump sum you can get if you really can’t work anymore. It’s not always easy to claim (given that it has to be TOTAL and PERMANENT) and can take a while to process even if you do, so trauma and salary protection can be useful to have alongside it.

Life insurance – this is really DEATH insurance but it’s not polite to talk about death, so it gets a turned into a lovely euphemism. Obviously it’s a payout to your partner/kids/family if you die. Also available in your super fund, but chances are you don’t know how much you’re covered for or how much it costs. Defo worth looking into and checking that.

Most people underestimate how much they need, because they don’t realise how many years it has to last for and how expensive life is. Even if you’re not the breadwinner, would your partner be able to pay for childcare while they work full-time? There are plenty of things like this to consider.

How to take action

At the very least, look at your last super statement and see what cover you have. Can’t find it? Jump online or call your fund – they can tell you. Think about whether you’d have enough to pay off your debts, and leave the people you love with enough to make them comfortable.

Ideally, you would talk to a financial adviser or insurance broker. (Click here for more about finding an adviser). They not only help you work out what you need, but they do all the shitty dealings with the insurance company – now, and in the event of a claim. It may not even cost you much, because they may be paid by the insurance companies. (Depends on who you deal with and how their business is set up).

But seriously, you are gonna die. And if you do get sick or hurt, the last thing you want to deal with – on top of that – is being broke. You insure your car, your home – maybe even your pets – so please, please insure yourself and your income.

 

Is doing nothing worse than doing the wrong thing with money?

Sorry to my email subscribers – this link got broken. Here it is again. I am not really that profesh after all.  

I want to confess something. I’m probably wrong.

Some view I hold, some article of faith, some strongly held opinion. It’s completely wrong.

Because you know what? We’re all wrong, some of the time. I was wrong about Trump being unelectable (me, and a bazillion other political junkies).

I was wrong about Beyonce being the only viable winner of Album of the Year at the Grammy’s. (Adele. Huh. Who knew).

And I have been wrong about the romantic suitability of more men than I care to remember (although some of them are burnt into my heart: from Doug the 15-year-old drop-out to Mr Darcy, the 40-something divorcé).

Nobody has all the answers – regardless of how much conviction they show when giving you those answers. (In fact, the more conviction the higher the chance they’re wrong).

This is really important to know when it comes to money, for two reasons:

1. You should run all advice through your own bullshit filter (mine included)

2. You don’t want to let fear stop you from acting

Let’s look at the first one. As a woman, you’re going to come across a bunch of people offering free advice about money. Your folks want you to buy property. Some bloke at work wants to mansplain why you should invest in shares. Some blogger wants to tell you to stop getting eyelash extensions  (oh, that’s me).

Some of it will sound legit. Some of it will make perfect sense. And some of it won’t sit well with you at all.

One of the best ways to increase the sensitivity of your BS filter is to find your own information. Read widely and get a feel for different viewpoints. And then …

Pay attention to the numbers

I work with a wide range of fund managers and they all have a different approach. Every time I sit down with them I totally believe that they have found the holy grail of investment theory. Most of them are indeed pretty good, but it’s their numbers that tell the real story. And those numbers show that some are definitely better than others.

Key take-out? Numbers don’t lie – always look at performance figures. And not just the last year, but the last three and five years – and longer if possible.

Someone can tell you that buying an apartment off the plan and renting it out is THE best way to make a solid investment. But it’s pretty easy to test that theory. Take the purchase price, and divide it by the rent it brings in. This is the rental yield, and it tells you a lot about the return on investment.

An apartment that costs $800K and is rented out at $500 per week, gives a gross yield of 3.25% (before costs such as maintenance and strata). Yield also doesn’t take into the cost of interest on the loan, so it’s a pretty blunt instrument to work out our return on investment.

The great unknown is how much capital growth it will get – i.e. how much the value will go up. Same deal with shares – you can broadly predict the yield on those (as dividends tend to be similar every year), but less so what the share price will do.

So like every decision in life, you have some things you know and some things you just hope for the best on. Everything we do is a calculated risk.

