Organising your money

26 February 2018

February, week 4 in The Simple Home

This is the last week of our money month. I hope you've sorted out what needs to be done, organised a budget and thought about where you're headed, financially. Most of the activities we've addressed this month are simple exercises that will put you on track towards a healthier financial future.  The one thing that will make these things make sense and appear to be easy to set up and maintain over a long period of time is changing your attitude towards money. Many of us grow up thinking we deserve good things and that we should keep up with our brothers and sisters and the next door neighbours.  There is sometimes a feeling now that if you don't look like you have as much as everyone else you're not as good, or a failure. That's rubbish. Although we like to think that things are fair and equal, they aren't and I doubt they never will be. So get rid of those negative thoughts if you have them and just focus on what you need and what you have, everything else is irrelevant.


Work out what is enough for you and your family to thrive, and then work hard to achieve that level. If you use your time to earn what you need to pay off a home and buy what you need, and if you look after what you already own, you'll probably develop a feeling of self-reliance and you won't be bothered by what others have. Working towards your own financial independence is enriching and empowering and soon you see the results of your work and no amount of envy will move you off that path.

Organising Your Money

Bank accounts

Most of us have two types of spending: the regular bills that we pay monthly, quarterly or yearly, such as electricity, phone, internet and insurance, and the more irregular expenses such as groceries, fuel, transport, and so on. Hanno and I pay our regular bills online by direct debit, BPAY, PayPal or credit card, and use cash for the latter. If you have a computer, it’s worth the effort to sit down and organise automatic direct debits for regular payments to make your bill paying as efficient as possible. Having pre-programed payments will help you pay your bills on time so you never pay late fees. A late mortgage payment might mean a strike against you on your credit rating. Make sure that never happens. 

It’s easier to manage money if you have one account for your spending (bills, debit card and cash withdrawals) and a separate one for your savings. Leave enough money in the spending account for the bills you need to pay this month, as well as the quarterly, six-monthly and annual bills you're putting aside money for. This is the account to have your pay deposited into. You should have a set regular amount in your budget to save in each pay period so when all the bills are paid and money set aside for known bills, you can then transfer your savings to your savings account.


Cash and cash envelopes
Many people use debit or credit cards to spend their money – there is no problem with that if it works for you and you’re not incurring fees. I have always found that I have a better idea of what I’m spending if I use cash instead of cards. When I have to hand over a $50 note, I feel it, but I don’t when I hand over a card to pay the same amount. If you’re struggling with your budget or if you’re still over-spending, I encourage you to put the cards away for a while and try working with cash.


One problem with cash is that it’s a temptation when you have it in your purse. To avoid this problem, when we withdraw cash from the bank every month we put it in envelopes or zip-lock bags earmarked for particular budget categories – groceries, petrol, garden supplies and so on. My budget tells me how much to put into each bag. When I go shopping, I take money from these envelopes and then return any change to the bag.

During the month, I can see the amounts getting smaller and I know exactly how much I have left to spend. We can also take money we haven’t used from one envelope to pay for something that may have been more expensive than expected that month. Being flexible with these envelopes can be a great help sometimes. Whatever is left in the envelopes at the end of the month – and there always is some left over – is added to our savings. It will take you a few months to have this system rolling along effortlessly but when it does, it works very well. 

The Big Joyous Picture 
If you have a steady income, be it from a job, a business, investments, a pension or welfare, and can consistently live on less than your income, you’ll be doing okay. If you manage to save the extra, you’ll be doing even better. Once you’ve made the shift from spender to saver I hope you see the wisdom in what you’re doing, from financial, health and environmental perspectives, as well as from a lifestyle one. And don’t downplay the lifestyle angle: everyone wants to feel they’re living well and being productive, no matter how their income is derived.


When you see your friends in a new car, or changing with the fashions, you’ll most likely want to remind yourself that your life provides plenty of satisfaction and that even though you like the new things your friends have, you don’t want them; the cost is too high, no matter what it is. Your debt is reducing, not going up, and I hope that will give you a measure of accomplishment and joy that no amount of new clothes or travel will give. 

Be aware of how to cut your costs, stick to a budget and pay off your debts. These things take time, so enjoy everything that life offers as you live it. Don’t close yourself off to the people around you. Remain interested, take chances, learn new things, develop the person you want to be. This can be tough at times, and not everything will go according to plan. Keep your eye on where you’re heading and know that all this work, caution and forethought will pay off. Your reward won’t just be living debt-free, it will be the choices and options that will give you, as well as all the joy you find along the way.

