Monday, February 20, 2012

My Top Ten Budget Tips and a Fabulous Weekend

 Hi Guys.  This was going to be a post about blueberry muffins, but I had a better idea, the reason I made them in the  first use up the blue berries I had from my union Jack flag cake.....we are not wasting a thing right now.
I've always been a very good money manager.  By 30 and still single, I had bought my own home, furnished it, paid off my car, was paying my own law school fees and had travelled extensively.  Fifteen years on, we find ourselves in a very tight financial position. Although I have never let go of my good management principles, I find I am really dusting them off and polishing them hard, as the Beach House budget gets tighter. I chose to primarily, to be a stay at home mum and we have lived on one income for the last 10 years.  In that time we have moved house and remained mortgage free, made the Beach House over extensively, updated 2 cars, put our kid through pre school and had several small holidays within Australia.

So how did we do it, I hear you ask?  Well apart from working very hard in our own business.....(I do Mr Beach House's books at night and support him where I can) the basic answer to how we did it, is that we have lived within our means.  Although our household income has been limited, due to the capital requirements of our business, we have spent less than we earned. Believe me, it's not rocket science. 

Here's how we have done it. 

1.  We do not like debt at all and avoid it were possible.  We avoid any interest payments and late fees by paying bills on time with a credit card and paying off the credit card in full on the due date.  In other words, we use the bank's money for free.   I must say lately' even though we are still able to practice this with our personal credit card, we haven't been able to do that on the business credit card. We didn't realise the business income was going to drop so dramatically  and quickly and we just kept going on as usual.  When time came to pay the business credit card, we didn't have the money and culturally it didn't sit at all well with me.  Although our business income is still patchy, over the last 6 months, we concentrated on getting the debt down and have now paid off 80% of the business credit card debt and are better placed if we need to raise more funds if things get even worse.

2.  I buy lots of my childrens' clothes at the red cross shop and the new ones are only ever bought on sale.  The Beach House Brats are constantly getting complimented on their outfits.  I would never be able to buy designer pieces at full price and personally I don't see the value.  Frankly my daughter would look great in a hessian sack at the moment...she's just at that age.  I feel great when someone comments on a dress she's wearing that cost me $2.  If I see something and it's gorgeous, but way too big for her now, I'll still buy it and save it for when she's older.  She has a wardrobe full of gorgeous clothes that cost me next to nothing.

A dress I bought at the Red Cross Shop for $2
Jeans for boys are another great find at the Red Cross Shop.  They don't wear out quickly so are usually in great condition.  I bought my son a pair of khaki pants last week for winter for $6.

3.  I colour my own hair and have done since 1992.  That is the year I went back to being a brunette cause it's easier to do myself, than blond.  Enough said there, except that the coloured greys create a natural looking streak for free.  At the moment, I don't do facials or massages but I will again when things get better.

4. Lately we visit the video store only on Tight Tuesday, when all the videos are $2 each.  I try to get weeklies for the kids, as they seem to love to watch them over and over.  Lately, I have been getting overnight ones for myself that I have put off seeing at the theatre.   A movie ticket in Australia costs $18, which is crazy.  I always make the sure DVDs are returned on time to avoid late fees.

These really cute Chinese PJ's worn by my daughter cost $2 at a garage sale and still had the labels on.  And Yes you can see they are watching TV whilst eating dinner.  A terrible habit I regret allowing to develop and one that is thankfully not practised every night.
5.  Speaking of's a good time to food shop.  The green grocers prices are still high on a Monday, as people tend to restock after the weekend.  The guy at Harris Farm even told me they reduce their prices on a Tuesday 'because it's quieter'.  Lots of mums are at work on a Tuesday so there are less shoppers and more bargains to be had.  Lots of budget experts tell you to use a list, but that doesn't work for me.  I like to see what the specials are and what is in season and work with that.  You do have to be strong though, as the stores really go hard to get you to impulse by.  Learn their strategies and avoid them.  I also use cheaper cuts like lamb shanks Frenched and lean mince.

6. When something that we eat regularly is on special, I buy lots of it. My kids love the Italian style tinned tuna stirred through pasta with lemon infused olive oil, avocado and Danish fetta.  When the tuna and oil are on special, I'll buy lots of it.  It usually lasts me till the next time it's on special.  I do the same thing with tomato sauce, Jatz biscuits and lots of our other household staples.  I often wonder what the supermarket thinks of me as a shopper. They are definitely checking.   I don't think they like me much, cause I'm pretty switched on to some of their tricks.  I always check the price per kilo, which is usually cheaper on the bigger packet size but not always, so it pays to check.

