## How to Calculate a Budget – A Basic Guide to Working Out Your Budget

Budgeting is one of the most essential stepping stones on the path to financial independence and yet it’s something a lot of people tend to neglect. Today I’m going to teach you how to calculate a budget to give you the ability to track your expenses and subsequently, begin to start saving money.

## How to Calculate a Budget Step 1 – Work Out Your Needs

The first step is to work out your needs (anything that NEEDS to be paid). This typically includes rent, electricity, food, internet, phone bills, insurances, car registration, debt etc. Once you write down a complete list of all your needs, break them into the same timeframe. I like to make everything a yearly sum because from there it’s easy to make weekly, fortnightly and monthly budget plans to stay on track of your expenses.

Now that you have a list of everything that needs to be paid, work out the yearly costs of all of these. For things that you purchase frequently like petrol and food, work out how much you pay on average every week. Once you have the weekly cost, times it by 52 and you now have a yearly cost.

## Examples

Example: You spend on average \$100 on groceries each week. \$100 x 52 = \$5200. You spend approximately \$5200 a year on groceries.

A similar thing occurs for fortnightly payments like your rent or perhaps insurances. If you pay \$500 a fortnight on rent, times it by 26 (the number of fortnights in a year) and you will have your yearly total.

Example: You pay \$500 a fortnight on rent. \$500 x 26 = \$13,000 per year

Lastly, are the things that you pay less frequently like phone bills which are often once per month payments or utilities which can be quarterly. For any payment that occurs monthly or every x amount of months, times the cost until you reach 12.

Examples:
You pay \$100 a month on a phone bill. \$100 x 12 = \$1200 per year
You pay \$250 every three months on electricity. \$250 x 4 = \$1000 per year
You pay \$450 for car registration every 6 months. \$450 x 2 = \$900 per year

Once you have a list of the yearly cost of all of your needs, subtract that from your annual salary. Whatever you are left with is your excess. So if you pay \$50,000 a year after tax and you spend \$35,000 on needs, you effectively have \$15,000 to cover other things in your life.

## How to Calculate a Budget Step 2 – Calculate your Wants

Once again, figure out all the luxuries (also known as wants) in your life and determine their cost. Similar to the needs section, break them down into a yearly amount. To do this, follow the same algorithm. Break common want expenses into weekly, less common ones into monthly and very infrequent ones like holidays for example, into half-yearly or annually.

## Examples

If you like to eat out every weekend, workout the weekly amount you spend on take out.

Example: You spend roughly \$50 on take out each week. \$50 x 52 = \$2600 per year.

If you have a monthly subscription to things like Spotify or Netflix, times the total by twelve.

Example: You spend \$12 on Netflix each month. \$12 x 12 = \$144 per year.

Once every six months, you like to go on a two-week camping trip with the family. This costs roughly \$2000 for each trip. Times the amount by two to work out the yearly total.

Example: You spend \$2000 on holidays twice a year. \$2000 x 2 = \$4000 per year

## How to Calculate a Budget Step 3 – Pay Yourself First

A common mistake made by people is waiting until the end of a pay cycle and then allocating whatever is left into their savings account. You have worked hard for your money and you owe it to yourself to invest in your future. So once you know exactly how much money you are spending on wants and needs, start distributing a fixed rate or percentage to your savings.

This amount is entirely up to you so if you want to save 5% of your annual income, you would be putting in 5% of \$50,000 which is \$2500 into your savings account each year. If you want to use a fixed sum like say \$50 each fortnight, then you’d be putting in \$2600 each year (26 x \$50).

Simply subtract the savings from your excess fund. If you decide to save \$2500 a year, your excess would go down from \$15,000 in the above example to \$12,500. This new excess total is what you have each year to spend on. Alternatively, you can work out how much you want to spend on luxuries or wants and you can pay yourself the difference automatically each fortnight.

## How to Calculate a Budget Step 4 – Create Your Sub-Budgets

Now that you have successfully worked out what you spend on needs, wants and savings, you officially have a yearly budget that covers all your expenses. You can now work out your monthly, fortnightly and weekly spending and savings rate through these conversions:

To work out the monthly budget, divide the yearly budget figures by 12.
To work out the fortnightly budget, divide the yearly budget figures by 26.
To work out the weekly budget, divide the yearly budget figures by 52.

