This week CHOICE officially launched their Transformer bill checking service to help Australian households save money on electricity. They say trials of the new service have delivered individual savings of up to $1,500, with average savings of $505 per year.

Transformer works like this: first they look at your latest electricity bill to find out if you’re being overcharged and by how much. If you sign up (paying $99 per annum), they switch you, and keep switching you, so you continue to save.

Unlike other comparison sites, CHOICE is a chartered non-profit and doesn’t take advertising. Transformer is available in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and South East Queensland.

Ring, ring, why won’t you give me a deal?

We flagged in a previous article how phone plans are likely to get cheaper.

CHOICE confirms that SIM-only plans can be better value because they give you more data and phone allowances; also, you’re not locked into a contract so you can repeatedly switch for a better deal. WhistleOut does the comparison specifically for iPhones and comes to a similar conclusion.

The only downer is, with a SIM-only plan you need to pay for the phone up front instead of paying it off monthly. The upside is there are always phone deals around.

For instance, Deals Direct is pushing some discounted Samsung models – you can buy a Samsung Note 8 in gold or black, for $950 – a saving of almost $450 off the RRP of $1399 and $250 cheaper than Amaysim’s $1155 import.

Another local online retailer is offering the Samsung Galaxy S8 for $679 (down $320 from the $999 RRP).

If you go with re-conditioned or demo models you can save too. At time of writing OzMobiles had second-hand Samsung Galaxy S8s for $699.

Same advice as ever – shop around, do your homework.

70 ways to save, including on drinking

Who doesn’t want to know 70 easy ways to save money in 2018? Canstar’s list has some good, practical suggestions.

Like water: we all know what a dreadful impact bottled water has on the environment. (If you don’t, Cool Australia will tell you.) They’ll also tell you that the average cost of the most popular bottled water in Australia is $2.75 per litre. Even if you only drink 3 bottled litres of it a week, that’s $429 a year – wasted.

Drop for drop, bottled water costs about 2000 times more than tap water!! So buy yourself a lightweight water bottle, fill it up regularly and take it with you EVERYWHERE. Also, drinking more of it instead of take-away coffees, soft drinks or juice will benefit your health and your wallet.

How car agents help nervous buyers

Sydney Morning Herald writer Caitlin Fitzsimmons broaches some hairy topics around buying a car in her article ‘How to buy a secondhand car if you’re lazy or nervous’.

Two key things you can take away her entertaining story:

1. If you buy a good, used car and save up to buy it, you can save an awful lot on car repayments; and you can prevent your dealer making a big profit off your inflated car loan interest rate. (NB. Aussies will pay $536 million in car loan interest in 2018.)

2. Car agents are people who are really knowledgeable about cars, and who can do the icky stuff you don’t want to, like going to dealer auctions, checking a car out mechanically and bidding at the auction.

Fitzsimmons says even paying her car agent a $500 fee, she and her husband paid “$1500-$2000 less than the typical market price for the same make, model and vintage” of their used car.

$21 challenge – re-wiring your brain

Heard of the $21 Challenge? It’s a book written about 10 years ago by Fiona Lippey and Jackie Gower of the Simple Savings website, and it shows you how to save $300 on groceries over the course of one week. How? By using what’s in your cupboards and pantry, garden and freezer, and changing some old habits.

The Simple Savings ladies say you don’t need to do the challenge every week; but it teaches you to think differently about waste and grocery shopping. We’re all for that.

You can buy a pre-owned copy of the book from eBay or Amazon for around $20. There’s a PDF here too, with info and recipes. Or stay on our site and read more tips for saving on groceries here, here and here.

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