Women and retirement savings

I recently read an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald, about women and superannuation – our state mandated retirement policy. The law states that employers must contribute 9% of their employee’s salary into a superannuation fund, which cannot be touched until retirement. (Simply speaking of course – there are loopholes in every part of that previous sentence, but I’m trying to keep it simple!). With July 2013 clicking over, Australian’s will now get 9.25%, increasing slowly to 12% in 2019.

It’s a great system – but it’s not working in reality. And it’s not working the most for women. Naturally, women take time out of the workforce to have children, and this impacts their retirement balance. Women also live longer, which means they need even more than a man would.  The article outlines the details of the shortcomings most women will face, based on their research.  There is the capacity for individuals to add to their superannuation, up to a point (it’s got some preferential taxation laws, so it was being used by the super rich to save bucket loads of cash). In my first year of working in my career, I overheard older people talking about their super balances, and how much they should co-contribute to have enough in retirement. Of my own volition, I took this eavesdropping to heart, and decided that I wouldn’t miss $50 per week, and I’d add that (pre tax) to my super account.

What I find incredibly interesting in this issue is the discussions I have with people my age: almost everyone is against or ambivalent that someone their age would be doing this! Their feelings are either

  • I need the money more for other things (lifestyle, saving for a house, paying off a mortgage)
  • You never know what might happen to the balance (as it’s in the stock-market)
  • Retirement is so far away – if I have a huge property/shares portfolio, I’ll be fine

Evidently, I don’t buy into any of these arguments.

Reading the article that I linked, heartens me.  It heartens me most when I look at the graphic. (You can be disheartened, so you can be heartened right? Spell check disagrees?!)

source: smh.com.au
source: smh.com.au

I don’t like to be brash, or the tall poppy (something Australian’s avoid). But that decision in 2010 has meant I am ahead of where a 45-49 year old women is!  I’ll admit it’s not all my doing, my employer has been contributing above 9% for as long as I’ve worked here (4.5 years), and has risen to 15% today!  When I asked a colleague who started when I did, therefore had the same salary, his balance was $19k less than mine. Both of us have our entire balance in the high growth option.

It’s nice to feel safe to take some time off to have children! And I can heed the advice, which is ‘a man is not a plan’ (but a man sure is nice…)

I’m glad to see other bloggers at my age and stage are talking about retirement savings… even if my real life friends aren’t!

How do you feel about retirement savings?  Is it too risky to let a fund manage a huge amount of your money on the stock market?  Do you think you can do a better job?  Would you co-contribute?

Random Round Up

TGIF! Wow, for someone who only works every second Friday, my body was shocked and dismayed to have to work this Friday! And usually, on a super tired morning, I’d stop for a mocha on the way to work.  But a mocha has both sugar in it (which I’m trying to trim down on til the end of July) and it’s ‘buying takeway’ which I’m also not doing in July.  Thankfully, there’s a coffee machine at work, and I got a hit the minute I got in!

In today’s random Friday wrap up, I’ll just collect my thoughts, and receipts, and look at how the week, and the month so far have been, in Carla’s of Daily Half Dozen’s relaxed style (I know we share some readers, sadly I won’t be as concise as she is!).

Money

Yikes, what a week! Last week, I got a double pay, thanks to back pay, overtime and on call pay.  So I quickly siphoned that off to my savings goal of $26k by 22 Dec for my mortgage.  I even paid two weeks of my mortgage last week.  It was all going so well…

This week I got paid my new normal weekly pay.  And then I proceeded to spend $1400 on a two day course!  To regular readers, this is part of getting my chartered professional engineer status – I need 150 hours of continuing professional development.  75 of these hours can be ‘anything’ – which cover all the internal courses we do more or less annually.  But the remaining 75 hours are divided into specific ‘skill sets’ and I was woefully under subscribed in ‘area of practice’ courses.  So I found a course in August, but with two days until the ‘early bird’ rate of 10% off ended, I signed up straight away.  In the past, these courses have been paid for by my employer.  Sadly, with the current climate, I am not at all confident I’ll be reimbursed this time.  Nonetheless, I’ve found some paperwork, and commenced my case with my (new) boss.  He’s on board, and willing to watch me fight 🙂

After paying for the course, other enjoyable hits to the budget included

  •  finally fixing the ikea kitchen lights (that’s a post in itself!) for $160.  This will be reimbursed by Ikea
  • I helped crowd fund a great book from a blog I love 52Suburbs – you won’t be disappointed if you like photography and diptychs
  • I got all my nails done in preparation for the wedding, which set me back $85.  You know how I feel about the cost of being vain, so this was a hit!
Right after getting them done
Right after getting them done
  • accommodation for the wedding was $180. Most places in Orange are minimum two night stay, so it severely limits the competition if you’re looking to stay one night.  It was well worth it though!
  • thanks to An Exacting Life, I went and found concert tickets! I’m due to see Rudimental in September (which I initially thought had sold out), and then also bought two tickets at the same venue for theatresports next weekend.  I’m sure I’ll enjoy both, but that was another $140
  • for the first time in months, I had acupuncture AND physio (which I was having weekly for a long while).  Combined, my out of pocket was $90, better than the $120 it could have been
  • I’ve signed up for a 9km bridge run ($57)! I can reimburse myself from the 12 in 2 adventure fund though.  Sadly the 5km color run I was going to do with my family sold out quick sticks, so we’ll volunteer instead, to still be involved.  Whilst on 12 in 2 goals, I’ve also found an accountability partner for running (Pauline for Make Money Your Way) and for the bible reading I have Brian from Done by Forty who I met through comments at Jen’s blog The Happy Homeowner – yay to have encouragement!

