I Paid Off My Student Loan

I mentioned in my September monthly recap that I did my taxes for the year and received a refund. Along with that my accountant gave me more good news which was that I finished paying off my student loan. Yay!


To give you a brief insight on how the Australian student loan system (HECS) works, basically the government gives you a loan for your tertiary education at a very low interest rate. The interest rate is based on inflation so it is quite low, I say between 1 to 3 percent. To be honest I never really paid much attention to it, I just knew it was low.

You basically start paying off the loan after you start earning above a set threshold. This threshold has changed many times over the years, if I remember correctly the threshold when I started working full time was around $36,000 and it is now $54,869.

A percentage is deducted from your gross income in every pay cycle towards your loan. You don’t even realise it’s being deducted and you’re essentially paying off the loan in the background. At least that’s what it felt like for me. Every year after you lodge your taxes, the tax return statement specifies exactly how much you paid towards the loan.

My loan was $30,500 in the beginning for a bachelor and masters degree. I don’t know exactly how much I paid in interest as I misplaced some of my earlier statements.

I think it’s taken me about 10 years to pay it off. I could have paid it off sooner by making extra contributions but because it was automatically coming out of my salary and the interest wasn’t high, I just let it happen in the background. I’ve also had a mortgage for over 7 years so it made sense to me to put my money towards that instead.

Anyways, I am thrilled to have finally paid off my student loan!

Above all I am so grateful that the Australian government provides its citizens with an accessible way to get a tertiary education. This education has allowed me to build a career and gain knowledge that no one can ever take away from me. It is a great system and we are very lucky to have it and I really hope it stays for the future generations to come.

Image: Blogarama

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September 2017 Monthly Recap

Hello spring!

The weather is getting warmer down here so I’ve been trying to go out for walks with the munchkin when I can. I am enjoying them, it helps clear my mind and he seems to enjoy looking at the trees and the cars driving by.

Being Productive

I would say this month has been reasonably productive as I managed to cross off several items on my to-do list.

This month I managed to get the following things done:

  • Packed and shipped a few boxes containing lots of nappies, formula and other essentials to South East Asia for our upcoming extended stay.
  • Submitted a child care rebate claim with Centrelink.
  • Opened up a bank account for my son.
  • Decluttered my wardrobe and donated a bag full of clothes, shoes and accessories to charity.
  • Lodged our taxes! See below.

Taxes

Yay, I got our taxes done!

It’s always a relief to tick this off the to-do list. I got a big refund but my husband has to pay around $500 to the tax office. This money will definitely come in handy with all the expenses we have right now.

Housing Update

The renovations on our new house are well on the way. Luckily my husband has taken full control and is managing that project with little assistance from me. I call him the renovation guru because he seems to have a talent for managing tradespeople efficiently. The house is getting a full transformation and I can’t wait to see the final product.

However our current house failed to sell at auction at the start of the month, and it is still yet to sell unfortunately. So far we have only received one solid offer and that was too low for us to accept. I never thought we would be in this situation when we live in one of the most popular cities in terms of real estate in the world. The market appears to have definitely cooled off which is unfortunate for us, but I’m still hopeful that we will sell in the next few weeks.

Work Update

My request to go back to work part-time has been approved so when I return in early November, I will be working 3 days a week. My request to work remotely when I am out of the country is still yet to be approved and they appear to be dragging their feet on this. My manager is fully supportive and it’s human resources and upper management that seem to be having issues with it. I still feel positive that I will get the desired outcome so fingers crossed that this final request gets across the line.

Reading

Yes that’s right, I finally managed to read a book!

To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper Lee

to kill a mocking bird by harper lee

The story is based in the 1930’s and is narrated by a 6 year old child who is nicknamed “Scout”. The story addresses many serious issues such as racism, rape and injustice and I can see why it was a groundbreaking book. I expected this book to have a happy ending which it didn’t, but I guess that made the story more realistic and true to the period it was set in. Overall the book kept me interested and I like the positive messages that it projected such as courage and empathy.

