The Buck Stops Here
Taranaki Daily News Jan 2010
Traditionally at New Year we make rash promises of life changing policies we intend to introduce for our own betterment. Typically changes last for about five minutes and we fall back into our old habits of overeating, smoking, boozing and laying around on the couch. Last New Year, when holidaying at Opunake Camping Ground, I was struck by great clarity of vision and decided that 2009 was the year to get my act together financially. My family returned to the same camping ground this year and it was time to re-cap and see if that previous New Year’s resolution had stuck.
There is no doubt about it, changes have been made, reflected most markedly by a sizeable nest egg waiting in a managed fund to become a deposit on a rental investment for me and my two daughters. I am amazed at the financial progress I have been able to make by implementing a few changes around the home, changes that on face value look difficult but in reality have proven to be beneficial and positive in many ways.
Because I have chosen sharemilking as a job I am guaranteed if not a decent income, at least access to money to pay myself the average wage. And because I have up-skilled in other areas ie: Artificial Breeding Technician and Diploma of Agriculture, I gain opportunities to secure secondary employment, like tutoring and an AB run, so income is not really my problem (just is there enough hours in a day to fit it all in.) If income is not a big problem and you still can’t save a cent then obviously the fault lies with expenditure and let’s face it, a lot of resources are tied up in other people trying to get that last dollar out of your pocket and into theirs. Just look at the coloured junk mail that arrives in the letterbox every day enticing you to go shopping.
However I am all for for taking responsibility onto my own shoulders, so I can’t blame my lack of funds on advertising even if I am bombarded with messages to spend, spend, spend everywhere I look – billboards, newspaper, junk mail radio, TV… At the end of the day it is me who hands that last buck over the counter, so it is up to me to make sure some of those bucks stop with me.
Marketing is pretty slimy. It can slither up on you and before you know it you truly believe that the $120 face cream is truly going to take those nasty wrinkles away or drinking Coke is going to transform your spotty mates into hot babes and you will all have a great time frolicking in the sun… and if I’m not totally immune to it at my age, how is that going to impact on the younger and less experienced – with phone cards, DVD’s, energy drinks and bottled water draining their accounts it’s a wonder the youth of today have any money left to start with. I’d just like to reinforce here that I make my own moisturiser now $7-00 for two-litres, prefer tap-water to Coke and steadfastly refuse to get a cell phone.
Anyway it wasn’t big ticket items draining my resources, rather the drip, drip, drip of everyday living – namely groceries. That’s why I enforced a $100 limit on my weekly grocery spend, and turned my life around. A stringent grocery budget keeps you out of several places where it is easy to be parted with your hard earned cash. One of these places is take-away shops and the other one is the bottle-store. Giving up take-aways has proven impossible for me. Cutting right back so take-away food has become a treat rather than a given has been more achievable – we are weaning ourselves off. The up-side of being tight fisted is that you constantly rate value for money and ask what am I actually getting for my $10? If the answer is a smallish hamburger bun with some wilted lettuce and cull cow beef patty accompanied by over salty fries saturated in god knows what fat and a sugary carbonated drink… then all of a sudden you are over it.
Same with the booze. I can’t justify chucking bottles of wine in with the groceries willy-nilly when the kids aren’t allowed biscuits and ice-cream any more so I just stopped doing it. After a year of drinking milk and water it’s enlightening to realise you don’t even miss alcohol. I have a cup of tea at night now if I feel like a drink and it is rather lovely. I’m glad the dreaded hangover has become a thing of my past, my liver is also glad.
Weight loss is another battle we don’t always win. A strict grocery budget certainly helps. Most treats are fattening. I’d definitely recommend frugal food shopping as a sure-fire way to, if not lose weight, at least stop it from creeping up on you as it tends to in middle-age. I now fit clothes that I haven’t worn for years which is pretty cool as I still love those clothes and it was like getting new ones but for free.
Another advantage of my last year’s resolution is that it has made me aware of others. Being on a self imposed spending limit makes you consider those less fortunate. On a global level, the ones who are grateful for any food at all just to survive, and closer to home, people in unfortunate circumstances who rely on charity. One small change I have made, that never entered my head before, is to donate a food item to Foodbank every time I shop. I can do that on a $75 grocery budget but never when I spent $300 a week on groceries which is food for thought.
So this New Year, encouraged by the success of last year’s resolution we have decided to: Stick to the budget. Convince a bank to let us buy that rental property. Consider second hand clothes before buying new. Steer our diet towards more vegetarian options. Recycle our rubbish. Go for a walk down the beach every night with the dogs (weather permitting). It will be interesting to see how it goes.