How to make and save money in every area of your budget
I get asked a lot about how I manage my money, what I buy and specifics about my life so here it is. Every area of my budget broken down showing you how I make and save money in each area, specific items I have or things I do and tips for everyone. I’ll try to keep each section as short as possible, but feel free to ask anything in the comments and I’ll respond.
To give context, I am a single mother of two but have been married and lived with more people in my home. We are based in Melbourne, I have also lived in Sydney, Canberra and Hobart. So the tips below are a combination of my personal experiences in different scenarios but predominantly my current situation – single mum in Melbourne. Every situation is different, so do what works for you.
My budget is split as follows – save 10% to 20%, invest 10%, sanity money 10% (I can spend this on whatever I want) and 60% is spent on living life. All my bills, long-term expenses etc come into this 60%.
This post may contain affiliate links for some of the products I personally use and recommend. Read my full disclosure here.
Possibly the largest expense for most families is the cost of housing. Whether you rent or own, it definitely takes a chunk of your income. I’ve done both, I owned in Sydney, have rented elsewhere, boarded at times and my preference right now is to rent. I live in a home worth $1.3 million but pay only $460 rent and choose to be here to get my daughters into the school we want. That is extremely low for the area. In fact, I found out last week I am paying literally half what the previous tenant was.
I could rent for less elsewhere but not in the school zone. I preferred living in my apartment in the city but my kids prefer here. As such, I intend to invest instead of buying a home to live in here. My neighbours are fantastic, the street is friendly and I can live here for a few years like this.
Save Money With Housing
Look for cheaper rent and weigh up the pros and cons of moving if you rent. Refinance for a lower interest rate and check the features of your home loan if you own. If I was single, I’d consider boarding or even couch surfing, but I have 2 kids, so that doesn’t work. However, there is Share Abode for single parents to rent homes together if you are a single parent.
Make Money With Housing
Airbnb has been fantastic for me (sing up free here). I made $1,300 in 5 days over Christmas last year and at other times have rented my place for $600+ a week or as little as $70 a night here and there for one room. Other times I have had boarders usually paying $200+ a week for a room. Check out how to make your home pay for itself here, based on a home I was living in. And how to make money with Airbnb here with all my top tips!
Must-Have Home Items
Aside from your obvious basic needs such as a bed, washing machine and oven etc. There are items I use which save me money in the home. Kitchen and bathroom items I’ll include under groceries in the next section.
1. A good mattress such as Ecosa (get $200 off here) good pillows (Ecosa has them too) and quality sheets. The reason being they all contribute to a good nights sleep plus my body doesn’t ache. When I am well rested I make better decisions, am more patient, eat less junk food (actually, less food overall) and am less likely to make impulse purchases. Readers and I love Adairs or Pillowtalk they currently have 60% off here for quality linen. AURA Home, Bambury and Bed Bath N’Table are good too, especially when on sale.
2. Seals. Check your home for any gaps and seal them up to stop hot or cold air escaping and reduce your power bills. This includes getting blockout curtains for windows, magnets or similar for heating vents, tape for doorways from Bunnings and draught stoppers from Kmart or similar. While it might not seem like much, those little gaps can cost a fortune and considering how expensive heating and cooling is, it’s worth taking the time and investing a little money to sort it out.
Another massive expense for many families, especially those with teenagers is food and groceries. For me, I include toiletries and cleaning products in this budget. Basically, if I buy it at the grocery store, it’s here.
Save Money On Groceries
Go through your options for free and super cheap groceries first (check out my full list here). You can get $50 off a HelloFresh box your first time, $35 off your first Marley Spoon box and try Dinnerly. Sign up to The Black Box if you’re in Vic, NSW or the ACT.
Next, start doing things like meal planning and cooking in bulk. I cook up batches of meatballs, spaghetti, curry, soups and similar then freeze them for nights I don’t feel like cooking. Try buying in bulk and look for discounts online. Catch is one place that often has great deals and not just for food and groceries!
Play the shops against each other. Sign up for all the reward programs (find a full list of Aussie loyalty and VIP programs here). Flybuys and Everyday rewards are the two most people know. Download the apps and maximise the points! Spread your shopping out so you aren’t spending large amounts in one store and they will send you better offers to entice you to shop with them. By doing this I have accrued hundreds in points for way less than many I see sharing in groups about it. I save my points and cash out at the end of the year for Christmas and the school holidays. (For more tips on Christmas check out how to easily make $2,000+ in time for Christmas).