Final Thoughts

So overall September has been a busy yet productive month. I am currently overseas for a short visit to South East Asia to set up our apartment and get things organised before we come here again in December. Hope you all had a great month!

Images: Amazon.co.uk

 

2016 End of Year Review

I haven’t posted in a while, life just got really busy since the baby arrived. But I am trying to get my life into some kind of order now and hopefully I can start blogging more. Apart from life getting busy I also lost a bit of motivation to blog so I am hoping I get my mojo back. Well I guess writing this post is a start lol so hopefully it continues as I do enjoy blogging. I wrote 21 posts all up last year and looking back I liked writing the monthly recap posts the most as they helped me reflect back on what happened every month.

OK so I thought I would review the year that was 2016.

What a year and it was pretty much dominated by my pregnancy. I think we were very blessed to fall pregnant reasonably quickly although it did feel like forever.  Overall I would say that I had a pretty good pregnancy. The morning sickness wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible either. I didn’t vomit and I didn’t have any weird cravings so I can’t really complain. The final weeks were uncomfortable just like any pregnancy would be I suppose, but I stayed healthy and as active as possible right till the end. The baby surprised us all and came 3 weeks early too which was something I never even considered would happen. My advice to anyone expecting is to start organising and prepare your hospital bag at 35 weeks because you just never know!

So anyway we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy! The last two and half months have been challenging for sure but it’s also been very rewarding. The constant lack of sleep can really take a toll and I also faced breastfeeding issues and loneliness from staying at home. I have been working in some capacity for nearly 18 years believe it or not, so when I was home alone for the first time it wasn’t an easy change to adjust to. It has taken some adjusting and it is getting better, however it’s something I continue to work on. But despite all these challenges, I would never want to go back to how it was before. I am so lucky to have my baby boy and am so thankful that I get be his mother. One thing I have learned is that the sooner you accept that – this is how life is now and that this is what normal is, the easier it gets. It took me a few weeks to accept this but once I did life became so much better.

So apart from the highlight of having a baby, at the beginning of last year I set myself a goal to start reading books. I am proud to say I definitely accomplished this goal! I actually set a small goal to read 5 books and I ended up reading 12 books!! I am so thrilled with that number and even more thrilled that I have discovered a new hobby.

Here’s a list of all the books I read last year.

  1. The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella – Review
  2. 101 Ways To Save Money On Your Tax – Legally! 2015-2016 By Adrian Raftery
  3. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – Review
  4. The Zero Waste Home: 101 Ways To Reduce Waste & Save Money In Your Home by Kate Anderson – Review
  5. Last Shot (Dev Haskell Mystery #6) By Mike Faricy
  6. A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) By Arthur Conan Doyle
  7. The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes #2) By Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. Love Muffin and Chai Latte by Anya Wylde – Review
  9. Mr. Swirlee (Dev Haskell Mystery #2) By Mike Faricy – Review
  10. What to Expect When You’re Expecting By Heidi Murkoff – Review
  11. 30 Days Change Your Habits Change Your Life by Marc Reklau – Review
  12. Thirty-Two Going on Spinster by Becky Monson – Review

The book that really stands out as my favourite is Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. It was such a fun book to read and I really want to read the next book in the series.

I also set a goal to track my expenses every month. This didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked, I was actually doing really well up until November but as soon as the baby was born I stopped tracking. The process I follow to track my expenses is very manual and moving forward it is just not practical to continue tracking this way. A few people commented on the post I wrote about how I track my expenses and mentioned that they made use of online banking tools to do this automatically. I was aware that my bank offered this feature too so I’m planning on getting this set up so I can start tracking again.

Having a baby changes everything 🙂

In regards to our savings, I think we did pretty well most months. Our savings rate was in the black almost every month, it was just one or two months at the end of the year where it went in the red. This was mainly due to costs associated with our upcoming home renovation. We are currently waiting for approval from the local council, so once that comes through we can start getting quotes and then start the renovation. I’m really looking forward to seeing the final product and to have a more comfortable house that my little family can enjoy.

