Vroom vroom save

Sometimes car hire can be prohibitively expensive, but not if you do your homework, or have a website do it for you. Vroomvroomvroom.com.au promises to find you the lowest rates from Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, enterprise and Thrifty — with no booking fees.

As an example, we searched for the cheapest hire car from Melbourne airport on 15 August, returning on 20 August, and we found a Kia Rio (or similar) for $120 from enterprise car hire.

If you’d gone straight to Avis, their cheapest option is a Holden Barina or similar for $153.77, if you book in advance online.

Budget’s cheapest is $150.88 for a Holden Spark hatchback or similar; and Europcar will charge you $193.03 for a Toyota Yaris or equivalent.

All up, you’ve saved $30 to $63, and lots of time flipping from site to site. (Always check insurance and extras for a proper apples-with-apples comparison.)

Meanwhile, naughty Europcar charged too much on debit cards

The ACCC is taking car hire business Europcar to court for overcharging on Visa and MasterCard debit card purchases between July and November 5 last year, i.e., charging more in fees than it cost them to process the payments, even though Europcar’s bank had notified them of the real costs.
Europcar responded by saying they had no idea they were charging too much, and that it “impacted 22,602 customers who were overcharged by a total of $20,294. The amounts refunded ranged from $0.01 to $18.33, with an average of 89 cents per customer.”

Saving on energy in NSW

The NSW government says if you change 20 halogen downlights to LED downlights, you can save up to $210 a year on energy costs.

They’re offering a lighting upgrade offer to sweeten the deal – the cost of LED bulbs and installation is subsidised if you use an approved supplier and meet a range of terms and conditions.

Appliance subsidies too

If you’re a pensioner or veteran in NSW (or you have the appropriate Centrelink status), you can also trade in your old fridge or TV and get a 40-per-cent discount on a new, energy-efficient fridge or TV (selected models) from The Good Guys.

According to the Appliance Replacement Offer page, you could save $150 to $325 a year on energy bills, just by replacing these two appliances.

Not in NSW? Do some googling to see what your state government offers.

Cheap loans on energy-efficient appliances Australia-wide

Australian individuals and families on low incomes should look into the federal government’s No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS). That entitles you to interest-free, charge-free, fee-free loans of up to $1,200 to buy essential goods and services such as fridges, washing machines and medical procedures. Repayments are set up at an affordable amount over 12 to 18 months.

MoneySmart lists some additional ways to access fee-free, low-interest loans.

Compare that to many retailers’ interest-free loans for appliances, which may have establishment fees and monthly or annual fees, even during an interest-free period. Canstar does a hypothetical calculation showing you how a 24-month interest-free loan might slug you with $143.80 just in fees.

It’s not just farmers affected by drought

Australia’s drought crisis is being described as the worst on record. And now there are fears that the price of meat, dairy and even veg will skyrocket out of control.

That’s not a signal to go into stockpile mode, but there are steps you can take. Like buying less meat and dairy, if those goods do escalate in price, and eating more vegetables. Also choosing fruit and veg that’s plentiful, rather than sticking to your usual routine; even grow your own, and preserve the excess for later.

And if you want to help the farmers, there are plenty of ways: through the Salvos, Frontier Services, Buy a Bale and Aussie Helpers.

Savings Room – lots of room for grocery savings

Blogger Penina Petersen from Savingsroom.com.au reckons you can save $196 a week by cooking smart and stopping waste. She explains it all in her book Table Tucker which has 52 seasonal meal plans and shopping lists. Even if you only manage to sustain it for six weeks you’ll save $1,176 by following her advice to the letter.

The Thrifty Issue website also reckons they can save you $1,000 a year by cooking up leftovers in mysterious ways, as outlined in their book Leftover Magic.

Plastic bags still free at Coles

Not that we’re encouraging anyone to get more plastic bags into their trolleys, but Coles have made the controversial move to offer their thicker, “reusable” plastic bags for free until August 29. (The idea was originally to charge 15 cents per bag, after single-use plastic bags were banned from 1 July.)

Combine that with their plastic toy promotion and Coles are looking much less believable as advocates of plastic waste reduction.