Same but different

I’ve had this post mulling around in my head for a while, and when I sat down to write it, I looked out my front window, a beautifully big picture window that overlooks our town, the side of the mountain our town is set upon and through which I can see the glory of God in the skies every day.


This view is to the right of my my front yard, to the left is the town nestled below me (I live on a hill) and as I looked out my window this evening, it was that time of day called ‘the golden hour’, when the evening sun bathes the world in that beautiful, golden glow that you could just bask in forever, and you wish it would just stay like that.  But this window of time is brief, and disappears as you watch.  As I saw the swathe of golden light wash over the roofs below me and fade quickly, it struck me how this moment in time visually represented the stage of my parenting journey I’m currently living.

My eldest son left home two weeks ago, to enlist in the Australian Army, his dream since he was about 4 years old (and we have the photos to prove it!).  We spent the last few weeks buying everything he needed, making sure all the required paperwork was completed, nagging him about the jobs around the house he needed to do before he left and having many, many conversations about all things of life.  All the time I was wishing for more time, wishing for so many do-overs, realising there was so much in my parenting that I had made big deals of that just weren’t big deals, I could have let go for the sake of building our relationship rather than having to exert my authority and demand respect.  So many times I disengaged and put my needs first.  So many reactions from my own emotions that I know have left their mark.  So many things that reflect my broken human-ness and complete and utter imperfection.

I’m not beating myself up over any of this, I’ve healed from the shame and guilt and sense of failure that has embedded itself in my parenting over the years.  I’ve never strived to be a perfect parent as such, but a misunderstood drive for perfection and subsequent sense of failure has crippled me so many times in my life, and fortunately the past couple of years have brought increasing freedom and peace from the weight of condemnation, myself being my own worst critic.  My parenting is of course still far from perfect, but it does involve a lot less yelling and much more listening and thinking before I respond, lots and lots of breathing and a desire to show grace rather than enforce consequences just because I can.

All this to say that as my eldest son was the subject of my first venture into parenting, he was the one for whom I made so many mistakes as I learnt how to be a mum.  But my God is in the business of healing and redemption, and as I grew in God I grew into the mum I am now (a process that will continue for life, I’m sure), and our relationship healed as he grew into a young adult, deepening as he started his own adventure into adulthood and for me this made it so much more bittersweet as I counted down to his leaving home.  Realising how much would be the same but different, as we all found our new ‘normal’.

That was my golden hour with him.  The time of our life together – when I was still responsible for him as a parent – that felt bathed in love and understanding and grace and compassion, and I loved every minute of it.  It was the time where I still had opportunity to invest time and emotion and energy into him while he was home, to pour into him and hopefully influence him in ways that would equip him for adulthood, to speak life and God and love into him and hope that was greater than all that came out when my less-than-stellar parenting took over.  The golden hour that was all too short, and over all too soon.

I am so very grateful that was how that stage of our life together as mother and son ended, that that was the foundation we built that the next phase of our relationship will grow on, more as equals and friends than parent and child.  I am so proud of this child of mine who is fully embracing his life and all that it is offering him, I’m proud of us as parents for raising the boy into the man he is now (and that he can cook, clean, iron and generally organise himself!), that he is respectful and kind and compassionate and takes responsibility for his actions because that is what we value in our family.  And yet I do feel sadness for opportunities lost, the time I can’t get back or re-do, the mistakes and hurts that I can’t undo, that I can’t make our golden hour longer.  That’s the nature of life I suppose, celebrating our successes and mourning our losses, and accepting that both come by virtue of living and breathing.

I have learnt to focus on the joy more than the sorrow, to learn from my mistakes and do better next time (without aiming for perfect).  My daughter and youngest son are reaping the benefits of my lessons learned the first time round, they know my presence and listening ear more than my distraction and raised voice, are far more likely to find me next to them on the couch than being busy elsewhere and know that they can come to me with anything, without fear of criticism or judgement.  It feels like this time in their lives is already the golden hour, as much as I still get things wrong and need to apologise and ask their forgiveness.  After my relationship with God,  the time spent plugging in to them and sowing into their lives is the greatest investment I am making at the moment, the most important use of my time and energy and I am so glad I know this now, and not as they’re getting ready to leave home.