I also made a bit more money last year without really trying. I received a small pay rise from work and I was also added to the on call roster which means that for the weeks that I was rostered to do out of hours support, I received an allowance.

What were the other highlights….

Oh yes, our holiday to Cairns back in August was very nice. That was our “babymoon” and it was a very relaxing and memorable trip. Hopefully we will be able to take more trips like this with our little munchkin in the future.

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Cairns Queensland Australia

 

Overall 2016 was a pretty awesome year…a year I will never forget!

How I Reduced Clutter by Switching to Paperless Bills

I hate having paper bills pile up. They take up space and if you want to throw them out you have to shred them first for security reasons. The shredding part I’m always lazy to do so the bills just pile up as a result.

Pile of bills

So sometime last year I noticed that more service providers were offering email bills, so I decided to look into it and make the switch.

I have setup the following bills to be sent to me via email rather than post.

  • Electricity
  • Internet/phone
  • Water
  • Car (roadside assistance)

Unfortunately all the service providers allow only one email address for the bill to be sent to and no alternative address. Therefore, to get around this I setup forwarding rules in my email so that whenever I receive a bill it gets forwarded to my husbands email as well. At least this way we both get a copy.

I have a few bills that are direct debits so I don’t get monthly bills for those. The amounts for these bills remain constant so I don’t mind them being direct debits. The above bills however vary so I like to know the amount owing before I pay.

It’s not only bills though…this also applies to bank, insurance and superannuation statements. I have all of them setup to be emailed to me rather than posted.

The only bills that I still receive by post are for:

  • Council rates
  • Annual car registration

Once these providers offer paperless bills I will definitely make the move.

Switching to paperless bills and statements has been very effective for me. It’s reduced clutter, reduced the need to shred sensitive documents and to top it off its eco-friendly! It’s always feels good to help out the environment in some way.

Have you gone paperless with your bills and statements?

Image: (Woman’s Day Magazine)

October 2016 Recap

The month flew by as usual but it has been a rather uncomfortable one in regards to my pregnancy. The baby has grown so I’m carrying more weight which makes it harder to walk. There’s swollen feet, clothes not fitting and I’m also a lot slower these days, mostly physically though 🙂

I was telling my husband the other day “I think I’m over it” lol. That said I don’t want the baby to come now as it’s a bit too early. The last weeks of pregnancy are definitely challenging.

Our antenatal classes wrapped up about two weeks ago and they were really helpful. I’m so glad we signed up for them, we both learnt so much and they have really put me more at ease about labour and the birth.

money

In regards to finances we had a pretty expensive month. There were several extra expenses such as:

  • Renovation costs (payments to the architect)
  • Baby items (car seat, bath, baby carrier, clothes etc)
  • Food
  • Medicines and toiletries
  • Clothes (My husband needed to replace a few business shirts and jeans and I needed a few items as well)

Our savings rate as a result was in the negative at -6% 😦

The biggest expenses were the payments to the architect and the baby items. The eating out and take away food total was higher than usual as well. Looks like hubby and I were definitely more relaxed in regards to eating out, I think that might be because we know we won’t be able to go out very often once the baby arrives. I have also been feeling more dehydrated lately so we have been buying more take away juices and fruit salads which obviously adds up.

Anyways, hopefully the savings rate improves dramatically in November. Although the car registration payment is due which will be around $1000, there shouldn’t really be any more big expenses.

I didn’t finish reading any books this month but I am part way through reading one. The book I am reading is dragging on a little but I will hopefully finish it in the next week or so. I will review it in next months recap.

How did October fair for you?

September 2016 Recap

September is over already, the time really is flying by. I say that every month, lol! Here is a breakdown of what happened.

Finances

We did have a few extra expenses this month but despite this our savings rate was decent at 32%.

