Four Top Tips to Spring Clean Your Finances

Spring Clean FinancesSpring is upon us here in Australia and that means you should be getting down-and-dirty with some spring-cleaning action.  But before you bring out the mop and bucket, first grab yourself a pen and paper and get started on spring cleaning your finances.

Money, or a lack of it, can be a major cause of stress and worry. In fact 40% of Australians admit to being “stressed out” over money, with women more likely to be worried than men. So because I’d rather spend my summer holidays worrying about whether the weekend weather is going to be beach perfect, I’m getting my finances in order now.

It’s Time to Start Probing

You know those bank statements you’ve been tossing onto your desk in a big pile all Winter. Go get them out and open them. Yep, all of them. You’re going to go through each statement line by line with a view to working out where all your money is going.

Paying for a gym membership whilst your gym bag has spent the last six months hanging out in the bottom of your wardrobe? Have a Quikflix subscription but never have time to watch the movies they send you? Stacking up your magazine subscription next to the couch for that mystical day when you’ll have time to read them?

It’s time to make some cuts. Get on the phone and start cancelling all those things you are paying for but aren’t using. I’m sure they were a great idea at the time, but now you’re just throwing money away.

Pro Tip: Need motivation to start exercising outside of a gym. I use Runkeeper combined with Pact to track my runs and get paid for it!

Screw Down Your Suppliers

Alright, you’ve been through and cut out all those unnecessary expenses coming out of your account. Now that you’re left with your essential items, like utilities, phone and internet, and cable (insert argument about cable being essential/non-essential here), you’re going to start screwing down your suppliers. Mind out of the gutter please, I’m talking about getting the cost down.

Get on the internet and start shopping around. If you find a better deal on something you’re paying for, call your supplier to match or better yet beat it. If they’re offering enticement deals to new customers, ask for the same thing or tell them you’re walking. Financial belt tightening hasn’t just affected households, and businesses know it’s easier to keep an existing customer than find a new one.

Pro Tip: You can use online comparison services to compare prices on a range of products, but remember they often don’t represent all providers in the market. If you can, find a government-backed comparison service to get the full picture.

Get Yourself an Insurance Policy

What would happen if you were unable to work for six months or more? How long could you last before you couldn’t pay the bills? Of course having an emergency fund can save you from minor stress, but if you’re injured or sick and can’t work for a long time then you’ll need a bit more money to tide you over.

Insurance is a great way to get some peace of mind and reduce stresses about money. Go through all your insurance policies and make yourself aware of what you are covered for. Most people think about insuring their house and contents, car and expensive items, but often forget about or under-insure for the more important things like Life insurance and Income Protection cover.

If you’re young and don’t have kids you can probably get away with not having Life insurance right now. But at the very least you should get some Income Protection insurance to cover your basic living expenses. And in Australia, this insurance can be funded from your superannuation so it won’t have an impact on your take home pay.

Pro tip: You can do the research yourself, or find an independent financial advisor to do the leg-work for you. Make sure your adviser works with a range of insurance providers and is certified by the FPA.

Start Planning Your Retirement

When you’re young, retirement seems so far away. But unless you enjoy spending all day watching Days of Our Lives and eating HomeBrand groceries, you are going to need more money to live on than the pension. Start thinking about your retirement when you’re young and when the time comes you can live it up on the Senior Princess Cruise instead.

First thing is to make sure that all your superannuation is in the one place. If you’ve changed jobs a lot then chances are that your money is scattered across a few accounts. Thankfully it’s easy to search for and bring all your super into the one place.

You should also review your current super fund to see how it is performing and what the fees are. You should make sure that you’re not paying too much in fees – even a 1% difference in fees can have a massive impact to your retirement balance.

Also use this time to review the investment option that you are in and decide if it’s right for you. Most funds default to a Balanced option which is around 50% growth assets. But if you’re young you’ll want to take advantage of more aggressive options. A good general rule is that the percentage of growth assets should be 110 minus your age. So someone in their 20s or 30s should be invested in a 80% to 90% growth option.