43 comments

  1. Thank you, Rhonda! I've been exploring your blog for about two weeks now and I find what I read very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. I try to keep Mr Micawber's famous quote in mind ' Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen (pounds) nineteen (shillings) and six(pence) result happiness.Annual income twenty pounds,annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery'.
    Very simplistic but a good reminder.

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    1. This is such a great quote! I'm going to print it out and stick it on the fridge. Dickens was a wise man!

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  3. Setting up auto payments from my bank account is one of the best things I did to organize my finances. My bills are always paid on time. However once a month I log into my utility and bank accounts to check the amounts.

    I use the credit card for everything and pay it fully at the end of the month. I have set amounts for groceries etc., so even with a credit card I can keep track without going over the budget.
    For me, the most successful method for not spending unnecessarily is to shop less. When at the store it is tempting to buy things just because they are on sale. So I do grocery shopping twice a month and with a list. The less I go to stores, the more I save - both money and time. :)

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    1. I found shopping online twice a month saved alot of money. If i was dropping into a grocery store i would spend twice as much and shopped more often.

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    2. I agree with going to the shops less. We have moved to a single income family, as I have returned to study- it's been a huge adjustment financially. But we worked out a budget, and, on paper we have enough money to get by - it's just resisting the impulse buys and like Rhonda wrote, reminding yourself that your aren't missing out.
      I have just started using Coles Click'n'collect. I do the shopping online and pick it up at the back dock- stops me entering the store and spending extra.

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  4. This is fantastic advice! When you say that handing over a $50 note you feel it, whereas with a card you don't, that is so true. The cards are like a kind of numbing affect to your finances, creating distance and encouraging reckless abandon! I am still gob smacked that you paid off your home loan in 8 years. That is outstanding. It was our financial experts who told us to do everything using a credit card. It doesn't actually help anything at all as it turns out. I love the envelope system and will go back to it. Thanks for your encouragement Rhonda.

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  5. I use my credit card to pay for the majority of purchases including groceries and at the op shop. I always pay it off in full each month. I find it gives me a good record of my spending. I do have a small amount of cash in my wallet and use it occasionally for an op shop buy that's under the $10 Card minimum.
    I agree that one needs to get over the "I want what they have" affliction to make financial progress. So what if you drive a 5 year old car......
    Claire in Melbourne

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    1. Hello Claire,

      so what indeed! My car is 10 years old and starting to look a bit shabby. Given the state of the environment it should be a badge of honour to drive an older car and not a matter of pride to have the biggest, newest car on the road. My mechanic tells me I should get many more years out of my car and I know I need to have cash ready when the time comes to replace it.

      Madeleine

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    2. Hello Rhonda,

      as always I enjoy your posts on finances as they keep me motivated and on track. I smiled when I read 'the Big Joyous Picture' because of course that is the point of the whole exercise.

      Something I do a little differently is to keep money for longer term bills in an online, high interest account. I like the bit of interest and it also stops me from accidentally spending the money. For large sums like my quarterly PAYG tax (payable by self-employed people) I often 'save' the money by putting it onto my mortgage. This reduces the interest on my mortgage whilst it is sitting there, and every little bit helps.

      Something I used to do when things were very tight was to have a Christmas Club account and a savings account in a credit union, separate from my everyday banking. This was great as again it meant I couldn't accidentally spend the money, or be easily tempted to spend it on a whim. I truly think it kept my out of hot water and debt in those challenging years as a sole parent.

      Madeleine.x

      PS I hope your eyes are going well, it was great to hear your good news after the first op :-)

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    3. Hi Claire. I agree wholeheartedly there's no need for a brand new car! We have an older car and a really old ute. Both well maintained and running well, doing the job of getting hubby to work and son to school. Next year, we hope to go to just one car because we won't be travelling in opposite directions! I can't wait for the savings that will bring in registration, maintenance, insurance, and fuel. Meg:)

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  6. I think the trend toward having it all is finally shifting some here in the USA. I know that we have no need here to keep up and as long as we have our paid for roof over our heads and all that we need we are not concerned about how fashionable or trendy we are.

    I save for many areas each month. Last year we paid cash for a replacement vehicle and I was so thankful that we could just buy it and be done. I also have a big home repair/improvement budget that paid for 7 rooms of new flooring and a kitchen renovation over the last two years. We will soon need a new heat pump so I have a good bit of that saved now. After that we would like to replace the tub in our bathroom with a shower. It is good to know that we are working toward those things.

