80 Days until Christmas

80 Days until Christmas

Does that number strike a feeling of panic and dread, or are you ready for the holiday season?

I have to admit, I am one of “those” annoying people who does not stress about Christmas or the cost of giving gifts.  And, yes, I have just about finished my Christmas Gift shopping.

Why??  Well because I buy all throughout the year 🙂

I am fairly lucky in the fact that we do not have a huge family so I only need to buy around 20 gifts.

My husband knows that I cannot pass by a sale table or dump bin 🙂   Invariably I see something and think “Oh! “S” would like that” or “Wow! That would be great for “M”

I have one shelf in a cupboard that we call the “present cupboard” On the inside of the cupboard door is a small whiteboard with all the names written down one side in permanent marker.

Then I fill in the gifts as I buy them in whiteboard marker.  That way it is a simple matter to erase the gifts as they get given.

I also know that some of the best gifts can be bought at a bargain price at certain times of the year.

  • Anything “Christmas-y” can be bought for a tiny fraction of the price just after Christmas.  I always buy Christmas paper and cards in the last week of December, often at up to 90% off.  Look for such items as paper, cards, decorations for the tree, and themed tableware like plates, bowls, glasses etc.  I like to have a supply of Christmas theme plates, cups or glasses that I can use as part of a gift.  Make a cake or batch of cookies and display them on a Christmas plate, or simply place chocolates into a Christmas mug and wrap them with cellophane.
  • The lead-up to New Year’s Eve often brings up good specials on Champagne, Wine and other Alcohol.  It can be a good time to buy for birthdays early in the year.
  • January is the best time to buy stationary, school supplies and office equipment in the “back to school” sales.  This is a good time to buy plain-coloured kid’s clothing and running shoes.
  • February is the time to buy chocolates in the after Valentine’s Day sales.
  • March -April is Easter, and again after Easter is the time for chocolate and “Easter-y” decorations.
  • May is Mother’s Day. This is a good time to pick up perfumes, bath sets, soaps, and kitchen appliances.
  • June – July is a time to keep an eye out for End of Financial Year Sales. This is often the best time to buy big appliances or cars. Any big ticket items often have sales targets to reach and you can very often drive a hard bargain the closer it gets to June 30.  Also at this time of year, the Christmas Toy Sales start with the option to purchase on a 6-month lay-by.
  • August is usually quiet with no major sales happening.
  • September is Father’s Day and Football grand finals.   Father’s Day is a time to pick up gift sets of male toiletries, hardware, BBQ accessories and food sets ( think BBQ sauces and rubs etc), tools, car-related things and the ubiquitous alcohol.
    The last weeks of September are another time to stock up on alcohol as the stores prepare for football grand final parties.
  • October is the Bathurst Car Race weekend, so again there are car-related accessories on sale.
  • November- December brings sales in the lead-up to Christmas.

I find that by purchasing gifts throughout the year, the strain on the budget is minimal. Our family has a dollar figure to work to for gift giving, so I can regularly spend the recommended amount but give a much higher value gift – eg a $50 gift budget, can result in a $100 value when that gift is bought at 50% off.

How do you plan for gift giving?  ??

How we live on the “pension”

How we live on the “pension”

Did you read my recent post on what “they” say is the amount of money needed to retire?  (it is here)

When this was originally reported, I said to my husband, “I am sure we could live on the pension as well as Mum & Dad.”

So, we decided to try it.  Before making any sort of budget, I tracked our spending for 3 months to see exactly what we were spending, it was surprisingly low.

For our “live on the pension plan” we have not taken into consideration our mortgage or my husband’s car.  We are working on the assumption that, like our parents, our home will be fully paid off and we will have just one car, which we will have no debt on, but will need funds to update regularly.

Every week I allocate the correct amount of cash for our budget needs within the confines of only having the amount for the current aged pension for a couple to live on. Bills are direct deposited to their relevant accounts (eg: I send $50 per week to our council for Rates, $50 a week to the Power company etc)

We have lived this way for the past 3 years or so and have not felt we have missed out on much at all. By not spending, we have seen a huge reduction in our debts. (BONUS)

This has spurred us on further to keep going with “living on the pension” for the next few years. We are aiming to be completely debt free in the next 2 years and then sell our businesses and be able to retire early.  This of course will require a fairly decent amount of money in the bank, as we are both quite a way off being able to receive the actual pension.

My life of living a “Champagne Life on a (lite) Beer Budget” has been heavily worked with this way of living.   Both my husband and I have our own businesses and they both do very well.   From the outside, it appears we might splash the cash around quite readily, but in reality, we live within our “pension” budget.

I drive a new BMW which my business provides the funds for, there is money put aside in the “pension” budget to upgrade the car. Hubby’s business has work utes that we do not spend a lot on, as they are – well – work utes!

We plan on updating the BMW as often as we can well into retirement.  We have found that the price of updating while the car has low mileage and is reasonably “new” is quite affordable and within our budget, especially when spread out over 3 years or so.

