2018 Free Budget Planner

Last year I created a free budget planner to download.  This year I think I have made an even better planner for you to download!  It is the only budget planner you will need to get your finances in order for 2018.  I know I want to make 2018 MY year – do you want to join me?

Free planner to reach your 2018 goals
Download your free budget planner for 2018

The beautiful planner has pages for month budget, bill tracker, savings tracker, debt tracker and even a recipe planner for you favourite frugal dinners.  And a new addition is the colouring pages at the back for your debt and savings to keep you on track! Everything in the one place ready to go and to make 2018 your best year!  I hope you love it!

Click the download button below!  I would love to see you using it – use the hashtag #budgetmumplanner on instagram.

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What consumer debt free means to us

We have been consumer debt free for a couple of months now.  So today I thought I would share what consumer debt free means to us.

we have become consumer debt free - how this has helped us reach our financial goals
How becoming debt free has helped us

Being consumer debt free is a big thing as it opens up so many more doors once you are finally there.  For us being consumer debt free meant we had finally paid off about $30,000 in credit card debt (all mine pre meeting my husband) and then $25,000 in a car loan. You can read more about that here.

For us our consumer debt total did NOT count my HECS debt.  (In Australia the Government lend you money to complete your tertiary education.  This is a loan that does NOT accrue interest and comes automatically from your wage.)  If you are a Barefoot Investor follower you would know that Scott Pape thinks its the best loan you will ever receive – thanks to the no interest. (It does go up or down with the CPI). So while I am happy to pay the compulsory payments it isn’t our priority to pay it off sooner. I should also mention that this debt is all mine.  My husband has paid his off.

This obviously leaves our mortgage as our only debt.  Which means this year we have been lucky enough to spend money on doing renovations to our bathrooms and laundry.  (This is currently still being complete.) And focus on paying off mortgage.

It also changes how we can live – slightly more relaxed. But still with the big goal of being completely debt free we haven’t gone crazy.  We have done improvements to the house to add to our investment, and we have taken a couple of local holidays.  While we would both love to go overseas at the moment the house is our priority.

Being consumer debt free hasn’t changed our lives.  We still have our largest debt to pay being our mortgage.  However all the extra payments we were making now goes into bettering the house or paying off the house.   So worth the hassle of paying off our consumer debt as quickly as possible.

Being consumer debt free has changed the way I look at debt!  I don’t want to ever borrow money again that is NOT for our house.  And even then I am keen to pay that down as soon as possible.  It’s been a long road and we have made sacrifices along the way (read more here.)– but we got ourselves into debt (mainly me) so we had to make sacrifices to get our of debt.

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Should you use Afterpay?

Recently on a holiday I went out to dinner and sat next to a friend of a friend. As conversation does these days were talking about the power of the internet and how easy our lives have become. To go shopping – you can find something online – Google a discount code and have it delivered within a couple of days . No wonder physical shops are declining – then the magical unicorn Afterpay came up? Have I used it why/why not. My dinner companion was a big advocate for it so I decided to look into it further. Have you used after Pay? I have – all in the name of research. So should you use Afterpay?

Should you use Afterpay? What are the benefits of using Afterpay?
Is Afterpay for you?

 

How it works

A heap of online and physical stores offer after pay. You sign up with Afterpay and they act as a third party to pay for your purchase for you. You have to enter your bank account details and each fortnight you pay back ¼ of your purchase price for 4 payments over 8 weeks. So it effectively like a layby but you get your purchases upfront. And the money is direct debited out of your account – so you don’t forget.

 

What is in it for Afterpay

 

So the retailer gets their money upfront – so they are happy campers. But how does Afterpay make money – they obviously aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. So although there are no fees if you have the money in your account. There is if you default on their debit. It is a $10 fee each time your default. No matter if you buy a $800 couch or a $7 necklace. So basically Afterpay are hedging their bets that more people will default in one of their payments than have the money in their accounts.

 

Potential problems

 

If you are an amazing budgeter with great self control then I see no problems with after pay for some situations. For example a great buy on a heavily discounted Christmas present in August. Before your Christmas budget kicks in November. However once you have popped your Afterpay cherry – it in my opinion could very easily spiral out of control if your not careful. They make it very easy to use once you account is set up. I know of people who use it everyday and already have found themselves in trouble. So I would proceed with caution. If you do have it – or you find it useful to spread out payments for Christmas etc. Think about downloading their app – so you can manage your payments.