Knowing what I know now, what would I say to my younger self?  Breathe.  Keep remembering to breathe.  Pray first, then speak.  Most of what seem like the big things aren’t really that big a deal, and a grace-filled response will always have more effect than a raised voice or harsh words.  Your kids want you, just you, your time and your presence more than anything else, more than any thing or experience.  Spending time being more than doing is better for everyone.  Time spent without a specific purpose gives life to everyone.  Rest is good.  No-one expects you to be perfect, so why should you?  And for that matter, what does it matter what anyone else thinks?  Whose opinion is more important, theirs or God’s?  The big things that you know are important, they are worth standing your ground and fighting for, investing your time and energy into.  When you feel angry or upset at your kids (or anyone else), ask yourself why, because it’s usually more about you than them.  Laugh about something every. single. day. Go looking for adventures, starting with your own backyard.  Be spontaneous and do the things that seem inconvenient and messy, it’s worth it!  Spend as much time as possible outside – even when it’s wet and cold.  Make the effort now even when you don’t feel like it, because you have no idea of the effect it will have later.  Give your kids as much affection as they will let you, especially as they get older.  The more you listen when they’re little, the more they’ll talk when they’re older.  Don’t stop reading to them when they can do it themselves. Always, always, always let love be your guide.  Be love, do love, live love.

There is so much more I could add to this list, so much more I wish I knew then but have learnt and know now.  I certainly don’t know everything and don’t have all the answers by any means, I have grown from being encouraged and supported by people who love me, so if I can encourage even one mum by sharing my hard-learned lessons, then it’s been worth it.  Make your golden hour last as long as possible, it truly is a beautiful time.

Half-way to beginning


So here’s this thing that I can’t seem to make sense of.  Anyone who knows me or has read this blog knows that I’m not particularly great at achieving goals I set for myself, whether due to crises that arise or getting bored or just giving up on persevering with them.  I have read just about every known goal-setting and achieving philosophy known to man and set my intentions accordingly, generally pretty realistic goals and hopes, nothing too huge or out there, identified the steps required and followed the SMART format and so on and so on and so on – and yet.  Nothing has ‘stuck’.  I’m yet to find that ‘way’ that works for me, but the reality is I probably never will, because ultimately fulfilling intentions and achieving goals comes down to self-control and discipline, two areas of my life that could do with a great deal of improvement.

The point I’m getting to is that as of today, I’m half-way to my goal of reading 100 books this year.  Yesterday I listed my 50th book on Goodreads, and I am fully confident of hitting 100 by December 31st.  Last year I only got to 57, and I honestly can’t tell you what has made the difference this time around.  The fact I love reading is a no-brainer, but that’s no different to this time last year, nor is the fact that I’m dealing with an upheaval in life amongst all the normal duties of parenting and living.  My intentions are no different, my ability is no different and my access to resources is just the same.  So why am I succeeding now when I didn’t then?  I don’t know.  I can’t even put it down to an eternal obligation like tracking on  Goodreads – being an absolute obliger means that to fulfil any commitment, to myself or anyone else, I need something outside of myself holding me accountable.  The only thing I can think of is that I am absolutely determined to get to 100.  That’s it.

My question is – how do I apply that determination and commitment to everything else I want to achieve or complete?  How to I change my diet to what nourishes me, write regularly, create something every day, move every day, finish and start all those household projects that excite me, learn more about things that excites me – not huge tasks or transformations, but small, everyday good things that align with my beliefs in living well and fully into my life’s purpose?  I have an accountability partner who does, well, hold me accountable to what I say I’ll do, but there’s no sting if I don’t fulfil my commitment or intent, and apparently even knowing it’s usually to my own detriment isn’t enough to stop me from eating what actually harms me or spending more hours online or on my phone than in Scripture or reading another book or creating.  The sting of physical pain and emotional dissatisfaction and discontent I live with as a result of my choices doesn’t seem to be enough alone to provoke change.  Why?  Who in their right mind would keep doing what hurts, especially when they have the ability to make changes that heal?  That would be me, and yes, I’m very aware of the propensity of humans to resist getting out of their comfort zones in a bid to avoid any form of discomfort, even if those zones are made up of unhealthy coping strategies and ways of living, even knowing that changes would lead to a life lived fully alive and thriving.  Again, that would be me.

