It's kind of embarrassing to be participating in a competition about saving money when you're in the worst financial position of your life.
In fact, I'm missing out on this month's Digital Parent's Conference, one in which I was scheduled to speak, because I can't scrape together the funds required to attend.
And yet, as part of the Digital Parent's fun, I’m participating in the RAMS Loose Change Round-Up competition.
The idea is to share budgeting tips, because parents generally are right on the money when it comes to scrimping and saving.
On that subject, I am great at living off the smell of an oily rag.
As a single Mum, I have to run a very tight ship where the finances are concerned, and there’s not a lot left over after the necessities are paid.
My budget savers include:
- Working out when local supermarkets mark down fresh foods like meat, seafood, and fruit and veg. Shopping on those days can save you huge dollars without compromising on quality, as long as you can use the goodies in the next few days.
- Only buy what you can use. It’s not a bargain if you’re going to throw it out.
- Make lunches whenever possible – it’s cheaper than buying them and probably better for you.
- The same for dinners. Even simple dinners are better than takeaways. Home made pizza, breakfast for dinner, or spaghetti bolognaise are great for nights when you don’t feel like going to much trouble.
- Freeze leftovers for nights when you can’t be bothered cooking.
- Save small change. $2 and $1 coins in particular are gold mines, but even 5c coins add up. I keep small change bowls, and use them for tuck shop or milk runs.
- Buy fresh. Local markets offer fresh foods at a fraction of the price.
- Recycle main meals and turn them into lunches and breakfasts. My kids love leftover lasagne for breakfast! Roast chicken is great on wraps, and ham is yummy in fried rice.
- Eat and/or have a coffee before you go shopping. Make sure the kids are fed and watered too!
- I rarely pay full price. I snap up staples when they are on special, and incorporate seasonal specials into the menu.
- When money is tight look for what I call 'magic money'. It's money stuffed down the back of lounges, behind car seats, in hand bags, and suit pockets. You'll be surprised what you have lying around the place.
- Charity shops and garage sales are great for bargain-priced toys, shoes, clothes, furniture and other goodies. And don't forget to have a clean-out and hold your own garage sale every year or so.
And my budget buster?
When I was in hospital late last year, I mistakenly thought that the money I had deposited into my credit card account had me well ahead in the account status.
Whether it was drugs, the stress of being away from the kids, or my addled brain, I don’t know, but I was wrong.
Even though I was never extravagant with my spending, and the credit card continued to pay for our private health insurance, my life insurance and other necessities, I continued along happily in ignorance, buying things here and there, until all the medical bills came in and reality struck.
Fast forward to present where I am still paying off a credit card debt. It was the worst, silliest, financial mistake of my life.
And now I have a massive debt to pay off, which means no conference for MIA. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
You can see why I don’t make a living in the financial sector!
So my overall financial advice is look after the pennies, because they will look after the pounds.
And don’t read your credit card statements when you’re in a medication haze!