January 2017 Spending and New Habits Update

After our expensive year in 2016, we set ourselves a goal to reduce our spending by 10% in 2017. We want to do this because it has a double effect. Firstly, it frees up more money to invest for our future. Secondly, if we can live on less, then it brings that future much closer. In 2016, we spent $80,000. To generate that using passive income and the 4% rule, we would need $2,000,000 invested!


How did we do for January? Our daily spending rate goal was $194.34. We only spent $131.40. One month down, but I’m not becoming too cocky – February only has 28 days, and we have some solid expenses due, along with an unexpected car repair. Anyway, let’s look at some detail.

Food $838.07

Food is one area we identified with significant overspending. This is how our food spending for Jan 2017 ($838) compares with Jan 2016 ($1,318).

(If you are unable to see the graph, you can view it on Tableau Public.)


Based on the strong advice of Adventures with Poopsie (AwP), we have begun shopping at Aldi for our groceries. We are lucky to have a Woolworths next door, so whatever we can’t get at Aldi, we can pop across and top up. I have to say that AwP was right – it is much cheaper to shop at Aldi. Some weeks we can get almost everything at Aldi, others we have to do more next door. What I have noticed though, is that while we buy only 20% of our items in Woolies, we spend nearly as much as the entire Aldi shop!

We have also been better at avoiding items in the “Groceries Want” category. These are the high sugar, high fat (delicious) snacks that were often impulse buys. I’m still working on self-control, so it is better for my health to not have them in the house.

I was a bit worried about learning to shop in Aldi (you know how you get used to a grocery shop and know where everything is?) It didn’t take me long to get used to Aldi at all, and when I go into Woolworths now, I find the range of choice overwhelming. Aldi is the equivalent of uncluttered grocery shopping!


You’ll also notice that our alcohol expenditure has dropped ($36 vs. $89). We were having a glass of wine (Mrs. ETT) or a whiskey (Mr. ETT) nearly every day after work, and quite frankly that is a bad habit to get into. We don’t need to spend the money, and we don’t need the extra kilojoules. We haven’t given up drinking, we are just more judicious about when we do so. I even cancelled my Naked Wines subscription, which was difficult because I enjoyed the business model and the wine. Still, that will save us $480/year, or nearly $12,700 over 15 years according to the Latte Factor Calculator.

Eating Out

Last year, we spent $508 on eating out – this year, it has dropped to $335. Even so, it still represents just under 40% of our total food budget – we’ve actually increased a percentage point over 2016. Included in the “Both” category and two meals out together, and a takeaway after a particularly harrowing day.

Graph of Eating Out Spending based on who spent what.

Insurance $119.60

Our monthly life insurance premium fell due, and it has increased slightly from last year as one of us moved up an age bracket. I’ve mentioned before that a goal is to review our life insurance. We are paying through our Superannuation as well as privately, which is a waste of money. By February I will have done my comparison and acted to remove one of the accounts. Please hold me to account on this, because it is NOT something I am looking forward to!

Entrance to the Gnome Convention at Glenbrook on Australia Day
Glenbrook Australia Day Gnome Convention

Gifts and Giving $130.50 each

Last year we spent a lot on gifts for people who want for nothing, and shamefully little on giving to causes that want for a lot. This year we are matching charity donations to whatever was spent on gifts for that month. Mr. ETT and I each chose 6 charities independently, then we draw one out of a hat each month to determine who is the recipient. (Because we aren’t spending evenly throughout the year it felt fairest to randomise). This month we donated to one of Mr. ETT’s choices, Guide Dogs Australia, I bought a couple of issues of The Big Issue magazine (this is an excellent magazine, I highly recommend purchasing it if you come across a vendor), and we went in a Rotary wheel draw. My number missed by one ☝️!

Garden gnomes on display.
A gathering of garden gnomes.


I did try to cheat on the daily spend rate a bit this month. I paid 50% of my HECS bill to the Tax department because I wanted to split it out over a couple of months, hoping the effect on the daily spend rate would be lessened! This may have backfired on me though, because my car broke on Australia Day when we travelled to the Blue Mountains to visit the Gnome Convention at Glenbrook. Have I ever mentioned how much I love the NRMA?

