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Budgeting for Black Friday (here’s your game plan!)

Do it right and the upcoming Black Friday sales could save you money and boost your budget. Or do it wrong and you could end up eating baked beans on ‘Broke Saturday.’ That’s why we’ve come up with a seven-point Black Friday Shopper’s Game Plan!

Why is it on a Friday? And why is it black?

To understand where one of the biggest days on the world retail calendar comes from, you have to appreciate where it all began. Thanksgiving in the United States always falls on the fourth Thursday of November and Black Friday follows the day after. This year, Black Friday is on November 27. 

As well as marking the beginning of America’s Christmas shopping season, the day after Thanksgiving is a popular unofficial holiday. A lot of Americans take the Friday off so they can have a four-day weekend.

Basically, Black Friday is the American equivalent of our post-Christmas Boxing Day sales. Because the best antidote for an overload of turkey and gratitude is a rough-and-tumble consumer frenzy, right? In fact. one suggestion is that police coined the term “Black Friday” to describe the public chaos it invokes.
 
In case Black Friday isn’t enough, the weekend is then bookended by Cyber Monday. Whereas the focus of Black Friday is on elbow-to-elbow jostling at the shops, Cyber Monday is all about online deals. (In reality, most retailers run online and in-store sales simultaneously.)

Black Friday in Australia

Like many things American (eg. Lindsey Lohan), Black Friday has made it to Australian shores. But the numbers are a lot smaller here. Around 20 percent of Australians participate in Black Friday sales, compared with a staggering 70 percent in the US. 

That being said, the popularity of Black Friday is predicted to increase with more and more big box retailers jumping on the bandwagon, including JB Hi-Fi, Kogan, eBay, Harvey Norman, Sephora, Amazon, and a lot of small retailers too. 

One of the reasons that Black Friday is so popular is that it conveniently falls the week before December as people are switching into Christmas shopping mode. So, do it right and Black Friday could be the perfect time to cross off a lot of Christmas shopping. Or do it wrong, and you could fall victim to ‘Buythagoras’ Theorem: 

That’s why we’ve come up with the following seven-point game plan. Because there’s nothing wrong with shopping—as long as your strategic about it!

Your Black Friday Shopper’s Game Plan

1. Start with Christmas budget planning

Who are you going to buy Christmas presents for this year? Get like Santa and write their names on a list. Next to each person’s name, write a dollar amount for how much you’re going to spend on them. Add up the total. Can you afford it? (More specifically, can you afford it without selling a kidney or using your credit card?) If yes, great! If no, go back and adjust the amounts. 

Use our Christmas budget template to help you plan your gift list and spending!

2. Then make a personal wish-list

If there’s any money left over in your budget, make a wish-list of Black Friday bargains to buy for yourself. Alternatively, now is a good time to drop hints for Christmas, such as “Hey [insert loved one’s name]. You know how for Christmas I’d really like [insert item name]? It’s on sale this Friday!”

3. Do your research before Black Friday

Retailers have been known to put prices up during a sale because they know shoppers will be in a buying mood. The only way to know you’re getting a genuine deal is to research prices before Black Friday begins. 

4. Check the payment terms

Don’t wait to get to the cash register to discover what your payment options are. Some retailers will limit payment methods on Black Friday deals. Others may allow you to layby, which can be a great way to lock in a discounted price for a small deposit.

5. Cash is still king

One way to know if there’s wiggle room in the sale price is to ask what payment methods are available. If Afterpay or interest-free finance is accepted, you can be confident that the retailer is paying around five percent commission to a finance company. Don’t be afraid to ask for a cash discount.

6. Check return and refund policies

Some stores have special policies during promotions, such as “sale items are final—no exchange or refund.” If you’re not sure that the item will be the right fit, size or colour, you want to know that you can swap it or get a refund or credit.

7. Know what the Aussie Dollar is worth

If you plan to shop online at overseas stores, don’t forget to factor in the cost of shipping and the currency exchange rate. At the time of writing, the Aussie Dollar is buying just 68 US cents. It really adds up—$100 USD works out to around $146 AUD. For up to date exchange rates, go to www.xe.com

From desperately in debt to living your dream life in 12 months

As the year draws to a close, we follow the journey of Sydney couple Megan and Creagh and reflect on just how quickly their financial outlook can turned around in 12 short months. They went from desperate to living their dream life in the time it took the Earth to do a single orbit of the sun. See how they did it.

