With Sydney in lockdown and Victoria and South Australia emerging from restrictions, some experts have tipped that we are at risk of a double-dip recession.
EY chief economist Jo Masters told the ABC that it is “very likely that the economy will contract in the September quarter, with strict lockdowns across New South Wales, Victoria and now South Australia.”
It is more important than ever to set household budgets that will see your family through the coronavirus crisis.
Here are some tips to get you started on budgeting these uncertain times.
Know where you’re spending your money
Rather than binging on the latest Netflix series or HouseParty wine sessions with your friends, carve out time to examine your expenditure. Itemise your monthly expenses as much as possible and separate out essential needs like housing, food and utilities versus your “wants” like entertainment, takeaway meals and shopping. This is where you will be able to see where you can cut the fat and start saving.
The money you’re saving by staying home? Make sure you save it
While we are sheltering at home, suddenly everyone has become a gourmet chef, or the backyard is now a scene out of The Block. It might be tempting to take up an expensive hobby during this time, but it is now more important than ever that every dollar you own, goes into your savings account. Don’t be tempted by that expensive cycle bike – realistically, you might not be using it in a year. Most of us are spending very little time on the road, and most, are not spending money on transport to get to and from work. Make sure all that money you would normally spend on fuel and transport also goes into your savings account.
Forego those guilty pleasures
Yes, the restaurants might be closed, but it doesn’t mean that you need to be spending hundreds of dollars a week on takeout. Cut back your costs by cooking more, especially since we are spending more time at home. The other big expenditure for Australians is the booze. According to MoneySmart, we spend around $14.9 billion each year on alcohol – that’s a lot of slabs of beer. And while it might be more tempting to hit the bottle a little earlier, ease off on the alcohol consumption. Your head, and your wallet will thank you in the morning.
Stock up smarter
There are ways to shop smarter and get the most of our weekly grocery shop. Before you head to the shops, take stock of what you have in the pantry and in the fridge and create a list of what you need. Effie Zahos, a Financial Consultant from Canstar suggests that you buy things that will compliment what you already have to reduce on wastage. The average Australian household throws away almost 300kg of food per person per year, according to the Foodbank’s Food Waste Facts. Also, take a more a savvy approach to home cooking by adding more vegetables and legumes to your diet. Stay away from the expensive cuts of meat which will save you a money. Try cooking bigger batches of food so you have enough for a couple of meals, without doubling the cost (and always eat the leftovers). Also consider buying home brand staples or look past the supermarket to purchasing directly from farms where you can buy in bulk and freeze meat.
Review your bills
New reforms to the energy retail market have made it simple for consumers to compare utility providers. Before making the switch if you think you’re paying more than you should be, call your service providers and ask them for better deals. Point out you’ve been a loyal customer (if you can), or if you are having trouble affording your usual payments, ask for options. But make sure if you delay payments, that there won’t be any interest or finance charges you’ll have to pay later. It’s worth taking the time to negotiate in this environment. Every bill is worth pursuing. If you are renting, it’s worth asking your landlord for a rent reduction, especially if you have lost your job, been stood down, or had a loss in income. Most landlords will review this on a four-week cycle.
Ask your bank for a better deal
Australians now have a variety of options if you have a mortgage to pay off. It’s now possible to renegotiate with your bank, which are now offering repayment ‘holidays’ and other measures to help with the short-term relief. Be cautious though, that there might be long-term burdens involved. Loans will still accrue interest during the deferral which result in increased payments at the end of the six-month period. Instead, look at refinancing with your current lender or another bank. You also need to look at the interest rate you are paying. If you are paying interest that is closer to 3 per cent than 2.5, then you should be looking for a bank with a lower rate.