Saturday, 28 June 2014

Budget for the start of the new financial year

The end of the Australian financial year is only 2 days away. Most people probably have New Year Resolutions in regards to budgets and savings but I think the beginning of a new financial year is an even better opportunity. So what does it involve for me?

For the first time, I now have a budget and an expense spreadsheet. I've set it up a few months ago and have been practising but now it's ready to go for the start of the financial year on 1 July. Don't get me wrong I have set-up budgets before but never followed them or I tried to track my spending without actually having a budget. But now I've got a fantastic document - thank you Lynn and David for creating this spreadsheet! I've changed the headings and added an overview to it, so I could enter an amount under each heading and then calculate the total for each category which made it easier for me to come up with the budget.

I used the link out of the Down to Earth Forum. If you're not a member, please sign-up as it's a fantastic community providing excellent advice. Alternatively, you can fin the
Budget Tracking Spreadsheet here. Please note, I have not done this spreadsheet - it's all thanks to Lynn and David!!!

Once I entered all of our expenses, I was in shock. More or less each month everything I earn is spend. And I earn a very decent salary. I mean I sort of knew that we weren't saving a lot because I do read our statements but seeing a 5 digit figure coming in and going out again in the same month is a different sensation all together. So where can I save?

1. Income: This will be the same every month until my contract runs out. I also have an income from my investment properties. I'm not planning to take on any more work, so I will need to find a reduction somewhere.

2. Loans: Home Loan and Investment Property Loans are our only loans we have. We make extra repayments for our home each month. We also both have credit cards but we always pay them off in full.

3. Budgeted Savings: Additional to the extra repayments we're making for our home (this money could be withdrawn in an emergency), I save money monthly for a separate emergency fund and holidays.

4. Home Bills: Rates - nothing we can change and our rates bill isn't very high as we don't have access to town water or sewerage. Electricity has always been high. Everytime we turn the tap on, 2 pumps will start (water to the house and greywater from the house). Also as I never rains here (except for Jan & Mar), we need to water our plants which is done from the bore water but also costs electricity. Our beautiful Pool also uses a lot of power, however, we were able to change the Tariff for the pool pump and that saves us about $200 per quarter. We have now installed solar panels and hope that this will reduce our electricity bill even further. Unfortunately Steve is not so great at saving power and always leaves everything on. We normally don't have to pay for water - only if the rain wasn't sufficient to fill our tanks. We have about 55,000 L of water storage and that lasts us a season.
Gas for our hot water and the stove is required and we might get a new bottle once a year so that isn't pricey at all. Our monthly phone/mobile/Internet is too high. I need to call the provider and reduce as we hardly ever make any phone calls but our plan offers $350 worth of calls. So, here is my first saving.

5. Home Living expenses: Furnishing/Decors, Repairs, Renovations, Gardening, Appliances and Tools. Hm. I know I spend a bit on those areas. Unfortunately, I'm not blessed with patience and when I want something, I want it now (how annoying, I know). So, I have to sit down, write down all the things I want, the price and then schedule those items. We're working on upgrading the house and making everything efficient, so I know this will take some money and work but I will have to learn to schedule it. this is my second saving.

6. Investments: We have several investment properties (mostly our old homes) - they all cost money: rates, water, insurance and maintenance etc. We need to sit down and calculate if they're continue to be financially viable. If we sell them, we reduce our expenses in this category but also under our loans section. This is my third saving.

7. Transport: We have one car, so we pay Rego, Fuel, Insurance as well as maintenance on it. I recently reviewed insurance and was able to save $600! We live about 30 km away from town but we wouldn't use the car more than once a fortnight - except when we go on holiday. I don't think there's any more we can save here.

8. Medical: Doctors Fees, Chemist, Dentist and Specialists - they're the only costs I do not want to compromise on! There's nothing more important than our health.

9. Food: Since I started stockpiling, we only go to the Supermarket fortnightly, mainly for dairy products such as milk, cheese and cream as well as anything which might have run out. I bought half a side of beef and a lamb early this year and I can see this will last us for the rest of the year, so no more buying meat in the Supermarket or the butcher. We got our meat from a local farmbutcher for $6/kg. I try to grow fruit and veggies but it's not yet enough (we're slowly getting there), but I do buy them from the farmers markets once a month and then preserve/freeze the rest. I reduced our monthly grocery bill from about $180 a week to $50 a week - all by stockpiling!!! Very happy with that.
We hardly ever have take aways, so not much expenses there but we do go out a fair bit I've noticed. This is my forth saving - taking our own drinks and food from home and have a picnic instead of going out for lunch.

