Top tips from a frugal FIFO family

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Deb Russo is a FIFO wife of the offshore kind. Her husband works on oil rigs and vessels. Typically, he does a four-week-on and four-week-off roster. They've lived their entire 14-year relationship like this. Initially Deb's husband was in the Navy, then he shifted to work in the mines and did the 28/7 roster (Deb's least favourite!) With this offshore roster, though, she wouldn’t change a thing.

Husband and I were hugging in the kitchen last week. It haven't felt happier or more free in ages.

You see, we have just self-published his children’s book about working in the offshore industry, so money has been tight. It’s not cheap to self-publish ... to sink your whole life and then some into a dream. 

We hear phrases like "you must be rolling in cash" a lot, and truth is we are not. We are asset rich, but cash poor. It’s the way we have worked it, it is part of our game plan. We live on a tight budget to pay off the bigger picture.

But living thin for a long time can fray even the strongest of relationships, because you’re constantly worried about money. Constantly stressed about every single dollar and whether you are going to have enough to cover this bill, that bill or whether the kids will have this and that.

Some families enter the FIFO game and never leave (or leave broke) because they don't have a financial game plan – they're trapped playing snakes and ladders when it comes to money. Here are my top tips so you can win that board game of life! 

1. Have a budget. Have a set amount you can live off and bank the rest.
2. Have a FIFO plan. If it’s to pay off the house, just work until it’s paid off.
3. Don’t buy things you don’t need. Stick to the FIFO game plan. I'm talking expensive toys like new cars, new boats and four wheelers.
4. Having said that, budget for some play money too.
5. Have regular discussions about money with your partner. My husband and I have a monthly meeting to go over what’s due, where the investments are at and how the savings are going. We are a family 'company' after all.
6. Don’t buy into the competitiveness that can sometimes come with FIFO life (for both investments and toys). Everyone’s circumstances are different. 
7. Don’t buy investments for the tax benefit without discussing it with your accountant first. The $6000 you spend now might not be worth the stressful frugal living for the $2000 tax your get back.
8. Don’t use credit cards. Unless it’s your own money. They are the downward spiral of the game.
9. Consider your savings (no matter how small) as a bill that needs to be paid every week. That $10 weekly saving might just be the difference between Christmas and no Christmas when an unexpected redundancy happens.

Best of luck!

More columns from Oil & Gas Mum, Deb Russo:

Check out Deb's daily blog at and if you've got any questions for her, please click here.

And here's another oil and gas couple's advice on making FIFO family life work when you're working offshore