Once you have these figures, I recommend using the budget that aligns with your pay timings. So if you get paid every week, use the weekly budget. If you get paid fortnightly, go off of that one. This way you know exactly what needs to be put where each paycheck. If you know you have \$400 in car registration coming up in 6 months, rather than waiting to get pumped by that lump sum, put aside an amount each paycheck that will cover the expense. If you have to pay \$500 in rent each fortnight and you get paid weekly, put aside \$250 a week. If you go on holiday once a year and it costs you \$5000, put aside \$97 each week to cover it. Through smartly utilising your budgets, you can work out exactly how much you need to set aside to cover your foreseeable expenses. If you follow your budget and stay on track, you won’t be blindsided by your phone bill or that pesky electricity bill that comes every three months.

Sub Note – Paying Yourself First

Another important thing to note is that paying yourself before you indulge in your wants is paramount to gaining financial stability and eventually independence. If you aren’t in a position where you can save money based on your budget, take a hard look at your wants and analyse whether you ‘need’ to spend x amount on going out, drinking, getting take out, subscriptions to magazines etc.

## How to Calculate a Budget Summary

As soon as you begin to implement and follow a budget, you’ll pave the way to financial independence. Monitor your budget closely, constantly reassess how much you spend on certain things and if it’s possible to lower those expenses through finding cheaper alternatives or by avoiding them altogether, implement them and reap the rewards.

## Useful Resources

Budget Calculator

How to Start Saving Money

Budget Planner

## Oats – The Cheap and Delicious Breakfast Option

One of the cheapest ways to enjoy a healthy breakfast is oatmeal. Now that might sound bland to people who have only had plain oats in the past but today I’m going to share a delicious breakfast recipe that comes in at 75 cents a serve! The best part about this recipe is that it’s full of fibre, complex carbohydrates, antioxidants, magnesium, healthy fats and a decent amount of protein, giving you all the energy you need to start the day and be as productive as possible. I’ll provide two different methods for preparing the oats which both include the same ingredients.

## Ingredients List

• 1/2 Cup of Oats
• 1/2 Cup of Almond/Cow/Soy Milk
• 1/2 Cup of Water
• 1/2 Cup of Berries (or any chopped fruit)
• 1 Tablespoon of Crushed Nuts

Optional:

• 1/2 Scoop of Protein Powder (Vanilla and Chocolate work well)
• 1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
• 1 Teaspoon of Cacao/Cocoa Powder

## How to Make the Hot Recipe (Oatmeal)

Step 1. Pour your 1/2 cup of oats into a microwaveable safe container or bowl.

Step 2. Add a 1/2 cup of the milk of your choice and half a cup of water

Step 3. Add a 1/2 cup of your fruit (I use frozen mixed berries)

Step 4. Cook in your microwave for roughly 2 minutes 30 (times may vary depending on your microwave power so experiment around with times)

Step 5. Add your tablespoon of crushed nuts (peanuts are the cheapest and taste great, but any will work)

Optional Step: If you would like to add protein powder, do it at this stage and stir it into the mixture. It will thicken the recipe, the same applies to cinnamon and cacao powder.

## How to Make the Cold Recipe (Overnight Oats)

Step 1. Pour your 1/2 cup of oats into a jar

Step 2. Add 1/2 cup of the milk of your choice (no need for water as it will soak overnight)

Optional Step: If you want to add cinnamon, cacao powder or protein powder, do it now and stir it evenly.

Step 3. Leave in your fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight

Step 4. Add your 1/2 cup of fruit and a tablespoon of crushed nuts then stir.

The benefit to making overnight oats is that you can meal prep and make up to 4 at a time. The remaining 3 will last in the fridge for another 3 days, meaning you don’t have to worry about breakfast for the next couple of days.

## Cost Breakdown (Shopping at Coles)

900g of oats = \$1.65 = 20 Serves (\$0.08 per serve)

500g Frozen Berries = \$4 = 10 Serves (\$0.40 per serve)

110 g Crushed Peanuts = \$1.10 = 13 Serves (\$0.08 per serve)

1L Cow/Soy/Almond Milk = \$1.50 = 8 Serves (\$0.19 per serve)

Full Cost = \$0.75 per meal

Options: 1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon is about \$0.15 and 1/2 Cup of protein is about 25 cents if you buy in bulk, the same applies for cacao/cocoa powder. So you’re still looking at a breakfast under \$1.20 with the added ingredients.

And there you have it, a cheap, nutritious and filling breakfast that you can make for \$0.75 a serve and the best part is, you can tailor it to your season. If it’s a cold Winter’s morning you can have a nice, warm breakfast and if it’s a hot Summer’s day you can have a cold, premade breakfast to cool you down. Spice the recipe up by swapping your nuts, adding things like honey/maple syrup, adding cacao or cocoa powder and changing out your fruits to continue enjoying this cheap recipe without limiting your palette.

## How to Eat Healthy Dinners for under \$2 a serve

Dinners are perhaps one of the easiest things to spend a lot of money on. Think about it, you have just finished work, you’re tired, you want to put your feet up and the last thing that you want to do is slave away in the kitchen to make a meal. Before you know it, you’re buying take out for \$20+ a serve or you’re grabbing a premade, frozen meal for \$5+ a serve. The latter might seem like a good deal, but today I’m going to show you a recipe that I use that ends up costing me less than \$2 a serve and it’s even easier than grabbing a frozen meal because this recipe only takes about 15 minutes of preparation and then it’s set and forget!

A great investment for those who don’t have one is a slow cooker. These bad boys are as simple as they come, you just put your meat and veggies in the pot, set it to the right temperature and you leave it alone for 8 hours. This recipe is great because I can put it on before I go to work, come back after a long day and I’ve got a delicious, home-cooked meal waiting for me when I get back. So here’s the recipe:

Pulled Chicken Chilli – Here’s what you’ll need for the recipe and their rough prices based on how much it cost me when I grabbed this exact list a few days ago.

Note: This recipe is great because it is so interchangeable. Everything in this recipe can be replaced or subbed in with another food depending on your preference. If you don’t like chicken, beef topside works well, as does lamb. If you are vegan/vegetarian, you can replace the meat with additional beans. If you don’t like the vegetables or herbs mentioned, sub them out for ones that you prefer. If you don’t like rice, sub it out for pasta etc. Also, if you’re not a fan of spicy food, you can use the same recipe without the chillies. If you do like spicy food, feel free to add your personal touches like hot sauce and curry powder. It’s entirely up to you.

Step 1 – Remove any additional fat from the meat and then add the meat to the bottom of the slow cooker.

Step 2 – Dice/chop your vegetables and then add the onions, snow peas, capsicum, chilli, ginger and garlic on top of the chicken

Step 3 – Drain and rinse your beans, then add them to the slow cooker

Step 4 – Pour your simmer sauce and can of chopped tomatoes on top, so that they are covering everything evenly

Step 5 – Add any additional herbs that you want to put in like salt, pepper, curry powder etc., then put the lid on your slow cooker and set it to low for 8 hours.

Step 6 – After 7 and a half hours, start adding your rice to the rice cooker and putting it into containers/bowls. You can make roughly 12-15 meals depending on how much rice you want to use. I use a cup of rice per container. If you don’t eat that much rice you can get away with using ½ and ¾ cups.

Step 7 – After 8 hours, open the lid to your slow cooker and pull apart the meat using two forks. If the mixture is too runny for your liking, add a few tablespoons of flour to thicken the mixture.

Step 8. Add anywhere from ½ cup to 1 cup of rice and the chilli chicken to your meal prep containers and add your favourite garnish and voila.

Once your recipe is done, you will now have around two weeks worth of dinners. You can eat one that night and leave three in the fridge to eat over the next three nights. Alternatively, you can leave six in the fridge and enjoy it for lunches as well. Store the rest in your freezer and enjoy your meals. If you want added variety, you can also freeze servings of the chilli chicken and use them with other things. You can add it to nachos, serve on burritos, take them into work as lunch wraps etc.

## 3 Cheap Alternatives to a Gym Membership

Gyms can often make or break a budget because their prices can go anywhere from modest to exponential, depending on the service they offer. Whether you want particular equipment, want to pay more to be around people, pay more to avoid people, require trained staff or if you’re only able to train at 2 AM, all these factors play a role in how much your membership is going to cost. Long before I started my FIRE journey, fitness was one of the main drivers in my life. I love the feeling of being in good health, having strength, being able to move and do physical tasks to a high standard, to me there’s no greater feeling. But here’s the thing, when I first started I was a broke kid who couldn’t afford to pay for gym memberships, so I learnt to improvise. 8 years later, I’m in a position where I can comfortably afford a gym membership and yet I still don’t use one or feel the need to. This post will teach you how to use your environment to workout for free.

Before you decide on what is right for you, it’s important to decide on what your short and long term fitness goals are. For example, if you are adamant that you want to be a powerlifter and you want to be able to deadlift 200kg, then you’re going to need a setup where you can readily access a barbell and a stack of weight plates. If your goal is simply to lose 10kg, to be able to run a half marathon by Spring, to lose some body fat and gain muscle mass, to be able to play with your kids more or to simply be healthier in general, then it’s more than likely that you don’t need a gym to do this. Once you work out exactly what your fitness goals are, it’s going to be easy to decide on which option is best suited for your specific needs. So now that you have your goal sorted, here are the three cheaper alternatives to paying for a gym membership

## 1. Using Nature as Your Gym

Say you just want to get healthier, improve your cardiovascular fitness or lose a few extra kgs. You don’t need a gym for this, you can very easily get a healthier, better physique just by being more physically active. If you live near a beach, you can go there and go swimming. If you live near a good national park you can go hiking. If you live near a decent park, you start jogging around it every second day. If you find that you are unmotivated to do any of these, you can just park further away from places you commonly go to like the shops to boost your activity levels. Simply by using your surrounding environment, you can incorporate enough exercise to help you attain a lot of your fitness aspirations.

## 3. The Home Gym

The Home Gym – Now let’s just say that you want to put on some serious muscle mass and you have decided that doing body-weight exercises isn’t your cup of tea. Another option that is cheaper than a gym membership is to set up a home gym in your spare room, backyard or garage. Have a look on marketplace, particularly around February/March when everyone is giving up on their New Years Resolutions. You can find gym equipment for less than a quarter of the buying price. Hell, sometimes people even give it away! To get started all you need are a few dumbbells, a barbell, some weight plates and a bench. Similar to option 2, YouTube basic tutorials or find one of your fitness friends to come and train with you to show you the ropes. While the initial startup may be more than the cost of a weekly gym membership, just remember that you aren’t paying a yearly subscription to your home gym. It’s much cheaper in the long run and you get the luxury of doing it whenever you want to and you know that your favourite machine won’t be taken by some chick on her phone, scrolling Instagram for the 20th consecutive minute. It’s a win/win

## 1. Rice

Microwaveable rice is extremely convenient, you just throw it into the microwave, wait 30 seconds and presto, you’re good to go. However, the price comes out at about \$1.25 for a 125g serve or 1 cent per gram of rice. Alternatively, if you have a rice cooker and buy a 5kg bag (5000 grams) for \$10 which contains 40 servings of 125g, then the cost breaks down to \$0.25 per serve. If you were to buy the same amount of rice in the microwave packets, that would cost you \$50. Therefore, if you’re willing to wait an extra 20 minutes to cook your rice, you only pay 20% of what you would to get the convenience of those 90-second packets. The added benefit of a rice cooker apart from having fresher rice is that you can simply set and forget it while you prepare the rest of your dinner, so the time saving of microwaveable rice doesn’t necessarily apply if you’re preparing the rest of your food as per normal.