Picture of my broken down car.
Poor broken car.

Personal Goals

While I fall within the healthy body weight range, I actually weigh about 10% more than is normal for me, and I’m very unfit. Much like lifestyle inflation can negatively impact your financial future, succumbing to the dreaded middle-aged spread can impact your future health. At the end of last year, through some introspection, I identified that I ate too much. I ate because I was bored. I ate because I was stressed. I ate when something in the fridge or cupboard caught my eye. I couldn’t remember feeling hungry – I was constantly eating before my body had the chance to fully digest and process my last meal.

I decided to try to implement 3 small changes to habit:

No sugar in my morning coffee. Result A+

I have a cup of coffee every morning before work, and on the weekends. A few years ago I cut down from two sugars to one, and it wasn’t that difficult. I guess it’s kind of reverse hedonic adaptation. This year I have cut sugar from my morning coffee entirely, and again, it’s been fairly easy for me. I’m not giving it up altogether – if we go to a café, I will still order a delicious hazelnut mocha, with all that syrupy chocolaty goodness.

Go for a walk before work one day a week. Result A+

I don’t like the idea of exercise. I’d much rather be inside learning or reading or studying. Happy to exercise the mind, not so much the body. That’s why I started with only one day a week, and I hooked it onto a habit I already had. I’m very much a morning person. I study for 20 – 30 minutes each morning before I begin getting ready for work. I resolved that I would give up the brain exercise one day a week in order to incorporate some physical exercise. To make sure it happens, I prepare my walking clothes and my work clothes the night before. I’ve also tied it into a day I need to wash my hair anyway. That way when I come back all hot and sweaty, I feel good before I go to work.

Eat less. Result C

I’ve been doing well at work – taking only the food I need for the day, removing snacks from my “just in case” drawer, having lunch only when I’m hungry, even if that isn’t until 3pm. I’m also drinking a lot more water, because every time I get the urge to eat when I’m not hungry, I grab a glass, start drinking and usually manage to distract myself back in a task for a while.

Where I am failing fairly regularly is at dinner. I’m still serving up portions that are too large, and not giving my body enough time to send satiation signals before going back to get seconds. Even last night, I stopped half way through my dinner, said “I’m full”, then continued TO EAT THE REST ANYWAY! Then, I felt bad because I was too full. Small steps. Next time I will be more aware and force myself to stop.

Garden gnomes on display
Goodbye garden gnomes!

While this has definitely been a good start to the year, the car repair has already affected February’s spending. Nothing we can do about that, so the focus will continue to be on our food.

What did you do on Australia Day?

11 thoughts on “January 2017 Spending and New Habits Update

  1. Adventures With Poopsie says:

    Yay!! So glad you gave Aldi a try. Our expense report is being released on the blog tomorrow and as you’ll see, Poopsie was away for work for two weeks. He did a grocery shop at Wooloworths just for him (the town he is in doesn’t have an Aldi) and the bill was $30 MORE than our usual Aldi shop for two of us. He also commented that he didn’t like all the choice. We’ve gotten so used to the minimalism of Aldi, we miss it when we have to shop elsewhere. We do still pop into Woolies to get one or two things, but the vast majority of our spending is done at Aldi. It has saved us so much money.

    Good job on reducing your daily spend and I’m sorry to hear about your car!

    The gnome festival looks fun. I lived and worked in Glenbrook for a couple of years but didn’t even know they had a gnome festival! On Australia Day we went to Poopsie’s parents place for homemade dumplings. It was lovely.

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      We had our cheapest bill yet at Aldi – $60! Granted, that’s because we didn’t need to buy any meat for the week, but still. We’d be able to do all of our shopping at Aldi if I didn’t keep picking recipes that needed more unusual ingredients – like the Polish sauerkraut this week (I was wondering where I would buy that from, but kudos to Woolworths, they come through).

      You have lived in a lot of places! Totally opposite to us – we moved 5 minutes away from where we grew up, and have stayed ever since. Oh, homemade dumplings, yum.