 

My Opinion

 

Since I have used it – would I use it again? Probably not. I still think the best way to go is to have the money first! Especially once you have the purchase you rarely want to spend the money paying it off. BUT I can see its benefits for other people – with strong self restraint.

*This is 100% my opinion and not in anyway affiliated with Afterpay*

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Potato Salad

This potato salad recipe is honestly the BEST potato salad recipe.  It is great served hot or cold, and probably the number one dish I get asked to bring to BBQ’S.  Once you have had this potato salad you won’t want any other recipe!

The perfect side to a BBQ, a great salad to go with any protein!  You will want this at your next family function!
The only potato salad recipe I use – and I get asked constantly to bring to BBQ’s
Potato Salad Recipe

2 kg of potato (I use the cheapest ones on the day! But pontiac are good)
4 eggs
1 cup of good quality whole egg mayonnaise
1 cup of sour cream
2 tablespoons seeded mustard
200 grams of diced bacon
juice of a lemon
parsley to garnish

Delicious potato salad recipe - perfect for every function!
the perfect recipe for christmas, easter, bbq or church functions.
method

1. Put eggs into saucepan and cover with cold water, place onto stove on high, once boiling, continue to boil for 10 mins.
2. Clean potatoes (wash and/or peel depending on potato) cut into
1 1/2 cm pieces, it is a chunky potato salad.
3. Place potatoes into a large saucepan and cover with cold water, place onto the stove to boil, depending on potato size it will need to boil for at least 20 mins.

4. Once eggs have boiled, drain and place into bowl and place into the fridge.
5. Start making the sauce, mix together the mayonnaise and sour cream (you can use a different quantities but you want the end to yield the same amount eg 3/4 cup mayo and 1 1/4 cup sour cream). Add the lemon juice and mustard, stir until all combined.

6. Place diced bacon in frypan and fry until crispy. Drain on paper towel if needed.
7. Once eggs have chilled, start to peel and cut into quarters.
8. Check potatoes, choose a larger piece of potato, pierce with fork – if it is easily inserted they are ready, if not allow to boil longer.
9. Drain potatoes well, place half into bowl that the salad will be served in.
10. Pour in a quarter of the sauce and stir through.
11. Add existing potatoes and sauce, stir until evenly combined.
12. Scatter cut up eggs on top, and finish with bacon! Add parsley if you have some on hand!

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Vanilla Cupcakes

This vanilla cupcake recipe is no-fail!  They are easy and delicious.  You will make them over and over agin, by far one of my most asked for recipes!  Coupled with this chocolate butter icing it is the perfect classic flavour combination.

The only vanilla cupcake recipe you need.

The only cupcake recipe you will need – EVER.

RECIPE VANILLA CUPCAKES

3/4 cup castor sugar

2 cups self raising flour

125 grams butter (room temp

2/3 cup milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Beat all ingredients together until thick and mixed well.  Normally 2-3 minutes if you use an electric mixer.  The mix should be smooth and a consistent pale colour.

(Depending on if your butter is at room temp or not, you may need to add more milk.  About 1 – 2 tablespoons)

Spoon into patty pans in a muffin tin, bake at 190 degrees for 12 mins.

Bake at 210 degrees if you want peaked tops for 12 mins.

RECIPE CHOCOLATE BUTTER ICING

The reason this chocolate icing is better then all other icings is the vanilla essence.  It might sound like a simple or unnecessary addition but once you add it in once you will always add it.  The vanilla takes it to another level in the flavour category!

2 cups icing sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

3 tablespoons soft butter/margarine

3 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method

Sift together the icing sugar and cocoa.

Add milk, vanilla and butter, beat for 2 mins on high until smooth.

Spread on and eat!

If you want to pipe this icing, use 2 tablespoons of milk and butter.

I love this recipe – it was actually my 21st birthday cake – wayyyy before cupcake instead of cake was cool.  It was a winner wayyy back then and we still use it now! I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does!

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How to save on travel to the USA

We have travelled to the USA a couple times.  On our most recent trip we made some considerable savings while booking our holiday.  Today I am going to share with you how to save on travel to the USA!

HOW TO SAVE MONEY TRAVELLING TO THE USA…

 

Research is the key to saving money when travelling. While these tips below relate to our holidays in the USA, the tips relate to any holiday and location!

 

If you are willing to put in the effort in the lead up to your holiday you can save a significant amount of money.

