Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Taking Advantage Of Work Benefits - Mobile Phone

I'm really lucky that as part of my job I get my mobile phone charges paid for. This saves me a fortune as you would expect. I haven't even seen a bill in years.

I work for a telecommunications company so have a good understanding of how people in Australia use their phones and the benefits available if you know what to look for.

When you sign up to a mobile phone provider (or signing up to a new one if you’re changing companies), it's really important that you read and understand what you're signing up for, before signing anything! It's a contract the same as any other contract, so please read the details.

Make sure you understand what you get for your commitment, flag falls, rates, cancellation fees, the total cost of the contact etc. If you don't understand or are unsure about something, don't sign anything until you've had your question answered to your satisfaction.

Before you use your phone to enter competitions, download ring tones, send photos or SMS people, make sure you understand what you'll be paying. Premium services attract premium charges. This particularly applies to using your mobile to access data service or send emails (if you have a newer handset with these capabilities).

There are also a number of ways you can save money on your mobile bills. Find out who you call that are with the same phone company. Most companies offer same network discount rates or even free calls on the same network at certain times of the day. An important thing to note is some of the smaller providers actually lease their network from the big companies (Telstra and Optus) so the benefits may even extend past your specific company.

If your bills are still too high, it might be that you're on the wrong plan. Call the customer service department and get them to check if you might be better off on another plan. Plans change all the time and if your current plan no longer suits, see what’s available to meet your new needs. A word of warning on this one though, make you’re your usage patterns has changed for a good 3 months, if it's just a one month blip, you may want to stay where you are as often if you switch to a new plan you may not be able to go back to the old plan if your usage pattern changes back.

Remember, if you do happen to receive an unexpectedly high mobile bill, you should always contact your service provider in the first instance. They really want to keep your business if at all possible, so why not take advantage of it!

To recap:

  • Read everything and understand it before signing anything
  • Ensure you know what you paying before you use your phone
  • Take full advantage of same network call rates and free call times
  • Make sure your phone plan still meets your ongoing usage patterns by reviewing every 3 months
  • Always call your current providers customer service call centre before cancelling
  • If you have a very high bill you can't pay, call them straight away to make payment arrangements

Monday, 24 September 2007

Brown Bagging Update

Today's shop was a personal best to date, only $18.13 for the whole weeks lunch fixings, bargain! Granted there were some leftovers from last week, and I'm pretty much stocked for butter and condiments these days, I was still chuffed though. My deli meats for my rolls came to less than $2 for the whole week!

There were people in the kitchen today actually watching us make up today's lunch, asking us questions about our routine, while admiring our lunches and being shocked at how little it all cost. I think we're becoming quite famous, well on our floor at least.

One girl said we should get our own cooking show!

Gift Cards To The Rescue!

I was in Coles yesterday doing my weekly shop, standing in the checkout queue and a thought stuck me 'I wonder if I can pay for my shopping with gift vouchers?'

So I whipped out all the gift cards I had in my wallet. I seem to accumulate a lot of these somehow, mainly through work rewards and incentives, but I've also got in the habit of claiming them back from my credit card reward schemes whenever I've got enough points.

Sure enough, my shopping came to just under $50 and 3 x $20 Coles Myer vouchers later, I walked out with cash in my wallet and my credit cards untouched. Sweet!

My mission this week is to locate all the gift cards I can find around my work desk, at home and in my handbag and see what I've actually got to play with.

I think I'd always 'saved' them to buy 'nice things' or 'treat myself' but didn't get around to actually using them, so now I can use them to buy things I actually need, and save my hard earned cash for paying off extra debt!

I really don't need any more stuff, so I think this is a far more effective use for them. What do you think?

Friday, 21 September 2007

Big Win Number 1

I have to say I’m pretty chuffed with myself. I paid off my first credit card today, woohoo

Credit Card 5 - $0 Paid in Full 21/09/2007

It was both my lowest balance and my highest interest rate, so regardless which snowball method you follow it’s all good. It was even one of those pesky store cards.

