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The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

Get your shit together with money

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3 useful things to help you win the war on adulting

I’ve been adulting hard in 2019. I  finished a bathroom renovation and I got my car registered. Ok, maybe my dad took the car for a service and inspection, but I most definitely did the paperwork.

Anyway it got me thinking about what it means to be a fully functioning adult. Because even though I’m now 40 (wtf), I sometimes feel like a 21 year old, just trying to keep all that adulting, life-admin shit together. (Hence why my dad steps in now and then).

I don’t even have kids and I find it hard – so let me salute all the ladies out there who can deal with car rego and school permission slips (do they even have them anymore or is there some sort of app?). Anyway, I don’t know how you do it all.

But when it comes to money, I am doing ok. So I want to share with you a few things that every girl should have as a serious, responsible adult. This is not an exhaustive list, obviously, but it’s not a bad place to start.

1. A stash of emergency cash – An emergency is not a new outfit for a wedding that you forgot about. It’s your car breaking down and needing expensive repairs; it’s your hot water system exploding and needing immediate replacement; it’s getting out of a bad relationship that’s affecting your mental health.

The spectrum of reasons is wide, but the solution is the same: put at least a few thousand dollars aside with a different bank  –  so that you can’t see or easily access it in your everyday banking. Ideally, you want to have three months of living expenses in there. But if you can only manage a hundred or a thousand, do that and keep building a little at a time.

Some is better than none, so don’t let the ‘three month emergency fund’ rule keep you from getting on top of it.

2. A good banking or budgeting app – One thing I’ve learnt about money is that it’s a needy friend. Your bank account is totally NOT OK with sporadic texts and comments on her Insta posts.

She wants you to check in with her all the time, see how she’s feeling, has she been too busy, is she feeling sick, did someone absolutely flog her on the weekend at a bar around midnight. Ya know, the usual.

We really need to be frequently reviewing our spending, looking for cost overruns and also checking there are no suspicious transactions (cybercrime is real, y’all). Otherwise it becomes an avoidance thing of ‘God I don’t even want to look’. And a spiral of stress.

The next level of adulting to consider is a budgeting app that helps you set up buckets of money and lets you know if you’ve hit them. This is for the advanced level saver, and I know it’s not everyone’s gig. But something to consider.

When I feel like I’m getting a bit outta control, I track every dollar I spend (as per my new year resolution). I enter it into the TrackMySpend app, and it shows me where all my money goes. I like to enter it in manually  (as opposed to just reviewing my bank transactions), because it makes me think about each purchase.

In a cashless world, it’s easy to ignore exactly how much cash you’re dropping. So this is one way to create an additional mental barrier. (And yes, ‘Personal & Medical’ category, I see you and your outsize contribution. So what if I spent $400 at the naturopath? I haven’t even been to Priceline, so there).

3. A decent income protection policy

I know this is boring, but seriously, what happens if you can’t work because you’re really, seriously sick. Cancer, depression, an accident.

For a while there I was paying for this through my superannuation. Which is totally fine and if you do this, then great. I ended up getting a professional insurance review (for free, when I worked in a financial planning company). The outcome is a Rolls Royce policy that even pays my super if I can’t work. It’s very expensive, and I wince when I pay it every month.

HOWEVER, I am a single gal with no safety net other than my family, so I want the best. And then I hear about people like Kim, who beat breast cancer at 30 and had a double mastectomy; and is now battling cancer a decade later. Or the guy I met on the weekend (who is super cute and sweet, but that’s not relevant). He was in a car accident at 22 and spent four months in a coma before having to relearn pretty much everything in subsequent years, due to traumatic brain injury.

And I think damn, I guess I can afford it.

So, if you have an income, you should probably insure it. Talk to your super fund if you aren’t sure how to get started. (Also, note this is not the same as Life and TPD insurance that comes as a default; you need to add it yourself with most super funds).

Read more about the exciting topic of insurance here! We’re all going to die – so let’s just talk about it here, then move on

And that, my friends, is a completely randomly chosen list of things to help you win the war on adulting.

How much is enough? And other deep questions raised by Netflix

It seems like everyone is talking about Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying-up queen. Her book even spawned a new verb: to KonMari.