Make Money With Groceries
There are a few ways you can make money with groceries. Sign up for Bron Rewards (an app on your phone) and scan your receipts for points, get 300 points with the code KB23. Join Neilsen home scanner and scan your shopping to get paid. Become a mystery shopper and get paid to shop. Keep an eye out for massive bargains and clearances. I know people who buy these in bulk then resell them online and make a profit. Find out more about reselling here.
Must Have Items
In my kitchen, super sharp knives, a stick blender and good pots and pans have been all I really needed. I don’t have a rice cooker, air fryer, dehydrator (though I did love it when I had one) or any other number of appliances many people have. My cooking is fairly basic and simple which we prefer. Stir fry, chilli, curry, soup, fried rice, lots of vegetables and a little meat or carbs is the basis for most of it.
Thermos, containers and drink bottles are also big money savers for us because we can take our lunch. Rather than spending $10+ each on lunch, I can save that.
Currently, I do not own a car but I plan on buying one and when I was partnered we had two. Living right in the middle of Melbourne, with everything within walking distance plus the free trams I didn’t need a car for the past 2 or so years. Canberra, Hobart, Sydney and where I am now I felt cars were necessary though.
Save Money On Transport
Without a car I used public transport, rideshare options such as Uber, Ola and Taxify or I hired a car, usually with Car Next Door (get $15 off your first use here).
With a car, I made sure it serviced and kept in good condition. Always have it insured and now, I would sign up with Car Next Door to get insurance through them under their fleet insurance and possibly make some money.
Make Money With Transport
You could be an Uber driver or another delivery driver. Rent your car out when you aren’t using it through Car Next Door and save money with insurance. If your car is listed with them, you get insurance through their fleet insurance which can save you over $1,000! Some companies pay you to have signage on your car or if you have a business, make your car a moving billboard with a car wrap!
Must Have Car Items
A regular service, inflated and reliable tyres (seriously, check the tread on them and your spare) plus insurance. Car mats, car seat covers, air freshener and car cleaning kits all help too. One thing my dad drummed into me – get the bird poo off asap as it eats away at the paint! Me, I have been lazy but will be getting the supplies I need to clean our car when I get it.
Health and Medical
Health insurance, doctors and specialist visits, gym memberships, glasses and the dentist can all add up quickly. My daughters needed speech therapy, psychology, a full autism assessment (that was $5,000 alone!) plus I have had multiple surgeries and two of us have been admitted to hospital in the past few years. Our medical expenses are high!
On top of this, I like to keep fit but currently do not have a gym membership. Instead, I have a few key pieces at home I use which help.
Save Money On Health/Medical
Firstly, read this post as it has a lot including rebates, payments you might be entitled to etc. Look for doctors who bulk bill and have a good relationship with your doctor. Mine doesn’t bulk bill but we have been going to her for over 2 years so she often discounts or does bulk bill our visits now.
With glasses, I have bought mine from Zenni and Firmoo for almost 10 years now and love them. I used to spend a fortune on glasses but these are $10 to $30 usually. Except now I also pay extra for the blue tint for screens and it has made a difference when it comes to eye strain.
With the dentist check if you are entitled to the $1,000 for your kids from the government. All family members should have regular check-ups. Use electric toothbrushes instead of regular ones, floss and mouthwash. Take care of your teeth and it will save you a small fortune.
Lastly, for the gym, I do it at home. I have a yoga mat, kettlebell and activewear to use at home. I am about to get a treadmill again (yes, I do use mine even though the majority of people don’t), resistance bands and a gym ball. I know how to use all of these, we do yoga as a family (thanks to YouTube!) and I use my kettlebell for a variety of exercises. It has been significantly cheaper for me to have these things at home rather than go to the gym. But make sure you are using everything correctly. I did go to the gym for a while, had everything checked, got a routine and was told I have perfect form with all the exercises so I am confident doing it at home.
Make Money With Health/Medical
There isn’t really a lot you can do to make money unless you want to train as a personal trainer or enter competitions and win them. But if you neglect your health it will cost you a fortune!
Must Haves For Health/Medical
Health insurance has been essential for my family. I got it as soon as I separated in 2012 and used more than I paid in premiums so it was worth it. Compare plans with the government website instead of other health insurance comparison sites.
An electric toothbrush is essential in my opinion.
Home gym options for me include the aforementioned items – a yoga mat, kettlebell swing and activewear. It depends on what you like to do and how committed you are.
