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Where did all my money go?

Money-672x372Meet Elizabeth. Elizabeth doesn’t buy expensive things. She’s pretty good at keeping a lid on any big expenses. She doesn’t take regular holidays or buy big plasma televisions on a whim. But at the end of every year she notices she has spent a lot more money than she can account for. Elizabeth is left wondering, “Where did all my money go?”

If the above scenario sounds like you, it’s time to get a clear picture on where you’re spending your hard earned cash. Once you know where your money is going you can make adjustments to reduce your expenses. Here we take a look at some of Elizabeth’s recurring expenses and how she could cut back to save.

Driving to work

Elizabeth drives from Wollongong to Sydney in her medium sized vehicle. The return trip is about 160km. Using an online petrol cost calculator, she is spending $107.10 per week commuting to work (based on NRMA’s average petrol price of $1.205 per litre for Wollongong). At the end of the year Elizabeth will have spent $5,569.20 on petrol alone. According to the Sydney Trains fare calculator, Elizabeth could catch the train to work for around $83 per week. A cost saving of just over $1,250 per year, not including the cost savings associated with maintaining her vehicle.

Morning coffee

At around 10am every weekday morning, Elizabeth heads to the local coffee shop to purchase her daily dose of caffeine. She spends $3.35 per day (based on the takeaway cappuccino price index for Sydney). Whilst Elizabeth doesn’t think this is much to spend, if she purchased a coffee every work day she would spend $871 a year. And this isn’t taking into account the days when she needs an extra caffeine boost and buys a second cup in the afternoon. The idea of an instant coffee from the office does not appeal to Elizabeth. But if she cuts back to only treating herself every second day she could save $348.40 per year.


Like most people, Elizabeth enjoys going to the movies and eating out with friends. Elizabeth doesn’t see the harm in doing these things every week as she chooses low cost options. Her local Hoyts cinema offers $12.90 tickets and her dinner is usually under $30. What Elizabeth doesn’t realise is that if she goes to dinner and a movie every week she’s spending $2,230.80 a year. Elizabeth could save by reducing the number of times she goes out. By dining out fortnightly rather than weekly Elizabeth could save over $1,000 per year and still enjoy socialising with friends.

Just by reviewing these three areas of her expenses, and making small adjustments, Elizabeth could save over $2,600 per year. Given that Elizabeth is saving up for a deposit on her first home, that’s a nice little addition to her kitty.

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4 Ways a Budget Will Help You

A budget is the most effective way to manage your money. It will empower you to take control of your finances and allocate your hard earned cash to the things you want out of life and that make you happy.

The idea of budget might sound scary, but once you start reviewing and managing your finances you will reap the benefits. Here are four ways a budget will help you:

1. Learn where your money goes

You probably know how much money you spend on bills each month, but do you know where the rest of your money goes? A budget will give you a clear picture on where you’re spending your money. It will also help you decide what’s important to you. For instance, your budget might reveal you’re spending hundreds of dollars on presents for family and friends. Whilst you love them, would you rather spend less on presents and more money on yourself?

2. Reduce your expenses

Once you know where your money is going, you can use your budget to help prioritise your needs and in turn reduce expenses. For example, do you need that Netflix account if you’d rather go out to the movies? Can you cut back on trips to the cinema and enjoy more nights at home? By reducing rather than eliminating you can cut back on certain expenses and put that savings towards something that makes you happy.

3. Achieve your lifestyle goals

Once you’ve paid for the living essentials, what do you want your lifestyle to look like? Perhaps a personal trainer is important to you. Maybe you’d like to travel regularly. Whatever it is, most things cost money so you need to be able to cover the expenses. A budget will help you become more responsible with your money so you can prioritise your expenses. You might need to make some sacrifices but giving up that café bought coffee every day could help pay for your next holiday. A budget will also help you save up for any big purchases.

4. Save and grow your money

A budget will show you how much money you have left over after expenses – i.e. your savings. What do you need to save up for? Perhaps it’s a deposit for your first home, a new car, a house renovation or your wedding. How long is it going to take you to save for these things? A budget can help you setup a savings plan. You can then grow your savings by reducing expenses or by investing your money, for example you could decide to invest in property as a long-term strategy.

