Blunder Free Zone

Posted February 25th, 2006 by Penny Wise

The new 'Blunder Confessions' and Three Step Plans have been making me chuckle - no doubt because I have identified with so many of them in the past! What a neat idea, and a great way to get your financial mistakes off your chest, move on and develop a plan to make sure it doesn't happen again. Mind you, I am pretty much a 'Blunder Free Zone' lately. The Simple Savings way of life has become so automatic that I manage to be frugal 99% of the time. I was really proud of myself last night, as it had been a really tiring day and I could hardly bring myself to cook dinner, so I suggested we go and get takeaways. 'Why not?' agreed Noel, 'we haven't had takeaways for ages'. But you know what? I couldn't bring myself to do it! Not when there was already plenty of food in the house and there was no way I was going to waste petrol on a trip into town just for that. So I stayed at home and it really didn't take much time and effort to defrost some meat, roast some spuds and throw some vegetables together in a cheese sauce. I felt so much better! Even Noel commented proudly that I had only filled up my car with petrol twice in January, so he can see how hard I have been working to save us money.

So why then, if I'm being such a miserly martyr is our bank balance worse for this month than it was the previous month - even with the post Christmas slump? I'll tell you why - it was Noel who made all the blunders! Teeth problems not included of course, but there were week-long fishing trips with mates, too many meals bought out, cash withdrawals all over the place, not to mention horrendous amounts of petrol. Of course I could see clearly through my budget spreadsheet and Bill Payment system where all the money had gone! However, instead of being angry, I was extremely smug. When I confronted him with the bank balance, I tried to soften the blow a little by saying 'we really must tighten our belts next month dear', to which he replied 'Yes, I think I did spend rather a lot this month'. Well that was all the trigger I needed and I couldn't help sounding self righteous as I agreed that actually it wasn't really 'us' who had spent too much, it was all him. After years of the boot being on the other foot and having to justify my pointless purchases to him, it was hugely gratifying to be able to point the finger right back and say, 'Yes, it was you! You were crap, matey and I was the good one!' Even he had to see the funny side!

Still, there are still plenty of ways I can improve on the progress I have already made. This week I set up an automatic payment to transfer $200 per week into a Credit Union 'Living Expenses' account. I plan to use this to cover my spends each week on food and all the other little incidentals that crop up, such as chemist, Post Office and that kind of thing. I don't know how suitable an amount $200 is having just started it, but so far I still have $99 left in the kitty until the next payment, which is only three days away! I chose $200 after talking to some of the women at Book Club, who couldn't believe how I could spend less than $200 at the supermarket online in a whole month, when they were spending $250 there in a week. Obviously they seem to make a weekly pilgrimage to the supermarket and buy everything there they need, which I don't. I can't bring myself to pay supermarket prices on many items and I have neither the time nor inclination to drive the 80 minute round trip it takes to get to the supermarket - not to mention I am too stingy about my petrol now to waste it on a big trip each week! $250 each week sounded to me like a huge amount, but apart from the monthly online purchase, I actually had no idea how much I did spend each week in comparison, by buying my bread, milk, fruit and vegetables and any other necessities elsewhere. So, I have made it my mission to find out! I chose $200 as a good round figure to start with - others may think this is heaps for a family of four, I have no idea until I get into a routine, but I would like to think I could certainly manage on less than $250 a week. Luckily, I have the perfect tool to help me keep tabs on exactly what I'm spending - it's a nifty little gadget called a Spendtracker!

I pinched the Spendtracker from Fiona when I was in Australia last November but I have only just disciplined myself to start using it properly. It looks and works a lot like a calculator, but instead of adding amounts up as you go along, you enter in your budget to start with, and it subtracts each time you enter a purchase, so you always know how much spending money you have left. So in my case, I enter in $200 on the Spendtracker every Monday when my latest automatic payment goes in. Then I enter each purchase I make through the week and every time it gives me the new total of how much I have left in my account. It is a slim, credit card sized wee device that is easy to carry around in your wallet or pocket. If there is anything left in the account by the time my next payment goes in, the remainder gets transferred online into a goal savers account. This way, I know I am never going to spend more than $800 per month on our food and living necessities and don't risk any nasty surprises when the bank statement comes. Of course it's a bit of a fun challenge for me too, as I want to see how much under that $200 I can spend each week and try to keep improving on it! You can find out more information about Spendtracker at the following website:

I can't wait to see the results of this experiment, I'll keep you posted!

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