Marie Kondo is now on Netflix, where she helps people who have become smothered by their own ‘stuff’, exhorting them to ponder each item and ask ‘Does this spark joy?’. (If it doesn’t, it’s out.)

I’m a fan of the concept.

When I left my marriage, I basically just took my clothes and shoes. Well, ok.  I also took the  Tupperware, the Le Creuset and my Mundial knife. A girl’s gotta cook.

I started again, and it was strangely liberating.

Yet how quickly we acquire more things. I’ve told myself no more kitchenware, but it’s hard. I recently gushed with envy over a friend’s omelette pan.

Which brings me to the a question I’ve been pondering for a while now: how do we know when we have enough?

Enough what, you ask?

Anything, really.

The big challenge of our modern lives and disposable incomes is simply saying no.

When you have money, there’s always more you can buy.

Maybe it’s one more cheap T-shirt. Maybe it’s another pair of designer heels. Maybe it’s one more eyeshadow palette, to get one particular colour.

Whatever your thing, you have the ability and opportunity to continuing indulging in it.

But there comes a point, hopefully before Marie Kondo has to step in, when it’s time to ask the question: is this enough?

It might be that you’re running out of space (or money).

Maybe you have so many Lorna Jane crop tops you struggle to rotate them efficiently (I hear that’s a thing, wouldn’t know myself).

Maybe your wife gets cranky at all the space your bikes are taking up in the garage (sorry dad).

Or maybe you just start feeling guilty about the impact you’re having on the earth.

I’ve been talking to people about this to get their view on this thorny topic.

I asked a girlfriend at work how many work outfits are enough. ‘Ten’, she replied. Two weeks of new outfits, then rotate again. ‘After all, a man normally has a couple of suits and ten shirts’.

The girls in the team nodded thoughtfully, then all agreed that was a preposterous notion. We could quite literally wear a new outfit for a month without duplicating it.

Which really gives you pause for thought. (And hopefully I have that pause, next time I’m in a changeroom.)

Pick your vices

My dad’s advice is to try and limit your number of vices to one. He has chosen bikes, and associated bike gear, as his vice. He claims to have culled to the very reasonable number of three. His wife remains unconvinced, but this is a woman with a chandelier in every room, so I’m not sure she’s blameless.

And if we all have our different vices, we also need to have things we’re happy to be a tight-arse about.

I have an obscene amount of fancy activewear, but use a Kmart handbag. My friend has an obscenely large collection of designer bags,  but buys cheap gymwear. We revel in judging each other about it.

It all comes back to mindful spending (more about that here). This is a concept that I have been spruiking for a while now. Amazingly, this week I spoke to someone who has adopted it!

She said it helps her when she’s having that moment in a store, for example, wondering whether she ‘needs’ a new top, or is just buying it for the sake of it.

But what I like about this approach is that it can actually give you freedom, not just constraints. Mindful spending helps you pinpoint those things that ‘spark joy’ and allocate resources that way. Guilt-free, by the way.

So there is no easy answer to ‘how much is enough?’, but there are definitely some road signs to help us on the journey to find out.

 

What if you’re actually smarter with money than you think?

Do you ever read about finance and feel dumb?

Me too.

I know, I know. “If Chief Fierce Girl feels challenged by the murky world of money, what hope do I have?”. But stay with me.

It’s all about gatekeeping: if people make money sound complicated, then you will definitely need their expertise to help you, right? And pay for it, of course.

And look, investment can be complicated. I studied it, and it was haaaard. I might have cried a little while trying to calculate franking credits.

However, that’s the pointy end of finance. There’s also a soft, welcoming end that is actually not that complicated at all.

I summed it up when I introduced you to the Four Friends Who Will Make You Rich. (Read it here, it’s low-key one of my best).

And so it annoys me to see the tone of ‘talking down’ that seems to pervade the finance world.

It makes financial success seem harder than it is.

I came across this finance industry research recently, that claimed to be ‘alarmed’ by the poor financial literacy of Australians.

But when I read the questions it was based on, they were really tricky. They were phrased like those multiple choice questions in an exam where you question yourself,  freak out, and start worrying. Like maybe it’s A but what if it’s B and I don’t know if C sounds ok and maybe I’m just stupid and I should probably go home *. (*Actual internal monologue from my last finance exam).