10. Work: I need to pay for my own flights to get to Perth and then also need accommodation and transport. I try to book everything as much in advance as possible but it's a fair amount of money I spend on travelling for work. The only reduction I see is if I would change jobs but then I might use more fuel for the car, so maybe that's not an option.

11. Insurance: Home and Contents, Building Insurance for our investments, car, health as well as travel insurance are essential for us. However, it pays to shop around before you renew. I saved over $2000 this year by changing my insurance provider.

12. Clothing: Steve and I don't need many clothes or shoes. Mainly if something is worn, it is replaced but that's about it. I try to buy the best clothes I can get to get good quality. I used to buy a lot of clothes and now have a set wardrobe and I stopped buying. I do plan to learn mending, knitting and crocheting but I just haven't got enough time for it at the moment, so this is something I would like to do when I retire and something I'm looking forward to. Another saving, but not in the upcoming years.

13. Animals: Our chooks, birds and dog need to be fed, Hera needs to get her annual vet check-up and supplies such as hay for the chooks, beds and toys for the dog and birds are required. The expense here is far smaller than the pleasure I get from my beloved animals, so nothing to be changed here.

14. Recreation: I love to read, Steve loves to travel. My hobby is certainly cheaper than his. We pay for flights, accommodation and car hire. As I have 6 month of the year off, we do a lot of travelling. Therefore we decided to buy a caravan, which will enable us to reduce the spending for accommodation and car hire. With the amount of travelling we do, the caravan will have paid itself off within a year. The only exception is international travel. My entire family lives in Germany, so I do want to go over there and visit them every 3-4 years. Saving money from this category is my fifth saving.

15. Grooming: Haircare - twice a year, beauty treatments - sometimes a massage when I return from work and my back hurts, cosmetics as required. I like to be well groomed and I like make up. But I have stopped buying the most expensive stuff. I use Grown and love their products! They use natural organic products. At home, I make a lot of things myself, at work I cannot do that, so I don't believe I can save much more money in this section.

16. General: Presents - I normally buy when I see something suitable and then keep it for the occasion. I've stopped buying Newspapers and Magazines and I use the Internet instead or recycle my old magazines. I don't spend much on stationary. Postage is a big one as it's expensive to send things overseas. This is my sixth saving: If I send items earlier, I can send them much cheaper. Alternatively I can buy something overseas online and get it send to Germany. I do give monthly donations and will continue to do so because I believe this is the right thing to do.

So as you can see there's 6 potential savings in my budget I will need to explore. I will let you know how I go. What are you up to this weekend? Maybe enjoying a nice relaxing afternoon and doing up a budget? Let me know how you go.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

3 weeks at home

I've done it again! I'm so sorry!!! I spent 3 weeks at home and did not write a single post for my blog. Well, that's actually not true. I did start writing several but didn't finish and therefor didn't publish one. My apologies! I have to try and be better. So as a request for forgiveness, let me tell you what I've been up to over the past 3 weeks.

A few days after I came back home (and after cleaning up the chook pen and house), Steve and I decided to go away for a few days. Things have been a bit difficult and tense between us lately as we're at a different stages of our life and wanting different things. We hired a lake view cabin at Lake Maraboon in the Central Queensland Gemfields. It was beautiful! We went for walks, exploring the area and enjoyed this view with a glass of wine from our cabin.
We also had lots of visitors like these Lorikeets who are very cute but very noisy and it was rather difficult to defend our food.
In the end, I just covered it and let me tell you, they weren't happy!
This is Virgin Rock near Springsure where we stopped for coffee and had the last of the best (as it was moist, rich and full of rum) flourless chocolate cake I've ever made. We also explored House of Magnolias which had beautiful homeware.

