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Supermarkets are evil

3 Apr


It all started innocently enough.
I’ve just returned to the workforce full-time after a long absence during which I grew three people in my stomach from scratch). It’s been amazing. It’s a dream position, I’m enjoying every second and even the bus ride to and from work is fun.

I have to be honest. Some things have fallen by the wayside. Granted I’m only two weeks in and it will take some time to adjust but I really need to keep on top of my laundry, do the ironing instead of shifting the pile of unironed clothes onto different chairs in my lounge room and I my son has been getting lunch orders at school three times a week instead of one.

Anyway, today I left work before everyone else to race to school and pick up my son, niece and nephew. My husband called me repeatedly. He was wondering what time I’d be home just in case we’d see each other before he left for work at 3. I’d arrive home at ten past 3. Oh well, see you whenever.

My son has art class on Wednesdays at 4.30, just enough time to head home, tidy up and get dinner started before leaving again to drop him off. I haven’t grocery shopped all week. Since starting work I’ve been efficient and organised and shopping online but after the long weekend all delivery windows were full. I had to grocery shop in person and since we’d now run out of Butter Soft it was critical that I shopped this afternoon. I had exactly an hour to get it done before picking Philip up from school.

I headed to my local shops, took my little kids to the toilet, bought them a snack (a donut for one and a sushi roll for the other) and into the supermarket we went. I raced through the aisles and filled my trolley with an efficiency I didn’t know I was capable of. We needed soft rolls, bayonet light globes, kitty litter and Butter Soft.

The cold food aisle was the last before I could head to the check out. The trolley was very full and I had just enough room for our precious Butter Soft (we looooove our Butter Soft). My son ran ahead. He knows exactly where it is and it’s his job to get it.

It was all gone.

A wave of fury engulfed me. This was the second time I’d tried to buy Butter Soft in two weeks. Last time we had a bit left but now we were totally out. My husband took rolls to work, my son ate Vitaweats with butter and vegemite every day, I was still eating hot cross buns for breakfast. No other butter will do.

My heart started to beat loudly. I felt the meltdown coming on. I tried to push it down. I reminded myself that I had chocolate bullets in the trolley and if I could just get myself to the car and throw a few back I might feel better about the fact that the one thing I absolutely had to buy today was sold the frig out. How is it that supermarkets manage to run out of the items we most like to buy? Isn’t it their job to make sure they have plenty of stock? Do they have some in the back room and they’re hiding it from me? It’s now 5pm and I’m tired and hungry and cold and I don’t have the time or energy to go to another shopping centre.

I pushed the overflowing trolley to the nearest checkout and started unpacking. I unpacked in a way that aimed to punish the cashier for the fact the Butter Soft was all gone. Instead of carefully putting all the bread together, the cold foods, the heavy bottles, I placed them haphazardly. That’ll fuck ‘em. Try and pack properly amidst the chaos. If only you’d had Butter Soft, my day would have been perfect. Every day has to be PERFECT.

Sensing my mood the cashier didn’t bother to greet me. I finished unpacking and started loading bags into the trolley.

“Is there a reason you’re always out of Butter Soft,” I asked.

“Ah, I don’t know. We’re out?”

“Yes, and there was none last week either. Just unsalted.”

“I can let our manager know,” she said helpfully.

“Won’t do me much good in the morning will it?”

“We normally restock every night.”

“I’ve just started working and this is when I can grocery shop. Are you going to be out of the things I need every Wednesday? There wasn’t any Butter Soft, you’re out of Yoplait Strawberry Yoghurt again and you’ve sold out of Nice biscuits. How is that possible?”

“Um, I’m not sure,” she mumbled.

I stopped talking. I handed over my Fly Buys card, let the Eftpos machine beep a few times before removing my card and then walked to the card feeling defeated. I’d have to come back to the shops again. We really needed Butter Soft. We don’t like any other spread. Our lives revolve around Butter Soft, Moccona Indulgence, full-fat strawberry yoghurt and Nice biscuits.

Some things are just INFURIATING. I feel like they deliberately run out of popular items to force us to come back more than once in a week. It’s a conspiracy. We’re being duped.

I’ve just placed a small grocery order online and it include 6 containers of Butter Soft, 4 packets of Nice biscuits and the bayonet light globes I forgot. God help me if I get an ‘out of stock’ email. I’m telling you know. I can handle work, the kids, uni, coming up with an interesting outfit EVERY day but don’t mess with my food. That’s what will tip me over the edge, that and having to grocery shop more than once a week.

How to pay off your credit cards

13 Apr

Recently I’ve been asked how I got my family out of debt. After losing our business and home in the financial crisis we were left with personal debt from credit cards to the tune of $32,000 from three cards.

After losing our business and home our funds were limited. We’d also borrowed money from two family members. We thought everything would be sorted and the loans would be short term. Nothing was ever sorted and we were faced with the humiliation of losing everything and having to start all over again. But we had our health and we were both employable. I got a job straight away and my husband followed suit a few months later after he realised that no amount of fighting with the bank would change anything.

I had to take over the budget. My husband’s new job was very demanding and mine was part time. I’d never been good with money in the past. Even saying that makes me feel stupid. Being good with money isn’t a choice. It isn’t something that can happen these days. We have to be good with money. We have to be smart. We have to know where every cent is spent because every hour we work takes us away from our families, our friends, we make money for companies and it is our money! We are in control.