“We needed to break the debt cycle”

A lot of people say that financial stress feels inescapable. Tangled in a maze of bills, it’s hard to move in any direction, let alone see a way out. Long-term goals, like owning a home or starting a family, feel like pipedreams. Anxious and sliding deeper into confusion, the idea of emerging out the other side seems impossible.

This is where Megan and Creagh’s journey began. Despite having good jobs, the couple, both in their thirties, had amassed nearly six-figures of debt. Most of it was credit card debt that came from overspending on little things, like regularly eating out. “It wasn’t big lavish expenses that got us into trouble, it was day to day stuff,” Creagh says. “With the credit cards, it was just like ‘oh well, pay it off later’ and it was always later.” Creagh continues, “It was easy to roll one credit card into another—it was a never-ending cycle and we needed to break that cycle.”

Try a new direction

But how do you break a debt cycle? Megan and Creagh tried to get themselves out of debt with zero-interest credit card balance transfers only to find that it backfired. They ended up with more cards and more debt. “I wanted to go forward, but I felt like we were standing still,” says Megan.

When you find yourself stuck in a rut, one of the keys to breaking free is to try something new. For Megan that was calling MyBudget. She booked a free budget consultation for her and Creagh. Eleanor was the MyBudget money expert they met with.

Eleanor says, “The first thing I assured Megan and Creagh was that it doesn’t matter what your starting point is. I’ve come across situations that are more complicated, and I’ve never seen a problem that can’t be fixed. It’s all about coming up with a plan and the sooner you start, the better.”

And that’s exactly what they did. Eleanor helped Megan and Creagh create a detailed personalised budget by going through all of their debts and expenses. “To create a budget plan that actually works, you need to map out all your expenses and income for the next 12 months,” explains Eleanor. “And I mean everything. As well as all your debts and recurring expenses, you’ve also got to include the bills that only come up once a year, like insurance and car registration and Christmas. You’ve also got to set money aside for unwanted surprises, like vet bills or car repairs.”

Come up with a plan

“Once we had everything in the budget, Megan and Creagh had a detailed picture of where all their money was going,” says Eleanor. “It was that light bulb moment when they finally had a proper picture of their finances. Megan and Creagh didn’t need our help talking to their creditors, but that’s something we often do for people. We’re often able to suggest payment arrangements that are more affordable, which can help someone who has a lot of commitments. It gives them time to pay their way out of debt without needing new loans or credit.”

But is it hard to live on a budget? Megan answers, “We still have the option to go out to concerts and comedy gigs and go out to dinner … These guys [MyBudget] are so helpful and they know what they’re doing.” Money Coach Eleanor puts it this way: “The main change is that Megan and Creagh are using their money more effectively. As well as having a budget in place, all of their bills and payments are now automated. Their income is organised into streams, so there are no surprises, and they have a whole team of experts doing the work that keeps their budget on track.”

A complete transformation

In one year, Megan and Creagh have emerged from a winter of debt into the financial spring of their dreams. They’ve paid off five credit cards in 10 months (about $60,000 of debt) and the idea of saving for a house is no longer out of reach.

Megan says, “We’re getting our paperwork together to begin the loan process for a house, so we’re starting to go to open houses and look online. It’s something I didn’t think would ever happen before MyBudget and now it’s here and it’s such an amazing feeling to have all that hard work pay off.”

Creagh follows up, “MyBudget has been the best decision we’ve made. A weight is lifted off our shoulders. The one regret I have is that I didn’t ask sooner. It has literally changed our lives.”

But is it really possible to transform your finances and life in such a short period of time? “It’s absolutely possible,” says Megan. “Each week, as we saw our bills get paid and those savings start to build⁠, it’s an incentive to keep going, to keep sticking with the budget because that’s going to lead to the end goal. Truly, asking for help was the best step.”