## 2. Yogurt

Yoghurt is another food that can cost a lot to buy, especially if you get those little flavoured tubs that fetch anywhere from \$1-2. If you invest in a yoghurt maker which you can pick up at Woolworths and Big W for about \$20, you can make 1kg of yoghurt with yoghurt bases for about \$3.50 with the only other ingredient you need being hot water. Compare this to other 1kg yoghurt options which typically cost twice as much and you’ll start to notice the savings. So if you have a lot of yoghurt during the week, this one can be a game-changer.

Premade Salads are tempting due to the convenience that they offer, it’s very simple to just pick up a salad that someone else has made and eat it on the go, but to do so can cost you north of \$5 and there’s always a chance that you dislike some of the ingredients or the dressing. Alternatively, if you have some leftover veggies from what you used for last night’s dinner or if you grab some cheap veggies like lettuce, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes, you can make your own healthy, tasty salad for a fraction of the cost and guarantee that you like your ingredients.

## 4. Seasonal Vegetables

This one is a bit debatable because some vegetables like the aforementioned are quite cheap, but there’s also a fair few that can cost an arm and a leg depending on the season. There are three tips I’d like to offer for minimising the amount you spend on fresh veggies. The first one is to simply grow your own. Gardening can be a great way to get some extra exercise, it’s peaceful and you know there aren’t any GMOs being added if that’s something you’re worried about. If you manage to keep your plants alive, the initial investment of some soil and a few seeds can pay for itself tenfold over the years. If you’re a plant serial killer like I am and would struggle to cultivate a cactus, then there are other options. Firstly, you can buy frozen veggies which are often much cheaper. The benefit of this approach is that you can get seasonal veggies that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to enjoy. The other option you can use if you hate frozen vegetables and can’t cultivate plant lifeforms, is to check your grocery aisle for discounted produce. A lot of the time, foods that are about to expire are discounted anywhere from 50-90% because people like to be able to store their food for a long time. If you’re going to eat the food that night, then there are no issues in you picking up something that’s about to go off in a day or two, because it won’t last that long (the same applies for meat!). It’s a great way to get your food cheaper and it ensures that you eat it rather than letting it go to waste at the bottom of your fridge with the other forgotten relics of the past.

## 5. Guacamole

We all love this Mexican delicacy, what better to put on some nachos or in a burrito? But here’s the thing, you’re paying almost twice as much for someone’s premade guacamole, that’s loaded with preservatives. This may come as a revelation but guacamole is just avocado and salt. For half the price, you can make healthier, fresher guacamole just by getting a fresh avocado and mashing it yourself. Add in a bit of lime/lemon juice to your flavour with some salt and/or pepper and you have a better tasting, freshly made batch of guacamole.

## Tips for Budgeting – The Bulk Buy Approach

Food shopping is something most of us do at least once a week and if you’re anything like me, you have your staple items that you consume on a daily basis. Now this one is mainly applicable to items that have a shelf life of at least a month (because it would be crazy to bulk buy perishibles like yogurt to horde in advance). For this to work, you simly track down the items you go through in large amounts. For me personally, I like to drink almond milk but at \$2.70 for a 1L carton, that adds up pretty quickly. I go through about two of these a week, so over the course of any given month I’m drinking about 8 litres. 8 x \$2.70 is \$21.60 which over the course of a year, adds up quite quickely.

Now I’ve seen this product drop to literally half price and it does so on average, once a month for about a week. Should I do my weekly shop as per usual and I bought my 2 x 1L carton, I’d save \$2.70 for that month assuming the special occurs during one of those weeks. Alternatively, if I purchased all 8 cartons in one trip while on special, I’d save \$10.80 for that month lowering the amount I spend on almond milk for that month by 43%. If I were to repeat this every month for a year, that’s almost \$130 that I save just by timing when I buy the foods I eat every day.

You can apply this to a plethora of items; your coffee, cleaning products, tissues, toilet paper, toothbrushes, tuna, muesli bars, cereal etc., and in doing so, you can save hundreds if not thousands a year just by timing your purchases. This isn’t to encourage you buying things you don’t need because you see them discounted, but if it’s an item you go through routinely and you have the money to bulk buy at the time, you can save a lot in the long run by using this approach.

