The panic buying is over, and households are now shutting their wallets and tightening their household budgets as they hunker down for the long haul.

So how can you save big but stay sane?

You’ll be amazed at what you can do once you start examining your life. Here are 10 ideas on discretionary spending to help you prioritise quickly and see where you can cut back.

Personal care

With beauty salons shut and hairdressers cutting their hours, this is one of the first areas of your budget where you will see instant savings. On average, Australians spend $29 a week on personal care, and that may include things like facials, haircuts, nails, etc. That’s a total saving of $1,508 per year. While business meetings are on Zoom and dinner parties on hold, you can certainly reduce your visits by half – or even do a little more at home.

Coffee

It’s the age-old debate. According to the Suncorp Cost of Food Reports, we are finding it hard to stick to a budget which costs us thousands each year. The report found that the Australians spent roughly $140 a month on coffee. If you do your sums, taking into account four weeks of leave, you would be spending around $1,540 just on that morning fix over your working year.

Shopping

Apparently, men are more likely to go big on impulse purchases – a RateCity report found 35 per cent admitted to spending $500-$10,000 against 27 per cent of women. Women are more likely to impulse spend under $500.

The two most common weaknesses are fashion items and beauty products so perhaps steer clear of retailers (and etailers), especially if you are spending more time at home. The average Australian spends around $2,000 on fashion, so if you can get away with going the whole year with spending only on essentials like underwear and socks, you could save $2,000 at least.

Food

While food may not be discretionary, there are ways to cut costs. The average Australian spends $44 on restaurant meals. If you were to spend that amount every week, that’s a staggering $2,288 which could be going toward your grocery bill. But don’t deny yourself a treat every now and again.

Another study, Food Wise maintains  that we discard up to 20 per cent of the food we purchase. That equates 1 out 5 bags of groceries. Overall, we throw away around $1,036 worth of food every year, per household. Make big curries, casseroles or soups on the weekend and freeze in portion sizes for nights when you may be too tired and/or late after work to cook.

RateCity recently calculated that packing your own lunch everyday amounts to savings of around $1,400 every year.

If you were to cut back on your restaurant meals, making sure you minimise food wastage and pack your lunch every day, you could be saving up to $4,726 annually.

Booze

Figures show that men are likely to spend their last $10 on alcohol than women, the Cash of the Country report says. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians spent an average of $31.95 on alcohol beverages a week. That means we are spending roughly $1,661 on booze. When you add everything up, consider cheaper options. Or if you’re willing, try going a year without the plonk.

Travel

Like personal care, this is another area where you will start to see instant savings because of the government’s travel bans. Australians spend around $77 per week on holiday, which equates to around $4,004. And, we spend even more on international travel. So you’ll have extra money in the bank for when we can start exploring the world again.

Gym membership

Research from the St George Bank, which was released last year found that Australians spend around $250 a month on getting healthy and fit. They would be buying products or fitness memberships. If you decide to start doing your own home workouts, by using YouTube tutorials, or hitting the pavement for a run, you could be saving $3,000 for the year.

Telecommunications

It’s now become a necessity for both genders. And especially during the COVID economy, we are more reliant on our smartphones than ever. On average, we spend $17 a week on our phones – that’s around $68 per month. If you check out whistleout.com.au, you could pay as little as $19.99 per month with TPG for 6GB (BYO phone) of data as well as unlimited calls and SMS.

For a 100GB monthly plan, the Whistle Out search has found a deal for as little as $38 a month which will include not just the 100GB but also unlimited calls and texts, 300 minutes of international calls to 15 selected countries for $5 and no cancellation fees.

If you were to opt for the 100GB plan, you could be saving $30 a month, which means that your annual savings on telecommunications is an extra $360 in the bank.

Transport

After childcare and tax costs, transport is one of our greatest expenses. We spend on average $99.88 each week on work related petrol costs, tolls and/or public transport tickets. As a larger proportion of people are now working from home, you may start to see instant savings. The average full time worker spend $4,800 per year just to and getting from work.

Credit card

The same rationale as the personal loan applies here. An outstanding credit card balance is the hangover of a past indulgence. You transfer an existing balance and pay 0 per cent interest on that debt for, say, 18 months. Credit card holders who transfer their balance to a new card could save an average of $1,262 in interest and fees and pay their debt off 6 months earlier.

So how much can you potentially save? With everything added up (bearing in mind you will be making a lot of sacrifices, including the booze), you could save up to $24,071.

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