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The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

Get your shit together with money

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shopping

3 things I learnt in the Christian Louboutin store

It was the outcome of a conversation at work. Long story, but I decided I needed a pair of designer heels to signal to the world that I was serious. I wanted to prove (to myself, mostly) that I’m a successful, grown-up woman who can do all the serious career things.

And so, my friend who lives and breathes designer shopping, excitedly took me to Pitt Street the very next day.

I had some major ‘Julia Roberts on Rodeo Drive’ vibes to be honest. I pretended like I go into stores that sell thousand-dollar shoes all the time, but as you can guess, I have literally never been in one.

Anyway, I didn’t buy any. It was a little disappointing in the end – not for my wallet, which was totally supportive of my decision. Definitely for my friend.

But life is full of unexpected lessons, so here are some thoughts I had following the great Designer Shoe Store Trail of 2019.

  1. Price does not equal comfort. I had this idea that if you paid a lot of money, these heels would magically not hurt your feet. This is a lie! In fact, those Louboutins were red-soled harbingers of death to the balls of your feet. Also, my ‘plump’ feet didn’t really fit into them or any of the fancy brands, except Salvatore Ferragamo, which is made for well-heeled (pun intended) ladies of a certain age who brunch in Double Bay.
  2. It’s hard to rewrite your money script. I’m a massive tight-arse when it comes to clothes and shoes. Who was I kidding? Like yeah, I’ll shop at the usual suspects like Wittner and Nine West, but I ain’t paying full-price. So it’s hard – impossible even – to go from $100 for a pair of shoes to literally ten times that. And then I started thinking about all Nike Air Maxes I could get for that much (to add to the slightly obscene collection already going). Well, anyway, is it any surprise that I abandoned the whole plan? This isn’t a bad thing – it’s part of mindful spending to know what you’re willing to drop your hard-earned dollars on. Or not.
  3. Self-confidence is about what you think, not what you wear. Sorry if this sounds like a motivational quote from Instagram. Like, it’s still important to look polished and professional. But I was expecting that buying some shoes would convince me that I’m legit. Maybe banish some of my impostor syndrome feelings. It turns out the only way to do that is through some serious inner work. Ugh, so much harder than just going shopping. In fact, that’s how it always is. Buying stuff is never a replacement for self-development. Annoying!

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!

Shopping is not self-care (and other hard truths)

I have a friend who loves to buy designer handbags like I love to buy Kmart homewares. Unfortunately for her, a Gucci bag starts at about $2000, whereas I got an awesome bowl (that looks like it’s made of glass but is really plastic) for $7 this weekend.

Anyway, my friend, let’s call her Jen, said to me the other day, ‘It’s like I have a shopping addiction’. To which I replied ‘No, it’s not like it, you actually do’.

Now, I’m no psychologist, but I’d argue that anyone who has bought one pair of Manolos and one pair of Jimmy Choo’s in the last few months is not living her best financial life.

The thing is, Jen has a stressful and demanding job, and is well-paid for it. She can actually afford these things and still pay a mortgage (I know, right). She’d no doubt pay it off sooner if she avoided the Fendi store, but overall she ain’t going broke.

Thus, my argument against Jen’s shopping habit isn’t just financial. One person’s Kmart spree is another person’s designer outlet haul – just depends on your income.

My argument is that Jen shops to manage stress. She cruises around online stores in an effort to soothe her frazzled mind, filling her shopping cart in the fond hope of filling her soul.

Does it work? Maybe. A little. For a few moments anyway: the moment you buy something and the moment it arrives.

You see, shopping distracts us from our stress or pain or fear or sadness. Same as wine, drugs, or whatever vice we have.

It doesn’t make us deal with it at a deeper level. It doesn’t help us confront the difficulties of our lives.

Self-care has been co-opted 

A short cruise around #selfcare on Insta would have you believe that looking after yourself is all about making green smoothies or buying make-up. That is bullshit.

Self-care, in my opinion, is when you put your mental and physical health first.

It’s when you invest time in doing the inner work that will help you to be happier in your heart. Self-care is writing a journal or going to a counsellor to deal with some thorny issues. It’s when you take time to meditate regularly. It’s sitting down with a friend who  wants to listen to you and hear what you’re dealing with.

Or self-care is committing to a physical practice like yoga or running or weightlifting, because it takes you out of yourself and puts you back into yourself, only better.

You know, that feeling when you’ve nailed standing bow pose after weeks of falling over. Or you run 5km without wanting to die (so I hear, never done it). Or seeing your maximum bench press inch up over months. That’s some awesome self-care right there.

Sure, have a facial, open a bottle of vino or buy some new shoes. I’m not arguing against doing any of those things.

But be clear about the state of mind that’s behind it. You’re having a little break from your bullshit, and that’s it. When you walk out of the salon, or finish the bottle, or put the Manolo’s back in the wardrobe, you’re still there.

You … and your work stresses, relationship issues, state of anxiety, sense of insecurity or whatever aspect of the human condition is messing with you at that point.

So unless you make time to deal with the root cause, you’re gonna keep shopping, drinking or chasing the perfect complexion.

Not only does this hurt your credit card, it leaves you unfulfilled. You are your best investment, and always will be, so invest your time and money in productive ways as often as you can.

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!

Aldi tips, tricks and hacks from a legit expert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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