I bought a pair of navy suede ankle boots this week, and there is a risk that I might not get as much wear as I hope out of them. But I took a risk, because they are really cute and they were on sale and I have wanted blue boots for months.

(Side note, I broke my own promise not to go to Wittner. I have a problem).

Key take-out: you can and should run the numbers on an investment, but you also have to accept there is no perfect answer and no guaranteed outcome. You need to identify and manage the risk, through things such as diversification or building in a buffer. (Read this piece about risk if you are interested).

And this brings me to another point. When you are trying to run all these numbers, you may want some help. So, should you use a financial planner?

Probably. Like colouring your hair or getting a spray tan, you can do an ok job yourself, but you will probably get a better result with a professional.

It’s the same reason I pay a stupid amount of money to a powerlifting coach. Sure I could read a book on training, but that book isn’t going to stand in front of me and shout ‘knees out, chest up!’ when my form goes to shit.

So yeah, do the basics on your own. Learn some stuff, read a book or two, get your budget and savings sorted. But if you want to move up from messing around in the weights room to actually building some serious muscle, you need a coach. In this case, a money coach.

How do you find one? Well, asking other people is a good start. But if you don’t have any recommendations to go on, take a look at the FPA website.

But let me explain the industry a bit, so you know what to look out for.

Most planners will be attached to a bank, a big financial institution or something called a ‘Dealer Group’. It’s a complicated thing where they need to be part of an organisation that holds a license. The Licensee takes all the heat of the admin and compliance (there is a shit-ton of it in this industry). The people who work under this license are called Authorised Representatives.

So the person you deal with has some sort of network behind them, whether it’s a bank or a dealer group, and that institution may or may not want to sell you some of their products. What products? Managed funds, margin loans, life insurance, mortgages. Financial products.

Now, these may be right for you. Or there could be something better out there. If you get your make-up done at the Mac counter, they’re hardly going to point you over to the Estee Lauder counter are they? Well, actually there was this one time when the Estee Lauder girl at Nordstrom recommended the Smashbox mascara she was wearing (and it was awesome). So it’s all about finding someone with your best interests at heart, and won’t just push their products on you.

Luckily, there is a law that says they have to do this – i.e. act in the client’s best interests. So regardless of whether they have their own products, an adviser will generally recommend things from an Approved Product List – a list that their Dealer Group has checked out and made sure they are legit. It’s like going to Mecca Cosmetica or Sephora, where they just give you the best of the best regardless of brand.

Key take-out: Make sure you ask lots of questions about why they are recommending one product over another. Think about how long you spend choosing a foundation – and then maybe double it.

The important thing is that you do something. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s all too hard, there’s too much to know, so you’d better not do anything. That’s how you miss out on building wealth, and instead just let your life run ahead of you and your goals.

So if you are a bit scared about getting started on the finance thing, here are some tips:

  1. Do some basic research. Google is your friend. Read Warren Buffet – he makes a lot of sense and is also one of the richest guys in the world.
  2. Speak to a few grown-up people you trust (and who have money) and get their input
  3. Ask around and find a professional you like and trust. You generally get a first session free, so if you don’t click, don’t go ahead. It’s like Tinder, but less awks.
  4. Use the process to think about your goals, priorities and plans. Then map your finances against these.
  5. Ask questions,  don’t be afraid to be annoying and demanding. If you can’t understand it or it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

And of course, you can always cruise around the Fierce Girl blog and enjoy its truth-bombs.

Is doing nothing worse than doing the wrong thing with money?

I want to confess something. I’m probably wrong.

Some view I hold, some article of faith, some strongly held opinion. It’s completely wrong.

Because you know what? We’re all wrong, some of the time. I was wrong about Trump being unelectable (me, and a bazillion other political junkies).

I was wrong about Beyonce being the only viable winner of Album of the Year at the Grammy’s. (Adele. Huh. Who knew).

And I have been wrong about the romantic suitability of more men than I care to remember (although some of them are burnt into my heart: from Doug the 15-year-old drop-out to Mr Darcy, the 40-something divorcé).