That’s about all, til I spoke to the physio about my running and shin pain.  She suggested I needed new running shoes – I’d like to get some for the ~$100 mark, but in Australia, it’s more likely to be ~$200.  I’m almost tempted to take that US trip I’m dreaming of, to save me the $100 dollars.

And I’ve decided I’d like to try skinny jeans after a great wardrobe post by Into Mind, though I did wander around, and now I’ve decided I need to at least TRY skinny jeans whilst I’m this side of retirement… I mean seriously, why have I never owned a pair?  I just think they might be the silhouette update I’ve been looking for. (yes I think of what I’m wearing in terms of the shape, and I’ve been a little less than impressed with a lot of my winter wardrobe of late).  So that’ll likely be another $100.

I’m not game to add this all up – but let’s just saw, I’m sad to see a lot of last week’s gains be lost this week or so.  Hopefully some reimbursements will settle it out, otherwise I’ll just have to be ok with achieving my savings target slower.

Stuff

I’m getting so hung up on ‘stuff’.  The price of stuff vs the quality.  Thinking about the conditions of who made it.  The wage they were paid.  Should everyone earn what an Australian ‘minimum’ wage is?  It’s all getting to me – and came up last night with my parents who’ve just enjoyed 2.5 weeks in Asia, where a watch was $2.90.  How do you work out a fair price?

This thought process was probably kickstarted by a radio segment where I heard the found of Slavery Footprint speak about the way they are trying to change industries (rather than companies) to address slavery.  You can input your ‘stuff’ to work out how many slaves you had.  Best part of the interview was when he mentioned that his people emailed Steve Jobs – to which he off handedly suggested ’email the Queen too’.  His staff explained that Jobs always replied to emails.  And he did! He said ‘thanks for bringing this to my attention, I’ll look into it’.  And since then, Apple’s gone form being a secret company, to disclosing their suppliers and the conditions and what Apple is doing to improve things.  Certainly heartening.

Screen capture from http://slaveryfootprint.org/
Screen capture from http://slaveryfootprint.org/

The radio presenter had 34 slaves.  I got 44.  You should try it – it’s a cute interface if you have 5-10 mins to spare!  You can fine tune every step by pressing the cog on the left (shown above), which I did for food, technology & clothing (using my wizz bang inventory, and it was still hard!) <- actually I went back and tried to fine tuned them all, til they cleared my old clothing tally!

I think that’s all that’s on my mind.  I have the fancy birthday dinner this Saturday (my one eating out exception that I planned at the start of my ‘no eating out’ July Challenge).  It’ll be great – I believe it’s 5 courses of south american food, with the option to match wines (sorry Lucinda, it’s not a dry July for me!).  It’s also another cost, but hey, I knew this one was coming.

Let me know how your slavery footprint goes when you get a chance – I’d love to talk about that more!

Goals Update – June

Financial

$20k $26k target by 22 DecOn target to reach it by 21/11!
May: $16,413.13
Jun: $17,938.69 (+$1525.56)

12 in 2 adventures fund

May: $574.32
June: $898.81

Generosity target
Slower month this month, but annualised, I think I’m still doing fine.  Maybe I’ll report on my hours volunteering?

Health

Cook at home twice a weekEasily met, especially with the BF’s cooking mixed in

week 1 –
Dad’s graduation dinner (Sat)
Ceasear salad at BF’s (Sun)
Red Rooster (Mon)
Spag Bol with zuchini (Tue)
Garlic cheese pizza (Wed)
Chicken Ceaser Salad (Thu)
Satay pork pies, Zucchini slice & Pumpkin Pie (Fri)
Malaysian at Mamak and N2 gelato (Sat) <- my go to for out of town visitors!
Curry and Rice at parents (Sun)

week 2 –
nothing… Ice cream at vivid festival (Mon)
Oven roasted cheery tomato gnocchi (Tue) <- can I just say, I didn’t think something so easy could be so tasty! I even skip on the basil and it’s awesome
Chicken with Bombay potatos (Wed)
Zuchini slice? (Thu)
Pepperoni pizza (Fri)
Mamak again, different location and different people (Sat)
Nachoes by BF at my place (Sun)

week 3 –
Ceaser salad at BF’s (Mon)
Gnochhi with slow roasted tomatos(Tue)
McDonalds (I had a freebie) (Wed)
Gnocchi (from ricotta) (Thu)
Salt and pepper squid at the pub (Fri)
Onion tart (Sat)
Pad Se Ew (sp?) at BF’s (Sun)

week 4 –
Onion tart (Mon)
Onion tart (Tue)
Food at Coop Fundraiser (Wed)
Dominos pizza (Thu)
Nothing (some cake?) (Fri)
Gnocchi with oven dried tomatoes at BF’s (Sat) yes again!
Stew at a friends (Sun)

