A Glassie’s Guide to Budgeting

Welcome Glassies, to your guide to life. This series takes a deep dive into all your pressing need-to-knows (how to contact your local MP, how to make the perfect cocktail, and how to get over your ex godamnit) and offers comprehensive guides so that you can live your best Glassie life. This edition is A Glassie’s Guide to Budgeting. 

Glassies – it’s time to get your budgets in order. Since starting my first real, cash-over-the-table job, I’ve dreaded tax season. And maybe not for the reason you’d think.   

The actual act of lodging my tax return has never really bothered me. But you know that bit when you’re on the ATO website and you see what your income was over the last financial year? That is some scary stuff.  

I probably earned barely $17,000 in my first year of working a retail job. That may sound like a meagre amount. But I was freshly 18 and living at home. So, seeing that number on paper made me wonder, what on god’s green earth had I done with that $17,000?  

As my income has grown and I’ve become more financially savvy, I’ve become better at budgeting and saving. But tax time does still give me the heebie-jeebies. Isn’t it strange to be confronted with the exact dollar amount of cash that flowed into your bank account over a year?  

I’m aware that I may not be the best person to write a budgeting guide. Not because I’m bad at it, but because I still have the luxury of living at home, and I’m aware that this makes my financial life a helluva lot easier than some of my peers. I didn’t even know how to fill up my own car until last year – how insanely privileged and embarrassing is that?  

So, in this article, I defer to my friend, fellow Glassie, and bonafide budgeter Ella. In my eyes, Ella’s main budgeting credential is that she has lived out of home since she was 17. Ella has real-life budgeted with success instead of just play-budgeting like I like to dabble in.   

When we met up to chat, Ella told me that things were dire when she first moved out. ‘I went bin-diving for food when I first moved out. I didn’t have a job for five months at one point.’   

Ella would scour the bins outside Aldi at West End for ‘…bread, packaged pastries, shit like that.’  

She continued. ‘Did you know they lock them now? How fucked is that? Let a gal bin dive.’  

Although environmentally friendly (although possibly illegal?), bin-diving is not our main budgeting tip for this guide. But these are:  

1 – Know that there are many weird and wonderful ways to budget.  

There are myriad ways to budget. You can find endless methods with a quick Google search, so take your time to research and find a method that speaks to you. I would even go as far as to say the budgeting method you choose doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you. 

Our friend Ella’s personal budgeting strategy looks something like this: ‘I have automatic transfers in place that send $100 every week to another account with a different bank with a high-interest rate to build up my long-term savings. Then I send $80 to a separate card (account) for splurge money. If I want something non-essential and more than $80, I give myself a few weeks to save my splurge money.’ She uses the rest of her income for living expenses and tries to keep her living expenses account at around $1,500 for any big-ticket items (insurance, rego etc.). This includes her grocery shopping – she allows herself to buy a couple of treats at every grocery shop.  

2 – Don’t be too restrictive. Like a bad diet, it won’t end well.  

For many people, myself included, drawing up a too restrictive budget (like a fad diet!) eventually leads to a massive budget blowout by the end of the pay cycle. So be realistic when choosing your budgeting strategy. It’s more important that you pick something that will work for you in the long run, rather than an overly-restrictive budget that you’ll only be able to stick to for a couple of weeks.  

3 – Utilise thrifty tips. A dollar saved somewhere can be used somewhere else.  

The best thrifty tip is to shop around! Make sure you’re not paying extra for something you could get elsewhere for a lower price.  

My personal thrifty tip is to use the app ‘Price Off’ to find weekly specials at supermarkets and pharmacies. The thrill of buying fancy yoghurt half-price is unmatched.  

Ella also has a treasure trove of her own grocery shopping thrifty tips:   

‘They always put the cheaper items down lower. Make sure to look below your eye level!’  

‘Buy home brand. It’s the same stuff but cheaper.’  

‘Look at the price per 100 grams to compare products.’  

4 – Look at your bank account, for god’s sake.  

I saw this tip somewhere long ago, and boy did it hit home. Surely, I’m not the only one to do this, right? You have a big weekend, you know you spent more than you planned, you are certain your bank account has taken a hit and instead of checking the damage and making a plan, you avoid the problem altogether by deciding not to check your mobile banking app.  

Next time you catch yourself in this thought pattern, make an effort to log in and assess the damage. Sometimes it isn’t as bad as you thought it would be! Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s worse. Whatever your bank balance, it’s important that you know what it is and make a plan for how you will shuffle things around so you can still achieve your financial goals.  

  5 – Think big.   

One of my favourite books to recommend is The Defining Decade by Meg Jay. The premise of the book is this: your twenties do matter. Use them wisely, and use them to build the foundation of the life you want to be able to live in your 30s, 40s, and beyond. With this in mind, think big with your financial goals and think about how you can get started now.  

Want to buy a house eventually? Start squirrelling away money for a deposit, baby.  

Want to be able to support yourself instead of working a 9 to 5? Brainstorm some skill sets you could use to bring in additional streams of income to make that dream a reality.  

Want to have a vacation home to retire to in the South of France? Start planning now!  

Your future self will thank you.  

6 – If you have ever ordered ‘smashed avo’ at a cafe, know that you’ll never be able to buy a house.  

But seriously, don’t beat yourself up. As Lily Allen once said, the world is hard out there for us bitches. The cost of living is rising, and things are not how they were for our parents and grandparents.   

Do the best you can, and remember to treat yourself to avo toast when you can.  

7 – Remember that it’s all going to mean fuck-all one day.  

Money is an amazing tool. But (spoiler alert) one day, your heart will stop beating, and all those dollars you earned might keep earning interest, but it’s going to be fuck-all useful when you’re six-feet-under or sitting in tiny, burnt-up pieces in a jar on someone’s mantel. Just something to remember, Glassies.  

Ciaran Greig
Ciaran Greig

Ciaran (she/her) is a Meanjin/Brisbane-based writer and an editor at Glass Magazine. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Creative Writing)/Bachelor of Laws.

Articles: 50

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