The change of season can be a great chance to reset and think about saving. Often we think of Spring being the time where you ‘Spring clean’ or ‘Spring forward’. Winter, however, is the real opportunity as we hit pace into the year...
I also like taking the time to re-assess where I am in the year and what I could be better at going into Winter. Which means, looking at where I am underperforming - usually, that includes not saving enough money (“It’s YOUR FAULT Prefab and Mecca Cosmetica, that I am like this!” I pine inwardly!) Saving is hard and with more restaurants and cafes per capita than New York, Wellington can be a place where you end up spending LOTS of food and drinks out with friends, amongst everything else! It's important to know where you can cut costs, if possible so you can do more of the things you enjoy.
Over the years, I’ve picked up lots of tips and tricks from old flatmates, friends, family, blogs and books about how to save. While I don’t use these all the time, when I want to get serious about saving money going into Winter, these are my top tips which I employ to keep me on the straight and narrow. I hope you find some of these helpful and that you too can find ways to save for a better Wellington winter (and maybe even use that extra dosh for a wee trip to the Islands during July!)
1. Set a Budget
OKAY. Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way. It’s bloody awful but you KNOW you have to sit down and work out what you’re actually being paid each month. You then need to subtract rent, bills, insurance and other expenses to work out what you have left. THEN you need to work out what you are spending/need to spend on groceries. The also work out what you want to save each week, fortnight or each month, depending on how frequently you get paid. I tend to do this kind of thing on a Google Drive spreadsheet or Word doc. NOW you know what you REALLY have to spend each month. I know, reality hurts. It's called ‘being an adult’. Bye, bye, Manolo Blahnik.
2. Take Cash Out
From here, break down what you have left into chunks, week by week. What really helps me is taking the old fashioned path and getting some cash-out. What with pay wave, apple pay, EFTPOS, direct credit, online payments and credit cards, it can be hard to keep on top of what you ACTUALLY have to spend for the month. But when you see it, laid out in front of you in $50 notes, what you have to spend really hits home. It also gives you more reverence for your money when you choose to spend it. You have to touch it, see it, take care of it, and make sure FOR GODS SAKE you don’t loose it. When I use cash I tend to hit my savings goals far more.
3. Buy In Bulk
If you have more at the start of each month, why not head to somewhere like Moore Wilson’s where they do trade quantities and buy your food basics in bulk. Make sure you have cute jars to divide out portions for you to use up, and also that you have somewhere to store the large bulk size. You might pay more now, but in the long term, you’ll save lots, especially on non-perishable things like legumes, pasta and rice.
4. Shop Around
Do you always find yourself running to the local New World after work? Do you, like me, always leave lamenting that you meant to buy ONE THING and somehow ALWAYS spend $50? If you can be a bit more organised and go shopping during the weekend, you can go and check out some places around town and compare prices on things. Some items, oddly enough, are only available in speciality stores like Commonsense Organics, while others are cheaper at others. I’d recommend Pak n Save for toiletries, Chips, pantry staples, frozen goods and wine, Commonsense Organics for Greens and Organic Fruit, Moore Wilsons Trade Section for bulk cheese, tinned goods and sauces, and then the Markets for other fresh seasonal fruits and veggies. Some places will have the same item for more or less, so if you have things you buy all the time (like Matt and I always buy this same Yoghurt from Clearwater), keep a record of where you found it for less.
5. Go For A Run - No, Really!
There’s no need for fancy gym memberships when you can take a run through the Wellington Hills. Also, studies show a clear link between exercising and making healthy a habit and saving money. When you exercise, you feel like a more organised person so you act like one and don’t feel the need to compensate by buying crap you don’t need as much. Sounds weird, but actually (as anyone who has experienced this will testify) is true! To find out more, check out this book called 'The Power of Habit' - a fascinating read.
6. Bring Out The Cook Books
If you’re in a rut of eating out all the time, it might be time to dust off some cookbooks and head back to the kitchen. Cooking at home is the easiest way to save money in Winter and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Veggie and legume stews, roasts and porridge are hearty and warming meals and super cheap to make. You don’t have to make your thing exactly like Jamie Oliver’s (30-minute meals - pfft more like 1 hour with two people!!). Taking inspiration can be found. Once you start cooking at home, you’ll remember that sometimes the most delicious food is that which you make yourself! Let me know if you want me to do a blog post about my favourite cook book
7. Eat Up…Your Leftovers
Now you’re cooking at home, you’ll have enough food for leftovers for the next day. Make sure you batch cook and if you can freeze meals like mince and stews for another day. Don’t let food rot of go off in the fridge. Do daily audits to make sure you haven't forgotten anything and then think of creative ways to bring food items together (pea and tuna quiche, anyone?)
