Micro saving for micro-investing

What’s this- a second blog on Acorns? You betcha. And no, I’m not working with them- I’m just a little obsessed.

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I didn’t meant to write any more on the matter, but after my last post I was marveling at just how much money has accrued in my account through tiny top-ups. And then I got to thinking about how many equally tiny payments I make on a regular basis. You know the ones I mean- they’re the charges we tend to write off as the cost of convenience – $2 or $2.50 to the bank to draw money from an ATM is just a little sting when I get the money out, but that can easily add up to $200 across the course of the year. The same could be said for any time that I just grab a ‘quick bite’ because I wasn’t organised enough to bring something from home, or when I forget to pay a bill early and lose that discount.

While this could descend into another discussion on the Latte Factor, what it really reminded me of was this fantastic app that surfaced just before I left NZ (skip to about 50sec in for the real details).

 

The concept is beautiful to a compulsive saver. One big red button and the money you were going to spend on that avoidable little convenience vanishes from your account and pads out your savings instead. Isn’t that magical?

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It occurred to me that Acorns can serve the same voodoo hoodoo function. After all, most of these tiny expenses are ones that you’re already absorbing into your weekly budget, so if you’re not struggling financially you probably won’t even notice they’re missing (you do have a budget, don’t you?)

Decided to skip your afternoon coffee? Drop that $3.50 into your app instead. Walked the extra block to get to an ATM that doesn’t charge you withdraw fees? Squirrel that $2.50 away, baby.

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Now Acorns is my app of choice here (because as far as I’m aware, in Australia it’s the only choice) but the Red Button saving technique that I’ve definitely just invented can transfer to any of your savings efforts.

Operating in cash? Physically take that money out of your wallet and tuck it somewhere else. Make sure to keep it separate from your daily spending money, and transfer it out of your bag as soon as you can- As they say, out of sight, out of mind, and on your way to a million buckaroos!

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…I may have made up that last bit.

 


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Micro saving for micro-investing

Acorns goes Green!

Acorns has released their new socially responsible investment option, the Emerald Portfolio, huzzah!

I’ve been using Acorns since they announced Beta testing in Australia last year, and I don’t think I’ve shut up about them to friends and family since. For those not in the know, Acorns works by micro-investing your money in diversified ETF, rounding up every purchase to the nearest dollar and investing that change in your chosen portfolio.

And it is GREAT

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This is my portfolio at the moment:

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Not enough to retire on yet, but that +$152.81 is the amount of money I’ve amassed just from upward movement in my shares. Not a bad return for parting with a few pennies here & there, is it?

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This figure is also after withdrawing $600 to have a play around with BrickX – a new crowd-sourcing approach to property investment that sounded intriguing (BrickX isn’t exciting me so far but let me know if you would be interested in hearing more about it anyway!)

My one reservation with Acorns has always been that you have very little control over exactly what is sitting in your portfolio – you choose the level of risk you are happy to take and the algorithm takes it from there. Which is why when this email landed in my inbox on Thursday, I did the biggest happy dance I’ve done all week and rushed to change my portfolio over! As someone who’s trying to educate herself on living a sustainable life, knowing that I can work towards my financial goals and invest in line with my beliefs has made my obsession with Acorns even stronger.

If you live in Australia and want to give micro-investing a go, you can sign up with my referral code here (we’ll both get $2.50 in our Acorns account as well!) 

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Acorns goes Green!

Gratuitous Gratitude Time

I’ve been doing some writing recently for a great little startup that involved creating a series of emails to guide their customers through a very basic mindfulness practice. The most recent dispatch introduced the idea of gratitude and the importance of acknowledging the great things in life as you look back (or forward) over the day. It was only as I sat down to write this post that I realised that’s not something I’ve been practicing regularly in my own life! So here they are, the three things I’m grateful for today:

  1. That the $13 I have left in my wallet to last the weekend just means that I’m sticking to my budget and watching my savings grow
  2. That I can afford to rent my beautiful little apartment to share with my sassy little fluffball and no-one else (introverts unite!). It’s been 18 months now and I still get an overwhelming sense of peace every time I put my key in the front door.
  3. That I have a week in Tasmania coming up with a bunch of amazing girls! Two weeks to go until whiskey tours, endless cheese and late nights around a fire with the best company a gal could ask for.

