Tag: Australia

Cutting Costs: Project Groceries

projectgroceries
Recently a question was asked in a Facebook group I’m in – “how much do your weekly groceries cost and for how many people?” I was absolutely shocked when I was the only person who feeds 3 people (2 adults and a toddler) for less than $100 – usually closer to the $50-$75 mark where the norm seemed to be $150+ for the same sized family!

That conversation lead to many people asking how I manage to do it and so I am going to share my methods here.

Grow food where possible.

Now before you cry out that you can’t possibly grow anything because your yard is too small etc – I grow a decent amount of food on my balcony as I live in units. It’s nowhere near enough to sustain us but it certainly helps reduce costs and encourages us to eat healthier. We grow spring onions, silver beet, tomatoes, lettuce and sprouts such as alfalfa. Herbs are worth growing if you use them frequently as they can be quite expensive.

Keep a (digital) price book

There are apps that can fulfill this need or you could even use something like google sheets to create your own. Creating a price book can be time intensive but the payoff is massively worth it. They give you a starting point for what a good price is for each item you frequently buy and allow you to compare which retailer offers the best price if you have multiple choices. For example I live close to a Coles and Woolworths with an Aldi reasonably close by. I reject the idea that Aldi is cheapest because at least for where I live each retailer offers various things at the cheapest price. I never knew any of that before I started a price book.

Buy discounted vouchers

I almost always get at least 5% off everything I buy at Woolworths because I buy e-gift cards online. Coles doesn’t sell them as regularly at a discount unfortunately but you can sometimes buy only1 visa gift cards at cost value (ie $100 for $100) from Woolworths with your discounted wish card, that can then be used to shop at Coles – or anywhere that accepts visa – to allow you to shop at a discount. The discounted wish e-gift cards can also be used at big w and Woolworths Caltex stores.

Buy in bulk

Most of the time (although not always) buying in bulk is cheaper. If you can buy something in bulk and store it so it won’t be wasted (weevils, food spoilage etc) it’s a good way of reducing costs as well as your environmental impact due to reducing packaging. Always compare unit cost (price per kg or L) to make sure it is actually cheaper to buy in bulk – the price book is great for that.

Buy on special

Similar to buying in bulk, if you know you will use it and it won’t go to waste if you see it on special – buy up. This may temporarily make your grocery bill cost more but in the long run allows you too save. I buy milk frequently as it nears it’s expiry and gets marked down and freeze some (don’t go overboard though as it doesn’t freeze well for too long!) Similarly I often buy meat on a mark-down special and then freeze for later, allowing for cheap meat meals.

Utilise the store loyalty program

If a loyalty card takes $10 off my shop I still include that as an income/expense in my budget so technically isn’t reducing my grocery expenditure as far as my budget is concerned – but it is still reducing the amount I have to pay – and that is a definite win in my eyes.

Reduce wastage

The statistics for how much of our groceries goes into landfill is quite honestly terrifying. This is probably the single largest thing you can do to reduce your grocery expenditure. Shop your pantry and make a meal plan before you go shopping. That’s not too at you cant make wiggle room for awesome specials, but shopping your pantry first will remind you what you already have, it’ll allow you to rethink what you need in order to use up what’s in your pantry first. Learn more about the food we eat is another way to reduce wastage too as you can learn to make meals with what you probably used to throw out. I regularly make bone broth with scraps of bone and veggies, I salvage good bits of going bad fruit and freeze for easy smoothie bags, I freeze diced onion an mushrooms before they go bad for later use in cooking (note freezing can change the texture of food – some foods freeze better than others which can influence how they can be used post freezing)

Make from scratch or create your own bespoke version of processed foods

As I have mentioned previously in Cutting Costs: Project Cereal, you can use a combination of different cereals to make your own cheaper (and tastier) cereal. I also frequently make my own tastier, healthier and cheaper pasta sauce from scratch when I buy bulk quantities of cheap tomatoes. When buying processed foods you are frequently paying for convenience so expect there to be more time required to reduce the grocery spend this way.
There are also other methods you can use to reduce the overspend that are hugely well covered, things like avoid the centre aisles, don’t shop whilst hungry and only carry cash, but I don’t find those tips anywhere near as handy at reducing my overall grocery bill. I hope you have found some worth in these suggestions and would love to hear if you have anymore suggestions 🙂   -FIM

