Hold the phone

Before you grab that new mobile, hold the phone – a new operator is about to come on line with some sweet deals.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone together control 90 per cent of the $20 billion Australian telephone market. Now TPG is about to do an Amazon and upset the cosy threesome’s dominance.

As a result, Telstra and its mates are loading up plans with more goodies.

Vodafone, for instance,  has joined forces with Netflix , allowing its NBN customers to access the streaming service with the click of a button.

It’s a great time to be out of contract and on the prowl for a new supplier.

Chilly buns

If you’ve been up early this week,  you’ll have felt the onset of Autumn – and with it, the prospect of nastier power bills.

Energy companies are always promoting incentives to get you to switch; this week, we’ve seen Powershop contacting their customers about an increase in their Switch Your Mates benefit. If you’re a customer and you can persuade a friend to switch to Powershop, for instance, you’ll receive a $100 credit on your account, and so will your friend, up from the previously-advertised $75 benefit. (NB. Powershop is available in Victoria, NSW and south-east Queensland only.)

But the big question is:  do you really want to recommend Powershop to a mate? On the plus side, they’re consistently ranked as our number one green electricity provider. You (and your mate) can take advantage of their ‘Powerpacks’ feature, which lets you pre-purchase discounted electricity through a smartphone app or online store, including ‘future’ power packs.

Customers also receive notifications about ‘spot’ power packs – if you buy in the window of opportunity you’ll get further short-term discounts.

BUT will Powershop save you real money over a year?

Canstar Blue have done the comparisons in NSW, Victoria and Queensland and Powershop isn’t near the top.  They do point out that Powershop’s pricing structure makes it tricky to compare costs to other retailers.

You might need to bite the bullet and gather up some basic info about your usage and current plan and compare at (or for Victorians). Otherwise, it ain’t apples with apples.

Loose lemons

Choice have a warning for shoppers this week: watch out for confusing pricing on loose versus pre-packed food items. They use the example of Aldi lemons which are available loose, or in a bag of five. On the Choice Facebook page, one shopper said she did the sums when she got home and realised she was paying $8 per kilogram for lemons in a bag, compared to $5.99 per kilogram for the loose ones.

Choice has calculated that loose items are cheaper 53% of the time; if goods don’t have a unit price, you might need to weigh them, and do some on-the-spot calculating to do a proper comparison. And send your findings to Choice.

The Easter car hire run-around

Peer-to-peer car hire company Car Next Door is spruiking a finding from the Car Rental Price Index that says you could be paying up to 76% above usual rates if you hire a car over Easter.

That translates to “at least $150 a day to rent a little run-around Holden Barina through a traditional car rental company”, says their CEO, Will Davies; even more for an SUV, compared to $30 a day “renting from one of your neighbours” with Car Next Door, whose vehicles are available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. has some reviews of the service, mostly positive; just be aware of all the costs including the $250 pre-authorisation fee. – where’s the catch?

If you can avoid impulse-buying stuff you don’t need, and focus on the essentials (and you don’t mind last season’s, or last year’s models) sites like Catch of the Day can save a bundle.

For example, at time of writing they have various KingGee workwear items for a third or less of their original prices, as well as substantial reductions on some lines of Samsonsite luggage; and a bra sale featuring known brands, some at 50 or 60 percent off – take that DJs stocktake sale!

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