You know what? It felt really great to write that list! I think it’s so easy to get swept up in what I still need to achieve, that it’s nice to sit back and look at what I’ve already got.

What are you grateful for this week? Let me know in the comments below!

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Gratuitous Gratitude Time

Are you living like a Millionaire?

Wish you were a millionaire?

I don’t blame you- who doesn’t?

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Actual archival footage of me with money

Even if the actual number of zeros in your bank account is a little less than awe-inspiring, there are still ways to feel like a millionaire with your current income. For example, how do you feel every time one of those big, ugly annual bills come in- probably not great, right? You may have to put it on the credit card and watch that interest mount until you can pay it off, or perhaps you have to dig into your travel fund when the car insurance comes knocking.

It doesn’t have to be that way! Imagine that huge bill coming in, and paying it without a second thought- no stress, no cold sweat, no credit.

But isn’t that a luxury that only a millionaire can enjoy?

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Not if you’re smart! (or just organised)

Being able to pay bills with ease is one of the greatest benefits of having a budget, at least for me and my sporadic performers income. While you might not see the benefits of budgeting for specific annual bills for a while, setting it up only takes a few minutes and the peace of mind it can give you is astronomical.

Why not sort it out now? You’re clearly not under the pump, since you’re hanging out with me. And if we’re anything alike, your procrastination urges have just kicked in- go ahead, make a cup of tea, I’ll wait.

Ready to go? Great.

Grab a piece of scrap paper, the back of an envelope, anything- this won’t take long. Jot down every annual bill you can think of. We’re talking along the lines of car or health insurance, pet registration, or any of the other grown up things you forget you need to pay before it’s almost too late (you may need to dive into your email to look up exact charges for some of them).

Think you’ve got them all sorted? Awesome! Tot all of the figures up and try not to think about how big that total figure is. Have a sip of tea. Now divide that total figure by the amount of paydays you have in a year and we’re almost done.

Your homework is to open a new zero-fee bank account and set up an auto-transfer of that sum every payday into your newly created ‘annual bills fund’. Set and forget!

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You may find that this system needs a bit of a breaking in period (depending on when your next bill is coming due), but eventually you’re going to be living the stress-free bill paying life of a millionaire. Any time your butler hands you a red envelope on your silver platter, you can smugly flip your hair (or whatever the guy equivalent of this is- please let me know) and pay it without  second thought.

‘But wait a minute!’ I hear you cry, ‘All of my annual bills add up to fifty bucks a pay cycle! I can’t just lose that money every week, I need it!’

I feel that, really I do. But what would hurt you more- the $50 loss every week, or the $600 bill when you’re least expecting it? This is not a bandaid situation where it hurts less if you do it all at once- set up your auto-saving now, and soon you won’t even notice those missing few dollars, I promise.


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Are you living like a Millionaire?

Ideas for a no-spend weekend! (That I would actually want to do)

Everywhere you look on the ‘frugal’ side of the interwebs, you’re going to stumble across a bazillion list-oids for great ways to save money. I love saving money! Count me in.

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Hello darkness my old friend…

One of the more popular lists seems to be ideas for things to do on a no-spend day/week/weekend/life. Again, I’m so on board with this. It’s easy to look at the day off looming ahead and start to wonder what you’re going to do with all of that spare time- maybe the movies? Brunch? Dinner with friends? Or perhaps you should go and check out that sale, just in case…

I am a huge fan of all of these things, but if you’re trying to save money for something special, weekend spending can really derail your efforts. The only problem is that a lot of these lists are full of things that don’t really appeal (or apply) to someone like me:

Meet the neighbours (you mean, talk to people?)

Join an organized sport (nope)

Hold a baby (could be creepy)

Window shop (you think I have that much self-control?)

