James Trethewie, Financial Planner AFP®, and former Bachelorette contestant, is now a celebrity guest contributor to Money & Life.
We all want to live a good life with our partner, but does that have to include fine dining every night and travelling to exotic destinations? Guest contributor, James Trethewie Financial Planner AFP® brings you five tips for enjoying the best in life without blowing the budget.
1. Keep track of the little things
Everybody’s idea of living well is going to be different. When you’re young, enjoying your freedom and maybe settling into a career, your lifestyle tends to be about exploring the world through travel and having fun when you’re not working. So your bigger money goals might be saving for a big overseas trip, having your own car – or your own home one day.
Building up your savings to achieve goals like these can seem like a big challenge. But by making some small changes to your day-to-day spending, you can fund your dreams much faster. If two take-away coffees a day are pretty standard for you, that could be a barista bill of around $3,000 per year. Add to that your weekly lunch costs if you buy near the office instead of bringing your own and you’re looking at another $3,500. Let’s say you start packing lunch and cut the coffees down to one per day and that’s your next holiday right there!
2. Beware of comparing
I think there’s great wisdom in resisting the impulse to compare how we live with others. This tendency to see what our friends are buying and want to do the same is all too human, but can put us at a great disadvantage financially. We could be comparing the car we drive and pay for ourselves with a neighbor who got theirs as a gift – or by taking out a substantial loan. When you’re tempted to compare it can help to consider these different circumstances, so you can adjust your expectations and take the pressure off you and your budget.
3. Have fun without the price tag
Good times with family and friends and keeping healthy and fit have always been things I make time for, and I think many of us share those goals, regardless of whether we’re a couple or a family with kids. So when you’re trying to trim the budget, look for ways to spend quality time with loved ones – and by yourself – without a big price tag. That could mean heading out for a walk and a picnic instead of meeting at your usual brunch spot for eggs benny. Or you could just downgrade your weekly catch-up with mates from lunch to a coffee and grab a snack before you head out.
When kids are in the picture, they certainly become a major reason for the joy in your life. But when we let go of everything that meant something to us before becoming parents, that lifestyle shift can go too far. By taking just a little time – maybe just a few hours a week – to do something that restores and energises you, you’ll be investing in the best version of yourself. Choose something that connects you with yourself and maybe with nature. It could be walking, surfing, running, painting or practicing yoga. Whatever that pursuit is – for you and your partner – make space for it in your family schedule and you’ll all feel better for it.
4. Map out your goals
It doesn’t just take money to build the kind of life you really want. In fact, your time and energy are other precious resources that can be even more scarce than money at times. To save you and your partner from feeling like you’re falling short of achieving what’s important to you, make a mindmap to capture all your goals. It might include things like buying a home, paying for kid’s education or family holidays, seeing more of your friends or starting a business or new career.
When you’ve pulled it all together, start to put things in order of priority so you can get a feel for scheduling these goals into your busy life. Adding a dollar figure for each goal – even if it’s a rough estimate – will help you start to figure out what you can afford to do now and what can wait until later. This is a great exercise to start you on the path to getting what you really want from life without putting your finances – or your schedule – under stress.
5. Don’t say yes to everything
With that mindmap “in mind,” you’ll have a better chance of being selective about taking on commitments. If you’re clear about what your goals are – and which ones take priority – then you’ll be more likely to say no to spending money or time on distractions and a big yes to things that matter to you, now and for the future.