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12 budget Christmas meal ideas

If you’re on a budget this Christmas, these 12 budget-friendly Christmas meal and entertaining ideas will put a smile on everyone’s dial without burning a hole in your pocket. Because remember: The true spirit of Christmas is about friends and family getting together and celebrating, not about how much you spend. 

1. Think budget first

Flip the script… The usual approach is to choose your Christmas menu and then work out how you can afford it. Start instead with an affordable budget, and then find dishes to fit your spending limit. These days, many recipe websites make this easy by providing a shopping list and cost-per-serve information.

Meal-plan-budget

2. Decorate with food

Save on decorating costs by looking for recipes that make your Christmas table look spectacular. We love this cheap and easy lamington Christmas wreath dessert and this pizza bread pull-apart Christmas tree starter.

And don’t forget a DIY gingerbread house! At Christmas time, gingerbread house kits can be found everywhere. Served with ice cream, cream and a chocolate or caramel sauce, a gingerbread house can perform double-duty as a Christmas dessert. As an added bonus, you can get the kids involved in its creation, which means school holiday activity + table decoration + dessert! 

Christmas-food-decorations

3. Throw a snag on the barbie

Could anything be more Aussie than a sausage in bread? If you’re after an easy, casual and inexpensive Christmas meal, look no further than your barbecue. Why not make it festive themed with these Christmas kebabs. This is also a great way to stretch a nice cut of steak further into budget friendly portions. Find your nearest public barbecue on your local council website or by using the Meat In A Park website. The best part of all, there’s no washing up!

christmas-kebabs

4. Share the load

Many hands make light work, right? If you’re hosting a gathering this Christmas, why not ask everyone to bring a dish? Sharing means that the workload and costs are spread among all your guests. From starters, to salads, sides and desserts, when everyone pitches in, one big food bill for one person becomes smaller, more affordable bills for many.

christmas-shared-food

5. Get thrifty with drinks

Celebrating with a drink at Christmas is something many people enjoy, but alcohol can put a big dent in your entertaining budget. To combat the cost, be on the lookout for specials at the bottle shop and take advantage of 12 bottle discounts. Alternatively, serve up a festive punch, where a little alcohol goes a long way. Punch is fruity and festive and, if you opt for a flexible recipe, you might be able to use up any half bottles you already have in the cupboard!

christmas-punch

6. Shop your pantry

Lurking at the back of the pantry, we all have tins, sauce sachets and other bits and pieces that aren’t exactly everyday food. Christmas is the perfect time to use them up! Before you hit the supermarket, shop your pantry first. Do an audit of what you already have, then search Google for Christmas recipes that use that ingredient. You may need to get a little creative, but that’s when the magic happens!

pantry-items

7. Splurge to save

It might sound counterintuitive, but by splurging on one centrepiece dish, you may be able to bring the wow factor to your Christmas table (without inflicting the wow factor on your wallet!) For instance, you might decide to spend up on a showstopping leg of ham, but save on the accompaniments. Think simple salads and roast veggies, and keep your starter and dessert courses simple too.

chrsitmas-ham

8. Crafty cuts

Do you like to impress your guests with special ingredients, but save money at the same time? Then this hot tip is for you! Substitute a plate of smoked salmon with a smoked salmon dip. Or sub out a whole roast turkey for turkey breast. Or ditch expensive cuts of meat altogether for something equally as delish but more budget friendly, such as roast chicken or a slow-cooked, melt-in-your-mouth lamb or pork shoulder. 

smoked-salmon-dip

9. Limit portion sizes

This Christmas meal plan feeds a family of four for just $50. According to the menu’s maker, the key is not going overboard with your portion sizes. To achieve this, have a good think about how many people you have coming and how much food you’ll really need. If you’re serving multiple courses, remember the serving size for each course can be smaller than for your regular one-course family dinner. Limiting portion sizes helps maximise your cash and minimise the cost.

$50-meal-plan

Image: Stay at Home Mum

10. Shepherd’s pie

Shepherd’s Pie might not seem very Christmassy, but stay with me on this. With mince, gravy and whatever leftover veggies are lurking in the crisper, serving Shepherd’s Pie will leave you with little to buy, and a little extra in your pocket. And if anyone questions your choice, you can remind them of its biblical links: In Christian religions, the angels called to the shepherds, heralding the birth of Jesus, which makes this a dish perfect for Christmas, after all!