Look, I agree we could do better on the financial literacy front. But it would also be good if the professionals would stop telling us how dumb we are.

What if they gave us a message of empowerment and encouragement?

What if they said ‘Focus on what you do know, boo, and go from there!’.

Well, they don’t have to, because I am telling you all of that. Don’t assume that you don’t have the smarts to nail your finances, because you totally do.  

In fact, here are some totally easy things you can do today (or tomorrow, if you’re tired. No pressure, take a nap if you like).

Save in your sleep. The easiest/only way to save properly is to do it before you get your sticky fingers on it. Set up an auto-transfer  into a savings account for the day you get paid.

Or see if your bank does round-ups, where it takes little amounts and stashes them away for you.

I know ING does, because those annoying Isla Fisher ads told me. I guess they work huh.

Invest while you spend. One step further to the round-ups mentioned above, apps like Raiz take little bits of your money and invest them for you.

I used to be in love with it, but it won’t sync to my Macquarie bank accounts so it’s kind of dead to me now. But if you want to dip your toe in the water of investing, check it out.

Some super funds do it now too, so check your fund’s website

Own your super savings.  Ok, it’s not a sexy topic, but a tiny bit of effort makes a big difference. With just one or two calls, you can cross that shit off your to-do list for years.

Step 1: roll your multiple accounts into one. If you’re paying multiple fees and insurance STOP THAT NOW. It’s literally throwing money away. And guess what, your primary fund will do the hard work for you. Call them up and ask! A friend of mine did it recently and was stoked with how easy it was.

How do you choose your primary fund? Fees and returns. But if you can’t be bothered reading a bunch of websites, the big industry funds like Australian Super, HESTA, REST, First State, Hostplus and CBUS are pretty competitive. You are possibly in one already from your days in retail or hospitality. Within those big players there isn’t a lot of difference, so don’t overthink if it means not making any decision.

When you speak to your chosen fund, you should also ask them about your investment option. If you don’t choose one proactively, you get shoved into the default.

Now I don’t know about you, but I am not a default kinda girl. I don’t want to be in the same option as 60 year old Susan.

Given my age (young and cool), I can tolerate more risk for the chance of more return. So I’m in the high-growth option. Your fund should be able to provide what’s called ‘simple advice’ to help you decide (for no cost).

I swear, just doing these things, and making sure they have your correct contact details), can make thousands of dollars difference to you when you retire. (I have a whole post about super if you’re really interested: click here).

So anyway, did you see what I did there – started off with a motivational post and snuck in a whole section on super!

I know, I’m tricksy. Sorry not sorry. But let me get back to the original point – making good choices with your money doesn’t need a degree. It is a series of small decisions, made over time. And every good one helps.

You got this, so go forth and be fierce!

Don’t get mad, get busy*

*Actually, get mad too. It’s fun.

Fierce Girls, I wrote a different post for you last week. But before I had time to post it, the election happened.

It didn’t go the way I’d hoped. I got together with a few friends to watch it unfold on ABC, and it was like the worst party ever. (Great food, wine and company notwithstanding).

But maybe you voted for the LNP Government, and hey that’s cool, because this is a democracy. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s far better than the alternatives.

In the same week though, Alabama passed some of the most punitive and backwards abortion laws in the world. If you’ve somehow missed it, this is some next-level Handmaid’s Tale shit.

Anyway, this is not an election analysis.

It’s about power.

Cynicism is our greatest enemy. And the antidote is activism.

I’m paraphrasing Billy Bragg, one of the greatest influences on my life.

I know you’re not ready to rise up in the streets and stuff, and I’m not saying you have to. Activism takes many forms.

So does power, and it’s not all in the corridors of Parliament House.

One way to wield power is through your wallet.

From nailing your bank account to reining in frivolous spending, money is one of the most effective ways to give the finger to the patriarchy.

Every dollar you earn and own is another way to increase your choices.

Every time you put money towards buying a home, investing for the future or creating a savings fund, you are putting more space between you and chaos.

Because if there’s one thing the powerful men of the world worked out a long time ago, it’s that money equals power.

That’s why I ask, nay implore you, to think about how you spend it.

I know this sounds like a feminist conspiracy theory, but anyway… The more we’re convinced to allocate our resources to beauty, fashion and anti-ageing, the more power we concede.

