Archive for the ‘Challenges’ Category

Inspired by posts from Fabulous Financials and Wide Open Wallet I decided to analyze where my money went last year. For simplicity, I’m only looking at my expenses here in the USA. I have investments incurring some expenses back in Australia, but I like to think of my Australian budget separate to my USA budget. I keep the majority of my money in Australia and have some of my pay sent to the USA for Hubby and I to live on while we are here.

Here’s what my USA expenses looked like for 2008:


  • As you can see a massive 48% on our expenses went on travelling. The vast majority of our travels were made in conjunction with my work trips so I was in receipt of quite generous travelling allowances. Hubby and I usually travel together on far less than I receive. I’ll have to sit down and work out how much we actually spent once those allowances are taken into consideration.
  • Food made up 12% of our expenses and that included grocery shopping and dining out. In reality ‘groceries’ also included household cleaning products, bathroom products and dog food.
  • Hubby and I managed to spend 16% of our budget on ourselves. Hubby used most of his on hobbies and to be honest I don’t know exactly where I used most of mine. It’s terrible that I have thousands of dollars virtually unaccounted for.
  • Bills made up 5% of expenditure and the car was a further 5%.
  • The most shocking discovery in this exercise was that 5% of our expenses were categorized as miscellaneous, un-categorized or cash. What that really means is that 5% of our expenses have disappeared and I don’t know where they went.

I have been tracking my expenses like this for about 10 years. I always thought I was doing a reasonable job of tracking where our money went, but after doing this exercise I now realise that close to 10% of our expenses are not really accounted for. During the month of February, Hubby and I have set ourselves challenge of tracking every single cent that we spend. Hopefully this will get us back into the good habit of being accountable for all our expenses.


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Since Hubby and I are home for the entire month and not traveling anywhere, I’ve decided to get involved with a monthly challenge over at Crunchy Chicken. The challenge this month is to reduce the amount of food waste in our household. 

We don’t deliberately waste food and we always make an effort to turn food which is on its way out into something edible. Inevitably though, we forget some feta cheese in the back of the fridge or find some old rubbery celery in the crisper weeks after it resembled anything edible. Thankfully we have a dog who eats almost anything so most of our waste isn’t going into landfill and once we have our compost system up and running, we’ll eliminate any food going to landfill at all. That’s not really the point though, wasted food is still a waste of money and a waste of energy. A lot of energy has gone into the growing and transporting of our food and throwing it out just means our environmental impact is higher than it needs to be.  

Ok, so what will we be doing this month? It’s pretty simple. Our goal is to try to reduce the amount of food we throw out, feed to the dog or put into the compost. We’ll keep track of the food that we have and make sure that it gets eaten or preserved before it goes bad and needs to be disposed. It will take a little planning, some organization and the willingness to be creative, but I’m sure we are up for it. 

Our first job yesterday was to go through the fridge and cupboards to see what’s getting close to its expiry date or is starting to go off. Here’s what I threw out:

  • Two bottles of salad dressing
  • A tube of sundried tomato paste
  • Two packets of Starbucks coffee (Didn’t even know I had them)
  • Half a bottle of very old Coca-Cola (from a party last June)
  • Quarter of a bottle of Powerade (from our trip back from Central America a month ago!)
  • Half a bunch of baby spinach 
  • Baby potatoes gone to seed
  • Dried apricots
  • A whole collection of interesting things given to us by friends as they left (pickled onions, jello, gravy mix, food collouring etc)

Here’s what’s close to expiring and which we’ll need to eat up soon:

  • Two boxes of cereal and oats
  • Gravox
  • Bread crumbs
  • Custard powder
  • Feta cheese
  • Tinned fruit
  • Long-life milk
  • Green Apples

I’m amazed at how much stuff I had to throw away. It was really quite painful, but I think it was a very necessary step to start the month with a clean slate. Now we just need to come up with some recipes to use up what’s soon to go off and then be more mindful of what we buy and eat for the rest of the month.

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