I don’t have the answers I’m looking for right now, but as I count down this last week to turning 40, I’m unplugging from the noise of the world to listen for whispers, to make way for the Spirit of Life to dwell where He is usually drowned out and made quiet by my distraction and looking at all the shiny things that grab my attention.  As I reviewed the first half of 2016 earlier tonight, and saw all the intentions and hopes laying idle and forgotten, I took heart in knowing that tomorrow is another gift from the One who loves me unfailingly, another new beginning and chance to live as fully as He intends for me, and I will embrace that with everything I have.

40 is the beginning of the rest of my life and I can’t wait to see the story unfold.

In the midnight



It’s 3:50 AM and I give up.  Apparently my body’s switched over to night-shift mode even though I’m nowhere near work, yet the last 5.5 hours of trying to get to sleep have been completely and utterly pointless, so I’m giving in and getting several hours worth of words out of my head.  The irony of this right now?  I’m managing a relapse of fatigue symptoms and can’t do much more that the basic daily necessities, resting and sleeping during the day as I need to, and yet tonight I can’t shut down to get the deep, restorative rest I so desperately need.

It’s funny, this time in the cycle of the day, a time I’m usually unaware of as my brain and body go into rest mode between the what was of yesterday and what will be of tomorrow.  A time when the doing of life pauses and the simply being takes over, no awareness or processing of my surroundings required, nothing expected of me except to just be still and let go.

My whole life is in that state of in-between right now, a time between what was and what will be, I’m waiting in the pause and trying to be still and let go of the doing, to focus on just being in this moment, however long it lasts.  And ohhhh, my goodness, it is hard, so hard, to settle into the waiting and trust God that it will all be ok.  I know that to be completely true in my head, but a lifetime of planning for the what ifs and reacting to things happening out of my control and waiting for the next crisis to have to deal with has left me with deeply entrenched reactions and coping strategies that really aren’t helpful.  I am leaning into God and consciously trusting that His plans for me are only for good, to give me hope and a future, but when it gets hard and hurting I keep trying to take back the control and do things my way, despite knowing how that usually ends (spoiler alert: not well).

So here I am, in the midnight, in the waiting, both literally and figuratively, still trying to make things happen my way, and I give in.  The only way through now is stillness, releasing what was never meant for me to hold on to and embracing the grace and hope and healing I find in my God, who loves me with an everlasting love.

Now it’s time to rest.

And then

8 years ago today was the start of a major turning point in my life, and I had no idea at the time – I hurt my back at work, and it was an incident that changed my life and the course of it forever.  There was no way I could have predicted that a seemingly innocuous incident would be the catalyst for a huge growth period in my life, and despite the fact that much pain has been involved, it is something for which I am grateful.

Fast forward to today, and I’m standing at the fork in the road again, only this time fully aware of my surroundings.  Today is a day that I will be able to mark as one of the points in time, in life, where you feel the change that needs to take place, you see the choices of paths ahead and you know with absolute certainty which one you want to take.

Naturally, well for me anyway, it’s not the one that looks the most cruisy.

I woke up this morning with a headache, achy joints, grumbling tummy and an emotional heaviness that I dragged around, as a result of eating the wrong foods and having made some not-so-great choices recently.  And I nearly cried with despair at the thought of facing another day feeling like this, the regret and remorse of making the same choices over and over out of reaction to my circumstances, despite so many committed vows to change and do better.  I’d had enough.

More than enough.

So I texted my friend, my accountability partner, and told her that the time for change is now, and gave her a list of what I was committing to – starting with moving each day, just doing something for 10 minutes.  Eating real food and not junk. Going to bed by 9:30. Spending only what I need to. Studying more than reading (non-study) books. Working on a house project each week/month. Scheduled quiet time each day.  It’s in these places I continually make the choices that give me instant gratification, as opposed to what I actually need, and it shows.