Pro Tip: Look at whether you can get tax breaks for contributing more to your or your partner’s superannuation. 

Whew, that seems like a long To Do list. But imagine the satisfaction you’ll feel once you’ve saved yourself a bit of cash and sorted out your financial future. That’s even better than finding $2 behind the couch cushions.

This post was first published on 5 September 2013.

How to Be a Diva on a Budget – Living Large for Less

How to be a diva on a budgetI’m all about being an independent woman and I shook my booty along with the rest of my friends when Destiny’s Child encouraged us all to buy our own diamonds and rings. But what’s a girl to do when the budget barely covers the rent, let alone bling?

Million Dollar Divas know that, as much as we’d love to rock a new outfit every weekend, it’s more fulfilling to have a fully stocked emergency fund and a growing investment account. Thankfully it is possible to be a rockin’ diva today, while making our savings grow for tomorrow.

Be a Bargain Bloodhound

If you want to live large on the cheap then you’re going to have to know how to spot a bargain. Sites like Scoopon and Groupon are awesome if you are looking to do a little splurging without spending a lot. Sign up to a couple of sites and wait for the deals to hit your inbox.

To avoid getting overwhelmed by a mountain of emails everyday, I suggest you set up a separate email address just for group deal sites. Then when you want to treat yourself to a massage or a night out, scroll through the recent emails and find a deal that suits you.

Of course, you’ll want to carefully check the Terms and Conditions on the deal to make sure that you’ll actually be able to use it before it expires. Diva’s hate wasting money on unused coupons even more than we hate six week old regrowth.

Ask for a Discount

If you’ve managed to find a beauty salon that does 15 minute pain free Brazilians or a hairdresser who knows how to cut your hair just how you like it, then you probably don’t want to shop around on group deal sites. Instead ask your salon if they offer a discount for buying a certain number of treatments up front. Or if you’ve sent a lot of friends their way, mention this and see if they can offer you a deal. Good businesses know the value of loyal customers and they’ll be more than willing to show their appreciation.

Get Event Tickets for Free

Got a penchant for the theatre? Or do you like getting down and dirty at music festivals? Perhaps you are a die hard fashionista?

If you can’t afford to pay to go to the events you want, then why not see if you can volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to attend events for free or for a massively discounted price.

You could work as an usher at shows and concerts. Or man the merch tent at a festival during the day and watch all your favourite bands at night. Or perhaps see if you can help set up for the annual fashion festival and later rub shoulders with the glitterati.

The key to getting a volunteer gig is getting organised and contacting the event coordinators early. Usually you don’t need experience, but when you contact them make sure your application stands out from the pack. Tell them exactly why you’d be a great fit for their festival and let your personality shine.

Stop Shopping, Start Hiring

One of life’s great mysteries is how a woman can have a wardrobe full of clothes, and yet still find nothing to wear (I hear NASA is working to solve this as we speak). And if you’ve just been invited to a fancy event and it’s very likely that Bradley Cooper will be attending then you’re going to be tempted to blow your rent money on a to-die-for stunner.

Stop! Unless you’re planning to wear that princess cut gown to the supermarket every single day then it’s not a good financial decision (and even then, no).

There are plenty of websites that allow you to hire designer frocks for a fraction of what it would cost to buy. Sure, it’s still not a cheap option for everyday wear, but if you need a dress that’s going to knock the socks off a certain blue-eyed dreamboat then hiring is a great option.

Nothing Looks as Good as Financial Independence Feels

Remember the most important thing is nothing is more fashionable than financial security. If you’re struggling under the weight of credit card debt or wondering how you’ll ever be able to afford to retire then you need to work on setting some goals and working towards those. Start by creating a budget and putting some money away in an emergency account. Wipe out all your consumer debt, and get a retirement savings plan in place. Then you can worry about where to score the hottest hair treatment at a fraction of the price.

Have you got any tips on living like a diva for less?

Photo credit: Money Swimsuit by Meshalo1/Etsy

This post was first published on 17 September 2013.