So without further ado, I present my abridged list of things to do on a no-spend weekend! To keep it short, I haven’t included anything that I would do anyway (going for a run and meal prepping both seemed to crop up a lot). Nossir, these are all activities that I don’t normally participate in, but would definitely consider a fun or productive way to spend a day off.

Here we go!

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Volunteer There are so many places that are always looking for helping hands to support their daily running- it’s just a matter of finding one that aligns with your interests. For example, I would definitely be on board with gathering some friends and going to volunteer at the guide-dog HQ in exchange for wriggly puppy playtime! Maybe you love sports or get joy from being up to your elbows in dirt (me). I can promise you there’s someone out there just waiting to put those urges to good use.

Visit a Library  Apparently libraries are something that still exist? Who knew. The library used to be my absolute happy place when I was a kid- I would always leave with more books than I could carry, and could easily burn through one a day. I even remember a period where I would get my ‘quality time’ with Dad by going to the library and then out for takeways on a Thursday night.

So many great library memories! I don’t know why I ever stopped going.

– yes I do. Because I grew up, and grown up Abbie likes excuses to spend money.

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But in a library, there’s never any pressure to pick a book you’re definitely going to enjoy, or that you’re even going to read. Apparently libraries these days are also full of other great things like DVDs, audiobooks, movie nights, craft clubs and laugh clubs (maybe that’s just mine?). Channel eight year old me and head to your local library for so many books they make your arms hurt, and then head home to binge on your new (free) treasures. Can’t be bothered signing up at your local? Dig out that book you’ve been swearing you’ll read ‘one day’ and make it today.

Play tourist in your own city When you’re travelling, it’s normal to walk out your front door with a to-do list bulging with great activities for the day ahead. But be honest here- how many great activities in your own town will you ‘get around to doing one day’, or dismiss as ‘just for the tourists’? Time to play make believe! Write a list, grab your map, and try to tick off as many spots as you can on your tourist adventure. You may need the help of google beforehand to get a complete list of museums, art galleries, tourist sights and fun free activities to cram in- the friendly people at your local Visitor Information will be a wealth of information as well. Throw on a fake moustache and your very best foreign accent, it’s time to explore your home town like you’re not a local (bonus points if you find a Gallery opening with some free bubbles).

Host a Film Festival So what if all you’re playing is the first three seasons of Breaking Bad, or if you’re the only attendee. You are a classy individual and the sole curator of the latest entry on the festival circuit- Cannes, eat your heart out! If you feel like socializing, invite some friends over to join and really turn it into an event. Pick a theme (maybe every film with Jennifer Aniston ever, terrible horror films,  the most obscure 80s DVDs you found during your earlier library visit, or each person’s favourite childhood movie) and binge your heart out.

Crank out the board games or cards  Those pesky friends still hanging around from your film festival? Time to bring out those dusty old board games! I secretly love game nights- a group of my friends have co-ownership in the Firelfly boardgame and get together regularly to try and finish it (we have- once). And who doesn’t like Monopoly? Everyone apparently, but I’m going to make you play it anyway. If you really want to make it interesting, you can always play by my family rules- winner does the dishes, loser gets first go at the dessert.

Deep clean the house I know, this one doesn’t sound that fun. But how great will you feel at the end of the day when that one nagging corner of clutter isn’t glaring at you anymore? Ideas to get you started – the patch of mould in the bathroom, the expired goods in your pantry, that overflowing cupboard, or that task that came into your head as soon as I said ‘that one nagging thing’. Find a playlist or audiobook that is going to make this less painful for you, and get to it!

Bake One way to really clean out the kitchen is to use up all of those half-empty treats in a delicious experiment. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a few boxes of pre-mix that are waiting for the apocalypse. Now is the time! That warm, gooey brownie is going to taste a lot better fresh from your oven than it would on an afternoon coffee date. If sweets aren’t your thing, why not try your hand at a loaf of home-made bread?

Learn a new skill The more ridiculous, the better. Always wanted to know how to juggle? This is the day. Or how about knitting or origami?  Or those crosswords that apparently make you really smart. Even learning a new language is easy to get started in this technological age- free programmes like Duolingo can get you on the right road.  Just be sure not to rush out and spend all your moolah getting set up for your new skill- if you’re anything like me, there are probably more than enough resources lying around the house.