8. Use Things Up!
On that note, don’t just leave your new domestic goddess status in the kitchen! How many half-used lipsticks, blushes, nail polishes and face masks have you got lying around? Mmmmmm. I thought so. This is something we are ALL guilty of but never fear. The satisfaction of using something to the end is actually an amazing feeling. Plus, some companies like MAC and LUSH let you take your empties back to them in exchange for a new product. So you’re actually MAKING money…kinda!
9. Do a Good Clear Out
If you’re suffering from “I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR” syndrome, maybe you just need to pull out all your clothes and fold them properly. I often forget I have items I rarely wear. Make sure you give everything that needs a good iron, a good iron, make a pile of things to mend (either go to Topline Tailors in Wellington for clothes or one of the local shoe repair shops around town for shoes) and anything else you don’t want, do a clothing swap (my friend Megan wrote about clothing swaps on her blog here) or sell at one of our amazing Wellington Op Shops. You’ll have a tidier wardrobe and a tidier mind.
10. Repair Things
See above. Waste not, want not.
11. Appreciate Netflix and Chill Date Night
So often, I think I need to go and see a movie, only to get home and be like “NOPE!”. What with so many great series on Netflix, you really never need to leave the house again. Recently, I’ve loved Chewing Gum, The Crown and Silk. All amazing. Epic acting. I can stay in PJ’s. Winter Winning.
12. Go Flick Yourself
Since moving into a place of our own last year, Matt and I have been utterly enamoured of Wellington Electricity retailer, Flick Electric. I’m not going to get into the technical details about how it works (you can dine out on that in this interview I did with their CEO earlier this year, here) but as a customer, they’ve been so easy. You’re billed weekly by Flick which helps me stay on top of our bills. They always seem lower than I paid with other power companies, even through the year. AND apparently, I HAVE saved - almost $400 since last year according to my app, using Flick. Wooo!
Flick gets you the best deal on power by telling you when is a good time to, say, run your dishwasher, because it’s off peak and power is cheaper. This makes it very handy because instead of just turning the stuff off to save money, you can track the app and use power when it is cheaper. Genius! No need to stay under the duvet all day long. They have a great app which I track it all on and can see how much I’ve saved. I love Flick, and really am glad I switched. I couldn’t imagine changing to another power company now, and would highly recommend them to everyone. You DO need a smart meter, but apart from that, Flick is for everyone!
13. Make It A Game
When I really need to save, I like to play the game where I try and spend no money all day long, or just spend a $10 note. It’s been shown that turning something into a game in your head will make you more likely to stick with it. The best way is to keep track of yourself with a list in a neat little notebook. Set your goal as one day to start with, the one week. And don’t forget to reward yourself - only maybe not with a designer handbag…
14. Drink At Home
Drinking out is the most expensive thing in the world. It is also one of the most fun. BUT if you start to think about having people over to your place in Winter as a covert operation (Read: Operation Drink Wine and Stumble Across Hall to Bed), you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner. Jazz up drinks with mint and ice, all cheap and some budget soda (some taste weird though, so try before you bulk buy).
15. Get A Haircut And Colour That Lasts
Ombre and Balayage changed the game, trend and maintenance wise. The hair world borrowed the term 'Ombre' from the french word meaning shaded or shading. Ombre hair color is generally darker at the roots through the mid-shaft and then gradually gets lighter from the mid-shaft to the ends. It is usually achieved using a balayage technique and is ideal for clients looking for a low-maintenance style. 'Balayage' means (in French) 'to sweep' and it is a technique for highlighting hair in which the dye is painted on in such a way as to create a graduated, natural-looking effect. If you want to try this look, it will seriously reduce the amount of time between colours if you colour your hair (quick shout out to amazing Sophia and David at Luca Hairstyling - you're awesome!)
16. Wrap Yaself Up
Don’t ruin your suede boots, for God’s sake. Get some proper gummies and a jacket and over the long term, you’ll save heaps on both your dry cleaning bill and your shoe bill. Getting proper outerwear will help protect the clothes you already have, making them go the distance in the Wellington howling wind and rain.
17. Go To Mum And Dad’s For Dinner If You Can
If your parents live in the same city as you, as mine do, it might be time to ‘recconect’ with them over winter (aka swoop in there and eat dinner). Terrible to suggest, but if you’ve been a bit remote lately, it will be a win-win - doubly so if you offer to cook for them. Time to follow the family bonds back home, and make the most of their full pantry.
19. Dehumidify on the fly!
Discovering the dehumidifier is incredible. For most of my life, I didn’t have one. They surely save you hundreds of dollars, both helping the house stay warmer and also helping you stay healthier if you live an old place like I do. Use regularly. Apologies, mine is quite dusty.
20. Remember What REALLY Matters
Cheesy as it is, the best things in life are free. Use the Library. Go for a walk. Have a hug with a friend. Watch the sunset. Walk bare foot along the beach. You'll wonder what all the fuss was about...until next payday.
This Blogpost was incredibly generously sponsored by Flick Electric. As usual, all opinions are my own.