This is nothing new, I’ve been here before, sooooo many times, I’ve even said how much I know this time I will really change, I will really do better, I know how important it is yada yada yada.  I’m struggling to convince myself that now is any different.  I just know it has to be – I’m on the cusp of turning 40, and I’ve spent most of my 30s saying ‘today is the day’, and yet here I still am. I have a wonderful life that is so richly blessed, and I don’t feel like I do it justice because of the choices that I make – not the big ones, those I do pretty well.  It’s the little every day things that keep me small in my comfort zone, and I’m tired of being there.  It’s not a healthy place to be, and I just want to live well.  Wholeheartedly. Fully alive and present right where I am, not where I think I need to be.

So I will.





Birthday 2015


Well hello there.  Yes, it’s been a while – I really didn’t mean to be gone for so long, life truly turned the dial up and turned everything inside out and upside down for the last few months, and essentially I’ve been in survival mode.  Which means expending energy on the bare essentials, and not much else.  And in the interest of being completely honest and transparent, I fell into old habits of using food as comfort and not being as focused on and disciplined with budgeting and spending money as I declared I would be back at the beginning of the year.

I took the above picture on my 39th birthday last week, on a day when I was hoping to see the sun rise on the beginning of my 40th year of living this crazy beautiful life of mine, and instead I was enveloped in a world cloaked in thick fog.  This was actually perfect, as it reflected how I’ve felt for the last 6 months or so, and reminded me that despite what I can or can’t see around me, no matter how far ahead I can see the path in front of me or not, God knows where I’m going, the plans He as for me, and all I need to see is far enough ahead for just the next step.

Whilst there have been some days where I’ve longed to just be able to step out of whatever I’ve had to be dealing with and pretend life is all hunky dory, I have been blessed with moments of crystal clear clarity and insight into human nature – mine and others – that have allowed me to grow deeper in my relationship with God and my understanding of my own self, how I’ve come to think and believe and respond to all that life brings, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.  I haven’t been proud of some of the choices I’ve made when it comes to day-to-day coping, old habits are hard to break and I’m learning that change truly does come one choice at a time.

I am very pleased to be able to report that things are looking much brighter on the financial front, in the months since my previous post I’ve managed to pay down a significant amount of my debt – as well as accrue some more chunky bills along the way (not to self and everyone else, make sure you have ambulance cover!!  And don’t speed on the way to the hospital, especially when there’s a police car on the side of the road…..)!!!  Fortunately I have had plenty of work to cover it all and more, and I’ve started a new job at my local hospital, back to working a 7-day roster and loving every minute of it.  I’ve been able to start my Baby Emergency Fund, and should have this finished soon, then I can really start throwing everything I can at my Debt Snowball.  Does it sound strange to say that I’m really excited about this, that having had a taste of paying off some of my smaller debts already has left me wanting to more, to pay off everything else as quickly as I possibly can?  The debt mountain doesn’t seem as scary as it used to, it’s still huge and looming large in my vision, but I no longer feel any fear about how to tackle it.  One bill, one debt at a time, one day a time, that’s all I can do, and I’m content with that.

The start of this second half of the year feels like a fresh start again, a chance to make different choices and learn to live fully into all that God as prepared for me.  Life continues to unfold before me in ways I can’t imagine at times, and all I can do is stop, breathe, and trust God to see far enough ahead for just the next step.

Reality Bites


So apparently, I can’t be trusted – not even by myself.

I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say this last week has been a matter of rinse-and-repeat of less-than-stellar habits and resulting outcomes, and rather than continue to beat myself up and feel horrible about myself and this rut that I just can’t seem to get out of, I looked at how I manage to keep doing the same things, over and over.

Not just the why (that’s a no-brainer, just another incredibly emotionally stressful week in the life of this weary girl), but the literal how – if I keep making a good budget, and I keep paying my bills and essentials first up (which I have, yay me!!!!), how is it possible that I can keep spending money that I shouldn’t have to spend?