    A few years ago we got rid of our debit card and now use a credit card for everything as though it were a debit card. We record all charges in the checkbook as though the money is gone and all expenditures are entered into a budget ledger once a week. The credit card we use pays us 2% cash back so that is just free money. Last year we replaced our second refrigerator with the rewards. This year I have already used the rewards for a vacation. When the bill comes I go through it to be sure that everything on it was recorded and just write the check and send it off since every expenditure has already been accounted for. We really like the ease of having bills on automatic debit too but lately have had problems with some of ours so we have had to take them back and pay them with a check.

    The areas that we get cash for are personal spending money, cash that is reserved for taking the kids out to eat when they visit which we let build up between visits and cash for the two of us to eat out each month. Leftover cash from our budget for the two of us to eat out is rolled into a vacation/weekend getaway cash envelope. This really encourages us to be frugal with that money. It builds up over time and we use it when something comes up that we want to celebrate. Last year we rented a lake side cottage for my husband's 60th birthday. This year it will be our 40th anniversary.

    Managing the budget is something that I really enjoy so it is not a chore for me but rather like a game to see how far I can make the money go.

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    1. Hi Lana,

      I really enjoyed hearing how you do things. Your first sentence was especially heartening :-) Especially impressive that you paid for your replacement vehicle with cash. I hope to do the same when the time comes.

      Madeleine

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  7. I find that if i have cash it just confuses me as to how much money i have, cash to me is 'extra' money. I guess i do digital envelopes in the form of bank accounts. I have one for electricity that i transfer an amount into each pay so that when the bill comes the money is there. this account is a savings account so i also earn interest on it while i wait for the bill. We have a splurge account each which is our spending money and we have a joint account that is for day to day bills like groceries and phones.

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  8. "and if you look after what you already own.." - THIS to me was the best of your blog. We have plenty and, even though financially extremely tight, we look after what we already own. In this throw-away society, it is important to buy the best you can afford and then to look after it. Furniture, for example, such as dressers, end tables, etc., can last you a lifetime if you buy the very best you can afford and then take care of them. It also helps to buy pure wood that is not a "modern" style whose intrigue is gone the next year. Taking care is the key whether you are referring to your home, your car, your animals or your family. Nurture what you love and the rewards will be far more satisfying than "things" or money.

    Great article, Rhonda. Thank you.

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  9. Both my parents were good at handling there money. Both hubby and I can handle money.
    I only balanced a checke when I was 19. I believe at that time it was $5 charge. Last time I heard it was $30 charge per cheak and $5 a day each day it out.
    Resently I start a bullet journal and each month one of the page is to money out and in.
    Coffee is on

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  10. Thank you Rhonda for your wise words. I have been a fan of your blog for many many years and so agree with your thinking and living. My hubby and myself are retired and loving it! Our house, vehicles and two utility trailers are all paid for. Our only bills are the monthly water, cable and power. It is funny that since we have retired we feel what we have is perfect for us and don't need to spend money buying things like we use to.

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  11. I so appreciate your advice. At 61 years old, I’m nowhere ready financially for retirement but your blog has been teaching me some valuable lessons I should have learned a long time ago. Thank you Rhonda.

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  12. I have a kind of different system. I use my credit card for everything I can, such as groceries, suppplies, etc. When I get home from town I take my receipts and write a check for each one. I group them together, like all the groceries on one check, supplies on another, etc. In the memo of the check I write the different stores with the amount spent in each. That way when I do my bookwork I already have everything in the right categories. The credit card company doesn't care if I send a number of checks as long as they get paid and I pay it off each month in full.
    I don't like having anything or anybody taking out of my checking account. I have a couple of things that they will only do it that way and I don't like it. Also, if you don't have enough in your account, then you get an overdraft, so I find it best to just send my checks.
    I reconcile my bank statement every month when I get my statement and I always put a check number beside every transaction on my credit card so I know if anything has been taken out or charged that shouldn't be.
    The electric, phone, fuel and monthly bills aren't what are my concerns, it's my real estate tax which is about $1,000 per month. So even with my home paid for I still need to pay all this tax and it just feels like another mortgage.
    We have a problem here that when "some people" buy land, it comes off the tax roles and the rest of the people have to make up the difference.
    I live VERY frugally. I have my own garden, chickens, eggs, and meat. My car is 20 years old and my house is 60 years old. I cook from scratch and try not to waste anything.
    I'm past retirement age but keep working to pay the taxes. I guess the next step is selling and finding somewhere cheaper to live or signing it over to the kids and let them worry about it!
    Ok, enough of my rant. Hope I didn't offend anyone or bore you to death with my story.

