The Super Whites The ordinary life of a Super Mum

The Super Whites
Frugal Sarah Says…

This morning’s left over coffee dregs + a few ice cubes + a splash of cold milk = cheap and easy iced coffee.

I am turning into Frugal Sarah. By definition this means the following:

frugal [ˈfruːgəl]
1. practising economy; living without waste; thrifty
2. not costly; meagre
[from Latin frūgālis, from frūgī useful, temperate, from frux fruit]

A few changes this year have meant we have had to look at our family budget very closely. Our income has not increased but we are now sending Amy to preschool two days a week and this has put a strain on our already strained financial situation. We have sat down and brainstormed ideas to bring more money into our family but its not that simple. I am still at home full time with Stella who despite turning ONE next month, is still a baby. Ron and I chose to move to Australia so I could stay home with our children, at least until preschool age and we are planning to continue with this until Stella starts preschool. In the meantime the only way for me to contribute directly to our family finances is for me to find areas where we can spend less money.

Frugal Sarah Says might turn into a weekly post about how I am cutting costs and saving money just in case anyone else needs some inspiration or ideas. We lead a very simple life in comparison to how we have lived previously and its been quite hard to see where we could make real savings. I started out by making a spreadsheet with all our expenses on it. I download bank statements every fortnight and copy and paste onto an excel spreadsheet with three tabs: savings account, current account and credit card.

Then I broke the expenditure down into monthly amounts and I copied and pasted all three accounts into one monthly list. I deleted any credits and then started copying and pasting into a series of columns including: cash withdrawal, groceries (supermarket and any other obvious shopping debits), Petrol, Eating out, Bottleshop, Dr/pharmacy, Insurance (including health, house, car, life), Mobile & Home phone, Pay TV & Broadband, Bills (including electricity, water, council rates), Other shopping (anything non-household grocery related).

I did this for the last six months of 2009 and asked Ron to compile a graph showing our monthly expenditure in these areas. It was a fantastic way of displaying our monthly spend and really helped us get a grip on where our money is going. It was quite frightening to realise that the amount of money we spend each month is on average more than the amount of money we have coming in. What nearly stopped my heart was discovering that the difference in monthly spend from our worst month (Nov) to our best month (Sept) was nearly $3,000 UNBELIEVABLE!

We had a close look at the figures and decided to make the following changes: no more large cash withdrawals. Its impossible to know where that money is going so Ron has been banned from withdrawing more than $40 at a time. Nowadays you can use a bank card for any kind of transaction and by spending on our cards rather than with cash it makes us firstly stop and think about the expense, do we really need to make it? Secondly it allows me to keep a record of what we are spending our money on.

The other area we addressed immediately was Eating Out and Take-away which was averaging around $120-$150 a month. We get the occasional pizza and Chinese take-away which we have stopped althogether and we have made a concerted effort to reduce our already limited eating out. We do enjoy going to the club with friends or having the occasional lunch out on the weekends but by making small changes we can make big savings. Now we take a picnic, share main meals or eat first and go out to enjoy people’s company instead. All changes that I could never imagine myself making but as a family we are enjoying the challenge and a positive side-effect has been how much more organised I am becoming.

I wish I could explain how much I miss having a disposable income and not having to analyse every tiny thing I want to buy. This is not an easy process but at this point in our lives while I am home with our girls I can’t really see how else we can afford to keep doing the things we want to do without sending ourselves broke! I figure that although I am not working outside the home, the time and energy I spend working on our budget and trying to find ways to stretch our money is kind of like a part-time job in itself. That way I can justify the odd coffee out or grocery splurge, its a work related expense!

Next week I will start talking about grocery shopping and my new meal planner which has helped me cut my grocery bill dramatically. If anyone has any questions for Frugal Sarah, please let me know!

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