 

Spreadsheet. – I love a good spreadsheet! Prior to the holiday I developed a spreadsheet outlining each day, location, accommodation, proposed activity and total spend for the day. What I have seen is that once on holidays it is very easy to get carried away with spending.  Then you pay for it (literally!) when you arrive back home. This is not too say that you cannot enjoy and splurge (we certainly did!).  But this was all tracked and budgeted for prior to us leaving. This is a great way for you to understand how much money you need for the total holiday. But also with some prior planning as per the below tips you can save money along the way. You can then keep refining the spreadsheet closer to your holiday as you either pay off certain activities or find cheaper prices.  It also helps with the saving process along the way.  If you have a set figure it is easier to save.

 

Flights. – Check websites such as skyscanner. which allows you to check flight prices across a number of companies. You can set proposed flight details and be given alerts when the price changes. Our first trip to the USA our flights were just under $2,000 two years later we managed to secure flights for $1,000 at the same time of year and with the same company (Virgin Australia). You can usually find and book flights up to 12 months in advance so the key for us was to set up the alerts and pay for the flights as soon as you see the price that you like! We had booked many months in advance (booked in March for a December / January holiday) to secure the best deal. Another tip is that we found that our travel agent would complete all of the booking details. So once we found these flights, we sent the details through to the travel agent who did all of the booking process. We also saved money as we did not have to pay the booking fee and credit card fees that the airlines charge through the website!

 

Accommodation. – The key here is to identify locations and the amount of money you are willing to spend per night. We provided this information to our travel agent who provided recommendations but we would then search websites such as Hotels Combined and look at the various accommodation options, reviews and any extras that may be included. If we then happened to find accommodation we were interested in we would continue to check back to see if the price had dropped. If we found a good deal we would send through the details to our travel agent who would price match and again do all of the booking for us! We also found that a number of hotels included breakfast or had a little kitchenette so that you could prepare food. These little things save money!

 

Food and Beverage. – On our trip we hired a car and decided to drive across the USA from LA to Miami. As mentioned above, we found accommodation that included extras such as breakfast included. We also bought (from Walmart!) a cheap esky (chilly bin, cooler, depending on where you are from!). And bought some water, fruit and other cheap snacks to have in the car while we were driving. Each night we could fill the esky up with ice from the accommodation to keep the drinks or anything else that needed to be kept cold. If we did choose to find restaurants or eat out, we would have checked some reviews and have found places that had good food but at reasonable prices!

 

Activities / Things to do. – In the USA we found it easy to do and see some amazing attractions for little or no money. In New York for example the New York Pass is only $109 and enables you to see all of the key tourist attractions such as Top of the Rock, Empire State Building and MOMA, this is much cheaper than paying individually and in a lot of instances allows you to skip waiting lines. These are also available in a number of other locations and offer similar savings. We were also able to spend a number of other days of our holiday seeing free attractions. We spent a day walking the high line and looking at the shops surrounding areas, we spent a day in central park and enjoying all of the different scenery on offer. As well we walked the Brooklyn bridge and surrounds, the financial district, times square the list goes on. In Washington DC for example many days can be spent seeing all of the Smithsonian Institutes and monuments and memorials.

 

Money – Another area where you can significantly save is watching exchange rates . This is especially true if you know about your holiday well in advance.  If the exchange rate goes up, you can go and purchase some of that currency at that time. We found a good travel card, but also found that it was a good idea to take some cash as well.

I hope you got some great ideas in making some of the big plans for your trip to the USA!

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Saving money on holidays in the USA, flights, accommodation, cash, attractions and food.
Travelling to the USA, learn how to save money on all aspects of your travel and holiday.

pantry staples you should always have!

Pantry Staples that every frugal home needs.

Your pantry should be there to help you especially if you stock it with pantry staples that every frugal home needs. It shouldn’t be there to make you feel overwhelmed or uninspired. It should serve you and your family as a bank of nutritious food. By always having it stocked with these pantry staples you should be able to whip up some easy meal at a drop of a hat!

items to have in you pantry all the time to be organised and frugal
Pantry item every frugal house needs!
Pantry items

Tinned tomatoes – I always have at least 6 tins of tomatoes in my pantry. Easy pasta sauce base and versatile for nearly all stews and casseroles.

Tin beans – (kidney, 4 bean mix, black beans etc). Beans can be used alone as a mince and meat substitute or vegetarian option and a filler to add to mince.

Mushrooms (Tin) – An extra vegetable to add to any pasta or rice dish.

Corn  (Tin) – tin vegetables are great fillers when fresh options are limited.