11. Ditch the buffet

Serving a buffet-style Christmas meal, where everyone can help themselves, might seem like an easy alternative, but it can be costly. It’s hard to estimate how much people will eat, so the tendency is to make too much. Stay in control of your budget by sticking to a menu where you control the portion sizes. 

12. Can’t beat a pav 

“I don’t like pavlova” said NOBODY EVER. Beloved by everyone from Grandma to the littlest of kids, pavlova is an Aussie favourite and perfect for Australia’s summertime climate. If you’re willing to have a go, try this simple recipe from Best Recipes. It has 81 five-star reviews. But if you’re not a confident baker, ready-made pavlovas are easy to find these days and are super cheap too! All you need to do is decorate. Why not put a festive spin on your pav with kiwi fruit and strawberries.

Need help balancing your Christmas budget?

This year has been a tough one for many reasons. But luckily, here in Australia, getting together for a meal this Christmas isn’t off the menu. The most important tip of all is to plan an affordable, inclusive Christmas, where the focus is on being together.

If you need help balancing your budget this Christmas—or planning for the year ahead—please call MyBudget for a quick chat. It’s free and could be the best Christmas present you ever give yourself! We’re here to help.

About the writer

Michelle Bowes is an experienced business journalist and personal finance writer based in Sydney. As a mum of three growing and very busy kids (and one growing and not so busy cat), she knows all about the daily juggle and understands the challenges Australian families face in managing their household budgets in the face of the ever-rising cost of living.

This is how Bec and Jarrad are fast-tracking their financial goals

Bec and Jarrad thought they were doing a good job with their money, until they realised they could do even better. Find out how they’re fast-tracking their financial goals and what it means for their family and lifestyle.

Good with their money

Adelaide couple Bec and Jarrad are in their late 30s with two young children. Both have good jobs and have always been responsible with their money. They had fun in their twenties, but were also able to squirrel away enough savings for a home loan.

Still, when the kids came along, Bec and Jarrad’s household expenses went up and it highlighted that the goals they had for their family—holidays, education, financial security—weren’t going to happen automatically.

“We didn’t need someone to look after our finances.”

Bec was talking about money with a friend when they recommended MyBudget to her. Bec and Jarrad had seen MyBudget ads on television and their initial reaction was that it was not for them. Bec explains, “We didn’t have any money troubles and we were happy with the way things were going, but we just had some financial goals that we wanted to achieve.”

Jarrad adds, “We were hesitant about it [talking to MyBudget]. We thought we were doing a good job and didn’t think we needed someone else to look after our finances.”

Nothing to lose

Mainly not to disappoint her friend, Bec called MyBudget and booked an appointment. She figured there was nothing to lose and it would be interesting to see if and how MyBudget’s approach differed from her own.

The couple went to their appointment armed with bank statements, bills and a wish-list of financial goals. After meeting with a budgeting specialist for two hours, they emerged with a free budget and a new outlook on just how far their money could go.

“We didn’t realise that our money could be managed that much better than we were currently doing it,” says Bec. “We spent many times developing spreadsheets and systems to manage our money and we’d get on top of it and be really good at keeping the budget up to date for a short period of time. And then, after a while, we’d get really busy and then the dedication to doing that sort of thing disappears.”

A money plan for the life you want

Bec’s experience is not uncommon. MyBudget founder and director Tammy Barton explains, “A lot of people struggle with money because they don’t have a system in place or, if they do, it’s too hard to maintain or it’s a jumble of good and bad habits.”

“At MyBudget, our approach is that budgeting is not something you do, it’s something you live,” says Tammy. “It’s about firstly designing a money plan for the life you want, and then secondly having the right support and structure to achieve it. If you have the right system in place, from day one, you know you’re on track to achieve your goals.” (Read Tammy’s mini manifesto ‘Equipping the Financial Fitness Nation.’)