The answer was right in front of me, and until today, I didn’t even see it.  Cards.  I have a couple of debit cards that only work when there’s cash in the account, and when I leave funds in those accounts for future expenses, something in me still sees them as available funds, that are very easy to access when I’m feeling vulnerable and looking for the quick fix.

Fortunately, the solution to that part of the issue is easy – as evidenced by the photo above.  No more cards = no more access to enabling my own poor spending habits.  I’m still working on the emotional connection part of it, as I keep saying, it’s one step at a time.

On a more positive note, I’m feeling less overwhelmed by the status of all my current debts, as I finally seem to have nearly everything sorted – payment arrangements made with various companies, direct debits set up, smaller amounts owing assigned to the budget.  It is a constant juggling act, especially when those unexpected things come up – sometimes I feel like I’m constantly potting out spot fires and trying to stop everything from going up in flames.  But I know that this will pass, and that every single day, I have exactly what I need.

Baby Stepping

So how did you go writing up your budget?  Whatever you’ve done won’t be perfect, and will be continually subject to change, but I hope that you’ve worked out at least the beginnings of some framework to manage your income.  It’s an ongoing process, believe me!!!

I feel like I need to back up a bit, to give you a bit more insight into my process in dealing with my financial situation.  I have been dealing with financial ‘issues’ my whole adult life, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gained a wealth of information through all my investigating and researching over the years.  I’ve tried so many ‘methods’ – which have ultimately failed due to me, not the method – but a couple of resources have really resonated with me and the principles have ‘stuck’, even if I haven’t adhered to them.

Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover has been a literal guidebook as I’ve been navigating my way through financial waters.  It is based on the US financial system, however the basic principles can apply to anyone, anywhere.  Dave talks about starting with 7 Baby Steps:

  1. Build up a $1000 emergency fund
  2. Pay off all your debt with a ‘debt snowball’
  3. Save 3- 6 months worth of living expenses
  4. Pay 15% into your retirement funding – (here’s the first difference between Australian and US systems)
  5. Save for your kids’ ‘college funding’ – (another difference)
  6. Pay off your home early
  7. Build your wealth and give

Right now, I’m working towards building an emergency fund, and as I get overwhelmed by too much information and too many things to focus on at once, I’m focusing on this one goal for right now.  An emergency fund serves as exactly that, funds for emergencies – things that we don’t anticipate, like the car breaking down, or a cricket ball going through a window, unanticipated medical expenses, the list could go on forever.  This fund isn’t for the things that we can anticipate – needing to replace appliances, general car or household maintenance, ongoing bills etc.

Dave has a program called Financial Peace University, available as an at-home study and as classes (only available in the US, to my knowledge), and the website also has a forum community (limited access for free, unlimited access for a subscription fee, along with other tools), and in FPU, the baby steps are broken down even further.  These extra steps are very sensible and relate to what we’ve already talked about.  Here they are as they make sense to me – what to do even before you start your emergency fund (Step 1):

  1. Vow and declare that you will NEVER borrow money for anything ever again, except maybe a house.
  2. Cut up any credit cards you have, and if need be, any other cards that access your money (this actually comes after Step 1, but I needed to do it now)
  3. Make a budget
  4. Stop any contributions into super (for the time being)
  5. Get up to date on ALL your bills
  6. Get life insurance if you have considerable debt, that would be a burden on your family if you died
  7. Get rid of any major ‘Luxury’ items that you’re currently paying off, that would stop you from paying off your debt snowball within 12 months
  8. Cut out any spending in the ‘Luxury’ category so you can put that money towards your emergency fund.  Get a second job if you can!!

Once you’ve done all this, you can start building your emergency fund.  For me, I’m at stage 5, getting up to date on all my bills, although I can already tick off steps 6-8 as well (I’ve stopped spending, don’t have any major items to get rid of, and I have life insurance through my superannuation fund)!!  Once my current bills are up to date, I can start putting any extra funds towards my emergency fund – at this point in time, it’s going to take a few more months before I can do that, but I have that next step as my goal.

