IN belt-tightening times, some of our expenses can be eliminated as optional extras, but unfortunately not utilities, so here are some simple steps to get you on your way to saving money — today.
1. Take a holiday for free. Avoid paying for accommodation when you travel by joining online communities such as Couchsurfing, holiday house-sitting services such as Mindahome, or work-for-stay programs such as WWOOF.
2. Choose a credit card with a low interest rate. RateCity analysis shows the average credit card rate is 16.85 per cent. Shop around for a good deal because rates start as low as 8.99 per cent.
3. There are hundreds of home loans on the market so make sure you compare them. Start by visiting moneysaverhq.com.au.
4. Check your broadband and mobile bills. If you’re on a contract for your mobile data or ISP, check it against what you’re actually using; if you’re well under your quota each month, there’s serious money to be saved switching down to a lower plan.
Do your homework …. to save on mobile phone and credit card bills.
5. Buy a car at the end of the financial and calendar years. Dealers need to clear stock. Cars sitting on the lot cost dealers money. Timing your buying decision allows more room to bargain. Or buy toward the end of the month: Same impetrative applies. Dealers have monthly quotas to meet. Buying at the 11th can mean they’re prepared to “tear up” a car to make their magic number.
6. Get organised before you go grocery shopping. Make a quick inventory of the food you already have and then rough out a daily meal plan that will last for the next few days, or until you are next likely to shop. Include ingredients you already have and combine them in recipes you feel comfortable with. Make a list of everything you will need, divided into meat, fruit and veg, and other groceries, so your visit to the supermarket, butcher and other stores can be efficient.
7. Direct debit is best for paying utility bills. Most providers will charge extra if you pay bills by cash, cheque or any method other than direct debit. Ask your supplier whether switching your payment method to direct debit will save you money.
8. Keep and reuse 3D glasses from a previous movie session so you’re not paying $1 for glasses every time.
9. Use a discount chemist and buy cheaper generic brand medicine. You could save up to $20.85 per script on the nation’s biggest selling drug atorvastatin by shopping around. A suburban chemist can charge up to $35.84 for a 40mg script but a generic brand at a discount chemist costs $14.99. This tip won’t work for pensioners who pay $6 for a script.
10. Sign up to airline, hotel and deals website mailing lists. Get the hot tip about a sale or special sent straight to your inbox — and get in fast to make sure you snap up the best rates.
11. Pay off your credit card in full each month. Interest is expensive so make sure you pay it every four weeks to avoid hefty charges.
12. Don’t just focus on the interest rate for home loans. Data from comparison site finder.com.au shows that the average standard variable rate on a $300,000 loan is 5.56 per cent. Look around for a good deal but also look at the other costs associated with the loan.
13. Keep your tech running longer. It’s tempting to sign up for every new smartphone or tablet the moment it rolls out of the factory. But if your existing gear still runs — or even if it can be repaired at a reasonable price — then think carefully before upgrading for any new features.
14. Don’t buy the top of the range car. Bottom of the range and mid-range are the new sweet spots. Options such as sunroofs don’t always make the car worth more at resale. Just the reverse in fact.
15. Think Big. Try shopping at other butchers, fruit and veg shops, markets and even wholesale stores that sell in large quantities. But, think carefully before you bag a bargain. Check use-by dates and don’t fall for two-for-one offers unless you’re sure you need both items.
16. Take advantage of group-discounted deals on utilities such as home and contents insurance or credit card rates offered at consumer campaign sites such as One Big Switch.
17. Join your cinema’s free movie club. Programs such as the Village Movie Club or Event’s CineBuzz mean you can get cheap tickets to selected sessions and can earn free movies. And, they’re called “Tight Arse Tuesdays” for a reason! Most cinemas have a cheap ticket day (not always Tuesdays). It could mean anything from a $5 to a $13 saving, depending on which cinema and what time of day you attend.
18. Shop around for a better deal on health insurance. You could save hundreds of dollars a month on health insurance premiums by updating your policy and removing cover for items like childbirth if you are too old to have children, adding a $250 excess or finding a better deal from a competing fund.
19. When booking a holiday look beyond the advertised price. Don’t just go for the cheapest accommodation — look at what is and isn’t included. Is there a kitchen, included breakfast, free Wi-Fi or childcare facilities? These can end up saving you money in the long run.