Time is even more valuable than money

Creating and sustaining a money system is especially challenging for people who are time-poor, particularly mums and dads juggling the physical and mental demands of work, children and homelife. Yet there’s an expectation that people are supposed to manage their money without any help.

“It’s an attitude that’s changing,” says Tammy. “If you want to keep your car running well, you take it to a mechanic for servicing, right? People are realising it’s the same for their money. If you’re too busy to do it right, it’ll cost you more in the long run. That’s why MyBudget has more and more clients like Bec and Jarrad, who want to fast-track their goals and get the time back that they used to spend thinking about their finances.”

Bec agrees, “One thing we didn’t realise when we joined MyBudget was just how much time it was going to save us. It takes a long time to pay bills and manage your money and MyBudget just does it all for us, so we’ve saved so much time.” (Watch this video to see how MyBudget works.)

“We’ve got money to do the things we want.”

“It took me a little while to warm up and get used to the process,” says Bec. “I think I was a little bit concerned about someone else managing our money for us—and probably even the perception of that. But we still manage our money … We still have control.”

The proof of Bec and Jarrad’s new money system is in the results. “Our life since joining MyBudget is just stress-free. We don’t talk about money, we don’t worry about money, all our bills are paid, we’re getting savings in the bank and we’re achieving our financial goals—and we’re going to set some more!” says Bec with a smile.

Jarrad ads, “We’ve had the confidence to go and buy our first investment property and we’ve also purchased a camper trailer, which means we can go away more with the kids on the weekends. It’s just given us the confidence that we’ve got the money there to do the things we’ve always wanted to do.”

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Free school holidays budget planner

Do the school holidays stretch your household budget? You’re not alone! Discover how much the school holidays are really costing you and take control of your spending with MyBudget’s Free School Holiday Budget Planner. 

It’s no holiday for your wallet

It’s no secret that kids are expensive. They’re also inflationary. If you thought that babies cost a lot, wait until they’re asking for name brand clothes, video games and smartphones. 

And then there’s the cost of school holidays. Between out-of-school-care, day camps, excursions and eating you out of house and home, it’s easy to bust your budget. 

According to a survey conducted by Entertainment.com.au in 2019, over half of Australian families with school-aged children spend an extra $51 to $100 a week entertaining just one child in the school holidays. Almost a third of parents reported spending between $101 and $250 extra per week.

A separate survey conducted by Kids Business found that around half of school holiday expenditure goes on extra food. The other half is spent on entertainment and experiences, with a small proportion on new toys and games.

The cost of school holiday care

Out-of-school holiday care starts from around $60 a day before government subsidies. On top of that, parents are slugged extra for excursions or special activities.

Commercial vacation programs can be even more expensive. Kids have a smorgasbord of holiday options—sports intensives, art, design, computing, and so on—but all that fun comes at a price. A popular three-day computer coding camp, for example, comes with a price tag of $350.

Budgeting helps families control school holiday costs

Tammy Barton knows the challenge of school holidays. As well as being MyBudget’s founder and director, she’s mum to three kids ranging from eight to 18 years.

“School holiday costs sneak up,” says Tammy. “My daughter Ellie will go to a day camp or the movies or we’ll host a couple of playdates, and suddenly I’ve spent an extra $100. Add that’s just for one child.”

Tammy continues, “The key to controlling school holiday spending is to create a budget. I like to get the kids involved. I remind my kids that the reason we budget is to make sure that we get to do the fun stuff. Sometimes that means having to say no to other things.’

Get your free school holiday budget planner

Now sure where to start with budgeting? MyBudget’s School Holiday Budget Calculator is a free budgeting spreadsheet that’s easy to use. Enter your details and the calculations are done for you. Save or print it when you’ve finished.

Parents and kids alike will enjoy planning their weekly activities to see how much the school holidays really cost. 

Click the button below to download MyBudget’s free school holiday budget calculator.

More ideas for making your school holidays budget go further:

  • Think free – Check local guides for free school holiday activities. Libraries, museums, galleries, parks or good places to start.
  • Get physical  – Bike riding, skateboarding, beach days, park play dates and so on cost nothing or very little, especially if you bring a packed lunch. Don’t forget to budget for ice-cream, drinks or other treats.
  • Staycation – Home can offer loads of adventures, from backyard cricket to board games, from cooking to craft, from movies to making.
  • Recycle and reuse – Instead of shopping for new school supplies every year, do an audit of your existing supplies to see what you can reuse.
  • Garage sale – The school holidays are a good time for the kids to go through their old toys and books. Show them how to list their unwanted items online or hold a garage sale.