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  13. At the end of every calendar month I check on or re-create some documents. First I add another month to my budget spreadsheet. I don't use any apps, just a basic google sheet and I had more rows on top for every new month as it comes along and populate all of the regular budget items like mortgage, gas and electric, car insurance savings, etc. before I put in any of the more variable expenses like food and gas. I also double check on my automatic bill pay to be sure I am not going to dip below the minimum amount I like to keep in my checking account. I keep a lot of payments on automatic payment so I do take just a few minutes to check this every month -- it is worth it because I no longer balance my checkbook in the old way but I have never bounced a check. I also take a quick look at a list of planned expenses that i keep digitally. These are planned but usually large expenses, such as a weekend away or a scheduled home repair or vet visit. I tend to plot them months in advance -- this helps me keep them from all bunching up in one month. Also, if I see that irregular expenses are too heavy one month, I can generally move things around since I know so far in advance what I planned - I might take $100 out of the budget every month for 3 months so that there is enough to pay for an upcoming $300 dollar expense, for example. I generally budget for one $300 expense every month. That covers most minor home repairs, regular car maintenance, or an occasionally new purchase. Anyway, once I spend a bit of time setting up or checking on these several items, I can generally feel quite confident letting my finances flow automatically with salary deposited and bills paid with on-line banking. The only real budget variable I have is food and I am very good at keeping that down. An occasional emergency is generally paid through one of several emergency funds - I keep a special car repair fund, a household expense fund, a separate official emergency fund - 5% of my net income goes to these accounts. And 15% gets taken right off the top for retirement accounts with a generous 11% from my employer. By the end of 2018, I should be able to stash 20% myself.

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  14. Great ideas and helps. Hubby and I are semi retired and already do a lot of these things. Don't know if it is an issue everywhere but we were concerned about identity theft when we set up automatic payments for the bills that don't change from month to month (insurance, phone, etc) We set up a free checking account with the credit union that is not connected to our joint account. This account only has about $20 more than what the bills are for the month. That way if one of our online bill accounts got hacked we would only lose the money in that account and not our savings and other information. Glad to hear your eye surgeries are going well.

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  15. Good solid advice as usual Rhonda. One area where I would always like to spend money is on my beloved garden, but with our tight budget there is not even a gardening section.. :( I started doing online surveys in my free time, and when that amount is enough I cash it in for a 20.00 or 50.00 bunnings card. Free gardening supplies!!!

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  16. Jean, sounds like you have everything working well. I can't understand your rates being $1000 a month though.

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  17. It does take time to change your mindset to money and what you do with it. Once you do you find yourself wondering why you used to be like you were. Today I was in Big W and whilst there were lots of good sales I didnt need anything other than the spatula that I went in for. In my past life I would have gone in for a spatula and come out with a trolley load of uneccessary items.

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  18. i bank with one bank (who have my home loan) & i have several accounts for; car rego & repairs; Rates (land & water); vets; visa debit card (for all my online purchases) saver account; Centrelink (gov benefits) take my power & phone out of my pay before i get it; i find this is much easier for me to do as i put monies in each account every fortnight (when i get paid) i also have an extra account for birthday monies for the kids. along with my home loan which takes money every fortnight as well; this works for me. i divide what's left for the fortnight shopping, fuel, etc; i save up the amounts needed over their period & always have more than enough to pay each bill; this Rate period (it's every six months) i have extra as we have had water restrictions & my bill is over $200 cheaper; the difference i will be popping into my home loan; as i don't get to put any extra in that very often.
    finances mostly do my head in as i'm not very good with them but this system of multiple accounts works very well for me.
    great post Rhonda :))
    hope you & Hanno are well (& Gracie!)
    thanx for sharing
    selina from kilkivan qld

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  19. I cut my credit card into little pieces about 5 weeks ago and since then have almost paid a quarter of the debt off, already the amount of interest I pay has gone down and when I have paid it off , well I am not sure I will get another one. Mine had a $4000 limit and at first I paid it off each month but the spending bug got me till it reached its limit and I was paying $60 a month interest, I am now looking forward to having a zero balance and all that extra money in my pocket not the banks. I know I will also have to start saving some emergency money but it is not getting as much attention as getting rid of the debt, how do other people cope do they have any cost cutting ideas? I need to reduce my spending as low as I can and would love to hear how other people do this please from Judi 1944

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    1. Judi 1944, my favorite financial book is Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vickie Robin. It changed my thought process, therefore I spent less money. You can get a copy at your local library. Their concept of spending less is simple, yet effective.

