Most of us spend more than we need to on everything from credit cards to power bills and petrol. Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon has some simple tips that can save you over $5,000 right away
Could you stretch your money further? For most, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Your so-called fixed costs are anything but fixed and your spending is a moveable, fluid feast. The fact is nearly every one of us wastes money. We buy takeaway rather than cook. We buy clothes at full price rather than waiting for the sales. We buy books rather than borrowing them from the library. We buy lunch rather than bringing it from home.
The key to a buoyant (rather than bruised) bank account is to be clear on what you need to spend money on versus what you simply want to spend money on. And you’ll be pleased to hear there is a bunch of even easier ways to keep your hard-earned cash.
Here are 10 tips, starting with where there’s money for the taking and ending with some simple ways to trim your spending.
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1. Cash in on card competition
If you carry over credit-card debt from month to month, and more than half of us do, STOP paying interest on it! Providers are falling over themselves to offer long interest-free periods on transferred balances – up to 24 months. This means every dollar you repay comes off your balance and gets you closer to freeing up a chunk of extra money each month. Just don’t spend anything new on balance-transfer cards as the rate will be sky high.
2. Investigate your insurances
General insurance can be one of your biggest costs. Switch insurers and you could save up to 15 per cent. Jump online to see how much less you could pay. Just be sure that the cheaper policy is at least as good as the one you already have.
3. Check your health cover
If you’ve had health cover for a while, I’ll venture you’re paying too much. You can find out at privatehealth.gov.au. Don’t forget to look at any cheap restricted-membership fund you may be able to access due to your job or union membership. Make sure your policy is tailored to your current needs (unnecessary obstetrics can set you back $500 a year).
4. Power down utility bills
The carbon tax roll-back was supposed to net us about $550 a year – right? In any case, big electricity savings are available: market researcher Energy Watch (energywatch.com.au) says a family can pocket an average of $400 a year by moving to a better offer. Similar savings could be on offer on every utility – check out switchwise.com.au.
5. Tweak telecommunications
The under-cutting in this industry is drastically under-utilised, see whistleout.com.au to find new deals on mobile phones and plans, and broadband.
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6. Milk your mortgage
A home loan is likely to be your biggest monthly outlay and also where you could save the most money. The easiest way is to ask your lender for a discount. Treat the advertised standard variable rate merely as a starting point for negotiation. If they say no, don’t be scared to move to the best rate – often some 1.5 percentage points lower. On the average $357,500 home loan, that works out to $329 a month. And, if you can live without those “bonus” bucks and pay them onto your loan, you’ll turn this into a small fortune: more than $150,000.
7. Clean up your accounts
Speaking of banking products, you should be paying no fees – yes, none – unless you have an investor-style home-loan package. The benchmark is now no account-keeping fees and no transaction fees, unless you transgress (e.g. miss a credit card payment). Finally, think ahead to when you’ll need cash to avoid “foreign” ATM fees of up to $2.50.
8. Fight fuel hikes
Fill-up your car on the cheapest day, now typically Thursdays. Then cut your consumption: get your car serviced regularly, keep tyres pumped, unload after each trip and try not to use the air-conditioning around town.
9. Cut grocery costs
Plan your meals for the week so you don’t overbuy; shop late when goods may be discounted for quick sale; buy in bulk; cook large amounts and freeze in portion sizes to help resist takeaway on busy weeknights.
10. Exercise for free
Do you really need a gym membership? Instead, workout for free at home or in a park.