Sugar: Back on a good thing, but only 1 week this month

After a shock on Monday week ago (seeing my whole reflection in the mirror!), I have decided to cut sugar at least til the end of July.  My loop holes are that if I bake it at home, it’s ok (like a great gluten free pear and walnut bread mmmm).  Natural sugars are ok (milk, fruit).  And I won’t be a Nazi – I did nibble a tiny bit of a snack Mars Bar and the BF ate the rest.  Or the super good organic chocolate at the coop that someone kept offering me – with coconut sugar I think.

Train for polo:

Taking the season off.  I am pleased I got a continuous 4km run in on Wednesday and it felt a-ok.  It was relatively flat, and I only walked about 30m at a time before I started running again, so law of averages says I ran!

Cultural

2 films a month: Happily yes!

Definitely! There was the silly This is the end (which we saw with free tickets… which is the only way I’d ever suggest anyone sees this – unless you are a man who likes toilet humour); we also went and saw The Great Gatsby and The Internship which I enjoyed more than I might have expected.  Technically, World War Z also came in during this month too!

2 books a month: Also a yes!

I read The World Without Us and Perfume, click the links if you missed my reviews

Social

Call/connect with an out of town friend : Achieved, gold star here

A friend from Victoria visited, so she made all the effort 😉 And is now a reader – yay!  And at the beginning of June I went to the Gold Coast and caught up with a school friend.  So two good activities with two out of town friends! Win!

Career

Certification: Bah, not so much progress :s

I’ve got my mentor to read three of the woeful 16, and updated two of them.  The third one, all about ‘evaluation’ – he said what I wrote doesn’t really prove that I have this skill.  He is, of course, right, but I just don’t know how to fix it!  Maybe start again :s

Looking for next role: Moving along nicely

Interestingly, one has found me.  I spoke to my boss a week or two ago, looking for some growth/learning areas he thought might be useful.  At the same time, i told him about my career goal.  A week later he called me into his office and suggested a lateral move, with the view that it will enhance my skills, and may give me some management ‘practice’.  So, I think it’s a no brainer that i take it!

So the month that was June.  All round, pretty good.  On track with savings (and a HUGE backpay/OT/on call pay supplement this week too!).  Killing it on my cultural goals, and ok on the career and social fronts.  Maybe I should add ‘running’ into the health part – and keep myself a little more accountable, as I had a huge hiatus after this post.

The cost of being vain…

I’m not particularly girly… I’m not sure why, but sometimes I think it’s because I’m frugal (with these sorts of costs).  So I thought I’d look into how much it would truly cost to be ‘vain’ (at least in my judgement) for a year here in good old Sydney town.  I’m looking mainly at outsourced services, rather than ‘things’ – though I do put make up in there.

Clothing is a whole other ball game, so I left that out…  But if you want to see how much clothing I have (and you’re not a regular reader!) head to my wardrobe inventory.

Haircuts

Every six weeks at $75 each = $650 

Hair colour

Every six weeks at $140+ = $1,213

Waxing

Sexy eyes thanks to an eye brow wax? source: http://www.urbanescape.net.au/www2/
Sexy eyes thanks to an eye brow wax?
source: http://www.urbanescape.net.au/www2/

Legs every 2 months at $35 x 6 = $210

Private parts every 1.5 months $35 x 8 =$280

I didn’t include eye brows as they are free with the above too.  I could also look into waxing the side of my face, or my arms?

Tanning

What I could look like, but at what cost? source:http://www.urbanescape.net.au/www2/
What I could look like, but at what cost?
source:http://www.urbanescape.net.au/www2/

Weekly, every second week $30 x 26 = $780

(ideally weekly in summer, and for special occasions in winter)

Nail care

Manicures with shellac (year round, fortnightly) $35 x 26 = $910

Pedicures with shellac (six months a year, monthly) $40 x 6 = $240

Cosmetics

This is a total stab in the dark, cause I don’t wear make up daily so have no idea of consumption figures, but based on the make up brands and products I buy (Lancome foundation, perfume, mascara, blush), I’d guesstimate

$200

TOTAL

$4,483 or a mere $86.21 per week. (Almost 6% of my take home pay).

Admittedly, all of the above are ‘salon’ prices, and I’m well aware a lot if not all of this can be done at home.  Maybe someone can do a mirror post, and show just how much money could be saved.  Rest assured, I’m not spending anywhere near the above amount at the moment!

What do you think is a reasonable about of money to spend on your appearance?