I love to travel, but our businesses are such that we can really only get away for the odd weekend, Easter and Christmas.   I often find great deals for weekends away on daily deals sites that allow us to get away at a reasonable price.  I also keep an eye on the airline deals and have been able to snag great deals on flights.

We both enjoy eating out and have a subscription to the Entertainment book each year.  Using the vouchers, we can eat at more expensive restaurants than we would normally for half price.  We also enjoy cooking, looking at restaurant menus and cooking similar meals at home for a fraction of the cost makes for an afternoon of culinary fun at home.  A well stocked pantry and a good bulk butcher nearby, keep our grocery budget at a manageable level.  It is the “grocery” section of the budget that I often find has a built-up surplus. This surplus gets either transferred to savings or put aside for meals out.

Like our parents, we do not “need” anything, so when asked what we want for a gift on birthday and Christmas, I often ask for experience type gifts. Vouchers for cafes, spa treatments etc are happily accepted.

The lessons we have learned from living within the pension amount is that, for us, it is achievable without any huge sacrifices.  Our budget does not include any pension discounts from expenses such as utilities, registration, rates etc, so those will be bonuses if we receive them.  We are blessed with good health and are conscious that chronic illness which requires long periods of expensive medications would be a burden on the budget.

Why not look at your own budget and decide if you could live on the pension?

How much money do you need to retire?

How much money do you need to retire?

Quite some time ago I read a news report debating whether or not the Australian aged pension is “enough” to live on in today’s economy. As expected, the comments were mixed with a lot of people saying they can NOT live on the amount received from the government. (I must admit, I do find it amazing when I see these types of reports where we see a woman complaining that she does not have enough money for electricity to keep warm, but she is being interviewed in a thin cotton top. – Put a jumper on!!) Both my parents and my in-laws are retired, and I have seen them live a happy and activity filled retirement over the last 15-20 years.  They are not having any trouble at all living successfully on the pension.  My parents are in between the “modest” and “comfortable” categories and just simply cannot spend it all.   In-laws are on the aged pension only and live as well as we do, if not more socially.  My Father recently passed away and Mum is now on a single pension with a small superannuation top up, and still, the bank account keeps rising. The number one thing I have noticed that has led to living comfortably on the pension is to own the roof over your head.  Most reports show that housing is the number one cost for retirees.  Retiring with no debt, a small nest egg and a low maintenance home has shown itself to be a huge benefit to both sets of parents. Also, retirement is not all about how much money you have.  How many of us “young’uns” just wish for time to do what we want?  Retirees will often say, they don’t know how they had time to work. Gardening, craft, and reading a good book or magazine are things that often get somewhat neglected in the hustle and bustle of a busy working life. This table proposes the amounts supposedly needed for varying levels of retirement.


One thing that the “gurus” neglect to think of is peer groups. If retirees are surrounded by other high income retirees who travel overseas often then yes, they may need a much higher figure. My parents were in a caravan club so they travelled quite extensively. They are not interested in international travel (apart from NZ where we have some family – does NZ even count as international???) The in-laws love train travel and have done the Spirit of the Outback a few times  We looked at doing the Outback with them one trip but without the pensioner discount it is REALLY expensive. Both parents eat out ALL THE TIME. We regularly get an answering machine because they are out to dinner. Usually clubs, but certainly not restricted to the “seniors specials”, because that is what they like to eat.  None of them are into “towers of no food” as my Dad called “better” restaurants. Both Mothers have overflowing pantries that we joke will feed us for years when we eventually have to clean out the houses.  Regular catch ups with friends over a new cake or biscuit recipe and a cuppa are commonplace. Both parents have always had late model cars that are regularly maintained.  Because of the van, Dad had a fairly new 4×4, and since his passing, this has been sold. Mum does not drive so that vehicle expense is now partly taken up with community bus fares.   The in-laws have not long upgraded their car to a late model small 4cyl Toyota. All drink bottled wine bought beer, spirits, sherry and port. Clothes, the men are men and don’t really care. The Mums just buy clothes and they wear them. The Mothers are both well dressed from Rockmans, Millers, Noni B etc so reasonable clothes. (Although neither woman was a “designer clothes” wearer) All get their hair cut at local hairdressers and look neat and tidy at all times. As mentioned previously, they have active social lives filled with leisure activities.  Cinema outings, meals with friends and craft group outings feature regularly on the calendar. The houses are both fully owned, modern homes that are standard 4/2/2 and are in good condition. Neither house will need new kitchens or bathrooms in their lifetime. Neither have health insurance and have not needed it. There has been some serious illness (1 cancer, 2 diabetics, 1 aortic aneurism op) and of course, all have glasses. The public system has been FANTASTIC and none of us can complain about the quality or timeliness of treatment.  In the last year of Dad’s life, he had multiple trips to the hospital and weekly visits to his GP, all in the public system.  Nothing could have been done any differently in the Private system to make his last year any different. Watching our parents age has been a wonderful learning experience for my husband and I.  We are not worried about our level of comfort in retirement at all.  We are working on setting ourselves up now, and look forward to our golden years.
A Different Advent Calendar.

