Money saving tips for savvy femmos

By Cathy Ferguson

Why, in a femmo zine, is there a piece on saving money? Good question.

As far as I’m concerned, everything is a feminist issue. Finances are no exception. With the highest growing group of homeless people being women over 601 I think money (or not having any) will become increasingly problematic in years to come.

I was raised by a single mum. Oftentimes we were poor. I don’t mean we had cash flow problems either, I mean I don’t know how my mum fed me. But she did. Always. So, throughout my life I’ve had an interesting relationship with money. Sometimes I’ve been frugal, saving money and other resources to a point of unhealthiness. But I think now I’m at stage where I feel really content with my possessions and where I’m at. I have what I need, I enjoy what I have, and I can share with others while paying my bills. It’s a good zone.

So, I hope you realise that when I talk about better ways of spending or saving money, that this comes from experience, not just some crap I read somewhere. I also understand that you might have tried many of the tips I’ve tried. I’m not saying I made them up, they are just things that have worked for me. I frequently use these ideas to help me stay on track. Of course, I am not a financial planner, so don’t make big decisions without speaking to an expert.

Firstly, if you share a budget with someone, then they have to be on board, so decide on a common goal. This will help you stay motivated and keep you from feeling like you’re depriving yourself for no good reason. Once you have your goal, stick a clear picture of what this looks like somewhere you look every day. Move this picture around, because studies show that once you’ve looked at it about 7 times you’ll stop “seeing” it, if you know what I mean.

Tip #1 Money free week
Don’t hang up on me! Wait.

Firstly, just hear me when I say that before you do this, I recommend you top up your Myki or petrol tank and pay your upcoming bills.

Put $10 in your wallet for emergencies. DO NOT buy anything extra to get you through this week though. No pre-grocery buying for the week. We are NOT stocking up.

During this week, (start on whichever day that suits), you will spend nothing. I mean it. Not even twenty bucks. I hear you saying, “Cathy, am I meant to go hungry? What’s a sister to eat?!” Well, I can say from personal experience that you will be shocked to see how much food there is in your fridge, freezer and pantry, so this week you will be eating from here, instead of going grocery shopping. If you really need milk, well, that’s what the $10 is for, but that’s all you get.

I know that I have some baked beans, chickpeas and tinned tomatoes in my pantry. I have some soups in the freezer and bread and stuff for the week. I buy long-life milk so I already have some of that left over from last week. And I’m fairly certain there’s some saggy broccoli in the vegie crisper and a bunch of eggs I didn’t touch from the last shops. Oops.

I bet your situation is similar. Do a quick stock take. See what’s there and type the ingredient into a recipe finder and invent something tasty which centers around that. Also, don’t worry about having beans on toast. There’s nothing wrong with that.

If you’re really clever, you’ll invite yourself to a friend’s for dinner if you’re sick of your own cooking and maybe bake something to take there, I bet you have some kind of flour on hand… right?

Tip #2 – Go Veggo
At home, I don’t buy meat. I’m not a vegetarian, but I feel funny about meat going off and I hate throwing it out if I’m disorganised. I hate the idea of an animal dying and me not honouring that. So, for this year, I just decided I wouldn’t buy meat any more. Sometimes I order a meat dish when I’m out, or if I go to someone’s place they may cook meat, I just don’t eat it much. And even though I’m fairly frugal with the amount of meat that I eat, I’ve noticed that this saves heaps of money. The reason I started eating meat in this way was really due to animal cruelty and the environmental impact of meat production. I also know that if I say “I’m not allowed to eat meat” then that’s all I want to do. This way, I don’t feel deprived of anything.

Tip #3 – Don’t bulk buy perishables
Yeah, you heard me, DON’T bulk buy. If you have a small household that is one or two people, bulk buying perishable items almost always leads to waste, unless you’re super organised, which I’m not. Gone are the days when I buy those big tubs of yogurt or big packets of chicken thighs. Because I couldn’t get through it all. Then half the yoghurt or chicken would get binned and I’d feel AWFUL. These days I don’t buy meat and I portion my food for the week once I have it. What I mean by this is I will portion my medium size tub of coconut yoghurt into 4-5 containers with fruit, ready for the work week. I do this with other foods too. It’s really helpful and generally reduces waste. Obviously, if you have a hoard of teenagers living with you, then this might not be helpful. Do what works for you.

Tip #4 – Do bulk buy consumables
So folks, I’m not talking about getting carried away. You do not need forty thousand cotton buds. I’m simply saying that when your preferred laundry detergent is 40% off, buy two. Same goes for deodorant, toilet paper, tissues, dishwashing liquid/tablets etc..The CRUCIAL part of this, is to store it where you store this stuff. So keep your extra laundry stuff in the laundry cupboard, not randomly in the bathroom. If you don’t store your backup stuff sensibly, you’ll end up with multiples and that is silly (I’ve been there). Also, only buy a backup if you really need and use that thing. For example, I have two bottles of tanning lotion. I DO NOT tan. It isn’t worth it. I pretty much glow in the dark. In recent years, I’ve come to accept and even relish this, so that backup tanner is wasted. Shame on me. Make sure those backups are really necessary. So not things like clothes, perfume, décor etc.. I know the idea of backup shoes is tempting, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Nice try though.

Tip #5 – Budget
Do a budget. Write down every expense and the frequency with which you need to pay for it. Then, create yourself a little gem of a spreadsheet and data entry away! I’m not saying it’s fun, but this will help you get a sense of where your money is going. If you do a budget, make sure you include money for leisure or fun. Don’t deprive yourself.

If you’re finding that you should be saving a few thousand bucks each year, but you’re not, then this is where budgeting will help. I decide on a realistic savings goal for the year, then I divide that by the number of times I get paid (26). Then, every fortnight when I get paid, the first thing to come out is that number of dollars. Because my budget is realistic, I rarely dip into these funds unless it’s what the funds were for. And that’s fine. That’s the whole point.

Reference: Bye, C. (2017, April 29). Ageing women in financial strife the new face of Australian homelessness. Retrieved from The Daily Telegraph: