6 Ways To Being Better With Your Bucks

August 12, 2015

Me telling other people what they should do to manage their money is a bit like getting lessons in humility from Kanye, so let’s call it a "lessons still learning" workshop.

I have a rich history of being somewhat fiscally irresponsible, from funding overseas holidays entirely on a credit card to being sucked into purchasing an expensive glamour photo package from Studio 2000 (I KNOW, LOL) on same credit card plus a myriad of personal and store finance loans coupled with a significant love of shopping and a touch of FOMO.

At one point, I was looking at a total personal debt of around $12k which is not cute. Luckily, my financially stable and infinitely sensible husband agreed to help out by rejigging the mortgage to pay out this debt which I was then able to contribute back into at a steady weekly rate. An increase in earnings and a lack of other bills made it easier to consolidate and learn to manage my money better.

Once that was done and our house was totally paid off, I was cracking along quite nicely and not owing anything to anyone except utilities. I even got used to being paid monthly - which took a number of years to adjust from fortnightly – when we had some significant financial events occur; the arrival of Miss L via IVF (which isn't free), a resulting year of maternity leave and the purchase of our new house.

Everyone has different ways of managing their household budgets. Mr AP and I have always had separate personal accounts and pay the same amount monthly into a joint fund that goes towards bills, groceries, child care and other expenses. We’re responsible for our own phone bills, vehicle insurances etc and generally there is no need for consultation on the spending of private money. Which means I don’t have to justify any personal purchases!

Recently I have been working at getting my finances a bit more in order, trying to better align my full-time tastes to my part-time budget.

Getting a better bank deal

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For years I kept using my everyday bank account because I had won it as a prize in a public speaking competition in Year 12 and felt some sort of sentimental attachment to it. To a bank account. I’m not even joking. However, a friend recently signed up to ING Direct and the fee free ATMs, 2% cash back on Paywave purchases under $100, no account keeping fees and the additional sweetener of a $250 Webjet voucher each sealed the deal. I made 11 free dollars last month! This isn’t a sponsored post, by the way, I’m a genuinely impressed new customer and am wondering why I haven’t made the change sooner. Because I’m a sentimental moron, that’s why. There are a range of online banks out there, including Heritage Bank, that are all vying for your cash storage business by offering some pretty rad perks, so investigate and find the one that's right for you.

Credit cards

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If you must have a credit card (and if you can get away with not having one, you’re probably better for it), do a comparison to see what works best for you, your lifestyle, spending preferences and credit needs. Some people have cards that rack up loyalty points or Frequent Flyers so put absolutely everything on the card then cash in on flights and other goods. Some people only have a credit card for emergencies or big purchases and prefer a low fee/low interest rate card. Some are linked to other loyalty programs or get cash back through bank accounts. There are loads of comparison sites, so check them out. If you have an existing balance, you might be able to get a sweet deal on a balance transfer and take advantage of an interest-free period to allow you to chip away at the total.

Home loans

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If you’re paying off a mortgage, when was the last time you sussed out your home loan options? It costs nothing to have someone come over and go through it with you to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Banks rely on people not being bothered enough or having a misplaced sense of loyalty (like me) to keep them in check. Don’t be a sucker! Get onto it! You could save an actual load of bucks just for the sake of making someone a cup of coffee as they sit in your lounge room with you, explaining your best options. We have used our man for years; to refinance our old loan and work out a bridging loan for the purchase of our new house. It's almost time to get him back over, make him a coffee with three sugars and see if we are getting the best deal possible.


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It’s not just your home loan. Ring up your utility companies and politely demand to be on the best rates or plan available. You know they don't automatically adjust you to be on new lower rates and stuff, right? Ring up your mobile phone provider and gently inform them you’re going elsewhere if they don't recognise. Actually follow through on this if you find a better deal. I recently kicked my big-name mobile provider to the kerb and took up a much more affordable SIM-only plan with my home internet provider that gives me a ridic amount of data for less than half of what I was paying per month. Sometimes the break contract fee is worth it. Always investigate bundles too. Plans and deals are always changing, so make sure you are regularly in touch with all of your plan providers to make sure you’re getting the best value for money, including private health and other insurances, pay TV and more!

I used to feel mortified at the thought of asking for discounts, rebates and the like. Recently, my father-in-law told me his fee for a new SIM card was waived by the same provider I just signed up with. I rang them the next morning and got mine waived too. That's $20 back in the joint account, just for asking. Be nice, be polite, be friendly, thank the operator for their help and tell them you appreciate it. It all goes a long way. You never know what they write in your customer profile notes!

Get cash out

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I used to keep about $20 - $40 cash money on me and hit up everything via EFTPOS which, while convenient, doesn’t give you good visibility of your bank balance. Nothing beats that bowel-cramping shame after you cheerily punch in your PIN to be greeted with “Declined – Insufficient Funds”. A housemate once told me to get out my spending money in cash on pay day and work from that to give a better feel for your real money, not that invisible stuff that regenerates every time you wave your plastic in front of the sensor. If you’re worried about carting around large sums, keep some at home in an envelope and restock your purse as required. Try not to keep your details electronically. Actually getting up to get your credit card to punch your number into your computer can be enough to demotivate a reckless impulsive purchase! (For this reason, I both love and hate PayPal)

Diarise your scheduled payments

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In my electronic calendar, I have Pay Day as a recurring entry every fortnight, plus recurring entries for the mortgage and the joint account contribution amounts. This is to give me visibility on what's coming and going (mostly going) from my accounts so I don't think I am flush with cash and go and spend on something frivolous totally necessary.

The very excellent Smaggle has recently posted an article on How To Stop Spending Money, I suggest you check it out for additional resourceful tips. 

Also, never ask me if you should buy something because I will enable the hell out of you.

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