How we grew our savings while shrinking our liquor cabinet

Penelope Whitson of Credit Simple has been working with an enableMe Financial Personal Trainer for six months. She writes about what she’s learned – and achieved – so far. 

 

This year we paid someone to stalk us for our own financial good.

Pippa is our enableMe financial personal trainer and we know she’s always watching what we spend. We also know that we’re going to have justify any shenanigans if we go too far over budget because when we met Pippa in April we agreed to:

  • set savings targets
  • set budgets for everything, including the pub
  • set up joint bank accounts
  • write wills
  • use a programme to track our spending against our budgets (which Pippa has access to).

Having now spent six months on a budget boat with Skipper Pippa I can report that while it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, mutiny is unlikely because we’ve saved a surprising amount.

We have also learned a lot about our behaviour around money. Some of it was remarkably unflattering.

Learnings for landlubbbers

We have learned that we are quite the consumers when it comes to electricity. We eat that stuff for breakfast. Like overeaters, we have no recollection of consuming even though our hands are running another bath. And our power bills reflect this. Budgets have been adjusted accordingly.

In addition, we now know we are surprisingly generous because we blew what we’d estimated on our annual presents budget in six months. This budget has also been adjusted but it’s pretty lean so I wouldn’t get your hopes up on the gift front.

And most importantly we have learned it’s all very well to have budgets but unless you know someone is going to chastise you for going over them, it’s very easy to ignore them. Which is why we have Pippa.

Sharing might be caring but also requires justifying

Joint bank accounts are a bit of an eye-opener. Now everything is ‘our’ money and we need to justify where it goes. There are demands to know where the other person spent $4.20 and if it was really necessary. Was it an emergency cheese scone? Does that fit into the cheese scone budget?

Back in the habit

It takes a few weeks/months for new habits to become normal. As anyone who has tried dry July will attest to, installing good habits can be very, very boring to start with.

But, one feels delightfully smug watching one’s savings account grow – it’s pleasing that we’re more successful at growing money than we are at growing a New World Little Garden eggplant.

Bank interest is just a number – a really low one

Initially we had all our savings on long-term deposit with the bank. We made so little from this in interest that we moved some into shares instead and made a great deal more. I am not advocating ditching banks in favour of buying shares because buying shares is risky.* But it was super disappointing to realise that even with large deposits, banks aren’t offering higher rewards for their customers. 

*It should be noted that one of us plays with numbers all day and has a good understanding of how the stock market works. That person is not me. You say stock, and I think soup.

Bad things happen to good pirates

Unexpected medical expenses ate into the savings at one point, which is why you should have a budget for such things. Although, when Pippa made us budget for this I don’t think she foresaw the eye infection that would cause my face to balloon to remarkably unattractive proportions while I visited a number of medical professionals.

Other people are unreliable

One of us is self-employed. Relying on clients to pay on time, realising that some clients will forget, don’t care, or will pay eventually but long after you need the money can make achieving your savings goals very difficult.

Even before we went over our gift limit we decided those clients were not getting Christmas presents.

Candy is dandy and liquor is so much more expensive

We’ve been known to spend a bit on delicious beverages at bars, so we cut back on that and instead made a deliberate effort to get to know our liquor cabinet. Not all the bottles in it were friendly, but those that were, well, good times were had by all.

We also bought shares in a brewery. Don’t judge us! Now if we buy beer, we’re supporting our future.

Wills

People die, ergo wills are important – unless your family likes chaos, in which case, don’t bother. Sadly it took us six months to write our wills and we only finished because we panicked that Pippa would not forgive us otherwise. No doubt the lawyer’s bill will be slightly wince-inducing – but Pippa has made us budget for that too. Good old Pippa, eh.

Halfway there, totes savin’ on a prayer

So, at the halfway mark we’re on target to hit our 12-month savings goal. Even Pippa thinks we’ve done okay, which is high praise indeed. We’re used to the budgets now and given they’ve saved us a lot of money we’re even grateful for them. Mostly.

Old us would have brought pricey wine and artisan cheese scones to celebrate. New us says, ‘Let’s go home and crack open that bottle in the liquor cabinet with the label we can’t translate – how bad can it be?’