Don’t forget to check out other articles in the ‘Cutting Costs’ series!
Cutting Costs: Project Cereal
Cutting Costs: Project Water

Cutting Costs: Project Water

cutcostswaterWater bills are tricky, so much of the costs relates to the infrastructure more so than the actual usage costs, making it often a tricky place to save money. That said there are other reasons for reducing water usage other than saving money. Maybe you’re using tank water as your supply and thus rely on a finite amount of water, or maybe you prefer to use an environmentally sustainable amount of water.

As with all Cutting Cost tips you may find that not all of the tips offered suit you or your lifestyle but I’d rather be thorough with listing tips in the greatest hope of helping the most amount of people. Adopting even one of these tips will hopefully help you reduce some of your expenses.

  1. Collect water while waiting for hot water to come through the system. Once the habit is formed its easy to remember to have a container ready for collecting the cold water while awaiting the hot water to come through before having a shower or doing the dishes. Most times I collect around 2L of water which provides plenty of drinking water for myself throughout the day. I don’t tend to drink the water collected while waiting for the shower to warm up because our older taps imbue a coppery taste. Instead I use that water for filling up the cistern after flushing the toilet.
    Saving = 2-4L/day 14-28L/Week 728-1456L/year
    Potential yearly saving=$2.55-$5.11
  2. Collect and redistribute grey water. This tip can be dependent on your location as some local councils don’t allow grey water usage. Grey water is considered water that has previously been used, it’s things like your bath or  laundry water which can be reused particularly in the garden. Utilising grey water does need to be done with caution as the detergents used may be detrimental to the environment. Grey water is great for helping keep your lawn green but caution is recommended if you decide to use it for watering fruit or vegetable crops.
    Saving = 70-980L/week 3,640-50,000L/year (calculated from efficient model with once a week runtime up to a less water efficient model and daily washing)
    Potential yearly saving= $12.77-$175.50
  3. Reduce your shower time. If reducing the amount of time spent in the shower isn’t feasible, can you turn the taps off while soaping up? We have a shower inside a bathtub allowing me to collect the water for Little Mister to have his bath at the same time I shower.
    Saving= 7L/minute 49-98L(or even more time reduced)/week 2,548-5,096
    Potential yearly savings=$8.94-$17.88 per person (5 person household could be up to $89 saving or more per year)
  4. Turn that tap off when you don’t need it. This is the basic advice – you don’t need the tap running while you are brushing your teeth for example.
    Savings= 5L/minute 140-280L/week 7,280-14,560L/year
    Potential yearly savings=$25.55-$51.10
  5. Check for leaks. Check your water meter and jot down the number it is at. Then use no water for an hour and recheck the number – if it has increased you likely have a leak somewhere. Sometimes this isn’t a feasible means of checking, for example if you are reliant on tank water or live in older units with a shared meter.
    Savings=100-500L/week 5,200-26,000L/year
    Potential yearly savings=$18.25-$91.26
  6. Install water efficient appliances. Washing machines, shower heads, toilet cisterns and taps all have more water efficient counterparts. Whilst the initial outlay may seem counterproductive, they will make their cost back over time due to the difference in savings from water (and possibly electricity) bills.
    Savings=2L/min 14-28L/week 728-1,456L/year or more if multiple appliances are installed. Added benefit – if you are renting out a property water efficient appliances are required in order to pass the water usage charges onto the tenants.
    Potential yearly savings $2.55-$5.11
  7. Don’t buy bottled water. Not quite a water bill slashing idea as it will add extra usage to your bill – however comparatively a 600ml bottle of water usually costs between $1-$3 depending on where you buy it. 600mls of water will set you back approximately 0.002c and also will help you reduce your footprint on the environment.
    Savings = environment and loads of $$
    Potential yearly savings = $1,092-$3,276 based on 3 bottles (1.8L) per day.