  2. Miss Money Box says:

    Hey Mrs ETT, I really have to commend you on having a budget plan and sticking to it. I’m with Adventures With Poopsie, Aldi is a total winner. I’ve only really got into it myself over the last six months, and there are some really great bargains to be had there. Also, the wine is rather fantastic!

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      Thanks for your comment, Miss Money Box. Oh, I have eyeballed the wine, and wandered around the wine, and pulled a bottle or two off the shelf only to put them back because (sob) less drinking. However, it is good to know that once the last of my Naked Wines delivery has been used (which I’m hoping will take me a full year), that Aldi will provide me with a tasty drop.

  3. chiefmomofficer says:

    I didn’t know there was an Australia Day! What’s it for, and what do people usually do?

    Also I wanted to say that I really love the idea of matching gifts you give to gifts to charity. I’ve been doing a lot more gifts of donations to a charity that matters to the person receiving the gift, just because in my family they don’t need more stuff. Giving gifts gets harder every year-everyone can just buy whatever they want for themselves!

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      Australia Day celebrates the day that Captain Cook “discovered” Australia in 1788. What it doesn’t recognise, however, is the indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had been here for 20,000 years prior. They were nearly wiped out, and to today still have a life expectancy 10 years less than white Australians. It’s a public holiday, and as it is in the summer, the traditional celebration is to have a BBQ and listen to the “Hottest 100” on our national youth radio station, Triple J. There are always lots of community events happening.

      I have given up on changing gift-giving practices with our family. I’ve tried over the years, but they just feel it’s wrong not to give presents. The best I have been able to (finally) do is to say “no presents” for myself and just have everyone go out to lunch, or at Christmas I put a $10 limit on gifts for me (or anything handmade). I was really pleased, the whole family came through for me, and I enjoyed it.

  4. weenie says:

    Great start to the year, Mrs ETT.

    The alcohol goal should help towards your weight goal as well as expenses. I stopped drinking in the week a few years back – as you say, it’s a bad habit to have: bad day at work, have a beer when I get home; good day at work, have a beer when I get home! I found that by abstaining during the week, drinking at the weekend seemed to be that much more enjoyable!

  5. Martin - Get FIRE'd asap says:

    Hey there Mrs ETT. It looks like the shock of last year’s spend has given you all of the incentive you need to put a ‘spend less, save more, retire sooner’ plan into action. I can’t fault your plans so far as all of them are achievable without huge sacrifice. And just look at how much you’ve saved already. The broken car is a setback but these things will seek to test us lol. But on the positive side, once you have saved all that money from other acts of frugality, repairs like that will be paid for in cash rather than adding to the monthly credit card bill ( my assumption there).

    Every spend reduction you have made here is pretty well in line with what we do. I’m looking forward to following your progress over the next 12 months and celebrating with you when you hit your spend-reduction goal. Here’s to you guys 👍

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      I don’t know why your comments keep getting held for moderation, Martin, I’m sorry about that. My settings should hold until 1 approved comment, then automatically approve all subsequent ones.

      We actually did have the cash for the car repair – we are fully budgeted for 3 months ahead, along with nearly as much saved in an Emergency Fund. We even had $600 waiting in the car maintenance category of the budget (but the repair cost more than twice that). It’s just that even though the money is sitting there waiting to be spent, I resent it not fitting into my neat little budget categories!

      Thank you for the lovely comment, I appreciate it.

      • Martin - Get FIRE'd asap says:

        No need to apologise Mrs ETT. It obviously knows a dodgy character when it sees one hehe.

        Well my assumption was completely wrong then. That’s what emergency funds are for so another big tick to the ETT family.

        I also meant to comment on your new self-imposed weekly drinks reduction. We were the same a while back, having a drink or two before and with dinner which was very pleasant but begins to add up when you have almost a bottle of wine every night. And as for the extra calories that you mentioned……..

        We knocked that habit on the head and now just binge-drink on Friday and Saturday nights (just joking). Well we do try to limit our drinks to 2 nights a week which is not only cheaper but healthier too.

        I also make my own simple cider which costs $1.20 per 1.25l bottle which, now that I’ve got the recipe right, is a pretty good, cheap drop. Affectionately called ‘goon’ in our house.

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