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How I Reduced my Expenses by $18,790 Last Year

How I Reduced my Expenses by $18,790 Last Year

How to do an Annual Financial Review and how I Saved $18,790 Last Financial Year

This financial year was different for many reasons, as I am sure it is for most people.

For starters, we were travelling for almost this entire year so some months I had virtually no expenses, other months, such as April, my expenses were through the roof.

It will be hard to do a proper comparison but now we are settling on the Sunshine Coast and since I know my expenses from the past year, I can do my annual financial review and plan for this coming financial year.

This review compares 2018/2019 to the 2019/2020 financial year.

With such huge differences in my lifestyle there is a significant difference in expenses.

That said, I wasn’t able to save as much as hoped due to a drop in income and I do still have some debt I have mentioned towards the end.

Each section includes tips on how you can reduce your expenses or make more money too.

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Image of blonde woman in denim jacket, smiling. Text reads how I reduced my expenses by $18,790 this year

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How to do an Annual Financial Review

An annual financial review is simply reviewing all your finances, looking at areas you can cut back and making a plan for the future.

Previously, I have focused on income vs expenses and only on how I can cut back.

In this year’s annual financial review, I am also looking at my side hustles closely.

Reviewing how I make money, which options make me the most and where to focus more energy is usually something I only do in business but will be doing it here too.

Check out one of my annual financial reviews here.

Housing – $12,302.63 Cheaper

For the 2019/2020 financial year my housing expenses were $12,097.37 total, mostly inclusive of water, electricity, gas etc.

The 2018/2019 financial year, my expenses were $24,440 excluding other bills.

What’s the difference?

Travelling was significantly cheaper than renting for us, partially because of my work covering some accommodation e.g. in the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Slovenia.

Housesitting and visiting friends in Jervis Bay plus staying with family in Melbourne, Canberra and Vanuatu when we passed through also reduced our expenses with accommodation.

I signed a lease in Honiara when we were stuck there because of the pandemic in March.

The bond for that property I forfeited when we got a repatriation flight on April 30 back to Australia, which I have included in this housing cost. But most of the paid accommodation was Airbnb.

How I Will Reduce Housing Costs for 2020/2021 and how you can too

My expenses for housing will be higher than they were when we travelled. I have signed a lease for $390 a week in the Sunshine Coast area, on the beach and within walking distance of everything we wanted.

It is a popular location so while it isn’t big enough to rent one of the rooms out and doesn’t have a garage to rent out, we can lease it on Airbnb when we travel.

How can you Reduce Housing Costs?

Depending on the house you have, there are so many ways to make your home pay for itself such as renting out a room on Airbnb, renting out the home while away, renting out the garage etc.

Image of two colourful doors on a street. Text reads how I saved $18.790 by reducing my expenses.

Transport – $2,672.53 Cheaper

I owned a car for 3 months and 2 weeks in the 2019/2020 financial year, that’s it.

October it was sold (for almost exactly what I had paid for it).

Car expenses were registration, petrol, tolls and insurance. There was no service during those few months.

When in Melbourne we used free transport, occasionally Uber or sometimes I hired a car when we were in Australia.

My car expenses including owning the car, Uber, taxis and car hire but excluding the sale of the car were $4,487.47.

My car sold for $5,500 so really, wipes out the transport costs if I chose to include it.

The 2018/2019 financial year, my travel expenses were $13,160 if I included the cost of the car or $7,160 if I exclude it.

Our flight expenses are another story…

How Much I Spent on Flights – $5,800

Some of the flights I paid for as they were personal but then I secured articles or other bonuses from the trips.

The only flights that weren’t work-related/reimbursed through travel work, were the repatriation flights.

I lost the cost of our return tickets due to the pandemic and had to pay another $4,500 for us to get home.

The original price was $1,300 for the 3 of us vs $4,500 for the repatriation flight, so the total cost of lost money and new flights was $5,800.

Last financial year I had numerous flights so only being out of pocket for the repatriation ones isn’t too bad.

I started the financial year in Honiara (on a dive trip) and went Honiara to Nadi to Savu Savu.

I stayed in Fiji for a week then went Savu Savu to Nadi to Sydney.

August I flew Melbourne to Vienna to do a trip through Slovenia then back in September and in October I flew to Vanuatu for 3 weeks then back to Melbourne.

In February we went to Vanuatu again then in March to the Solomon Islands.

While in Australia, we travelled Melbourne, The Great Ocean Road, Wilson’s Promontory, Warburton, the Yarra Valley, Bega, Jervis Bay and Sydney.

So a fair amount of travel but the only flights were international ones.

How I Will Reduce Travel Expenses and you can too for 2020/2021

Using public transport is the main one for us. Read how to live without a car, have a look at the carshare options for certain cities and consider how you can decrease your transport expenses.

We are hoping borders open next year so we can go to Vanuatu in April but am unsure how much that will be.

I am also considering a car but it depends on numerous factors.

Image of Toyota 4WD on dirt road. Text reads how I saved $18,790 by reducing my expenses this year.