Credit card debt is a sinister thing. I got my first credit card at nineteen and it had a $300 limit. It’s all I wanted. In the lead up to Christmas they pre-approved me for an increase to $1000 and it would happen unless I contacted them! I let it happen, spent up big on Christmas presents and was in credit card debt from that day on.

Credit card debt isn’t free money but it is invisible to a degree. We spend on credit cards and can push it to one side because our income keeps coming in and it’s up to us how much we put on them.

When my husband and I first started to settle into home life I had three cards and my husband had one big one. We paid off two of mine but we increased the limit on my husband’s card. We had the same level of debt but I just felt better about it because it wasn’t my fault as such.

Debt is easy to amass when you are trying to live a life you simply can’t afford. It adds up when you buy little things here and little things there. Do that most days and you are thousands of dollars in debt.

We moved into an affordable rental home and I sat down with pen ad paper to figure out our budget. Our credit card debt seemed overwhelming. Even paying the minimum only left me with a huge amount of debt. I imagined doing our budget without that debt. It was a dream I was determined to make come true.

We were lucky because everyone knew we’d lost everything so we were allowed to be thrifty for a while. But I still wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. That’s when I found a show on Foxtel called Til Debt Do Us Part. I became obsessed with it. Gail Vaz Oxlade would go into people’s home and work out a budget that would allow them to be debt free in 2-3 years. She never went into a home where she couldn’t work out a debt-free path in this amount of time because she said ‘finance fatigue’ would come into play, people would tire of counting their pennies and start going back to their old ways.

On her website she had a budget calculator. You could do your entire budget or just your debt. I entered my credit card debt, the interest rates on them and she showed me how much to pay, on which ones and how long it would take to be debt free. It was such a huge relief to see the path. Logically I knew I just had to put money on them but I’d end up putting too much on and then leaving myself short and having to use them again, and then felling upset that I used them and buying myself a pick-me-up. Sound familiar.

So I entered it all, printed it off, sat down with my pen and paper and constructed a weekly budget for my family. I did it weekly because that’s how my husband was paid. Do it to suit whatever pay cycle you are on. Factor in an allowance for each of you so it’s not to depressing, figure out groceries, all your bills. Ring every single provider and beg for a better deal or a reduction, including your credit card companies. Don’t bother consolidating your credit cards. Statistically most people who do this end up back in credit card debt. You have to do the work and feel the pain to solve your credit card problem forever.

There’s so much more to tell you and feel free to ask me questions. The day I made the final payment was one of the best days of my life. I rang my husband immediately. We were debt free. It was better than winning lotto, almost.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

6 Dec

Just call me Cyber Girl! This year I did all my Christmas shopping online. I mean every single present was bought online and delivered to my door. It is the easiest Christmas I have ever had. I am relaxed, prepared and I have saved myself so much money.

Whenever I shop for gifts in store I end up buying things I don’t need. My son will pick up a new puzzle, my daughter will want a balloon. We’ll have lunch. I’ll pick up some extra fruit for home. In short, I end up spending money I hadn’t planned on spending so no matter how much money I save on careful present buying, it ends up being wasted on incidental shopping.

Each year I make a list so that’s what I did this year too. The big kids had asked for ipods, my son wanted a proper art easel and I had an idea of what I wanted to get for the little kids so I wrote a vague list for them and started googling. I knew I wouldn’t find everything at one website so I focused on finding a discount website that sold most of the gifts I wanted.

I did it. The bulk of my Christmas gifts came from one website and were delivered days later. I didn’t have to find parking, I didn’t have to try and get it all to the car with my children in tow and I didn’t have to cart it all into my house. I found affordable starter ipods on eBay and I also found an amazing art easel on there too. I was able to stick to my budget and my Christmas shopping was done weeks ago.

Do I feel guilty for doing all my shopping online and not properly contributing to the health of our economy? No way. In 2008 my husband’s business failed in part due to the Global Financial Crisis and over the next twelve months we lost EVERYTHING. We have three children aged seven, three and two. It is not my responsibility to buy Australian, to shop in retail stores or to donate to every worthwhile cause that comes my way, like I used to. My only responsibility is to stick to our families budget, save money for unexpected expenses like medical and donate only when I can afford it and only when I really believe in the cause.

Retailers need to move with the times and if they don’t have online stores by now then they should. I waited years for Borders to have an online store. I shopped at the Dymocks website because Borders didn’t have one and look how they ended up. I bought appliances wherever I found them because Harvey Normal wasn’t online either. Then they complain that online shopping is ruining their business? The only reason their businesses are suffering due to online shopping is because they haven’t moved with the times.

I grocery shop online too, expect once a month when I stock up all of Aldi’s affordable nappies, cleaning products and other amazing non-perishables. Aussie Farmers delivers bread, milk, chicken, cheese, fruit and vegetable three times a week and instead of going to several pharmacies looking for my favourite makeup I order it online in under ten minutes and happily pay the delivery fee knowing I have saved myself money by not shopping for it in person.

Maybe one day I will have a little more money to spend and I will go back to my local shopping centre and enjoy the experience of buying presents in store, telling my kids to pick one new toy each and have lunch after. But I will do that when I can afford it so I can enjoy it. And I will always shop online to some degree because it’s affordable and convenient. God bless the internet and e-retailers.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

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