It helps me to have a plan, with clear, specific steps along the way that show me where to go next.  And for that to be broken down as much as possible, so that when I get overwhelmed, I can just look and see what is the next thing to do – transfer a payment, revise the budget, call a company to discuss a payment arrangement.  Small steps, but ones that are realistic and manageable.  ‘Pay off my debt’ is overwhelming.  ‘Write down my current bills’ isn’t.  That’s it – not even ‘work out how to pay them’, just write them down.  Here’s a great article on The Art of Simple about simplifying and focusing on your financial goals, and for more encouragement, another mum’s journey to getting out of debt.

Here and now is where I need to look, where my focus needs to be.  When I look too far ahead to there, when I think about living in The Land of When, it all seems hopeless, too far away, that it will never happen.  But I can do now, I can cope with what’s right in front of me, as challenging as it may be.

And you?  What are your particular challenges in the here and now?  How do you manage with doing all-the-things?

Accountability and moving on

australian dollars


So the last couple of weeks have been particularly stressful around here, but despite the emotional and physical energy spent in dealing with all the stuff of life, I learnt a few more things about myself when it comes to money.  Well, to be more specific, a few things I already knew were confirmed in the absolute, and required a very honest, unfiltered look at myself.

When life throws curveballs at me, I drop the balls I’m already carefully juggling to to be able to deal with what’s right in front of me, and invariably turn to junk food for comfort, which requires spending money, and I will find money in areas I have no business looking to fulfill this comfort.

Even though I know that this is borderline harmful for me in so many ways.  I still do it, just for the relief of a few moments of getting what I want.

And then I start feeling guilty.  And my physical symptoms worsen because of the c**p I’ve eaten.  And I get grumpy, and my family bears the brunt of it. whether it be my snappy mood or my withdrawal to try and deal with it all in my head.


That’s an intellectual ouch.  I wish it physically pained me to write that, but it doesn’t.  Because it’s not new information, it’s a truth I’ve known for a long time, but have never really, truly faced up to, let alone spoken it aloud.

Yesterday was one of those days, and also my youngest son’s birthday.  I had chosen to cope with yet another emotional upheaval with c**p food, and by mid-afternoon felt absolutely terrible, and limped through the rest of the evening, a version of myself that I didn’t even have the energy to feel guilty about.  Awesome birthday present for my kiddo.

So yes, I most certainly have emotional triggers when it comes to spending money I shouldn’t, and eating food I shouldn’t, and I’m tired.  Physically and figuratively, I’m so, so tired.  But today is a new day, a fresh page to keep writing this story.  And I will, as imperfect as it is.

Where to now?

So.  We’ve talked about creating the vision of your ideal financial life, and starting to take steps to work towards it.  I’ve said it before, and you’ll keep hearing it along the way, I am far from being an expert in all this, and I’m just fumbling my way through.  But I have got enough experience and knowledge to work out a rough plan of where to go next, and for me that’s been working out the most important things requiring money right now, and working out my budget.

I get paid fortnightly, as is probably the most common format here in Australia, so I work on a fortnightly budget.  Each round of two weeks has some constant spending requirements, and some that vary, depending on the time of the month.

To work out what needs to be spent where, the first thing I do is look at my list of Essentials, Helpful and Luxury.  At the moment, my income only covers the Essentials category, and for me the list looks like this:

  • Mortgage
  • Giving
  • Grocery shopping
  • Electricity
  • School fees
  • Petrol
  • Personal loan repayment
  • Credit card minimum balance
  • Home and contents insurance
  • Phones (home and mobile)
  • Council rates
  • Water supply
  • Car registration
  • Medical costs
  • Miscellaneous (a tiny amount!)

That’s it.  Right now, there is no wiggle room for anything else.  I have two jobs, one for which I’m paid a fortnightly retainer + any extra work above that amount, and the other which is casual for a set amount of hours per week.  To work my budget, I work on the absolute minimum amount of income I can receive in a fortnight, and anything extra is a bonus.  As it stands at this point in time, my income plus government family allowance *just* covers the bare minimum essential expenses. I am very grateful that I have these jobs to provide for what I need, and the last year has very much been a lesson in defining needs and wants.  Losing your job and being unemployed for 5 months can do that for you!!!