Our extra expenses were:

  • Renovation costs
  • My drivers license was up for renewal
  • Quarterly water bill
  • Baby items (we purchased a pram and a portable cot)
  • A few clothes for myself (I am running out of clothes that fit!)

On another positive note, I was told that I would be getting a 2% pay increase at work, yay! The increase takes effect at the beginning of October and I will get back paid from the 1st of September. So the income will get a little bump next month which is always nice 🙂

Pregnancy

I am into my third trimester now and I can’t believe that I will be meeting my little baby in just over 2 months time. I don’t feel prepared and I feel like I have a million things left to do. Hopefully everything falls into place by the time baby arrives.

We started attending antenatal classes this month and they have been really great. There are six classes in total and so far we have attended three sessions. The classes are really intimate (just five couples in our sessions), informative, friendly and we have both learnt so much in these sessions. I would highly recommend attending antenatal classes to anyone getting ready to have a baby.

I am feeling much bigger these days. I have only gained weight on my tummy which is a good thing but it’s starting to feel more uncomfortable as the days go on. I have also been experiencing some back pain especially when I sleep. During pregnancy you are meant to sleep on your left side but as I naturally sleep on my back so this has been challenging. Despite having pillows on both sides I still find myself waking up laying on my back…sigh!

But despite all the discomfort, the baby is kicking away on a regular basis, sometimes it feels like an earthquake is going on down there lol! Oh it’s just so cute ❤ ❤

Reading

Just read the one book this month.

30 days change your habits change your life by Marc Reklau

30 Days Change Your Habits Change Your Life by Marc Reklau

This book was pretty decent. It has several helpful tips on how to build habits by introducing small routines into your life. The chapters are really short too so it makes it easier to read.

Well it’s a long weekend in my part of the world this weekend and I have also taken Tuesday off, making it an extra long weekend, yay! We don’t have any plans other than to relax and do some shopping for the baby.

I hope September treated you well and hopefully October will be even better for you all 🙂

How I Track My Expenses

Expense Tracking

At the beginning of this year I set a goal to start tracking my expenses more consistently. I did track my expenses on and off last year but I found it difficult to stay motivated and do it consistently day after day.

When I decided to set this goal I also started to test out a few apps that can help me do this. Last year I was using the TrackMySpend app by MoneySmart which is a very simple app that requires you to manually enter every expense. The app also provides a monthly summary of all your expenses broken down by category.

I did find manually entering every expense to be a bit tedious at times so I thought I would look at what other apps were out there.

I tried out Pocketbook which is a popular app here in Australia. The app allows you to link to your bank accounts, hence you don’t need to manually enter all your expenses, except for cash expenses.

The only thing I didn’t like about Pocketbook is that when transactions don’t go through on the day you actually spent the money, this data is not translated how I like in the app. For example, if I buy my groceries on a Saturday the transaction may not go through till the following Monday, so the app shows the expense as though I bought my groceries on the Monday which isn’t accurate. Some might argue that the actual day the money comes out is what matters, however if you buy something on the last day of the month but it doesn’t go through straight away, it looks like it’s an expense for the following month.

Anyways this was a small quirk that I didn’t like about these automated apps. I tested out a few more apps such as HomeBudget but none of them did what I was looking for so I ended up coming back to the TrackMySpend app.

When I first started using the TrackMySpend app last year I wasn’t consistent with it so that was a worry. I knew I needed to come up with new a routine that would work for me if I were to start using this app again. Hence, I decided to set a reminder on my phone to go off every night to remind me to enter all my expenses for the day. My routine goes something like this:

  1. Reminder goes off on my phone at 9pm every night
  2. Login to my bank account and check what transactions have been made and enter them into the app
  3. Enter any cash expenses I made during the day into the app
  4. Ask my husband if he had any cash expenses during the day and enter them into the app
  5. Once I am happy that all expenses have been entered into the app, mark the reminder on my phone as complete

This little routine has worked like a charm since I started it at the beginning of the year. I love reminders, they have really helped me become more organised in my life.