Jazz in the Pines
7.  Speaking of supermarkets, if they have a rewards program join it.  They all do (except possibly Aldi) so you don't need to change your shopping behaviour in anyway.  I am into Fly Buys because Coles is next to Harris Farm which is my green grocer of choice.  I usually get the big Christmas presents for the kids for free using this rewards program.  They have some fabulous toys on offer so this system works really well if you have young kids. They also have lots of other discounts and freebees.  If you actually calculate how much you need to spend to get the free toys etc it can be in the hundreds, but I figure I am shopping there anyway, so I might as well take advantage of their program for doing something that I would do anyway.

8.  I have a budget of $5-$10 for The Beach House Brats friends' birthday party presents.  I buy these at what we call $2 shops, although most things in there are a little over $2 these days.  For boys I buy stuff like calculators, compasses and stationary.  The girls get craft items, fairy stuff, jewellery or glittery photo frames or stationary again.  I've never had any complaints and infact the kids are often thrilled with their gift. Sometimes more so than the big ticket items they are lying next to on the floor,  amongst the shredded wrapping paper.  It makes me laugh actually.

Jazz in the Pines Dural
9.  I kitted out the biggest Beach House Brat with all his back to school stationary needs from the $2 shop as well and recycled what we had in terms of folders from last year etc.  I am still yet to buy him some red pens but, what with shopping the house for erasers and pencil cases the final bill was just $6.

Jazz in the pines Dural
10.  Eating out is a difficult one, as I adore it and it has been hard to go without that at the moment.  In the good times we limited it to once a week anyway and when my now 3 year old was too small to take to a restaurant, it was usually take away.  But even someone like me, who loves to cook, needs a break once a week.  We are lucky to get away with dinner  out for 4 for under $80 these days and that can be at our local RSL, so even the cheap eats are off the menu right now.  If I really need a restaurant fix, I'll organise to go out with my girlfriends.  That way I only have to pay for myself.

The Pines Homestead Dural
I have so many more ways to save but they are for another post.  The following is perhaps the most important.  If you do all the hard work you should have something to show for it.

Bonus Tip:  This is one from the greatest thrifter of all time and someone who taught me everything about financial planning and sticking to a budget.  A person who was wise enough to cash out of the stock market 18 months ago, which has saved her a packet as well.......My mum.......She was a child of the depression and had a great teacher in her mother.  She has always taught me to have what she calls 'running away money', more commonly known as my own savings.  Even though I have worked only sporadically over the last 10 years....for Mr Beach House, the odd day of casual teaching and now in my styling business, I have continued to save every week and I have reinvested those savings.  I siphon about $100 off the house keeping budget by way of a direct deposit before I spend a cent.  It's kind of like paying myself first.  Because of this, we are now able to  live on our savings which we are about to start doing.  I predict, they will last about 6 months.  Hopefully in that time, we will have reorganised our lives sufficiently to generate some more/different income streams. 

So what are your best budget tips?  I'd love to know....I need all the help I can get right now!!!!!

PS. The Beach House Brats, my mother and I found a fabulous Jazz concert to attend on Sunday afternoon.  Sydney turned on one of her fabulous sunny days, we booked a table under a pine tree had a BYO picnic and grooved to the beat.  Great fun.  We also took a tour of the historic homestaed on the property.  A culturally inspiring afternoon.

Today I am Partying here


  1. Great advise, Carolyn! I also do a lot of the things you mentioned. We have especially cut back on eating out. If there is a restaurant we want to try we go for lunch when the prices are lower. Thanks for sharing. Hugs, Sherry

  2. you sound very organised! some great tips there.
    my tip? i hardly ever buy take away food which can be expensive. i find making your own is nicer ,healthier & usually quicker.
    have a great week!

  3. Great tips Carolyn! I'm really hoping to be able to be a stay at home Mum in a couple of years when we have kids. We will definitely still have our mortgage though (only had our home 3 years!). Hubby makes good money working in finance mgmt but I'd love to have something for myself on the side so we're not dependant on him. Women like you are a real inspiration to me and I hope I can make it work as well as you have! xo K

  4. You were in my part of the world on the weekend! :) I'm a stay at home mum also - so I'm hearing you! Mx

  5. Hi I am a new follower hopping from The 36th ave. I hope you follow me too.

  6. following you from GFC
    now follow back me with GFC too

    I am hosting a biggest Giveaway ever:
    International Giveaway: Win Rimmel London "3 Goodie Bags Worth 400 AED(100US$)"

  7. I am sooo on your program! we live within our budget...and now it is a way of kids have more than everything they need but that not mean every newest fad...and 4 kids in college is tough on anyones wallet!
    I am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.