Nobody has all the answers – regardless of how much conviction they show when giving you those answers. (In fact, the more conviction the higher the chance they’re wrong).

This is really important to know when it comes to money, for two reasons:

1. You should run all advice through your own bullshit filter (mine included)

2. You don’t want to let fear stop you from acting

Let’s look at the first one. As a woman, you’re going to come across a bunch of people offering free advice about money. Your folks want you to buy property. Some bloke at work wants to mansplain why you should invest in shares. Some blogger wants to tell you to stop getting eyelash extensions  (oh, that’s me).

Some of it will sound legit. Some of it will make perfect sense. And some of it won’t sit well with you at all.

One of the best ways to increase the sensitivity of your BS filter is to find your own information. Read widely and get a feel for different viewpoints. And then …

Pay attention to the numbers

I work with a wide range of fund managers and they all have a different approach. Every time I sit down with them I totally believe that they have found the holy grail of investment theory. Most of them are indeed pretty good, but it’s their numbers that tell the real story. And those numbers show that some are definitely better than others.

Key take-out? Numbers don’t lie – always look at performance figures. And not just the last year, but the last three and five years – and longer if possible.

Someone can tell you that buying an apartment off the plan and renting it out is THE best way to make a solid investment. But it’s pretty easy to test that theory. Take the purchase price, and divide it by the rent it brings in. This is the rental yield, and it tells you a lot about the return on investment.

An apartment that costs $800K and is rented out at $500 per week, gives a gross yield of 3.25% (before costs such as maintenance and strata). Yield also doesn’t take into the cost of interest on the loan, so it’s a pretty blunt instrument to work out our return on investment.

The great unknown is how much capital growth it will get – i.e. how much the value will go up. Same deal with shares – you can broadly predict the yield on those (as dividends tend to be similar every year), but less so what the share price will do.

So like every decision in life, you have some things you know and some things you just hope for the best on. Everything we do is a calculated risk.

I bought a pair of navy suede ankle boots this week, and there is a risk that I might not get as much wear as I hope out of them. But I took a risk, because they are really cute and they were on sale and I have wanted blue boots for months.

(Side note, I broke my own promise not to go to Wittner. I have a problem).

Key take-out: you can and should run the numbers on an investment, but you also have to accept there is no perfect answer and no guaranteed outcome. You need to identify and manage the risk, through things such as diversification or building in a buffer. (Read this piece about risk if you are interested).

And this brings me to another point. When you are trying to run all these numbers, you may want some help. So, should you use a financial planner?

Probably. Like colouring your hair or getting a spray tan, you can do an ok job yourself, but you will probably get a better result with a professional.

It’s the same reason I pay a stupid amount of money to a powerlifting coach. Sure I could read a book on training, but that book isn’t going to stand in front of me and shout ‘knees out, chest up!’ when my form goes to shit.

So yeah, do the basics on your own. Learn some stuff, read a book or two, get your budget and savings sorted. But if you want to move up from messing around in the weights room to actually building some serious muscle, you need a coach. In this case, a money coach.

How do you find one? Well, asking other people is a good start. But if you don’t have any recommendations to go on, take a look at the FPA website.

But let me explain the industry a bit, so you know what to look out for.

Most planners will be attached to a bank, a big financial institution or something called a ‘Dealer Group’. It’s a complicated thing where they need to be part of an organisation that holds a license. The Licensee takes all the heat of the admin and compliance (there is a shit-ton of it in this industry). The people who work under this license are called Authorised Representatives.

So the person you deal with has some sort of network behind them, whether it’s a bank or a dealer group, and that institution may or may not want to sell you some of their products. What products? Managed funds, margin loans, life insurance, mortgages. Financial products.

Now, these may be right for you. Or there could be something better out there. If you get your make-up done at the Mac counter, they’re hardly going to point you over to the Estee Lauder counter are they? Well, actually there was this one time when the Estee Lauder girl at Nordstrom recommended the Smashbox mascara she was wearing (and it was awesome). So it’s all about finding someone with your best interests at heart, and won’t just push their products on you.