Bills for electricity and gas have skyrocketed with many families paying thousands. Having lived in both a super modern apartment and old drafty house, I have managed to keep my bills below $100 a month ($60 in the apartment and $80 in the house so far). Read 17 tips to reduce your electricity bill here. The best thing I did was compare my electricity. You can use a site such as Econnex to do this. If you live in Victoria the government will give you $50 to compare here.
Save Money On Your Bills
Check your usage, turn everything off when it’s not in use, utilise off-peak power if you have it, only use what you need and look for ways to combine tasks. For example, if I am cooking in the oven I cook more than one thing at a time. Check for gaps as listed above and compare your energy providers. Make sure you are getting the best deal and that any concession you might be entitled to is applied to the bill. Lastly, check your state to see if there are any special rebates or concessions happening like the one I mentioned for Victoria.
Make Money With Your Bills
You have to pay them, but sometimes there are things you can do to make a little money. For starters, compare and if it works, switch. Some companies provide cash incentives at times to switch. Next, check if any of your bills are connected with any loyalty programs such as Flybuys and make sure they are linked so you get the points.
Must Haves For Bills
Direct debit and pay on time discounts are everywhere, so make sure you get the best options. Get energy efficient appliances and consider upgrading when the budget allows. Some old appliances suck a lot of energy.
A rack for air-drying clothes can prevent you from needing to use the dryer. Or an outdoor clothesline. You can even get retractable ones for balconies, garages or small spaces.
Energy efficient light bulbs, powerboards with surge protectors, block out curtains, draught stoppers, water saving shower heads, timers and other items like this will help you lower your bills.
If you cannot afford to replace it you can’t afford to leave it uninsured! In 2012 I was robbed of everything including my underwear, thankfully I had renters insurance and while it was a pain, I was covered. In my old car I had 3 car accidents in a short period of time, none of which were my fault and together, they damaged nearly every panel of my car! Luckily, insurance meant it was sorted. My house burnt down when I was a kid, it’s been flooded, I have had friends who lost a lot when their places flooded in storms etc. Life happens, insure yourself.
How To Save On Insurances
Always be honest when getting insurance. If you lie to cover something up and try to make it cheaper, your claim can be rejected later and you have wasted your money.
Work out what you need insurance for – house, contents, car, health, life etc. The compare them all to get the best deal. With car insurance and similar insure for an agreed value, not market value! It’s in the fine print and many people miss it but it can be the difference between getting enough to replace your car and getting only a few thousand when the agreed value could have been double that. List all your valuables and make sure you are properly covered for your home and contents.
I have saved $1000 or more with a simple comparison at times and by having my insurance in my name only. Compare and insurance what you need. Also, if you have a car, consider signing up to Car Next Door and get covered under their fleet insurance. If you want to see how it works, get $15 off your first booking here, try it then list your car.
These are essential items now. My daughters have to have iPads for school, in high school they will need phones and computers as well plus they have to do their homework online. I prefer to buy a phone outright and use prepaid rather than be on a plan. It has always worked out cheaper for me. My current phone is 3.5 years old and I am ok with that. At home, I compared plans (and customer service reputations) for the internet.
Save Money With Phones/Internet
Don’t upgrade just because the latest phone came out. If you ‘have to’, always keep your phones in good condition so you can sell your old one and at least recoup some of the cost. Work out what you need your phone to do, then compare your options online and always check real reviews to see how good the phone is and if it will last.
Compare plans or go prepaid. My preference is prepaid for my phone but I also don’t like to be locked into anything so a plan makes me uncomfortable. Our home internet is on a plan though. Always read the fine print with anything you choose to sign up for as well! You don’t want to be stung with extra fees or charges.
Make Money With Phones/Internet
My whole income comes from the internet! Today, there are more options than ever before to make money online. You can make your phone, computer and internet all pay for themselves. Firstly, blogging has been the best for me. You can find out how to set up a blog and make money blogging here. My sites are hosted with SiteGround and I bought the Genius Blogger Toolkit to really get things going. The Genius Blogger Toolkit is only on sale for 6 days then it’s gone. You can sign up to be notified when it is on as well though.
Online surveys such as Octopus, Vindale, Swagbucks, Prize Rebel and my list of the best Australian online survey sites can help you make $2,000 to $5,000 a year. Check out 43 ways for single mums to make money, read my monthly side hustle updates here or look at buying things to resell online. The list of things you can do to make money is long.
Must Haves For Phone And Internet
A high-speed connection is a must for me, but really, the rest is a personal choice. My daughters’ school is Apple and I have had a Mac since 2012 so my preference is Apple, but the latest products aren’t the best when compared to Samsung for example. Do what works for you.