June challenge: track eating out costs

I’ve mentioned more than once (here and here), that I’m sure my eating out costs are higher than my monthly grocery spend.  It’s the only way I can explain how I spend so little on groceries and I haven’t starved 😉  Actually regular readers would know, every month I set a goal to cook at home two nights a week.  I usually meet this (and I don’t count the ‘cooking at the bf’s’ in that either!)

Whilst thinking of a challenge I considered ‘no eating out’ in June.  It was doomed from the start, with a night away at the Gold Coast.  So I decided I would track it first, and then next month, work on a ‘no eating out’ challenge.

Now I want one! I love a great pepperoni pizza! source:kingstonhouseofpizza.com
Now I want one! I love a great pepperoni pizza!
source:kingstonhouseofpizza.com

So, to start with, this is normal programming, complete with a mini break in there.  We seem to have one mini break out of town every month at the moment – between weddings, work and ‘why not’s.  Let’s hope this week is an outlier in the month (though if every week truly is like this, imagine how much I’ll have saved at the end of July’s challenge?).

Here’s the ‘rules’

  1. I track the total meal and drinks cost (coffees, cocktails etc).  This includes whomever I eat with, usually the bf
  2. I proportion what amount of that is mine (not exactly, but just a rough 50/50 or 30/70).  This is helpful when I eat in a big group (ie with my family) and whilst I don’t/didn’t pay, work out what it might have cost me in real terms.
  3. The BF is aware of the tracking, but neither of us are changing our behaviour just yet.  Basically, business as usual

Week 1 – hold onto your hat’s frugalistas…

9.3% of my (weekly) take home salary covered my own meals out, so far.  Actually, that’s ignoring my family night out, where dad paid.  If I’d paid my way, I’d have spent 12.7%  And if I paid for everything we eaten out as a couple, it’d have been 13.8%.  Oh and don’t you worry about fairness, there’s been hotel costs & cabs in this same week and I’ve paid nothing for those.

Now, let’s hope for a calmer few weeks, and a nicer end of month check in…

For a random aside, as I can’t contain my jubilation!

My current career inspiration source:http://www.generalhonore.com/index.html
My current career inspiration
source:http://www.generalhonore.com/index.html

Career Goals Update

I’ve now met with my internal mentor (got tongues waging in my office, seeing me meeting one on one with a big cheese!).  He was a dynamo and I’m sure it’s going to be a great match.  As a result of both mentors, I’ve had a flurry of activity, including applying for RedR to be on their disaster register. Lucky I got on this promptly, as applications close tomorrow!  Next step will be a phone interview – so close those fingers everyone!  I also asked my manager to review my skills and help me identify some learning opportunities for me, to make the most of my current role whilst we ride out the storm of no jobs and uncertainty in our company.  And I’ve sent three of my less than ideal career episode reports to my external mentor.  Hopefully our next meeting will bring some insights on how I can strengthen those.  I’m walking with a spring in my step, and radiating sunshine with all these little steps toward the career I want!

Thanks readers, you’re really helping me keep accountable and make sure I achieve my goals.

Is shopping at a co-op worth it?

I have, like more people, choice where I buy my groceries.  Those who are regular readers would know I’m ‘crazy’ about waste, and am aiming for zero waste (though compost and recycling are OK, it’s landfill I’m trying to erase).  Whilst it’s an admirable environmental goal, there’s a financial component too.

I thought I would look at the choices I have at my local IGA. It is in my block, so there are no transport costs, and the co-op called Alfalfa House (which I pay a one off membership of $20) I have to catch the bus to, or drive to.

A note about the pricing scheme at the  co-op: there’s 100%, 90% and 75% pricing for anyone, members and volunteers. Until recently, I paid the member price (10% off). On Saturday when I volunteered for two hours,  I paid the volunteer price (25% off).  I plan to continue ‘working’ two hours to earn a greater discount.

(note 100g = 3.5 ounces & 1kg = 2.2 Lbs)

Here’s what I can buy at what prices:

Oats:

IGA sells them in their home brand Black and Gold (in a plastic bag) for $2 per kg.  In the Uncle Toby’s brand (cardboard packaging) it’s between $6.30-7.30 per 1kg

Cheap oats, bad packaging
Cheap oats, bad packaging
Cardboard packaging is better!
Cardboard packaging is better!

And then the co-op weighs in at $5.25 at the cheapest (which I can earn)

Alfalfa house steel cut oats
Steel cut oats – something a little different to try

Choc Chips

If I buy Nestle at IGA (not my preferred brand due to them being little flat discs rather than small drops), it’s $1.25 per 100g.  My preferred Black and Gold brand are 57c per 100g.  Here’s a photo of Cole’s Nestle baking bits at $1.74 per 100g. All of these options are packaged in plastic, which regular readers would know I’m trying to reduce.

Nestle choc chip bits and Coles' price
Nestle choc chip bits and Coles’ price

I’ve spent $35 on choc chips (666g) once at the co-op, and I wasn’t happy with how they ‘performed’ in my brownies (neither were honest critics).  They were just too oily.  I don’t really have a financially viable chocolate source that’s zero waste/recyclable waste.  At $3.21 they’re almost twice the price of store bought ones too

Alfalfa house chocolate chips
Bulk buying chocolate chips

Cocoa

You can’t buy cocoa without a plastic liner in a cardboard box at my local IGA.  Sadly, along with my preferred choc chips, the cocas are all out the back whilst they rearrange the store on me.