## Financial Minimalism – The Necessity Test

The Necessity Test

Minimalism refers to the process of disregarding non-essential items from your life, while holding onto items that serve a genuine, life-enriching purpose. For example, wall art might look nice in your house but does it serve a functional purpose other than being aesthetically pleasing? Compare this to say, your fridge which you need to store and preserve food and you have a very basic understanding of a minimalist mindset. It’s about removing things that are non-essential to your everyday life and holding onto the items that add to your quality of life by providing an essential service.

Financial Minimalism serves a similar purpose, yet rather than getting to a state where you have hundreds of useless items lying around your house, financial minimalism serves to prevent the unnecessary purchase of these items. A good example is when I left the house I grew up in, a home that held hundreds of items that I hadn’t used in years but still clung onto out of nostalgia. I left this home to move into an unfurnished apartment on the other side of the country. All I had was 1 suitcase of belongings and I quickly came to the realisation that a lot of the items I used to cherish, held no meaning. Whereas items that I had taken for granted such as a bowls, cutlery, beds, a decent chair etc., were things that I desperately needed to be able to achieve simple tasks such as eating, sleeping and working. The simplest way you can adapt a financial minimalist mindset is to apply the Necessity Test.

By spending less money on frivolous items that serve no purpose, you can free up money to buy things that enhance your quality of life, items that can boost your productivity and help you live life in a way that you deem fit. So the next time you’re faced with the question of “Should I buy this?”, simply ask yourself:

1. Is this item necessary for achieving an essential task?
2. Will it increase my quality of life by helping me achieve something I want?

## Coffee: The Cost-Efficient Way to Getting your Daily Hit

Coffee is a quintessential staple in most people’s diets. Whether they enjoy the rich, aroma, the comforting warmth it brings in the morning or they simply use it as a tool to give them enough energy to face another miserable day at work, coffee has become a delicacy for most. So much so, that getting your daily Starbucks has become an automated habit, a necessity needed for any form of productivity to ensue. But here’s the thing, that \$4 you fork out every day for your (Insert choice of hot beverage) adds up to \$28 a week, \$56 a fortnight, \$117.33 a month and a whopping \$1460 a year. Compare that to making it at home. You can get a decent coffee machine for less than \$100 at some places, I’m personally happy with my \$90 Kmart machine. However, I get that people may have more sophisticated tastes and may view my barbarism with disgust, so let’s assume you buy a high-quality coffee machine for \$300 that you get on a sale. You combine that with a \$10 bag of freshly ground coffee that lasts you a fortnight. That’s \$260 a year. Add in your milk of choice which we will say costs roughly \$100 per year and a decent travel mug/thermos that you buy for \$40. Here’s the break down:

As you can see, once you purchase the coffee machine, the yearly expenses of buying your coffee beans, milk and replacing a thermos (this part is completely optional by the way, a thermos can last decades if looked after correctly) to get your daily coffee hit ends up being \$400 a year or a mere \$1.10 a day. That’s a saving of \$1060 a year. Now I’m sure there are still a few sceptics in the audience, saying that they don’t want to pay \$340 to get started with their own coffee, but here’s the break down on exactly how long it would take for the savings you make from your home coffee to cover the initial cost of the machine and the thermos.

## Monthly Cost of Home Made Coffee + Initial Items (Machine + Thermos)

Ground Coffee = \$260 divided by 12 = \$21.66 x 4 = 86.64

Milk = \$100 divided by 12 = 8.33 (Monthly Cost of Milk) x 4 = \$33.32

Machine + Thermos = \$340

Total Cost of everything over 4 months = \$460

## Monthly Cost of Starbucks Coffee:

\$1460 divided by 12 = \$121.66

Total Cost of Starbucks Over 4 Months: \$121.66 x 4 = \$486.66

And there you have it, even with dishing out the extra \$300 for the machine and the \$40 for the thermos, it would only take four months for the money you save from making your daily coffee to become lower than the amount that you would have spent on your daily Starbucks addiction.

You can find one of the highest-rated coffee makers in Australia for under \$200 AUD here.