I’m not saying never have a facial. I’m not saying don’t buy a Fenty Beauty palette (because holy shit, it’s great).

I’m just saying that if you are spending hundreds of dollars on fillers and botox before you’ve set up an emergency fund, you are not stepping into your full power.

Or that if you have bought a new dress for every wedding you’ve attended, while your partner has rolled out his five-year-old suit again and again, you’re possibly not making the most of your money.

And if you would like to see Paris before you die, but you accidentally keep spending money on twenty-dollar cocktails and cabs home, it might be time to take a different approach.

A long time ago, my friend Gigi and I cooked up this great list of money-saving tips (which went low-key viral btw). Read it here.

And I want to give a shoutout to Gigi, because she is the Fierce Girl we all need.

Girlfriend packed herself up and moved to New York City eight years ago. She rents an adorable little apartment in the East Village with her cat Iris, living her best life as a single gal. Kind of like Sex and the City minus the designer clothes and poor choices in men.

And she has also been saving like a trooper, and is very close to buying her own apartment in Manhattan. #goalsAF

Gigi and I still have mad holidays together and go out drinking and make questionable decisions late at night. But we also respect the fact that we can’t have all the things, all the time. And so we make our own lunches, buy things on sale and catch public transport.

Anyway, this is a really long way of saying please take charge of your money. Do it for yourself and for the sisterhood. As Queen Bey says, “Best revenge is your paper”.

Perhaps make a Mindful Spending Manifesto and see if you can stick to it. That way you have more chance of reaching your short- and long-term life goals – regardless of whichever pale, stale and male PM is in power.

 

I don’t mean to alarm you but it’s nearly f@*#king Christmas!

Ladies, this is not a drill. There are only seven shopping weekends left until Christmas.

Maybe you’re the type of girl who excitedly starts playing Mariah Carey at the first hint of festivities.

Maybe you’re a cynic who likes mince pies but dreads the consumerist orgy of yuletide.

Maybe you hate the enforced family proximity of holiday season.

But no matter where you fall on the Grinchometer, you can’t avoid Christmas (ok, maybe if you’re Muslim or Jewish or Hindu. But even then, you probably still watch Love Actually and eat a box of Favourites).

Nor can you avoid the financial pressures that the season brings. Not only are there all the gifts to buy, there are other sneaky costs.

The extra social events are a big one – not all of them include free booze from your work, so you end up eating out and drinking more.

Then there are extra party season outfits, accessories and salon trips. (It’s my birthday in December too, so the pressure is on).

And of course there are holidays themselves, and all the expense of going away, if you’re lucky enough to do that. I only have to hang out at my cousin’s place in WA but that bitch is gonna make me get drunk and buy wine in Margaret River, I guarantee.

So this is a short post, but with some important take-aways:

  • Start planning and buying gifts NOW – there are no sales in December, friends (until it’s too late, on boxing day). So try and start looking for bargains now, or at least space out your purchases so it’s not one big shitfight for your cashflow. Then check out different vendors to see has the cheapest version. Don’t just wander into Myer and hope for the best. A new release book, for example, can be $40 in one store and $20 in another. Do your research.
  • Make a list of people to buy for and what you’re getting them – and do it before you hit the shops. It will stop you panicking and buying too much or the wrong thing, in a moment of exhaustion or panic.
  • Have a conversation with your family NOW to set limits and expectations – if you’re feeling the pinch financially, now’s the time to fess up. Say to mum and dad and siblings ‘hey, I have some savings goals, can we put a limit on gifts this year?’ Or do the kris kringle thing. What you’ll often find is that when one person tries to de-escalate the gift war, other people are relieved.
  • Make a special ‘Festive Season’ mindful spending manifesto – this is an exercise where you think seriously about where to allocate your spending (read more here). In this season, it’s easy to get sucked into a whole bunch of costs, as mentioned above. So have a talk with yourself about where to scrimp and where to save. If you choose to splash out on gifts, then put that party dress back on the rack. Want to buy French champagne? Then tone down the seafood platter you bring on Christmas Day. You get my drift – the key is not to start spending, and then think ‘oh well I’m screwed now, let’s keep going’. Go in strategically and be a tight-arse on some things. Like, I promise not to buy any new Christmas lights. Well, maybe just one set…

Of course I would tell you not to smash the credit card too hard, but you know that. And you’re going to do it or not, regardless of my lecture. But hopefully the tips above can help you limit the damage.