TrackMySpend App by MoneySmart

The TrackMySpend app

Although the TrackMySpend app does require discipline and effort on my part, I have found it be easy to use and most importantly it does what I need. It does have a few quirks such as the summary screens don’t always scroll all the way down and expenses grouped by a tag show duplicates. I’m hoping that these issues will get fixed one day, but the core parts of the app work well so I am happy to continue using it.

How do you track your expenses?

Images: (phonenomena.com.auitunes.apple.com)

August 2016 Recap

I have to say that August was pretty eventful, so here is a breakdown of what happened 🙂

Financial

Taxes

As planned I managed to lodge our taxes at the beginning of the month. I was really focused on getting everything organised at the end of last month so I’m happy that I sent everything off to the accountant without wasting any time. It’s all done now and we both got refunds, yay! I am so happy and relieved that it’s done 🙂

Savings

We had our fair share of expenses this month, mainly due to our holiday. We visited Cairns which is located in far North Queensland of Australia. The weather was beautiful and we had a very relaxing holiday.

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View from Green Island – Cairns Australia

We were there for 4 nights and the total cost was: $3029

I paid for the flights and accommodation back in June so those expenses are not included in this months savings rate. However they are included in the above total.

We also had a few additional expenses this month which aren’t regular monthly expenses. They were:

  • Major car service
  • Antenatal classes
  • Quarterly electricity and council rates bills
  • Renovation expenses
    • We have started looking into renovating our house and hence this has brought upon various initial expenses such as approvals, surveyor fees etc. I expect to see more expenses in this area in the coming months.

As I mentioned above, my husband and I both received tax refunds, therefore our income was higher this month. This made our savings rate look a little better than it would have otherwise, especially considering we had several additional expenses this month.

Savings rate for August 2016 was: 23%

Lower than most months but reasonable nonetheless.

Pregnancy

I have booked a place for a 6 week antenatal course which starts in mid September. I have heard that these classes are really helpful so I’m looking forward to attending them.

Overall my pregnancy has been going well. I feel the baby kick and move everyday which is always exciting but I think these kicks are going to get harder as the baby gets bigger though lol! We have also started researching a few baby items and have pretty much decided on the pram and cot we would like to purchase. I will share what we end up buying in an upcoming post.

Reading

The books I read were…

Mr. Swirlee (Dev Haskell Mystery #2) By Mike Faricy

Mr Swirlee Dev Haskell Mystery #2 by Mike Faricy

I love reading these Dev Haskell mysteries. I read Last Shot (mystery #6) back in March and I enjoyed the story line of that book a lot better than this one. The main character Dev Haskell is rough around the edges but very likable. I like reading about his antics and the shady characters that he deals with. Overall this book was an easy and fun read.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting By Heidi Murkoff
(Revised edition for Australia and New Zealand)

What to expect when you're expecting by Heidi Murkoff

This is a well known pregnancy book and when I looked it up months ago I came across a number of mixed reviews, so I decided to give it a miss. But last month I thought I would check it out from the library and give it a go.

I have been reading this book on the side this whole month and I still haven’t finished it. And that’s after skipping several sections that didn’t apply to me. It’s a massive book and contains pretty much everything you need to know about pregnancy. If you are an “information overload” kind of person then this is a book for you. Even if you aren’t, you can skip the sections you don’t like and read what appeals to you. Overall the book is very informative and has been helpful.

September for us down here in the southern hemisphere means spring and warmer weather, yay! I am always happy to see the end of winter lol. Hope you all have a wonderful month of September 🙂

Images: (Harper CollinsGoodreads)

Musings on Superannuation

saving for retirement
Over the last few months I have been thinking a fair bit about superannuation (super). For any non Australians reading this, superannuation is basically what we call our retirement savings. Maybe it’s a hot topic because it’s tax time and also because we just had a federal election. There are so many articles out there right now about what we should do with our super, hence its something that has been lingering in my mind of late.