So while individually it is seemingly a minor reduction in the bills – from a worst case scenario it’s possible to save up to $365 off your yearly total – or almost $100 per quarter – and up to $3,500 if you stop buying disposable water bottles and instead invest in a decent reusable water bottle. Not to mention the benefits the above tips would all have on the environment long term.

Savings $$ calculations are based on the value of a kilolitre being $3.51 as per my latest water bill (in Brisbane in 2017) on the lowest tier. Averages of how many litres appliances use found through internet searches.

Do you have any water reduction tips?
Have you had success dropping the price of a water bill?


Don’t forget to check out other articles in the ‘Cutting Costs’ series!

Cutting Costs: Project Cereal

cereal2.jpg

I’m picky when it comes to cereal. Ever since I was a kid, light ‘n’ tasty was the only cereal I never got bored of ⅓ of the way into the box (sorry mum!). I dislike porridge and always have, weet-bix gets soggy and gross… but combination cereals, like just right and sultana bran are my kinds of cereal! However… they’re expensive and more often than not the box image expectation and the reality of what’s inside the box leave me totally disappointed.

Solution: make your own cereal!

Now I’m not saying this is the cheapest way to eat cereal, but I find it is the cheapest way to eat this type of cereal, and you can chop and change it entirely to your tastes.

 

I don’t have a set recipe and each batch I make is slightly different but the basic elements I try to include are

  • Corn flakes
  • Rolled oats
  • Weet bix
  • Rice bubbles
  • A combination cereal like light n tasty
    Optional extras:
  • Dessicated coconut
  • Sultanas

Honestly you can use any cereal you have available to you but it’s the quantity of what that averages the cost out for you. For example I use the cheapest of everything available to me (yes, even the cardboard tasting home brand weet-bix!)

Instead of paying around $7/kg for combination cereal, if I combine the following in complete packet sizes-

Combination cereal 770g = $5
Corn flakes 550g =$2
Rice pops 400g =$2
Rolled oats 750g=$1.19
Weet bix 1kg=$2.86

It comes out at
=3.475kg/$13.05=$3.75/kg
Which is by itself a $2.70 saving per kg however, that’s not the quantities I use.

The rough quantities I use are closer to as follows-

10% combination cereal =(.64c)
30% weet bix (crushed)=(.85c)
20% corn flakes=(.72c)
10% rice bubbles=($.50)
30% rolled oats=(.48c)

Or $3.19/kg a saving of more than 50% of store bought combination cereal!

Of course adding sultanas and dessicated coconut bumps the unit cost up a tad, but still it is much cheaper than a store bought version and if times are lean I can tailor the cereal to be cheaper again by increasing more of the cheaper ingredients and less of the expensive ones. The price can also be reduced by buying the cereals in bulk quantities while they are on special, or sometimes stores have multi-buys (such as 3 for $5 instead of $2 each for homebrand corn flakes and rice pops).

For the actual making part I just layer them all into a airtight container and then – to my sons amusement – shake it all up, and serve.

Have you tried making your own cereal?
What ingredients do you include?

PSA: Huggies Little Swimmers Freebie

sample-banner-2_normal

Free Sample (Up to 2 per year) For Huggies Little Swimmer pants.

https://www.huggies.com.au/samples/little-swimmers

I have been told by a swimming instructor that these pants don’t actually contain wee, but just catch poo from escaping. This means if your little one doesn’t poo onto these swimpants you could in theory dry the swimpants in the sun until they look worse for wear. So if you only have the occasional swimmer this could make a packet of these pants last much longer.

Apps That Save You Money

apps

 

After recently destroying my iPhone 5 ( 😥 ) I decided to make the switch to an Android based phone which puts me in a tough spot in relation to finding replacement apps to ones I had known and loved for years. Particularly apps which save me a lot of money either by earning me money, or helping me manage the best deals and my budget. To save others some of the hassle I thought I’d create a list of which Apps I recommend for each operating system.