So, have a great party season and get cracking on your festive dance routines!

By the way, as a bonus, this is a message I got this week from my above-mentioned cousin. You can see where I got my thrifty habits…

1 science truthbomb and 3 ways it will help you save money

Do you ever find that when you’re being ‘good’ with your diet, you’re really good in the morning. No muffins for me!

Pretty good at lunch. I’ll take the sushi instead of the schnitzel thanks.

And by 3pm? If I open the work pantry and there happen to be TimTams, it’s not my fault if they fall into my mouth.

Well, you’re not alone my friend. There is a real scientific concept called decision fatigue.

From the moment we wake up, we’re forced to make all these small decisions. What to wear, what to eat, when to leave, how long to spend on Instagram.

And this literally drains our brains of power.

In fact, a study on this topic found that judges hearing parole cases were more likely to grant parole in the morning, when they were fresh and unfatigued. When they got tired and cranky, it was easier just to say ‘no, go back to jail’.

The one variable was that straight after lunch, they perked up and started saying yes more. Until TimTam o’clock, that is.

There’s a really cool article about it here if you’re interested. One of my faves, James Clear, also has a great post.

But the take-outs for me, in relation to money, were three-fold.

1. Don’t shop at night – I’m as fond of a Thursday night jaunt as the next girl. But if you’re tired and over work, there’s a good chance you’ll make questionable decisions about what to buy.

Of course, we may have shopping emergencies (who doesn’t?). But in general, try and save your shopping sprees for a weekend morning, or at least a lunch break after you’ve eaten. Much better chance of buying something you actually need and like.

Similarly, cruising the ASOS or Iconic websites in front of the TV might not be the best habit if you’re trying to save money.

Maybe just limit yourself to filling your shopping cart but not hitting the checkout til the next day. You’ll feel differently in the morning – I very rarely make a purchase in this scenario.

2. Sometimes a ban is easier than moderation – If you’re trying to make decisions about whether to buy something, and you’ve already made a bunch of choices that day, it’s pretty easy to say ‘bugger it, spend the money’.

But what about if it’s not even an option? No decision required in that case.

If I’m trying to save money, I ban myself from shopping for a month. I also find it easier for losing weight. For instance, if I have to try and weigh up whether to have a wine, I usually go with yes.

But if I just say ‘no booze in October’, then I don’t expend energy trying to justify it.

I get that not everyone works like this (the rebels among us). Some people just need to break a rule as soon as they impose it.

So, my friend Jo said that when she moved to being a vegetarian, she gave herself a ‘once a week’ option of eating meat. She didn’t end up using it much, but was comforted by that slice of freedom.

So maybe it’s not a shopping ban – instead, it’s ‘I can buy one piece of clothing this month’. And you may not even find anything. But the rebel in you will feel ok about not being told what to do.

3 . Automate the shit out of everything – One of the most important parts of achieving financial security is to pay yourself first. In other words, put your savings aside in a nicely inaccessible account as soon as you get paid.

Do you ever spend the weeks after payday going out, buying lunches, hitting the shops and all that cool stuff, and then seeing how much you have left over to save? If so, the odds are it’s a big fat zero.

So try and automate things like saving and paying bills. Have a direct debit into various accounts. Check out this post for some tips on how to structure your bank accounts – boring but possibly life-changing!

So there are three things that science can help you with, and they apply to other good behaviours too. One of the reasons I food prep like a boss (some of my tips here) is that it takes away the need to decide. You don’t have to weigh up healthy or unhealthy, expensive or cheap. You just eat your darn curry and shut up. It’s strangely liberating, I promise!

Do you need a financial planner – or just a bit of planning?

I got a message from a friend recently, asking me if I could recommend a financial planner.  This friend, let’s call her Gemma, is 27 years old, a few years out of uni and in PR – all of which suggested to me that she isn’t on the big bucks (yet!).

I said hey, why don’t you come over and have a planning session with me. If all you need is some goal setting, then the only cost is that you have to be a case study on the blog. If you need the real deal, then no worries.