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  20. "Use cash instead of cards" is a great advise. We budget fuel as a regular bill, based on the average kilometers we drive, because it's card paying only at most gas-stations. This way we put aside money for fuel monthly. When there is money left from the fuel-budget we put it into our savings.

    We made the choice for a second car because we live rural. But we chose a low-cost car in monthly costs and paid for it by cash. Because we have a budget for fuel it works for us this way.

    Using cash definitely helps us to keep on track with our spending on groceries.

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  21. I pay for most things including bills with my credit card. This way I accrue enough points at the end of the year to either buy something I need or purchase Christmas presents with the points. As soon as I use my credit card I pay it off straight away using internet banking or my envelope system. I have a set amount put away for household bills, mortgage and extras such as haircuts and clothing etc. I save all my $5.00 notes to pay my car registration. Any coins go in a money box and when full is paid off the mortgage. This includes coins in pockets and left laying around the house. I am paid fortnightly and every second fortnight I live extra frugally and can usually come up with a few extra hundred dollars to also pay off the mortgage. I would like to do this every fortnight but it's just not possible. I work part time ( not by choice) am single so there is no second income but am managing fine, so far. Love reading how every one else manages their money. Thanks Rhonda for your insightful advice. Lisa W. Tasmania

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  22. Good Morning Rhonda: I love reading your blog and the comments everyone submits are always very insightful. I wanted to make a quick suggestion with sort of belongs with the money month. We had a loss in our family this last week. My mother died suddenly. I would like to recommend to your readers two things... firstly make sure all of your paperwork is in place and up to date. Wills, powers of attorney and living wills (final health wishes). It was so much easier to be of assistance to my 80 year old father because this paperwork was current. Secondly I recommend reviewing your funeral wishes please make it known either in writing or to family in conversation what your wishes are, better yet if it is affordable preplan and prepay for the funeral/services you want. In Canada where I live you can prepay for the funeral/services you want that money is put in trust or in a type of insurance policy and your family is then saved the possible hardship of trying to find the funds to pay for a funeral. Even our very simple visitation and cremation service for my mum was over $9,000 so please consider this a favour to your family and plan/budget for it. It will be much appreciated by those left behind and you get your wishes followed. I hope that people aren't offended by the subject but I thought it relevant to the last two months topics.

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    1. I am very sorry to hear of your loss. Take care of yourself at this difficult time.

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    2. I am sorry for you and your family on your loss. Take care.

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    3. Sorry to read about your loss. Very good info to keep in mind. Thank you for sharing.

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  23. Thank you Rhonda for always giving us food for thought, My husband and I have separate checking accounts, Mine is used to pay the bills. His is used for his small gun smithing business that supports his hobby of buying repairing and reselling antique farm tractors. He buys many of his parts online and he gets paid for work with PayPal. By having 2 accounts it keeps our house money safe,
    All of our cars and RV are 15 to 40 years old. My husband does a good job keeping them maintain and running good. Most everything we buy is good second hand. I keep a list of things I’m looking for, once a month we take a fun day and go around to the second hand shops in the area looking for finds. We sometimes go months without buying anything. We keep our buying to just what we are looking for, it’s just a fun day out window shopping and spending the day out. Good second hand stuff most of the time is better than new things I can buy in the store at a fraction of the cost. It’s a great feeling when I find something that’s been on my list for months. It’s like finding that special treasure you have been searching for.

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  24. It's SO interesting and helpful reading about how everyone manages their money. At the moment all my spare money is being used to make extra payments on the mortgage and to pay off the credit card. I feel as excited as a kid at Christmas when I think about having the credit card paid off (not long now!) because it will mean having more money to do up the house and put into savings. A frugal few months while paying it off hasn't been much of a sacrifice and has really made me focus on making food from scratch and making my own clothes. The frugal life suits me!