So the $345 that I was paying every two weeks on that one will now roll onto the next focus card, Credit Card 7.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Move Changes – Travel Cost Savings

My company just moved locations from the CBD to a more suburban technology park. This series outlines the money related changes I've made for myself as part of the move.

I think the most amazing money saving moving out here has offered me is my daily travel costs.

I used to drive to work every day and park in what I thought was the cheaper option of 'earlybird parking'. I was paying $18 a day for the 'privilege', plus paying $40 a fortnight in petrol driving to and from home, which also covered my regular leisure travel.

This was a massive $5060 a year (allowing for a 46 week working year).

My company provides free shuttle buses to the campus from my nearest railway station, which I can actually walk to if I choose, or catch another bus to get to (it's about a 20 minute easy walk).

10 trip bus tickets cost $13.60, so that's a maximum of $27.20 a fortnight, assuming I catch the bus to and from the station morning and evening. I've been walking home most nights and walked to the station twice in the last two weeks, so it could stretch out longer, but for budgeting I’m assuming bus each way each day.

This is only $625.60 a year (allowing for a 46 week working year) in comparison. I haven't put any petrol in my car for the last two weeks, so I'm assuming that I can halve my petrol budget, which reduces it to $460 a year for regular driving, for a new total of $1085.60.

So a saving of just over $3970 a year! That’s best part of paying off a credit card right there, all by itself.

I'm just gobsmacked.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Other ways to pay down debt...


I was offered a new job today (even scored a free lunch as part of the offer too!) which will bring with it a very decent pay rise.

It's very exciting, two interviews and lots of waiting later. Now there's all the HR hoops to jump through but it should be fine.

Obviously any extra take home pay will be going directly on my debts!

Monday, 17 September 2007

Video killed the radio star; and my credit card balance!

I was looking at the outgoings on my various cards over the weekend and realised I was paying for not 1 but 2 DVD subscriptions and not using either of them. Quickflix and VideoEzy to be precise.

Trent over at The Simple Dollar has been running a great series of one hour projects which I've been meaning to do.

One of the projects was to cleanse your monthly bills, which I had already started on my own by cancelling my unused gym membership. So the plan for today is to cancel both of these memberships, which will reduce outgoings on my cards by $36.95 for the Quickflix and $29.95 for the VideoEzy per month, which is an extra $802.80 a year not going mindlessly onto my credit cards.

The more I look into these things the more I'm stunned at my money madness. I really am a shocker and this has been such a revelation for me.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Move Changes - Brown Bagging It 2

My company just moved locations from the CBD to a more suburban technology park. This series outlines the money related changes I've made for myself as part of the move.

Lunch was easily a $10-$15 a day experience for me, if not more. Food courts offering too many tempting choices, there was no need to plan or bring my lunch. Or so I thought.

Of course there was a need for me to plan and bring my lunch as I was sinking myself deeper and deeper into debt!

I needed to find a way to get the 'leave the office for a while' benefit of buying my lunch, with a payoff of not spending anywhere near the amount I have been.

I've found a solution. One of the guys I work with was also keen to bring his lunch instead of buying it. So we’re running a very friendly 'ready steady cook' style competition.

We've blocked out time on Mondays to walk down to the nearest shopping centre (mall), hit the supermarket and buy our lunch materials for the week. Still get to go out & buy lunch this way, plus some social interaction and a nice walk in the sunshine.

The fun part (for us anyway) is to break down the cost of each individual lunch we make, see what each other makes and make a call on who 'won' for the day. Lowest meal cost is 50% of the score, with 'plate appeal' making providing the other 50%. I didn't want it to be just about low cost, but about genuine value for money.

This is how this week's daily menu broke down for me

  • Rolls $0.82
  • Butter $0.11
  • Mustard $0.07
  • Lettuce $1.09
  • Tomato $0.74
  • Meat $0.64
  • Apple $1.16
  • Banana $0.71
  • Water $0 (we have iced filtered water at work)

For a total of $5.34 a day! If I use an average of $12.50 a day over 46 working weeks a year for the old spend, that’s a saving of around $1645 a year on work lunches!

Friday, 14 September 2007

Move Changes - Brown Bagging It

My company just moved locations from the CBD to a more suburban technology park. This series will outline the money related changes I’ve made for myself as part of the move.