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How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day on a Budget

This Sunday, 14 February, couples around the world will celebrate their love for one another. But how do you plan a special day without spending a small fortune? The key is to still indulge in some of the Valentine’s Day traditions, but to simply reduce them. So we’ve looked at the usual traditions and suggested some cost-saving measures.

Romantic Meal for Two

It’s pretty much a given that the romantic meal for two is an obligatory part of the days celebrations. We all have to eat anyway right? So why not make today’s meal a little more special than the usual. But special doesn’t have to mean an expensive fancy restaurant. Here are some low cost alternatives.

Stay in

Ditch the microwave meals and takeaway; take the time to make something fresh and delicious. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just something a little more complicated and interesting than the usual daily meals. Search online for recipes and play around with the presentation, such as plating it up in a love heart or spell out the words “I love you”. If you’re a hopeless cook, fear not. Focus on dishing up something different to the norm like home-made pizza, using a ready-made base, or a mezze platter, which is basically chopping and plating up. Don’t forget the ambiance with scented candles or scattered cut-out love hearts.

Avoid the set menu

Many restaurants offer set two or three course set menus for Valentine’s Day. Whilst they sound like a great deal, it’s likely to cost more than what you would normally spend on a night out. Forgo the entrée and dessert and just enjoy the main instead. If you’re feeling like something sweet afterwards, you could always enjoy an ice cream back at home. It’s also worth checking out websites like groupon.com.au and livingsocial.com.au for restaurant deals in your local area.

Go out for breakfast

The romantic Valentine’s Day meal doesn’t have to be dinner. Many cafes and restaurants offer a scrumptious and filling big breakfast for a reasonable price and often less than the cost of dinner (especially if you enjoy a wine with yours). It can also be a special way to start the day and lead into a fun entertainment activity.


Valentine’s Day is about spending quality time with your loved one so why not plan an activity together. Remember, the focus is to enjoy each-others company which doesn’t have to cost a thing. Be creative, and really budget savvy, and find something free to do.

Walk or museum

If the weather’s nice, head out for a casual stroll along the beach to take in the fresh air and scenery. If the beach isn’t your thing, head to your local botanic gardens instead. For those feeling really energetic, go bush and take a nature walk. If the weather’s not so great, why not visit your local museum for a bit of culture.

Something fun at home

If you’d prefer to stay at home, mix up your usual routine by taking a walk down memory lane. Bring up old photos on your laptop, phone or Facebook account and reminisce about your first holiday together, anniversary, whatever photos you happen to find. For couples with a bit of a competitive streak, get out an old board game, pack of cards or video game and have a friendly contest. Or spice it up with a bet – loser does dishes for a week. Or choose something a little more romantic (or naughty), whatever takes your fancy.


When was the last time you appreciated the wondrous night sky? Put on some warm clothes, grab a picnic rug, a thermos of warm drink and some snacks and find a spot overlooking the city or beach and simply take in the view.

Present Time

Traditionally, one would give their loved one a present on Valentine’s Day. To avoid disappointment, have an open discussion with your partner about expectations and budgets. Here are some low cost suggestions to run past them.

Scrap the present

Instead of exchanging physical gifts, why not agree to enjoy the experience of the day as your present to each other. You’ve enjoyed a lovely meal together, partaken in a free entertainment activity, what more do you need? Alternatively, you could put the money you would have spent on a present towards a low cost experience such as a trip to the movies.

Share a promise

Mark the day by making a promise to each other to do something the other person will appreciate. For example, a foot massage in exchange for control of the television remote for a night. Whatever you’ve been wanting your partner to do but they haven’t been keen for, now is a good time to negotiate.

Say I love you

Valentine’s Day is the day of love so make sure you tell your partner how you feel about them. In today’s digital age, why not declare your love via social media and let the whole world know. Your partner is bound to feel very special.

Whatever you decide to do this Valentine’s Day, be creative and have a romantic time.