Food – $ Who Knows!

To be honest, I did not keep track of this properly because we were travelling and indulged more than normal plus food was covered on work trips.

I allowed a larger budget but we were also well provided for.

It was interesting to note we were able to eat well on under $80 a week in the Solomon Islands vs $200+ per week in Australia.

However, Australian food was very expensive (think Aldi items for 3 times the price). Vanuatu was the same.

Eat local and it’s super cheap (my favourite is tuluk in Vanuatu). If you eat like a tourist or expat, you pay through the nose!

I definitely spent more on food while travelling as I couldn’t buy in bulk on sale, have a pantry or anything else I usually do to save money.

However, there were also times friends and family gave us meals when we visited so there were some weeks we barely spent on food at all.

Also, in previous years, I had a lot of HelloFresh credit. While I travelled, I gave the credit to my sister to use.

HelloFresh offers up to $200 off split across your first 4 boxes.

Get up to $180 off EveryPlate, split across your first 5 boxes with the code THRIFTYEPLATE.

Get up to $144 off Dinnerly (49% off your first order, then 30% off the next two.) Marley Spoon offers up to $190 off 4 orders! That’s 53% off your first order, and 20% off your next three.

How Will I Reduce my Groceries?

Being back in Australia, soon with a house, I will establish a pantry again, meal plan accordingly, hopefully, grow some vegetables and do what I used to.

Check out how to get free and super cheap groceries for ideas on what I do.

We will eat out less. When travelling, we wanted to try a few places and our habits changed drastically. Now, we rarely have takeaway.

I will share recipes, my meal plan and tips in The Thrifty Issue Facebook Group too.

Image of fruit and groceries in a net bag. How I saved $18,790 by reducing my expenses this year.

Insurance – $500 Cheaper

This past financial year I had car insurance for a brief period (included in transport costs above) and travel insurance.

Travel insurance for my kids and I was only $461 for the year. I won’t need travel insurance this year.

The year before I had travel insurance, car insurance and contents insurance.

Car insurance was included in transport costs, the other two were $961.

I saved $500 not needing contents insurance.

How to Reduce Insurance Costs

Never pay the renewal, instead, always get a fresh quote. Read through and make sure you are insured for what you need and not over insured.

I know people who didn’t realise they were still paying insurance for something they no longer owned.

Others were paying a price to insure a car at a value higher than it was now worth so they saved when they had that corrected.

Image of desk with calendar, black notebook and papers. Text reads how I reduced my expenses by $18,790 this year

Education – $4,295 Cheaper

This financial year, we travelled most of the time so my kids did their schooling online which meant no uniforms, school fees or anything at the start of this year.

Next semester, they start at school here on the Sunshine Coast.

I’ll need new uniforms, school fees and a computer for each child to attend the local public school.

My education expenses for last year relate to my diploma and cost $2,385, that was it.

Compared to the year before where I paid for my diploma plus my kids schooling, I saved $4,295.

How to Reduce Education Expenses

I wrote a huge post on how to reduce education and schooling expenses for kids.

For yourself, if you want to upskill or do some courses, Coursera is cheap, Udemy has great options and numerous TAFE’s have free courses right now.

Clothing – $1,500 Cheaper

This was mainly shoes and a few outfits each. We didn’t get a chance to op shop much this year but we also didn’t need much.

Spending most of our time on the road or in the South Pacific meant we had a limited wardrobe which was rotated. This saved heaps.

The year before I needed some clothing for court, work, my kids needed more clothes than they did in the islands and went through more shoes.

How to Reduce Clothing Expenses

Buy second hand, do clothing swaps, mend your clothes and use a capsule wardrobe.

You don’t need as much as you think and you don’t wear as much of your wardrobe as you might think you do.

A capsule wardrobe is a smaller wardrobe with key items that are interchangeable.

This is how I dress now and it is so much easier.

Celebrations – $2,100 Cheaper

We scaled right back on this already with my family. My siblings and I don’t really swap presents, since we don’t live near them we don’t do gifts between cousins either.

Travelling meant we were going to heaps of birthday parties and my kids had simpler celebrations.

My daughter Mele got to have her birthday at Mele Bay in Vanuatu and Hideaway Island which is what she wanted.

We were already there so it was much cheaper than a party in previous years.

For the most part, we simply had Christmas presents, birthday presents and a few parties.

All of these were smaller than previous years and I spent $2,100 less.

How to Reduce the Cost of Christmas, Birthdays and Celebrations

There are so many things you can do. For Christmas read how to reduce waste and save money this Christmas and how to make Christmas pay for itself.

Also, 17 frugal gift ideas and how to easily make $2,000 in time for Christmas.

As for Birthdays, check out the list of Aussie birthday freebies!

Image bed with MacBook and coffee. Text reads how I saved $18,790 by reducing my expenses this year.

Bills – $1,220 Cheaper

I paid for electricity for 1 month in Honiara which cost $90. We were careful with usage as it is so expensive there.

