A sound family budget?
- 02-25-2009, 11:17 PM #9Registered User
- Join Date
- Aug 2007
- Sai Kung
1. Right now we live in a 700sqft 2bdrm walk-up in midlevels which costs us 10% of our family income (we negotiated during SARS and our landlady has only increased our rent by $500hkd every year we have been here). Although it's small for our growing family of 4 + 2 dogs - we are considering moving but don't want to spend more money since we spend roughly $20K a month in medical expenses and enjoy traveling often.
2. Dining out: Hubby and I eat out together 2-3 times a week. We also eat out with the kids 2 times a week. Mommies lunch or coffee out - 2 times a week.
3. Grocery shopping: we choose to spend less on rent and more on food and other things. We buy all organics and use quite a bit of our monthly budget on food.
4. Clothing: I too really like to shop. I often will leave the store and tell myself if i still want it after i have been to another store, then i can go back and get it. usually after i am out of the moment, i can't be bothered to go back. I also budget for shopping sprees. since we travel out of hong kong quite often i don't buy anything in hk unless it's really necessary - like i need black heels and mine broke. It has worked for me to not shop on a regular basis and when i do travel, i find that since i am used to not shopping, i don't end up shopping as much as i thought i would. Our kids only have 10 sets of clothing per season and since we do laundry every other day, they wear the same things every week. Then whatever doesn't fit after the season is over is either passed down or donated. This way, we have a fun time shopping for the kids 4 times a year and the rest of the time, we can say, 'oh the kids already have all they need" helps us save space.
5. the locals shop at the wet markets and eat at local restaurants. if you eat a regular diet of rice, tofu, local fish, chinese vegetables, each meal can work out to be very inexpensive - you can buy a whole bag of veggies from the market for $6 and if you are a regular they will throw in the green onions, fish for $120, tofu 2 for $11. stir fry dishes with beef and chicken use small amounts of meat that are mixed in with veggies so are much cheaper than some western meals where meat would be the main portion of the meal (i.e. steak, roast chicken) We try to eat a combination of chinese and western meals. we also eat all our seafood at home (order from southstream seafoods).
When dining out, unless it's for coffee, we don't order drinks. It cuts down on your total bill since some places can charge up to $30 for a drink!!! it's crazy!! If we are out and I am really thirsty, i will head over to 7Eleven but usually i carry my own bottle of water from home.
We don't make shopping a family outing on the weekend and when grocery shopping, we stick to what's on the list. Hubby loves sparkling water so we order that in bulk from a distributor. We also installed a filter for our drinking water instead of drinking bottled water.
After our first baby, hubby packed a lunch, but he hasn't done that in a long time since the birth of our 2nd baby. That is actually a real money saver if your hubby doesn't mind bringing his lunch. on average, if you spend $70-$90 everyday for lunch + coffee here and there (of course depending on where he works), that's $1400-$1800++ every month! that could be a weekend trip to Thailand in 4mths for the 2 of you!!
When wipes at welcome are buy 2 get 1 free, i stock up with 60packs that i store under our bed. when the grandparents or friends visit, we ask for diapers instead of toys. usually the grandparents will pack a full suitcase of diapers and it will last us a few months. diapers are really really cheap in Canada, especially when they are on sale!! we now use cloth nappies for our older son which is an economical option, but i can't do the poop cleaning so we only use them after he has made his poop.
We also put money into savings first every month so at least we know we have put away what we don't want to spend. I use MS money to calculate all our expenses and we save all our receipts even for taxis that we tally up at the end of the month, if we are over budget, I take it out of next month's budget and we go out less. but if it's an area that is constantly over budget, then i will make adjustments to our allocation of funds.
We don't have a land line, do people still do that? but we only use our mobile phones. Since we don't watch TV much, we don't subscribe to cable either - this is more of a lifestyle thing than it is a money savings thing and we share our internet with our friend who live upstairs.
- 02-25-2009, 11:24 PM #10Registered User
- Join Date
- Aug 2007
- Sai Kung
cara, we use credit cards for everything and make the most of the points and special offers/discounts. that's how we got our oven and air filter!! but we ALWAYS pay off the balance so in that sense, we use it like a debt card.
congrats on the successful business!!!
- 02-25-2009, 11:51 PM #11Registered User
- Join Date
- Dec 2008
Big thank you to you all!
Hello ladies. I really couldn't thank you enough for sharing your great saving ideas. The main reason that I started this thread is I now realised that I'm doing all the wrong things and would like to have an overhaul to my spending behaviour. It's been almost four months for us here in HK but we absolutely got almost nothing left at the end of each month. Hubby will be kind enough to turn a blind eye on that because I'm always complaning of being bored and need to go out, etc...
I've seriously learned a lot of great lessons today. Here I solemnly promise you, I'll print out all your advice and stick them onto our walls. I will make up a plan to thoroughly review and modify my spending behaviour.
