Saturday, November 9, 2013

The $5 work week

Christmas is a-coming, with all its attendant costs; car rego is due this week ($750 thankyouverymuch); gymnastics, school and music concert tickets need to be paid for by Friday, for a cool $250 total; I still have two more root canal treatments to go at the dentist; and we're still paying off the last tranche of the outdoor renovation. I'm expecting utility and annual insurance bills in the next couple of weeks, and we need to budget to get the outdoor structure painted (although I suspect this may be waiting until after Christmas at this stage).

All of this, in combination, makes things a wee bit tight in the hip pocket department at the moment, and means that we need to control incidental expenditure much better than we have been. So I thought, for the 6 weeks between now and when the kids and I break for Christmas, it would be a good idea for me to go back to a thing I used to do when we were saving to buy our first house. This is a little trick I saw on some financial advice show once, and it worked for me then. I'm hoping it'll do the same this time.

The concept is very simple - I am setting myself a hard, immovable budget of $5 per week for "food and incidental expenditure on work days". Obviously this doesn't include things like bill payment, fee payment, petrol, medical & dental etc - those things will be paid for on the magic plastic or with separately assigned cash. It also doesn't cover weekends - we will probably do a few takeaways or meals out at weekends in November and December, and that is OK. (Weekends is also when I do the grocery shopping, naturally).

No, the $5 work week is about what I spend on coffees, lunches, snacks, midweek takeaways, treats etc from Monday to Friday. This can mount up very quickly if it's not controlled - the week before last, for instance, I had lunch at a caf twice with workmates ($15 and $27 apiece), bought a coffee 4 times, each time with a little sweet treat ($7 apiece - $28 all up), and we had pizza on a weeknight because I wasn't organised with my meals, which added another $45. That's $115 all up of money I didn't really need to spend, and definitely could do with saving at the moment.

So what I do is get a $20 note out of the bank at the start of a 4-week period (ie on a Monday), and then that's IT for work week food and incidental expenditure for 28 days. As I have arranged to meet a workmate at a caf on Friday of the coming week for a working lunch, which will, at a minimum, account for $10 of it, this realistically means:

1. No bought coffees
2. Taking my lunch every day except that one day
3. Being very, very careful about incidentals
4. No after-school shop ice creams for the kids - snacks at home instead

I admit I will be *slightly* cheating in the first iteration, because there is still $9 in my wallet which I will consider part of the working week pool (so really it's more like $7 a week in the first cut). However, the concept is a sound one and gets me thinking more intelligently about how I spend money, which is good.

It's doable - I've done it before - and the savings add up. In particular, kyboshing midweek takeaways should make a real dent. I do need to do something to contain galloping expenses and this seems like a good place to start.

This is post 9 in NaBloPoMo. 9 down, 21 to go!

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