It was a small 1 bedroom apartment with only a few lights, a washing machine and a fridge. There was aircon but using it would cost $100 a day!

We turned everything off when not in use to save electricity and it made a huge difference.

The year before I spent around $1,200 on electricity.

Gas was free the year before and I only had to pay for gas for 1 month in Honiara this financial year which was $60.

Internet was $960 the year before compared to $0 last financial year.

This is because when travelling, I wasn’t paying monthly for internet.

We used our phones or free wifi wherever we were.

Phone credit cost more, especially in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

Phone credit was $1,140 this financial year compared to $360 when only in Australia.

So some bills were more, some less. All together, I saved $1,200 though.

How to Reduce Bills

Compare all your service providers to make sure you are getting the best deal.

Switch off everything when it’s not being used and make use of natural heating, cooling and light.

Check out 19 ways to keep cool this summer, 17 ways to reduce your electricity bill and how to reduce internet and mobile costs.

Debt – $11,250 Still Owing

This is where I failed. Due to legal bills for custody and some other expenses, I ended up in debt.

I even got another legal bill the other month for $900 they forgot to send last year!

Debt has been crushing. So while I have saved a lot, embarrassingly, I still have debt.

On top of that, in February, my website was hacked and March to now my income dropped because of the pandemic.

I lost 70% of my income so while I’ve saved a lot, the lack of income has made it impossible to put much of a dent in the debt.

I did clear the last of my school fees for my diploma and a significant amount of the legal debt but I still owe too much.

This time last year I owed $23,403 right after I won custody so still managed to clear a chunk but not enough.

How to Reduce Debt

The freedom you feel from clearing debt is amazing.

I have lived most of my life debt-free so hate that I have this debt, despite the fact it was for the most important thing in my life.

Other Expenses

It was interesting to see how much lower ALL our expenses were such as medical, entertainment etc.

We used mostly natural medicine to treat things as needed and none of us were super sick this year. Previous years, I have had huge medical bills.

Entertainment was mostly covered by work and in the islands I cancelled Netflix so we didn’t even have that as an expense.

I didn’t track medical or entertainment closely this year but will for the 2020/2021 year.

How to Reduce Medical, Entertainment and Other Expenses

Medical can be reduced drastically, especially if you are on Centrelink or a lower income. Check out this post for tips.

My biggest ones are to find a dr who bulk bills and get friendly with your pharmacist. They know so much and often, a visit to the doctor is unnecessary.

To save on entertainment, find free hobbies. We love bushwalking, swimming, snorkelling, surfing and outdoor sports which we have the equipment for.

Diving is another passion but that can be expensive. Lucky for us, it has been covered because of work.

Image of person using laptop on a glass table. Text reads how I saved $18,790 by reducing my expenses this year.

Which Side Hustles Were Best?

This year I did fewer side hustles compared to the year I made $33,277 on the side in 12 months. As we were travelling, many of my regular side hustles were not possible but I still did a few.

Travel Writing and Marketing

This was by far the best until the pandemic hit. As mentioned above, I went to numerous places, accommodation, flights, experiences and so much were all included. Plus payment for writing.

When it comes to travel writing and marketing, I enjoy working with locally owned businesses to teach them marketing aspects they don’t know and get them exposure usually only the ‘big’ tourism companies it.

It is significantly more rewarding than staying in a fancy hotel. Although, I don’t say no to nice hotels!

Right now is not the time to get into travel writing but if you wanted to get into freelance writing in general, I share how to become a freelance writer here including where to get paid gigs.


The Thrifty Issue provides a full-time income and is more my main gig. However, I own a few other blogs which I consider to be side hustles.

I don’t put as much time or effort into those ones and am not associated with them but they generate a nice side income.

Blogging has been one of the best ways for me to make money and opened opportunities I never thought possible.

I became a published author, have travelled all over, met incredible people and been able to do some amazing experiences.

You can start a blog and learn how to make money blogging here.

Other Side Hustles

Previously, I have made good money renting my place on Airbnb, renting out my garage, I did a medical trial for $4,050 once, recycled cans, bought things to resell and made thousands a month doing it, basically anything. If I could make money doing it, I did it.

Check out 43 ways for single mums to make money and 19 ways I’ve made money from home and remotely for ideas.

Online surveys can make you a few thousand too. I’ve tried these ones and can recommend them.

Image of woman holding a donut and smiling. Text reads how I saved $18,790 by reducing my expenses this year.

Plans for the 2020/2021 Financial Year

There are some big changes for this financial year. A career change is one of them which will impact my income in a positive way.

Now I am in one location, I am going to be flipping items again and will share what I buy and resell as well.

Housing expenses will increase, we won’t get HelloFresh for free anymore so I will be doing my own meal plans and shopping again.

We have to set up and entire home from scratch as we have nothing.

I’m looking forward to tracking it all and sharing it with you though.

It’s an interesting experience coming back from being overseas with nothing and starting over.

What are your plans for 2020/2021? How have you saved money reviewing your finances?

For more ways to make and save money follow us on social media:

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