Knowing your style, what makes you comfortable and how you want to dress is important. Personally, I tend not to spend a lot on clothing and probably spend more on my kids’ clothes now since they grow so quickly. Work out who needs what in your family then set a budget for it.
My daughters and I each have a clothing budget and it is up to us how that is spent. They know what they need to cover with their budgets then separately I get their school clothes. Their sneakers come from The Athlete’s Foot because they fit well and my kids prefer them.
Save Money On Clothing
Most of my clothes come from eBay, sales or op shops now. The second-hand element for me isn’t so much about saving money but more about my hate for fast fashion and the desire to be more environmentally friendly.
Get a session with a stylist to know what suits you and what brands work for you. My preference is Cue, Review and shops like that. I know my size and it’s easy to buy them second hand or walk into a store and buy what I need.
My daughters are allowed to choose where they buy their clothes. They have quite different styles and preferences. I found by allowing them to choose and letting them have control of their budget they wear everything they own and feel more comfortable in everything. I’m not wasting my money on clothes they don’t wear and it’s less of a battle when we have to go out.
Make Money With Clothing
Buying the clothes I do makes it easy to resell them when I am bored or change sizes. In fact, I made a whole side gig out of buying things to resell and rockabilly clothing featured strongly in that. I got to be making over $10,000 in a month which you can find out about here.
Schooling/Kid Related Expenses
The quotes of it costing $1,000,000 to raise a child include housing and everything else. Schooling, clothing, extracurricular activities and everything associated with kids can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. Check out this post for loads of tips.
Save Money With Schooling/Kids
Firstly, learn to say no! They don’t need everything they ask for. This alone will save some families a small fortune. Decide what you will and won’t pay for then encourage them to make their own money in other ways, manage it properly and buy their own things.
Read this post with loads of tips to save money on school expenses.
For extracurricular activities, they don’t have to do them all! Decide which ones work for you and your family. Look for ways to do them cheaper and don’t feel the pressure to fill your kids afternoons and weekends. Let them play, explore and be bored. It’s great for their brain development.
Make Money With Kids
I say with kids, not from kids here. While there are many child influencers, I deliberately kept my kids mostly out of things here until I felt they were old enough to decide for themselves if they want to be all over the internet. That was my choice, but we also had a traumatic past so it was a safety thing.
Child influencers/mummy blogging aren’t the only options for kids though. While you might not be able to make money from your kids, you can encourage them to make money and have them pay for the extra things they want, save up and buy presents for others etc. All of which helps both you and them.
Kids can make money doing paper routes, buying things to resell, doing odd jobs for neighbours, babysitting if they are old enough etc. Let them think about it and choose what they want to do to make money.
Must Haves For Schooling/Kids
As I said, our school requires iPads and their high school requires phones and computers. The must haves for my kids has varied depending on where we lived and what our lifestyle was. Work out what you need for your family and go with that.
This is a big one for me. Travel is essential so I have made ways to get paid for it. My hobbies shrunk after having kids and even more after moving to Melbourne. It’s really only this year I have started getting back into things I enjoy. For me, this section includes my hobbies, going out, travel and self-improvement/education.
This year I enrolled in the Diploma of Counselling, have done short courses which interest me through Udemy, tried a few dance classes and have been reading a whole lot more. My books come from Book Depository and you can find the 13 books all mums should read here plus 12 books everyone should read (there are some titles which overlap both).
Save Money On Hobbies/Entertainment/Travel
Decide on your hobbies then incorporate them into your life. Read this post for tips to save on hobbies. With travel, check out this post on ways to save money with travel. For example, Airbnb is often cheaper than elsewhere and you can get $55 off your first booking here.
When it comes to eating out, trying a new beauty salon or having an experience I first check Groupon because they have incredible deals. After that, for more adventure style activities, I check Adrenaline as they often have discounts too.
Make Money With Hobbies/Entertainment/Travel
You can make money with travel even as a family, check out a post here about it. Depending on your hobby there might be competitions, it could be something you tutor others in or it could result in a total career change like mine. Blogging started as a hobby and became so much more. The same with freelance writing.
Must Haves For Hobbies/Entertainment/Travel
Know where the discounts are such as Groupon. Check out this post on how to get a discount on everything too. Decide what you want to do and budget it in then go shopping for the things you need. Personally, I tend to look in store then shop online so I can get cash back on my purchases.
Books from Book Depository (because I like to own mine), classes from places such as Udemy and activewear are a few of my must have for the hobbies I have.