She came over, we gossiped about everyone in PR, then we finally sat down with some coloured pens and blank paper (which I effing love!). What follows is of the bones of our conversation.

Let me preface it by saying I’m not a planner. All I am is a person who knows how to ask questions, provide life advice and use a smartphone calculator. The latter one, not even very competently.

But this is the kind of session many people never really do. I had a similar one over cake and coffee about 18 months ago with a mate from work. Sure, he is the head of a Wealth business, but really, he just helped me frame some goals and put some numbers around them. And it was massively useful – it led me to buying my current home … which I bloody love.

Question 1 – What are your goals?

Gemma had helpfully come prepared with these! One short-term goal was to ‘enjoy my lifestyle’, which sounds vague, but seemed to translate to ‘please don’t stop me buying a coffee every day’.

This is where mindful spending comes in. If you really, really love that coffee, and it’s the one thing standing between you and the despair of the working world, then cool. Build it in. Take some other cost out.

Other goals were to move overseas in a couple of years, and to buy a property in her mid-30s. So are these goals do-able? Let’s see.

Question 2. How much are you earning and spending? 

This wasn’t the most exacting process. Ideal world, you’d track every purchase for a month or two, and/or go through your bank statements. But we broke it down enough to get a sense of money in and money out.

This step is so damn critical, but people have a strong aversion to it. They seem scared to look their money dead in the eye, as if it will reach out and punch them.

But actually it’s the opposite most times. Stare that balance sheet down, and it will give you clarity and power.

We worked out that Gemma would have roughly $700 to spare every month, after expenses.

That surplus amount is where all the magic happens. Whether you want to save or invest, you need to play around with incomings and outgoings til you end up with an amount of money you can put to work.

If you are struggling to get to that point, you have two choices: earn more or spend less. So, get a second job, start a side hustle, sell some of your stuff etc. Or go through your spending and work out what you really need, and what you can live without.

Question 3 – How will you allocate your surplus? 

This is where it comes down to timing and priorities. Yeah, you probably can’t do everything you want.

So, what’s most important now, in a year, in five? If you’re looking at goals within those timeframes, putting it in the bank can be the best option, or maybe a low-risk investment  like an enhanced cash product.

That’s because anything less than five years means you don’t have time to ride out the ups and downs of markets.

If it’s longer than that, you can look at higher-risk things like shares and managed funds. This is where it can make sense to see a financial planner, because sifting your way through products is a bit of a mission.

For our friend Gemma, we decided to put most of it towards medium-term goals like going overseas (so, in the bank).

Question 4: How committed are you to your goals?

Then we looked at the viability of saving to buy a property seven years from now. While the idea of saving $100k (a pretty modest 20% deposit these days) sounds bloody hard, it’s not impossible.

The good thing about Gemma’s situation is that she’s at the start of her career. She is also whip-smart and ambitious AF. So even though she is on pretty crap money now, she is going to keep going up and up. The real trick for her is not to allow too much lifestyle inflation.

What if you avoid lifestyle inflation? Today on the left, future on the right. Stay real and you can do some real saving.

That means not spending more as you earn more. And goddamn that is haaaard.

I’ll confess. I earn pretty good money these days, and do a decent job of saving. I’m smashing my mortgage and stuff. But I have pitfalls. Like, I’m currently in a cycle of Shellac manicures (nothing but a dirty addict).

And it’s hard to talk myself out of the $35 spend when I have money in my account. So I am giving myself a few months of enjoyment. I swear I can give up whenever I want. But anyway, I feel your pain babes. If you have money, it’s natural to want to spend it on sugar hits like clothes and restaurants and make-up.

Anyway, you’re going to have lots of growing expenses if you’re in your 20s or 30s. You have so many decisions to make about what to splash out on. You can’t avoid them all. What you can do is stay mindful, set goals and check in on them regularly.

When we worked it out, Gemma can indeed save for a home if she keeps earning more, but doesn’t give into the temptation of pissing it away on fancy stuff. Too often, anyway.

Goal-setting is like going to the gym

It seems hard and sometimes scary beforehand. Gemma told me as much. It’s like you don’t want to hear bad news.

But just like the high you get walking out of a Spin class, it’s a fantastic feeling to have your goals all mapped in front of you.