Alfalfa house bulk cocoa
Zero waste cocoa

Apricots

Interestingly, this is a Co-op win!  Save for the weird, brown colour, they taste FAR superior to those I get at IGA or my fruit and vege shop.  Should I clarrify that – they taste far superior to ME, but I was buying these as a snack for the bf, as I knew I wouldn’t eat the orange coloured dried apricots as they leave a weird after taste in my mouth.  At $30.75 per kg for Angus Park brand at the IGA, I’ll be trying hard to covert the BF to the blackened co-op version at a price of $13.80.

Alfalfa house bulk dried apricots
Dried apricots in bulk
Angus Park apricots in IGA
Angus Park apricots in IGA

Gluten free pasta

There’s an interesting twist in gluten free (GF) pasta pricing.  Macaroni at the co-op is equal in price on a member discount to IGA’s prices – so it’s an each way bet (though the co-op had no plastic window that comes with the San Remo box).

On spaghetti, the co-op wins hands down, with a price of 44c per 100g for anyone!  Sadly they were out of stock recently, so I’m a little stuck.

San Remo brand Gluten Free Spiral pasta at IGA
San Remo brand Gluten Free Spiral pasta at IGA
San Remo brand Gluten Free spaghetti at IGA
San Remo brand Gluten Free spaghetti at IGA

Rice – brown

Rice varies in price according to quantity in my IGA (which must be a price signal to sell more, rather than a true reflection in cost differential in bag size!).  Rice can be between $3.50-$4.10 per kg.

The co-op charges $7.18 for a normal person, down to $5.39 per kg if I volunteer.

Sun Rice Brown Rice
Sun Rice Brown Rice in IGA

Chickpeas

Definitely something that’s cheaper at IGA, at $5.20 for a little packet below (it’s less for canned, who’d have thought!).

Then the Co-op has them for at least $9.45

These are even pricier than canned!!
These are even pricier than canned!!
Chickpeas in bulk at the Co-op
Chickpeas in bulk at the Co-op

Olive Oil

At IGA, I can get it as cheap at 78c per 100ml, but then if I wanted a little bit of oil, it’d be more like $1.35 per 100ml (in a nice glass bottle).

At the co-op I’ll pay between $1.72-$2.068 per 100ml – but I can choose my amount.  I use so little it seems like a good deal to me.

Bulk oil in my local IGA
Bulk oil in my local IGA

Udon Noodles

IGA offers plastic wrapped udon from between 61 -69c per 100g.

The co-op can sell them at $1.13 per 100g at full price, and 85c at the cheapest.

IGA usually sells them at 69c per 100g
IGA usually sells them at 69c per 100g

Based on price, I’d be the following at the co-op

  • Apricots
  • GF pasta – both spaghetti and macroni/spirals

And I’d buy the following at IGA if I *only* cared about price and not packaging

  • Oats
  • Choc chips
  • Brown rice – hardly seems worth the mark up, wonder why the co-op’s so much more?
  • Udon noddles
  • Olive oil
  • Chickpeas

But, here’s what I decided it ‘worth it’ at the co-op, even if I’m paying a little more

  • Oats – cause for my chosen packaging, it’s cheaper than cardboard
  • Udon noodles
  • Olive oil

I’d still shop at the co-op for some ingredients that I can’t otherwise get locally (at my IGA or green grocers), such a gluten free flours like rice flour and chickpea flours.

When I was looking for something on Alfalfa House’s website, I found another blog post written about the store back in 2009, so I thought I would share it with you should you want more info: http://www.notquitenigella.com/2009/02/05/co-op-food-shopping-saving-while-shopping-organic/

In an aside, my grocery spend is up on last month, (compare with this) with
10% on fruit (+2%),
10% on vege (-6% weird as I’ve eaten heaps of soup),
15% dairy (-5%),
24% pantry staples(+7%),
6% breakfast (-2% cause oats are cheaper),
12% convenience (+9% for cheeses for a party),
16% house stuff  (+10%),
5% snacks (no change),
3% meat  (-13% weird, I did not consciously eat less!)

Goals Update – May

Financial

$20k  $26k target by 22 DecOn target (increase of $1,829.61 this month)

Apr 2013: $14,522.79

May 2013: $16,352.40

Generosity target of at least $100 per week:  ahead of annual target

I have decided to just list whether I’ve achieved this for the month, and whether I’m behind or ahead of my annual budgetted ‘generosity’.

Health

Cook at home twice a weekachieved as much as I can remember (week 1 was hazy!)