  8. Great tips Carolyn. 2012 is our year of huge savings for a house deposit. So I'll be adopting some of these!

  9. You have some awesome tips there and I need to follow some of them. I am ashamed to say I do overspend and have a slight shopping addiction that occaisionallh rears it's head. Thenthing is I actually love challenging myself to follow a budget. This week we put a ban on buying any meat, instead we have to use everything we have in our freezer and we cannot restock the freezer or buy anything new until it is completely empty. It fun to see what weird and wonderful creations we can come up with using frozen turkey mince and hoke fillets :)
    I had no idea about Tuesdays being cheaper. I may have to change my shopping days and stretch the dollar further.
    I agree with the kids pressie for parties. The latest thing I have been buying for kids presents is little canvases and paints and brushes from the Black Label shop at Pittwater Place. you get an awesome pressie for 12 bucks and what kid doesn't love to paint! Xxx

  10. Totally inspiring Carolyn. I wish I had some budgetting tips to pass on however having supported our three children over the past 8 years whilst they (each) completed their Uni studies - I am looking forward to the time when they all have highly successful careers and can afford to support us in the manner we would love to become accustomed to!
    Here's hoping. ;)Sharyne

  11. Your tips are really good and will start incorporating a few. Love the kids party ideas, and yes why do children need to be dressed in designer clothes. Why are we so hung up on putting someone else's name on ourselves is something I've never understood. I have started making my stocks/sauces from scratch and canning. I made enough spaghetti sauce to last me all winter (live in IL) and find this saves money. I love to cook so I also cook from scratch, but like you love to dine out. We usually do lunch which is more reasonable. My fingers are crossed that you'll think about joining Sundays' Best party going on now. You share some great resources. Now following you on linky!

  12. "Although I have never let go of my good management principles, I find I am really dusting them off and polishing them hard" -- I'm in the same situation now; well put! Lots of good tips here -- thanks!

  13. Have done about everything you are doing,it works, the thing I also do is using the library for free movies etc...

    Annie v.

  14. Thanks so much for sharing! Loved the blue and white decor. I am your newest Linky Follower and I hope you will follow me back. I am hosting a brand new link party, Toot Your Horn Tuesday and would love for you to link up :)

  15. Great post and I just found your blog. Your site is very appealing to the eye, and I will look around. Also, we have a number of Goodwill/Salvation Army dresses. You have to search, but the buys are there.

  16. When my kids were little to save money we would exchange clothes and shoes when they out grew them with others families in the neighborhood. We also did this with movies and toys. Have y'all had any yard sales to make some money? or do y'all have any metal recyclers to make some extra cash?

  17. Hi Carolyn, just stumbled upon your blog from Love, Life & Hiccups. A woman after my own heart. I'm hosting a year long feature called THRiVE - Thrifty Living over at my blog. Each month I choose a different topic on how I have lived since giving up work to have the children, even though I have followed these principles all of my life too. I'm only up to February, and the topic is "Shopping". Last month was "Back to school". You've probably practiced all these tips already but maybe there's something there you haven't seen. I'm your newest follower.

    Anne @ Domesblissity xx

  18. You are one financially savvy and disciplined woman. As is your mum--getting out of the stock market before it crashed is brilliance. How did she know? We didn't here is US. Thanks for the tips. I'm here from "You're Talking Too Much".

  19. Great tips, although I couldn't imagine paying $80 for dinner for 4!! We (my husband, son, and myself) go out for dinner on Tuesday night because the local Tortilla place has a great deal on Taco dinners - 3 tacos, beans and rice for under $4 per plate. We split one soda, and share a dessert. Dinner for the three of us is $19.

    We do have a mortgage, but when I bought this place, it was done on the assumption that I could afford the mortgage on my income only. My husband works, but I'm the primary breadwinner.

    My family's favorite meal is spaghetti - our family of three manages to eat for three nights on my spaghetti dinner, which only requires a kilo of meat - I don't buy the best grade ground beef (I buy the 80/20 mix), but drain the fat before adding the tomatoes and other ingredients.

    We don't rent videos, but belong to Netflix on-demand, which costs us $8 a month. I gave up my son & my iphone last year, and switched to pre-paid phones, which cost us about $25 a month for the two of us (versus $150+ a month for the iphone plan).

  20. These are some awesome tips! I definitely need to start buying some more second hand!

  21. You are doing great I think! I'm also good at budgeting and saving. I'm a business owner too, and am constantly looking for pennies to slash off of our costs. I've let my hair go grey, and I've always cut it myself. I have a dumb phone and regular cable. The other day, I called up our phone land line service, and just deleted all of those extra items like call waiting, etc. I ended up taking off about $50 from our phone bill. The other money saver was changing our car insurance, and we shaved off more than 1K from the premium.

