Streamline your finances this summer

In addition to getting ridiculously hot, it’s also getting super busy as we push our way through to the end of the year.

Have you noticed how much crappy stuff happens at the end of the year? Usually, it’s things that make you think, “Geezus, I really wish this year was over.”

Well, let’s start planning like it is.

To get 2017 off to a flying start, I am attempting to streamline my financial life. This involves a few things:

  • automating repayments
  • setting up or checking direct debit bill payments
  • getting the most out of my shopping trips/online basket
  • scheduling… (stay with me on this one)
  • consolidating super

First up, automating

To make financial things a whole lot more simple, automation rocks.

I’m going to put an automatic debt repayment plan in place so I can set and forget until the debt is crushed.  That means I will move 10 per cent of our post-tax income straight onto the credit card every time we get paid, in addition to the minimum payments. Keep in mind that I have already cut up the credit card, so I can’t use it to spend more!

I’m also going to set up automatic transfers of 10 per cent into savings and five per cent into a ‘spending’ account for things like coffees and eating out.

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Direct debit bill payments

I have been poring over our bills for the past six months and I’ve noticed an alarming trend. We keep getting hit with a huge bill right when we feel the most financially stretched – like KAPOW!

So, in order to reduce the chances of that happening, I have set up ‘bill smoothing‘ with our electricity provider, AGL. This means they average out your bill and take monthly or fortnightly payments via direct debit instead of sending out the big quarterly knocks-you-off-your-chair bill.

I’m also checking our other direct debit payments to make sure we are getting the best deals available. A good example is our pet insurance, which is something I’ve overlooked for a while now…

Getting the most out of shopping (when you’ve got to do it)

Now that I’m focused on spending less, or at least more mindfully, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with shopping. I find I have to think a lot more about every purchase, which gives me decision fatigue – yes that’s a real thing.

This is an excerpt from a New York Times Magazine essay about how to deal with it:

…people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower. They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices. Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend. Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions.

So habits like meal planning, lists, and even limiting where you buy from are ways to combat decision fatigue and conserve willpower when shopping – helping you make better choices.

For example, I recently did a family meal planning course, run by the lovely Stacey Clare. It made a huge difference to my shopping efficiency and my willpower. She gave us a shopping list with the corresponding meals to prepare and some helpful advice on how to prepare them. I found I had much more ability to stick to eating healthy food and maintaining a healthy budget during those weeks because, a) there were great food options in the house, and b) my decision-making energy hadn’t been used up in trying to decide what to make for dinner! Doing the course hit home the importance of being prepared and that limiting choices or decisions does make life easier. I have a plan and a shopping list at the start of every week now.

Scheduling

Ok, so it sounds super boring but (to me) it feels much better to be prepared. Scheduling is not about making life routine, it’s about making time for what’s important. For instance, scheduling a date night, a night out with friends, or a family BBQ. Although it’s wonderful to be spontaneous, sometimes the messiness of life means that if you don’t book it in – it doesn’t happen.

I have a really cool calendar that gives me a personalised column for each family member and I record what’s happening for everyone during the month. It gives us a good overview so we can schedule in family events or activities and prepare for the costs of those things as well.

I’m also going to schedule a financial check in each week with my significant other. That way we both know where the bank balance is at and we’re accountable to each other.

Consolidating super

I recently wrote a blog post about superannuation (the magical money unicorn), and I mentioned that I still have two accounts. Well, it’s time for two to become one and that means consolidating into the lowest-fee fund. I will also have to increase my life and TPD insurance so I’m maintaining the same level of cover with only one fund.

I’ve been reading Scott Pape’s (AKA The Barefoot Investor) latest book which has blown my mind on the benefits of low-fee super funds and many other things. I’ll post a book review on this soon as it’s quite simply – awesome. Get yourself a copy for Christmas if you can (I don’t get any commissions, I just LOVE the book).

streamline-your-finances-this-summer

What can you do to streamline your finances for the new year?