Luckily, there is a law that says they have to do this – i.e. act in the client’s best interests. So regardless of whether they have their own products, an adviser will generally recommend things from an Approved Product List – a list that their Dealer Group has checked out and made sure they are legit. It’s like going to Mecca Cosmetica or Sephora, where they just give you the best of the best regardless of brand.

Key take-out: Make sure you ask lots of questions about why they are recommending one product over another. Think about how long you spend choosing a foundation – and then maybe double it.

The important thing is that you do something. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s all too hard, there’s too much to know, so you’d better not do anything. That’s how you miss out on building wealth, and instead just let your life run ahead of you and your goals.

So if you are a bit scared about getting started on the finance thing, here are some tips:

  1. Do some basic research. Google is your friend. Read Warren Buffet – he makes a lot of sense and is also one of the richest guys in the world.
  2. Speak to a few grown-up people you trust (and who have money) and get their input
  3. Ask around and find a professional you like and trust. You generally get a first session free, so if you don’t click, don’t go ahead. It’s like Tinder, but less awks.
  4. Use the process to think about your goals, priorities and plans. Then map your finances against these.
  5. Ask questions,  don’t be afraid to be annoying and demanding. If you can’t understand it or it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

And of course, you can always cruise around the Fierce Girl blog and enjoy its truth-bombs.

Daddy Lessons: 3 tips from a Fierce Girl father

While support for this blog from the sisterhood has been fantastic, I’ve also been delighted by the number of men who have got behind it.  My dad is one of these honorary Fierce Guys, and because I am studying for my last exam, he offered to do a guest post. What a legend.

So, here are some tips from a guy who lives the ideal retirement lifestyle, after a long and intense career in the corporate world.

A Fierce Girl dad chips in – by David White

I’d better fess up at the outset.  I’m one of those baby-boomers.  You know, the ones who got a free university education, lucked out in the property market, got the best out of the super system.  What could I possibly have to say to the Gen Ys and Xs who have to live in a much less opportunity-rich environment?

Trust me, I know how lucky I’ve been and the media keeps reminding me if I forget.  But I think there are a few rules applicable at any time, which is what my Fierce Girl has been trying to tell you.  So that you don’t have to listen for too long to an old bloke’s pontificating, I just want to suggest three ideas you might consider.

Your super

I know it’s getting hard to trust the system when they keep tinkering with super.  Do you really want to put your money into a game where the goalposts keep moving?  Here’s the thing, though – even this penny-pinching government won’t change the rules backwards.  They had a go recently and their own hard-arsed conservative mates forced a backdown.  All the rule-changing has confirmed this  – every bit you can get into your super account before the next bit of tinkering is a bonus that will pay you back later on.

I would say to you, stuff every bit of left-over cash you can manage into your super account, while the rules let you still contribute.  Do it to the point where it hurts you just a little bit.  In 20 or 30 years’ time you will love yourself for it.

One thing you need to remember, though, is that your super balance (even though you might not be able to get your hands on it for decades), is counted at its face value as part of your total asset pool in some cases.  So if you find your Mr Darcy, and he turns out to be Mr Wickham, all your hardscrabble super would fall into the pot to be divided between you.  It will hurt you to have to give that creep anything, when he’s been out putting new gadgets on his four wheel drive and drinking fancy single malt Scotch while you’ve been sensibly trying to assure your financial future together.  And now he wants some of your super!

But think about this if that shit happens to you – what you have in your super can never be replaced if you have to trade it away as part of the split, because of those changing rules.  Maybe let that freeloader have a bit more of the hard assets, and hang on to as much of the super pie as you can.  Down the track you ‘ll be feeling smug when all he can afford is Johnny Walker Red and a secondhand Hyundai.

