Each year one lucky Cheapskater gets to work one-on-one with Cath and her team to undergo a complete budget renovation and get their finances back on track.
For twelve months they work with Cath and the team to start reducing their debt and building or adding to their savings.
They learn firsthand from the Queen of Cheapskates herself just how to live life debt free, cashed up and laughing as she shares her secrets to living the Cheapskates Way.
Each month they complete assignments designed to help them reach their goals and live the Cheapskates way. Their progress is featured in the Cheapskates Journal each month, where other Cheapskaters are able to track their progress, learn from their experiences and cheer them on.
Does your budget need a makeover? Follow the progress of our budget makeover candidates as they take back control of their money, stop living in debt and start living life debt free, cashed up and laughing.
Meet the Cheapskaters who have undergone a Cheapskates Budget Renovation
Mrs Sparkle - the 2011 Budget Renovator
Mrs Sparkle is semi-retired at 73 years young. She currently works two mornings a week to supplement her pension and get her mortgage paid off before she gets too much older (her words, not mine).
Since retiring Mrs Sparkle's income has dropped considerably while her expenses have increased. She has found that her food bill has increased almost 50% in the last five years, while utilities have almost doubled.
"The only thing that hasn't gone up is the mortgage," says Mrs Sparkle. "Thank the good Lord I was able to lock in my house repayments when I took the mortgage 23 years ago. I'd never be able to manage the repayments otherwise."
Mrs Sparkle desperately wants to get rid of the mortgage and build a "nest egg" (we call it an Emergency Fund) and a Peace of Mind account for her regular expenses so she can stop worrying about money.
"I'd like to be able to get the fences done, update my little car and rest easy knowing that when a bill comes in the money is there to pay for it."
Like many Australians of her generation, Mrs Sparkle was a stay-at-home mother to her two children, relying on her husband to support the family financially, while she worked to ensure they lived within the boundaries of their income. When her husband retired they lived on his (very) limited superannuation and their pensions and muddled along quite happily.
After his death 9 years ago, things started to get harder for Mrs Sparkle, until all her savings were gone and she relied solely on her part-time job and pension.
So with those things in mind, Mrs Sparkle is going to get a budget renovation Cheapskates style.
Click here to follow Mrs Sparkle's budget renovation
Meet the Bumsteads, the 2010 Budget Renovation family
Blondie - a 48 year old wife and mother, working full time in an office a few suburbs away from home. Each weekday she leaves home at 8am, and drops the kids to school before heading off to start work at 9am. The kids get the bus home. She is supposed to finish work at 5pm, but at least 4 nights a week works over, and gets home between 6.30 - 7.30. Too tired to cook tea she picks up takeaway on way home or rings ahead for delivery, trying to choose the healthier options of charcoal chicken and salad or Chinese rather than pizza, fish and chips or burgers. She shops at her local supermarket in a big shopping centre on Saturday because she is simply too tired and busy with housework to be bothered going a little further to Aldi. Blondie has no organized menu plan or shopping list, rather just buys as she sees and thinks about groceries. There is no clothing plan for the family so she buys spontaneously or in an emergency shopping run when a garment is needed. There is no gift box or gift plan so again the shopping mall dash does the job, and poor Blondie ends up spending more than intended simply because there is no plan.
Dagwood - a 48 year old cabinet maker, employed by a local contractor, works 6 days a week, leaves home 7am , arrives back 6.30pm most days. Dagwood goes fishing to relax and this can cost $100 or more each time he goes, depending on how far he travels and whether or not he takes his little tinny. Towing the boat adds significantly to the cost of his hobby. He and Alexander often leave early on a Sunday morning to take the boat out and hopefully catch some fish. Otherwise he spends his time at home mowing the lawn or relaxing with the paper.
Alexander - in year 12, and the pressure is on. School supplies have been very expensive - Blondie forgot the second-hand book sale at the end of last year and so missed out on some cheaper textbooks. Alexander is on his Ls and gets his practice driving to school and each weekend when Dagwood takes him out for a drive. He spends most of his time studying or playing games on computer (online of course). Alexander often has friends over for gaming nights and Blondie has to feed them all, plus cover the extra electricity and broadband allowance that another 5 laptops use etc
Cookie - the social butterfly of the family. In year 8, Cookie is the most expensive member of the Bumstead family. She always needs cash for something - dancing, piano, school assignments/excursions/clothes/shoes/presents for friends/parties etc. Cookie Is generous to a fault and sending her parents broke with her generosity. She too often has friends over for weekend and holiday sleepovers - Blondie feeds them all - they like pizza and hiring DVDs - and these weekends usually end up costing close to $100.
