Track your spending

24 May 2017
Carrying on from my previous post... I think the first step in making long-lasting changes in how to deal with money is to first work out what your values are and to adjust your thinking to make sense of it. Generally, when you're living this way, you try to cut your costs, stop unnecessary spending and create your own organised system to pay off debt and lower the cost of living. How you do that is up to you and it can be done well in many different ways. There is no one size fits all formula for this. You look at your own life, your needs, your level of debt and you work out how you'll cut costs while you pay off debt.

The first thing I suggest you do is to track your current spending. We all know how much money we have coming in each week/month, but not all of us know how much we're spending, or on what.  By tracking your spending, you'll know how much you're spending on what you need and also on those things you don't need, but want.  It's good to identify those wants, because they are usually what you can stop buying to save money. Coffee and magazines are generally in the wants category. Spending four dollars a day on a cup of coffee when you're at work five days a week will add up to about one thousand dollars a year.  And that's just one thing. Magazines are another thing that can be easily stopped. Buying lunch at work five days a week, if you spend about seven dollars a day, will cost you around $1750 a year. Even if you spend $750 buying your basic ingredients to make lunch at home, you're saving $1000 a year. If you can get into the habit of taking your lunch and a drink with you when you go to work, it will help you save.

But there is a catch here. You have to be sensible about what you cut back on. If a cup of coffee every day seems to be too much of a sacrifice, buy coffee every second day or twice a week. In three months, think about it again and you might be able to do more. YOU have to decide on what you can live with. It's not for me or anyone else to tell you what you should do. You're taking control of your own life and you call the shots. Just make sure your decisions are sustainable and realistic. Make sure your changes can be done, start off slow if you need to and as you see the changes happening, you may decide to increase what you're cutting back on.

Here's an old post on how to track your spending.

We are all different in so many ways, some of us rent, some work from home, some have a car, some have no children, some have a large family. No formula can cover all the differences.  The one thing we do have in common is that we all need food so if you can save money on your food, then those savings will be ongoing. I don't bother searching for "specials" or clipping coupons. What I see on sale at supermarkets are usually products I would never buy, they tend to be snack foods, soft drinks, processed foods and expensive cleaning products.  By making my own simple cleaners, stockpiling and shopping for fresh food, while growing a bit of it ourselves, we get, I think, the best value for money.  We shop at markets when we can and do our shopping at Aldi with a bit at IGA or Woolworths for things that Aldi don't stock.

You might discover that bulk buying with a friend or family member will save you money. You may decide to cut down on meat. You might grow a garden. Again, there are many ways to do this, you just need to think about it and work out what works for you.

In my next post let's share our ways of cutting back.  I'll make up a list of what I do but I'd love to read what you do as well. By sharing our plans and strategies, we might help someone else start making changes in their life.  We'll be waiting a long time to see our governments and the media encouraging us to cut down on what we spend. We have to do this ourselves and help others do it too. It can be done, it can be enjoyable! I know quite a few people who see cutting back as a game. But no matter how you do it, do it. It will help you change your life.


  1. Great advice. I wish we still had Woolworths, I loved that shop. 😟

  2. I have been tracking my expenses for a long time now. I use an Excel spreadsheet. One advantage is that it's easy to see how my electric and water bills vary from month to month.
    I do grocery shopping twice a month. The warehouse store I go to has coupons for things I usually buy (toilet paper, coconut milk, quinoa etc.)
    I buy rice and chickpeas from an Indian store because they have the best price in my area.

    1. Excel would be a great way to record your outgoings. I wish we had more of those little warehouse stores and Asian shops. A new Asian supermarket open near here and I have to get over there soon and check it out. I'm sure I'll find a good price on rice, chickpeas, lentils, spices etc.

  3. I am off and on with vigilance.... it has to do with time for me... sometimes I buy lunch out; others I pack. But things I am consistent with are not buying water in bottles when I am out; avoiding snacking when out; errands on one day when I work (I only leave home twice a week to work); make our soap; bake bread; hang laundry when I can; less lights on in the house; reduced our TV service and no long distance; and drive my car for a minimum of 10 years (it is 100 miles round trip to my job, so I end up with about 450,000 miles in 10 years). I pay cash only. And, if I decide NOT to buy something, that extra money goes into savings or to pay down my house. It's a good start for me because it keeps me mindful! <3 matty

  4. Hi Rhonda, just wanting to know your thoughts on how to dispose of messy garbage! I mean meat fat, old smelly oil, rotten meat etc. I have reduced my use on plastics hugely over time but am trying to not use a plastic bag to line my garbage bin ( inside). We receive the local rag (paper) occasionally, and I've been wrapping smelly stuff in that. Any other ideas? We compost and feed the chooks most waste. (Not that there is much!)

