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Managing expenses without wearing old lady underpants

You’ll have to excuse me, but I’ve been getting increasingly fired up, hearing how women are much more likely to suffer financial hardship than the menfolk. It started with the research into this post about cutting costs to build a beautiful life.

The reason it makes me so mad is that it’s usually because women are the ones taking on the caring roles in our society.

We all have a right to a beautiful life.

How to manage expenses | Blah Blah Magazine

I’m not talking some trotted out, fake life that is manufactured by someone else and bought by your dying soul in order to impress people who give you the shits. Those people who sell you the bed of roses and forget to tell you about the thorns give me the irrits. Only you know what your beautiful life looks like to you.

All I will say is that a beautiful life ain’t always pretty, because life is really, really, really crap sometimes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t be beautiful. It takes courage to see the joy and the sadness for what it is – a big beautiful mess and a part of the adventure.

How to manage expenses | Blah Blah Magazine

Money, money, money, must be funny

The problem is that a part of this mess is also money. And for a long time, I was treating it like some dirty icky part of me, being needy and greedy. Yet, money is cited as the number one cause of stress. The time had come for me to stare that mofo down.

There seems to be some cultural weird stuff that we women need to push through so we feel more comfortable asking for money and if you have a desire to be creative on top of that – phew – you might need queue up with me for laser surgery to remove the starving female artist type tattooed on your soul.

I used to be embarrassed about asking for a pay rise or asking for people to pay when money was due and I still do sometimes. For those times, I have a little mantra…

Just ask

Yup, I can’t remember long mantras, but it works and if I don’t ask I’ll never know.

I’d love to hear what helps you overcome feeling uncomfortable with money, because I want to think about ways we can all build this beautiful life in a way that makes us feel better not worse.

Where does the money go?

I don’t know why this money calculation area has been a vacant lot in my head. I come from a frugal family. My grandfather once greeted us into his home wearing a pair of underpants he’d salvaged from the tip. Yes, they had once belonged to a lady and yes, the elastic was non-existent. All I will say is that gravity is not always kind. No, I’m not even going to try and rectify that image with a picture of a cute puppy.

The thing is my grandfather travelled more than anyone I know and still managed to leave funds to set up a school for indigenous kids. That’s all very inspiring, but, no, I don’t want to wear elastic-lost, salvaged underpants to pursue my goals.

So, I started to look around and low-and-behold I noticed something – the people who had it together in the money stakes manage expenses and know exactly where everything goes. They run their finances like a good business. They may be discrete about it or pretend they’re not really paying attention, but they know exactly where all the money is going and coming from.

How to manage expenses | Blah Blah Magazine

Take a closer look and get ready to fly

After this realisation, I went home and put the year’s expenses in a spreadsheet – Excel and me are BFFs now. Not really, but we kind of agree to disagree. I divided the year’s expenses by 12 for my monthly expenses and by 52 for my weekly expenses. I discovered some very large holes, but I can’t tell you how useful it’s been to me to know where the money is going.

Apparently, I was being a super keen bean, because these guys say if you do at least a week it’ll give you a good idea. Or you can save the time and do it on the run and start tracking your spending, just like those personal trainers tell you to track your diet. Every cent that goes out is recorded in an app (like this tracking your spending app) or you can go old school and use a notebook.

Now, I need to set about darning the gaping holes in my finances. I’m not even sure how that happened. I didn’t seem to be spending much, but we’ve chosen to live in Sydney – one of the most expensive cities in the world, had some fairly hefty medical bills in the last few years for my son and due to his health issues I wasn’t able to work for longer than I’d expected, which did give me the time to start a blog…

So, I need a two fold approach to remedy the situation, one is to skim the fat out of the expenses and the other is to increase my income in a way that feels right.

The weird thing is, I’m actually starting to enjoy this watching where the money goes adventure. Who knew it was possible?

The next step will be to use the expenses I’ve collated to outline a budget that can actually work. Stick around, the wonders never cease around here…

I need some advice, how do you cut grocery costs and/or do you have any special tricks for budgeting?

If you’re keen to do this build a beautiful life adventure, you might like…

This post on cutting costs to build a beautiful life
Or this post on reducing car costs


About BlahBlahMagazine

Cybele Masterman (Bele) trained as a beauty therapist, aromatherapist and journalist. After working as all of the above has found herself on a quest for a beautiful and meaningful life that doesn't cost the earth. Follow on google: +blahblahmagazine twitter: @blahblahzine or Instagram: BlahBlahMagazine

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This post is sponsored by CareSuper (Terms and conditions apply to any product you consider) …


  1. I have a detailed spreadsheet that I use to track our spending and budgeting and it is how I keep on top of where we are at so we can keep control. It works. As for groceries – I find that writing a list and planning your meals out for the week keeps your spending on track. I do my groceries online now which helps stop impulse purchases on things I don’t need, I can easily compare prices and have a running tally.