Click here to follow the Bumsteads on as they tackle their budget renovation
Mr and Mrs Smith, our 2009 Budget Renovation recipients
A couple of months ago, during an interview, I was asked if I ever helped anyone on a one on one basis. The answer is yes, I have in the past sat down with Cheapskaters who have asked for help and hopefully helped them get their finances in order (none of them have said I haven't so I suspect that's a good sign), but it's not something I do on a regular basis. It's not because I don’t want to help, but one on one takes a lot of time and time is not something I have an excess of. I think that concentrating on the Cheapskates Club, the newsletters and the Journal are a much more efficient way to spread the message that you can be debt free, cashed up and laughing without feeling or being deprived.
The question did get me thinking though and during one of our morning chat sessions Julie and I threw a few ideas around and came up with the 2009 Budget Renovation. The successful applicant would have one year of one on one time with me to work on debt reduction and building savings and their progress would be tracked in the Journal each month.
Mrs Smith's application tore at my heart because I have been where she is now.
"First of all, thanks for the newsletter, it really is great. I'm hoping you can help us. I've had it! We spent the weekend doing the final touches on the new sandpit in the back yard, and you know what? We don't have enough money left this month for a trailer load of sand. Yep, how's that for all dressed up and no where to go? We only managed to get this far because we bought the materials bit by bit, and luckily came across exactly the amount of pavers we needed to line the bottom!
In a nutshell, we've not been financially irresponsible , but just 8 weeks before I had Junior, Mr Smith was made redundant. It ate away the buffer we had, and because at the time we decided that I should try to stay home as long as I could with Junior, we started circling the drain. So we started using the demon credit card, and it went south from there.
These days I work from home, and our family is broke. Broke as broke. I often find that it is straining our relationship so much as we have nothing left over between my partners monthly pays, and the money I earn goes straight on the bills and food. I sometimes just want to pack up and leave so that we can get some assistance from the government!
Last week (before the sandpit incident) I spoke to Mr Smith about the Budget Renovation, and out of pride obviously, he has some concerns. He's mostly scared that he's going to look foolish because "isn't it a man's job to be providing for his family?" and all of that sort of malarky. Well, yes, it is a man's job (at least a family man's) to provide. But I'm thinking that the time has come for this woman to put her foot down and take the hand of help that's been offered to them. He's not against the idea, he thinks that an extra hand would be good. I can tell you this for sure: he's sick of financially looking like a goldfish gasping for their last mouthful of water on the wrong side of the tank.
With Christmas, we're looking at having no ability to save anything at all until at least February. And that's without looking at the calendar to see if we have any triple mortgage payments coming out.
We're in a horrible spot and to be honest I'm really hoping that you don't look at us a bit closer and decide that we're not exactly what you're looking for, because that is the story of our lives at the moment. We constantly earn just a little bit too much for any assistance (and that crushed me when I looked in to solar power rebates, let me tell you!), and it just breaks our hearts knowing that if it wasn't for us robbing Peter to pay Paul we'd never get anywhere.
The thought of continuing to do nothing through to this coming February is giving me major anxiety! Just let me know what I need to do, how we're going to do it and the like, and you'll see me doing as much work as you need!" Mrs Smith
And so I would like to introduce you to Mr and Mrs Smith, the 2009 Budget Renovation case study. I know that anxious, sinking feeling when the money runs out but the bills don't so I can't wait to show the Smiths how easy it is to turn anxiety into the feeling of contentment and pride when the last debt is paid off, the Peace of Mind account is fully funded and an emergency account set up.
A Platinum Cheapskates Club membership is required to follow any of the Budget Renovations.
If you know you have an active (paid up) online membership, please login to the Cheapskates Club Members Centre, making sure you use the username and password you joined with. These are case sensitive, so please enter them exactly as you entered them when you joined.
The Cheapskates Club Member's Centre is over 3,000 pages of articles, hints, tips and ideas that will show you how to live life debt free, cashed up and laughing. And it gets bigger everyday.
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