Thursday, 10 March 2016

Frugal Bugeting Tips

Today I am sharing some of the things our family does to save money. Here are a few of the things we do to stay on budget:

-Make notes. I keep a book for our house finances. This is just a cheap exercise book which I write our expenses, budget and cash envelope totals in. Because I constantly am checking our budget and seeing what works and getting rid of what doesn't, this is great for keeping track.

- Implement a cash envelope system. In August last year I noticed we were spending more money on little things which all add up. Then I started using a cash envelope system for day-to-day expenses. I love this, because it means I can only spend the amount that is in the envelope. Basically I have a designated amount for areas like groceries, petrol etc, and put cash in the envelope. I can only spend less or equal to what is in that envelope. Obviously if the money isn't spent in one fortnight it just rolls over to the next which I find is a great saving initiative! I will make another post on how much goes into each category of the envelopes.

-Compare bill providers: I regularly change phone/internet and insurance companies. Last year I also changed gas providers and our bill is down by $40 quarterly already! Don't be afraid to do some research and see if other companies can offer a better deal. Doing this saves us hundreds of dollars per year.

-Reduce bill costs by using less:

Water: Limit showers to 4 minutes- I have a timer with a suction cup that sticks on the shower screen which I bought for a couple of dollars at Bunnings. I also put a bucket in the shower to collect the warm up water. this is used to water our seedlings.

Gas: When using the oven, try and cook multiple foods to make use of the heat. When dinner is in the oven, whip up a batch of muffins or a cake for later in the week. Cooking in bulk is a great time saver too. If I'm making a zucchini slice, I'll often make an extra one for the freezer. When cooking on the stove top, adding a lid to a boiling pot helps keep the heat in too.

Power: Heating and cooling are the biggest causes of a high power bill. In summer use fans instead of an air conditioner when possible. My air con costs 70c and hour to run compared to my fan which is only 6c an hour. 70c an hour might not seem like much but if the air con is run for 6 hours a day that comes to $4.20. If it was run every day of the week that then becomes $29.40! In a 3 month bill cycle our power would be $360 higher- just from using the air con! Also turn power points off at night when not in use. Most appliances like TV's and DVD players have a standby mode that when plugged in still use power. When we first did this a few years ago we noticed a significant reduction in our power bill.

We have a clothes dryer, but it is only used in an emergency. Washing is hung outside or on airers to dry. 

-Aim to reduce the amount spent on groceries. It's taken me a few years but I am now happy with our budget. We eat a minimal amount of meat, I shop around to make the most of the specials and buy primarily generic brands. I can also pick up fruit at a local orchard for $1 a kilo and will bulk buy and freeze large amounts of produce when I get a great deal. We also grow as much of our own fruit and vegies as possible. Cleaning supplies can take a chunk out of a grocery budget, so why not try and make your own? White vinegar and bi-carb are great budget and eco friendly cleaners. Recently I have started doing online surveys and cashing my points in for supermarket vouchers, which is like free groceries. I also save up my Fly Buys points and use them at the end of the year to buy our Christmas food.

-Eat at home. We eat out probably once a year. I am a decent cook and just can't justify spending money on overpriced food, when I can cook a yummy meal at home. A meal of takeaway can cost our family of 5 over $50. I could buy heaps of groceries for that price.

-Free entertainment and frugal hobbies.  Since implementing our new budget, I've allowed no money for entertainment. Instead we can watch movies for free at home, go to the beach, on picnics or day trips, visit friends or pursue frugal hobbies like gardening, cooking etc. There are often free events held at our local library, and we can borrow books and movies from there too.

-Buy second hand when possible. We recently needed a new fridge and upright freezer and saved hundreds on not buying new. Check out Gumtree, buy, swap and sell sites or op shops before buying anything new. Also we have inherited used furniture that friends have been happy to get rid of.

-Use what you have. Make do and mend, that kind of thing.This applies to all resources you have before buying new. Get creative! Take some time to think twice before buying into the endless cycle of consumerism. Upcycling can be fun.

-Have a present stockpile and make gifts. I have a couple of shelves in my wardrobe which are for this purpose. I also make a note of when my family and friends birthdays are and write them on my calender, so I can see at a glance who's Birthdays are coming up. This way I have a gift ready to go and it stops the mad rush of running to the shops and impulse spending $20-$40 on a gift. Sometimes I'll buy items at end of year sales or on clearance. I also make presents during the year and put them away, adding a few "bonus" presents for the kids friends or unexpected events.

-Put money aside for bills. In the beginning I wrote down all the bills we pay over the year, not including the mortgage. Then for each one I worked out how much that costs over the year and then divide it by 26 because we get paid fortnightly. For example we pay:

Home insurance $38
Car Insurance $13
Gas $30
Power $20
Rates $42
Car Rego $11
Amulance Cover $5
Phone/ Internet $50
Licences $5
Water $5

Total- $  220

Each fortnight this amount is transferred into a savings account and bills are paid from there. Doing this stops me from stressing out when bills come in as there is already money ready to pay them. At the start it was tricky as bills were coming in and because there was only a few hundred dollars there I had to just pay the necessary bills and put only a bit towards the others. Eventually there was no bills for a few months and this allowed the amount to build up. Currently the bill fund sits on a little over $1000 most of the time.

 Everyone has what I call a "frugal comfort zone". Some people may not be comfortable with making too many changes in order to save money or might think some of the things I do to save money is extreme. That's okay, any kind of changes you make to save money will definitely make a difference. 

I'm sure there are many more things we do to save, but these are the basics. If you have any to add, feel free to leave me a comment. 

$1 a kilo fruit at our local orchard.

Homemade laundry gel costs 20c a bottle.

Hubby's vegetable seedlings.

Homemade gifts for the stockpile.


  1. Great tips Mel!

    I do most of the things on your list. You are right about paying the bills, I have used your method for years. I put an amount away per fortnight to cover costs, and recently I started adding extra to cover medical expenses as we are not in private health. I am going to move this amount into another account though so it is easier to keep track. Basically it is our own health insurance for those times when needed, like for glasses, teeth etc.

    I recently discovered a fantastic all purpose cleaner. It is great for everything, and leaves stainless steel sparkling. All it is, vinegar and detergent. As I am chemical conscious I am now using the organic shampoos that I buy bulk when on special instead of the detergent. I shared it recently on my homemaking blog


    1. Hi Tania, thanks for your comment. I love not stressing when bills come in. Great idea about the medical expenses idea. Dental work can cost a fortune!Thanks for the link, I make a similar cleaner which is in my thrifty cleaning tab. I'll take a look at your blog, its always great to get inspiration from like minded souls. Have a great weekend. x

  2. Super great tips. Some I do use and some you have encouraged me to try. Your homemade gifts look so beautiful.

  3. You are doing really well and I thank you for sharing your tips. :) A friend of mine who is using the envelope system takes the left over money at the end of each budget cycle and puts it into her vacation fund account at the bank. It has been adding up quickly for a trip overseas to see her family. :)

    1. Hi Debbie, thank you! I like the vacation fund idea. I have allocated a holiday fund, which works out to be around $1000 a year-enough for a small trip withing our home state x

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