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  25. Hi Rhonda, Knowing when enough is enough, learning new skills, repairing and taking care of what we have is great advice. I am content to walk my own path. What others have and do no longer interests or influences me. Tracking spending, using cash, budgeting and a simple life suit me fine. We "down to earthers" are all singing from the same song sheet and the different perspectives shared are very interesting. Thank you for all your posts and the practical support and encouragement you so generously give. Cheers

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  26. A long while ago l found the best way to save was to have an amount of money automatically going out of my current account on pay day and into a savings account. That way, l didn't think of my salary as £800 a month (or whatever), but as £650 a month and that's what l lived off. Seeing how quickly the savings accumulated was a great incentive to carry on and save even more so l could get to the next £1000. I earn less now but could still save the money from the extra days l work each month - l just need to set up the regular transfer. Leah in England.


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  27. I have finally managed to work out how to comment. A simple mistake I kept making luckily DH was in the office and set me right. I have followed your blog from the beginning and love it, actually I am re-reading from the beginning at the moment. We have moved from NZ to Australia at the end of last year and I have taken this opportunity to overhaul our budget and spending habits. As we have just moved into our home we haven't had all our bills yet i.e electricity but will keep adding to my budget book.

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    1. Let me take the opportunity to welcome you to the comments and to Australia, Magda. Good luck settling in.

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  28. Another excellent post on my favorite topic on your blog: money. When I first found your blog I was struggling, financially. Now, I am happy to say, I am debt free and able to save money at the end of each month. It's true that we need fulfilling work at all ages. My dad is 87, and he told me that he is envious of the people who are at retirement age and above and are still working. It does really affect your self esteem.

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  29. 'When you see your friends in a new car, or changing with the fashions, you’ll most likely want to remind yourself that your life provides plenty of satisfaction and that even though you like the new things your friends have, you don’t want them; the cost is too high, no matter what it is. Your debt is reducing, not going up, and I hope that will give you a measure of accomplishment and joy that no amount of new clothes or travel will give.'

    This one I like the most Rhonda! Seeing all other people buying and buying and buying even more, I feel so satisfied with my little things at home and the feeling it is all good enough! No need to go with the buying-flow gives me the best feeling ever.

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  30. Thanks for all the great tips and stories. I have a system that works quite well for me but its great to read others and see things from different perspectives.
    I have calculated how much I need to put away for our bills that are paid quarterly and yearly like school fees and insurances from our weekly pay. It automatically transfers to an ING account where it accumulates and I never see it in our everyday account. We'd be lost if we didn't do this.
    I have started using pocketbook and am loving it. Thanks for the suggestion and link Rhonda
    kate

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  31. Thank you for one more informative and helpful post, Rhonda. I am lucky that I've never felt the need to "keep up", and at the grand old age of 46 I've never owned (or driven - although I do have a license) a car, and I'm proud that I turn up at my job as PA to directors of a multinational company in mostly thrifted or handmade clothes. However, I am very vulnerable to acquiring new books and craft materials, so one of the goals this year is monitoring and reigning in those expenses and only getting what I’m actually going to use (and increasing trips to the library!)
    Regarding our mortgage, lamentably here you're not encouraged to make extra payments, which actually bear a penalty of 0.5%, so we've only done that once with a larger sum that had been squirreled away (in a savings account) over a few years; I'm thinking of doing the same next year when more savings become available. The difficult bit these days is finding a solution that will actually pay some significant interest while you’re setting aside the money, which is almost impossible!
    As for direct debit, I actually avoid it because overcharging or wrong billing have happened in the past, and I’ve found that complaining before you pay is usually much more effective than attempting to get your money back once the bill is settled; we only have a DD for the mortgage. However, I do get all bills by email and pay them online as soon as I receive them; I also send in monthly meter readings to all utility companies, which are very useful to avoid being charged estimates, especially now that there’s just 2 of us in the house instead of 3 and we’re using less of everything.
    Similarly to many others, I sometimes move available money from one category to the other according to where it’s needed more each month - I keep budget “rows” adding up each category over the months, so I can check whether I’m within the budget overall. I also tend to be quite flexible with certain categories, e.g. clothing – if I want to buy quality garments, I know I’ll go over budget that month, but I also know it’s a very occasional expense that can be spread over several months. Spreading also works for quarterly or yearly expenses (e.g. taxes, insurance policies, schoolbooks), which are budgeted monthly and held in a savings account until needed. Part of my monthly pay goes directly into savings, including a pension plan offered by my employers and a fund for my daughter’s education.
    Something the comments here have inspired me to do is look for a credit card (mine is currently only used for online payments) with cashback or other advantages, as well as someone offering better savings accounts!

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