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The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

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Manage my spending

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)

4 tips to help avoid a spending blow-out

Do you ever feel like there’s an devil on your shoulder convincing you to spend money?

I’m not sure if it’s the same devil who says ‘yes, you need another shot at 1am’, or just a close relative of hers.

Either way, these evil little goblins like to ruin your bank account or your Sunday morning. But we don’t have to give in to them every time.

There are ways to tame the devil on your shoulder when it comes to spending.

1 – Remove temptation – There’s a difference between allocating extra funds to your mindful spending, and simply giving in to bad habits. (If you haven’t read this post, I recommend it).

Mindful spending is where you think about what’s important to you or brings you the greatest pleasure. For example, I spend an outsize amount on fitness because it makes me happy and is good for me. But I don’t buy designer clothes or eat at expensive restaurants. I give myself permission to spend on the priority.

This is not the same as the ‘treat yo’self’ mentality. Buying an expensive pair of shoes is only mindful if you’ve previously decided that it’s part of your Mindful Spending Manifesto. You’ve accepted that expensive shoes make a positive difference to your life, and you’ve cut back on something else to allow for it.

Something that seems to permeate our culture is a sense of helplessness in the face of spending. Yes, shops are good at marketing. Yes, we all have moments of weakness. But unless you have a legit mental addiction (in which case, you should be in treatment),  managing our spending should be something we work on with the same fervour as we work on our diets.

So, if you love expensive shoes, don’t go into that shop. If you overspend on boozy nights out, don’t take your card with you – make a cash budget and stick to it. If you can’t be trusted on the ASOS website, don’t click into their newsletter – which brings me to the next point…

2 – Reject reminders – I’ve heard two different people say recently that their worst habit is getting a newsletter from their favourite store, then splurging as a result. “It’s my weakness”.

Well this might sound obvious, but how about you unsubscribe? I’ll admit, these stores are clever. You can’t go to any e-commerce site these days without being offered ‘15% off for subscribing to our newsletter‘. What a bargain you say!

Sure, give them your email and get the coupon. But that’s it! No more. As soon as their welcome email hits your inbox, hit that ‘unsubscribe’ button faster than a Kylie Jenner lipstick sells out.

And if you’ve already got a bunch of these emails hitting you up, then spend 10 minutes – right now – getting them out of your life.

While you’re at it, you probably need to unfollow them on Instagram too. I know, I’m mean. But will your life really be worse because you haven’t been invited to ‘shop the new season look‘?

3 – Get off the spending merry-go-round – AKA: avoid recurring costs.

I love a Shellac manicure with all my heart. Those colours! That staying power! But I have no Shellac in my life anymore, because that shit is a revolving door of gel polish, UV light and acetone baths.

Even if you just want it for an event, you have to go back a few weeks later to get it taken off. And then while you’re there, you may as well get a new colour … and then boom! You’re back on the spending cycle. (And the impact of acetone baths on one’s health is also kinda questionable).

The same can be said for a lot of hair and beauty treatments, but also things like those ridiculous subscription boxes. Like, you really need a box of random beauty products every month? Puhlease. Tell those charlatans who’s in charge of your spending, thank you very much. (Hint: it’s you)

4 – Get smarter than the finance companies – One of the wonders of modern life is how it thinks up new ways to make you buy shit you don’t need. We’ve moved on from the old-skool credit card.

Now, we have Afterpay and zipMoney. Sure you don’t pay interest (although there can be late fees). But it takes a purchase that’s otherwise unaffordable or ill-advised, and puts it within your reach.

It breaks down the mental barrier of ‘my cashflow can’t deal with this‘.

So my advice here is simple: don’t use them. Don’t sign up to them. Don’t create an account (or cancel the one you have).

At the very least, give yourself 24 hours to consider a purchase using it. You’ll be surprised how often you change your mind.

Another trap is the credit card balance transfer. ‘Move your debt to us‘, the banks say. ‘Pay no interest!‘, they say. And you think ‘right, this is the time when I stop adding to the balance and pay off all my debts’. 

If that actually happened, these things wouldn’t exist. It’s a trick. You sign up and spend more.

If you really are paying a lot of credit card debt off, and being slugged with interest, you get ONE GO of moving to a no-interest card. Then you ditch it. Freeze it, stash it with your parents, hide it somewhere. Whatever you do, don’t give yourself room to add to that card – all you’re allowed to do is pay it off.

And that, my friend, is how to slay the devil on your shoulder.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/devignelements/

The secret to guilt-free spending

Sounds too good to be true huh? Like the promise of diet cheesecake or hangover-free wine.

But I spent a whole day with a guy last week, who I can only call the Money Whisperer, and he explained how it was possible. Plus, he was so full of good sense that I had to share some highlights with you.

Steve Crawford, from Experience Wealth, has built a whole business wrangling the errant wallets of ladies like us (or me, at least). Gen X and Y, mainly professionals, often in media and finance. We all earn good money but somehow it slips through our fingers faster than we’d like.

So, he is a Money Coach. That’s actually a thing (that people pay for, not just me scolding you for free). I’ve told him he has to do an interview at some point, but in the meantime, let me paraphrase one of his concepts.

Banking – sooo boring. Or is it? 

I know, setting up bank accounts sounds so dull. But it’s all about earmarking money in a way that makes things more organised, and less tempting.

This is essentially how I do my banking, and while I am not perfect, it certainly keeps me in line. Steve has helpfully refined it and given it better names. I, however, made that fancy little graphic.

The Banking Buckets

These are the key elements:

Main account – your pay goes in here and pays all those annoying fixed costs, like rent and bills. You pay the Boring Bills straight out of here, with direct debits.

Storage – this is money you know you’ll need later, but not right now – in other words, short-term savings. This is the most ‘sensible’ account – the one that grown-ups have because they know car rego is due in January and they don’t want to put in on a credit card. I’d also argue this is the hardest one to nail – but still, we have to try!

Hot tip – have this one with a different bank, so you don’t see it and remember it every time you log on to internet banking.

Savings – This is the long-term stuff – the home deposit, the potential share portfolio, or the emergency fund (real emergencies like your car breaking down, not needing to buy new moisturiser so you can get the Clinique gift-with-purchase). This should be in a high-interest account with no card access – meaning you can’t get drunk and dip into it at 3am in the casino.

Spending – This is the guilt-free account. Sadly, you can only put money in there after filling up the other three. Sucks, I know. BUT – whatever is in there is totally guilt-free. Spend it on hookers and coke, if you feel so inclined. Jokes! We don’t need to pay for sex. Or coke, for that matter.

This account is like when your mum let you have ice-cream for dessert, but only after eating all your vegetables at dinner.

Once you’ve done the sensible things, then you do the fun things.

How much goes in each account?

That’s quite a detailed discussion for another time. But briefly:

  • make sure you work out the Boring Bills stuff properly – and don’t forget to shop around if they seem unpleasantly high
  • give yourself a decent Storage buffer, as that’s where the big costs often come from
  • be realistic with Savings – even just a little bit is far better than nothing at all
  • make Spending somewhere between what you’d really like to play with. and what you realistically can afford.

And if this all sounds like a great idea but you don’t where to start, you should give Steve a call. He will make rude jokes about Sydney people (he has a habit of saying #sosydney in conversation), but other than that, he’s the real deal.

photo credit: suzyhazelwood DSC01149-02 via photopin (license)

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.

The 4 best friends who will make you rich

A wise man once said “Get rich or die tryin’”. Ah yes, Fifty Cent. You fill us with ambition. But how do you get rich? And what is ‘rich’ anyway? I’m not talking about the richness of family,…

Source: The 4 best friends who will make you rich

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