Tuna (Tin) – a cheap and easy to store protein. Can be served as a dish or alone for a simple lunch with crackers.

Tomato Paste/Passata – while they are not a true substitute for each other they work for each other in a variety of ways and help you make a simple sauce or meal base.

Rice – Rice served as a side with almost any meals can help bulk it up, it is also great to go into soups to add extra bulk.

Pasta – pasta served as a side with almost any meals can help bulk it up, it is also great to go into soups to add extra bulk.

Minced Garlic – minced garlic is a long-time friend of mine, while I still use fresh garlic time to time, the easy and cost of minced garlic is hard to go past. It easily adds an extra flavour.

Jar of pesto – easy meal served with pasta or one crackers.

Flour – easy option to thicken a sauce, a staple for pizza dough and flat breads.

Olive oil – Super versatile use it as a dressing or to cook with.

Basic spices – Easy way to add extra flavour into a basic meal.

Meals

Meals you can make with these pantry staples with none or a small amount of fresh ingredient could be –

Pesto pasta, tuna pasta, tomato risotto, Mexican rice, corn fritters, tuna patties, garlic pizza, basic bolognese, tuna and corn pasta.

I always have these in my pantry, and while I try to make from scratch where possible, certain things I find are perfect to have on hand.  For me, pasta and pesto with a sprinkle of cheese is simple comfort food.  Perfect when you don’t feel like cooking or don’t have any time.  Did I miss anything?  I would love to hear what you think is have to have in your pantry!

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Bank accounts you need!

The 7 bank accounts you need to have! I get asked what bank accounts I need to have A LOT! How many bank accounts do you have? And what do you use them for? So today I am going to tell you exactly how many accounts we have and what they are for.

Bank accounts you need

1. General – this is our life account. Both our wages go into it and this is where I withdraw our cash budget from each week. Our direct debits come out of this account and transfers into our other accounts like extra mortgage repayments and savings accounts. At the end of the week there isn’t anything left and that’s the point it pays for our life.

2. Bills Account. We have totalled each bill for the whole year and divided by 52 weeks. We then save that amount + a $50 p/w buffer for inflation. All our bills are then paid in to this account. If you have a bill heavy month (doesn’t everyone!) your first year you may need to add more to account for that. But subsequent years its smooth sailing. These bills include – compulsory mortgage repayments, rates, water, electricity, car, house and life insurance. We don’t have a EFTPOS card for this account because all bills are either BPay or direct debit.

3. Savings Account. Where we save for our big goals. We don’t have an EFTPOS card because we don’t spend from this account. If we need the money we transfer it to our general account.

4. Wife Spending Account. Where our week allowance or ‘fun money’ goes. These accounts are separate because we have different spending habits. I spend a little each week while my husband saves and lavishes his wife with gifts – totally jokes. He saves up and buys stuff for his gym or camera.

5. Husband Spending Account. He gets the same amount of allowance each week to do with as he pleases. (It is also worth noting that these are the first categories to get cut if we need to save extra money)

6. House Sinking Fund – as a home owner there is always something to do around the house. Gardening, painting etc. This is an account for that. We transfer some money each week specifically for the house. This gives us some leeway if something needs repairing, but mainly we like to do home improvements (Our house is far from new). Some months it is all saved for a large project other times there are smaller projects that need to be completed.

7. Emergency Fund – $1000 in a separate account without a EFTPOS card for true emergencies. This could be for a car, house or medical emergency.

The only other account we have is a savings account for our son. This is a regular savings account, that is linked to our accounts without an EFTPOS card. He is only young and so doesn’t even know this exists. He will not be getting access to this account until he is at least 18 years old.

 

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Cash Envelope System

How to create your own cash envelope system.  Using a cash envelope system works well, even if you think you are already good with money.  It is a great idea if you go over each week, even if it is just by a little.  Only having cash can eliminate that, helping you save big in the longer term.

How to make a cash envelope system

If you are interested in why I went with the cash envelope system (and you should too) you can read about that here.  But the biggest reason I went cash is because I have a massive savings goal and so even though some of my ‘leaks’ were tiny I wanted to stop them quickly!

So first of all you need to decide you categories.  You can have as many as you like but I think more than 5 may make it a little tricky.  I use a mini folder from Kmart for my cash, but you can use envelopes, or clips to keep your money together.  I also have a coin purse for my coins.  You could use separate coin purses for each category if you want.  Whatever suits you.

My categories are – Groceries, petrol, entertainment, incidentals. Any leftover money goes towards savings. The goal is to keep your budget tight so you don’t have a heap left over so you can keep it in the bank and resist the temptation of spending!