20. If you have multiple credit cards attack the ones that have the higher interest rates first to minimise the amount you are paying in interest.
21. Offset accounts help slash interest charges on home loans. These accounts operate as day-to-day accounts and reduce the amount of interest charges. For example if you have a $300,000 loan and $10,000 in your offset account you will only be charged interest on $290,000.
22. Apply some smartphone sense to save. It used to be that calls and texts were the real money spinners for telcos. These days its data, and many smartphone plans consider calls and texts as the “cheap” part of the equation. So why not turn that upside down and instead of responding to an email (and using up your data quota), call or text instead? Equally, plan “caps” are all too often underused. It’s an area where if you’re careful, prepaid plans, even those from the big telcos, can save you a lot of cold, hard cash.
23. Haggle on dealer delivery charge when you’re buying a car. It can save you thousands, but costs dealers only a few hundred dollars. Basically it’s a tank of juice and a wash.
24. Shop by season. The natural expectation when you spend more money on most household items is that the quality will improve. With food, the opposite can be the case. Buy a $5 punnet of strawberries in winter and they are unlikely to taste anywhere near as good as a $2 punnet bought in summer when they are abundant.
25. Compare and save when buying insurance. Don’t automatically renew your compulsory third-party (CTP) insurance with the same company each year. Shop around and ask your insurer to match the best price.
26. Cut out a latte a day. You could save nearly $1,000 a year and cut 35,360 calories from your diet helping you lose weight and become healthier by simply ditching your morning coffee.
27. As with your supermarket shopping, you’ll save by buying movie tickets in bulk. For example, a book of 10 “Screen Saver” tickets at Village Cinemas will save you more than $30 compared to paying per-session for regular tickets. Just make sure you use the tickets before they expire or you might actually lose money!
28. Go for a midweek mini-break. Travel midweek to get the best bang for your buck. Airfares are usually cheapest midweek (even better if you opt for an off-peak flight such as early morning or late night) as are accommodation packages.
29. Use a balance-transfer credit card. If you are trying to tackle your debt quickly these types of cards offer honeymoon periods with zero per cent interest to help you cut debt faster.
30. Make sure your offset account for your home loan is 100 per cent effective. Some offset accounts are sneaky and the entire amount parked in these accounts isn’t offset against the loan. For example it may only be 50 per cent offset which means if you have $10,000 in there only $5000 will be used to reduce the amount that is charged interest. Also, pay your salary into your offset account to help reduce interest charges.
31. Get the car windows tinted yourself. Dealers typically charge up to $800. You can get it done elsewhere for $300. Unless you’re qualified, don’t DIY.
32. Embrace the junk mail. Supermarket catalogues can save you money. Look out for specials and buy up — work those bargains into your meals for the week, or freeze, dehydrate or preserve them in other ways for later use, if they are perishable.
33. Hit the switch. Standby energy costs can be insidious. Look around your house and you’ll find many appliances all using energy even when you think you’ve turned them off. When you turn appliances off with a remote, the device will go to standby power so switch them off at the wall, whether it is your TV, phone charger or microwave.
34. Sign up to music venue and ticket agency email alerts to keep abreast of any two-for-one or similar deals (it’s bad news for the band that can’t sell out a show, but good news for you!)
35. Stop smoking. A pack a day habit could be costing you $175 a week and increasing your risk of cancer and heart disease. More than 15,000 Australians a year die from tobacco related disease which accounts for 750,000 hospital bed days a year.
36. When booking “cheap” flights online, be careful to avoid extra costs. Many sites have “opt out” check-boxes for extras such as seat selection and travel insurance that you need to uncheck to avoid being slugged with a fee. Consider your payment method — you may be able to avoid sometimes hefty credit card surcharges.
37. Work out a realistic plan of attack to pay back your credit card debt and in the meantime stop spending on your card. Reserve Bank of Australia data shows the nation owes a whopping $50.1 billion on plastic.
38. Australia’s cash rate is at a record low at 2.5 per cent. Make the most of this because it won’t last forever. A good way to do this is by keeping your interest repayments the same or increasing them. Don’t reduce them in line with rate falls, try and keep them the same to reduce interest charges.
