Getting tough on bad habits

Posted October 2nd, 2006 by Penny Wise

Here we are, another new month on my Habit Changer calendar and as far as changing habits go it's going to be a big one. First, the red wine is getting the old heave-ho (for the second time as I fell off the wagon after months of hideous vet bills and the stress of Ali's operation!) AND – I am kicking my shameful Diet Coke addiction. It's going to be tough, but I am confident I am ready this time! It's amazing how much my way of thinking has changed since I have been writing this blog. My new Ezibuy catalogue arrived in the mail the other day, full of 'helpful ideas' for Christmas. At one time I would have eagerly snapped up all kinds of things from the homeware section in my quest for a stylish abode, but as I flicked through this time, all I could think to myself was 'Why would I want any of this? What would I do with that? Where on earth would I put these?' Mum frequently says I'm no fun to go shopping with any more and she's probably right, but I find NOT spending money so rewarding!

Mind you, sometimes I wonder if I'm just a teensy bit too hard on myself. Last week I went took the boys to see the new Garfield movie. I was so cross with myself because I hadn't had time to make my own popcorn or drinks to take with us. I ended up having to buy them and was appalled that they cost almost as much as the movie tickets themselves! Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I remembered a Vault hint too late which said if you must buy movie munchies and drinks, get them from a store or supermarket rather than the movie theatre as they're much cheaper. I have to admit, I spent half the movie berating myself in my head about wasting so much money unnecessarily! After the movie the boys and I went to a department store as I wanted to check out the price of a new blender. The boys were quite excited to see several items on special and I told them that they could spend some of their pocket money as the things they were keen on were such a bargain. This led into a great discussion on 'specials' and bargains and eventually I found just the blender I wanted and best of all it had $20 off the usual price. 'What are you doing Mum? It's a bargain isn't it?!' said Liam as I picked up the box and then put it down again. 'You're right matey, but it's still too much money. I'll wait until I find a better deal' I said as we walked out of the shop (with the boys clutching their own respective bargains). I'm sure even Noel thinks I'm a bit extreme converting an old wire coathanger into a 'baggie dryer' as learned from the Complete Tightwad Gazette, but it works a treat and I am happily washing and recycling countless bags as a result!

I'm sure the reason for my new strength of resolve is largely due to the fact that I have recently discovered exactly where all our money goes and what on. This is all thanks to...

Reasons to love Simple Savings 1023 – THE BILL PAYMENT SYSTEM

How I love this system! It's so easy and shows you exactly where all your money is going. I decided to sit down last weekend and use my meticulously kept Bill Payment System records to find out exactly what our money was being spent on and if we could make any changes. I was amazed at what I found – and not all of it was pretty! Top of the list of 'where our money goes' was the mortgage, as it should be. It was the next one down that appalled me – our humble local store! Now you might think that one is no big deal, after all we have to eat, right? True – but that is what I have a household budget for in a separate bank account! The rest of the startling amount that we had accrued over the past nine months had been racked up on a convenient wee thing called a store account. Technically it was supposed to SAVE us money on Eftpos transactions by paying just one amount off in full per month. It was also supposed to SAVE us money on petrol, because my Mum works in town and we could simply call her, ask her to pick up whatever we needed, book it up to our account and bring it up on her next visit, meaning we didn't have to make any unnecessary car trips. The thing was, I was still using my household account each week to pay cash as well! The cold hard truth hit me. Far from being a convenient option, this account had been nothing but a credit facility all along! Even though we paid it off in full once a month, we never knew from one month to the next what was on it, because we never kept track – it was always too easy to just pick up the phone to Mum when we wanted something. What a classic Sad Sally mistake! Thank heavens for the Bill Payment System. It showed me the error of my ways.

I went into the store that afternoon and announced 'I wish to close my account. I have given you lot far too much of my money this year and from now on I am only going to pay cash'. Mrs Patel laughed and said 'It all adds up eh?' but poor Mr Patel looked mortified that one of his best customers was declaring her intention to spend less at his shop. Not that it was his fault of course – the fault was all ours. No wonder it felt that even despite my best frugal efforts, we had still ended up in overdraft! I walked out of the shop and it might sound daft, but I felt free! One less bill to pay each month and a heck of a lot of money saved.

Next on the list of annual spends was my car. This is a real bug-bear for me as I never intended to buy a new car. If a blasted bus hadn't crashed into it last year I would still have been driving the same one and even though I was insured, the payment that resulted only went half way to covering the original value of my car, so now I am paying off the effects of someone else's crap driving at a cost of several hundred dollars a month. Fiona's article in this month's newsletter 'Invest in the future' was very thought provoking. Grr, I can't wait to pay it off! Number four on the list was the vet bill – all $3,036.80 of it, followed by medical costs of $2,787.00, with Ali's tonsillectomy contributing to a major part of that. Jings, it was little wonder I started reaching for the wine again! After that came insurance and everything that followed after that was pretty uneventful, although I was rather perturbed to find that we had spent $652 on eating out so far this year. You can imagine how having to buy movie popcorn would have grated on me so recently after discovering this knowledge!

It wasn't all bad though. I was chuffed to see that my expenses at The Warehouse had reduced by a whopping 75% and that both power and petrol consumption are way down the list, so my Simple Savings knowledge has saved me thousands of dollars on all three of those this year. I won't bore you with all the itty bitty details of our finances but by my calculations, the Bill Payment System has shown me how with a few small changes, we can save a whopping $6,600 a year – and best of all it's SO easy! So, today's the day and I'm going to do my bit to try and save even more. The wine's going, the Coke's going and the savings are on their way!

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