So don’t be scared. Get your pens and pencils out babes, and get cracking on your future!

Hot tip: Check out this post for more on goal-setting, and a free worksheet I made for you!

New year, new you: how to up your game this financial year

If I ran a fitness blog, I’d have to wait til January 1 to share good intentions and resolutions with you. Luckily for me, this is a finance blog and I can do it now.

It also requires no activewear or bikini shots, which is a relief, because I have been hitting the red wine and winter comfort food a little too hard.

So, while I commit to no booze and lots of tuna salads for the foreseeable future, you could commit to a few good habits for FY18/19.

Change one bad money habit – It doesn’t have to be outrageously ambitious. You don’t have to makeover your entire financial life. It just needs to be specific and actionable.

For example, you want to control your spending better. My friend Cara gets paid monthly and has a bad habit of ‘making it rain’ the first week, like Drake giving money to poor people. Then she lives like a monk the week before payday.

If you have a similar issue, your goal is to set a weekly spending budget. Look at how much your normally spend (I know: a painful yet necessary step in and of itself. But get out your bank statements and come clean with yourself).

Decide what’s an appropriate ‘discretionary’ budget – lunches, nights out, new shoes, Priceline sales etc. This should be close to what you already spend, otherwise you’re not going to stick to it. Maybe trim a cool 10-20% off it, but don’t go for the diet equivalent of Optifast shakes when you’re used to 2000 calories a day. Now, take that figure and divide by 4. Simples!

Then it’s a matter of putting in place the mechanism for sticking to the weekly budget. Perhaps you get that much cash out, then you see how much is left. Perhaps you have a separate account with weekly auto-transfers of the set amount. Maybe you check your bank account every few days and see if you’re tracking.

Whatever works for you, find a way to put boundaries in place, and automate some of it.

All of this advice is clearly not rocket science. I’m no behavioural psychologist. It’s about intention, action and habit.

Decide what to change, think about a solution, then make it as easy as possible to keep up the habit.

Check out my homeboy James Clear if you want to know more about changing habits – he is the guru.

Other bad money habits you might want to overhaul:

  • Paying too much for convenience: unplanned and expensive groceries, too much Uber Eats, buying a full price dress for a wedding next week etc.
  • Wasting food: throwing out what’s in your fridge, not putting it away properly in the first place, forgetting to eat leftovers – you know the drill. Make a plan, use your freezer and buy some Tupperware FridgeSmarts
  • Dipping into savings for everyday money – you need to re-do your budget, set a mindful spending manifesto, and get an account with a different bank that’s harder to access

Sort your superannuation once and for all – I know, I go on about super and it’s everyone’s least favourite topic. But how about you spend an hour or so on it now, and have thousands more when you retire in a few decades?

I have a deep-dive post about it here, but in short, there are a few basic things that make all the difference:

  1. Find your lost super – That crappy retail job you had for six months? You probably have a super fund for it. If you’ve had more than a couple of jobs there’s a good chance you have a tiny little super balance from it, sitting around in the ATO’s accounts, doing nothing. Get hold of it and put it to work! Some tips here.
  2. Ask your super fund to roll your accounts into one – Your main super fund probably wants to do this lost super thing for you – they often have a rollover service to find your multiple accounts and sweep it into your main one. Let them do the hard work!
  3.  Check your insurance – We get given life insurance without asking – but that doesn’t mean it’s either the right amount or free! Check what you’re covered for, if it’s too much or not enough, and how much it costs. I have a really exciting post about this here (because, let’s face it, the only thing more exciting than super is super AND insurance!).
  4. Review your investment option – Chances are, you’re in the same investment strategy as that 50-year-old bloke on the train wearing a too-tight shirt. Which isn’t ideal if you’re young. As a general rule, younger savers can tolerate more risk for higher returns (they have longer to smooth out the ups and downs). Most super funds will be able to give you advice on what’s right for you. Personally, I will be in high-growth until about the time I need to get botox.

Get a better deal on your boring bills – Once a year, it pays to go through all those dull fixed costs and see if you can cut them down. Are you in the right health fund? Who knows – do some Googling, or call one of those iSelect, ComparetheMarket type services.