    1. Hi Leigh,
      We give meat fat to the chooks we don't have old oil or rotten meat. When I was growing up, everyone wrapped their rubbish in newspaper. Some people buried that in the backyard, others put it in the rubbish bin.

  5. Thanks to your books Rhonda we tracked our spending for a month. Now we have our normal weekly budget plus a budget for the whole year, reduced our utility bills and noticed some areas where we could really save. We also use an Excel spreadsheet and I record all of our expenses at the end of each month and Excel then compares it to our forecast for that month.
    It is a great feeling as we are in control. It really takes away the stress of the unknown if that makes sense.

  6. Wants and needs is something I am mindful of. We have got to a stage in life that we have what we need in the house and take care of what we have. We need to replace things every now and then but keep it within our budget and planning. I don't follow trends so I'm content to have the things I love around me. I agree it has to be sustainable to us and we tweak things where needed. I still treat myself every now and then but I am happy with some craft things or a new tea towel lol. It so often comes back to being content I think as well as thankful that our needs are met.
    I hope the fox is keeping away Rhonda. I was so sorry that Kathleen met her end that way.

  7. I'm so loving these back-to-basics posts on budgeting. You could nearly recycle your entire 10 years of posts and tweak them accordingly....I never tire of the solid, basic, down-to-earth message

  8. I love you budgeting posts. My husband and I try to cut back wherever possible. We got rid of our home phone. Both our cars are paid off. We only have a house payment , water bill and electric. We shop at discount stores, Aldi's, Goodwill and Salvation Army. Your sight has given me such great ideas to incorporate into our life style. Thank you and also to every one who posts their comments. I glean alot from everyone.

  9. It looks like you've got a different haircut - it's very flattering! :)

  10. Very nice series of posts. When I was first starting my frugal life, I would write down my expenditures in a little 2inchX3inch notebook. It was easy for me to keep in my purse and use.
    I would also deduct any credit card purchases from my check register as if I had written a check. When the credit card bill needed to be paid, I'd add up all my entries in the register and then actually write the check. Doing it this way meant that I wouldn't overspend in the month.
    SJ in Vancouver BC Canada

  11. We did this too and it paid off greatly. We were eventually able to edit lots of expenses out of our lives--luxuries or foolishness that had started to seem like necessities. One key for us was to put EVERYTHING on the table. We challenged and questioned every expense and over time our household budget shrank significantly as we eliminated (in addition to the big things) magazines, television, a land line, the newspaper, and so on.

  12. I agree with Lisa - your hair looks great. And as MrHM stated - sound advice is always sound advice and a welcome read. I've tracked our spending for a couple years now. It's interesting to see from year to year where you can make progress and where uh-oh's happen. I use a good ol' pencil and paper. Our electric isn't very reliable.

  13. great posts & i could re-read your posts over & over, tweaked or original.
    my spending has reduced heaps over the years, though i don't get much growing i have a reasonable supply of fresh produce from our markets & their gardens, i live alone now & so my spending is much less; the only time it goes up is when i have visitors as i usually have to buy a bit more food. i am still trying to grow veges, carrots have come up so far, nothing from the cabbages yet. i have chooks for eggs & they don't cost much to feed either, they eat everything!
    i did up several accounts with the bank to cover, rates, car, vets, house, loan, etc with my main account being for use with what was left over. it helps, also i have Centrelink doing Centrepay for my power & phone.
    great advice as usual Rhonda
    thanx for sharing
    selina from kilkivan qld

  14. It is so much about trying this and that...our budget over the years has changed according to our circumstances, children at home then gone, working then retiring, the biggest thing is to stay aware, communicate well and be flexible. Oh and have fun now and then too - fun is one of our budget categories!

  15. Until I started writing it down I had no idea I was spending close to two thousand dollars a year on two coffees a day.

    For goodness sake, that is a holiday somewhere and until I saw the cold hard facts, I was oblivious.

    I still buy the occasional coffee but would spend no more that $500 a year and I have always packed my own lunch.


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