Get help with household budgeting

Budgeting is more than paying bills and setting aside savings. It’s about creating a money plan for the life you want for you and your family. Find out more about MyBudget’s personal budgeting services.

10 Tips to get financially Fit

Are your finances feeling flabby? Are you ready for a financially fitter you? Let’s talk about how to lose the debt and put on some serious money-muscle! Just like your physical fitness, improving your financial health requires dedication and commitment. It’s not always a one-size-fits-all program. Financial fitness needs to be designed to suit your lifestyle and financial goals, which may change from time to time. But one thing is for sure: there’s no time like the present to start working on it!

1. Create a workout plan (also known as a budget!) 

A good budget helps you manage your money and achieve your financial goals faster by giving every dollar a job. Remember, budgeting is more than paying bills and setting aside savings. It’s about creating a money plan for the life you want! Download MyBudget’s free budgeting workbook and template to get started.

2. Set financial goals 

You can’t achieve a goal if you can’t define it. Set aside some time to visualise your financial goals and how you’d like your life to look. If your long-term goals feel out of reach, start with small goals and think about the habits that would support them

3. Cut back on non-essentials

Once you start budgeting, you may quickly discover that the spare cash you wished you had for holidays and other goals is hiding in plain sight! It’s hidden in bills, interest charges or spending habits that sneakily add up.

Here are examples of little spending changes that can make a big difference:

  • Entertainment – cut back $15/week and save $780/year
  • Barista coffee – cut back $20/week and save $1,040/year
  • Alcohol – cut back $30/week and save $1,560/year
  • Eating out – cut back $40/week and save $2,080/year

4. Develop a safety net

Do you have savings to fall back on? If not, one of your top personal finance priorities should be to develop an emergency fund. Your long-term financial aim should be to have at least a couple of months of income to fall back on. This saving guide includes ideas for creating a cash safety net quickly.

5. Target the problem areas

Most new budgeters discover they can do more with their money without making major lifestyle changes. Your personal or household budget will help to reveal which changes will give you the “biggest bang for your buck.” (Can’t get your budget to balance? It might be time to chat with a money expert.)

6. Assess your debt health

Debt is like cholesterol: there are good and bad varieties. Good debt includes loans for investments that usually go up in value (eg. real estate), whereas bad debt includes credit card and consumer debt. Got bad debt?  The key is to pay it off as fast as you can

7. Reduce your exposure to plastic 

Credit cards are one of the leading causes of financial stress. Try this challenge: For one month, use only cash for your food and living expenses. Did you find you were able to track your spending more easily? Where is most of your money going? For more credit card tips, download MyBudget’s free ‘6 Steps To Get Out Of Credit Card eBook.’

8. Get into good financial habits

Just like physical fitness, your financial fitness level is the sum of your daily, weekly and monthly money habits. The good news is that financial wellness habits are easy to implement and can have a positive impact on your overall wellbeing—for example, taking your lunch to work, or walking instead of driving.

9. Reduce time and mental load through automation

Manage your money with less effort by setting up recurring auto-payments for your bills and savings. Alternatively, embrace a budgeting and money management system. For instance, MyBudget’s unique approach combines technology with human expertise and is proven to help people achieve their financial goals faster.

10. Get a money coach 

Don’t know where to start? You don’t have to do it alone! Find someone you trust who’s good with money or get free help from a money expert. Most importantly, don’t hide your head in the sand. Money problems rarely go away or fix themselves. Instead, take control of your finances and make this your best year ever!

MyBudget’s financial services platform maps out the future of your money. 

Your budget stays on track because your bills, savings and financial goals are automated and managed within one powerful platform. You have all the benefits of visibility, structure, automation and control in the convenience of an app, plus the award-winning support of our budgeting experts.

Call 1300 300 922 to find out more or request a callback.