Television shows are rarely life changing, except for truly startling ones like Nigel Latta’s ‘The New Haves and Have Nots’. This documentary about the gap between the rich and poor really got me thinking. Watching couples who had lost everything made me realise that when it comes to earning money, you really have to make hay while the sun shines. Who knows what catastrophe is around the corner, ready to throw your comfortable life off track?
The show aired just as I was taking over the family budget. Tim is an accountant and he’s always been better at budgeting than me but as he’s just taken on a challenging new job and is about to start studying again, I decided to start looking after our budget and bills.
I couldn’t get Nigel Latta’s show out of my mind and I wanted to learn exactly where our money was going. We are pretty careful spenders and I knew we couldn’t save anything on our bills, groceries or things we really needed, but I had a niggling feeling that there must be some changes we could make to our spending.
So I uploaded three months’ worth of our bank transactions into the Kiwibank budgeting website heaps.co.nz. I categorised the transactions (which took a reaaaaally long time) into broad categories, such as ‘groceries’ and ‘eating out’. This last category included every time we spent money on food or drink that wasn’t at a grocery store, like when we bought lunch, had a cafe coffee, treated the kids, bought a drink at the pub or grabbed takeaways for dinner. We cook almost every night and limit the kids treats and we’re not big drinkers, so I felt pretty confident that our ‘eating out’ spend would be minimal.
I was so wrong. The number astounded me. It was one fifth of what we spent on groceries in the same period, and when I looked at what we’d spend in a year, I realised we could have a proper family holiday every year if we didn’t buy all of these ‘treats’.
I know life is for living and you’ve got to treat yourself, but I am still overweight so there’s nothing to be gained from wasting money on extra food, especially since I want the kids to think that ‘treats’ really are ‘treats’ and not an everyday thing.
After analysing our budget we decided to cut down on ‘eating out’ and I have increased our grocery budget a little to make sure we always have healthy snacks on hand. We are going to stop buying lunch out and I’m baking more to keep the cupboards stocked with yummy, nutritious things for the kids.
I’m going to continue putting our monthly transactions into heaps.co.nz and keeping an eye on where our money is going. Thanks to Nigel Latta, I’ve realised that living comfortably is a luxury, one we can’t afford to take for granted.
Watch Nigel Latta’s documentaries on TVNZ Ondemand