Review your budget Yaaasssss, Abbie’s favourite thing. Pour yourself a nice cup of tea and clear a space, it’s time to brush up on your finances! Look over your spendings for the past few months- anything you can cut back on? Anything you need to start setting more money aside for? Now is also a good time to call up your suppliers and try your luck at getting your bills reduced- most companies have a surprising amount of wriggle room once you break the news that you’re considering changing suppliers. Make sure to check for any subscriptions that you’re no longer using (do you really need that Audible subscription now that you’ve discovered all the audiobooks available through your library’s website?). While you’re at it, why not set some financial goals for the rest of the year? Look at what you want to achieve and then work backwards to find a way to squeeze it into your budget.

Write down some goals While you’re planning ahead with your budget, why not think about what else you want to achieve in the next six months?

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It’s proven that writing your goals down makes you much likely to achieve them and even the most overwhelming goal can seem a little more possible if you break it down into baby steps. Use your no-spend day to get on course for the rest of the year or if you’re really artistic (which I am not), you could use the day to make one of those fancy vision boards.

Have a pamper day I guess? I’m as much of a sucker for a newly painted set of nails as the next gal so team this with a movie & a steaming cup of tea (can you tell it’s winter here at the moment?) and that sounds like a good avo in.

Host a clean-out potluck with friends Round up a bunch of friends, forbid them to spend a penny, and watch what everyone tries to create from the depth of their pantry. Edible? Maybe not. Hilarious? Hells yeah. I’m going to give it a go and report back!

Reach out to someone Be it that parent that you really should call, or that high school friend that you haven’t seen in years. Pick up the phone, or even better- send a letter! Channel your primary school crafter and make it a work of art. Make sure to put some glitter in that envelope as well- just so they never forget you.

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Rearrange your room Because nothing makes a fun day off like lugging heavy furniture! But seriously, changing things up is a great way to make you look at your room with fresh eyes, and maybe you would like to try the bed on the other wall for a bit?

Start a journal Is it just me or is journaling back in style? It feels like I’m seeing amazing layouts everywhere these days. You can use a journal to clear your head, tidy your thoughts, or record your daily life. It may feel dippy to be recording your deepest dreams and fears or who you saw for coffee yesterday, but as someone who has found diaries from eight year old Abbie, I swear that you’ll be happy you wrote it all down later!

Do any of the above in a blanket fort Because blanket fort, obviously

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Ideas for a no-spend weekend! (That I would actually want to do)

How the bank almost got me

Banks are funny things. Credit cards are funny things too. There’s something about turning money from something heavy and real to numbers in a computer that seems to make it much less…worthy. More like monopoly money that we shuffle among ourselves than real,  valuable currency.

 

Prior to this year, I’ve never had a credit card. I was burned my first year out of home when my bank offered a ‘complimentary overdraft’ on my account of $2,000. It vanished in a matter of months (a good chunk of that went on a shopping spree when my little sister came to visit), and I’m pretty sure I was paying it off for the next two years. Lesson learned! There’s nothing more depressing than getting a paycheck and realising that none of that money is even technically ‘yours’- it all has to go straight to the bank.

Cut to five years later and I was finally tempted back into the world of credit by an unmissable offer on a card with no annual fee. I’m pretty on top of my spending now, so as long as I was careful to pay off my card each month, I was getting 50,000 frequent flyer points for free! How could anything possibly go wrong?

 

Ahhh, but here’s the thing the credit card companies know that we’ve all probably figured out the hard way – chances are, you’re going to be unconsciously spending a buttload more if you’re putting it on plastic.

Don’t ask me how it works, I reckon it’s hoodoovoodoo. All I know is, for the three months I was putting every payment on card, my spending was sitting a lot higher than it normally would- even though I have a rock solid budget and I knew exactly how they were trying to hook me!

Now I’m not saying I’ve been flashing around dolla dolla bills y’all…

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Does anyone think that getting hit by a solid gold coin would really hurt?

