Here’s a challenge. How fast could you pay your mortgage off? The sad realisation hit me earlier in the year that I’m not likely to get rich anytime soon. I know – why did I even think that would happen?
The only path to financial freedom is going to be to make sacrifices – some pretty big ones – and slash the mortgage as soon as possible. Then compound interest and investing will be able to actually earn us money. The sooner the mortgage is gone, or at least significantly reduced (given the size of mortgages these days!), the more money we will have to enjoy life.
Yes, it can be a little boring trying to pay a slab off the mortgage. But once you owe a lot less you’ll be able to use that spare money to do things that you want, instead of feeding it to the bank all the time. If you’re in deposit saving mode, the tips below will also be helpful.
#1 Stop Spending. Sounds simple, but do you find yourself wondering where all your money went? Does it leak out of your wallet like a bucket with a hole in the bottom? We’ve tried budgeting before but it just seemed too complicated. After a couple of weeks we’d get bored and the whole thing would go out the window. So now we’ve just decided to stop spending on pretty much everything – except the essentials, and a couple of luxuries we just can’t live without.
#2 No new clothes. In fact no new anything. Terrifying for some, I know. But we’ve decided to put a ban on buying any new clothes for two years, and most other goods too. I already have enough threads to dress the people of a smallish nation so it really shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. It’s just the boredom factor, really. Second-hand op-shop bargains are allowed and it has become surprising to see what you can actually find, if you have the time to look. And given we’re not heading out to pubs and cafes anymore, we have to do something with our time.
We’ve got little kids so obviously they can’t wear the same clothes for two years, unless we put bricks on their heads. But we’ve made it known that we welcome all hand-me-downs, and have also made a habit of perusing the op shops and second kids’ clothing markets. It’s amazing how many near-new clothes you find for just a few dollars, or items that even have the tags still attached.
#3: Lose the pay TV. It’s a luxury that is costing you a pretty penny. With the growing number of channels on free to air, there’s a lot more choice for nix on the box these days. And if you do the sums, you’ll probably find that even hiring a few DVDs a month is a lot cheaper than pay-TV. If there is something you must watch – sport for example – try to arrange to see it at a friend’s house who has got pay TV. As a last resort head out to the pub to see it – but be careful your beer bill doesn’t cost you more than your monthly pay-TV would have!
#4: Join the library. Now that you’re not watching as much pay TV you might have more time to read books – and you can do it for free from your local library. Check out their DVDs and CDs too. If your library doesn’t have what you want you can ask them to bring it in from another public library. In many areas this is free. In others they’ll charge about $2 or $3 to do it. Recently my three-year-old wanted me to get him a Gruffalo audio book. Instead of buying it, we asked at the library, and they got it from another library for us. We had to wait about two weeks, but it provided some great anticipation for my son, and cost us nothing.
#5 Quit the gym. Go for a walk/run/ cycle/swim instead. Now we are coming into spring, there should be ample chance to get out and about and exercise without having to pay for it. If you need motivation, try to arrange with a friend to exercise with. Make a date for something active, such as tennis, swimming or walking.
#6: Ditch the car. Get a bike, or opt for two feet and a heartbeat. I don’t mean sell the car, I just mean avoid using it when possible. Of course if you have two cars and think you can survive with just one, it might be worth offloading your second. Otherwise keep your fuel costs down by jumping on a bike when you can or for very short trips, walk. We have a Christiana trike, which is great for carting the kids around and also for heading to the markets on a weekend. If you live in an area where there are organised car pooling groups, it might be worth checking them out as an alternative to owning your own car.
#7: Entertain at home. Going out can be pricey, especially if you are buying alcohol too. Entertaining at home can be just as much fun, and stress-free (and cheap) if you ask everyone to bring a little something to contribute. If you do head out for a meal, look for cheaper restaurants where you can BYO alcohol for a low corkage fee.
#8: Home brew is a go-go. Since my hubby started home brewing a year ago, I reckon we’ve saved a small fortune in beer. If you’ve got a green bent, it’s potentially better for the environment too, because you’re reusing the bottles and not paying for all that heavy ready-made beer to be shipped about. If you are a wine drinker, try to save money by buying wine in bulk.
#9: Holiday close to home. Look for cheap options, such as camping, staying in caravan parks, or house-sitting for friends and family. Try to get something with kitchen facilities where you can make most of your meals – eating out can be a significant cost of holidays.
#10: Grow a few vegies. It can be pretty simple to grow some herbs in the garden (or pots) and a few basics such as spinach, lettuce and tomatoes. Pottering about watering and weeding them can also be relaxing after a stressful day at work.
#11: Babysitting circle. If you’ve got young kids, considering swapping babysitting services with friends. We have a magnet system where we use magnets as payment. Each family starts with four magnets. We often babysit the kids in their own home, in the evening. So one parent stays at home with their own children, while the other minds the second family’s children. It works a treat. You can arrange for the circle to work with several families or you could have your own arrangements with a couple of different families, as we do.
#12: Limit your mobile phone calls. If you’re bursting out of your mobile phone plan each month it might be time to examine your habits. Can you limit your conversations or cut down your texting to save money? Or could you email or skype someone instead?
#13: Pre-made is pre-paid. Go for fresh with food where you can. Don’t get caught out buying pre-made things such as soup. It’s pretty easy to chuck a few vegies in a saucepan along with some stock powder and boil it up. Pre-made sauces (the add meat and vegies variety) can also be an expensive choice that could be replaced with a few basics such as stock powder, cornflour and garlic. It’s always good to make sure you’ve got a few basics in the fridge or cupboard so you’re not tempted to get take-away – even if it’s as simple as tinned fish, a cheap packet of pasta and sauce, or baked beans on toast as a stopgap.
#14: Buy a water bottle – and use it. Buying bottled water is crazy when you can refill from a tap. And resisting soft drinks, juice and flavoured milk will also save you plenty of money over time. Drink some water and eat an orange instead. It’s a lot cheaper, and better for your waistline too.
#15: Pack your own. Whether it’s work or an outing, there’s no doubt that food brought from home is going to be cheaper than lunch on-the run. It can get a bit tedious at times, so allow yourself to go really wild on occasion and buy takeaway. Otherwise bring your own and watch your mortgage start to be whittled away.
Original story by Carolyn Boyd, a property journalist and keen follower of Australia’s housing market.