I’ve started making a soup about weekly, to use leftovers for lunches at work.  This has settled my angst about vegetable intact and means I can be happier eating less balanced dinners which might be the preference of those I dine with 😉  Bolded items were cooked at home

week 1 –

(Mon)
(Tue)
(Wed)
Cheesy Garlic pizza (Thu)
GF pasta in Brisbane (Fri)
Steak out in Brisbane (Sat)
Nachos at Brisbane airport(Sun)

week 2 –
Rice crackers and brownies? (Mon)
Pumpkin & Lentil soup (Tue)
Pizza (Wed)
Leftovers? (Thu)
Spaghetti Carbonara (Fri)
Nachoes and Sliders out (Sat)
Quiche, waldorf salad & spaghetti marinana at parent’s house (Sun)

week 3 –
Vegetable soup (Mon)
Steak and chips – met the BF’s MUM!! (Tue)
Udon Noodles with miso (Wed)
Prawn & scallop pie out (Thu)
Stuffed peppers (Fri)
Ceaser Salad at BF’s (Sat)
Eurovision party (Sun)

week 4 –
Pumpkin Soup (Mon)
Dominos Pizzas (Tue)
Tuna bake (Wed)
Satay chicken and rice at BF’s (Thu)
(Fri)
Italian birthday dinner out (Sat)
Nachos at BF’s (Sun)

Weel 5-
Sweet Potato and Suede soup (Mon)
Chicken with rice noodles (Tue)
Miso with Udon noodles (Wed)

Limit Sugar – totally off this bandwagon

Train for polo – not playing the winter season

Cultural

– 2 films a month: achieved

I saw two DVDs as well as going out to the movies.  I really wanted to see Warm Bodies and so the BF obliged and took me.  I loved it, I loved the subtle humour.  Really pleased I went and saw it.  Whilst it seems a little like a chick flick, I think it’s got enough going for it that others can tolerate it.

I also saw two movies at home, Unthinkable wasn’t something I heard about, when it came out, or since.  It was an American who plants three nuclear bombs in the US.  Probably a little bit of a sensitive issue for Americans, but I enjoyed the film.  It was pretty graphic – they use all the torture methods that are and are not approved.  It certainly makes you ask questions of torture, but also the motivations of the tortured – perhaps they’ve resigned to their fate, and therefore no end of torture will cause them to reveal the information you’re seeking?  The second film was The Hunger Games which I haven’t read, but was interested to see nonetheless.  I think I was actually surprised how into it I got, and I really did want to see ‘what happened in the end’.

Saw Iron Man 3 at the movies, and I’ve not seen the first two, but I still followed what was going on and enjoyed it immensely – obviously enhanced by the La Premiere session, which involved food and alcohol service to your couples chairs, separated from the general public.

– 2 books a month: achieved

First up was Winter Garden which was a great balance between modern day USA and fairytale time (which becomes wartime Russia).  Really well told story, with lots of characters going on a little personal discovery.

Gosh it seems like it’s been a long month, and somehow I managed to get The Paradox of Choice read, though it took forever.  I wrote a very brief review too.

Social

Call/connect with an out of town friend – achieved
In May, I took a weekend back in my former home town, Brisbane, and had a great dinner with a school friend. The other night, I met up with a friend who I met at an overseas conference, who does a similar role to me for a company in Brisbane. I always have the best time catching up with her – we’re so in sync as nerds!

I also spoke to a friend originally from Perth but now in Melbourne – both for her B’day and again she rang me a week later to sort out coming to visit! The coincidence in all this was that I knew it was her birthday and whilst i was listening to a national radio program they read a text message she sent in! She lived in a pretty small town in Western Australia and when they mentioned that, and her name, well it couldn’t have been a bigger coincidence – I pulled over then and there to ring her for her birthday and exclaim her nationwide ‘fame’!

Career

– Certification – 60% done well, 40% still to improve

Of the 16 career episode reports, I’ve written something for every one. There are five that are too short (one, woefully so).  But I’m starting to see that I’m chipping away at this, and it will get done!  I’ve set an ‘end of the year’ target to complete this.  I also need to send three to my non work mentor to review.  I did consider sending the ‘worse’ ones, but then I don’t want to make a bad impression – but it’s best to get help where I most need it!

– Looking for next role – I’m working on it!

Whilst I’ve not actively sort a new role, in the last month I’ve met with my non-work mentor.  We talked about a career plan and he gave me some helpful tips. Mainly, he talked and I took a lot of notes (oh, of course I talked too… don’t worry).  As a result of that chat, I’ve sought out an internal mentor.  Someone in senior management, but not part of my direct reporting structure, which I think it helpful.  He’s also been overseas with our company sending him to NYC, which would be a dream come true for me.  So after going out on a limb with a ‘will you be my mentor’ email, not a day later I have a willing mentor and a date to meet in early June!  Yay!

How do I ‘work’ my payrise?

Here’s the thing. I got a pay raise (woot!). So I thought I’d look at what I was spending and now I have an increase, work out what I shall do with it…

Back in the day, the split was (on take home pay)

Before

40% on housing
16% on bill (saving for bills, strata, water, gas, electrical, and the unexpected plumber etc)
12% on savings goal (meeting my mortgage refinancing goal)
17% on ‘walking around money’ – all groceries, eating out, vanity etc.
7% on generosity
8% on slush – this would supplemental the above money if I ran short, and/or be added to various savings targets.