…probably worth it though

…but a brunch here, a book purchase there- it all starts to add up across the course of a month. And if you’re not seeing those purchases appear on your statement for a few days, it’s easy to forget that it even happened, and so you’re ok to spend juuuust a little more until that hideous bill arrives at the end of the month. Hoodoovoodoo!

So I’ve tried being a credit-carrying adult, and I guess I failed? Or maybe realising that I was altering my spending habits means that this counts as a pass (after all, you should never let the bank win).

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This card came with a year of free usage and as a newbie to the credit card rewards world, I have to confess that I’m still bemused and amazed that every month I’m racking in more frequent flyer points off my daily spending than I did flying to the other side of the world (!!) I still have seven months of free card usage before I have to cancel it, so it seems a waste to leave it in a drawer and miss out on some of those points that could help me get back across the world in the next few years. But how to do it without having to chip into my savings to cover that extra bit of free spending I’ve been suckered into?

I’ve decided to come to a compromise- bills are going to keep going on the card, but for the rest of my spending, cash is back to being King, baby. I’m going ol’ school and withdrawing my spending money for the week until I’ve built up my savings again. Time to go back to filling that piggy bank with change!

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Yes, I’ll take any excuse to GIF my spirit animal

This post was triggered by the extremely disturbing ‘debit card for pocket money’ that facebook threw up at me because apparently it thinks I should have spawned some rugrats by now. It looks like a great idea on the surface- parents can preload cash for their kids and the app seems to have integrated savings system- but with Visa pulling the strings, it all gets a little icky. On top of an annual card fee for the pleasure of not handing your kids cold, hard cash, I’m not sure parents should be comfortable letting one of the biggest credit card companies in the world groom your pre-teen for credit card ownership. What do you think?

 

 


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How the bank almost got me

I solemnly swear that I’m up to some good

It’s easy (for me, at least) to spend a fair bit of time thinking about where my money is going- or rather, where it’s vanishing to.

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This month I want to start spending more time thinking about where my money is going. And yes, that is a very important set of italics.

I’ve reached a stage with my money where I’m no longer the panicking, impoverished arts student. I wouldn’t say that I’m functioning with a grown-up level of income (what’s a real job again?) but I am at a point where it’s time to start thinking about how my spending is serving the world – what lives am I changing, what values am I representing?

I’ll be the first to raise my hand and confess that I’m frequently guilty of going for the bottom line. Why bother spending top dollar on some boring essential when I can duck down to Big W and get what I need for just a few dollars? But it’s time to stop kidding myself (and yes, this hurts). More often than not that bottom dollar is supporting sweat-shop labour, unsafe conditions, and probably terrible environmental practices.

If I’m voting with my money, then I sure don’t want it to be going to those people. I want to live in a world stuffed full of companies that are truly trying to make a difference! Hell, I want to live in a world that still looks like our world in fifty years. If that means shopping a little more mindfully and perhaps forking out more for businesses that support my goals, then I guess that’s a small price to pay.

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WALL-E is adorable, but not if his world becomes our reality

While I’m at it, I’m going to do my best to support the people with the dreams! The good folk in my area who have taken the dive and are trying to make good when the whole world says they can’t. I’m talking delicious freshly baked breads, beautiful plants (from somewhere other than the supermarket I’msosorryIcan’tleavethemtheretheyneedmeeee), handmade ceramics, locally grown organics, coffee from that new spot that just needs time to become the next big thing. Doesn’t that just sound like the dream?

And maybe I will have to make some sacrifices to follow through. Maybe I cut down my takeaway coffee habit to so there’s money to pay more for my veges, or maybe I save for the items I truly want to bring into my life from suppliers that I honestly want to support. The great thing about having a budget is that it’s totally possible to look at your spendings in black & white and re-evaluate as circumstances change.

I’m not going to lie, this is going to be hard for me. After so many years of being dirt-poor, parting with more money than I absolutely have to is going to take some getting used to. But I’m going to take a big ol’ breath and let go of the reins a little, putting my money where my mouth is. Because what’s the point of money, if we’re not using it to make the world a better place?


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I solemnly swear that I’m up to some good