The trip was good for us. We talked a lot about how we feel, what we want to achieve and how we can go about it. I will tell you about it in the next few months but for now, we feel stronger and more aligned. A good feeling. Steve is still the love of my life!
When we came back home, we had solar panels installed. It was on the list for a while but because we moved a lot, we were never sure which one our forever home would be. Well, looks like we finally decided - this is it. I hope so because I like it very much and I love the area. I'm confident that this is a good areas for jobs as well - despite the fact that I'm currently travelling all the way to WA to go to work. Eventually, I will take on local work again. I'm very happy with the company we've chosen. We have German solar panels and power router. I will monitor the system and do a post about it in a few months time to see how it is going. Our water bill is rather large as we only use tank water and a bore. So every time we turn the tap on, two pumps will start up. Electricity prices are increasing from July again, so it will be a saving for us. We calculated that the pay-off of the system is 4 years.
One morning I was woken by loud noise. We always have a lot of birds around but this time, they obviously had a party - a Pool Party to be precise!
A lot of them flew off when I walked outside but there was still lots of them around the Pool, drinking, cleaning themselves and having fun (= making a lot of noise).
The Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos were also in the Grevillea next to the clothesline having breakfast. Also they're noisy (and messy), I love having them around. Recently we also had a large amount of the red-tailed black Cockatoos but I have not been able to capture them on camera - mainly because I'm full of admiration when I see them - I just stand there and watch them.
A small rainwater tank was installed in this down pipe which carries a lot of dew every day and we now have a good supply to water our indoor plants.
It is winter! I like winter here in Australia, well here in Queensland at least. It's dry and cold and cosy and after a long and very hot summer, it's great to wear long trousers, jumpers and don't break out in a sweat when I walk from the house to the chookpen. It's also the one and only time, it's worth while having fires going. So nearly every afternoon, I started the fire in our beautiful Chimnea and sat next to it with a book or magazine and a glass of wine. So cosy, I already miss this!!!
We even spend time at night (ah well late afternoons, early evenings) outside, having a BBQ with freshly harvested corn and potatoes out of our garden and a nice local steak. We watched the full moon, listened to music and enjoyed cooking our dinner outside. Beautiful!
I even re-arranged the dining table, decorated it in romantic red (Steve reckons I should have served pasta with these colours) and picked some flowers out of the backyard for us. How romantic! We had a lovely evening.
And how does the garden look like in winter time? The Golden Penda has started flowering.
The Grevilleas are also flowering and provide food and shelter to the native birds.
The Tibouchina looks amazing and gives an otherwise boring area some colour.
And the winter veggie garden is monstrous!!! I think I went a bit overboard with the tomatoes...
Here strawberries, beetroot, capsicum, silverbeet and snowpeas are growing. Unfortunately I have a large infestation of caterpillars and they eat all my leaves.
The capsicums look yummy, ...
... so do the peppers.
This is caterpillar poo! I tried to find them all, pick them off and give them to the chooks but I'm still finding more. Not happy! I need to think about how to remidiate this garden bed after the harvest.
The snowpeas are growing nicely and we had a few stir-frys with our own capsicum, onion and snowpeas. I heard snowpeas don't grow here but well, what's this then???
Lots of snowpeas!
My favourite tree - the Bauhinia - is flowering like crazy. It looks so beautiful! No wonder this tree is also called Orchid Tree.
On this side we have corn and onions. This is my first attempt to grow corn and it's easy and tastes magnificent!!! I reckon it looks pretty good as well.
And this is one of our many baskets of harvest. A Pineapple, a large eggplant which I utilised to make Pasta alla Norma and lots of Passionfruit. I know the Passionfruit isn't ripe yet but the Cockatoos started 'harvesting' them, so my only option was to pick them and hope they ripen. Yum!
Hera enjoys this weather as well and watches me gardening. She has celebrated her 15th birthday and I am so grateful she's still with me and still quite fit for her age.
Quentin now has a proper tombstone and his tree is growing nicely. I miss him very much and there only have been very few days where I haven't cried. It's been 3 months now since he was taken.
I moved Hera's kennel into the entertainment area as she likes to sleep there and now she's more protected from the cold winds.
I know our entertainment area is pretty good but something is still missing. Any creative ideas?
We always wanted to make a bit of a Mediterranean area out of this site. We have concrete between the house and the Pool which was required for drainage but due to that, we have a very uninviting hot area there. I'm still not sure what exactly to do with it but we're slowly decorating the wall. We got these window frames from the local market, painted them a nice blue and will put little pots with succulents in between them, so it looks like a proper window.  No idea what we actually could do with the large concrete area as such but if you have any ideas, let me know!
I did enjoy sitting here, looking at the mountains, right next to my Italian window. What do you think?
As you know I'm German, so sometimes (also very rarely) I crave German food. This is called Sauerbraten (it's a sour roast) and I marinated it in a mixture of red wine, vinegar and herbs and spices for 3 weeks, so it turns a dark purple. The purple was much stronger I guess the artificial kitchen light took that away. I then cooked the meat for about 2 hours, so it becomes really soft and tender. As the meat is sour, the sauce needs to compliment it and I put raisins and a German type of biscuit in the sauce as well as some cream to sweeten it.
And this is the end result (minus the gravy): Sauerbraten, Dumplings and red cabbage. It was a beautiful dish and even Steve loved it!
This was a great end to my R'n'R. Now I'm back at work and I will share some of the other things we have been up to during my last break soon.
Have a great Sunday, looking forward to hear from you!