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The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

Get your shit together with money

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spending

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…

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!

Are these 4 spending traps blowing your budget?

There’s a curious thing about modern, middle-class life. We can afford things. We have money to spend. But we’re not very good at it.

Sure, we have to cover the boring bills and housing costs. But someone with a decent income has a bit of flex left in their budget. The dilemma is deciding what to do with it.

I’ve been thinking about this lately. How do we know if we can afford something?

Or more accurately, how do we decide what we can afford?

It’s more complicated than it sounds. Humans are notoriously bad with delayed gratification. So, when we’re deciding how to allocate our money, we often choose what’s right in front of us.

Shiny things, fun things, easy things!

In a perfect world of financial responsibility, we wouldn’t go shopping or to the pub until we’d put extra money into our savings,  our mortgage, or investments. But life is not perfect, nor are we.

But I have a theory that the key to building wealth is saying, “I know I can afford this, but should I?”.

There are some common spending traps that we should be conscious of in life. We would do well to notice, pause and reflect on these … before we get out our wallets.

Emotional spending

Maybe most spending is emotional. We have a vision of our lives that we’re trying to fulfill. To look a certain way, present a certain way, create a certain story about ourselves.

But there is also a particular type of emotional spending that’s a response to a situation. It’s called retail therapy, and it’s bullshit.

Therapy is a positive process that makes you face your feelings and deal with them. Shopping is just avoiding those feelings.

Spending to soothe your pain – or at least delay it – is a trap.

(I’m not saying I haven’t done it, but I will say I have I ended up with poorly fitting outfits.)

Solution? Process your emotions, rather than avoiding them. Call a friend, go for a run, hit the gym (my personal favourite). Maybe even go to real therapy (seriously – it’s great – I wrote about it here).

Mindless/lazy spending

This is my hobby horse, so get ready for a rant.

If you’re spending fifty bucks a week buying lunch, because you can’t haul your arse into a supermarket, then it’s time to reassess your life choices.

It’s not about having time, it’s about having priorities.  I’m not saying you need to spend hours in the kitchen every night. Commit a short period of time to even the most half-hearted food prep, and you’ll thank yourself. (I gotchu fam – tips here and here).

Same goes for spending too much at the pub/cocktail bar, because it’s a habit and your friends do it and you can’t think of anything else to do that’s cheaper or more satisfying.

Look, everyone likes a night out, but if it’s your default, then maybe have think about the habits you’re forming.

Solution: Work out where your downfall is, and how much time or effort you need to fix it. It may be less than you think.

Routine spending

It’s easy to think something is necessary because you do it a lot. But it just means you’ve set your baseline at a particular level: regular salon sessions, eyelash extensions, getting your hair done every six weeks, or whatever recurring cost has become part of your routine.

I was convinced that one-on-one coaching every week was definitely necessary and justified. But having stopped it this year, it turns out, it’s not. I love my coach, but do I have other financial priorities right now? Yes. (Am I a good enough powerlifter to justify the cost of coaching? No)

Solution: I’m not saying you shouldn’t treat yourself. I’m saying to think about what you have normalised in your life, and whether it’s serving you well.

Social-pressure spending

The social pressure of money is a real thing.

People don’t like to say ‘I can’t afford that’. There’s a perceived shame in noting the lofty financial expectations people place on others.

So you either find money for things, or whack it on credit cards.

Hen’s weekend that’s gonna cost 300 bucks? Suck it up and pay.

Friday night drinks that cost $50 a round? Deal with it.

Group birthday present for $100 each? Sign me up.

And before you know it, the budget is blown.

Solution: Generosity is good, but you don’t have to get on board the crazy-cost-train every time you’re asked. If you have a financial goal you’re working to, make it known. “Sorry, I’ve got some aggressive savings goals for my house deposit. Can we look at some other options, or I will do my own thing”.

Real friends will be chill about that. Shallow friends can eat a bag of dicks.

Set yourself up for success

Look, I know this stuff isn’t always easy. The first step is being clear on your goals – it’s easier to say no if you know the reason. I highly recommend working on your goals (here) and mindful spending manifesto (here).

Then you’ll be set up for success when it comes to saying no, or not today, or not ever.

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/

You have 300 paydays left. Seriously. So, what’s your plan?

Last week, I ruined everyone’s Friday by dropping this truthbomb.

Seriously, if you’re in your 30s and plan to retire in your 60s, you don’t actually have many paydays left.

It’s easy to work out (if you get paid monthly). Pick your imagined retirement age, minus your age now, and multiply by 12. Because I have aggressive early retirement plans (and am kinda old), it’s an even lower number.

Yep, just over 200 times to wake up and feel rich for three days. 200 times to scour my payslip working out how much leave I have accrued. 200 times to go down Pitt St Mall feeling like a baller.

That’s not really many times at all, in the scheme of things.

And if you’re planning to take time off to raise kids, then you can minus out at least 6 of those paydays,  and maybe a lot more.

So, now that we have all had a moment to face reality, let’s talk about what we do with this information.

Running the numbers

Our time in paid employment is a gift. Not just to our smashed-avocado-loving selves of today, but also to our future, chilled-AF party selves. We are all Baddie Winkle, somewhere in the future, drinking with Miley Cyrus.

Instafamous nanna, Baddie Winkle

How do we do we achieve this? We take charge, that’s how. We do a mutha-effing BUDGET! Woot!

Ok I said that in an excited way because I know you’re about to hit snooze. But go with me here.

How to do a Budget that doesn’t hurt your head or induce anxiety

A budget is all about giving you data that makes you better at decision-making. And information is power! So, I recommend a combination of:

  1. MoneySmart’s great online budget planner (click here), which sets out all the costs you have right now. You can choose weekly, monthly or annual for each item, and it averages it all out for you.Then you can run it as a monthly, quarterly or annual budget. It even gives you a pie graph – awesome!
  2. MoneySmart’s TrackMySpend app (in the App store or Google Play) – record everything you spend, and I promise you shit gets real very quickly. You can just do it for a month if you like – but it gives you powerful data.

Once you have this data – a combination of ‘forecast’ and ‘actual’ numbers – you can make informed decisions. In particular:

  • What does it cost to be me?
    These are your fixed costs. A useful way to think about this is to have different versions – the ideal you, the average you and the bad you. Kinda like Kylie Minogue in the awesome video for Did it Again.

    My ideal budget is when I don’t buy three pairs of boots at the Wittner sale (they were super cheap) and don’t have Priceline accidents (when you go in for Panadol and come out with three new lipsticks). My average budget is when I actually do those things.

    And my bad budget is when I buy stuff I don’t need due to premenstrual angst or emotional turmoil. To be honest that version of me has been tamed  these days, so I usually fall into the first two. And my latest budget has Priceline accidents built into it.

  • What’s a reasonable savings goal? 
    There is no magic number for this. At least 10% is good, but if you have done your real budget (the average you) and there’s genuinely not enough left over, then do 5% or whatever. If you can do more, then happy days! The key is to do something.
    Also, it may not even be real savings at this point – it could be paying down bad debt like a credit card. Or, at the other end of the scale, it may be going straight into an investment like a managed fund or ETF (more on that here). In any case, it’s the money you allocate to being a responsible adult who does sensible things with your future self in mind.

And once you’ve answered these questions, you can feel more in control and less like ‘it’s all too hard’. Simples!

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)

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!

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