Don’t buy a Porsche

That may be the wankiest piece of advice you will ever get in the Fierce Girl’s Guide.  But there was this one time, late in my career, when for the only time ever via some fluke in the market, the company had a great result and we maxed out our bonuses.  The executive team did particularly well out of it (yeah, I know, fat cat bosses).  Out of the seven of us, the car park count was:  two of the most expensive Harley Davidsons you could buy; two Porsches; one BMW.  One of us (a girl of course) put it towards the house she was in the midst of buying.  Being the tight-arse I am, I paid off my last bit of debt.

Now I’m never going to have another chance to buy a Porsche.  But every time I see some grey-headed dude drive past in one, it reminds me that I made a good decision.

What should you do if a bundle of cash falls unexpectedly into your lap?  I would apply the 80-10-10 rule.  With 80% of it, do something boring and sensible:  pay it off your mortgage, invest it, stick it into super.  With 10%, blow it on yourself and get something you’ve really lusted after but couldn’t prudently afford.  Then give the last 10% away, to your family, to charity, to some cause you’re passionate about – it will feel amazingly good.  You’ll end up with a triple shot of self-esteem, instead of that hangover feeling after you pissed the money away.

It’s not all about you

Without wanting to contradict all the good advice you get from this Guide, I want to suggest that you don’t button yourself down so much financially that you might be hurting people you love.  I asked my Fierce Girl if I was too much of a tight-arse when she was growing up.  She said, “It wasn’t too bad, but you should have taken us to Disneyland.”

She’s right, I could have afforded it, and going to Disneyland in your thirties just isn’t the same. Thus my unrelenting financial prudence was in some ways not so clever.  Precious memories can give just as good a return on investment as bluechip shares.

So, you go for it, all you Fierce Girls.  It’s a hard world out there, but you can do it.  Oh, and remember your dads love you, and we’re proud of you.

Note from Belinda: If you haven’t seen Beyonce sing Daddy Lessons with the Dixie Chicks, do yourself a favour and go here

Also, my dad and I have blogged together for ages on http://www.lifein500words.wordpress.com if you’re interested. #nerdfamily

How your girlsquad can support your money goals

There’s nothing more powerful than a girlsquad in full force. They’re your wingwomen when you need to meet that guy. They bring you wine and chocolate when he breaks your heart. They’re there when your kids are sick, when your husband’s an idiot, when your boss is an arsehole.

Unleashing the squad is a powerful force, so we need to use that power for good.

But in reality, we sometimes do each other a disservice. Not just convincing ourselves that shots at midnight are a really good idea. I mean with our money.

The fitting-room frenzy

I still remember a certain bestie of mine convincing me, circa 2001, to buy a red velour suit from Seduce. It was some ridiculous price for a girl earning $30K a year. I lay-byed it for a week before seeing the error of my ways. Lost the deposit though.

We all have a habit of giving each other permission – nay, encouragement – to buy things we don’t need, can’t afford, but look great in.

What if, instead, we asked our bestie whether she really needed it? Is she saving for something else? Is she in credit card debt? What else will it go with in her wardrobe?

It’s not like you have to be a total killjoy-negative-nancy. But asking a few questions or having a rational conversation could be all she needs to get past that temptation in the heat of the moment.

F*ck it, let’s buy the French!

We’re looking a bar menu, and perhaps we have already imbibed some alcoholic beverages, and our decision-making is a little impaired. There is a cheapish bottle of bubbles; a mid-price Aussie drop; and a really effing expensive bottle of French champagne. A Fierce Girl will go with the first – unless she knows it’s going to be some horrible house rubbish, so then she might go with the second.

But a not-so-fierce girl friend will think up some reason  – ‘it’s the first month of an awesome year!’ – and buy the third one. Now you’ll either have to go halves or feel obligated to buy something equally exy in the next round. Credit card chaos ensues.

This is one of those situations where we are shamed or guilted or tempted into spending more than we can afford. Nobody means for it to happen, but sometimes – at restaurants, bars and on holidays – we get caught up in somebody else’s spending cycle.

Sure, treat yourself sometimes, but be aware that not everyone has the same financial resources as you. Not everyone will tell you they can’t afford it.