 

The types of apps I have found most beneficial are

 

  1. A money tracking app
    I strongly believe it’s impossible to be financially responsible without an system of tracking your expenditure. It’s very easy to have a $5 cup of coffee 1-2 times a day and think little of it. Seeing that you are spending $2,500 a year on coffee instead of adding it to savings, or debt, or a holiday may encourage you to start bringing a thermos from home. A money tracking app allows you to evaluate where your money is going and make choices and changes if required.
  2. An app that encourages debt payoff
    It can be hard finding motivation to pay off debt, particularly a mortgage. It seems like a never ending debt looming overhead that just constantly accrues interest. This is where an app that helps keep you motivated and on track can really help.
  3. Personal bank apps
    I think this is pretty self explanatory and I haven’t included these types of apps in the below list. Having your bank’s internet banking app on your phone allows for you to have a instant view of your accounts and to be aware of your current situation.
  4. Apps that bring in or save money.
    These can be mystery shopping type apps, free entertainment apps, or survey apps. Not a must for everyone but can still be useful.
  5. Apps that hold your loyalty cards
    I haven’t listed this in the list below because I never found one I was satisfied with on iOS and I haven’t yet looked on Google Play but the benefit of these apps is you will get all the loyalty points you deserve if you have your cards on you, but with almost EVERY shop offering loyalty cards these days it’s almost impossible to keep them all on hand.

iOS Apps:

  • I fell in love with CashTrails+ as my main money tracking app 3 years ago. It was a paid app (and still is if you choose to go with the pro version) but was well worth it for me. It had great functionality and reporting. It can take a while to set up all accounts and tags but once done to your liking the report power was awesome. The only downside I struggled with was not being able to compare records year vs year.
  • Sometimes a really simple app can be great motivation. I found Mortgage Payoff Tracker a great motivation tool while we were paying off our first mortgage because it showed in simple pie chart form as well as numbers just how much money we were saving  by making early repayments. In the end it showed we saved $200K! This app was GREAT motivation for us and whilst it’s aimed at mortgages there is no reason it couldn’t be used for other debts as well.
  • I’ve previously mentioned the Field Agent app and it’s a great way to try new things and bring in a little extra cash. I’ve been paid to buy and make my dinner, I’ve been paid for buying craft supplies from spotlight, I’ve been paid for collecting my junk mail for a week. They are generally super easy tasks, and are a nice way to get something for free.

Android Apps:

  • I’m only new to Android but so far I’m loving the look and feel of Expense Manager. From what I’ve seen in action so far it appears that there is quite the collection of reports I can run in this app, but it also has the ability to set budgets, something I’ve never actually done before, but with the help of this app I’m now attempting.
  • Luckily Mortgage Payoff Tracker is also available on Google Play! The features are exactly the same as the iOS but slightly prettier in my opinion.
  • Also available on Android is Field Agent. As mentioned above it provides a bunch of opportunities to make a little extra on the side when doing things as simple as your weekly grocery shop.
  • An extra bonus App I’ve discovered on Google Play is Google Opinion Rewards. It’s a survey type app that pays in Google Play credits. I haven’t been using it long but have $2 in credits and so far every survey I’ve done has been incredibly quick (2-3 questions) and worth what it’s paid out. The reviews are mostly decent with a few complaining more about lack of new surveys, but I think that’s a fairly common complaint with survey programs from a few people (which is why I am in so many)

Have you got any money saving apps you cannot do without?

Australian Survey Sites

surveys.jpgWhilst it’s always easier to reduce your expenditure than it is to earn extra money, some people like to do surveys to bring in some extra income to their household. I have been doing surveys on many sites for about 3 years now and over that period of time I have tracked which surveys pay out the most reliably. I usually earn enough from my surveys sites to pay for my groceries each month which is convenient as most of the Australian survey sites offer grocery gift cards as one of their rewards choices. Below I have listed, and will update as necessary, my favourite survey sites to save you the hassle of working out which sites are good and which aren’t worth it. All of these sites are time intensive to get rewards so it’s up to you to decide if completing surveys is a valuable use of your time. For your ease of use of this page the name of each survey site is also a link to the site.