I was a notorious breakfast buyer, which normally consisted of:

  • Large coffee (skim flat white with 1 equal) - $3
  • Turkish toast with Vegemite - $3
So looking at that, I'm paying $60 a fortnight, just for breakfast, and just on working days! Madness!

I'm not really hungry when I wake up, so I'm still having breakfast when I get to work, but it now looks like this:

  • Large mug of tea (skim milk with 1 equal) - $0 (all supplied by work)
  • Wholegrain toast with Vegemite or peanut butter - $0.64 (based on dividing serves into ingredients costs)
So my new cost is approximately $6.40 for those same 10 breakfasts, a saving of almost 90%!

Keeping this up will save me just over $1230 a year, this will go straight towards a fair sized dent on my debts.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Real Estate Woes

Got home tonight to find a letter from my Real Estate agent.

They're putting the rent up $10 a week from the 24th of November. That's the second rise this year (the last one was in May 2007, which was $20 a week), for a total increase of $30 a week over the last six months. My rent will have increased $130 a month in just under a year, but I'm still in the same apartment, go figure.

So I guess I will make a list of the all the things wrong with the apartment and hope they fix as much as possible for that extra $30 a week they're getting from me.

I'm genuinely shocked I have to say. This place isn't even close to posh, in fact it's quite dodgy. That's the Sydney rental market for you though.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Sorting Out Superannuation

Another financial area I’ve completely ignored over the years is my superannuation. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked under the superannuation guarantee, so I’ve been getting 9% of my salary over the years put into superannuation by my various employers.

Do you think I know where any of those funds are or how much is in them? Of course I don’t. I’ve had 5 different employers over the years, so at least I remember that much.

That’s all going to change this week.

I’m going on a Super hunt, and whatever I find will then all be rolled over into a single fund of my choosing, rather than leave it to the company to decide what’s best for me, and to also minimise fees.

The Australian Tax Office even has an online search tool,
SuperSeeker to help me look.

Too easy, I can’t believe I hadn’t got around to doing this earlier.

Update: There wasn't anything on the website, but I've downloaded the form for the full search to locate all my super. Once I've located vereything I can look to consolidating it in the fund of my choice.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

When you're on a diet you join a gym right?


I've just cancelled my Fitness First membership, as I realised I hadn't set foot in the door of my gym once this year (that's a whole 'nother show Oprah), but had been paying $75 a month to them for the privilege!

So the only thing losing any weight was my bank account.

$75 x 12 = $900 debt no longer being accrued annually as it was direct debiting from one of my cards.

It was a great gym, nothing wrong with the facilities or anything, I just didn't use it.

I'll walk instead.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Day 1 - The ugly truth, and a plan

It's really struck me lately just how much debt I've managed to acquire over the last few years.

The Ugly Truth

  • Personal Loan - $24,105
  • Credit Card 1 - $4947
  • Credit Card2 - $7317
  • Credit Card 3 - $5499
  • Credit Card 4 - $7177
  • Credit Card 5 - $677
  • Credit Card 6 - $4000
  • Credit Card 7 - $3000
  • Emergency Fund - $0
  • Savings - $0

Total = $56,722

Yes 7, count them 7 credit cards! What was I thinking? No wonder I'm 38, in a well paying job and don't have a home of my own. As today is the first day of Spring here in Australia, what better time to 'spring clean' my finances, and put that debt on a diet once and for all.

The Plan

  • I'm running with the snowball method of paying off my debts, from smallest balance to highest, as I know myself well enough to realise I need the gratification. I've managed to find an extra $700+ in the budget for the snowball per month, by actually creating a budget!
  • I'm keeping the current minimum balances fixed at this month's amount on the debts ongoing, maintaining those payments even as balances go down.
  • I've set up automatic payments to come out each pay day on each of the debts.
  • I've taken the cards out of my wallet
  • I've set up $100 a pay transfer to start building my emergency fund.

Based on the snowball calculator I used, I should have eliminated 6 of the 7 credit cards by my 40th birthday in May 2009, and completely debt free by May 2010.

Now, to work the plan in reality.