There is a huge social pressure, in our flashy consumer culture, to keep up with our friends. So, try not to be the friend who starts that cycle.

How can your girlsquad support your money goals?

First of all, talk about money! Not in a whingey, ‘I wish I had more’ way. Not in a ‘hehe I am so bad with money but adorable otherwise’ way.

Talk about it in a positive, adult way, that helps clarify our goals and the ways we will reach them.

We talk about our relationship goals. Our career goals. Geez, we share intimate details of sex, birth and bodily functions.

So why not talk about what we are doing with our money? Where we are having problems, where we have found ways to get our shit together, and where we have found good advice (oh hey, Fierce Girl’s Guide to Finance!).

Women aren’t socialised to be interested in this sort of stuff the way men are. How often do you swap stock tips with your mates? The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that men (at a patriarchal level, not individual men) like it this way. Because if women are not very good at money, men can be. And then they can have money and power and control. And we have to stay home and raise their kids and clean their houses and stuff.

So don’t let the patriarchy win. I’ve said before that finance is a feminist issue, and I say it again here.

Another positive thing we can do is have fun, tight-arse activities. When Mindy was saving to go overseas and Alexis was smashing her credit card debt and I was on a strict pre-comp diet, we invented the Supper Club. It was a rotating dinner at each other’s place once every couple of weeks that kept us out of harm’s way. It was great (until Mindy selfishly moved overseas).

Sometimes my friends and I have picnics or walks. Sometimes we go to the beach. Think about ways you can enjoy your friendships that isn’t based on spending.  Old school, yo.

We all have a choice about how we influence each other. Be the friend who advocates for positive decisions that improve our lives.

Except at midnight, when it’s time for shots.

If you like this post and want more finance goodness straight to your inbox, subscribe to the blog! Just head to that little box on the top right. And you should probably share this post with your friends, to warn them about your next shopping trip behaviour. 

Photo credit: Hubs

3 ways the world is trying to make you poor

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

7 money resolutions you can keep in 2017

Let’s all enter the secret circle of realtalk. New year’s resolutions are BS. We are hungover from eating, drinking and spending too much; resolutions are a handy way to purge our guilt. I get that.  

So that title is misleading. It should be: Some vague intentions and principles you might consider adopting to improve your finances this year, which aren’t really very hard or onerous.

1. Write your mindful spending manifesto. This isn’t hard. You can do it with a glass of (moderately priced) wine in hand one quiet night. (Read more about mindful spending here)

Take a moment to consider what you want to spend your hard-earned cash on in 2017. It can be a list or a mission statement. Write it on a note on the fridge or put it in your phone.

Here, I’ll start. I want to allocate money to travel, delicious breakfasts, quality fresh food and ethical protein sources, investing for my future, charities, powerlifting and fitness.

I want to avoid spending money on: coffee I can make myself; fancy wine; overpriced drinks in bars; clothes I don’t need; nail salons that may or may not be supporting human trafficking; things I need to find storage for; any more bloody shoes.

This will be a balancing act. I cannot guarantee to avoid Wittner for an entire calendar year. However, I will try my best. And I will NEVER pay full price there. Speaking of…

2. Stop paying full price for things. You only need to walk around the sales right now to know that Aussie retailers are addicted to discounting. Consumers want to spend less (because wage growth has stalled and we are highly indebted). But shops want us to spend more, so they keep making it more enticing.

You can take advantage of this by being organised. Not like spreadsheet organised – just using a bit of forethought. Think about what you know you need to buy, in advance, and then wait til it’s cheaper.

For instance, you already know how many weddings you’ll attend this year – if you want a new dress for each one, start looking now and buy on sale. (Alternatively, don’t be such a princess and wear an old one).

If you get to the beginning of a new season and feel a deep need to update your wardrobe, do it now – at the end of summer – and save it for next summer. This week I pulled out a fresh new Victoria’s Secret bikini I bought in the US, in June. It cost me thirty bucks then, and I feel like a million dollars now.

