Wake-up call

Posted January 27th, 2008 by Penny Wise

I've been writing this blog for almost three years now and there's not much you don't know about me - in fact, you probably know much more about me than many of my close friends and family do! However, be prepared to be shocked - VERY shocked by today's posting. For all those people who have written to me saying 'It's great to know you're only human like us, Penny' - this one is for you! Last night we held our family meeting and it was a great success. It was hilarious, it was motivating and horrendous all at the same time. Put it this way - at last my children truly understand how much money, how much of OUR money, they take for granted. At first Liam was disgusted and blamed me. 'Call yourself a Simple Saver?' he glared. 'Then how come we're in this mess?' Aha, my child, that's because the rest of you aren't! Read on and all shall be revealed.

One at a time, we sat round the table and assessed each family member's wasteful habits and assessed how much they are costing each week, month and year. I must just pause to mention here how, it wasn't until I joined Simple Savings that I had ever thought about adding up the impact of specific costs over a year. Now I do it all the time and it's a great way to make sure your money stays in your pocket. I think now, that the rest of the family can also see! First up was Noel, the real Sad Sally of the family. His spending was even worse that I thought it was! He spends:

$3,640 a year on cigarettes

$3,640 a year on alcohol

$1, 920 a year on work lunches


I'm amazed he doesn't have a belly the size of a Sumo wrestler with all that lot. Must be all the cigarettes keeping the weight off. Seriously though, that's shocking and he knows it. Next up was Ali - the boy who thinks money grows on trees. I'm quite surprised he's like that really, because when it comes to everything else, he's extremely smart. Maybe when it comes to money, ignorance is bliss as far as he's concerned. He soon got a wake-up call when we worked out the cost of his wasteful habits though:

$384 a year on buying drinks when out

$960 a year on ice creams and lollies

$95.40 a year on magazines (such as K-Zone and Mania)

$240 a year on general rubbish, cheap toys that fall apart and so on


Being presented with that little lot soon wiped the smile off his face I can tell you! Liam however - Mr 'I'm So Sensible With Money' turned out to be even worse. With the same vices as Ali, plus an additional column for the huge amount of food Liam also consumes or wastes, he was horrified to see his wasteful habits add up to a whopping $3,715.40. Scarier still for Noel and I, who pay them both $10 a week. Considering that adds up to a total of $520 a year each they technically have to spend - well, all I can say is I'm embarrassed. The good news is, now so are they.

Last but not least came my turn. I'm not kidding, it almost turned to custard at this point. Noel, the King of Vices was determined to put as much as he possibly could on to MY spending tally; making all sorts of outlandish suggestions and dragging up all kinds of things I hadn't done for years before I discovered Simple Savings, like going out shopping all the time. It was so unfair! Fortunately the kids could at least testify that I didn't do those things any more and he had to back down. He still insisted on slapping $600 of pet food onto my tally though, which I thought was pretty mean considering we all have pets, not just me. Anyway, here's mine with the blasted pet food and all:

$2400 a year on wine (move on to the next line quickly please!)

$600 a year on pet food (yeah, whatever)

$250 a year on buying drinks when out

$180 a year on magazines (all of which are related to self-sufficiency or saving money, funnily enough)

$720 a year on cafe lunches (and that's just once a week, sniff!)

$500 per year on 'crap'. This again was Noel's suggestion. I beg to differ; the only money I truly spent on crap was $199 on my PDA but anything for a quiet life...

$360 per year on food going to the chickens or worms which could have been used if I had kept an eye on expiry dates and so on (again, Noel's insistence)


I'm so glad I've managed to give up wine already, or that little lot would have had me reaching for the bottle again! It gets worse though. Have you added up our family total? We did - take a deep breath Penny:

GRAND TOTAL OF MONEY WASTED PER YEAR = $19,104.80. Jeez Louise. Actually, Liam probably summed it up best of all. He drew sad faces over all the pieces of paper and said to no one in particular, 'Well, that's really sh*tty isn't it?' What a wake-up call for us all. Many people don't even earn as much in a year as we waste. At the same time, it was a great way to open all our eyes. It shows how it only takes a few bad habits to really stuff up your finances. We have learned so much from Simple Savings. We truly do know how to live off the smell of an oily rag - we know how to save money on everything from food to shampoo. I don't go out shopping any more and I don't waste petrol. But those 'few little vices' we each have are still draining our bank account beyond belief - and now everyone can see, they HAVE to go. The next step was to go through everyone's bad habits and come up with alternatives to save money, just like the Wealthy Habits calendar but this time everyone had to make an effort, not just me. Fortunately I have already given up wine and have no intention of starting again so I have a nice head start on Noel's $3,000 booze bill. Buying drinks out is easy to stop - we either take water from home, wait until we get home to have a drink or, best of all, I can just say 'NO'. I have to lead by example, it's no wonder the boys won't take me seriously when I love yummy ice-cold drinks from Mr Patel's too. Noel is giving up smoking today - I think! I told him not to bother telling me until he hasn't had a cigarette for a month; he's quit so many times. He has vowed only to drink beer on weekends from now on too - after this beach holiday of course! Work lunches we are already getting under control but what I didn't realise was that the lunches he gets at the work sales on Thursdays and Fridays are not free; I had always believed they were supplied by the company! Duh. So all he has to do now is take lunch from home EVERY day and that's another $1,900 a year saved. The boys' big one is to stop and think before parting with their pocket money on rubbish and Liam has to stop chowing through all the bought snacks and make them last twice as long. He's pretty quick to blame his snack consumption on his wheat intolerance and it's nothing for him to scoff a family size pack of potato chips and a whole tub of dip in one sitting, declaring 'there's nothing for me to eat!' Like many eleven year olds he can be pretty lazy and grabbing chips and dip is a lot easier than having to go to the trouble of getting himself some 'real food'. I won't bore you with all the changes for each habit; you get the idea but if there's one great thing to come out of this, it's that we are now all on the same wavelength and the kids now see why I love Simple Savings so much. Not to mention the fact we'll have another $19,000 this time next year if we all keep up the effort - which I think we will, because we're all accountable to each other now. So there you have it - you now know our deepest, darkest money secrets - just in time for No Spend Month too! At least the boys are in a much better frame of mind to tackle that now. Before, they were moaning when I said they had to do it - now, they know we have no choice so they're up for the challenge!

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