It's so encouraging to see that there are so many sensible ladies out there who are running a household so efficiently. I have to admit I stepped out on the wrong foot at the beginning that expats should spend like a king/queen. Now I know at the end of the day, what matters to me the most is to take home as much money as possible if we do decide to move back; or be able to save enough money and buy our own property here if we decide to stay.
Thank you to all from the bottom of my heart...
- 02-26-2009, 01:24 AM #12Registered User
- Join Date
- Jan 2007
I love this subject. I think that it doesn't matter how high or low your income is, it's something that should be on everyone's minds. Good financial management allows you to live the life you want to live and even the highest earners find themselves in trouble without a plan.
The best thing we ever did was to start recording every purchase we made to see where the money was going. We're here (in HK) to do well, save money and leave. It makes no sense to spend everything we earn. The minute we started recording what we were spending it changed our thinking, or rather my thinking (hubbie has always been good with money). If you want to lose weight they tell you the first thing to do is write down everything you eat. It holds you accountable and you can't pretend the endless pieces of chocolate throughout the day didn't exist! It's the same with writing down what you spend. Now when i shop i can easily say no to all the little things i used to buy without thinking that add up over time. It's actually a good feeling to deny oneself occasionally!
It also helps to actually look at your bills and take in the numbers. Sounds obvious but we have been paying over $4000 a month for electricity and only thought twice about it last month. We realised our helper is constantly running the dryer and it's costing us almost more than she does!
We pay everything on credit card but pay our balances off every month. The points come in handy for travel etc. It just takes a little discipline.
Save money every single month. It should be on a direct debit payment if you're not disciplined enough to do it yourself, taken out right after pay day. We move money off shore every month without fail and it adds up quickly.
And last few tips. 1) just don't walk into shops! Seriously, if you don't walk in you won't know what you're missing out on. it's not as hard as it sounds.
2) find something that makes you happy and do it. Spend time with friends, go for a walk, work, whatever. It's a lot easier to say no to shopping if you're not depressed and in need of a quick pick me up.
3) work out what your goals in life are? If you want to be part of the rat race forever keep spending away. If you want options in life, early retirement, financial security then you need to put money away and stop the spending. Helps to know what you're working towards.
A really good book to read is 'the millionaire next door'. Shows how people of all incomes can be financially secure and how often it is the most showy people that have the biggest debt/lowest net worth etc.
In this day and age it's kind of cool to be thrifty. At least, that's what i tell myself
- 02-26-2009, 08:27 AM #13Registered User
- Join Date
- Jan 2007
I agree..it's very cool to be thrifty and topical too - what a great post!
One way of stopping the clothes shopping habit is to accept hand-me-downs from friends (don't be shy, just ask - they will probably be happy to have an excuse for a good clear-out of stuff anyway given the size of HK flats!) - or borrow the clothes while they are 'on hold' for the next baby. Once you have a wide selection at home then you may not feel the need to add to it! Also, limit shopping to once a week - or find out when the sales are and then plan ahead and that's something to look forward to? And if you're done with some of your kids' clothes - ie the brand new ones with tags that you mentioned - then maybe sell them? Sure, you won't get what you paid for them but hey, you'll get something back right? And you could also have a little piggy bank where you put all the money that you save - great incentive - for then doing something really fun with it later on.
On the food front, if you are used to going out a lot, just pick one day - say saturday that you'll dine out if you must - and then eat home the rest of the time - i find that menu planning has really helped to cut down our food costs as we do not have so many leftovers or things that need to be thrown away that have gone bad..So make a list of dishes that you all like/can make etc and then just put it down for the days of the week that you'll be eating in. And yes, carry a bottle of water wherever you go as all those drinks are so ridiculously priced and tempting..
You've definitely taken the first step in trying to save money and that's really great - well done!:yeah2
- 02-26-2009, 09:45 AM #14
my mum and a group of close friends used to get together once per month. everyone chipped in $20 CAD. that money went to one of the women who then used it to buy an article of clothing.
at the next month's "meeting" she wore the article and showed everyone. then someone else got the $.
they had a great time, felt like they could splurge (if there are 10 of them, that's a fair chunk of change in canada!).
- 02-26-2009, 09:46 AM #15
as for the credit cards, it doesn't work for US because we never know how much is coming in. it can be VERY difficult to pay it off in it's entirety at the end of the month.... hence why we're working our butts off now to pay them off! LOL!
- 02-26-2009, 10:41 AM #16Registered User
- Join Date
- Jan 2007
Carang, I agree that if two people are self employed in the household things change dramatically. Planning is a lot harder. I'm self employed and never know how much I'll have coming in. It's a scary prospect to think that both bread winners in the family might be in that boat! Takes a lot of guts.
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