    Great to find you on grow your blog!...
    Teaming together for blog performance!

  22. What a wonderful blog post!

    Following you now and wish you would come by and follow me also. Thanks. Linda

  23. I'm officially obsessed with your blog and your house!! I've been reading through it and I love it! I hope someday my home looks as cute as yours!

    Found you from the Grow Your Blog blog hop and so glad I did!

  24. Enjoyed reading your money-saving tips! We have cut our budget to the bare bones, too. One thing that saves us money is that we grow a lot of our own food. We are lucky to have the space to have a large garden, and we preserve a lot of it by canning or freezing. I saw your cute blackboard surfboard. So cute! Our grandchildren surf on the east coast of the U.S.

  25. I can relate to budgeting. Thanks for sharing your tips.

  26. Great tips!...and very timely since I believe these are tight times for most! Thanks for sharing!

  27. 1st love the name of your blog-I am brand brand new and do not understand how people make $ from their blogs will you explain please ( I find your ideas and tips wonderful. I am recently engaged to Mr. Wonderful (that is my secret nickname for him)he has 4 children and I have none we are in our mid 40's and on the presents I scour places like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or any craft stores. Recently for Valentines I found darling friendship bracelet kits and colored pencil kits and engraving kits for SUPER PRICES-so I bought those and thought myself through you tube origami and did them a variety of folded hearts on cool card stocks (which I had enough to do for my girlfriends too. Often I buy things I consider splurges like colorful post it notes, colored markers etc on sale save them and use them for fill ins with gifts. We use to eat out 3-4 times a week with appetizer, drinks and dinner around $40-50 so we have cut back to 1x a month no alcohol and no appetizer. Also if we just have to eat out it's the dollar menu, 2 burgers, 1 fry, split a drink or if we are flush 2 ice teas. We travel with his job all the time and live in motels and I cook every day out of a dorm size fridge, one electric skillet and now a slow cooker-I manage to cram a good 3-4 days in there. I write down everything we spend and keep every receipt and we are on the cash only plan.

  28. P.S. I shared your post on my FB page today!

  29. These are some great tips. I always buy used clothes for my kids too. Don't see the point in paying full price. Visiting from Vicky from Mess For Less

  30. Great tips! We've just started to get serious about budgeting and saving money. A fun free activity that we do almost every week is going to our local library. They have children's story time, a great play area, and other events as well. Not only do we borrow books, but also kids DVD's and movies... and we just discovered that they have video games too. All this for free (as long as we return them on time)!

  31. All are great tips and advise, Carolyn. Good lessons for the many trying to live within their means. Thank you for sharing at Potpourri Friday!

  32. Sounds like you are one smart cookie! Hope things improve in your budget soon.

  33. We live on a budget as well. The key is never spending more than what we have. We learned a lot of our budget principles from Dave Ramsey - I recommend any of his books!

  34. We went from 2 salaries to one overnight when my dh got sick and couldn't work anymore. He was self employed so I had to pay off his business debt too. I worked 2 jobs besides teaching full time. I have never bought a coffee from Starbucks , or had a manicure.
    We went a year without eating out, but I never missed a payment on our bills. You quickly learn to economize every way you can.

    Best wishes on your thrifty living. I don't see things getting better here in the US. People won't be able to put gas in the car soon.

  35. Great budgeting tips and those blueberry muffins look fantastic!!

  36. It seems like we're all on a budget these days, no matter where in the world we live. We're a one income family with a small house in Calif./U.S.A. which is "under water" due to the depressed real estate market and we have to really pinch to make the mortgage payment each month. One of our neighbors recently just walked away...after, like us, also spending many U.S. dollars on remodeling/renovation. (This is when the loan against the house is so much more than the fallen value of the house.) It's devastating. Real estate here has usually been expensive; I don't know anyone who has ever paid cash for a home. I drive a car that's 15 years old, with nearly 300,000 miles on the odometer. I go into new blogs where the blog "owner" has some huge mansion, or routinely takes trips abroad and, although I love to see the pretty photos, I just can't relate. That's what I like about your blog, and how you've managed to create such a lovely home with your own financial squeezes. It's inspiring and motivating. Thanx for all the good tips. And do take us on a local tour; it's fun to see your cafes or beaches or shops. I may never get to Australia but I can visit vicariously thru your posts and pictures!

  37. This is very nice that people should also know about budgeting money without compromising some weekend usual outings.


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