  2. Budgeting really is pretty magical. I started one when I was a teenager (yeah, I know) and it meant that I had paid off my first car almost by the time I finished uni. I can’t remember the last time I bought lunch- all because way back then I learnt that little bits here and there are the fastest way to waste money.
    You’ve reminded me that it really is time to set up a budget for myself again 🙂

  3. This year I’ve taken the budget by the horns (as enthusiastically as I can muster). I must admit I also get some kind of thrill seeing exactly where all the money goes!! It can be a real slippery sucker sometimes!!

  4. My money saving tips include online shopping. I know it can be a bit more pricey than instore but we don’t get distracted buying things we don’t need and we don’t have to drive there either (economically and environmentally winning!) I also make a list and stick to it and meal plan like a ninja – saves time and money! What’s not to love?!

  5. First, I must say what a wonderfully written post. It’s not often one can say that when reading about finance. I particularly love your phraseology about wishing to ‘increase my income in a way that feels right’.

    We’re building a new life in France, following our dream of pursuing a life that feels right for us, but currently with a seriously tight budget (read non-existent). I thoroughly agree about the planning aspect, something I am learning to get better at, as every penny counts. But the consequence is we appreciate everything so much more, the good and the bad do live side by side.

    I have found with food shopping, besides growing as much as possible – a few tricks. I always shop with a list, which I have learned to not deviate from, and I never shop on an empty stomach. I have found I always go off piste when I am hungry, quite happily rationalising in order to get home sooner to eat (which is weird becuase by buying off the list it takes longer, go figure.) I also go in with a specific amount of cash. I can’t spend over it, even if the list takes me beyond, so I have to decide what goes in the basket and what does not. And finally, I never get a shopping trolley – too easy to load up. If you have to carry it, you think twice about loading it – and you get fitter in the meantime.

    But we also indulge a treat. Every now and then I give the shopping money to my more creative half. I give him a few items we have to have, the rest is up to him. He just can’t over spend the amount. He comes back with the most amazing things some times, often weird, but generally always good (Men are definitely from Mars). Consequently, we both end up feeling like we have had a treat.

    And final, I promise, suggestion – trade. When we have a surpluse of something, say eggs, we trade with neighbours and family for, well, we never know, but so far it has always been good; jam, fresh veg, even wine.

    • I tried your using a basket strategy and only taking the cash and they both worked a dream. I really think you’re onto something there. Do you mind if I share your ideas in an upcoming post? And I’m very curious about the creations your other half comes up with x

  6. This post!!!!

    I’m currently in “engage frugal mode” at the mo (well start of this year really) and with my past frivolous lifestyle, it’s caused a lot of angst and weirdness inside my bones. I’ve only just somehow come to the realisation that Sydney is getting super expensive and now that life is getting “serious” I probably should limit blow out expenses. I hurts like hell in the beginning but the thing about being more frugal is you kinda get addicted to it (weird) and used to living that way. I’m ready for excel spreadsheets but I do like to sit down and see where everything is going. Managing your money is empowering not the opposite, which unfortunately a lot of people just ignore it. You really have to keep track of it.

    I’m doing pretty good in grocery/kitchen/meals department. Trying to be less wasteful, cooking practically everything from scratch and be inventive- it’s awesome. Buying from markets and just sticking to a cash budget per week are working well for us at the moment.

    Knowing others, like you fine self, are out there thriving and living frugally give me a MASSIVE boost to continue x

  7. Spotted this headline over at Sonia’s and it grabbed me… Knew I had to read. Your grandfather sounds a wonderful man! My hubby is our budget expert, loves his spreadsheets…. I’m a little naughty in the way that I let it be his role. Having said that, my little trick is to estimate the expense of each of our meals I buy… I plan some around the $10 and then some $30. This helps me keep to my own little budget every week. As for payments I just address it too- best to be upfront. Have a lovely weekend! Rach x

  8. This is the year we have finally got ourselves a budget and apart from crying about where all our money used to go (where, where did it go!?!?!), I am not in any pain whatsoever. If anything, having less has made me value things much, much more. x

  9. Ahhhh I am an excel geek and I love plugging numbers into my spreadsheets and having a clear view of where our spending is. I’m not so good at controlling the spending… but I know where I am spending so its a start right? 😉 xx

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