Categories

Groceries this is pretty self explanatory.  All meat, groceries, fruit and vegetables plus cleaning products.

Petrol this category is fortnightly and obviously for me to put petrol in my car.  I put $50 a fortnight into my folder.

Entertainment is any for form entertainment or takeaway for the week. This is the only category that I carry over week to week if I don’t spend it all. At $50 it’s not enough to go out for a family dinner to a restaurant (we rarely do) so if we knew we had something coming up we would try and save previous weeks to help us out.

Incidentals this is our extra category.  It’s $50 a week.  Our incidentals are for expenses that come up with day to day life that don’t really have a category.  For us it could be another sippy cup, or contributing to a work colleagues gift.  I also put it towards ‘extras’ in the shopping if I find a great bargain that I can’t go past like reduced meat.  You could also have an incidentals category for lots of little sub categories like tuck shop money or parking money etc.

I also have a ‘medical’ category that is in the budget however I don’t take cash out for that.  Personally we are trying to have another baby so, the cost of going to the fertility doctor each month changes. Plus general doctors and sickness so while it is in budget, the amount can fluctuate wildly so I keep that in the bank and it is easier for the Medicare rebate as well.

On top of all these categories my husband and I are given an allowance. This goes directly into our separate accounts each week.  This is fun money! It is what ever we feel like, saving it for a new outfit or hair cuts etc.  It is also worth knowing this is also the first category that gets cut if we need to cut costs.

The rules

Once you have your categories and amounts sorted you then ready start you cash envelope system. The only rule is once you’re out of money – there is no more money until next week.  Don’t borrow money from the following week otherwise you will be always borrowing or chasing your tail.  If you must borrow money then you can borrow from another category – this is why having an incidental category is great.  It provides a buffer for expenses that can not be budgeted for.

It is up to you what you should do with your left over money.  You can leave it for the following money and still withdraw the full amount.  Or you can withdraw a reduced amount.  Or you can put it towards your saving goal – this is what we do.  I save the cash for a specific reason at the moment it is spending money for an upcoming mini holiday we are going on.

So far it has been great, on average I have been saving an extra $30 -50 per week.  Because I now second think every purchase.  Items like takeaway or incidentals, even though they are in my budget my spending has decreased.  I would love you to give cash envelopes a go and tell me if they make a difference in your spending and savings!

love budget mum

Why we went cash!

Why we went cash?

Going cash wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I thought that we handled our money fairly well. And since I was the person who handled most of the money – I didn’t want to admit defeat. But there are many reasons why we went cash – some reasons why you should consider going cash too!

why went to a cash budget
Why went cash and you should to!

 

At the beginning of the year I set a lofty saving goal. A goal I would no longer be meeting, unless I really stopped spending.  So I tried a number of things, our budget was good.  And I didn’t over spend by a ton each week but I did over spend.  As the saying goes – small leaks sink big ships.  I was keen to stop the leaks and try to reach my saving goal.

Working with cash means that I have no safety guard. If I am doing the groceries and it goes over then I have two options – I can borrow money from my ‘incidentals’ or I can put back some items. That’s it. I only put one week’s money in at a time, so I cannot borrow from the following week.

The cash also forces me to examine every cent I spend. Do I really need that? Because if I spend that $8 on a BBQ chicken for dinner, (because I’m too lazy to cook) then later in the week I will not have that $8 when I do the groceries.

Cash also helps me understand my budget categories better. Things that may have been blurred before have become very clear. Take away as a family on a Friday night is an entertainment expense. However a quick donut alone for a treat at work on a Wednesday is NOT an entertainment expense and I really should be paying for that out of my allowance. As painful as that is for me.

Knowing what is an ‘incidental’ expense and what should be in another category means that I can easily work out if my budget needs to be altered. Or if it is my spending. It makes my budget flow a lot easier knowing that there is enough money. As long as I spend it in the right categories.

Cash has forced me to identify my spending in a way I haven’t had to before.  I now have an understanding of my ‘leaks.’  I also know where every cent is going.  But best of all I am saving more than ever.  The extra spending no longer can happen – if I want something I understand it is at the expense of something else.   If you are thinking about changing to cash, if any of these points sound like you.  I urge you to give it a go.  It’s not easy and it takes a little getting use to.  But when I see the extra money I am saving weekly – I am happy to go through the hassle of getting cash out every Wednesday morning.

love budget mum