In the supermarket, my step-mum says to buy things you need when they are on spesh, not when they run out. This is good advice, and it’s why she always has two of every expensive cleaning product (whereas I just shop at Aldi and buy the cheap stuff).

3. Learn something about money and investing. Obviously you’re already reading Fierce Girl. Go you!!! But you can do more. Read the Money section of the newspaper. Buy a book about investing. Read some blogs or websites (check out my Resources page).

Basically, put your big girl boots on and take and interest, so that you can control your financial future. Don’t tell me it’s boring or hard or not your thing. We all have to do hard and boring things – but not all of them give you the chance to do something cool at the end, like go on holiday in Paris – AMIRIGHT?

4. Sort our your super. It’s easy and fast and will make a big difference to your future. Start with these:

  1. Roll multiple accounts into one.
  2. Pick the right investment option for your age (it may not be the default one).
  3. Set up salary sacrifices to make extra payments.

All of those things will make a decent difference to your retirement 30-40 years from now.

Super compounds and grows over a loooong time, so the things you do early on make a difference later. Small pain now, big gain later. There is a whole post I wrote on this, but if that’s too hard to read you could just call your super fund and get things moving.

5. Break a bad money habit. Go on, pick one. The one I finally nailed in 2016 was to stop buying coffee every day. I literally spent years battling the siren song of frothy, milky, delicious flat whites. But for my health, wallet and size of my arse, I replaced it with black coffee in a plunger. And here’s what I can tell you: you get used to anything, and then, in the end, quite like it.

I know you have a bad habit. Maybe it’s online shopping in front of the TV. Maybe it’s buying clothes when you’re upset and stressed. Maybe it’s just buying far too much takeaway. Pick one thing, work out what the underlying driver is behind it, and devise a strategy to short-circuit it. I’m not a guru on behavioural change, but here’s a guy who is, and whom I love: James Clear – check him out and read his e-book.

6. Make friends with your bank. I just opened a new account with St George. I already have three, but this was a new one called ‘Spending’ (you can name them). It’s where I allocate day-to-day, guilt-free spending money to. It’s great! It just helps me to mentally compartmentalise money. And nothing goes in there till the boring stuff has been done (bills, rent, savings – ugh).

St George has also upgraded the mobile app so it does a whole bunch of new stuff that makes life easier, like splitting bills. You should look at your own bank and what it offers to help you track and manage spending – and save more. Remember, it’s in your bank’s interest that you save money with them (so they can lend it to others). Make the the most of it and play around with the mobile app.

7. Sort out your head. Ok, I just snuck this one in as a bonus. What I mean is that lots of negative behaviours with money are related to our mental health and happiness. Some people buy expensive things to prop up their self-esteem. Others avoid taking control of their money because it makes them feel dumb. Other people are just distracting themselves from the tedium or terror of the human condition. 

You know what I mean. Think about what might be holding you back mentally or emotionally. I have been reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson. It’s gloriously full of expletives, but it’s also full of realtalk that makes you think hard about your life choices. I highly recommend it as a starting point.

Oh hey, before you go…

2017: Fiercer and more financey than ever

This year is going to be big for The Fierce Girl’s Guide to Finance. I’ll be making the site prettier and easier to navigate. I’ll be holding some in-person workshops. Maybe there will even be an e-book.

So can I ask you a favour? Please share the love. I’m trying to build a community – a movement even – of ladies who are getting their shit together with money. But it needs your support. Get your friends to subscribe and/or like the Facebook page. Share the posts you like on social media. Comment if you have questions or things to say or requests for topics. Feedback is good and it’s what builds a community.

So, let’s make this year fierce and fantastic and a little bit financey.

No go ahead and Slay Bitches!

8 easy ways to spend less, save more and be a total Fierce Girl

You know what makes me happy? Among my friends, being thrifty has become synonymous with being a ‘Fierce Girl’.

Bought that top half price? Fierce Girl.

Only bought drinks in happy hour? Fierce Girl.

Bought your Christmas earrings for $2 in the new year sales last year? Yep, me – being a Fierce Girl.