Birthdays, Christmas, weddings, parties and events can add up quickly. Work out your budget for each then look for ways to make and save money with them. I rarely have to attend weddings, but birthdays and Christmas happen every year as do mini celebrations in my family.
Save Money On Celebrations
Parties don’t need to be expensive. We were featured on 9Honey sharing a few of the ones we’ve done. Check out Mini Peas for ideas and themes for kids parties. The biggest thing to save money on most celebrations is planning ahead. Know what you want to do, set a budget and work with it.
For Christmas, check out this post with tips to make $2,000 by Christmas plus loads more tips to save money for it.
Make Money With Celebrations
Christmas is the best time of year to make money! People are busy so more people use services such as cleaning, ironing, gardening and babysitting which means you can make a few hundred extra just offering those services. Have a market stall, install Christmas lights for people, set up Christmas trees and all sorts of odd jobs if you want.
For weddings, you can do photography, hair, makeup and event planning with a little know how. Rent out items you own on OpenShed or similar sites and make money from what you have. If you got married and DIY’d a lot of it, you can probably rent out what you had.
Must Haves For Celebrations
Organisation! Really, a notebook and pen or an app on your phone to keep track of everything, some great gift ideas and buying in sales will help a lot.
As an ex-hairdresser and beautician, my routine is surprisingly lazy to many people. I cut and colour my own hair, though at the moment I am growing the colour out and weirdly am getting loads of compliments on my hair!
Everyone has different things they view as necessary for their beauty routine and that’s ok. You do you! Don’t feel like you have to cut back, wear less or more or anything else. It is about what feels right for you.
Save Money On Beauty
Here are some of the things I do. I think I am fairly basic when it comes to a lot of beauty things. I make the effort but a lot is DIY. Cuts, colours, manicures, pedicures, facials, body scrubs etc I do myself. Waxing can be done by me, but I prefer getting one area done in the salon. My face I was at home though. And my eyebrows are naturally shaped the way they are so I don’t wax or pluck them.
Body scrubs you can make yourself with coconut oil and coffee grounds or sugar and oil. Coconut oil goes solid when cold so be aware of that. I also use coconut oil on my heels, dry skin, ends of my hair and as a treatment at times.
Get a skin analysis done and have a good skin routine. My favourite products are Innisfree, particularly the Black Tea products for anti-ageing. They’re like a facelift in a jar. The Aldi brand also has great reviews and is way cheaper than the top end stuff in Myer.
For makeup, I buy Maybelline and Revlon most of the time when it is half price. I’m basic with it and it does my makeup artist sisters head in.
Make Money With Beauty
Modelling, makeup artistry and some beauty treatments can be done with a little training and qualifications if you want to have a business. It is competitive and many don’t make huge amounts of money doing it, but it’s an option. I had a mobile hairdressing business when I lived in Sydney.
Must Haves For Beauty
The Veet wax pot is good or a proper wax pot if you can get one. Use hard wax instead of strip wax for your face and sensitive areas. It makes a difference! A quality hairdryer, brush and styling tools do make a difference when it comes to split ends, the condition of your hair and how your hair will be styled.
Innisfree is my preferred skincare, along with their primer before any makeup. Maybelline is probably my favourite makeup, followed by Revlon. I’m cheap! While I have used much more expensive makeup at times, I didn’t feel the job it did was any better than the cheaper ones. Especially when it came to mascara.
We had chickens in Canberra and now have budgies. The cost for both was minimal but I imagine vet bills, food and essentials for dogs, cats and other animals would be much more. For me, the cost of pets is worth it. My daughters adored their chickens and the past 2.5 years without a pet has been hard. We’ve had the budgies for almost 2 weeks and the difference for them is huge. Pets are important.
Save Money With Pets
Shop around and compare prices for everything from food to toys to pet insurance. Also, check shelters and other places for unwanted animals. Adopt instead of getting pets from puppy mills.
Make Money With Pets
We sold our eggs when we had chickens and I have friends who have entered their pets in competitions, but overall, don’t aim to make money off your pets. Pets and kids are the two areas where I don’t think making money should be a focus.
Whatever pet you want, a home for it, food etc. It’s your pet, so do what you need to make it happy.
Savings And Investments
Lastly, I make sure I save and invest from every single payment I get. Once you have it set up and make it a habit it’s easy. I don’t have debt and avoid it where possible. If you do have debt, this post about a couple who cleared $90,000 in a year (they were unemployed at the start) might help.
Pay yourself first. It’s important. When you are trying to save whatever is leftover, you won’t end you saving anything. Pick an amount, start saving and if you are consistent, you can be a millionaire.
How do you make and save money?