39. Store it online for free. Cloud based backup services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive offer an easy and — at the lower price tiers — free way to save your files, whether they’re vital business documents or precious family photos. Hard drives are fairly cheap these days, but it’s hard to argue with free.
40. Establish service costs for your car. More brands than ever offer capped price servicing that guarantee costs over three years. Also inquire as to the cost of extended warranty. Some brands offer five.
41. Learn how to cook secondary meat cuts and ask the fishmonger about less pricey varieties of fish. Also, learn to break down a whole chicken into its separate parts.
42. Buy energy smart. Buy energy efficient devices. Don’t buy appliances that are bigger than necessary and check the standby consumption and energy star ratings.
43. “Restricted view” tickets in a venue sometimes cost less than other seats. You don’t really need to see Pink’s head when she’s singing, do you?
44. Reduce your alcohol intake. Australians consume on average 10 litres of alcohol per person per year. You could save $100 a year if you gave up drinking cheap wine and over $500 a year if you drink in a pub or restaurant. At the same time you would be reducing your risk of some cancers, liver problems, diabetes and cutting your calorie intake. Alcohol is linked to more than 250 deaths and over 11,000 hospitalisations among young people aged 15- 24 years each year.
45. Don’t fall into the travel insurance trap. Shop around for travel insurance and don’t just buy it through your travel agent or airline. Compare quotes online and read the fine print to be sure of what’s covered. And don’t double up — some credit cards come with built-in travel insurance, so check first.
46. Rewards cards are not always best. These types of credit cards often come with annual fees and charges so check to see if it’s worth it.
47. Phone up your lender and ask for a better deal on your home loan. Banks are hungry for your business and they won’t want to lose you. See if you can have fees waived or your interest rate lowered.
48. Sell your old tech. Even if you’re not totally mad about technology, chances are you’ve got the odd old gadget taking up space in a drawer somewhere. One of the easiest ways is to look at buyback services such as Boomerang Buy Back or Mazumamobile. Just be sure you don’t need the phone as a “just in case” back-up. That old iPhone 4S in your sock drawer could get you $190, or more, in your pocket.
49. Consider a preloved car. A near new car or demonstrator model can save thousands off the new car purchase price. But be aware that the warranty countdown on that vehicle will have commenced.
50. Organise your fridge and pantry so older food or leftovers do not get shoved to the back. Use see-through containers that stack on top of each other so it is easy to check what there is.
51. Use a bit of commonsense rather than automatically throwing away food that has exceeded best-before dates. For many foods, if it looks and smells okay, it can be eaten. Small bits of mould can be cut off items such as cheese.
52. Change your light bulbs. It’s that easy. Instead of replacing your burnt-out 60-watt incandescent bulb with a new one, swap it with a 13 watt Compact Florescent Light bulb (CFL), which use about 80 per cent electricity.
53. Volunteer! Several new programs, such as Optus RockCorps and Global Citizen Tickets, are rewarding those who undertake volunteer work or social activism with free concert tickets or exclusive events.
54. Save staples for sales days. Department stores offer sales on underwear and socks almost as often as shoppers change their undies. So unless it’s an emergency (read hot date), hold off stocking up until you see the big red sign.
55. Use a public hospital instead of a private hospital. Even if you have private health insurance cancer treatment, pregnancy and birth and other medical procedures can leave you with tens of thousands of dollars in medical gap payments if you use the private system. Public hospitals are free.
56. Take a trip in shoulder or low season. There are plenty of destinations where the weather is just as good in low or shoulder season months when it’s cheaper to travel. Thailand is a great year-round destination and in the Greek Islands, June brings great weather before the crowds hit.
57. Reduce the limit on your credit card to stop you spending more.
58. If you are buying a property aim to have at least a 20 per cent deposit. This means you will avoid being charged lenders mortgage insurance which protects the lender not the borrower. This can end up costing thousands of dollars.
59. When buy technology start with an important question. We all want the new iPhone from Apple or smartwatch from Samsung. But before you buy, start with this question: Do I need it? And, if you do need it, do you need the top model? If you want to buy an iPad Mini, the starting price for the iPad Mini with a high-resolution Retina screen is $479. The starting price for the previous generation, still available through Apple, is $349. Yep, we just saved you $130 of your mum’s Christmas present.
60. Hit discount and fast-fashion stores. There are bargains to be had at stores like Target, Top Shop, Katies, Esprit, H & M, Ice Design and Supreme. And don’t forget it!