Whenever I work more hours in my main job and earn over the minimum amount, I try to put that towards some of the things in the Helpful category, but something always inevitably comes up, and as I don’t have an emergency fund, or funds for the unexpected, that’s where the money goes.  I have been very fortunate to date that I’ve (nearly) always had money when I’ve needed it, just the right amount, and the times I’ve been short I can look back and go ‘hmmmm, if I hadn’t bought that c**p food/ coffees/ insert any other things I didn’t need, I would have more $$$ for xyz that I DO need!!’.  So yep, lessons learned.

I have also learned that the best way for me to not spend money on things that I don’t need to – and to avoid filling emotional needs with food (or anything else) – is to make sure that every single dollar of income is allocated to a category (also known as creating a ‘zero budget’ and ‘giving every dollar a job’, read much better advice at Dave Ramsay and You Need A Budget) and to get rid of my income as soon as it comes in, on the things I need to spend on.  I get paid on a Wednesday evening, so I sit down and pay all the bills I can via internet banking that night, and as of today I will be doing my grocery shopping on a Thursday morning, to make sure all the grocery money is spent on groceries, and not dipped into for anything else!  I’ll go into how I plan for meals and grocery shopping later, right now I’m focusing on the ‘mechanics’ of spending my income as it needs to be.

I’m sure some of you might be asking ‘but HOW do I work out my budget?  How do I work out what I need to to spend each fortnight/month/ whatever, when my bills are all over the place?’.  Some bills/commitments will fall into your budget cycle (fortnightly/monthly), but other don’t, like the bills that come quarterly, every 6 months, annually etc.  For all the bills that fall outside of your budget cycle, work out the total annual cost required, and divide them by 12 (for monthly payments) or 26 (for fortnightly payments), depending on how often you want to include it in your budget.  You can do this with any payments that you want to split up.  For example, I have some payments that are debited directly from my account fortnightly (school fees, personal loan repayment), so I don’t have to worry about those.  Then my mortgage payment is monthly, but I divide it by two to create a fortnightly payment – the amount is still debited monthly, but the full amount is spread out over two budgets (this is in theory anyway, this month will be the first time I’ve done it!!). For my quarterly payments (council rates, electricity, water supply, car registration), I add up 12 months worth of bills, then divide that amount by 26, and allocate funds in my fortnightly budget toward that bill (again, in theory, I’ve done it in the past and have fallen off the wagon, but am back on it now!).  This way I don’t have large payments consistently in each budget that I’m struggling to pay (as has been the case for the last 12-18 months).

Once you have the amounts worked out, you can decide what method you want to use to pay them, whether it’s contacting a company and requesting a direct debit be set up, or you manually make a transfer via internet banking, or go and pay it in person with cash (do people still do that anymore?), it’s completely up to you.  I use a combination of all three, but do try to set up direct debits as often as I can, that’s what works best for me.

Now some of you will have unallocated funds after fulfilling your Essentials commitments, and even Helpful and possibly Luxury categories (well done if that’s you!!!), or you might have some other goals you want to include in your budget – don’t worry about that so much for today, we’ll come back to that next week.  Just keep your $$$ in a safe place and try not to spend them!! (Yes I know it seems a bit backward, to wait to ‘finish’ your budget, but I’m just making this up as I go!!)

Phew!!  That seems like an overload of information even for me, and I’m the one writing it!!!  There are some fantastic resources available online for all things regarding money management, budgeting being just one of them – my favourite go-to sites and goldmines of information are Money Smart (Australia), Dave Ramsey and You Need A Budget (both US).  Go here, here and here for the budgeting areas on each site (or search for ‘budgeting’), I’ll be referring to these sites throughout this journey as I have learned a lot from them, and love their very practical approaches to managing money.

This week, I’m going to set you some homework – go forth and budget!!  If you need any help, please feel free to contact me via e-mail stitchingmum at gmail dot com, or in the comments below, and I’d love to Skype with anyone if they’re game (contact me via e-mail for info)!!!

Remember, you’re not alone in this, we’ll take it all one step at a time.