A Different Advent Calendar.

My daughter-in-law does enjoy a nice cup of tea 🙂

I came up with the idea of making an Advent Calendar with various types of teabags for her this year.

I had done a tea wrapper for my Mum for Mother’s Day a couple of years ago, so I had a template for teabag envelopes on my computer.

It took me a while to play around with Photoshop and create 25 different envelopes, but I got there in  the end

You can download the instructions here

Here is how I made the board

Step 1:
Print the 25 teabag envelopes and cut them out carefully. Each little envelope has the date (1-25) and a cute “Tea Quote”

Step 2:
Cut out the matching tags that will be stapled to the teabag. I stapled on one side only so the type of tea is able to be read.

Step 3:
Fold the envelopes and secure with a little craft peg.  For my calendar, I will be displaying the large number on the outside, so each day the quote is revealed.

Here is the step by step pictures of how I did this.

Step 4:
Make a pretty board to display the envelopes.   I bought a corkboard from the discount store and decided to cover it with Christmas-y foil.  I chose foil as I thought it would stand up to craft glue better than thin paper.

Trimming the foil proved to be a little tricky, as it had a tendency to want to rip rather than cut.  I had a nice fresh blade in my knife, but perhaps a craft scalpel might have worked better.   To cover the few tears, I edged the board with glittery silver tape.  I am pleased with the result.

Step 5:
Lay out the envelopes to get a rough idea of spacing.  Once you are happy with where each envelope goes, glue the pegs to the board with good glue. ( I used super glue)

And there you have it.. 🙂  One cute Advent Calendar with a variety of teas and a different quote each day in the lead up to Christmas Day on the 25th.

You can download the envelopes and tags from my free resources page


Saving Money AND the Planet.

Saving Money AND the Planet.

I must admit I like to read but  I rarely make myself enough time to get lost in a novel 🙁

I do, however, enjoy a magazine regularly.

Over the course of the years, family members have gifted me subscriptions to magazines, such as Better Homes and Gardens, Gourmet Traveller, Women’s Weekly and a few recipe/food magazines.  Once the subscription was over, sometimes I continued it myself or just bought the magazine from the supermarket.

One day it dawned on me that magazines are EXPENSIVE!! and are probably not very environmentally friendly with all that gloss paper, toxic inks and disposal after a very short time.

I found that our library had a good range of magazines, but they were often months behind, even the digital versions were sometimes 2 or 3 months behind the current issue 🙁

I did subscribe to some of my favourites with iSubscribe. For a while, this was a good option that saw current editions land on my iPad regularly.  While there are good savings to be made, it is still a luxury.

Today my reading prayers have been answered!!   Groupon has a fantastic deal that will see me with as many digital magazines as I can possibly digest in one year for just $29.99

I had not heard of this company, Magzter, before but I am super impressed with the range of titles, there are 1000’s of them.

I have signed up, downloaded the app to my iPad and might spend the rest of the weekend, “flipping” through magazines.

How much Tax do you REALLY pay??

How much Tax do you REALLY pay??

“Nothing is certain except for death and taxes.”
– Benjamin Franklin 1789

In many business forums and groups I am a part of, the topic of paying taxes often comes up.

Our account told me a loooong time ago that, as a business owner, tax is a good thing, it means you have made a profit. 🙂

Now, I don’t know about you, but while I do arrange our business finances so that we legally minimise our income tax as well as we can, I seriously do not object to paying my fair share of tax.

While I can most certainly object to some of the ways our politicians spend our taxes, I do accept the fact that our tax helps to fund schools, hospitals and aged pensions (among other things)

I know that our tax amount comes nowhere near close to even paying for my mother’s pension!!

I got into a “discussion” with a lady one day who swore that her husband paid over 50% of EVERY dollar he earned.  When I pointed out that the top tax rate in Australia is only 45%.  Still, she was adamant.  Many others pointed out that her effective tax rate would be much less than even 45% as we have a sliding tax scale and the 45% is only on amounts over $180,000.

On further discussion, it turns out this lady is a stay-at-home mum of two toddlers and is being paid the maximum in Family Tax Benefits.  She could not understand that a large portion of her husband’s tax was in fact coming back to her directly in the form of Family Tax Benefits., and that her husband’s effective tax rate would be quite low. ( some guessed at less than 15%)

My husband also complains occasionally about the apparent high tax rates, so I created an excel spreadsheet to show him what his actual tax percentage is.

We don’t have Family Tax Benefits anymore but I have added it in so you might get a better idea as to what your effective tax rate is.

I hope you find this interesting.

Download the Effective Tax Rate sheet here.