During 2020 my focus was on my personal finances and taking steps towards building my financial freedom.

A lot of the things I did were ‘boulders’. These are the one-off tasks that were big steps towards achieving my goal like creating a budget, finding a way to track expenses and comparing services to ensure I’m getting the best rates.

Other things were the ‘pebbles’. These are the small day to day habits that build up to deliver results over the long term, like cutting down expenses on low-value areas.

Although 2021 is my focus for health and wellbeing and I’ve reined back the focus on my finances, there are a few habits I’ve carried over. This includes a bunch of things I used to spend money on, but no longer view as priorities or don’t get the same cost/benefit from as other things.

1. Mid-week lunches out – Last year I moved office from a city centre location to a complex where there is really only one on-site, fairly pricey cafe as a lunch option. Lunch out was no longer as much of a treat and I wasn’t getting the same joy despite the higher price. Although I’d previously only eaten out once or twice a week, in this new locale I decided to cut out mid-week lunches altogether. Monday to Friday is more about eating healthy and good habits, and eating out at the weekends now feels less of a guilt trip.

2. Mid-week cafe coffees – After drinking instant coffee over the Christmas holidays this year, I decided to try and continue the habit and keep off the $4.50 cafe coffees. I did the calculation of one coffee each working day and came up with a massive total of $1,170 over the year (excluding holidays). At the time I was re-considering my gym membership which was about $950 per year, and this really put things into perspective. Did I really value coffee more than my fitness? No! Instead I switched to a high quality instant coffee and quickly got used to it.

3. Clothes for fashion – Back in my twenties I was a bit of a fashionista and prided myself on my trendy outfits. Clothes were probably my biggest expense in my younger days. Although this had cut down a fair bit already, during 2020 I pledged not to buy any clothes that I didn’t categorically need (i.e. replacing worn items). I no longer go shopping just to browse or for entertainment and I’ve continued not to indulge in this habit. I’ve bought a few items that I’ve absolutely needed and have been lucky enough to receive some great quality hand-me-downs from family members.

4. Professional haircuts – During lockdown I bought a good pair of hairdressing scissors and convinced my partner to start cutting my hair. He was very reluctant at first, until I told him that he would be saving me $120 a go! I go for a very simple, straight cut (long bob) with no layers and try to do regular trims instead of letting it get too long.

5. Subscriptions – I try and pay for things upfront, on an annual basis rather than monthly subscriptions. I’ve done this for my mobile phone service and always pay upfront for purchases. My zero-dollar budget makes it easy to accommodate these bulky payments and I never need to worry about a debit coming out of my account. I cut my entertainment subscriptions last year and so far haven’t found the need to reinstate them. I’m making use of free to air streamed content, and until I can’t find enough content on this I won’t subscribe to a paid service. Currently, I don’t even have time to watch everything I want to so can’t see this happening any time soon.

Is there anything you have cut from your expenses that just don’t deliver on cost/benefit?