Could you be getting a better deal on your phone? Probably, if you’re not already on a contract. They bring out better and cheaper plans all the time, so it’s worth shopping around. The tight-arse circles I hang out in online have  been raving about Kogan.com.au – not an endorsement from me, but can’t hurt to look.

Same goes for your car insurance, power bills and any other painful ongoing cost. Spend a bit of time once a year, and reap the rewards.

Learn about basic investment and finance concepts – Obviously being on this site is a great start. If you’re relatively new here, this post is a good primer.

But if you’ve put off ‘understanding compound interest’ to another day, that day is today.

If you’ve ever thought ‘I’ll look into share investments at some point’, that point is now.

If you’ve pondered ‘how much will I need to retire on?’, then it’s time to do some research.

A great resource is the government-funded http://www.moneysmart.gov.au – it’s designed by financial literacy experts so that anyone can understand it. And it covers a huge range of topics.

And that’s it.

Gosh that was a lot of information for a wintry Sunday morning huh? But you only have to do one thing to make a difference.

And none of those things require diet, exercise or bikini body transformations. So how good is that?

Gone a little crazy with spending? Here’s how to get back on track

Being good with money is like being good with your diet. Damn hard to do all the time.

(And easy to get annoyed with those freaks who are).

Another similarity is that they are both money and spending are easy to get carried away with, then spiral into disaster.

Like when you eat some birthday cake at work in the morning. And then figure you may as well eat a burrito for lunch. And then the day is buggered, so you might as well have three wines and a bowl of wedges. Then a burger.

I know, that sounds like an awesome and delicious day. But we all know it ends in guilt and shame by the time we go to bed  a little drunk.

Money is the same. When things get a bit out of control, it’s easy to let them get even more out of control. And the more it gets away from you, the more depressing it is, so you might as well treat yo’self.

But no! Don’t!

We don’t have to let a few bad decisions derail our good habits.

Just because you accidentally fell into Kookai and bought a dress, doesn’t mean you need to buy matching shoes. And just because your credit card is close to being maxed, it doesn’t mean you may as well hit the limit anyway.

So, here are some friendly tips to help you get out of the shame spiral, when things get a little cray-cray in financial department.

  • Check your bank statements – Sounds simple, I know. But just like I have a deep aversion to opening mail (because it always requires subsequent admin), it’s tempting to keep the banking app closed and invisible.

    Maybe you need to rope in a friend or partner here – but the key is to just dive in and check the damage. Let’s be honest, it’s always better to know what you’re working with, rather than have a vague number rattling around your head. And hey, there are always rewards: knock yourself out with a Tim-Tam after you’ve done it.

  • Identify the culprits – You usually have a good idea of what’s causing blowouts. Either too much shopping, too much going out or indulging in whatever hobby/collection/sport you love. But it’s really useful to have a bit of a reckoning, where you go through the above-mentioned bank statement and face the reality of ‘I spent how much on booze last Friday night?‘. Because then you’re ready for the next step.
  • Work out what’s going on in your head – What’s driving these blowouts? Is it a response to stress at work or home? Are you distracting yourself from some relationship shit? Are you partying a lot because you’re nearly 40 and your youth is quickly slipping away (asking for a friend…).

    It may be that when you’re honest with yourself, you can look for other ways to deal with the issue you’re avoiding. Do some yoga. Get some therapy. Tell your boss/partner to fuck off. Whatever works! But until you get to the root cause, it could be hard to sort your money out.

  • Get clear on your goals – I always find it hard to be disciplined if I don’t have a clear goal -whether it’s getting bikini-ready for Mexico (an actual thing that’s happening – yay!), or hitting a savings goal (money for said trip).

    If you’re drifting from your good behaviour, it’s time to refocus on your goals – whether they are short, medium or long-term. (And if you don’t know, check out this post).

    You should also review if those goals are working for you – if they’re too far away, you can lose track. If they’re too unrealistic, same deal. Make sure your goals are SMART if you want them to work hard for you: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timebound.

    Once you have an idea of where you’re going, it’s much easier to stay on the journey.

Remember,  you don’t have to perfect with money (or anything, actually). But you do need to believe you can do better, even just a bit better, at any given time.

Did you know that you’re actually awesome and talented and empowered and enlightened and fierce AF? You just need to believe it. And work up the courage to open your banking app…

Good luck Fierce Girls!

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