Pureprofile
This is one of my favourite survey sites but requires you to log in frequently to get the best benefit from it. Surveys aren’t emailed to you, instead just a daily summary which gives a way over-inflated amount of what you could potentially earn. Pureprofile does pay out 5-10c per survey even if you aren’t eligible to complete it which sounds like nothing but it does add up quickly!

MyOpinions
This site is another of my most frequently visited sites. As with Pureprofile you need to frequently visit the site to get the best benefit from it. Getting screened out of these surveys still gets you the equivalent of around 20c in points and furthermore you can build up bonus points through their loyalty program. The instant cash out rewards are actually instant which is a huge bonus for me.

Swagbucks
Swagbucks is traditionally speaking an American site and as such doesn’t cater amazingly to Australians but can be a nice way to get a small passive income with little effort. At the moment using the referral link I’ve supplied and earning 300SB (approx $3) within the same month will get you a bonus 300SB (so if you are at the end of July maybe wait till the first week of August to sign up). By making swagbucks your default search engine you can get randomly allocated swagbucks (requires a code to be input to redeem in a timely manner) and there is also a toolbar that alerts you to when there is a ‘swagcode’ which will give you bonus points. You can play videos for small amounts of swagbucks which I do whilst doing the dishes. There is also surveys on the site however I do find you get screened out more frequently than you actually get to complete a survey and you only get the equivalent of 1c a max of 5 times a day for screening out. The best benefit of the site however is it currently pays out (to Paypal) in US dollars, so if the Aussie dollar is particularly weak when you cash out it’s actually beneficial 😉  The best way to learn about getting the most from swagbucks is to check out the swagbucks reddit page.

MyView
This site fell out of my favour for a while after a few glitches in their system which have fortunately since been fixed during a big overhaul of their site. As with all of my favourite sites it pays out a small amount even if you don’t qualify for a particular survey – however it’s only 5c. They offer a decent amount of surveys.

Mint Surveys
For some reason this site sometimes receives bad press which I don’t understand. If I had to guess it would be because a lot of the emails end up in the spam folder due to always being sent from different email addresses which makes people feel like they are never getting invited to surveys. Mint Surveys offers a generous 10-20c reward if you screen out on a survey however I find I get screened out of the fewest surveys on this site so long as I respond to the emails in a timely matter. Make sure on the final page you answer the poll question as they are always worth an extra 10c even if you screen out! One small downside of Mint Surveys is they are yet to change their reward system to include e-gift cards which means you may be waiting 2 months to receive your reward in the mail (however I ALWAYS have received it!)

MySurvey
This one is lower on my to do list after the previous survey sites. I’ve recently been had a string of issues with survey errors which makes me less keen to do them. Similar to MyOpinions they offer a loyalty bonus so the more surveys you do the more bonus points you get per survey. There is also no incentive for surveys you screen out of which is why I more frequently let these surveys pass. However they do pay out which is why I’ve included them on this list.

Field Agent
Ok, so this one isn’t technically a survey site. It is however a mystery shopper type smartphone App. It’s available on both iOS and Android and in short pays you for assorted tasks. In the past they’ve paid $3 to keep your junk mail for a week and report about it (no massive wordy reports required) I’ve done tasks that involved shopping at spotlight (and getting my purchase refunded), I’ve had free/paid dinners for reporting about pizza chains or easy convenience meals from grocery stores. It’s an app that definitely seems to favour those in metro areas but pays decently for the amount of time to tasks actually take as opposed to some of the other methods listed here. I don’t participate in a lot of the tasks offered because they’re too far away or I’m too slow, but I still tend to bring in around $100 a year on this one.

Just to reiterate – with all these sites you only get out of them what you put in and I think them far from the best way to earn income in terms of time input/money outcome – but as something to do whilst watching tv at night, or to fill time whilst you are bedridden with injury or illness – it can be a nice little way to get some extra cash without leaving the house.

Do you recommend any survey sites accessible in Australia that I haven’t included? Let me know in the comments!

Full disclosure, by using the link supplied by on this page I may be receiving a referral bonus.