61. Don’t delay servicing your car. You monthly budget might be tight but delaying scheduled maintenance is a dangerously false economy. At worst you risk voiding your warranty and that just isn’t worth it.
62. Grow your own food. You don’t need a full-blown vegie patch to save money. Try planting a few essential herbs — parsley, mint, thyme — in small pots and then snip off a few sprigs as you need them. Cheaper than $2 plus a bunch.
63. Use simple common sense. Find the most effective places for lights and light switches to use the least amount of electricity. Paint your rooms in a bright colour. More light is reflected by brighter walls and so you need less light to make your room bright.
64. Most stage events have cheaper tickets during their opening shows — the “previews”. While they’re ironing out any kinks in the show, you’re saving.
65. Find a doctor who doesn’t charge a gap. Some knee surgeons charge up to 475 per cent more than most of their peers and some new parents have been slugged as much as $10,000 more than their health fund will rebate by high charging obstetricians. Shop around for a doctor that has a no gap agreement with your health fund, ask your health fund to recommend a doctor who does not charge medical gap fees. Ask the doctor upfront whether there will be any gap fees and if there are find an alternative.
66. Book airport parking ahead of time. If you’re heading away, do your research about airport parking options for the period you’ll be gone. Booking in advance can save you a swag — and save you unnecessary stress at the last minute.
67. Before travelling overseas check to see the fees and charges that apply if you do use your card internationally to avoid getting slugged.
68. Make your repayments weekly or fortnightly not monthly. If your repayments are monthly you will make 12 repayments a year but if they are fortnightly you will make 26 repayments which equates to paying of two extra weeks’ more each year. This will help cut the interest bill down by tens of thousands of dollars and shave years off your home loan.
69. Wait for the discount. Here’s an offer: I’ll sell you your apps, your music and your TV shows at 20 per cent off. Mate’s rates? No, not really. Just look out for the discounts on iTunes gift cards. The easy way to snag a bargain is to go to www.giftcardsonsale.com.au that does the bargain hunting for you.
70. Don’t buy fuel on Thursday and Friday. These are the peak demand and price days and fuel is about to bite the wallet deeper than ever.
71. Save energy costs by choosing the right size of pot or pan for what you are cooking. Make sure your pots have flat bottoms so they will heat evenly and have tight-fitting lids. When bringing water to the boil, putting that lid on will speed things up considerably. Even better, boil the water in a kettle first.
72. Seek out energy efficiency rebates. Federal and state governments offer various rebates for energy efficient initiatives, so claim them. Some include rainwater tank installation, gas boosted hot water heater, water-efficient appliances.
73. Go to every game of footy? A basic membership of your club could save you. For example, in the AFL/NRL, an 11-game adult Hawks/Rabbitohs membership costs $185 in 2014. If you purchased the lowest general admission ticket to see 11 separate home games this season, you’d fork out at least $275
74. Find a dentist optometrist or other allied health provider who is a preferred provider with your health fund. You may be able to get dental check ups for free or minimise your costs for glasses and other services.
75. Convert your foreign cash stash. Australians waste millions of dollars every year by bringing back spare holiday money and leaving it lying around in drawers. Convert spare cash back to Aussie dollars, and give any spare change to charity — or a friend who’s travelling overseas.
76. Go through your credit card statements with a fine tooth comb to make sure you are not getting incorrectly charged fees or for purchases you have not made.
77. Make large home loan repayments payments. If you get a windfall, for instance a tax return or a bonus from your boss put it on your mortgage. The more money you pay off your loan the quicker you will reduce the interest charges and pay back your debt quicker.
78. Go old school. Just because you can buy things to listen to or read on your tablet does not mean you have to do it that way. Check with your local library. Many have audio books,
magazines and ebooks available for free – and you can download them from home.
79. Care for your clothing. It’s worth a reminder that caring for your clothes will help them last longer. Use gentle fabrics, avoid the dryer when possible (always when it comes to those designer jeans) hang and fold clothes properly.
80. Shop finance when buying a car. Get several quotes. Contrary to popular belief, dealer can be highly competitive and hassle free, but it never hurts to look around.