One of the common pieces of advice that I have read just about everywhere is to make additional contributions. I think I first started making additional contributions through salary sacrifice around 2005-2006. This was mainly due to my dad forcing me to. I am glad he did, it has really helped boost my super over the years.

My salary was definitely not high back then so I started by contributing $50 per week. A few years later I increased it to $70 per week and it stayed that way till the end of 2013, which is when I changed jobs and I stopped making any additional contributions.

When I started my new job I was intending to start salary sacrificing again. However, I reconsidered because I had a mortgage. I just figured I would rather keep the money and put it towards my mortgage and reduce interest instead.

Now almost 2.5 years later I am thinking about making additional contributions again. I still have a mortgage, that hasn’t changed but I do like the idea of building my retirement savings.

The tax incentives are good. You can make a maximum pre-tax annual contribution of up to $30,000 into your super (including your employers contributions) and get taxed just 15%. That is all well and good but the only disadvantage is that you can’t access the money if you need to as it is locked away until you hit retirement age. Hence despite the tax incentive I will most likely start by contributing small amounts and not dump a huge amount in case I need it later.

I have also been thinking about taking more risks with my super. I have been told that I can get a financial advisor, free of charge with my super fund to give me advise on how I can get higher returns. This is another aspect I need to look into, but I just haven’t had the time to get organised and do it.

Do you have any short term plans for your retirement savings?

Image: sterlingadvice.com.au

July 2016 Recap

It has been a while since I did a monthly recap so I thought I would get back into it as they are fun posts to write and they also help me to reflect back on the month that was.

Pregnancy Adventures

I am well and truly into my second trimester and I am happy to say that any signs of morning sickness are behind me. My appetite seems to be back but I have gone off eating red meat a fair bit. These days I prefer eating seafood, chicken and vegetables.

My bump hadn’t been very noticeable, however around the 19 week mark was when it really started to pop. I am definitely showing now and may have to invest in another pair of pants soon 🙂

Apart from that, I was really excited about our upcoming 19 week ultrasound of the baby. The big day came and the scan went for about one hour. The baby was very active throughout the scan which made it harder for the radiologist to get all the images she needed. However, it was so cute to watch baby being cheeky and my heart just melted watching him/her moving around. Baby looked oh so cute and adorable even in x-ray form ❤ ❤

The following week I had an appointment with one of my midwives. I have been assigned two midwives who will take care of me throughout my pregnancy.

The appointment went well and we did get to listen to the baby’s heartbeat which was nice. My 19 week scan results were good, the baby is developing well however the scan did show a very slight amount of fluid outside the baby’s heart. It’s nothing to be alarmed about but this may mean the baby has a virus so I had to get a blood test and another ultrasound the following week. Happy to say that the ultrasound went well and the fluid around his/her heart was very minimal. The doctor assured me that there was nothing to worry about.

Later that day I felt the baby kick for the first time! It was the best ❤

Reading

I finished reading just the one book this month.

Love Muffin and Chai Latte by Anya Wylde

Love muffin and chai latte

This book falls in the chick-lit genre and it was a light, fluffy and funny read. The characters were reasonably interesting however I did think the book dragged on more than it should have. The ending was a bit of a let down too, it was a little abrupt and unrealistic to say the least.

Taxes

My focus towards the end of the month was our taxes. Basically I’ve been trying to get organised and get all the paperwork together, and I am doing this in small steps so that I don’t get too overwhelmed.

I also need to find out if we can claim depreciation on our investment property. If the property is older than 40 years then we don’t qualify for this, so I have contacted the council and requested this information. They have been slow to get back to me (as expected), but if we do qualify I will need to get a depreciation report done by a quantity surveyor. This will no doubt delay my tax lodgement, but I just have to play the waiting game for now.

 

I’m looking forward to August, mainly because we have a little holiday booked 🙂 We are going away for about four days and this will most likely be our last holiday before baby comes. I will also be in the last few weeks my second  trimester of pregnancy this month, wow the time really is flying!

Hope you all had a fantastic July!