It’s fair to say I can be a massive tight-arse. I buy marked-down veggies that only have a few days left in them. I shop at Aldi and buy cleanskin wine from Dan Murphy. I buy my underwear from Best & Less – and only when the Bonds range is on sale.

(Although I am happy to spend on things that I believe are worthwhile  –  things I have considered, weighed up and decided I want to allocate my funds to).

This is all part of mindful spending (which you should totes check out here if you missed it). Because the fact is, every dollar you don’t spend, is a dollar you don’t have to earn.

Amazing right? That concept blew my mind when I heard it. Instead of busting your arse for a payrise, you could just stop donating hundreds of dollars to the baristas and bartenders of the city.

Anyway, it has become apparent to me that not everyone is good at being a tight-arse. So, with a little help from my friend Gigi (who is an accountant and tight-arse from way back), I give you a random selection of ways to be a Fierce Girl spender.

  1. Consider the total cost, not just the purchase price. Here’s an example: you see flights for a hundred bucks and decide it’s a bargain way to have a mini-break in another city. But have you added the cost of cabs to and from the airport? All the breakfasts and lunches and dinners? The accommodation? I’m not saying don’t go ahead, but don’t forget to factor in the whole cost when you make a plan.
  2. Make your sober self be frugal, so that drunk you can party. As Gigi says, ‘there is the primary cost of alcohol, and the secondary cost of all the shit you buy when you’re drunk’. So, start well. Catch public transport on the way to a night out, eat dinner at home, make yourself a starter cocktail at home (my fave is a martini because it only needs three ingredients, including the garnish!). My point is, you don’t need to have a total budget blow-out when you party – you can halve the damage with some planning.
  3. Plan your meals and only buy what you need. I know, this sounds dull and housewifey. But I promise, it will improve your life. You literally need half an hour to sit down and list your meals for the week, and the ingredients you need. Not only does this make you feel like a bad-arse grown-up in control of your life, it also means you try new things as you go through recipe booksfor ideas. Plus it makes you eat better, duh. Rich AND skinny, bitches!
  4. Go out for breakfast, not dinner. Dinners are a nice treat once in a while, but they charge you for wine, sides, breathing –  pretty much everything. Go out for brunch instead. Not only will you avoid $50 bottles of wine, you can get the most expensive thing on the menu and struggle to spend more than twenty bucks. If you really do love dinner out, create a mental list of BYO venues, because there is no shame in taking your own cleanskin!
  5. Think ahead with gifts. Buy stuff when you see it on sale and think ‘mum would like that’. Even if it’s months ahead – have a present box where you put things aside. Just don’t buy it and forget you bought it and then your niece grows out of it and you have to save it for her little sister. (Not that I have done that).
  6. Avoid boredom/emotion/reward shopping. I know, I might as well tell you to not eat carbs after midday. But you at least need to try this. Gigi and I were discussing this post on WhatsApp, and I just found a line from me: “boredom shopping is the last resort of the unhappily married”. I should know. But any emotional state can lead to buying shit you don’t need. And if you do buy it, keep the receipt and see if you still want it three days later. I guarantee you do not.
  7. It’s not a bargain if you don’t need it. God, I wish I could take back all the ridiculous coloured high-heels, all the crop tops for the nightclubbing I never do, all the homewares I have no room for… anyway, sales are a particular trap for the tight-arses among us. But time has taught me that if I didn’t already have it on a mental list, I don’t need it.
  8. Read catalogues. Seriously. Reated to the point above, if there is stuff you know you need, hunt around for it on sale. There are websites like Lasoo which have every sale catalogue online. And if you aren’t in a hurry for it, make a note of it and buy it when you come across it somewhere. And as with the example above, anyone who pays full price for Bonds is a sucker.

I could go on for a while but I feel like I have already come across like some weird spinster aunt who buys day-old bread (I had those aunts in real life. They died quite wealthy).

All I want to say here is you can do this. You can stop pissing money away and do better things with it. You can be a Fierce Girl.

Got any hot money-saving tips? Leave them in the comments.

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