Nowadays:

Nowdays
37% on housing
14% on bills (savings)
11% on savings
16% on spending
7% on generosity
16% on slush

Anyone see that, there’s a doubling in slush! Best not let that go to waste or lifestyle inflation!

Oh and I just want to say, I already get 15% or so of my salary put to a retirement fund, which I contribute personally too above that as well (another 2% of my pre tax salary).

I’m thinking my options are
1. Save for a holiday
2. Save MORE for house refinancing at the end of the year (find out more in my monthly goals round up)
3. Give more away
4. Work towards the $6k I need to prepay a funeral

I’ve decided I’ll put another 13% in savings for the house refinancing (and if a holiday comes up, I’ll borrow from that fattened up account. Alternatively, I can use it for the funeral prepurchasing). That leaves 2% permitted for lifestyle inflation :p  Well really ‘fat’ for when I don’t stick to my day to day budget!  I think I’ll even ramp up the automatic savings plan, so I won’t ‘think’ about it too much.

Reality

Setting ambitious targets is the BEST way for me to achieve them. Strange but true. Otherwise I think the money is ‘leftover’ and allow myself to spend it!  Oh and I’ll feel SO much more comfortable reading all those retire young/financial free blogs now!

I’ve just branched into having a facebook page, so please follow or like me if you’re into that! See the link to the right.

Grocery spending summary – April and the last 5 months

This might not be as in depth (as I’d like) but it’s a start to documenting my grocery shopping behaviour for one (and sometimes +1).  My categories have evolved since I started in December 2012, but basically they are moving along nicely now.

My average monthly spend on groceries is about 4% of my monthly take home pay.  The graphics below are in %, but I give each category a $ range, so those who want to work out what I earn won’t find it hard.  Interestingly, as a public servant, it’s also PUBLIC knowledge, or at least accessible by the public, so I’m not as worried as I might/could/should be.

Average monthly grocery spend by category
Average monthly grocery spend by category

Fruit: monthly spend around $15-$20 (I don’t include tinned pineapple or frozen raspberries here).

Vegies: monthly I spend between $20-$50 here, this month it was around $30

Dairy (milk, cheese, eggs, butter): Every time I input cheese prices I’m shocked at the cost.  Monthly spending is usually between $25-$40, with this month at the higher end

Pantry staples (spices, tinned goods, baking supplies, tea): A wide range in monthly spends here – between $10-$40, seen about a $10 drop in the last month.

Breakfast (cereal, frozen raspberries): This category exists cause I think breakfast is the cheapest meal of the day? I’m not really sure why it gets it’s own category, but it does! $15-$25 per month spent here.  While oats are cheaper, I always add berries, so going to corn flakes saves some money, but I eat through more cornflakes

Convenience (ready made foods): This is one area I’d like to see drop!  December was at $54, then $17, then $24 in Feb (who knows what happened then, maybe I was sick).  This month was less than $10, so I’m PLEASED with that.

Snacks (ready made foods, but not meals): monthly spend between $5-$25, this month I’m at about $10.50.  If I baked more of my own, they’d slot in under the ‘pantry’ category

Meat (both butcher meat and heavy packaging sliced meats): I didn’t start to track this til January and it’s a little hazy – I don’t get butcher reciepts.  I spend between $25-$55 here a month, with this month coming in at about $31

House stuff (everything else – cotton buds, light globes etc):  Usually between $10-$20, but in Dec 12 it was at $53!!

Over time, I’d like to see a drop in snacks and convenience food, and a growth in fruit and vegies!  If you’d like to see what I eat, see my monthly wrap up posts where I list every dinner I have in a month, see this page for a link to them all.

April 2013 grocery spend by category
April 2013 grocery spend by category

I’ve also attempted to track my fruit and vegetable consumption, but it’s an VERY inexact science, as many things from the green grocer are just entered a price mark ‘fruit and vegies’.  But nonetheless, in five months, I’ve tracked:

5.11kg of onions

2.49kg of carrots

1.3kg of tomatos (tinnned or otherwise)

3.26kg of pumpkin in the LAST month alone!

3.5kg of cheese

23L of milk

9kg of museli

48 eggs (and I’ve probably missed counting some!)

Interestingly when I was looking for graphics I came across one from a blog I read (but not back when they published the graphics), so I’ve included it for you.  Inspired me to make my own – though I had some trouble in Google Drive.

source: www.evolvingpf.com
source: www.evolvingpf.com

Student debts – pay now or pay later?

