Since discovering the secret world of Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) a few months ago, I’ve been following some tips to reduce my expenses and clarify what I really value and what is worth spending my money on.
These tips have helped me cut down on my spending and stop buying everything and anything to only spending money on things that value-add to my life, resulting in having funds to put aside towards investments and building a future.
These are my top 5 budgeting tips to help you get closer to FIRE:
- Pre-make work breakfast and lunches on Sunday:
Preparing breakfasts and lunches before the working week and having them ready to go in lunch boxes is the most important budget saver. Buying a $10 breakfast or lunch if I’ve forgotten to go grocery shopping has previously blown out my spending by hundreds of dollars after not noticing that a small $10 here and there quickly adds up until it’s too late and too long until the next paycheque!!I’m not a morning person at all and regularly sleep in, so I never have time to make lunch on top of having a shower, doing make-up and hair and getting dressed. Having pre-made lunches already to go in lunch boxes is quick to grab and go in the mornings.
For breakfasts, I buy porridge sachets and use the work milk to make warm porridge in the mornings at eat at my desk. For lunch, I plan out all my lunches on the weekend and use the office appliances to heat up or toast food. When I want warm wintery food, I bulk cook weeks of warm food which can be frozen and stored in the freezer and then grabbed in the morning on the way out and de-frosted in the office microwave.
- Cut down on take-away food
This is similar to No.1 but is more applicable to brunches or dinners. After a long, exhausting day at work, ordering convenient take-away dinners is much more appealing than reluctantly starting cooking at 9pm.To curb this, I meal plan on the weekend to ensure I have either something easy and simple to put together with the least effort required (e.g. roast chicken, rice and roast veggies) or can warm up a meal that was pre-made and stored in the freezer.
Mr. Piggybanks and I used to go out for brunch as our Saturday and Sunday ritual, which set us back $60 each brunch. Now we cook epic brunches at home (better than a cafe brunch!) for a fraction of the cost and bring take-away coffees home.
- Walk or cycle as much as you can
It may not be possible for all but if you live close to work or facilities (supermarkets etc), then opt to walk instead of take public transport or drive. If you chose to live close by to work and supermarkets, you’ll save time and money from not commuting!When Mr. Piggybanks and I were looking for apartments, one of my criteria was that the location needed to be convenient – close to public transport, close to work and walkable distance to pretty much anywhere.
As we live so central, I rarely use public transport as it’s only a short 30 minute walk to work and supermarkets, pharmacies, post offices, gym etc are all within a 100m radius of our apartment. By walking to and from work I save about $70 a week. If I’m coming home late after going out I’ll take a taxi for safety reasons and if there is the odd occasion where we need a car then GoGet’s car share is very cheap and convenient. No public transport or car expenses when Mr. Piggybanks and I live so conveniently!
- Cut down on alcohol
This is a difficult one for me as alcohol is so closely linked to social events and outings. Going through my spending, Entertainment expenses on alcoholic drinks alone are exorbitant, and I often find myself easily blowing $100 – $150 in one night.Just like buying take-away lunches or dinners, a $10 – $12 glass adds up very, very quickly, and if you’re like me the self-control quickly disappears the more the drinks go down!
Some tricks I’ve taken to cutting down on alcohol is to stay away from participating in buying rounds of bottles of champagne or wine to share with the table. Instead, I’m buying individual drinks and so don’t feel any pressure to buy an expensive round. I’m trying to challenge myself to have one night out completely alcohol-free, but then the rounds of drinks come out and I’m back to buying glasses and glasses of wine and mixed drinks.
Best budget saver is to have a quiet night in instead of going out, which always ends up being the most satisfying nights as I can spend the whole time in my PJs and read blogs and watch Netflix!
- Create a wish list of items to purchase to stop impulse purchases
Come pay-day I’m like a money-machine and throw dollar dollar bills on anything that grabs my attention. After I completed the 15 day Minimalist Challenge, I realised that most of the items I threw, donated or sold were really terrible quality and didn’t last very long before deteriorating.I now create a wish list of anything essential and non-essential that I want. My groceries list is on my phone and every time I run out of something, it’s added to the list. This way when I’m at the grocery store I know exactly what I need and how it fits into my meal planning.
For non-essential wants, I have a separate wish list. For this list, I take a photo of the item I want and sit on it for at least a week. Most of the time I don’t want it after a short time frame, so save myself from wasting money on impulse buys.
What tips do you use to cut down on spending?
xx Miss Piggy
*All illustrations by Holly Exley