It’s tough trying to figure out how money works when they don’t teach you about it in high school or college. I mean, I don’t know about you but I still haven’t had to use Pythagoras’ theory but I have had to pay my bills. 

I’ve been trying to learn, and it’s been a grand old trip so far. Here’s what I’ve figured out:

1. Bills and rent come FIRST on payday.

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Get the big stuff out of the way and you won’t have to worry about it in the event of a sale splurge. If you’re saving, putting aside bills and rent money is a basic part of divvying up your income.

2. Don’t go food shopping when you’re hungry.

Grab a banana, a packet of chips, a tub of yoghurt; just eat something before you go to Coles! Getting your wallet out on an empty stomach is like bullfighting: it’s dangerous even if you know what you’re doing.

3. Plan your meals ahead.

You don’t have to sit down and chart what you’re going to eat for the next fortnight. Just have an idea of what food you need when you go grocery shopping. This can help cut down on impulse purchases. When you’ve got limited room for food storage, you don’t want bottles of unused stuff taking up space.

4. There is free stuff everywhere.

The internet is a magical place that has enabled all sorts of co-operative networks. For instance, Freecycle, which is where I got about 50 small planters to plant rocket and spinach seedlings to barter for eggs off Canberra’s facebook Barter group. So many people in Canberra have excess chicken eggs and vegetables from their back garden which they will happily fob off to you.

5. Expensive stuff doesn’t have to be expensive.

Make use of  the facebook marketplace, Canberra’s the Green Shed or your local charity store. I’ve found Zara, Bardot, Cue and Oxford clothes with the tags still on at Vinnies and Salvo’s.

The same goes for makeup; premium brands are only superior to what you find at Target or Priceline by a very slim margin (fight me). With prescriptions, ask for the generic brands when you go to the pharmacy. They’re made to the same strict guidelines and they cost less.

6. Don’t pay for it if you can DIY in ten minutes.

You can make moisturizer out of coconut oil and beeswax. It lasts for months and makes your skin feel as smooth as an kitten’s belly. You can make bath bombs out of bicarb soda, citric acid and Epsom salts. Perfume? Mum’s essential oils, distilled water and vodka. Capitalism runs on convincing people they have to spend $50 on stuff that Youtube can teach them how to make for $10.

Peripheral issue; learn about your car (if you have one). Learn how to change the oil and change the tyres. The better you maintain your car, the longer it will last, and the more you know about how it works, the less mechanics will be able to rip you off at service time.

7. Know what you’re saving towards.

Is it a new camera? A road trip? Know the exact cost and figure out how long it will take to build that amount if you put away X dollars each payday. Keeping that goal in the front of mind will help you commit and stick to saving.

8. Stay ready for the hefty bastards.

“Hefty bastards” is what I call car rego and car services, internet and electricity bills, and large medical bills. When my safety net shrinks, it’s usually because one of these guys has arrived. But if I didn’t have that safety net to scoop up the hefty bastards, whip them around my head and fling them into the sunset, I would be in serious trouble when more than one of them comes along at once.

9. Consolidate your super.

This sounds nightmarishly difficult, but there are companies you can outsource this task to. If you’ve changed jobs several times in the past five or six years, odds are you’ve got more than one superannuation account. Get in touch with your previous jobs to grab the numbers and names of the account they paid your super into, provide that to a company like Australian Super or Lost Super along with your preferred account, and bam done. You never know what might be in those old accounts, and future you will thank you for not leaving this job to her.

Note: Make sure you’re not being charged for extra life insurance or other costs by these phantom accounts. These charges are unnecessary and can quickly dig through your accumulated super.

10. Keep tabs on your student debt.

Again, this sounds like a hassle, but the more you know about your debt, the better positioned you’ll be to pay it off. And planning how to pay off debt can become very important very quickly when talking about potential future loans, say on a house (which only 51% of us will ever be able to afford BUT HEY at least Davo gets to claim off his negatively-geared Sydney bungalow – rant over).

Some of these tips might require changing habits, but most people already practice some form of money conscious behaviour so just think of it as an extension of stuff you’re already doing. Changing your daily decision-making in order to save money is hard, but over time, it will become your most effective shield against disaster in the event of job insecurity.

If you’re feeling angry about being far less financially secure than previous generations, just remember that the next Australian federal election is due at the end of this year. Politics affects the world we all live in, so put your empty wallet where you mouth is and vote below the line for the people committed to making the future better for the generations that will have to live in it.