In Australia, we have (what I think is) a pretty good payment model for tertiary education system.  It’s not anywhere near as cripplingly expensive as the US, but it’s not (effectively) free like in France.  The balance is struck by students paying 1/4 of their education costs, and the government covering the remaining 3/4.  When I started studying over a decade ago it was called HECS (Higher education contribution scheme).  Now it’s called HELP or HECS-HELP, where HELP stands for Higher education loan program).  This post looks at how I paid my debts, and whether I’d recommend the strategy to others. It’s also a little bit of a lesson on how Australia’s university fees are structured, for those who might not know!

source: www.thenationalstudent.com
source: www.thenationalstudent.com

How much is a year studying in Australia (for an Australian, of course!)?  A student will pay, for an annual full time load

$9,792 for law, dentistry, medicine, veterinary science, accounting, administration, economics and commerce (Band 1)

$8,363 for mathematics, statistics, science, computing, built environment, health, engineering, surveying and agriculture (Band 2)

$5,868 for humanities, behavioral science, social studies, foreign languages, visual and performing arts, education and nursing (Band 3)

That’s the student’s 25%.  They can pay it as they study, or once they start earning over $49,096 per annum (pa).  Once they are earning this amount, they start paying, they will start repaying their debt at 4% pa.  This rate increases to a maximum of 8% when you earn more than $91,178 pa.

The first thing I notice when I write that is that those earning figures are probably much higher than US earning figures.

However, if you want to pay your fees up front, you may.  When I was studying, there was a discount in any lump sum payment, either at the time of study or afterwards.  So if you got a nice lump sum of money, you could throw it at your student debt, and you’d be given a 10-20% discount (it’s been sliding down :().  BONUS! Of course, this has just been announced that it’s no longer going to be an option.

Lastly, there’s no interest.  Sure, the money is indexed to the Consumer Price Index, but otherwise, it’s the ‘best’ debt you could have.  No one offers interest THAT cheap.

So now that I’ve given a crash course in Australia’s higher education sector, let’s get down to business.  What’s better? Pay now or defer?

Well, I’ll tell you what I did, cause I’m not sure I’m worthy to advise anyone, but I can justify my thoughts and perhaps persuade anyone who might be unsure, that my model might work :p

source: www.webe.com.au
source: www.webe.com.au

The costs above to adjust annually, so when I started studying a little over 10 years ago, the costs were in the vicinity of $2,500 a semester, so $5,000 a year (I did mainly engineering, with some foreign language.  But I didn’t always do a ‘full’ load of 8 subjects, due to pre requisites and timetabling).  It took me six years, cause I went to France for a year, and then dragged out the harder part of my degree when I returned.  It should have taken five years – which means my total cost would have been $25,000.

I decided a ‘pay as I can’ model:

2003: My first year, I paid everything up front, so won a discount! Woot!  As I no longer can find the paperwork, let’s guesstimate $1,137 discount, as I studied 8 subjects

2004: In second year, I was still living off the $10,000 first year scholarship and started a casual job, so I paid both semesters.  Let’s assumed at $995.4 saving/discount for the 7 subjects

2005: In third year, I paid first semester saving $538.60 but not second semester (Debt +$1966).

2006: Fourth year, I was in France, so I had MUCH better uses for that coin :p  (Debt +$3920)

2007: In fifth year, I paid both semesters, saving $853.20 on the 6 subjects I studied

2008: But in sixth year, I had a full time job as a boarding mistress and I paid some upfront (and through payroll!).  So semester 1, I just had $700 to <, meaning I left (Debt + $574) outstanding, and I saved as well as in semester 2.

Paid Saving Debt
2003  $    4,494.60  $  1,137.60  $               –
2004  $    3,761.60  $     995.40  $               –
2005  $    2,154.40  $     538.00  $  1,966.00
2006  $                 –  $               –  $  3,920.00
2007  $    3,412.80  $     853.20  $               –
2008  $    2,440.80  $     607.50  $     574.00
 SUB TOTALS  $  16,264.20  $  4,131.70  $  6,460.00
3.4% indexation  $     133.00
2.8% indexation  $     168.00
 TOTAL  $  6,761.00

So overall, for those playing at home, I graduated with a $6,761 debt (with two indexations at at 3.4% and 2.8% adding $133 and $168 to my debt).  With an upfront payment, I could have been home free for $6,146.  Instead, I left it to be paid through payroll deductions, and by my second year working in my profession I had it paid off.

See, back then, I had the advantage of the upfront savings.  And I’m no mug, I like simple savings like that.  I knew when I graduated, I’d want to do other things with my money.  Like travel to the US (again), Canada, Cuba and the Bahamas, which I did five months after starting as an engineer.  After I returned from that trip, I thought I better get saving to buy a house (eventually) and travel some more.

In summary, it’s a great system.  It makes it possible for someone to study, without any upfront outlay of money or debt (there are books to buy, and campus fees to pay, but these are negligible in comparison  and both can be ‘avoided’ :p)  The savings for an upfront payment was a great incentive to limit my debt, but the structure was flexible to allow me to study abroad whilst at university.  I think that even without the savings, it’s a prudent approach to chip away at your debt at any time.  Others might argue that a no interest loan should be the lowest priority.  But, education should be a higher priority to spend your money on than many other things (like cars, in my opinion, holidays, eating out etc).  Sure, I didn’t live like a pauper, but every semester I ‘saved’ to pay the next semester’s debt if at all possible.

What do you think?  Should paying student debts be a priority?