81. Set priced meals are just as delicious as a la carte. To lure in a crowd on quiet days, many restaurants have less expensive options at lunchtime, early in the week, or early in the evening. It’s your chance to get a top class feast for less.
82. Get water wise. If you are renting and charged for water, the property must meet ‘water efficiency’ standards so ensure your landlord has adhered to the requirements.
83. Stop complaining about paying $7 for a bucket of chips and $5 for a Coke and bring your own cut lunch and snacks from home. As long as you’re not carrying glass, cans or metal utensils, you should be AOK to BYO at most stadiums.
84. Lose weight and get fit. Being overweight and obese and unfit increases your risk of cancer, heart disease and a range of illnesses. As they always say prevention is better than cure and its certainly cheaper than facing bills for doctors visits, tests, and prescription medicine if you develop diabetes or heart disease.
85. Explore your own backyard. For a bargain break with beautiful surrounds, get out into the Aussie bush. Campgrounds in national parks and council reserves are usually in spectacular locations and are usually cheap or even free. Or head for a short “staycation” in your own city with a night or two at a hotel with a few splurges you can enjoy, knowing you’ve saved on airfares.
86. Shop around and compare deals. There’s plenty of comparison websites around to help you find the credit card best for you. A good place to start is moneysaverhq.com.au
87. Don’t be afraid to jump home loan lenders. In 2011 mortgage exit fees were banned, making it easier and cheaper to switch.
88. Save now, spend later. Educate yourself about your gadget of choice and who and when offer discounts. Apple, for instance, usually take part in a Black Friday deal in November — it’s one day of the year sale. Last year, the company offered gift vouchers of certain value depending on what you bought. Buying a MacBook Air, for example, and you got a $150 gift card. We won’t know what they’ll offer this year, but if you get to November and you’re thinking of making a tech purchase, it might be worth waiting a bit longer.
89. Stream your music. Subscription services such as Spotify or JB Hi-Fi Now are excellent for delivering the exact music you like, but if you’re looking to save a few dollars, a more curated approach such as the more radio-centric Pandora, which is free to use and creates playlists based on tracks or artists you name, can save you around ten bucks per month while keeping the music going.
90. Inflate car tyres properly. Under inflated tyres costs in terms of fuel consumption and increased fuel consumption is just about the last thing any of us after this Budget.
91. Shop for clothes with cash (only!). The easiest way to save money on clothes is to only buy what you can afford, plain and simple. If you don’t have money in your account for those must-have heels.
92. Always ask for tap water rather than allowing the waiter to keep filling your glass from an expensive bottle.
93. Talk to your telco. You are likely to get a better deals from telcos if you are willing to commit to a long contract. You will also have better negotiating power if you have other services already with the provider. Some have loyalty discounts for existing customers. Some have “welcome deals” for new customers.
94. Simply must complete the DVD collection of your favourite TV series? Wait a while — the price will go down the longer it’s on the shelf. For example, the recently released seventh season of 30 Rock currently costs $23.18 at JB Hi-Fi, whereas seasons one through six cost $12.78.
95. Same goes for iTunes, where season four of The Walking Dead costs $49.99, season three $47.99, season two $37.99 and season one $19.99. It pays to be a few seasons behind the water-cooler conversation!
96. Ditch your vitamin pills. Australians are spending $1.5 billion a year on vitamins and supplements. Unless you have a certified vitamin deficiency a series of recent studies published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found there was no health benefit to taking most vitamins and they don’t seem to prevent death or disease and in high doses some can be harmful.
97. Check out your favourite brands at online boutiques like My Net Sale where you can pick up pieces from the latest designer collections at a fraction of the cost (up to 80 per cent off). An example is a recent flash sale in which they sold Running Bare clothes with discounts of more than 50 per cent.
98. Include one or two expensive bottles in a mixed dozen. When you check out the liquor shop ad do you always see a wine you’ve wanted but could never really afford? It’s at a serious discount in a “mixed six” or “mixed dozen”. That should mean you can buy just one of those, while the others can be $10 everyday quaffers. You get the treat as well as a few backups for the rest of the dinner party.
99. Cut phone costs. Take advantage of the internet and email instead of calling your friends and family. You can also use great instant messaging programs and still feel like you are having a telephone conversation without the high bill.
100. Find some friends. Many theatre shows offer discounts (often matching the concession rate) for group bookings.